Sunday, October 26, 2008

In memory of Jerry K.

The Murphy family has many wonderful stories to tell. I’ve already used this blog to preserve the immigrant journey of young Valeria Gallo. Her travels to the U.S. as an infant and the tragic loss of her mother to tuberculosis in Chicago have the intrigue of a Hollywood movie.

Pressing the family for more anecdotal information we find immigrants struggling to live the American dream, Revolutionary War heroes, mistakes made on birth certificates (for example, one member of the family was born in Cuba, according to his birth certificate when, in fact, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio), spirited mothers of newly married young men, artifacts with unusual markings engraved into them, and a man who we believe left his home and family in Pennsylvania without a trace to live out the remainder of his 104 years in Fresno, California.

These leads are a genealogist’s dream. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel I neglect these branches of my children’s family tree for lack of available primary source documentation. We simply do not have many wills, letters or photographs from which to piece together life stories. Given time to interview family members and research local repositories, progress will be made. And I certainly hope this time will come soon. Even then, there will still be many holes and suppositions about the day-to-day life of the extended lines of the Murphy and English families.

There is one amazing story from this side of the family that I feel compelled to share, however, because I do have a lot of information. It is my absolute favorite story that I have researched thus far in my genealogical “career.” It is the story that anchors my passion. I believe it has achieved this status because of the serendipitous timing of the research, advances in technology, the emotional ties that unite families, and the willingness of one man to open up and share parts of his life with a complete stranger. This story also shows that tracking down every clue in a project just may lead to a different, more exciting, story than the one which inspired it.

Therefore, this blog entry is not as emotionally riveting as others may be. It is not like Ruthie's WWII journals, Valeria’s quest to survive, or Lou Ann’s determination to understand the fate of her long-lost brother. In fact, I never met the subject of this story, Jerry Kumery. I’m sure this is the reason for the objective, rather impersonal, nature of today’s writing. However, this story has more feeling to it for me than many others and I hope you come away with an appreciation of this emotion.

The journey that led me to Jerry Kumery was actually focused on his father, Joseph. In March, 2007 my sister-in-law asked me to determine the cause of Joseph's death in World War II. This became the “Research Report Prepared for a Client” section of my Board for Certification of Genealogists application, from which I anticipate receiving my certification in December. I offer the Summary of Actions and Findings as a shortened version of the story and an example of the type of report I produce.

Summary of Actions and Findings

Action: Researched life of Joseph Kumery prior to military service
• Joseph Kumery was born 13 Feb 1906 Chicago, IL (Source Citation: Individual Deceased Personnel File)
• In 1910 Joseph was living with Steve and Mary Gallo and sister “Mary” in Tarentum, PA. (Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Tarentum Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1297; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 248; Image: 1574.)
• In 1910 Joseph’s father, Alois Kumery, is living in Chicago and is listed as “widowed.” (Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Chicago Ward 17, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_260; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 798; Image: 751.)
• In 1920 Joseph and his sister, Walerya (Valeria) are living with their father, Aloiz, in Chicago. (Source Citation: Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 17, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_328; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 995; Image: 404.)
• In 1930 Joseph is again living with his aunt and uncle, Mary and Stephan Gallo in Chicago. Joseph is now 23 and listed as a pressman in a print shop (Source Citation: Year: 1930; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 448; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 745; Image: 537.0.)
• Married Anna F. Smagon
• Richard J. Kumery born 18 Jul 1932 in Chicago, died 25 Feb 2000 in Charlotte, NC (Source Citation: Mrs. Richard Kumery)
• Jerry R. Kumery born 14 May 1934 in Chicago, IL, died 16 Sep 2007 in Chicago, IL (Source Citation: obituary provided by Mrs. Jerry Kumery)
• Enlisted in the army 27 Aug 1942 (Source Citation: U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946)

Action: Ran basic internet search for Joseph Kumery
• Found several genealogy queries from John Helms requesting information on Joseph Kumery’s death on 02 Aug 1945 in France (included)
• According to John Helms’s queries, John Howard Gates was killed at the same time as Joseph Kumery
• John Howard Gates is the uncle of John Helms
• According to John Helm’s information, both soldiers were struck by a train
• Initial attempts to contact John Helms by email proved unsuccessful

Action: Wrote to Department of the Army and requested a copy of the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) pertaining to Joseph Kumery through the Freedom of Information Act
• Information arrived in approximately four months

Action: Uncovered vital information found in the IDPF:
• Joseph R. Kumery was a member of the Corps of Engineers
• Cause of death is listed as “struck by train”
• Date of Death is listed as 02 Aug 1945
• Date of entry on current active service 27 Aug 1942
• Emergency addressee listed as Anna Kumery (wife)
• Beneficiaries: Anna Kumery (wife) separated, Richard Kumery (son), Gerald Kumery (son) same as above, Valeria Murphy (sister)

NOTE: Valeria Murphy is the client’s grandmother. Valeria died 06 May 2000 in New Castle, PA
• Personal effects inventory included in IDPF
• Originally buried in Luynes, Aix-en-Provence (France) Plot E, Row 10, Grave 695
• Disinterred by request from Anna Kumery 09 Mar 1948
• Reburied in St. Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, IL 1948

Through conversation with client, researcher continued search into the life of Joseph Kumery. Attempts were made to contact family members Anna (wife), Richard (son) and Gerald (son).

Action: Search of Social Security Death Index revealed:
• Anna Kumery deceased 08 Nov 1993 Chicago, Cook, IL
• Richard J. Kumery deceased 25 Feb 2000 Charlotte, Mecklenburg, NC

Action: Conducted directory assistance search in Charlotte, NC
• Uncovered contact information for two possible living relatives of Richard Kumery; Toni (wife) and Jerri (daughter)

Action: Researcher wrote letters to both Toni and Jerri Kumery (15 Jul 2007).
• A few days later, Toni Kumery contacted researcher via email (included)
• Toni and Jerri had just moved to Richmond, VA
• Toni confirmed researcher’s information, but had little to add
• Toni provided contact information for Richard’s brother, Gerald (Jerry) in Chicago, and her niece, Jeanne Ziolkowski (Jerry’s daughter), also in Chicago
• Researcher maintains contact with Toni Kumery

Action: Researcher wrote a letter to Jerry Kumery (16 Jul 2007) and Jeanne Ziolkowski (24 Jul 2007)
• Jerry responded by email
• Jeanne responded by email
• Researcher shared pictures electronically, including photos supplied by client’s aunt and one found on a website sponsored by John Helms claiming to be the funeral of John Gates and Joseph Kumery in France
• Researcher sent copy of IDPF through postal service
• Jerry confirms father buried in St. Adalbert cemetery, but was too young to remember much about his father’s side of the family
• Researcher and Jerry Kumery agree to remain in contact and share information as it becomes available
• Researcher remains in contact with Jerry Kumery and Jeanne Ziolkowski

Action: Researcher once again attempted to contact initial reference, John Helms.
• Searched internet for all postings that list John Helms’s email address
• One of the sites found presents a combined genealogy project conducted by John Helms and his cousin, Dan Vendetta
• Researcher contacted Mr. Vendetta, summarized project on Joseph Kumery, connected Kumery to John Helms, and solicited help in contacting John Helm
• Mr. Vendetta wrote back immediately via email with contact information
• Researcher wrote a letter to John Helms requesting any information he has on Kumery through his own research into the death of his uncle, John Gates
• John Helms contacted researcher by phone on 19 Aug 2007
• Researcher and John Helms agreed to exchange information and photos by mail
• John Helms confirms individual in two of Kumery’s pictures is John Gates on 27 Aug 2007
• John Helms provides two additional photos featuring Kumery and Gates

Recommendation for future research:
• Obtain birth certificate from Cook County (IL) Clerk’s office for Joseph R. Kumery (DOB 13 Feb 1906) to launch research into earlier generations of Kumery family
• Maintain contact with Jerry Kumery’s family, Toni Kumery, and John Helms. Each of them has a vested interest in this research and has been, and will continue to be, helpful participants.
• Investigate other members of the Kumery extended family, including Joseph’s parents (Aloycius Kumery and Wilma Bercik) and his aunts, Mary Bercik Gallo (Stephen) and Agnes Bercik.
• Research other WWII documents that might detail the accident that killed Joseph Kumery

The researcher wishes to thank the client for inspiration and encouragement throughout this project. The researcher also feels tremendous gratitude for the gracious contributions provided by the members of the Kumery family.

The outline, above, detailing months of research and communication, cannot accurately describe the joys of piecing together a story that was once just bits of family lore. And this story could not have come together without the documentation contributed by other interested parties. Jerry Kumery’s death on 16 Sep 2007, just a few weeks after we began our correspondence, was devastating to me on many levels. Certainly, my feelings cannot compare to the loss his immediate family felt so deeply. Yet, he had been so open to my research and seemed genuinely interested in helping preserve the stories for his own immediate family, as well as, my husband's family. He understood why this type of research is so important. He embodied everything good about genealogy and he continues to inspire me to this day.

I will forever cherish photographs and pages of emails that Jerry and I exchanged during the summer of 2007. I made a point to introduce myself to his wife on a visit to Chicago, and I will continue to send periodic cards and letters to keep the connection between the families alive. The primary source documentation available in this story allowed me to fill in the holes and come to know the people behind the paper. That is what genealogy research is all about. Jerry Kumery is a shining light for us all.

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