Friday, April 20, 2012

I Love a Procession!

Attribution Some rights reserved by Tobyotter
Almost all my knowledge of the relationships between my father's immigrant relatives is based on interviews with my father and his sister. They grew up knowing who their cousins in the United States were and knowing who among their parents' friends were countrymen, coming from the same villages in Europe their own parents came from.

These relationships are based on births and marriages in 19th century Europe that I have not been able to document. In several cases I do not know what degree of relationship existed, though I am certain the families considered themselves closely related. A few published death notices have provided some support, but generally I have relied on documents and photographs handed down to me. Letters addressed to Aunt Anna [my grandmother], or photographs of visits between families provide support. Photo albums filled with pictures of the children of these other families are another source of supporting documentation. 

Recently I received a document used in the funeral planning for my grandfather, Stephen Popp, that clearly illustrates the hierarchy of relationships and friendships my family recognized in America. It is a printed booklet Funeral Automobile List distributed by Chopyak's Funeral Home containing handwritten directions for the procession to the cemetery. It lists the pall bearers, and who would be riding in each car of the procession.

The pall bearers listed were
  • John Tegza, from Endicott, NY. Tegza emigrated from Berezova with my grandfather. Though his surname is the same as my grandfather's mother he was not considered a relative, but a countryman and friend.
  • John Popp, from Bridgeport, CT. He was always referred to as a first cousin. We believe John's mother (also a Popp) and my grandfather's father were siblings.
  • Mike Kontir, from Clifton, NJ. He was married to my grandmother's niece. 
  • Steve Popovich, Vasil Latta and Mike Vastal, from Binghamton, NY. All were friends of my grandfather.
The cars, in order were
  • a Buick carrying my grandmother, their children and son-in-law.
  • a Plymouth carrying Mrs. Louis Popp & family. She was the widow of my grandfather's only brother in the United States.
  • a Buick carrying Mrs. Pete Kornafel & Mrs. Nick Bobich from Chicago. They were the daughters of my grandfather's only sister in the United States.
  • a Buick carrying Mr. & Mrs. John Popp [the pall bearer], Mr. George Popp and Mrs. Helen Bashar from Bridgeport, CT. George and Helen were the son and niece of my grandfather's cousin John.
  • a Buick carrying John Pereksta, Mrs. Andrew Senkowitz, Mr. & Mrs. Mike Kontir, and Mr. & Mrs. Wm Kuzma from NJ. They were the family of my grandmother's only brother in the United States.
  • a Plymouth carrying the John Bolas family. Mrs. Bolas, Susan, was my grandmother's sister.
  • a Buick carrying Mrs. Mary Zelenyak and family. She was my grandmother's sister.
  • a Buick carrying Mr. & Mrs. Clayton Hunt, Mr. & Mrs. Andre Muska, Mr. & Mrs. Francis Kowarek. They were daughters of Susan Bolas and my grandmother's nieces.
  • a Nash carrying Mr. & Mrs. Wm Sedor & Family and Mr. & Mrs. Geo. Sedor. The Sedors were brothers and my grandmother's first cousins.
  • a Dodge carrying Mr. Mike Macko and the Andrew Plakos family. Macko was godfather to my grandparent's children. Plakos was a friend.
The remaining cars all carried people always described to me as friends of the family. 

The handwriting looks like it was written primarily by my aunt, so it is no surprise it reflects what she's told me dozens of times. Still, I was bubbling with excitement when I showed it to my husband the other night. He leafed through the pages. His eyes lit up when he noticed the Nash in the procession. Sweet man.  No love for General Motors or Chrysler.


  1. What a unique way to be able to document relationships. I wonder if lists like this exist for all funerals where there are cars provided by the funeral home. It would be interesting even if I already knew the relationships.

  2. I'm excited for you! It just goes to show evidence shows up in the most interesting places, doesn't it!

  3. I can imagine how excited you were to come upon this find from your family's past. These simple things turn into such a wonder for those who are really seeking them! To others, they seem like just a piece of paper...

  4. In all of the posts I've read over the past couple of years, this one is truly unique! I'll bet you were bubbling with excitement when you showed it to your husband.

  5. Wow, great job taking an unusual source of family information and analyzing it for all the relationships involved. Neat! And I can't help but notice they were a bunch of Buick lovers. Wonder if that has any genealogical significance?

  6. I've never seen an automobile list before. I've always thought that you can learn so much about a family "community" from prayer cards, funeral books, sympathy cards, and the like, but your auto list adds even greater depth and perspective. This is a totally amazing resource.


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