Nammie’s Rocking Chair and How I Almost Lost It

Nellie Tarbox Adams was my 2x great grandmother, born 28 June 1856 in Robbinston, Maine, down the road from Calais. She died 23 December 1927 in Boston, Massachusetts where she lived with her daughter, Pearl Adams Chadwick, and her family. She was a much loved member of the family. This is one of the only photos I have of Nellie, affectionately called Nammie after her grandchildren were born. Nammie must have liked the picture because I have about a half dozen of them, still in the original photographer’s frame.

Nellie Tarbox Adams

Nammie married Calvin Segee Adams on 1 February 1875 in Calais, Washington, Maine. They had two children, Aunt Pearl, already mentioned, and my great grandfather, Charles Edward Adams.

Sometime during the first decade of the 1900’s, Nammie bought a rocking chair, likely made in the Calais region since it was known for its lumber industry.  Unfortunately, I have no photo of Nammie enjoying her rocker. However, after Nammie died in 1927, ownership of the rocking chair passed down to my great grandmother, Annie Stuart Adams, wife of Nammie’s son, Charles. I do have two photos of this chair while Annie owned it.

Annie's apartment 292 Main Street Calais
Annie Adams’ Apartment, 1920’s

According to the 1940 census, sometime between 1935 and 1940, Annie left Calais and went to live with her son’s family, that of my grandparents, Vernon Tarbox and Hazel Ethel Coleman Adams, in Ridgewood, New Jersey. I don’t imagine that Annie took much furniture with her, as she only had one bedroom in their house. The rocking chair was the one piece I know that went with her. The census was taken on 24 April 1940 – Annie passed away on 10 September 1940 at home, surrounded by her family.

Thus, my grandmother Hazel was the new owner of the rocking chair. My grandparents moved often, up and down the eastern coast between New Jersey and Maine because my grandfather worked for Western Union and he kept getting transferred. Sometime after World War II, my grandparents moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts.

However, my mother was an adult by this time and my parents married in June 1947 and always lived in New Jersey. Neither my grandmother nor my mother are here to ask, but I believe that my grandmother gave my mother, Doris, the rocking chair around the time that my parents married. I believe this because I have many photos of my grandparents’ home taken in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The rocker is not in any of them. I also have many photos taken in my parents’ home from the 1950’s onwards. The rocking chair was in our living room for as long as I can remember.

Here is a picture of me sitting in it in my brand new gray velvet (with pink ribbon) party dress, a gift from my Aunt Barbara. The photo is dated October 1957 taken in our living room in Passaic, NJ:

Linda in Rocking Chair
Linda in the Rocker, October 1957

Now the title of this post is “Nammie’s Rocker and How I Almost Lost It.” You are likely asking yourself how one could lose anything as big as a rocking chair.

My mother remained the owner/custodian of Nammie’s rocker until about 1985, when she was downsizing. She asked me if I would like to have it – of course I would – but by that time I was married and living in California. She was still in New Jersey. The rocker was a bit too big to fit in a Greyhound bus box and it was going to cost a fortune to ship it via the post office. A few months later, my mom called on the phone and said the neighbor who lived in the apartment above her was moving to Orange County in Southern California to live with her son. I lived in San Bernardino County, just north of Orange County. The neighbor said there was no problem packing the rocking chair in the moving van with her own furniture and other belongings. She said she would phone my mother when she was settled in with her son’s family and I could make arrangements to pick up the rocking chair.

All was good, or so I thought. A month or two went by and my mother phoned with terrible news. The moving van with all her neighbor’s possessions AND Nammie’s rocking chair had caught fire part way across the country. Her neighbor had said everything in the van was pretty much a complete loss. I was heartbroken as this was a family heirloom. The rocking chair was made of maple wood in the 1900-1910 time period and wouldn’t last long in a fire like that. What were the odds that that one moving van would catch fire and it would be the time when Nammie’s chair was in it???

There wasn’t anything that could be done about it, though, so life went on. I was absolutely shocked a couple of months later when my mom phoned again. She said she had talked to her now former neighbor who told her that the moving van delivered a couple of items to her that survived the fire. Just about the only item that escaped unscathed with not even a burn mark was Nammie’s rocking chair!

A few days later, I drove down to Orange County and picked up the rocker. Of course, I still have it. Our son, Michael, was born in 1988 and I rocked him in it.

Today, Nammie’s rocking chair sits in our bedroom. It has been repaired a few times as its legs have loosened over the years, but it looks much the same as it did when Nammie sat in it. It has pride of place right next to the gallery of ancestor photos on the wall:

Nammie’s Rocking Chair, 2014

I think she looks pretty good for being over 100 years old!

Helena Anna Scerbak, aka Julia Sabo

I told the story of my grandfather, George Kucharik, aka George R. Sabo, the other day, on the 78th anniversary of his death. Today, I would like to tell you about my Nana, Julia Scerbak Sabo. Like George, Julia had a bit of a name change. She was born in Passaic, New Jersey on 17 August 1893, the first child of Michael Scerbak and Anna Murcko, Slovak immigrants from the tiny village of Udol (then called Ujak) in today’s Slovakia. The village sits in the Tatras Mountains. I explain to people that if you were a bird and flew southeast from Krakow, Poland over the Tatras, you would be in Udol.

Like so many others in the neighborhood around First Street, Michael and Anna worked in the factories. Julia was baptized at St. Michael’s Church and given the name “Helena Anna.”  Now, it doesn’t take much to figure out that “Helena” would like be “Helen” in an anglicized version. However, my grandmother told me that girls named “Helena” were called Julia here in America. She did have an aunt named “Helena,” born in Udol and called Julia in America. Maybe it was a family thing, I don’t know, but I never understood how “Helena” turned into “Julia.”

The Scerbaks lived in Passaic until about 1897 or 1898 when they returned to Udol. I asked Nana why they went back. She said her mother said the air in Passaic wasn’t very good for her and she wanted to go home. Anna was a smart lady – all the fumes from the (unregulated) factories produced a lot of very unhealthy smog and toxins.

As far as I know, Anna never returned to the United States. Michael did make at least one trip and, from conversations I remember with Julia, he likely visited here at least a couple of times.

Julia returned to the United States in November 1910, just missing the census. She was seventeen and traveled with a cousin and some other people making the trip from Udol to Passaic.

I have no photos of her as a child. I doubt Michael and Anna had the money for that in Passaic and I don’t think there were many photographers running around Udol in 1900. They likely wouldn’t have had money for photographers there, either. The earliest photos I have of her are when she was twenty when she was in the wedding of John Biss and Helen Osifchin on 6 September 1913 at St. Michael’s Church in Passaic.

Julia, marked with “x” on left in back

I originally thought that Julia was the young lady with the “x” marked out in the back on the right. Nana said that was her cousin, Susanna Patorai.

Julia married George Kucharik/Sabo – exactly two years after the Biss-Osifichin wedding – on 6 September 1915, also at St. Michael’s Church.

George & Julia Wedding Party
George and Julia with Their Wedding Party

My father, George, born on 9 February 1926 in Passaic, was George and Julia’s only child. My grandmother never mentioned whether she had lost any children and I never thought to ask back then. Nana did say that George was born at home and he weighed over nine lbs. at birth! Julia was a small woman, about 5′ 2″ and slender. Giving birth to a nine pound baby at home was not an easy task.

Julia took care of George and helped out at the meat market throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. My grandfather died in 1936, but I believe my grandmother continued to help out at the store. The Central Market not only made it through the Depression, but did well. It also prospered during World War II, but, ironically, it didn’t survive the post-war economic boom in the 1950’s.

As far as I know, Julia never worked outside the home except at Central Market. After George died, she did rent out a back room in our two-family house at 49 Summer Street to make some extra money.

Julia was an talented gardener; she loved flowers. There were always plants in bloom in the spring while summer brought all the garden tomatoes.

When the 1940 census was released, I was excited to find her and my father. Nicholas Tidik, son of her deceased sister, Mary was also living in the household. I was surprised to see her age: 35! (Remember, she was born in 1893 and corrected store clerks when they gave her the wrong change when she was 90.) I guess she didn’t see the need to tell the census taker how old she really was!

Sabos are three families up from bottom

Julia was an active member of St. Michael’s Church, belonging to the Rosary Society. She had a wide circle of friends, whom I now recognize as fellow immigrants from Udol.  She and her brother, Peter Scerbak, took part in church plays.

She raised my father as a single parent and made sure he got a good education. This photo of Julia and son George is from around the time he graduated from high school:

George & Julia in Front of House
Julia and My Father, c1945

Nana was very religious. Although she always attended St. Michael’s, she often visited other Catholic churches around Passaic. I can remember being taken with her on these walks, stopping in at St. Nicholas, Holy Trinity, St. Anthony, St. Mary, Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. . . .we always walked to these churches and they were spread out around the city.

St. Michael’s Church celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1980. Remember how Julia didn’t like the census taker knowing how old she really was? Well, the pastor of St. Michael’s called and asked us to bring Julia to their banquet dinner at the church celebration. She was to be introduced as the oldest living member who was baptized at St. Michael’s. We took her to the banquet and she was introduced. Nana was 87 and was not happy that everyone knew it! She liked it even less when she saw this in the Eastern Catholic Life newspaper:

Cathederal Parishioners Honored (Julia Sabo)
Julia at St. Michael’s Celebration

She lived a long, healthy life. I don’t ever remember her going to the doctor’s except for once when she was in her 80’s and had the flu. Actually, I think the doctor made a house call.

Julia's Obituary
Herald News Obituary, 31 May 1985

Julia died in her sleep on 24 May 1985. She had been baptized at St. Michael’s, married there and her funeral was held there, too. She was buried next to husband George, whom she outlived by 49 years. On her other side was my father, who predeceased her by 8 weeks, passing away from lung cancer.

I’m very grateful for all the years I had growing up with Nana as she always lived with us. I am also very grateful that she broke down our family history brick wall. If she had passed away before I started researching, I likely would never have learned that our family name wasn’t Sabo, it was Kucharik!

Recommended Reads

Here are my choices for Recommended Reads for this week:

Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist- Chapter Eleven by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star

Les Cimetieres du Quebec Website Contains Headstone Photos by Gail Dever on Genealogy a la carte

Mappy Monday: Chicago Districts by Beth Gatlin on So Many Ancestors

More to Love About Crowdsourcing by Jacqi Stevens on A Family Tapestry

Message Left in a Family Painting. . . by lostrussianfamily on Find Lost Russian and Ukrainian Family

The Kingston, New Hampshire Throat Distemper Pandemic of 1735 by Heather Wilkinson Rojo on Nutfield Genealogy

Two DNA Circles or a Venn Diagram? by John on TransylvanianDutch: Genealogy and Family History

Updated List of PERSI Collections with Page Images by Randy Seaver on Genea-Musings.

Here are three more that I am reading with interest by Randy as he is trying out the idea of building a family tree strictly from sources as proposed by James Tanner on Genealogy’s Star:

The Ultimate Challenge – Building a Family Tree from Sources – Post 1: Crawford Family

The Ultimate Challenge – Building a Family Tree from Sources – Post 2: Meyers Family

The Ultimate Challenge-Building a Family Tree from Sources-Post 3: Alford Family

My Great Great Grandmother’s Maiden Name – SOLVED – (I think!) by Lara on Lara’s Family Search

Finding an Ancestor in Almshouse Records by Lorine McGinnis Schulze on Olive Tree Genealogy

12 Genealogy-Related Gifts to Add to Your Holiday Gift List by Julie Cahill Tarr on Julie’s Genealogy and History Hub

My Evernote To-Do List by Jenny Lanctot on Are My Roots Showing?

Go the the Original Source!? by Cathy Meder-Dempsey on Opening Doors in Brick Walls