Sepia Saturday 236: Hair, drying, beauty, nails, strange headgear

Sepia Saturday 236: Hair, drying, beauty, nails, strange headgear

2014.06W.63A really interesting theme!  I found something from another branch of my family tree that works for ‘strange headgear’ though not necessarily all that strange if you’re Catholic.  We have a nun in the family tree!  My mother, while born to two Catholics, was not raised in the Catholic church, so the religion and customs weren’t passed down, however it was clearly the prominent religion in that branch of family.  I also have somewhat of a penchant for the stories of people who never had children.  They’re just as important as the folks who did pass on their genetic code and ought to have their history shared as well.

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L to R: Unknown, Sister Mary Emmerana, Norma (Innocenti) Rachocki, Unknown woman and child

Sister Mary Emmerana Brykczynski was born Veronica Brykczynski on 26 Jan 1892 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I’m not entirely sure that she was born in Milwaukee since I haven’t located her birth certificate yet, but I’m going based off the 1900 Census.  Her other siblings were born in Poland, as were her parents, but she seems to be the first sibling born in the USA.  I have a wild collection of misspellings for the surname Brykczynski – it was spelled Brewczynska at the parish where she served, but I’ve also seen Brewzynski, Brizzinsky, etc.  Brykczynski seems to be the most accurate spelling I can find, and the one other descendants used.  After 1900 I lose track of her on paper records and can’t seem to find her on any census after 1900.  I went on a hunt recently to find information out about where she lived and when she died since I didn’t even have that yet!  I knew from her sister’s obituary (my great grandmother, Annie Brykczynski) that she lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the 1950s.  I contacted a convent in Kenosha, hoping it was the right one, and sent along a photo and what details I did know.  They emailed back and said that she wasn’t associated with them, but her habit seems to be associated with the School Sisters of Notre Dame  in Elm Grove, Wisconsin.  They passed along contact information as well, so I called and within 15 minutes, I had an email with her file information (looks like a rolodex card) as well as a scan of her obituary.  Incredible!  The obituary is really a treasure because of the kind words of her fellow sisters.  It opens a little door into her life as a nun and gives me a sense of the sort of person she was without ever having met her.  My mom has some memory of her and recognized the photos provided by the SSND order right away.  In the above photo, while there’s no date, she’s likely visiting the family in PA for her brother’s funeral in 1957.

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8 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this story of Sister Emmerana. I have a nun in the family, too, but I don’t know where to begin looking for information about her. I know only her secular name. In the one photo I have of her she is not in full habit.

    1. Sheetar

      The only thing that worked for me was finding the order she was associated with. If you know where she took her first vows, they’d have record of that there as well. I got lucky with the Obituary that mentioned where she was living in the 1950s, so that helped narrow it down, and from there it was start calling/emailing!

  2. Pingback: Sepia Saturday | Natsukashi Kansai

    1. Sheetar

      The alternate spellings are pretty common for ‘complicated’ Polish names. The alphabet isn’t quite the same, so the nuances of the language are lost in translation to our alphabet.

  3. Helen McHargue

    Very interesting take on the theme. She sounds like a very fine person and a jewel of the community. Notable, isn’t it, that nuns have a longer life expectancy than most of us.

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