For this week’s Sepia Saturday, we’re on our own to either follow the August prompt image or a different path. I’ve finally been able to clear up a few things regarding my great-grandfather’s history, so I figured this would be a great week to publish all of that finally. Above is a scan of a page from great-grandma Olga (Powis) Kitko’s photo album. The photos are mounted on what feels like black construction paper and bound into an album. Most of the pages at the end are blank and the album seems to cover her late teens through early 30s. It ends abruptly after the birth of her son in 1933.
Joseph J Kitko was the son of Andrej “Andrew” Kitko and Theresa Pnakovich, born 9 December 1905 in Madera, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, the second of six children. Both Andrew and Theresa arrived in the USA from Slovakia, and I’m told by a family member who knew them that the marriage was arranged. Theresa’s brother met Andrew and suggested that Andrew marry his sister, so Theresa came over from Slovakia without ever having met Andrew. They were married on 6 May 1900 in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
At some point in the late 1920s or early 1930s, Joseph got together with my great-grandmother, Olga Powis. I haven’t been able to find their marriage certificate in the county they were from, nor was there a certificate in any of the neighboring counties. If they ran off to another, far away county or another state, I haven’t stumbled across it and the surname is uncommon enough, that if it was indexed online, it would’ve popped up by now! I can’t be sure they were even married since common-law marriages were legal in Pennsylvania at that time, so it’s entirely possible that they got together and started living together as husband and wife without actually having been married. On 20 March 1933, my grandpa Leon was born. Shortly after his birth, I think before grandpa Leon was 3, Joseph left. The circumstances of his departure and whatever happened is likely lost to time, but there was obviously a great deal of upset over the events since I’m told Olga ripped up every photo of Joseph. Well, lo and behold, she did not. In that album page above, there are two photos of Joseph that a living family member who was close to Joseph was able to identify as him!
On the left is Joseph Kitko with Olga Powis, likely just before they were married (or not married?). On the right is Joseph with his son, Leon. All those years of thinking I’d never see a photo of my great-grandfather, and there he is!
Olga was granted a divorce on 28 December 1946 since PA law allows for divorces after a certain time if the spouse doesn’t respond to repeated summons or can’t be found. Joseph had moved on and married (or possibly not married again?) twice after Olga. Again, without having been there to hear both sides during whatever happened, I can’t assign blame or fault – I have no personal stake in whatever caused them to split and Joseph to leave, just a genealogical curiosity about the facts I can prove. I know there was a brief time Joseph spent in California between 1945 and 1947, but other than that, he spent the remainder of his life in Ohio.
Joseph died on 11 October 1978 in Xenia, Ohio. There’s a lot more to Joseph’s story, but I guess I’m still close enough to this in terms of time that I feel a little odd airing someone else’s dirty laundry! It’s rather satisfying to have all of this information now, especially since I had thought it was lost to closely guarded family secrets that had gone to the grave with their keepers. Just to reiterate, I’m not assigning blame or pointing fingers – what happened, happened, and I have no desire to continue whatever fight, hurt feelings, or what have you that I wasn’t even alive to see. It’s more so that I want some sort of connection to this side of the family since it always felt a little at arm’s length – even though we shared the same surname, it just wasn’t something we talked about, however there are people who are willing to talk openly about everything and I’m grateful for the time they take to share stories that bring a person’s history to life. I’m glad to have these two photos as a connection to a man I never knew, and am glad the photos are still here!
We have some of those disappearing husbands in our family too. My father was the family lawyer and got involved in a few incidents where a second family of one of our bigamist relatives popped up to claim part of an inheritance. Every family has the so-called dirty laundry hidden away somewhere.
My great grandmother came to the U.S. with 5 of her youngest children, leaving her husband and 7 of her older children behind in England and we’ll never know why. Maybe it’s better we don’t. Still . . . curiosity is a hard thing to ignore.
Interesting story, but not really unusual. It is amazing how many secrets a family has in its history. I am trying (unsuccessfully) to unravel stories on both sides of mine and my husband’s family. I’m glad you have had some success.
I’m glad you found the photographs and the stories. Whatever they may be.