I'm obsessed with this Jasaitis family, my Jasaitis family. I find myself hunched over my keyboard for hours at a time looking at every name on 1880 census records in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, trying to find Adam Sites...is that crazy or what? Granted this is wintertime and I can't be outside in the yard and my grandkids are busy with school so they don't need me during the week but really, I could be cleaning closets, sorting boxes of "stuff" that need sorting, or dusting, for Heaven's sake, but no, I'm hunting for Adam Sites in 1880, convinced that on one of these elusive census records I'll find an important clue that links the Jasaitis family to a particular region or town in Lithuania.
I have made some progress recently thanks to the help of a couple of online researchers like myself. I now believe my gr-grandma Petronella Jasaitis Uknavage had at least seven siblings here in this country, scattered from Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania to Franklin County, Ohio, up to Kent County, Michigan, down to Vermilion County, Illinois, and even way down into Coal County, Oklahoma - all from Lithuania! The oldest sibling, Adam, was born about 1851 and was one of the earliest Lithuanian immigrants to come to coal country in Luzerne County, PA about 1872. In the 1900 census he is shown as a "grocer" and in the 1910 census a "gentleman"...hmmm.....
My grandma, Petronella Jasaitis, was born the next year in 1860 but she didn't come to the United States until 1889 when she arrived with her husband Joe Juknewicz and their three children. They lived in the Pittston, PA area for seven or eight years before moving to Vermilion County, Illinois. Joe was a miner and died around 1903 leaving Petronella (Petrona) with five children ages eleven through seventeen. She had family there, thank goodness, a brother Andrew, and possibly a cousin, John.
The next sibling, Joseph, was born in Lithuania in 1862 and came here about 1886, moving to Columbus, Ohio where he lived out his life as a tailor (no coal mining for this brother). He married a local girl who was Irish and they had three children together. A granddaughter, Carol Kasberg, still lives there and has been a wonderful source of family history for me - a cool cousin too!
John was the next child born in 1865. He married in Lithuania and immigrated in 1888. They lived for a few years in the Pittston, PA area near Adam before striking out for Coal County, Oklahoma, around the turn of the century to join a sizeable community of Lithuanian men mining coal there. They had six children together before John's wife, Agnes (Agota, Agatha) died of the Spanish flu in 1918.
Andrew was born in December of 1866 and immigrated in 1885. Interestingly, he is the only one of the Jasaitis clan to keep his Lithuanian name. Sometimes he appears in records as Andrew Jasaitis, sometimes Jasitis, and even Yasaitis. He must have had an independent streak to keep his name and not change it to the Americanized Sites. He married a Lithuanian girl in Vermilion County, Illinois, and they settled there, near my gr-grandma Petronella, his older sister. They had five children while he worked in the mines, dying at the young age of sixty-one.
Frank was born in 1870, immigrated about 1890, and lived in Columbus, Ohio, near his older brother Joseph. Frank also made his living as a tailor and married a local girl just as his brother Joseph did. Frank was only fifty-two when he died in 1922 leaving a wife and two children.
William was born in 1872 and immigrated in 1891 with his wife, Tillie. They moved to Vermilion County, Illinois for a short time and their first child was born there but soon they were back in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania where they raised their six children while William worked as a grocer, a driver, and a hotel employee, according to census records.
The youngest sibling, and my gr-grandma's only sister, Frances. C. Jasaitis, was born in Lithuania in 1880 and immigrated between 1883 and 1885, still a very young child. I have to wonder if she came to this country with her parents or an older sibling, maybe Andrew. Perhaps I'll stop obsessing about Adam and start on Frances. Her immigration records could hold an important clue about the family's home in Lithuania. In 1899 in Pittston, PA she married Charles Gillis, also from Lithuania, and they stayed in Pennsylvania a few years before moving on to Grand Rapids, Michigan where there were Gillis relatives already established. Frances and Charles had four children and two of their grandsons, Roger and Gary Gillis have been very helpful with my family history research.
It has been such fun finding out all this information about the Jasaitis family. Initially I searched for my Lithuania roots by tracing my gr-grandfather, Joe Uknavage (Juknewicz, Juchniewicz, Juknevicius) but got nowhere with that. He was born in Lithuania in March of 1860, immigrated in 1889 with his wife and three children accompanied by one other Jasaitis relative and possibly a Juknewicz relative (the name was spelled differently on the ship's manifest but close to the same spelling). He lived a few years in Pittston, PA, worked as a coal miner, went to the Catholic church where his two American-born children were baptized, moved to Westville, Vermilion County, Illinois, where he appeared in the 1900 census but by the 1910 census he had gone missing. I do believe he died there for his wife is listed in the census as widowed and much later in her 1938 obituary it mentions that her husband died thirty-eight years ago. We've never found a death certificate, burial place, or any other evidence of his death but there are explanations for that such as a fire at the Vermilion County Courthouse, poor recordkeeping by the mine owners, dismantling of the local Catholic Church, etc. When I wrote to the Urbas Funeral home who handled his wife's burial I was told that "if only you had written two years ago when the owner was still alive - he knew that family and all the Lithuanian families so well." Ahhh...if only.
So, the search continues, and that's the part I love, the search.