Box Project Paper When I decided to take Modern American History for the spring quarter here at RIT I really had no idea what I was getting into. Sure, I have taken many history classes in the past, in fact I had even taken a course about Modern American History called US History after 1900 my senior year in High School, but none of the courses, even that one, were anything like Modern American History here at RIT. See, I have had this impression about history courses because of what all my previous history courses were like, you go to class, learn facts, are quizzed on them, have a couple papers to make sure if you are retaining the facts, and then you have an exam. That was what I was expecting when I sat down for my first history class this quarter, and boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were introduced into the idea of history from a completely different angle and viewpoint than what we have been used to. The view was: history class is not about memorizing facts to be tested on at all, in fact we have been tricked, and it is quite different. After the introduction, we were introduced to the Falats, an immigrant family from Poland who immigrated over to America in the first quarter of the century, and from a box of 100 random documents we were, over the next 10 weeks, to do research from these documents, and piece together a story of some sort, about this family. There would be readings and lectures about the times they lived in, but almost all of our information about the Falat family would come from the box, for a our two major projects of the quarter, a presentation and a paper. That was it, and at first I thought it would be weird, but after getting acquainted with the box, and the box’s documents, I have learned what history is really about, and about how facts and dates aren’t everything, and what it really means to be a historian.
In this section I would like to describe certain documents in the box, and what their importance was. While completely making up a history from start to finish of the Falat family would be down near impossible, I would like to piece together anything and everything that I possibly can in order to get any information out of the box’s documents, and try my best to find out something about the Falat family, whatever it may be. Here are some quick notes that I came up with before piecing stuff together:
Mary and Nicholas Malinowski both worked at the Plastic Wire & Cable Corp., in Jewett City, Conn. Mrs. (Vera) Alexander Malinowski died at the age of 68. She was born may 14th 1983 in Russia, living in Montville since 1913, and married in 1914. Died May 21, 1961. Mary Falat was born on August 8, 1916. Mary Malinowski was born on August 5 1916 and died on March 31 2001. John Falat died on July 22 1952. Victoria Falat died in 1955. Mary Falat went to St. Mary’s Parochial School. John Falat paid for water service from the Jewett City Water Company from:
Jan 1 1946 – Jun 30 1946
Jul 1 1946 – Dec 31 1946
Jan 1 1947 – Jun 30 1947
Jan 1 1952 – Jun 30 1952
Jan 1 1953 – Jun 30 1953
Jul 1 1953 – Dec 31 1953 Mary Malinowski bought a piano on December 21 1956. Nick Malinowski paid for plumbing and heating supplies from Becker and Goldstein on Aug 30 1956. Before immigrating to America the Malinowski family name was Malinowska and there were many more members of the Falat family who decided to not immigrate to American with John and Victoria. Mary Falat, Child of John Falat, was Baptized on Aug 12, 1916, also born Aug 2 1916 at St. Joseph’s church. Stanislaw Kawa, child of John Kawa and Catherine Falat was Baptized on Feb 13 1916, born on Feb 6 1916. Nicholas Malinowski married Mary Falat on may 12th 1942 in St. Mary’s Church. Victoria Falat got a social insurance award as an unmarried widow in May 31 1955. John and Victoria Falat got a letter from the French Embassy on Jan 28 1946 about their nephew Stanislaw Kawa. John Falat became an American Citizen on November 10 1938. John Falat was born 3/15/1982, and died 7/22 1952, and lived first in Poland, but became a citizen in America on Nov 10 1938. Victoria Falat’s maiden name is Zaklukiewiez. John and Victoria got a warranty deed from the Ashland Corporation in 1935 from the State of New York. John Falat got a certificate of labor on April 14 1917, so he lived in America before he became a full-fledged citizen. John and Victoria Falat bought a house from the Ashland Corporation in 1935. Looked at auction Saturday, June 15, 1935 at 10:00 am.
Those are a few key examples of information that I extracted from the documents in the box. Some of them are more important than others, but each of them, when linked with other documents in the box, helped piece together, part by part, a little bit more about the history for the Falat family, and while I’m sure that I got down and recorded every single little bit of information about the Falat Family, I think I got a lot of information, and I learned a lot in the process about being a historian, it was a growing experience.
Here is what I got out of the box.
Out of all the documents in the Box, most of them were all very helpful, because each of them, when linked with each other, helped me piece together a chronological series of events in the life in times of the Falat family. Even though they were not always related to one another, each of them had a little tiny bit of information that helped me piece together the history of the Falat Family.
Here are some in depth examples of what kinds of documents I am talking about, not just the quick notes like before. What I was doing with the quick notes was to first, jot them down, and then once I had all the information that I thought I could use from the box, I started to look at them all when pieced together with once another, to give a more in-depth analysis of the box’s documents.
From certain paycheck documents I learned that Mary and Nicholas Malinowski both worked at the Plastic Wire & Cable Corp., in Jewett City, Connecticut.
Some important documents were the birth and death dates of all the family members, at least the ones that were in the box. In many cases there were more than one certificate or documentation of their birth or death, and each document stated different facts other than the birth or death of that specific person. Usually they would state who their parents were, give some background on them, talk about their sons or daughters if any, as well as their husband or wife if there was one, and also would talk about in many cases their brief life story, where/when they were born/died, when and where they moved to if they moved to America, and other little tidbits and facts about their life, and each different certificate or documentation of this stated different things.
Some documents that were extremely important were all of the Jewett City Water Company checks. Originally, I didn’t think these would be that important because I thought they were just a bunch of random documents, like many other documents in the box, but after reading through all of the documents in the box, they are actually extremely important. It shows the dates which John and Victoria Falat used the water services, from January 1st 1946, until December 31st 1953. These dates by themselves don’t mean much, but when you take into account other documents, and link them together, their importance is actually quite striking. For one, John Falat died on July 22 1952, yet Victoria still used the water services after his death and the checks and envelopes still said the name John Falat on them, even though he was deceased, and she was using his name as an unmarried widow. Also, there is a document showing that John Falat became a full-fledged American citizen in 1938, very close to the time when they started paying for the water service. Also, there is another document showing that they got a deed from the Ashland Corporation in 1935, and another document shows auctions for houses from the same corporation in the same year. The Ashland Corporation is a company, which sells property, and when you link all of these documents together, it means they are obviously using the water service for their house.
Some more important documents are the certificates of labor for John Falat show that he has been working in America since at least 1917 as a factory worker, but didn’t get his actual American citizenship until 1938. This is one of the only examples that shows that he lived in America prior to his citizenship, because if it weren’t for these documents, plus a few others, I would have thought he came over to America in 1938, which is clearly not the case, and another thing I also did some outside research on getting an American citizenship back then, and it was much more than a overnight process, and it really shows here because of the fact that the Falats came over here before 1917, and it wasn’t until 1938 when John Falat actually got his citizenship. I think it was a culmination of things that made it take this long for him to get it, I think it was because he moved over from Poland, had to find work, get enough money to support his family and keep it steady, and then the long, and I mean long process that is expected for immigrants in order to get their American citizenship.
Another document that is extremely important is one of John Falats death documents, which shows both his birth and death, and linked with other documents helps glue together when he came over from Poland to America, when he got his citizenship, and reveals the maiden name of Victoria Falat, which is Zaklukiewiez.
One document that is very cool not really because of anything about the Falat Family in particular, was the document about how Mary Malinowski bought a piano on December 21 1956. The reason this document is cool is because of what Mary Malinowski bought, a piano. She bought a piano. She didn’t buy a piano because of the fact that she was a good piano player or anything, I’m not sure if she even knew how to play at all, the main reason people bought pianos back then because it was a symbol of status to show with pride in your living room, like a centerpiece. Now, you don’t see as many pianos anymore in living rooms, as they have been replaced with high definition televisions and high tech entertainment systems, but people who do have pianos in their houses are keeping a part of the old tradition alive, like the old culture.
In the box, there are a lot of very important documents, and I thought that no document was more important than any other, because they all helped each other because all of them, when linked within each other to piece together the family history of the Falats. I thought that they were all extremely important documents, but out of all of the documents in the box, the ones that I didn’t get any information out of at all, were the documents that were in Polish.
The documents that were in Polish did not help me much, if any, at all. First of all, because of the language barrier, they were basically useless to me. Second of all, along with all the document and letters in the box, we got a document that took all of the letters written in Polish, and gave us a little bit of information about each of them, the date, who they were from, and where they were to, but that didn’t help me much at all. Third of all, what I did get out of them was minimal, and really didn’t help or not help me in any way, shape, or form.
What I did get out of them was minimal, but I did get something out of them at least. What I did get out of them was minimal, and it was only because of the list, but there wasn’t even a list about the documents in Polish, only the letters. One cool thing that I got out of the list was a cool thing about immigration, about how when families immigrate over to America they change their last names. The example was that the Malinowski family used to be the Malinowska family before they moved over to America. It is a cool little tidbit about immigration and I can relate to it because my grandfather changed his last name when he immigrated to America from Europe, Austria to be exact, but didn’t really help me piece together the Falat family history at all, it was just a little cool tidbit of information that I could relate to.
Also I did see that the Falat family was a lot bigger than the other documents make it out to be, since the other documents were mostly about John and Victoria, and their stem of the family, but it is such a small and insignificant piece of the puzzle that it really doesn’t matter at all.
Also I did learn about Stanislaw Kawa from the list, but it really doesn’t matter because there are a few other documents about him that give me more information that the Polish letters and documents do, so I really have no need, if any for it.
Even though the letters and documents in Polish didn’t help me much, if any, at all, I still got a little bit of information from them, although the amount that I got out of them was far less than any of the other documents or letters in the box. They still did help me a little, although their importance and what I got out of them was pretty insignificant.
I learned from doing this project a lot about being an actual historian, and that not every single document in a series is always very helpful, but in doing this has made me appreciate history more, because now I know the hard work and the time that goes into it, and that this is a true history, because most everyday folk don’t keep documents like these.