Latest update: 6-12-99

Will the Descendants of Joseph Konvalinka Please Stand Up?

(Family Research Project: Joseph Konvalinka and his descendants)


NEWS FLASH JUST IN:  A descendant of Joseph Konvalinka has stood up!  He saw this page and contacted us.  Through his recollection and that of other family members, we have made the definite connection between his line and ours!  


Joseph Konvalinka was the brother of my great grandfather, John Nepomuk Josef Konvalinka ("JNJK"). According to birth records located in 1994 by ARCHIVEX (the Czech Archives), both were born in Chrast, Bohemia, JNJK in 1822 and Joseph in 1824. (There was also an older sister, Josepha, born 1819. We know virtually nothing about her, other than "she married a widower".)

We have not located the immigration records for John, Joseph or Josepha. We know JNJK immigrated around 1849; became a furrier in NY, lived and died (1896) in Brooklyn. We don't know whether brother Joseph (or anyone else) came with him -- or whether Joseph came at all. But in any case we believe the brother Joseph did have children who came to the US -- perhaps later than 1849, and that some of their descendants may be alive today.

Identifying and finding them is the principal objective of this research project. (Descendants of the sister Josepha -- if any -- would also be of interest.)

Here's what we've learned:

The brother Joseph appears to have had children, according to a family tree drawn up by Emilie Konvalinka (daughter of JNJK, niece of Joseph):  two sons, Joseph and John, and two daughters, Annie and Katherine. (Emilie's tree may not be completely accurate and it is a little difficult to interpret.) But we think we've found sons Joseph and John in the census records; further, we know that John went into the fur business with [his uncle?] JNJK.

There is a Joseph in the 1900 census [K-514; vol 133 ed 229 sheet 24 line 81]: age 51; born December 1848 in Austria [so he could have been the son of the Joseph who was born in Chrast in 1824], living in Manhattan -- 174 East Third Street. There are four others shown in his household:

(This is consistent with what Emilie has on her tree -- a Joseph married to a Katherine. Emilie doesn't have any children of this marriage listed, but has an earlier generation with almost the same names!  Could she have been confused about the generations in drawing up her chart??)

However, checking the census data against birth certificates in New York City has produced a few inconsistencies:  We could not locate a birth certificate for a John Konvalinka born in 1884, nor for an Annie Konvalinka born in 1889, nor for a Josephine Konvalinka born in 1893 (or 1894.)  (did we check Brooklyn, which was a separate city at that time?)

We did, however find a birth certificate for a  Joseph Konvalinka, born Aug 4, 1889 to a Joseph and Catherine Kies  living at 242 (South?) 5th Avenue. (This is consistent with the address for a Joseph Konvalinka, shoemaker, in the 1890 NYC directory.)  But since this Joseph is not listed in the 1900 census, we presume he died young, although we have not [yet] found a death certificate for him.

We also found a birth certificate for a "Male" Konvalinka, born September 12, 1885 to a Joseph and Katie Kies Konvalinka living at what looks like the same address above.  The birth certificate has Joseph's occupation as a shoemaker; it gives his age as [what appears to be] 36 and Katie's age as 24 (which more or less agrees with the census record of their ages).

We have a Social Security Death Master File Record and the actual death certificate for "Male" (actually "John") Konvalinka born 9-12-1885; see below.] 

Finally, the birth certificate lists "male" as the second child of the mother, with both children living.  This suggests that their was an older child who was not alive or living at home by the time of the 1900 census (but not the Joseph who we presume to have died young, since he was born after John.

We will need to look further into the New York City birth records and other census records to clear up the confusion here.  The birth dates for Joseph and Annie appear almost identical.  Could they have been twins??

Footnote:  The 1900 New York City Directory has a listing for a Joseph Konvalinka, shoemaker, with home address 174 (street unreadable -- but probably is the the 174 East 3rd Street shown in the 1900 census). The 1890 New York City Directory has (among other Konvalinkas): Konvalinka Joseph, shoes, 245 S. 5th av.

Even with the above discrepancies, any children of Joseph and Catherine/Katie would be roughly the same age as my father, John Konvalinka (b 1891). Yet I never heard any reference by him or other family members (including Emilie, the tree maker, or her children) to any of them. This bears out the possibility that for whatever reason, the branches of the family did not have a close relationship.

The 1920 census has a John F, age 34 (hence born ca 1885-86) living in Queens with wife Margaret, age 32 and daughter Margaret age 3 1/2. (Daughter Margaret would be over 80 in 1998). This appears to be the same John who showed up in the 1900 census (above) age 15, and the one whose 9-12-1885 birth  and 1962 death records we found.)  (We found no Jospehs or Katherines in the New York 1920 census)

The Social Security Death Master File has a January 1963 death record for a John Konvalinka (social security #050-05-1851, born September 12, 1885.)  It lists his place of death only as New York State.  In June 1998 we obtained his death certificate from the NY State Department of Health in Albany.  It shows that he was born in New York City on 9-12-1886 (this agrees with the SSDI as to date, but is off by one year), the son of Joseph Konvalinka and Catherine Kies; that he was a widower, had been married to Margaret Lang, and, at the time of his death (12-17-62) lived as 623 Forest Ave, Massapequa New York.  The funeral home provided two bits of information:   John's daughter, Margaret Ruhs also resided at the 623 Forest Avenue address, and that his funeral had been paid for by Josephine Matz (Mrs Robert), 6936 66th Place, Glendale NY 10027.  We surmise that this was Josephine Konvalinka, John's sister.

The SSDI has a 1983 death record for a Margaret Ruhs born 1916 living Massapequa NY.   We're still investigating whether Margaret may have had any children.

There are also numerous SSDI entries for Josephine and Robert Matz, at least one from the NY Area (Josephine: b July 24, 1892, d Mar 1977)

So, at the moment, the trail ends there for descendants of Joseph, the brother of my ggf.

Re John: There is also a John N. Konvalinka listed in the 1900 census -- [Vol 85 ed 352 sheet 3 line 67] -- not to be confused with John W, son of JNJK (my grandfather) married to Clara. John N's census record shows his address as 437 1st Avenue, Brooklyn; he was born 5/47 in "Austria" his wife was Jane (b 11/57 in Ireland). This is consistent with Emilie's tree -- a John married to a Jane. Both John and Jane are buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn (he in 1916, she in 1924) -- not in the "main" Konvalinka plot, but in a plot in which only the two of them are buried.

Judging by their birthdates, This John (b 1847) and the above Joseph (b 1848), both born in Austria/Bohemia,  could be sons of the "brother" Joseph. John N. clearly had ties with JNJK the furrier, which suggests that he could have been the son of Joseph, and hence nephew of JNJK. His obituary (NYTimes 5/31/16) reads: "John H. (sic) Konvalinka, who died at his home, 437 First Street, Brooklyn, on Monday was formerly a member of the firm of Konvalinka & Konvalinka, furriers in Maiden Lane. He was a native of Crass (sic) Bohemia, and left a widow" [and, by implication, no children -- which is consistent with the census data and the fact that no one besides John N and Jane buried in their plot.]


So, to sum up: There are some unaccounted for Konvalinkas who would appear to have been children/grandchildren of my great grandfather's brother Joseph. I would like to learn more about them and their descendants, and to be able to make contact with them. There do not appear to be any Konvalinkas around who would be the descendants of this branch of the family (I am aware of most of the Konvalinkas in the US) -- so any living descendants may be children/grandchildren of the daughters. I have not yet checked any New York State and City  censuses, and have not exhausted the search for certificates of birth/marriage/death. (I did write to Holy Cross Cemetery; they reported that John N and wife Jane are the only other Konvalinkas buried in HC.) I have not (yet) checked any wills or property records, etc. I have not found any other NYTimes obituaries, personal name references or local newspaper clippings. (I am aware of an undated brief memento of JNJK from a NY paper, but it doesn't speak at all about his family -- just his career as a furrier.)


This is what I would like the research project to focus on. Of course any "new" information about any members of this family (including my own branch) would also be welcome.  Please email John Konvalinka with any information or ideas.


In "Czechs and Slovaks in North America -- A Bibliography" by Ester Jerabek, NY Czech Society of Arts and Sciences in America, 1976, there is a reference (p 407) to Josef George Konvalinka, Memoirs of an Inventor and Scientist; Sketches of Original Ingenious Ideas, published in a series of [seven] pamphlets, Long Island City NY 1884-1897 [really until 1900]. Several of the pamphlets are in the Library of Congress, the NY Public Library and the British Library. In each pamphlet Joseph provides his address: 1883: Astoria; 1897: Long Island City; 1900 Steinways, LIC. Each pamphlet also contains a plea for sponsorship.

This Joseph appears to have not been well off financially; JNJK, on the other hand, was a wealthy furrier by this time. This could mean that the two were NOT brothers; or it could indicate that their relationship was not a close one (further evidence to suggest this below). JNJK died in 1896, and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn. Joseph was "alive but elderly" in 1900. He shows up in the 1900 census [K-514 Roll 376 ed 621 vol 213 sheet 14 line 24] "living alone" on Steinway Ave, Queens. According to the census, he was born April 1820 in Austria.

Bottom line: we think the author Joseph George Konvalinka was NOT the brother of JNJK, my great grandfather. And he has been at least tentatively "claimed" by another Konvalinka family as a relative their grandfather of Alois Ludovic Konvalinka.  They have a Joseph George Konvalinka born April 24 1820 in their records.  This jibes with the census record but puts him in an earlier generation than Alois -- he wouls probably have been Alois' uncle.

[We do not know when JGK died, or where he his buried, except that it is NOT in the "main" Konvalinka plot in Holy Cross. Nor is any other "brother" Joseph buried there. (According to the cemetery, the only other Konvalinkas buried anywhere in Holy Cross are John N [d 1916] and his wife Jane [d 1924] -- see below.



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