Sunday, August 21, 2016

Willabald Wrba

Willibald Wrba. Now there's a name you don't stumble across every day.

I found Willibald because he married Julie Marie Spacek, who was the oldest sister of Albina Spacek (1890-1918). Albina was the first wife of Louis Klecka (1897-1934), who then married Stella Vasicek (1901-1967), who was the second youngest daughter of Joseph John Vasicek (1866-1951) and Agnes Steffek (1870-1949) my 2nd great grandparents and the first generation immigrant from Vratimov, Moravia.

So yeah it's kind of distant, but it turns out that just about everybody living in the Czech communities of Fayette, Wharton, Bell, and Colorado counties are related. Entire communities transplanted themselves in a series of chain migration from 1856-1920's, with the peak occurring in the 1880's.

The John St. Wrba family apparently came from Frenštát in 1866, settling in Fayette County, TX. This is to be confirmed in the Czech matriky.

Interestingly, when I do a surname search on kdejsme for the surname "Wrba" the surname has apparently significantly dwindled, and there are none from Frenštát, though the only two hits are in Moravia.

I think it's kind of interesting that this family apparently really liked the abbreviation "St." The children used it in the middle of their names, including the daughters. In the newspapers, it is referred to as "Stephen" but in Willibald's draft registration, he spells it out as "Saint." So maybe I will have to do some research to find out if Wrba is the name of a Catholic Saint. Perhaps it is a corrupted form of Urba or something like that. Dunno. I've never seen this practice in Czech names before, where the entire family retains an abbreviation for a middle name.

Anyway, I was confused because Julie Wrba is a 22 year old widow living with her parents in 1900, with her daughter (also Julia Wrba) born in 1899. Julie is listed as the mother of one living child. I thought, "that's unusual for her to be widowed so young." I thought to look for their marriage record and found that they married in Fayette County in 1898.

So then I thought to look for Willibald Wrba's death before 1900. I didn't find anything that matched those dates, though there was a Willibald St. Wrba born in 1878 and died in 1955 in Granger County, TX with the informant "Mrs. Julie Wrba." To make things more confusing, Willibald Wrba's mother was listed as Julie Sladek, which is coincidentally similar to Julie Spacek.

I thought, "that's weird. Who would have thought there were two Willibald Wrbas?"

I decided to look in the newspaper and found a very sad but interesting article in the 13 January 1900 Weimar Mercury. It described how John St. Wrba Sr. and John St. Wrba Jr. and their doctor Charles Kaderka went to identify the body of a man who died of a gunshot wound to the head (suicide?) on the railroad. Apparently one of John St. Wrba's children had been missing for a few months, and they were really nervous about it being their son/brother. The article ends with the information that the body was to be disinterred so that it could be identified.

But there was no further information, which suggests that the body was not identified to be John St. Wrba's son.

I started to wonder if maybe Willibald Wrba wasn't actually dead in 1900. It's totally possible that Julie was listed as a widow because they were separated. There was a huge stigma against divorce and even separation in the early 20th century.

Sure enough, when I did a search for Willibald Wrba in the 1900 census, there he is in the home of John St. Wrba, a 22 year old single male. Apparently they were taking some time apart from each other?

Only, I still couldn't be sure that this Willibald was the same as the one who married Julie. Not until I found the death certificates of her children: Julie Wrba Janak has her parents listed as Willibald St Wrba and Julie Spacek.

And then there is the death certificate of Willibald Arnold Wrba who was born in 1903 and his parents were Willibald St. Wrba and Julie Spacek. So if he were born in 1903, there is no way his father Willibald could have died before 1900.

Sure enough, the findagrave people concur with this conclusion. There was but one Willibald St. Wrba, and he married Julie Marie Spacek.

The very sad irony is that John St. Wrba does end up committing suicide by a gunshot wound to the head in 1940. His father, who died in 1917, would not have identified his body. I can't help but wonder if that experience 40 years earlier of going to identify his brother's body made a lasting impression on John St. Wrba Jr. It is a sad story no matter how you look at it. He left a widow. I have not found out yet if there were children.

You can see that it is very important to not jump to conclusions based on one record. You can also see that family history unveils some very interesting stories. I wonder what was going on between Willibald and Julie that they felt they had to live apart, and then what brought them back together? I wonder what the circumstances were that lead to John St. Wrba feeling he had to end his own life. I wonder why Willibald and Julie only had two children, which was very rare for their generation (though not so rare for the next generation that grew up during the Great Depression and World War II).

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