Saturday, March 7, 2015

Josef Reaber

Josef Reaber was born 9 March 1874 in Pilsen, Bohemia to Johann and Maria Reaber.
1855 Map of Bohemia
Found in the David Rumsey Collection
Josef married Christine Konecny on 17 April 1908 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. They had an arranged marriage. Josef knew Christine's father, Johann, before the marriage was arranged.

Together, they had one child, Rosemary Christine Reaber, who was born 22 January 1910 in Chicago. The following is one of only two photos I have ever seen of my great-great-grandfather.
Josef and Rosemary, 1924
Photo provided by Thomas Cardenas
Now, I remember talking to my great-grandmother in 2000 for research on an autobiography assignment I had at school. I interviewed her and my grandmother (Rosemary's daughter-in-law) to get information on our family. Being the overachiever that I am, I said I couldn't know who I was until I knew those who came before me. Little did I know, this one assignment would spark a new hobby of genealogy.

I remember Rosemary saying her parents came over from Bohemia. Since her passing, I have come to learn that her mother was from Vienna, which was not part of Bohemia. I also remember her saying that their last name used to be "like 15 letters long." According to her, it was shortened upon arrival in America.

Up until my brother found this notebook in our great-grandmother's possessions, I had only known of a few spellings of Rosemary's last name, all of which were fairly similar phonetically: Reaber, Reba, Ribar, Ryber, Rybar, and Ruban. The following, written by my great-grandmother, shows yet another spelling of her last name and also mentions possibly another time her name was changed long after they'd been in America.
Notes written down by Rosemary for her granddaughter, Nancy
Provided by Thomas Cardenas
Continuation of notes written by Rosemary for Nancy
Provided by Thomas Cardenas
So now, Rybash is added to the list of alternate surnames for my great-grandmother's family. My favorite part of this story is the stark difference between Josef and Christine's attitudes toward the principal's error. Christine is almost disgusted that the name was misspelled, while Josef, who liked the misspelled name, decided to adopt it completely! One day I hope to find out what the true surname and spelling was, but for now I'm left with these alternates.

Another interesting thing about my great-great-grandfather is his occupation. He was a chemist who worked at the stockyard of Armour & Co., a local meatpacking plant. According to The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Armour was "Chicago's leading industrial enterprise and employer" by 1880.
Armour & Co.
Josef was responsible for the oils and oleo (or margarines) the company produced. Armour refused to let any portions of their slaughtered animals go to waste and manufactured many difference products from the "leftover" parts of their slaughter.

The following clip from the notes of Rosemary state he had "the gift of taste" and "in one day he knew what caused the product to go rancid."
Continuation of notes written by Rosemary for Nancy
Provided by Thomas Cardenas
I have yet to come across any kind of information regarding Josef's level of education, but since I have a Bachelor's of Science in Chemistry, I like to think he had more than just a gift of taste. Josef is the only other person I have come across in the family with a science-related job.

My brother, Thomas, also came across another gem in our great-grandmother's possessions. It was a small memory book completed by our mother. In the short book, our mother wrote down Rosemary's responses to several questions about her upbringing and family. Here are Rosemary's recollections about her own father, Josef.
Clipping from a book called "For My Grandchild"
as written by Rosemary's granddaughter, Nancy
("Grandma" is Rosemary.)
Based on my great-grandmother's memories of her father, I think I would have liked Josef very much.
Josef and, I assume, his wife, Christine
Provided by Thomas Cardenas
Josef died in July 1959, I assume, in Chicago. He is buried at Saint Boniface Cemetery which is located in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. He and Christine share a tombstone with Christine's parents, Johann and Anna Konecny. One day, I hope to visit the cemetery myself. I have been to Chicago before, but not with the knowledge of my own history there.


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