"Brick walls." Maybe, maybe not. I have discovered in my years of doing research that most of the time a "brick wall" isn't a brick wall after all, I just needed to find the right document, and it is a document that any seasoned researcher would have located straight away. Case in point, my wife's great-grandfather Peter Casattas (1851-1917).
In my wife's family perhaps there is no other individual wrapped up in more speculation and lore. With various alterations to the story, it is said he snuck onto a ship to the U.S. when he was only thirteen, then when the ship came near the shore, perhaps near Santa Cruz, home to the majority of his descendents, he jumped ship and swam ashore.
The truth as we know it so far, is he was an immigrant from Greece to San Francisco. And with all the court records lost in the great quake and fire, finding info on him has been like pulling teeth. Combine that with him having a heavy accent (chronicled in a newspaper article I found) and an oddly spelled surname, and it appeared he would remain an enigma.
But fortunately there are thousands and thousands of researchers in the same boat trying to find information on ancestors in San Francisco before the quake, so any records genealogists can find instead of those lost are quickly indexed and examined. Here I give you the funeral home record for Peter Casattas --
-- From it we see he is from Greece, and it is his daughter Marya (aka. "Maria") who took care of the details. He died from a tumor, and the year of birth of 1851 is also correct according to my research, despite it disagreeing with the birth year on his tombstone. However his birthdate is wrong according to my research. More on these things later. He was Catholic, the mass was held at the Greek Church, and he was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Colma, CA.
Research possibilities: Cemetery records and church records.
Part 2 tomorrow.
Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker