This is the story of William Francis Bhirdo’s ancestry. More details will be provided on individuals, DNA evidence, and other topics in the Home section of the site on a periodic basis. The ancestry of my father held the greatest mystery in our family for 87 years. He was not able to unravel it because of bureaucratic red tape.
William Francis Bhirdo was adopted by John and Emma Bhirdo in Escanaba, Michigan in 1915 when he was two years old. When he grew older what he knew was still scarce and foggy. We were told by his sister, our Aunt Anis Bhirdo Charbonneau that his step-father was abusing him so the Bhirdo’s offered to adopt him. He knew his mother’s name was Agnes Hare and believed his father’s name was Ole Olson. He knew he was born in Marinette, Wisconsin. He said that John Bhirdo used to travel to Marinette and stayed at a boarding house where his mother worked with her sisters.
In 1954 a significant event occurred that provided more information, but no long-lasting solutions. William found out he had two half-sisters, both born in Escanaba and both, like himself, adopted to separate families when they were young. One of the sisters, Dorothy Allen, now Dorothy Mather, hired a private investigator to find her sister and brother. The other sister was Annette Larson. The three were reunited in Alpena, Michigan in 1954. The private investigator had informed Dorothy that their mother had moved to Chicago and had “absconded to Mexico with a Spaniard”. In 1954 William tried to get his adoption records unsealed, but his request was denied. That’s where things remained for the next 46 years.
In 2000, with the help of the Director of Human Services in Wisconsin we were finally able to obtain permission to unseal the birth record of William F. Bhirdo. The record revealed that his mother was Agnes Krych and his father was Olaf Byquist.
Byquist was estranged from his wife, but still married, and had two grown children. His family had relocated to Washington and he was living in a boarding house in Marinette. Agnes Krych worked with her step-mother cleaning rooms at this large boarding house. In March 1913 Olaf Byquist was 64 years old and Agnes Krych was 13 years old. When it was apparent that Agnes was pregnant, her father, Andrew Krych, filed charges against Byquist who was arrested. He was deemed to be suffering from dementia and mental illness and was committed to Oshkosh Asylum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin that same year. He remained there until 1915 when he was released and then relocated to Washington State to be near his children. Olaf passed away in 1936 at the age of 87.
Agnes gave birth to William F. Krych on 3 December 1913 in Marinette, Wisconsin. She remained in Marinette for a while but eventually moved to Escanaba, Michigan where she married Clinton Arthur Hare who worked in the same factory as John Bhirdo. The marriage occurred in 1914. This marriage may have been an arranged by John and Emma Bhirdo. Hare was over 20 years older than Agnes.
Agnes gave birth to daughter Anis-Agnes Hare in 1916 and Vera Hare in 1918. By 1920 both girls had been adopted to families in Iron County, Michigan and their names changed. With the exception of one incident, we have been unable to discover what happened to Agnes after this. It is apparent that Agnes and Clinton Hare separated or divorced. Clinton Hare died around 1930 in Milwaukee after remarrying, or living with another woman there.
A family book of the Krych family was written at some unknown time and there is a very short reference about Agnes visiting an aunt and talking of the death of her father who died in Chicago in 1947.
For the next fifteen years I scoured the records learning everything I could about the Krych and Byquist family. I even went to Marinette and got the original records related to Olaf Byquist’s case. But, I had reservations about Byquist being our grandfather because of the circumstances. It appeared that Agnes was being procured by someone (or perhaps on her own) to make extra money. There were over 20 men in that boarding house. Olaf mentioned during questioning that there were other men involved and the Krych’s accused him because they thought he had money.
It was during this time that DNA was beginning to be used in genealogy. By 2015 I had been becoming more and more convinced that something was not right with the Krych name. We seemed to have no connections to families with that name, or the Pilarski surname, which was Mary Krych’s maiden name. In 2015 I used a website called GedMatch to check my DNA against a direct descendant of the Krych family. It did not match. That told me Agnes Krych was not a Krych. So, who was she?
An Ancestry member contacted me and we entered into a dialogue. She suggested we were somehow related to the Skinner family line. I was still a novice with the DNA features and couldn’t quite understand that. She said I had a lot of matches with people who were descended from the Skinner family. She did tell me that the name “Skinner” would probably not be the name if the line passed through female descendants who had changed their name. The task seemed daunting.
In early 2017 I was looking at GedMatch and found a very high match with a person named Levi LaDuke. When I checked Family Tree DNA, another site, the same name was shown, and again it was a very high match. I started searching the LaDuke name but it made no sense because that person had a lot of Native American in them. I discovered the person who posted this information was a professional genealogist so I thought he was doing this for a client. He would not return my emails so I gave up on that.
I was looking at a Find A Grave site for the LaDuke family and there was a note there from a family member to contact them if anyone needed more information. I contacted her and we started discussing the family line. Levi LaDuke was her uncle. In frustration I mentioned to her that the LaDuke surname made no sense because of the Native American background and I was mostly Swedish. She mentioned that her aunt, the wife of Levi LaDuke had Swedish blood. She provided the name Rosetta LaDuke. I soon found out that her maiden name had been Peterson.
Then I discovered that Rosetta’s mother was Eva Adeline Peterson and her maiden name had been Skinner! Eva Adeline’s father was Clark Allen Skinner from Little Falls, Minnesota, the same city the Krych’s had lived in before moving to Wisconsin. I eventually was put in touch with the professional genealogist who was a grandson of the LaDuke’s and he told me the DNA sample was Rosetta’s, not Levi’s. He shared the family tree with me.
The first document I found was the 1900 census for Little Falls and living there was Clark Allen Skinner and his wife Maude Skinner and a daughter named Jessie E. Skinner. Jessie had been born in January of that year. By 1910 Clark Allen was remarried to Minnie Hansen. I found that Maude had died the following year, in 1901 of typhus. Jessie was nowhere to be found. Maude’s maiden name was Rounds and her father and mother were Asa Rounds and Sarah Jane Hollenbeck Rounds.
Armed with this information I started checking Skinner, Rounds and Hollenbeck DNA connections and was finding out a lot of information. There were a number of matches with the Skinner and Hollenbeck families. A member of the Hollenbeck family contacted Connie (Kubiak) about our family connections. I eventually talked to this person (Aaron Dahl) who is descended from the Hollenbeck side through Sarah Jane’s first marriage to Hiram Vaneps (who died in the Civil War).
Aaron told me that Maud had been married at a young age to Charles Flansburg and had had two sons with him, Charles, and Clarence. When Maud became sick Charles Flansburg returned her and the two boys to Asa and Sarah’s house and abandoned them. Asa and Sarah eventually adopted both boys.
Maud then married Clark Allen Skinner in 1899 and they had Jessie in January. Skinner came from a large family who all lived in and around Little Falls. When Maude died in January 1901 Jessie Skinner was living with Asa and Sarah Jane Rounds. Both were nearing 60 years of age and according to Aaron “wanted nothing to do with this baby”. The family story is they gave the baby to some people leaving town on a wagon train. Note: My belief is Clark Allen Skinner’s family did not believe Jessie was his baby. I think this was because she had been previously married and when she married Skinner she was already pregnant.
During this same time period I was receiving messages from descendants of Olaf Byquist’s family in Sweden and it was not very long before I was convinced he was indeed our grandfather.
When I had what I thought was sufficient information on the Skinner, Rounds and Hollenbeck family I hired a professional genealogist who specialized in DNA matches. I told her I thought Jessie Skinner was Agnes Krych and presented the evidence. She examined it and concurred with my findings.
All this happened in 2017 and 2018. Since then there has been overwhelming evidence that we are descended from the Skinner and Byquist families. William F. Bhirdo was born Marion Francis Krych. His name should have been Marion Francis Byquist. John and Emma Bhirdo changed his name to William Francis Bhirdo.
Our paternal family names are:
- Grandfather: Olaf Byquist (born Olaf Erickson in By, Sunne, Varmland, Sweden)
- Grandmother: Jessie E. Skinner (given to Krych family in 1901 and raised by them)
- Great Grandfather: Clark Allen Skinner (abandoned his daughter after his wife died).
- Great Grandmother Maud May Rounds (Jessie Skinner’s mother, died at age 18 in 1901)
- Paternal 2X Great Grandfather: Francis Truman Skinner (Clark Allen Skinner’s father)
- Paternal 2X Great Grandmother: Sarah Dicks (Dix) – Clark Allen Skinner’s mother
- Maternal 2X Great Grandfather: Asa Rounds (Maud Rounds Skinner’s father)
- Maternal 2X Great Grandfather: Sarah Jane Hollenbeck (Maude Rounds Skinner’s mother).
And of course, the families who bore the brunt of raising our father and grandmother were:
- Andrew Krych – Jessie Skinner’s father (there was no adoption involved)
- Mary Krych – Jessie Skinner’s mother (I think she and Maud Rounds knew each other – they were the same age and lived fairly close to one another
- John Bhirdo – William F. Bhirdo’s adopted father
- Emma Perrin – William F. Bhirdo’s adopted mother.
So this is a brief version of our story. There are many stories to tell about these people, including Agnes’ sisters, Lucy and Victoria. Andrew and Mary (Pilarski) Krych also have some interesting history. Agnes’ step mother was Rose Kolachinski who Andrew married in 1910. She was much older and had five children. Asa Rounds and Sarah Jane Hollenbeck lived in the same area in Pennsylvania when both were married to other people. For some reason Asa left his wife and two children and traveled to Minnesota after Sarah Jane did. Sarah was married three times and it appears one of those was for convenience, to a much older man named John Barnhart. In or around 1880 John Barnhart suspected Sarah Jane was cheating on him so kicked her out of the house. In 1880 she was living in a boarding house in Pierz, Minnesota. All these stories and more need to be told.
Our DNA match to the Rounds family is weak so I am still not convinced that Asa Rounds is Maud’s father. She was born before he and Sarah were married. But, looking at the DNA matches we have I am hard pressed to find anyone else who could be the father. Complicating this are Maud’s two sons from her first marriage. They were born with the name Flansburg, but were adopted and used the name Rounds. Their descendants, with whom we have a strong DNA connection, show descent through the Rounds. Other than these, there are few other Round family connections.