Posted by: Becka | October 7, 2010

My Great-Great-Grandfather

It all started with a family legend.  Supposedly (according to rumor), my great-great-grandfather came over from Czechoslovakia, got married, and later left his wife and son somewhere in the Midwest (some said St. Louis, some said Chicago), changed his name, and married my great-great-grandmother.  The legend also said that he changed his name and took on his wife’s maiden name as his own last name. 

I wanted to find the answers.  I started by gathering information from family members.  My dad’s aunt, Aunt Edith, has been the best source.  In getting information, I disproved a small part of that legend.  My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Hofman, did not take his wife’s maiden name as his own.  Her maiden name was not Hofman, it was Cizek. 

I started a family tree on www.ancestry.com.  A few weeks after entering some information, I was contacted by another member on the site.  She thought that my Joseph Hofman might be the one she had been looking for ten years! 

We compared information and it all started to fall into place.  Her great-grandfather was a man named William J. Klimt.  He was born as Vaclav Klimt in Czechoslovakia.  When he immigrated to America, he changed his name to William J. (I’m thinking the J might stand for Joseph).  He married and had a son in St. Louis.  Her family rumors said that William J. ran off with his girlfriend, Mary, and her son, Victor. 

This matched my family records.  Only, the girlfriend was my great-great-grandmother and her name was Maria.  The census records of my great great grandparents living in Southern California showed a Victor living with them, quite a few years older than the other children in the household.  I had solved the mystery!  (With some help from my friend and distant relative).

Joseph was born in 1886 in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia.  He was a tailor by occupation and worked in Bohemia, Germany, and Austria before immigrating to the United States around 1889.  In 1892, he married and in 1893, a son was born to him and his wife.

Joseph Hofman had been married for close to 18 years when he attempted to file for divorce.  He was refused by his wife and a few months later, disappeared from her life forever.  He and his girlfriend, Maria, moved to Los Angeles and he changed his name to Joseph Hofman.  I believe the Joseph came from his middle name, or he named himself after his and Maria’s brothers (as they both had a brother named Joseph).  I believe the “Hofman” part to come from some neighbors (had the last name of Hofman) who also had the occupation of tailor – perhaps he worked with them?

Joseph and Maria had 5 children: William, Marie, Josephine, George, and Robert.  Marie would go on to marry Rex Wilson, and be the mother of my grandfather.

Tragedy struck the family in 1923.  Maria and her son Robert, ate some canned green beans and were poisoned.  Robert grew very ill, but recovered.  Maria lost her life.  Robert was 2 years old.  Joseph was left to raise the five children alone, these children ranging in ages from 2 to 15.  Shortly after Maria’s death, Victor disappeared.  No one in the family, to my knowledge, ever heard from him again.  I did find a record of him (I believe it’s him) in Folsom State Prison, but was unable to find out why he was there or what happened to him after that.  Also, shortly after Maria’s death, the oldest son, William, was riding his bicycle behind a moving truck.  Somehow, an accident happened, and William was killed.  1923 was a very hard year for the Hofman family.

Joseph persevered and did tailor work from his home so he could support his family and watch them at the same time.  His grandchildren fondly remember and it seems he turned out to be a wonderful father and grandfather. 

Around 1930, his daughter Marie married Rex Wilson, and about 12 months later, he became a proud grandfather of twins: Richard Everett and Clark Frederick (named for Richard Whitmark and Clark Gable by their grandmother).  As Marie was very ill after her sons were born, her mother-in-law named her twins.  She did not like the name “Clark.”  From birth until his name was changed legally, Clark was called Don, Donald, or Donny.  In 1932, a granddaughter, Janis Mae, was born.

Back row, left to right: Joseph Hofman, Rex Wilson, George Hofman, Marie Hofman Wilson, and Josephine Hofman Dunn. Front row: Janis, Dick, and Donald Wilson.

 

In 1945, tragedy struck the family again.  Beautiful and vivacious Josephine died of Tuberculosis, leaving behind no children, and a grieving husband.  Yet another child lost. 

In 1947, Joseph moved in with Rex and Marie Wilson.  He continued his tailor work and spent time with his grandchildren.  On February 22, 1949, an ambulance came to the house in the middle of the night.  When the grandkids awoke the next morning, they were told that their Grandfather had died.  Joseph Hofman was no more.  He died of Coronary Sclerosis.  He was cremated and rests at Grandview Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Joseph shortly before his death.

I am in awe that I was able to put together a complete timeline of Joseph’s life.  God must have wanted me to know about my history.  It would have been near impossible to find out his previous name had I not been contacted by a descendent of his.

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Responses

  1. That was very interesting. A job well done!


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