Jonas Šugžda

Jonas has almost no documents to give us the details of his early life, but would have been born around 1869 somewhere in Lithuania. His parents were Jurgis Šugžda and Agota Klimaitė. He is likely to have arrived at Lauckaimis as an adult, as the only other instances of the Šugžda name in the local parish records were for his own children. He was a ‘plot-holder’ (small farmer) in the village when he married Petronėlė Melnikaitytė after she was widowed around 1890–93. He adopted Petronėlė’s only surviving child of her first marriage (Ona, aka ”Annie”); they had six children in Lauckaimis, but only four of these survived. The family fled Lithuania around 1903 and settled in Glebe Street, Bellshill, Lanarkshire, where they lost a daughter, but had two more boys. They then moved to the nearby village of Bothwellhaugh in 1911, but Jonas almost immediately lost a leg in a mining accident. He lived at 13 Park Place, Bothwellhaugh, for the rest of his life, and died there of a heart-attack in September 1941, aged 72 — he had been a widower for more than 11 years.

Petronėlė Melnikaitytė

Petronėlė was born in November 1864 on the Sakalupis Estate, near Lauckaimis; her father, Simonas Melnikaitis, was from Katromyslė (40 km to the south east), and her mother was a local girl, Ona Vidrinskaitė. In 1886, Petronėlė married Pranciškus Simanavičius, an illegitimate farm labourer from Kataučizna, 4 km north of the village. They had three children, but the first two (Juozapas & Silvestras) died in infancy. In 1891, around the time she had her third child (Ona, later known as “Annie”), Pranciškus died, and she soon married Jonas Šugžda (c.1893).

Petronėlė and Jonas had six more children between 1894 and 1902: Jouzas (Joe), Pranciškus, Bronislovas (Barney), VladislovasPetronėlė Juzė (my grandmother, aka Sarah); and a previously unknown “Maggie” (Magdalena?). Pranciškus and Vladislovas died as infants. Soon after, JonasPetronėlė fled from Lithuania with the five surviving children in tow, and settled in Bellshill, Lanarkshire. It was here that “Maggie” died in 1904, but they had two more boys: John (Johnny, 1904) and Aleksandras (Alex, 1910). They moved to Bothwellhaugh in 1911, but Jonas was injured and they spent the rest of their lives in the company-owned house at 13 Park Place. Petronėlė (also usually known as “Sarah”), died of a stroke in January 1930, aged 65 years.

Surviving children (the siblings)

Ona “Annie” Simanavičiūtė – Ona Zinkevičius, later Dubickas

Annie Zinkevičius née Simanavičiūtė. She is seen here standing by her beloved allotment garden with the Bothwellhaugh bing in the background. The footbridge over the railway to Park Place would be somewhere off to the right of the camera.

Annie was born 10 Feb 1891 in Lauckaimis, the only surviving child of her mother’s first marriage. Her mother remarried, and she grew up with her five surviving half siblings who were born between 1894 and 1910, the last two in Scotland. Annie married a Polish/Lithuanian coal miner, Jonas Zinkevičius, in February 1911 at a church wedding at Mossend. She was pregnant with her first child when they moved to Bothwellhaugh that same year, and Matilda (Tillie) was born in December (shortly after her step-father lost his leg). Annie and her husband lived at Nº 2 Store Place, where they had two more children: Jaroslaw (Russell) in April 1913; and Malvina in February 1915.

In 1917, at the height of World War I, Annie’s husband was repatriated to Russia to serve in the Russian army under the terms of a treaty with the British. He died of typhus while still serving with the Red Army in 1921 (probably in the Civil War that followed the Russian Revolution of 1917). During this period, one of her younger brothers pretended to live at her house so that she wouldn’t be evicted from the company-owned house. She was still living in the house in 1929 when my mother was born there; but, by 1930, she had moved to the Bothwell Park Farm (just south of Bellshill), where her son worked before later going down the mine.

In April 1938, Annie married Willie Dubickas (aka Willie Dobbins) and lived at 60 New Orbison Rows at Bellshill. In 1950, while still living at that address, she visited some of her siblings in New Jersey, and probably her daughter Tillie and son Russell in South Carolina. On her travel documents, she was marked as “stateless”. Annie died of a pulmonary embolism on 10 October 1957 at 23 Croftcot Avenue, Bellshill. She was 66 years old.

Juozas Šugžda – Joseph “Joe” Sugzda

Joe was the first child of Petronėlė’s second marriage, and he was born on 12 December 1894 at Lauckaimis. (We know his birthdate only from his 1942 US draft registration.) He was a coal miner by the time he was 17, working in one of the pits in Bellshill with his father and younger brother Barney.   Joe was old enough in 1917 to be conscripted, either in the British or Russian Army, under the terms of the Anglo-Russian Military Convention — however, he seems to have avoided the choice, unlike his sister Annie’s husband. Instead, he married Euphemia “Phemie” McCaskill in December of that year, and they had four children by 1922 (John, Mary, Sarah and Euphemia).

In August 1922, Joe sailed out of Glasgow aboard the S.S. “Columbia” for New York. He was the first of the family to go to the USA, and this may have been the family’s original intention when they first left Lithuania in 1903. Phemie and the children were left temporarily at 16 Haugh Place, and Joe was to stay with a friend at 1051 Broadway, Bayonne, New Jersey. When his family joined him in April 1923 (sailing on the S.S. “Cameronia”), his address was 35 West 47th Street, Bayonne; the family was to live various places around West 47th until at least 1942. Joe worked at the Standard Oil Co., and he and Phemie had another five children between 1924 and 1932. He died relatively young in December 1952, aged 57, but Phemie lived till April 1978 — she was 82.

Bronislovas (Barney) Šugžda – aka Bernard Sumervial

Barney has always seemed to me to be the most mysterious of the family. We know his birth date and birthplace from a US border crossing card, which he gave as “13 February 1898 at Lauckaimis”. In 1911, aged 15, he was working in a Bellshill colliery as a “hewer” and, like his older brother, somehow avoided conscription (either British or Russian) in World War I. He was a witness at Joe and Phemie’s marriage in 1917, and signed as “Bernard Sugzda”.

Barney arrived in the US by car from Canada at the  Niagara Falls crossing in April 1924, where he gave his name as “Bronislawas Jonas Suczda (now Bernard Sumervial)”, and this is the pseudonym he used thereafter. How he got to Canada is a mystery, but a family story claimed he had ”jumped ship”. Around 1925, he married an English girl, Carrie Carthy, a cotton factory worker from Lancashire who was possibly a cousin to Euphemia McCaskill. In the 1930 census, Barney was living at 339 Avenue A, Bayonne, with Carrie and his younger brother Alex. Barney was a machine operator with the Wire & Cable Co., and was still with the company in 1940 when he was renting at 27 East 46th Street, Bayonne. His US draft registration card in 1942 confirmed he was from the Suvalki region in Lithuania, but had his birthday as the 15th, not 13th. He was still with the Cable Co. and still at 27 East 46th, where he remained until his older sister, Annie, visited in 1950.

Barney and Carrie never had children, and very few records exist for them. They were still living at Bayonne when my mother visited the family at Garwood, New Jersey, in 1970, but were living in Hollywood, Florida when Carrie died in December 1972, aged 82. Barney also died there five-and-a-half years later in May 1978; he was 80.

Petronėlė “Sarah” Juzė Šugždaitė – Petronėlė McKay

My grandmother was the second last of her siblings to be born on Lithuanian soil. In 1927, Annie and Sarah obtained extracts of their Lithuanian birth certificates, so we know she was born on 16 November 1901. The original records for their birth years are now missing from the Vladislovov (Kudirkos Naumiestis) Parish, so we’re lucky to have those extracts. I will detail more on my grandparents in a separate article, but she went to school in Bellshill and Bothwellhaugh before marrying George Brown McKay, a surface railwayman and trade union organiser in 1929. They moved to Govanhill in Glasgow.

Sarah was pregnant with my Mum (Patronele “Pat” Elizabeth) when she married, and delivered her at her sister Annie’s house at Nº 2 Store Place, Bothwellhaugh. From the 1930s, George and Sarah lived at 308 Polmadie Road, Glasgow, where my mother, an only child, grew up. Mum married in 1949, and our family left for Australia the following year.

By 1958, George and Sarah owned a bungalow at 125 Maukinfauld Road, Tollcross, and they lived there for the rest of their lives. George was an active member of the Communist Party, but Sarah, a deeply superstitious woman, seemed to be happy with a domestic life. My mother and her parents became estranged from 1970 (an issue I will discuss in another article), so we did not know till after the event that Sarah had died of stomach cancer in September 1973, aged 71. My Granddad died unexpectedly (perhaps suspiciously) on a Party-funded ‘holiday’ in Bulgaria on or before 12 August 1974. No documentation was ever furnished by the British Embassy in Sophia for his death.

John Šugžda – aka Johnny Shugesda or Sugistaff

Johnny was the first of the siblings to be born in Scotland, and from his birth on 28 May 1904 (and his sister Maggie’s death 4 months earlier), we can determine that the family likely arrived in 1903 from Lithuania. They were living at 7 Bellside Terrace in Glebe Street, and his father was working as a coal miner. Johnny would have gone to school at Bellshill until 1911 when the family moved to Bothwellhaugh. When his brother-in-law, Jonas Zinkevičius, was deported and conscripted into the Russian army in 1917, Johnny would have been 16, and too young for military service; however, it is likely he would have been working down the pits from the age of 14.

According to family stories, and consistent with valuation roll listings, Johnny “pretended” to live at his sister Annie’s house at 2 Store Place from 1917. Since her husband had been repatriated to Russia, and died there, Annie would not have been entitled to a colliery-owned rental house, so the family engineered a scam to allow her to stay on. Johnny married Jeanie Hill Wallace in August 1927 when he was 23 years old, the third of his siblings to tie the knot. They had two children (Sadie and Isabella Sugistaff) before Johnny left sometime in 1929 to join his older brothers in Bayonne, New Jersey. Jeanie followed with the children aboard the S.S. “Letita” in December 1929, to join her husband who was then staying with Joe and Phemie at 44 West 15th Street.

Nothing more is known about this couple’s short time in the US. They had gone to stay permanently, but Jeanie and the children returned to Bellshill on the S.S. ”Caledonia” in May 1931. There is no documentation for Johnny’s travel to and from the US, but they had two more children in Bothwellhaugh: Jeanie (1931), and John (1934). By 1935, they were living at 60 New Orbison Rows, Bellshill (where Annie would later live), and had two more children: Andrew (1938), and George (1944). Johnny died at Bellshill in 1974, aged 69; Jeanie died at Carluke in 1989 when she was 81.

Aleksandras Šugžda – aka Alexander Sugzda

Alex was the last born of the Šugžda siblings. He came into the world on 26 February 1910 at 4 Bellgowan Terrace in Glebe Street, Bellshill, but didn’t go to school until the family moved to Bothwellhaugh. His early life is completely unknown to us, and the first public record of him is when he arrived at Ellis Island, aged 18, aboard the S.S. “Caledonia”, in March 1929. He gave his occupation as “miner”, and was heading to his brother Joe at 44 West 15th Street, Bayonne, to live permanently in the USA. A year later, he appeared in the 1930 census staying with Barney and Carrie at 339 Avenue A, Bayonne, a couple of blocks away from Joe’s place. Oddly, he is called “Alexander Sumervial” in that census.

Alex Sugzda and his family at 341 Third Avenue, Garwood, N.J. This picture was taken when my mother paid them a visit from Australia in 1970. Going clockwise, Sandy is to the far left, and John is in the blue shirt at back; to his left are Patsy and Linda. Alex is in front of Linda, and Carrie Sumervial at bottom right. My mother, Pat Craig, is standing next to Carrie, and Anna is in front of Sandy.

The next few years are blank for us but, about 1939, Alex married Anna Maria Stanis, the daughter of Lithuanian migrants, and they had their first child, Alexander (known to us as Sandy), in November that year. Surprisingly, no record of this family has been found in the 1940 census — but, by 1939, they were living at 341 Third Avenue, Garwood, New Jersey and had three more children: Patricia (1941), John, and Linda (1948).

When I visited this family in 1971 at 341 Third Avenue, Alex had just retired as a forklift driver at the Linden plant of General Motors. My cousin Sandy, who was a decorated US Army sergeant, took me on a trip to South Carolina to meet Tillie and her son Russell, both descendants of Annie. They were a warm and happy family, but at the time I hadn’t started doing family history — there is so much I would have liked to ask them. Alex Sugzda died in July 1971, aged 61. Sandy (62) and his mother, Anna (85), both died in 2002. I hope to be able to add more to this family’s story in the future.