A Report of the Disposition of Bodies at Dunning

I’ve said before that it’s amazing how much one can learn by thoroughly examining a genealogy record in your possession.  If your like me, the documents themselves aren’t enough.

Another case in point is my recent examination of the death record of my great-great grandfather Anton Liska.  I’ve had a copy of this death certificate for many years but due to the “genealogy do-over” project which encourages researchers to re-evaluate their sources, I have discovered not only a family story, but another resource for finding the death records of elusive Cook County ancestors.

Death record of Anton Liska. January 1905.

Death record of Anton Liska. January 1905.

Anton Liska died on January 21, 1905 at the Cook County Infirmary at Dunning.  At the time of his death, the conditions at the Dunning Poorhouse, Infirmary and Asylum had attracted the attention of the press who were demanding that the Cook County Board of Supervisors do something about the deplorable conditions at Dunning.

Chicago Daily Tribune. Feb. 14, 1904.

Chicago Daily Tribune. Feb. 14, 1904.


According to the Cook County Board Proceedings of 1905, there were “many things that can be done to greatly improve the situation”.  One of the suggestions was the removal of the Cook County Infirmary from the Dunning grounds due to the fact that admittance to the Infirmary gave the impression that the patients were confined to the “Poor House”.  This was especially true to “tuberculosis patients who are reluctant to enter the institution at Dunning until necessity compels them”. [Cook County Board Proceedings. 1905-1906. p13]

Looking closely at Anton Liska’s death certificate we can see that he spent 6 months and 11 days in the Infirmary with the cause of death being Tuberculosis of the Lungs.

An outcome of the Chicago Tribune’s attention to the conditions at Dunning was the Cook County Board’s appointment of Dr. V.H. Podstata as general superintendent.

Chicago Daily Tribune. May 29, 1903.

Chicago Daily Tribune. May 29, 1903.

Thanks to the University of Michigan, researchers can now read Dr. Podstata’s monthly reports to the County Board in the Official Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County, Illinois.  The reports are an accurate accounting of the monthly population of patients, hospital expenditures, and the final disposition of bodies from the Cook County Hospital for the Insane, the Cook County Hospital for Consumptives and the Cook County Infirmary.

And for those of us who research our family’s stories, it is this listing of the final disposition of bodies that connects us to this place and time.   It allows us not to just see our ancestors name on a government report, but rather it allows us a more thorough glimpse at the individuals who he came in contact with during his last days on earth.


Anton died on Saturday, January 21st, 1905 at the age of 47.   His body was delivered to Josef J. Liska, his brother, six days later on January 27, 1905.  His funeral was held the following day at 11:00 a.m. with burial at the Bohemian National Cemetery.  His obituary, alluding to the broken heart of his family members, appeared in the Denni Hlasatel on January 27, 1905.

Anton Liska obituary


Bohemian Congregation of Freethinkers

It’s amazing how much one document can tell you about the past!  KRIVANEK Frank_LISKA Anna 1908 OCT 08This week I’ve been slowly entering information into my database about the Frank Krivanek family.  This family, while not my direct line, has however had a direct and powerful impact on my personal life, as the three daughters of Frank and Anna, Bess, Bernice and Anna, were my father’s beloved “aunts”.  And while I never met them personally, their love and respect for my father after the death of his own parents in 1963, helped shape him into the wonderful father and grandfather that he was.


The marriage of Anna Liska to Frank Krivanek took place in Chicago on Monday, October 12, 1908.  According to document, the couple received their license to wed the previous Tuesday on October 6th from Cook County Clerk, Joseph F. Haas.

Source: The Semi-centennial jubilee of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association in Chicago, Illinois : a free English version of J. J. Jelínek's Bohemian Historical Sketch

F.B. Zdrubek. Source: The Semi-centennial jubilee of the Bohemian National Cemetery Association in Chicago, Illinois : a free English version of J. J. Jelínek’s Bohemian Historical Sketch

The marriage ceremony itself was performed by Frank B. Zdrubeck, Pres. and Minister of the Bohemian Congregation of Free Thinkers.  According to the 1910 Chicago Blue Book of Selected Names of Chicago and Suburban Towns, the location of Zdrubeck’s congregation was 1126 W. 18th Street.

But was this the actual location of the marriage
ceremony?  I am unsure.  A search of the internet today has given me just a brief understanding of the Congregation of Freethinkers and it is something I need to study more in-depth with the most pressing question being whether or not any archival documents exist for this “central community institution”

These freethinkers set up building and benevolent societies, maintained a school and a library, organized children’s programs and adult lectures, and sponsored musical and dramatic programs. Their congregation offered secular baptisms for their children and secular funerals, in the Bohemian National Cemetery, for their dead. (“Free Thought” Encyclopedia of Chicagowww.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/487.html)

Interestingly enough, studying this document allows me to recall a conversation I had with my father at one of our lunch dates in Crandon.  At that time, I was researching my great-grandparents John and Antonette Liksa Koranda, and I asked him if he knew the reason why John was not married in the Catholic church like his brothers and sisters were but rather by the Cook County Justice of the Peace?  Dad was not sure.  But now I wonder if Antonette and his sister Anna, were possibly members of the Freethinker Congregation? Or if not actual members, questioned the established beliefs of the Catholic Church?

Free thought embraced reason and anticlericalism, and freethinkers formed their ideas about religion independently of tradition, authority, and established belief. A product of the Enlightenment, free thought was deist, not atheist. In nineteenth-century Chicago, freethinkers, many of them immigrants from Europe, institutionalized irreligion. (“Free Thought” Encyclopedia of Chicago)

There is always more research to be done!