The Gedman took an unusually circuitous route to Springfield. Along the way, a mystery emerged: two local Gedman families who don’t know each other, yet whose ancestors lived in close proximity.
Kaitonis Gedman (Lith. Kajetonas Gedmanis or Gedminis?) was born in Kvedarna, Lithuania in 1859. He left behind his second wife, Petronėlė Kupšaitė, born in Kvedarna in 1864, and two children to work in the coal mines of Bentlyville, Pennsylvania. When his wife, Petronėlė, died back in Lithuania in 1903, Kaitonis sent for his daughter, Anna, who had been born in 1882 of his first wife, and his son, Joseph, to join him in Pennsylvania.
Joseph C. Gedman, who had been born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1895, came to the U.S. when he was just eight with his half-sister Anna Gedman (later Pinkes), who was 21. Joseph, who had less than a year of schooling, worked as a coal miner like his father Kaitonis, and also in ordinance plants, first in Pennsylvania, then striking out on his own in Coalton, Oklahoma, where he returned to live and work after serving in World War I. (His sister Anna Pinkes also lived in Coalton, and all her children were born there.) Interestingly, Joseph also secured his U.S. citizenship via honorable discharge from his service in World War I.
Joseph married Helen Beneky, the 20-year-old Springfield-born daughter of Lithuanian-born Anthony and Barbara (Wisnoski) Beneky. The couple apparently were introduced by Helen’s cousin, Jack Harmon, whom Joseph met in Coalton. We don’t know what the Joseph and Helen trans-continental courtship was like, but we do know that the couple married in 1921 at Helen’s “native” church, St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian Catholic Church, in Springfield. After living for a time in Coalton, Oklahoma, where their only child, James L. Gedman, was born later in 1921, Joseph and Helen moved to 2110 Peoria Road, near the Illinois State Fairgrounds, in close proximity to many other Lithuanian immigrant families.
According to Betty Gedman, the granddaughter of Joseph and Helen, as a young girl, Helen slipped getting off the streetcar (Inter-urban) that used to run down Peoria Road, and lost all but two of the fingers on her right hand. Yet she went on to have perfect handwriting, and to work at the International Shoe Factory for many years, “outworking many of the men there.”
Helen also played an important role in the 1930s “Mine Wars” (covered elsewhere on this blogsite) as a board member of the Illinois Women’s Auxiliary of the Progressive Mine Workers of America (AFWAL), representing Springfield. Helen died in 1947 at the age of just 46, only five years after the death of Kaitonis, the paterfamilias, in Springfield in 1942 at age 83. Kaitonis had finally arrived in Springfield by 1925, following his daughter Anna and son Joseph. Joseph died in Springfield in 1990 at age 95.
Joseph and Helen’s son James L. Gedman, who served in World War II, worked as a lineman and mechanic for Illinois Bell Telephone. He married Loretta Rose Gietl in 1950, and they raised three children at 1703 E. Matheny: twins Helen Gedman (Coleman) and Betty Gedman–and son Joe. Helen died in 1980 at 29, but had a son John, and daughter Erin. Joe, of Belleville, is retired from the U.S. Air Force and has two children.
Betty Gedman, the informant for this piece, is an R.N. and perioperative nurse manager in West Virginia. Her husband John Wiley is of Connecticut Lithuanian descent on his mother’s side (Neverdousky).
Let me end this blog post with a mystery: Does anyone know the connection, if any, between Kaitonis, Joseph and James Gedman’s family and a Charles Gedman of Springfield who married Emma Valentine (Lith Valentuonis? also spelled Valtioneys, Valentinaocius)) and in 1902 had daughter Julia, who married Peter Lukitis? Julia (Gedman) Lukitis was a devoted parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul’s who worked in the church office for many years. She was also a cashier at The Hub Clothier, and had a daughter, Rita Mae Marley of Decatur and two granddaughters.