Friday, February 14, 2014

ALEXANDRIA CONACOVA GLESSOFF #6 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks





In January 2014, Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog issued a challenge.



The premise: write once a week about a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, a research problem — any that focuses on that one ancestor. The next week, write about a different ancestor. In 52 weeks, you’ll have taken a closer look at 52 people in your family tree… and maybe learned a little bit more about them in the process.




Alexandria Conacova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1871.  I thought I would write about her this week as the Olympics are being held in Russia.  This woman was my husbands Grandmother.  Alexandria died when my husband was only 2 so he has no memories of her.  All my information about her came through her daughters and some historical documents.


Alexandria’s father, George, was an officer in the Russian army and her mother, Pearl, was a housekeeper and a dressmaker.  Alexandria had one brother also named George.


Sometime before she came to America she married John Glessoff also of St. Petersburg.  Her condition on marrying him was that they immigrate to America.  The two of them arrived in New York’s Ellis Island on 16 June 1899 from the port of Bremen, Germany.


The story I heard from the daughters, Florence, Valentine, Mary and Anna was Alexandria and John Glessoff,  after arriving in New York,  travelled to St. Louis with a friend.  Apparently they could not get work in St. Louis so they returned to the New York area.  I have not found any record of them being in St. Louis.  On the passenger list the person next to Jwan Glasow (as it was spelled on the passenger list) was a Michal Swald, of Russia, going to his brother in St. Louis.  So the story seems like it could have been true. 


In 1902 Alexandria and John had their first child Florence and they were living in Elisabeth, New Jersey.  I found the family in the 1910 census and it indicates he worked in a machine shop.  The area in New Jersey where they settled was adjacent to the docks with all the traffic of New York harbor so I’m sure his talent came in very handy.


Unfortunately, John Glessoff died in May of 1910 leaving his wife Alexandria and 4 children.  The children were Florence, Walter, Valentine, and Mary.  Several years later Alexandria remarried another Russian named Walinsky Shesnesky.  They had a daughter Anna.  Alexandria and Walinsky did divorce after several years.


Alexandria managed to keep her family together by doing sewing.  She sewed most of the girl’s clothes.  She also took in sewing from people in the neighborhood.  At this time they were living in Newark, New Jersey. Sometime between 1910 and 1915 their house went on fire.  I spoke with Florence when she was in her 80’s and she still remembered the fear she had during that fire.  She had to jump out a window from the 2nd floor, she didn’t get hurt but the fear stayed with her all her life.  Another daughter, Mary hid from rescuers so they had to search for her to save her life.


Alexandria decided to move to Brooklyn, she felt she would have a better opportunity for work.  Her son and daughters were starting to work for themselves and this would be a better place for them.



Alexandria became a citizen of the United States in 1931 and was very proud.  She kept up with the political scene and had lively debates with all the family.  During her life in America she wanted nothing to do with Russia and her old life.  She did not teach her children how to speak Russian, they all, including her, had to speak only English.  They did learn some nursery rhymes and songs in Russian and learned an occasional word but nothing for a conversation.  She continued to sew all her life and the family still has a few dresses she made for the daughters when they were little. This dress was made for Flag Day and we have in hanging up for display.



When I married into the family she had been dead for 20 years and the family still talked of her as if she spoke to them yesterday.  Alexandria Glessoff died in Brooklyn, New York 21 April 1943.

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