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Ragutis Family History

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Surnames/tags: Ragutis Augustine
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The following is a narrative written by Charles Francis Rogers about his grandparents Bartholomew Walter Ragutis and Petronella Augustine

January 1994

While researching our deceased family, the question kept coming back to me, "What type of people were our paternal grandparents?"

With information I have gathered, some given to me by my father, and some I have picked up from family members, I hope this will give us an idea of what they were like.

First, they loved each other very much, {for all they went through together}. They had three daughters and four sons.[1] Liked to party. Went to Catholic Church, and like so many people, at the end of their lives, had. no money.

The only real estate they owned is the grave they are lying in at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.

There seems to be some contradiction with some information I have gathered. Some questions will arise. I will do my best to give my interpretation of this information. (The reader may have a different view point.)

For the sake of making it easier for me, I will call them Walter and Petronella. (Walter had been known by two other first names, Bartholomew and Baltramaitis.) There may be different variations of this spelling.

Walter was born in the seaport of Klaipeda, Lithuania. His death certificate will show a different location, however, I am convinced Klaipeda is his true birthplace. He was born in August of 1854, as stated on his tombstone.

Walter and Petronella's second son, Joseph, is my dad. When I was a boy of 12 years old, he told me a story about his father, Walter. At the age of twelve, he went to sea as a cabin boy on a merchant ship. Sailing for some years, (don't know how many exactly), doing various jobs aboard the sailing ships. During a storm at sea, the crew was trying to trim the sails, Walter, doing his job, got his thumb caught in the rigging, and ripped it off from the first joint, amputating it. The sailmaker sewed it closed, doing a perfect job. It looked like the top of a bald man's head (no scars). My dad said smiling, when they were children and had to be corrected, Walter would get that child that needed correcting, and squeeze their finger between his stumpy thumb and first finger.

Walter's English was well spoken, although he had picked up an Irish Brogue in his travels. His years of sailing with the merchant ships had taken him to all corners of the world.

You must remember Lithuania was under the control of the Russian Czar from 1795 until she regained her independence in 1918. It was to last "forever," but didn't. It was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939. Under the Czar, the lifestyle wasn't bad at all. there was some interference with the larger cities, appointments of politicians and police along with the military. That brings us back to Walter.

Major world events were happening throughout the world while Walter was in his youth. As a merchant seaman he was drawn into them. For instance, the United States was engaged in a Civil War. The Polish people were revolting against the Czar in 1863. It was 1864 when Prussia defeated Denmark. A news item: H.M.S. Captain along with its crew of 500 men was lost in a vicious storm in the English Channel on September 7, 1870. Victoria was Queen of Great Britain, and the Suez Canal opened. The Franco-Prussian War was at its peak in 1870.

This seemed enough for any clear thinking man, (yes, by then he was a man). A man that would say to himself, "To hell with all this, I'm going back where it's quiet." He may have had his vices, especially so, for a merchant seaman. I'll leave those vices to your imagination.

This is why I am sure he was born in Klaipeda, being the only seaport on the coast of Lithuania. I have discounted any inland cities which would have been too distant for a 12 year old to have showed any interest with the Baltic Sea.

Petronella likely came from a family of the aristocracy of Klaipeda. Most certainly someone in her family was either a military officer or a politician.

I made reference earlier of their devotion to one another. Picture this, here is a beautiful woman who had everything, a fine education, a social position, a nice estate, and a nice family. She also had a sister, Elizabeth, and a brother, John, who immigrated to America. More on them later. She didn't care what her family thought of Walter. He was her kind of guy, and to hell with everybody. Why would an Augustine give up stature to fall in love with a common sailor? Walter had something.

More questions, how old were they when they got married? Was Walter still a seaman, or when did he give up sailing?[2]

More proof that her family was of the aristocracy, during the period of the Czar, a person had to have a position of nobility to have vast holdings of property. Petronella, her sister and brother, were known to have a vast estate with land of their own. Petronella sold 400 acres of her land. The remainder of her property was never sold, and was annexed by the Soviet Union.

Walter and Petronella left Lithuania with the cash from the land sale. They immigrated to London, England, buying a pub (saloon). They began a family of their own, having a daughter Petronella (birth certificate not found), and then a son John, born September 7, 1887.

I contend it was in England the Rogers name came to be.[3]

Something happened in London causing them to leave rather quickly. They didn't even have time to sell the business. Could it have been that Walter was in debt to the English bookmakers? (that's the story I heard)

Petronella's love for him was to be tested again. She left her relatives in Lithuania, and her estate. Now she gives up everything again for Walter. This time it's much worse.

In approx. 1890 they made their decision...They're leaving for America!

Her brother, John is living someplace in Brooklyn, New York, and strangely enough he also owned a saloon.

Petronella must have been thinking, "What's the family going to say of Walter now that all of this has happened?" Her sister and brother won't say much, because when she told them of her love for him, and that they were going to be married, they both gave their blessing.

It was to get much worse. They packed what they needed for the children, and whatever else they were able to take aboard the passenger ship. Before sailing, Petronella (Jr) must of been sick, because they weren't at sea too many days, when she took seriously ill, so serious that she died.

Vessels of those days had no refrigeration, or a place to keep the child's body, so they had to bury her at sea. What a terrifying feeling they must have experienced that day.

Petronella's brother, John probably met them when they arrived at the New York pier.

Once again, getting back on their feet, Petronella gave birth to a daughter, Susan. That was around 1890 or so.[4]

From Brooklyn, they moved to Philadelphia, somewhere around 1894. Now in the City of Brotherly Love, they had the rest of their children. Joseph, my dad was born June 1, 1895, followed by Henry, Nellie, and Peter.[5][6]

They located in south Pennsylvania, around the neighborhood of Front and 2nd Street, between Federal and Reed Streets. They lived the remainder of their lives there among their children.

Petronella causes some mystery and the reader can pick it up on her death certificate. It lists her to be 56 years old, born in 1872. Here the mystery carries on. Her son, John's death certificate lists his birth as 1887. If Petronella (Jr) were a year or two older, that would mean Petronella (Sr) would have been too young to have had children. (using 1872 as the date of birth.)

Ever onward with the mystery, their tombstone has their Lithuanian name of Ragutis. I understand that part of it, but it has her date of birth as 1860, with her date of death being 1929. I agree that these are the correct dates that Joseph has on the tombstone.

Walter and Petronella's children are:

Petronella (died at sea at age 4), John, Susan, Joseph (my dad), Henry, Nellie, and Peter [7]

Petronella's grandchildren called their Aunt Elizabeth, "Tanti," which in Lithuanian means "Aunt."

All of Walter and Petronella's children, her sister, Elizabeth, and brother, John have all died.

So the lineage continues with all of us; Swaka. To your health.

Prepared by, Charles Francis Rogers, Sr. 24 Colonial Square, Lindenwold, NJ 08021

Researcher Footnotes

  1. They had four daughters.
  2. The 1900 census claims a marriage date of 1880 which would have put Walter at 26 and Petronella at 19 when they married.
  3. In the 1900 U.S. census, the family was listed under their original name of Ragutis. In 1910 it was listed as Rodgers and 1920 as Rogers.
  4. Nellie was the one born in 1890. Then Joseph in 1893, and then Susan in 1894. However, Susan is the only one with a New York birth certificate although all her other records say she was born in Pennsylvania. Were Nellie and Joseph also actually born in New York?
  5. Also Minnie in 1896.
  6. Susan is always listed as being born after Joseph in 1894. All Joseph's records show his birth year to be 1893.
  7. Also Minnie who was born 1896.



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