The lives of Stephen Darius' relatives in archival documents
By Karilė Vaitkutė, genealogist
(This article was originally written in 2013 for the 80th anniversary of Darius and Girėnas’ flight)
If you were to walk through the Lithuanian St. Casimir's Cemetery in Chicago and accidentally stumble upon the rather ornate monument engraved with the names Laura and John Nalson and Katherine and William Stulpin, it would probably not occur to you to think that the sisters of the legendary Lithuanian, Stephen Darius, and their husbands are laid to rest there. Only at the bottom of the monument would a keen observer read the small letters: 'Sisters and brothers-in-law of the transatlantic pilot Captain Darius'. Actually, the names Nalson and Stulpin do not sound very Lithuanian. Maybe the sisters were married to foreigners? Especially when their names are John and William. So, let's see who were the relatives of the Lithuanian national hero, pilot Stephen Darius. Who were his parents, sisters, and brothers? Where and how did they live? What did they do? What can we learn about Stephen Darius and his family members from documents in the US National Archives and other archives?
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the flight of Darius and Girėnas across the Atlantic. On that occasion, many people will probably read the pilots' biographies. Some for the first time, others for the first time again. Steponas Darius was born in Lithuania, in the village of Rubiškė near Judrėnai. By the way, Rubiškė was renamed Darius after the tragic death of Steponas, so it is not worth looking for Rubiškė on present-day maps. However, Stephen Darius's parents’ last names were not Darius and Darienė, his brothers were not Darius, and his sisters were not Dariūtės. The surname of the head of the family was Jucevičius-Darašius (which is why Stephen later chooses the surname of Darašius, but shortens it). It is not known why Darius's father's surname was double, but his wife and children were called Jucevičius. When Jonas Jucevičius-Darašius died, his widow Augustina married a neighbor, Kazimieras Degutis, and went to America in search of happiness.
Thus, in various biographies, we read that Augustina Degutienė and her three children - Steponas, Konstancija, and Laura - sailed to the USA in 1907 to stay with her husband Kazimieras Degutis who had already left there the year before. I thought it would be interesting to find the document of the family's arrival in the United States - the ship passenger lists. The search usually starts with the surname. So, under what name did the family arrive? Degutis? Jucevicius? The Darasius? When after marriage mother changed her name into Degutienė, did the children remain Jucevicius? After much research, I find that the future legendary pilot Steponas Darius first came to the United States from Lithuania as Stefan Degutienė. So, to find his sailing record as Darius, Jucevicius, Darasius, or Jucius is impossible. In the archives, the fact of the arrival of little Stepukas in America is "covered" by the surname Degutienė. Why did this happen? The answer is simple. A mother and her young children were sailing. The census enumerator wrote down the mother's surname as Degutienė, but the children's surnames were replaced only by quotation marks, which means that the surname is the same as the one written above. Steponas became Stefan Degutienė and his sister Constancija Jucevičiūtė became Constanzia Degutienė. Thus began the distortions of names and surnames that very often accompanied the lives of many immigrants to America. By the way, the second daughter, Laura (Aurelija in some places), was not with her mother. Maybe it was just not written down? Or was she really on a different ship, with a different name? Augustina Degutienė, with Stephan and Constance, sailed on the "Breslau" from Bremen to New York on 15 December 1907. They sailed on 30 November and spent two weeks on board. The ship's passenger list shows that Augustina Degutienė was 38 years old, Stephen-Stefan was 11 years old and Constanzia-Constanzia was 9 years old; their last place of residence was Rubiszki (Rubiske), and the name of the next of kin or friend (in Degutienė's case, her father) who remained in the country from which the immigrant came was Ludwik Degutienė Konstantinova, and their address was Rubiszki. Augustina's father's name was Ludwik, but his surname was definitely not Degutienė. The census enumerator simply repeated Augustina's surname at the time, without going into such "unremarkable" things as writing down her real surname. And Konstantinova could have been the name of Ludwig's father - Konstantin. Augustina and her children came to New Jersey, Newark, to stay with her husband Kazimiras Degutis, who lived at 570 Market Street, Newark, New Jersey. Augustina was 5.1 feet tall at the time of her arrival, blonde, born in Judren (Judrenai), and her children were born in Rubitzki (Rubiske).
I tried to search for the arrival document from Casimir Deguitis. Again, after a short search, I find that he did not arrive a year ago, as the biographies of Darius in various publications state but a couple of weeks before Augustine arrived. The passenger list of the "Barbarossa" ship, which left Bremen on 12 November 1907, contains the following entry: Casimir Deguttis, 21 years old, a farm laborer, a Lithuanian from the village of Robiszki (Rubiske), where the nearest surviving relative was his father, Jonas Deguttis, came to the city of Newark, New Jersey to stay with an acquaintance named Wincentas Jakas, who lived at 570 Marki Street, Newark, New Jersey. Is this the same Degutis? Could Augustine's 38-year-old husband have been 21 years old? It seems unlikely, but I can tell you in advance that, after some further investigations, this fact has been confirmed. Augustina's husband, Casimir, was only a few years older than her eldest son, Boleslav. Incidentally, it was Boleslovas Jucevičius, who later shortened his surname to Jucius (often spelled Jucus) and changed his given name to William B., who came to America a couple of years before his mother and brother and sisters. Wasn't it only to him that Kazimieras Degutis and a few weeks later, Augustina Degutienė and her children went? When one thinks of the incredible distortion of surnames, it is easy to assume that the Wincentas Jakas to whom Degutis went was William Jucius, because very often the name Vincentas was 'Americanized' to William. Maybe Boleslov had two names - Boleslov Vincent? This question can only be answered by looking at the archival documents of the Jucevic family in Lithuania.
Be that as it may, this was the first journey of the family of Stephen Darius from Lithuania to America. Later, his mother, Darius himself, his sisters and their husbands, and his brother Boleslovas would all make more trips to Lithuania, some more than once.
After living in New Jersey for about a year (according to the biographies), the Degutis family moved to Illinois, on the south side of Chicago, in what is known as the West Pullman district. The birth of Augustine's last son, Stanley, is evidence of this. Stanley Degutis, the brother of Stephen Darius, was born on June 10, 1909, on Butler Street in the West Pullman neighborhood of Chicago. His parents are listed as Charles (Casimir), 23, and Augustine Waswila (Augustina Vaišvila; Vaišvilaite was Augustina's maiden name), 40. By the way, an interesting detail is that later, sometime between 1930 and 1940, Stanley Degutis changed his surname to Jucus, i.e. the same as that of his half-sisters and brother. Why he did not keep his father's surname, which he received at birth, can only be speculated. His father, Casimir Deguitis, is also absent from most of the family photographs, as would be usual. And there is another document that shows that Stanley changed his name: a World War II registration card on which 56-year-old Charles Degutis gives his residential address (7212 S. Rockwell, Chicago, IL) as the same as that of Stanley Jucus, who he identifies as the person who will always know where he lives. These were the requirements at the time. Charles Degutis states that he is unemployed. Incidentally, this information is also signed for Degutis by Stanley Jucus. Why a 56-year-old man was living with his son, unemployed and unable to provide his own information and sign for himself is anyone's guess.
How did the family of Stephen Darius live on? On June 3, 1917, William (Boleslovas) Jucus registers for World War I draft registration and states that he is single, working as a "barn man" for the Peter Schanof Co. company - maybe on a barn farm - and lives at 3358 S. Auburn Avenue in Chicago. Auburn Street is in the Bridgeport area of Chicago; it will later be renamed Lituanica in honor of Darius and Girėnas.
On 15 December 1918, Stephen's eldest sibling Laura marries. Her husband is John Našlėnas. The couple later changes their surname to Nalson, which, by the way, will often be confused with Nelson, since Nelson is a much more common surname. Thus, John Nalson is not an American, but a real Lithuanian, born in 1888 in the village of Rečionys, Taujėnai parish, Ukmergė county. His father was Baltramiejus Našlėnas. John Našlėnas came to America in 1909, and in 1919 he took US citizenship. In 1924, the couple came to Lithuania. All of this information is written on the passport application. On 3 May, John and Laura set sail on the Leviathan from New York to Lithuania via France and Germany. They will not return to Chicago for six months. By the way, Steponas Darius was also living in Lithuania at the time, and in 1924 he married Jaunute Škėmaitė. Apparently, Steponas's sister Laura and her husband Jonas, with whom Steponas was in close contact, were present at his wedding.
The US census document of 7 January 1920 is also interesting. Stephen's mother and stepfather were no longer living in West Pullman but in Bridgeport at 749 W. 33rd Street. Living in the same house are Charles Degutis (listed as Deguidis, which made it difficult to find the document), in his forties, who works as a laborer, his wife Augusta, his son Stanley, and William Jucus, Katie (Constance) Jucus, John Nelson, Lizzie (Laura) Nelson and Stephen Darius. In the summer of the same year, Stephen Darius will leave for Lithuania to volunteer in the Lithuanian army. He would not return to the United States until 1927. By the way, Stephen Darius becomes a United States citizen just before he leaves for Lithuania. Even in this serious document, there is a mistake: in one place Stephen Darius is referred to as Stephen Malnosky, apparently confusing his surname with that of Anthony Malnosky, a witness who claimed to know Darius.
Well, in 1930 the situation changed. The head of the family was no longer Darius's 45-year-old stepfather Kazimieras Degutis, but his 44-year-old brother William Jucius. William (Boleslovas) works as a restaurant manager. Living with him are John Nelson (Našlėnas), 41, who works as a hairdresser in his own hairdressing salon, Lora Nelson (Laura Našlėnas), Charles (Casimir) Degutis, who works as a cleaner, Augustina Degutis, and Stanley Degutis, 20, who works as a driver in a restaurant. Constance Catherine and Stephen are no longer in the house. Constance married William Stulpin, also Lithuanian, in Chicago in 1923 and they were separated, while Stephen, although he had already returned to the United States by the time of the census, was being treated for tuberculosis in a war veterans' sanatorium in Colorado. Katherine's husband, Stulpin, was a pharmacist and had his own pharmacy. The couple lived at 6410 South Talman, Chicago.
The restaurant, which was also run by Darius' brother William Boleslovas Jucus and brother Stanley, was owned by sisters Laura and Katherine. It was called the Jucus Sisters Restaurant. It was in this restaurant that Steponas Darius met Stasys Girėnas.
I also found records in the archives of other trips to Lithuania by Darius' relatives, of which there were many. Augustina Degutienė, the mother of Steponas Darius, went to Lithuania in 1930. She traveled with her daughter Constancija-Catherine and her husband William Stulpinas.
Laura Nalson and her husband John sailed to Lithuania again in 1933 to await the arrival of Darius and Girėnas. After the crash of the Lituanika and the burial of the pilots, they returned to the United States. Laura and her husband made another trip to Lithuania in 1937.
In 1934, after the death of Stephen Darius's mother, Augustina, she was taken to and buried in the cemetery of her birthplace in Judrėnai, next to her parents and first husband. In 1935, Caterine and William Stulpinas, who had crossed the Atlantic once again, and her eldest son Boleslovas Jucius were present at her burial.
According to the 1940 US census, John and Laura Nalson and William and Stella Jucus (Jacus, Jocus) were living at 3239 S. Halsted Street in the Bridgeport area of Chicago. John worked as a barber and Darius's brother William worked in a restaurant bar. His wife Stella was a restaurant manager. So, we find out that William was also married, and his wife's name was Stella. William Jucus died on 7 August 1940. He was buried in St Casimir's Cemetery in Chicago. John Nalson - John Našlėnas - also died on 30 September 1945. Four years later, in 1949, his wife Laura, sister of Stephen Darius, died. She was buried next to her husband.
The youngest son of Augustina Jucevičienė-Degutienė, Stanley, was also married. He was still living in Chicago in 1942, and sometime later moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. William and Katherine had also moved there. William Stulpin died in 1968 and was buried in St Casimir's Cemetery next to John and Laura Nalson. Katherine died in Florida in 1972 and was also buried in St Casimir's Cemetery in Chicago. Stanley and Josephine Jucus (Degutis) died in Florida and were buried there.
This is a short story about the lives of Stephen Darius' relatives. It is almost illegible, because today if you walk through the streets where Stephen Darius himself, his sisters and their husbands, and his mother lived, you see a very different picture. Neither West Pullman, Bridgeport, nor Marquette Park is the so-called "Lithuanian" neighborhood anymore. Gone are the houses where Steponas lived before he went back to Lithuania, and gone is the Jucius sisters' restaurant where all the Lithuanians in the area used to eat and where the escorts of Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas to New York and Lithuania were organized. The houses where the Našlėnas and Stulpinas lived are still standing, but there is no evidence of the wealthy Lithuanians who lived there and the relatives of the famous pilot. All that remains is an ornate monument in the cemetery, from which Laura and Jonas Našlėnas smile at passers-by. Although both of Stephen's brothers were married and both of his sisters were married, neither of them had children, so there is no one to talk to about the past. All that remains are a few books that give some insight into the lives of the pilot's relatives, and documents with inaccurately spelled names fading away in archives.