Off-Roading From the Paper Trail: Locating the Birthplace of Antoni Nowicki

As genealogists, we’re taught to follow the paper trail, gathering evidence from historical documents that tell the story of our ancestors’ lives. Even when our ancestors moved around, we can often find clues in the historical records that point to their previous place of residence. So, don’t you just hate it when you find a document that clearly states a person’s place of origin, but it’s not the right place?

Born in Kroczewo? Not So Fast….

I ran into this problem recently while researching my husband’s Nowicki ancestors. His great-grandmother, Helen (Majczyk) Skolimowski, was the daughter of Stanisław and Aniela (Nowicka) Majczyk. Aniela Nowicka was the daughter of Antoni and Jadwiga (Krogulska) Nowicki, so this story begins with Antoni and Jadwiga’s marriage record, which I recently obtained from the Archiwum Diecezjalne w Płocku (diocesan archive in Płock). (I’d like to add that the archive is really a pleasure to work with, and requests can be made quite simply by filling out this form on their website.) A copy of the marriage record is shown in Figure 1.1

Figure 1: Marriage record from Gradzanowo Kościelne for Antoni Nowicki and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, 13 February 1865.

The full text of the marriage record is transcribed and translated in the footnotes, for those who are interested, but the portion relevant to this discussion is the passage shown in Figure 2, which describes the groom.

Figure 2: Passage from marriage record of Antoni Nowicki and Jadwiga Krogulska which describes the groom. Underlined text reads, “urodzonym w Kroczewie,” or “born in Kroczewo.” Click image to enlarge.

The marriage record describes Antoni as a young man, urodzonym w Kroczewie (born in Kroczewo), son of Maciej and Joanna née Ługowska, the spouses Nowicki, residing with his parents in Bojanowo, age 20. This suggests a birth circa 1845 in Kroczewo, a village with its own church. Both Bojanowo and Kroczewo were located in the Płock gubernia, but the villages are 67 km apart (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Map showing locations of Bojanowo and Kroczewo. Google Maps. Click image for interactive map.

So far, so good, right? However, births for Kroczewo are indexed in Geneteka for the entire period from 1817 to 1903 with no gaps, and there is no birth record for Antoni Nowicki. Moreover, Kroczewo is not especially close to Gradzanowo, and generally, when a marriage or death record references a birthplace that was not nearby, the priest made an effort to mention the parish, county, or country in which the birthplace was located. Conversely, a lack of further identifying information suggests that the place in question must be sufficiently nearby that the priest felt no further description was necessary.

This suggests two possibilities: one, that Antoni Nowicki was baptized in Kroczewo, but his birth was recorded or indexed in such a way that I did not locate it in my initial search, and two, that he was baptized elsewhere. A broader search in Geneteka might address both possibilities, so I expanded the parameters to include all indexed birth records in the Mazowieckie province. The result? No promising hits. I played around with search parameters still further, using his parents’ names and the “Wyszukaj jako para/Relationship Search” option, to see if I could find records for any of Antoni’s siblings, and used wildcards under the assumption that their names might have been misrecorded, or that his mother’s maiden name might have been omitted from the record. Even that search, for birth records to surname Nowicki, given names M* and J*, between 1840 and 1850, anywhere in Mazowieckie province, produced no clues, nor did it help to use a wildcard in the surname and search for Now*. As of this writing, he’s just not in Geneteka.

So, what other place might “Kroczewo” be? Antoni married in Gradzanowo Kościelne, and he was living in Bojanowo at the time of his marriage, so I pulled out the map to see what villages are located nearby that resemble “Kroczewo” phonetically. I found a village called Kocewo near Bieżuń, 20 km from Gradzanowo. There’s also a geographic cluster of six “Kraszewo” villages, Kraszewo-Czubaki, Kraszewo Podborne, Kraszewo Rory, Kraszewo-Falki, Kraszewo-Sławęcin, and Kraszewo Gaczułty, all located within 20 km of Gradzanowo. While other candidates exist that are a bit further away, these are my top candidates at the moment.

Down a Rabbit Hole In Search of Kocewo

The next question is, to what parishes did those villages belong? Kocewo’s proximity to Bieżuń suggests that this would be the parish to which it was assigned. However, I was unable to confirm that, using the Skorowidz Królewstwa Polskiego (a gazetteer published in 1877 which includes locations in the Królestwo Polskie, or Kingdom of Poland). In fact, the Skorowidz does not even mention the village of Kocewo (Figure 4); the closest option is Kocewia, which is not the same place.2

Figure 4: Detail from the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego showing page on which Kocewo should appear.

Undaunted, I checked the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, published in 1933. Still no Kocewo; the closest entries were Kocewe and Kocewko, but again, neither refers to the same place. What the heck? Mapa.szukacz.pl confirmed my findings from Google Maps: the village of Kocewo is located in gmina Bieżuń, Żuromiń County, Mazowieckie, and has a population of 46. Wikipedia repeats that information, so the village is clearly found in modern sources. However, the only mention of Kocewo in the Słownik Geograficzne Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich was a reference to mudflats (błota) of the river Pełta. The Pełta river runs roughly north-south, but well to the east of the Gradzanowo area. Kocewo was proving to be surprisingly elusive in historical sources.

A search of the Polish version of Wikipedia gave me the clue I needed: “dawn. Myślin-Kocewo,” where “dawn.” is an abbreviation for dawniej, formerly. Apparently, Kocewo is so small even today that it was formerly united with the nearby village of Myślin, which likely accounts for its absence from historical sources. Repeating my gazetteer searches in the M’s rather than the K’s permitted identification of the parish for Myślin-Kocewo as Chamsk circa 1877 and Bieżuń circa 1933 (Figure 2).3

Figure 5: Entry for Myślin Kocewo in the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego.

A search for the parish of Chamsk in Geneteka reveals a gap in indexed birth records from 1842 until 1889. Since Antoni Nowicki was born circa 1845, this could explain the absence of his birth record in Geneteka. (On the other hand, the fact that the village of Kocewo did not exists as an independent municipality at the time of Antoni’s marriage, casts doubt on the hypothesis that the priest would have mentioned it as Antoni’s place of birth.) Records for Chamsk from 1826–1911 are online at Metryki, which means I’ll be able to find an answer to the question of whether or not Antoni Nowicki was baptized there. However, a quick peek revealed that no end-of-year index was created in the book that contains the births from 1845, so all 115 of them will have to be browsed individually to find Antoni’s birth, if in fact he was baptized in this parish. It’s research for another day.

Thankfully, identification of the parishes for the assorted Kraszewos (if that’s a word) was more straightforward. Figure 6 shows the Kraszewo entries in the Skorowidz.4

Figure 6: Entries in the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego for Kraszewo. Column headings are shown at the bottom of the image; click image to enlarge.

The first Kraszewo, in Ciechanów County, is 53 km from Bojanowo, so I excluded it from the first round of candidates to consider. The last Kraszewo, Kraszewo Czarne, was not even in the Płock province, so it, too, seems less likely. The remaining eight Kraszewos include the six found on the contemporary map, as well as two additional places, Kraszewo Dezerta and Kraszewo Budy, which may have been absorbed by one of the other villages. Kraszewo Bory may have been an older name for Kraszewo Rory, found on the modern map, but from the perspective of finding vital records, it’s irrelevant whether they were two distinct villages or one village under two names, since all the Kraszewos in this cluster belonged to the parish in Raciąż.

Although birth records from Raciąz are indexed in Geneteka, there’s a gap from 1808 through 1875, which might also explain why Antoni Nowicki’s birth is not found. Neither are scans of birth records from Raciąż for the appropriate time period available online at Szukajwarchiwach or another convenient source. They are digitized at FamilySearch, but access is restricted, so this research will have to wait for another day when my local Family History Center is open.

Further Clues

Additional clues regarding the Nowicki family’s migrations can be found in Geneteka. My search for children of Maciej Nowicki and Joanna Ługowska produced a birth record for Antoni Nowicki’s brother, Franciszek Nowicki, who was born in Gołuszyn (Radzanów parish) in 1858 (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Geneteka search result for Nowicki birth records in all indexed parishes in Mazowieckie province, searching for given names starting with “Ma-” and given name Joanna as a pair.

Clicking over to the scan reveals that Franciszek was born 22 September 1858, and that his father, Maciej, was a 38-year-old farmer and resident of Gołuszyn, while his mother was 32 years old.5 Similarly, a search of the marriage records produced a marriage record for another son of Maciej and Joanna, Andrzej Nowicki, who married Józefa Maciejewska in Dąbrowa in 1875 (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Geneteka search result for Nowicki marriage records in all indexed parishes in Mazowieckie province, searching for given names starting with “Ma-” and given name Joanna as a pair.

According to that marriage record, Andrzej Nowicki was twenty-four years old and born in Gołuszyn.6

From this information, a timeline begins to emerge for Maciej and Joanna. Maciej was born circa 1820, and Joanna was born circa 1826, but we don’t know where either of them was born. We don’t know where they married, either; all that searching in Geneteka did not turn up their marriage record. Based on Joanna’s age, we can guess that they were married circa 1844, so Antoni was likely their oldest child. Accurate identification of Antoni’s birthplace may be the key to finding their marriage record as well. By 1851, they were living in Gołuszyn, where Andrzej was born, and they were still living there in 1858 when Franciszek was born. Andrzej’s marriage record also stated that his father, Maciej, was already deceased while his mother, Joanna, was still living, which helps narrow down the time frame for searching for death records for Maciej and Joanna. Joanna’s death record might state her place of of birth, if it was known, and that, too, could point to her place of marriage and birth.

Although this research has gone off the road for the moment, at least the records still offer a compass! Stay tuned!

Sources:

1 Roman Catholic Church (Gradzanowo, Żuromin, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie,” 1865, Małżeństwa, no. 14, Antoni Nowicki and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, 13 February 1865, privately held by Archiwum Diecezjalne w Płocku, 09-400 Płock, Poland. Proofreading and editing of the following transcription and translation were kindly provided by Dr. Roman Kałużniacki.

Transcription:

“No. 14 Chomąc.

Działo się w Gradzanowie dnia trzynastego Lutego, tysiąc ośmset sześćdziesiątego piątego roku o godzinie trzeciej po południu. Wiadomo czynimy, iż w przytomności świadków Damazego Uzdowskiego, właściciela częściowego z Bojanowa, i Leona Kocięda, gospodarza z Chomącu po lat trzydzieści ośm mających—na dniu dzisiejszym zawarte zostało religijne małżeństwo między Antonim Nowickim, młodzianem, urodzonym w Kroczewie, synem Macieja i Joanny z Ługowskich małżonków Nowickich, w Bojanowie przy rodzicach zamieszkałym, lat dwadzieścia mającym, a Jadwigą Agnieszką Krogulską panną, urodzoną w Łaczewie, córką Marcina i Katarzyny z Pawełkiewiczów, małżonków Krogulskich, w Chomącu przy rodzicach zamieszkałą, lat dziewiętnaście mającą. Małżeństwo to poprzedziły trzy zapowiedzie w dniach dwudziestym drugim, dwudziestym dziewiątym Stycznia i piątym Lutego roku bieżącego w Kościele Parafialnym Gradzanowskim ogłoszone. Małżonkowie nowi oświadczają, iż umowy przedślubnej nie zawarli. Zezwolenie rodziców obojga nowozaślubionych, obecnych Aktowi małżeństwa ustnie oświadczone było. Obrząd ten religijny dopełwiony został przez miejscowego Kommendarza. Akt ten po odczytaniu przez nas został podpisany, Nowożeńcy i świadkowie pisać nie umieją. Xiądz Piotr Pawłowski Komm. Gradzanowski Utrzymający Akta Metryczne-Cywilne.”

Translation:

14. Chomęc. It happened in Gradzanowo on the thirteenth day of February, in the year one thousand eighteen hundred and sixty-five, at three o’clock in the afternoon. We hereby declare that in the presence of witnesses Damazy Uzdowski, a part land owner from  Bojanowo, and Leon Kocięda, a farmer from Chomęc, both thirty-eight years old, on this day was celebrated a religious wedding between Antoni Nowicki, a young man born in Kroczewo, son of Maciej and Joanna, nee Ługowska, the spouses Nowicki, residing in Bojanówo with his parents, aged twenty years, and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, single, born in Łaczewo, daughter of Marcin and Katarzyna, nee Pawełkiewicz, the spouses Krogulski, residing in Chomęc with her parents, aged nineteen years. This marriage was preceded by three announcements made at the Gradzanowo parish church on the twenty-second and twenty-ninth days of January and the fifth day of February of this year. The new spouses declare that they have not entered into any prenuptial agreement. The consent of the parents of both newlyweds who were present at the ceremony was verbally declared. This religious rite was performed by the local magistrate. This document having been read was signed by us, since the Newlyweds and the witnesses, do not know how to write.

Rev. Piotr Pawłowski Komm. Gradzanowo Keeping Civil Metrical Files.

 2 I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p. 272; digital image, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 19 March 2022).

3 Ibid., p. 405, “Myślin-Kocewo.”

4 Ibid., p. 299, “Kraszewo.”

5 Roman Catholic Church (Radzanów, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Radzanowie, 1826-1909,” Akta Urodzonych w roku 1858, no. 100, Franciszek Nowicki; digital image, Metryki.GenBaza (https://metryki.genbaza.pl : 20 March 2022), image _M_1967.jpg, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie.

6 Roman Catholic Church (Dabrowa, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymsko-katolickiej Dabrowa k. Mlawy, 1826-1912,” 1875, marriages, no. 9, Andrzej Nowicki and Józef Maciejewska; digital image, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 20 March 2022), Zespól: 0632/D- , image 008-009.jpg.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

4 thoughts on “Off-Roading From the Paper Trail: Locating the Birthplace of Antoni Nowicki

  1. Hello. I have been trying for 20 years to find my father’s birth certificate.     He came to the US in 1898  at age 10,   he was born July 15, 1889  supoosed to be in Krakow.    I hired a geneologist and they  said they could not find anything.    Would you have any suggestions — I have all his paperwork for the US.   Thank you,   Helen Kujawa (Tobin)

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    1. Hi, Helen. The problem may very well be that your father used Kraków as a geographic ballpark for his place of birth, rather than having Kraków be the specific location. Most of our ancestors were from small villages, not large cities, so it wasn’t uncommon for immigrants to mention a larger city as their place of origin, since the name of a small village was not likely to mean anything to a person unfamiliar with the area. One of my great-grandmothers told her daughter (my grandmother) that she was from Poznań, when in reality, she was born in the village of Kowalewo Opactwo, 50 miles away. In order for you to succeed with your family history research, you need to identify your father’s birthplace precisely. The documents that are most helpful for identifying a precise place of origin (in my research experience) include naturalization records, passenger manifests, and sometimes church records and draft registrations. Do you have all of these documents for your father? You can read more about the process here: https://fromshepherdsandshoemakers.com/2018/03/12/a-beginners-guide-to-polish-genealogy-revised-edition/

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      1. I have the us census for 1900, 1910, 1920,,that list Nicholas Kujawa, residing in Buffalo, NY. he joined the usarmy and got his naturalization ,(name changed from Kujawa to Quava). I have passenger manifests, on his realease from army, shows Russia as birthplace. very confusing

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