DNA to the Rescue! Evidence for Helena Panek’s Parentage

In my last post, I wrote about my research into my newly-discovered Panek ancestry. To briefly recap, the marriage record for my great-great-great-grandparents, Michał Zieliński and Antonina Ciećwierz, stated that Michał was the son of Piotr Zieliński and Marianna Panek. Piotr and Marianna’s marriage record is indexed in Geneteka, and states that Marianna was the daughter of Helena Panek, with no father’s name given. Although this suggests that Helena was an unwed mother, I believe she was actually Helena (née Święcicka) Panek, wife of Tomasz Panek, of Kuznocin in Sochaczew County. The fact that Helena was married to Tomasz Panek at the time of Marianna’s birth does not necessarily mean that Tomasz was Marianna’s father, however, so the question remains as to whether he was named on Marianna’s marriage record and merely omitted from the index, or whether the marriage record itself states that Marianna’s father is unknown. Of course, the actual marriage record is needed here and may shed some light on the situation, and I have requested a copy from the diocesan archive in Łowicz. However, since I requested a large number of records, and since the archive is closed from now until the end of July, it might take some time before I have Marianna’s marriage record in my eager little hands. Since patience is not always my virtue, I turned to DNA to see if there was evidence to prove or disprove my hypothesis that Marianna Panek was the daughter of Tomasz Panek and Helena Święcicka.

Panning for Paneks

Considering the distant time frame of the research problem, it’s better to analyze my mother’s DNA match list rather than my own, since she is one generation closer to these elusive Panek/Święcicki ancestors than I am. I searched her matches at Ancestry for the surname Panek, and came up with 3 distant cousins with this surname in their family trees. Of these matches, two had family trees which were locked, and one had a public tree. I could request access to the locked trees, but I have no reason to suspect anything earth-shattering there, because the matches are only 10 centimorgans (cM, a unit of genetic distance) across 2 segments, and 7 cM across 1 segment, respectively. Such small segments suggest a very distant match at best, or perhaps even a matching segment that is identical by chance (a false positive). The public family tree of the third Panek match revealed that his Panek family was from Oblekon, Świętokrzyszkie province, which isn’t especially close to Sochaczew, where my Panek family lived. Panek is not an uncommon surname, and moreover, that match, too, was only about 10 cM, so it won’t be an easy task to identify our common ancestors.

The fact that Mom doesn’t yet have any strong matches to Panek cousins does not in itself offer evidence regarding the question of whether Tomasz Panek was Marianna’s father. It’s entirely possible that Tomasz Panek could have been Marianna’s father, but that Mom simply did not inherit the right bit of DNA to match another of Tomasz Panek’s descendants. It’s also entirely possible that a match will show up some day as more people test. At the moment, the vast majority of Mom’s 117 DNA matches at the level of 4th cousins or closer, appear to be people living in North America who have traced their ancestry back to Poland, rather than Poles living in Poland today. DNA testing is still unaffordable for many Poles, and Ancestry DNA is not well known in Poland, so there are very few Poles in their database. As DNA testing becomes more affordable, hopefully the situation will improve and more Poles will become interested in testing with Ancestry, increasing the likelihood that I’ll find cousins from Poland in my match list. However, at this point, the search for cousins from the Panek family didn’t pan out, so it was time to try a different angle.

Searching for Święcickis

I searched Mom’s matches for the surname Święcicki with much more promising results. A fourth-cousin match immediately popped up to “D.K.,” as well as one 5th-8th cousin match to “J.G.” Both of them have public trees, and based on these trees, D.K. and J.G. are related to each other as well as to Mom. Note that diacritics matter when searching DNA matches in Ancestry, as a search for “Święcicki” will produce different results than a search for “Swiecicki.” If you try to get around this problem by checking the box to include similar surnames, all hell breaks loose. In the case of this search, Mom’s list suddenly jumped from two matches to 68 matches, many of whom had surnames that weren’t remotely close to Święcicki/Swiecicki. Rather than wading through all these matches, I chose to focus on just the first two Święcicki matches see if I could determine how we might be related.

The Gontarek Family of Minnesota and Młodzieszyn

Both J.G. and D.K. trace their ancestry back to the Gontarek families of Minnesota. Their family trees document several siblings — Michał, Wiktoria, Ludwik, Rozalia, Bronisława, and Lena — who emigrated from Russian Poland to locations in Steele, Le Sueur, and Waseca Counties, west and south of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The fact that they settled in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area was immediately interesting to me, since previous research led to me discover that this area was the destination for other ancestral cousins from Sochaczew County. Although the family trees are well-documented through census records, it’s not immediately clear what evidence they have for the names of the parents of these siblings, since the trees are a little light on vital records. Nonetheless, both family trees report that these immigrants were all children of Stanisław Gontarek and Marianna Święcicka. Furthermore, J.G.’s tree states that Marianna Święcicka was the daughter of Piotr Świecicki and Anna, maiden name unknown, and that she died in Kuznocin on 9 December 1890, and in her gallery, I found a note indicating that she hired a professional genealogist in Poland to find this information.

By this point I was sitting on the edge of my chair. Kuznocin was exactly where my Święcicki ancestors were from, so this could not possibly be a mere coincidence. A quick search in Geneteka revealed the births of most of these siblings in Sochaczew and nearby parishes, including Młodzieszyn, where the most recent generations of my Polish family lived (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Geneteka search results for births of children born to couples with surnames “Gontarek” and “Sw,*” searching as a pair in Sochaczew and indexed parishes within a 15-kilometer radius.

Gontarek births

My matches’ family trees suggest that “Lena” was born circa 1860, so she may be the same as the Julianna who was born in 1858. Józef and Walenty are new — perhaps they remained in Poland and did not emigrate, or perhaps they died young. There are unfortunately no death records for any of these individuals, but at least 4 of them emigrated to the U.S. and died there, so their deaths would not be indexed in Geneteka. There is also no birth record for the Ludwik/Louis found in the Gontarek family trees on Ancestry. He was born circa 1872, but if he were born in Młodzieszyn like Bronisława, that could explain his absence from this list, since indexed birth records for Młodzieszyn don’t begin until 1885. In fact, if the family moved to Młodzieszyn after the birth of Walenty in 1870, that could also explain the 15-year gap in births that appears between Walenty and Bronisława. A move to Młodzieszyn would similarly explain the absence of marriage or death records for Józef and Walenty, since all records for Młodzieszyn that are available from the state archive in Grodzisk Mazowieckie are very limited. (Between the archive and the local civil records office, marriage records exist from 1889-1898 and from 1911-1928, and death records exist from 1889-1925. Additional, more recent records after 1928 are almost certainly available as well, but access to records after 1937 is restricted to immediate family.)

Bronisława’s birth record from 1885 is the only one linked to a scan. Birth records for the Gontarek children who were baptized in Sochaczew are only available at the diocesan archive in Łowicz, and Rozalia’s birth record from the parish of Brochów is in the possession of the parish archive. Working with what we have, then, let’s take a quick look at Bronisława’s birth record (Figure 2).1

Figure 2: Birth record from Młodzieszyn for Bronisława Gontarek, 3 August 1885.1

Bronislawa Gontarek birth 1885 marked

In translation from Russian, the record states that Bronisława was born in Młodzieszyn on 3 August 1885 at noon. Her father was described as Stanisław Gontarek, a laborer residing in the village of Młodzieszyn, age 59. The text pertaining to her mother, underlined in red, states that the child Bronisława was born “….of his [Stanisław’s] lawful wife, Marianna née Swięcicka, age forty-eight.” Marianna’s age suggests that she was born circa 1837, and if that was the case, then she would have been about 21 at the time of Julianna Gontarek’s birth. This is quite reasonable, and consistent with the hypothesis that all the children found in our Geneteka search belong to the same couple.

So far, so good. We’ve found additional evidence to support the information found in the family trees of Mom’s DNA matches, indicating that the Gontarek siblings who settled in Minnesota were children of Stanisław Gontarek and Marianna Święcicka or Swięcicka of the parishes of Sochaczew, Brochów, and Młodzieszyn, all located in Sochaczew County. The next step was to find Marianna Gontarek’s death record, which was discovered by the professional genealogist in Poland and was the basis for the information in J.G.’s family tree that Marianna Święcicka was the daughter of Piotr Święcicki and Anna, maiden name unknown, and that she died in Kuznocin on 9 December 1890. This document was easily located in Geneteka (Figure 3).2

Figure 3: Death record from Młodzieszyn for Marianna Gontarek, 9 December 1890.2

Marianna Gontarek death 1890

Here’s the full translation of this document from Russian, as I read it:

“A. 79, Biała Góra. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the 29th day of November/11th day of December in the year 1890 at 11:00 in the morning. They appeared — Maciej Szewczyk, laborer, age 46, and Stanisław Giza, laborer, age 26, residing in the village of Biała Góra — and stated that, on the 27th day of November/9th day of December of the current year, at 4:00 in the morning, died in the village of Biała Góra, Marianna Gontarek, wife, laborer, age 56, born in the village of Kuznocin, residing in the village of Biała Góra, daughter of the late Piotr and Anna, the spouses Swięcicki. She leaves after herself her widower husband, Stanisław Gontarek, residing in the village of Biała Góra. After eyewitness confirmation of the death of Marianna Gontarek, this document was read to the illiterate witnesses and was signed by us only. [Signed] Fr. Antoni Morski.”

Since Marianna was reported to be age 56 when she died in 1890, she was probably born circa 1834. Lo, and behold, there are two matching birth records in Geneteka for Marianna Święcicka or Swięcicka in 1835, recorded in Sochaczew which is the correct parish for the village of Kuznocin (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Search result for birth of Marianna Swiecicka, born between 1830 and 1840 in Sochaczew parish.Marianna Swiecicka birth

The two records shown here are the civil record and the church record. It’s possible to tell which is which because the “i” infodot in the “Remarks” column indicates that the second record was taken from the Latin church book, so the first record must be the Polish-language civil transcript. Both versions are only available from the diocesan archive in Łowicz, so it looks like I’ll be placing another order with them. Marianna’s mother’s maiden name is recorded as Janiak, which is new information for me, and presumably for my DNA matches as well.

Another search in Geneteka quickly produced Piotr and Anna’s marriage records — and revealed how I am related to D.K. and J.G. (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Geneteka search result for marriage of Piotr Swięcicki and Anna Janiak.

Piotr and Anna Swiecicki marriage

Piotr was the son of Stanisław and Urszula Święcicki, my putative 6x-great-grandparents!

Boom!

I say “putative,” because at this point I still don’t have a single shred of direct documentary evidence that I have any ancestors with the Swięcicki/Święcicki surname. I only have a theory based on indirect evidence that my documented ancestor, Helena Panek, was born Helena Swięcicka, daughter of Stanisław and Urszula. Up until this point, one could argue that there might still be an unmarried Helena Panek who was actually my ancestor, but who was not found in the indexes in Geneteka because those indexes are incomplete and don’t cover every year in every parish in the vicinity of Sochaczew. However, the discovery of this DNA evidence certainly adds substantial weight to my theory. Based on the paper trail, both J.G. and D.K. are 5th cousins once removed to my mother, and the amount of DNA shared by my mother with each of them supports this relationship. Due to the random nature of DNA inheritance through recombination, D.K. and my mother share 40 cM of DNA over 2 segments, while J.G. and my mother share only a single segment of 8.6 cM. However, both of these values fall within the normal range of centimorgans shared by people who are 5th cousins once removed. According to Blaine Bettinger’s handy Shared cM Project chart, people who are 5th cousins once removed might share anywhere from 0 to 79 cM of DNA, with an average of 21 cM shared DNA.

Of course, the DNA evidence in itself is not “proof” of my descent from Stanisław and Urszula Swięcicki. It’s true that DNA doesn’t lie, but in cases such as this, where DNA evidence is used to confirm a relationship that’s further back than parent-child, DNA evidence is still open to interpretation. The possibility exists that Mom (and I) might be related to D.K. and J.G. through some other set of common ancestors. However, one can invoke the law of parsimony here and conclude that Stanisław and Urszula are, indeed, our common ancestors because that explanation is the simplest, given the substantial body of indirect documentary evidence that’s accumulated. To put it another way, when you hear hoofbeats, expect horses, not zebras.

I just love it when the pieces fall into place like this. I just heard back yesterday from both J.G. and D.K., and I’m delighted to have an opportunity to share all this new information with them. And of course, I still can’t say whether Tomasz Panek was Marianna’s father or not, so that remains a mystery for now. Hmmm….. maybe I’ll go and reexamine those DNA matches with the surname Panek in their family trees. This may be my lucky day!

Sources:

1 “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie” (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1885-1895, 1885, no. 105, birth record for Bronisława Gontarek, 3 August 1885, accessed as browsable images, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 20 July 2018).

2“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie” (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga zgonów 1889-1901, 1890, no. 79, death record for Marianna Gontarek, 9 December 1890, accessed as browsable images, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 20 July 2018).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case for the Legitimate Birth of Marianna Panek

In my last post, I introduced my Kalisiak ancestors from the parish of Mikołajew, and shared some of my struggle with conflicting evidence from vital records indexed in Geneteka. Such conflicts are very typical with genealogical research, but it’s important to resolve them if we’re going to have any confidence in our conclusions. As genealogists,  we are compelled to carry out “reasonably exhaustive” research before we can state that a fact is proven definitively, so it frequently happens that we make qualified conclusions which must then be revised as new evidence appears. Of course, the more important a research question is, the harder it is for us to live with uncertainty in our research conclusions. These days, I’ve been losing sleep over the question of the legitimate birth of Marianna Panek.

The Panek Family of Sochaczew

Recently I discovered solid evidence that my great-great-great-grandfather, Michał Zieliński, was born in Bibiampol and was the son of Piotr Zieliński and Marianna Panek. Armed with this new information, I headed over to Geneteka to see what additional records I could find for my ancestors there. Michał Zieliński’s birth record popped up immediately, along with birth records for his siblings, Wincenty, Wiktoria, and Marianna.

Zielinskis of Bibiampol

A search for the marriage record of Piotr Zieliński and Marianna Panek turned up a promising match. The year of marriage, 1824, makes sense given that their first child was born in 1825. The “i” infodot reveals that the bride was from Kuznocin, and that the bride and groom were both 18 years of age, suggesting that they were born circa 1806.  The real payoff was the discovery that Piotr’s parents were Grzegorz and Agnieszka, and Marianna was the daughter of Helena Panek. The record appears in the index twice because the archive holds two original versions — the Latin church record, and the Polish civil record. Note that parents’ names appear to be mentioned only in the civil version of the record, rather than the church version, although this may reflect a difference in the information that each indexer chose to include.

Piotr and Marianna Zielinski marriage

This is where it gets interesting, and maybe a little frustrating. On the surface, the situation seems very straightforward: Marianna was born out of wedlock to an unknown father and Helena Panek, a single mother. However, we cannot confirm that with Marianna’s birth record, since a search for this record in Sochaczew resulted in no matches. A closer inspection of data contained in the indexes for Sochaczew reveals that there’s a gap in the birth records for the period from 1803-1809. Unfortunately, this gap is real, in that it reflects a lack of available records during this time, not just a lag in indexing efforts. Therefore no birth records for either Marianna Panek or Piotr Zieliński are likely to be forthcoming, barring a miraculous discovery of the missing records. (Hey, it could happen — hope dies last.) Marianna Zielińska’s death record, which might also report her parents’ names, is similarly unavailable.

A search for a birth record in Sochaczew or any nearby parishes for Helena Panek, Marianna’s mother, produced no relevant results. Perhaps she married after Marianna was born, however? No such luck — I could find no evidence of a marriage record for Helena Panek. However, when I clicked over to view the results from that search under the “births” tab, there were four records for children of Tomasz Panek and Helena, whose maiden name was reported on two of the records as Swięcicka. Three of the births occurred in Kuznocin, which is the same village that Marianna Panek was reported to be from on her marriage record to Piotr Zieliński.

Panek births

There were two births prior to that gap in the birth records, but then no more births to this couple until 1815, despite the fact that birth records became available again starting in 1810. For kicks, I tried searching for Tomasz Panek, and the situation became more intriguing. Unfortunately, no marriage record is available for Tomasz and Helena, but that’s not surprising, since existing marriage records for Sochaczew don’t begin until 1802, and their first child was born in 1801. Check out these births, however.

Helena and Julianna births

In that gap from 1810-1815, there were two births to Tomasz Panek and his wife, whose maiden name was again reported as Swięcicka, but this time, her given name was reported as Julianna instead of Helena. It seems pretty improbable that there were two men named Tomasz Panek living in Kuznocin concurrently, married to the Swięcicka sisters, Helena and Julianna. Yet the priest mentions Julianna a third time, with the birth of Barbara in 1821. Since the references to Julianna are not chronological, there’s no reason to suspect a situation in which a first wife died and Tomasz then remarried her sister. However, if the priest merely recorded her given name in error, it’s odd that the same error would be repeated three times over a period of 11 years. There’s also a third Swięcicka “sister,” Antonina, who crops up on the birth record for Rozalia in 1825. What’s going on here?

A quick look at death records tells us that the same Andrzej Panek who was born to Tomasz and “Julianna” in 1812, died in 1817 in Kuznocin. This time, his mother was, indeed, reported to be Helena Panek. Tomasz Panek himself died in 1828, and the info dot tells us that he was age 60, and husband of Helena, née Swięcicka.

Panek deaths

Interestingly, the same Rozalia Panek whose mother was reported to be Antonina on her birth record, shows up again in 1896 with the death record of the widow Rozalia Wódka in Mistrzewice. (The infodot next to her surname reveals that her maiden name was Panek, as does the linked scan.) This is the same parish to which my Zieliński family migrated — the Zieliński family that I now know to be descended from Helena Panek. The Wódka surname is also familiar to me, as members of this family were often godparents and witnesses to vital events in my Zieliński family — an observation which makes perfect sense in light of the fact that Rozalia and Marianna were at least half-sisters. Rozalia’s death record states that she died at the age of 76, implying that she was born circa 1820, which is reasonably consistent with Rozalia Panek’s actual date of birth in 1825.

At this point, we have a growing body of evidence that Tomasz Panek was married to Helena (née Swięcicka) Panek from at least 1801 until his death in 1828. We can put to rest any lingering doubts about a prior marriage between Tomasz Panek and Julianna Swięcicka by searching for a death record for Julianna Panek, wife of Tomasz. None exists, although a search for a death record for Julianna Swięcicka reveals that a young woman by this name died at the age of 17 in Kuznocin in 1807.

Julianna Swiecicka

This suggests that Julianna was born circa 1790, so she might potentially be a younger sister to Helena. Perhaps the girls looked alike, causing the priest to mix up their names? It’s all speculation unless Julianna’s parents’ names were noted on her death record, but were simply omitted from the index, since no birth record for Julianna circa 1790 can be found with a search of indexed records from Sochaczew and nearby parishes (below).

Swiecicka births

However, this same search gives us a clue to the parents of my Helena Święcicka. A 1781 birth year is very reasonable for a woman whose first child was born in 1801, so it’s likely that Helena Panek was the daughter of Stanisław and Urszula, who had several other children born between 1781 and 1792. As a final piece of confirmation, a search for Helena Panek’s death record produces just one result, the civil and church versions of the 1831 death record for a 53-year-old widow, Helena Panek, daughter of Stanisław and Urszula. Her age suggests a birth year circa 1778, just a few years before the existing birth records begin in 1781. Note that in the entire period from 1783 through 1888, there is no death record for a Helena Panek who was unmarried, which further suggests that the only Helena Panek who lived in Kuznocin was the wife of Tomasz Panek.

Helena Panek death

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

Let’s recap the evidence for the Panek family thus far. It appears that Tomasz Panek was married to Helena Święcicka, and only to Helena Święcicka. Helena was born circa 1778 to Stanisław and Urszula, and she married Tomasz circa 1800. Tomasz and Helena had at least 8 children, born between 1801 and 1825.

Helena and Julianna births

They may have had additional children who were born in that gap in the existing birth records from 1803 through 1809. This brings us full-circle, back to my 4x-great-grandmother, Marianna Panek, whose marriage record to Piotr Zieliński stated that she was born circa 1806 to Helena Panek, no father’s name specified. Since neither Marianna’s birth record nor death record is presently available, we cannot rely on the information in those documents to identify Marianna’s father or verify her mother’s marital status. However, after examination of all existing evidence, it appears that the only Helena Panek who was having children in Kuznocin at that time was a married woman, wife of Tomasz. Logically, there are only two possibilities:

(a) Tomasz Panek was Marianna’s father and his name was somehow omitted inadvertently from either her original marriage records or from the marriage index in Geneteka;  or

(b) The omission of the father’s name was deliberate, and Tomasz Panek was not Marianna’s father, although he was married to her mother at the time of her birth. These things happen, obviously, but how would it have been such public knowledge that it shows up in Marianna’s marriage record? The only possibility that comes to mind is that perhaps Tomasz was known to be away from the village at the time of Marianna’s conception, due to military service or some other work obligation.

At this point, I really can’t wait to get those marriage records from the diocesan archive to see what they have to say about Marianna’s parentage. Certainly, this case demonstrates the importance of scratching below the surface if we want to understand the lives and stories of our ancestors. Situations are frequently more complex than they may seem, and it is our job as family historians to dig deep and gather as much evidence as we can, and then and analyze the data thoroughly before attempting to draw firm conclusions. I’ll be sure to post an update to this story when I receive my records from the archive. Until then, happy researching!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

 

Accepting Uncertainty

Genealogical evidence isn’t always as neat or clean as we’d like it to be. Even when we’re working with original sources, errors can be introduced if the informant or recorder has imperfect knowledge of an event or its participants. Our job as genealogists is to analyze the evidence in an attempt to determine the truth, so the best remedy for resolving conflicting evidence is to gather more evidence. In this way, we hope that discrepancies can be explained and truth will emerge. In fact, the Genealogical Proof Standard requires that our research be “reasonably exhaustive.” But “reasonably exhaustive” means different things, depending on the country, time period, and research in question. Sometimes we have to live with a measure of uncertainty in our conclusions or consider them to be preliminary or tentative, until further evidence emerges.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve been preparing a list of vital records to order from the Diocesan Archive in Łowicz. This archive is a veritable goldmine of church records for ancestors from my Zieliński and Ciećwierz families, whose earlier generations lived in villages belonging to the parishes in Sochaczew and Mikołajew. All (?) existing church records and civil vital records from Sochaczew and Mikołajew have been digitized thanks to the generous efforts of a few volunteers, and many of these digitized records have also been indexed, where they are searchable via Geneteka. This makes research in these records remarkably easy, especially in cases where the indexer included a substantial amount of information from the original record in the “remarks” available through the “i” infodot. (For a complete explanation of the use of Geneteka, please see this tutorial.)

The Kalisiak Family of Strugi and Starpiączka

Despite the ease with which we can find the information, some interpretation of the results is still required. As an example of this, I’ve been researching the family of my 6x-great-grandparents, Andrzej (1760-1813) and Marianna (abt. 1755 – 1825) Kalisiak of Mikołajew. Most family historians realize early on that consistency in spelling of surnames just didn’t exist in Polish records (or German, or American, or Canadian….) until perhaps the 1930s, so it should come as no surprise that we need to look for Andrzej and Marianna’s family under spellings besides “Kalisiak.” The phonetically-similar “Kaliszak” is an obvious choice, so we can begin by choosing “wyszukiwanie dokładne/exact search” (i.e. wildcard search) for  births in Mikołajew for surname “Kal*” with given names Andrzej and Marianna. To minimize extraneous results, we’ll search as a pair (“wyszukaj jako para/relationship search”) to identify children with father’s name Andrzej and mother’s name Marianna. That produces the following result:

Children of Andrzej and Marianna Kalisiak

Upon closer examination of these results, it’s clear that two separate Kalisiak/Kaliszak families are represented. The first set of births from 1788-1810 are children of one Andrzej and Marianna, while the second set of births from 1841-1846 must be for a different Andrzej and Marianna. We know this based on biology: even if Marianna were as young as 15 when she gave birth to Kazimierz Grzegorz Kaliszak in 1788, she would be 68 in 1841 when Jan Kalisiak was born. Since that’s not possible, there must be two distinct families.

Focusing on the first family, we can see that births are generally spaced every 2-3 years, with the exception of two larger gaps. The first of these gaps occurs between the births of Franciszka in 1798 and Antoni in 1803, and the second is between the births of Grzegorz in 1805 and Antoni in 1810. This suggests that Andrzej and Marianna may have had a couple more children who are not mentioned in this list, but were perhaps baptized in another local parish. If we then expand the search to include indexed parishes within a 15-km radius of Mikołajew, we discover an additional birth that fits neatly into the first gap:

Dorota Kalisiak birth

In 1802, Andrzej and Marianna had a daughter, Dorota, who was baptized in the parish of Szymanów.

Now that we’ve identified most or all of the children of the children of Andrzej and Marianna Kalisiak/Kaliszak, we can attempt to discover what became of each of them. If we click on the “deaths” tab to view results in death records for these same search parameters, we see the following:

Mikolajew deaths

Hovering over the “i” infodot under the “Remarks” heading, we learn that the Antoni Kalisiak who died in 1845 was only a year old, so he must be the Antoni Kalisiak who was born in 1844 to the “other” Andrzej and Marianna (née Studzińska) Kalisiak, and not “our” Antoni Kalisiak, who was born in 1803. Józef and Antonina were not mentioned in the list of births for children of “our” Andrzej and Marianna Kalisiak, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them just yet. If there is evidence to suggest that one of them was born in that second gap in births, between 1805 and 1810, then perhaps they were, indeed, children of our target couple, who were baptized in another parish that has not yet been indexed in Geneteka. Thankfully, the indexer included the age at death of each of them, so we know that Józef died at the age of 1, and Antonina died at the age of 7. From this we can conclude that Józef and Antonina could not be children of our target couple. However, Franciszek died at the age of 66, which suggests a birth year circa 1789. This is in the right ballpark for him to be “our” Franciszek Benedykt Kalisiak who was born in 1792. Can we be absolutely certain this is the same person? Not based on this evidence. It’s certainly close enough that I’m going to order a copy of this death record and tentatively claim it as being the death record of my 6x-great-uncle, but in an ideal world, it would be nice to obtain corroborating evidence. Locating such evidence is another project for another day, so for right now, we’ll have to accept some uncertainty and continue to examine the evidence from vital records that’s presently available.

If I’ve learned one thing in my searches in Polish vital records, it’s that Polish priests were not always especially accurate when it came to recording surnames. It wasn’t just that they made logical phonetic substitutions, such as “Kaliszak “instead of “Kalisiak.” It wasn’t even that they frequently made substitutions based on common etymology, such as recording someone as “Grześkiewicz” instead of “Grzesiak” because both are patronymic surnames deriving from the given name Grzegorz. Sometimes they were just pretty far off-base. Maybe it was the result of long days tending to the spiritual needs of their congregations, which required them to put off making notes about those baptisms until the end of the day, when they couldn’t quite recall what the mothers’ names were. In any case, I’ve learned from experience that it’s wise to cast a wide net when searching in Geneteka, so before moving on to checking marriage records, it occurred to me to search for surnames starting with “Ka*” rather than just “Kal*.” Sure enough, this turns up the following result for death records:

Dorota and Antoni deahts

This shows a Dorota Kasprzak who died in 1811, daughter of Andrzej and Marianna, as well as an Antoni Kasprzak who died that same year. Hovering over the “i” infodots under the “Remarks” heading tells us that Dorota was 9 years of age, while Antoni was one year old when he died, suggesting birth years of 1802 and 1810, respectively. This is perfectly consistent with existing evidence for the years of birth of “our” Dorota and Antoni. Moreover, the deaths occurred in Starpiączka, which is where the family of Andrzej and Marianna Kalisiak was living as of 1810, when Antoni was born.

At this point, the evidence seems to suggest that Dorota and Antoni Kasprzak are the same as Dorota and Antoni Kalisiak, simply recorded under the wrong surname. However, it’s still theoretically possible that there were two families living in Starpiączka at that time, the Andrzej Kalisiak family and the Andrzej Kasprzak family, and the discovery of such an Andrzej Kasprzak family would cast significant doubt on our conclusion that Dorota and Antoni Kalisiak are the same as Dorota and Antoni Kasprzak. A quick check of indexed birth, marriage and death records in the entire present-day Mazowieckie province, searching as a pair for records that mention both Andrzej Kasprzak and Marianna, dated between 1770-1812, produces zero results for births and marriages, and only the two death records we’re interested in, for Dorota and Antoni. Since the parish of Mikołajew is only about 9 miles (15 km) from the border with the present-day Łódź province, it makes sense to check for a Kasprzak family in indexed records from that province, too. As it turns out, indexed records from the Łódź province show the marriage of an Andrzej Kasprzak and Marianna in 1797, as well as birth records for 5 of their children, born between 1798 and 1808. However, all of these records were from the parish of Leźnica Mała, which is about 100 km west of Mikołajew.

Kasprzaks of Bronno

The distance alone does not preclude the possibility that the Dorota and Antoni Kasprzak who died in Mikołajew are actually children of Andrzej and Marianna Kasprzak of Leźnica Mała parish — there’s plenty of evidence for people relocating over such distances. However, one of the children born to the Leźnica Mała couple was a daughter named Kunegunda who was baptized on 31 October 1802, which conflicts with existing evidence that Dorota Kalisiak was baptized on 2 May 1802 in Szymanów. There are similar conflicts with children born in 1798 and 1805, and taken all together, this can be construed as clear evidence that the family of Andrzej and Marianna Kasprzak of Leźnica Mała parish is distinct from the family of Andrzej and Marianna Kalisiak of Mikołajew parish. Since no evidence can be found for any other Kasprzak families in the area, we can conclude with reasonable certainty that the death records for Dorota and Antoni “Kasprzak” from Mikołajew are actually for Dorota and Antoni Kalisiak.

Of course, I still need to order these records from the diocesan archive in Łowicz, and ultimately, my hope is that they will contain additional information that was not included in the infodots within the indexed entries. Civil registration began in this part of Poland in 1808, and a civil death record from 1811 — the year that Dorota and Antoni died — would include the names, ages and occupations of two adult male witnesses who might be related to the deceased. If the information reported for those witnesses suggests that one or both might be known relatives, perhaps one of Andrzej Kalisiak’s brothers, then that would bolster our case even further. However, it appears that the civil copies of the death records for Mikołajew for this time period may not have survived, since the infodots report that the information in these death records comes from the Latin church books, rather than the Polish-language civil equivalents. In my experience, the Latin records from this part of Poland are much less informative than their civil counterparts, and may not mention witnesses at all. So it may be that there no further evidence can be found to support our conclusions about the identities of Dorota and Antoni Kalisiak/Kasprzak.

Genealogy is a process of discovery, and sometimes we have to draw preliminary or tentative conclusions based on scant evidence. Over time, additional evidence may turn up which causes us to rethink our original conclusions, and that’s perfectly fine. However, if “reasonably exhaustive” research fails to turn up further evidence, then we just have to get comfortable with qualifiers such as “maybe,” “probably” and “perhaps.”  In my next post, I’ll describe another foray into the indexed records in Geneteka in which I’ll examine the case for the legitimacy of the birth of Marianna Panek. Stay tuned!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

 

 

 

Just One Glimpse of A Quiet Life

Sometimes we meet a relative in the records about whom little is known. This happens often with babies or children who died young, and I’m always a little saddened when I find those records of lives cut short before they even had a chance to begin. Sometimes, however, the relative is someone who may have lived a full life, but who left few traces in the records nonetheless. One such relative in my family tree is Małgorzata Kurowska. Małgorzata was the sister of my 3x-great-grandmother, Agata (née Kurowska) Kalota, and Agata Kalota was a great-grandmother of my maternal grandfather, John Zielinski, on his father’s side. I met Małgorzata through her death record, which is the only document discovered for her to date (Figure 1).1

Figure 1: Death record from Młodzieszyn civil records office for Małgorzata Kurowska.Malgorzata Kurowska death 1902 crop

The translation, as I read it, is as follows:

“No. 96, Budy Stare. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the 15th/28th day of July in the year 1902 at 11:00 in the morning. Roch Kalota appeared, farmer, age 63, and Franciszek Orliński, farmer, age 57, residents of the village of Budy Stare, and stated that, on the 13th/26th day of July of the current year, at 3:00 in the afternoon, Malgorzata Kurowska died in the village of Budy Stare, unmarried, age 72, daughter of the late Andrzej and Katarzyna, the spouses Kurowski. After eyewitness confirmation of the death of Małgorzata Kurowska, this document was read to the illiterate declarants, and was signed only by Us.”

Although I’ve discussed documents like this before, perhaps it’s worth mentioning some basic features about this record again. Although Małgorzata was Polish, the village of Budy Stare where she lived all her life was at that time under Russian control, and Russian was the official language required for use in all legal documents such as this. The dates mentioned in the document are expressed according to both the Julian calendar, used in Russia and in the Orthodox Church, and the Gregorian calendar, used by Poles and throughout Western Europe. Since this is the calendar we use today, we would say that Małgorzata died on 26 July 1902. The death record follows the standard narrative format used in Russian Poland since 1826, in which the local Roman Catholic priest, acting as Civil Registrar, stated the date, place and time at which the document was written. Death records such as this one, which required a statement of eyewitness confirmation of the death by the registrar, were commonly recorded within about three days after the death occurred, presumably on the day that the priest/registrar presided over the funeral of the deceased. The two men named at the beginning of the record, who serve as legal witnesses to the death, were often family members. Occasionally one sees documents in which their precise relationship to the deceased is stated.

Budy Stare is a small, rural village even today, and its residents belong to the parish Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in the nearby village of Młodzieszyn. Although the parish has existed since the 14th century, the church building itself has been rebuilt a number of times. The church that is there today was rebuilt after World War II and is not the one that Małgorzata would have been baptized in or buried from. The severe damage that the church sustained during the war may be the reason why the parish website states that they only have records since 1945. Neither does the Diocesan Archive in Łowicz have any records for this parish, leaving only some relatively recent records housed at the Grodzisk Mazowieckie branch of the State Archive of Warsaw, which are available online, with births dating back to 1885 and marriages and deaths dating back to 1889.

Figure 2: On the steps of Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny, 31 July 2015.IMG_4191

The limited availability of vital records for Młodzieszyn makes research into the Kurowski family challenging, but what other types of records might exist? A search of all archival fonds for Młodzieszyn held by any of the State Archives reveals about a dozen collections of 19th-century records available for this village, including some fascinating items such as records from the Oryszewska Fabryka Cukru — a sugar factory that was built in Młodzieszyn in 1850. The records consist of photographs of employees, cash receipts, and payroll lists dated between 1898 and 1903. While these records are worth checking out, it’s unclear how much light they will shed on the relationships between individuals living in Młodzieszyn and surrounding villages at that time.

So for now, that leaves us with just this one record from which to know about Małgorzata. Her death was announced to the priest by her brother-in-law, Roch Kalota, my great-great-great-grandfather. Does this suggest that Małgorzata was close with her sister, Agata? The other witness named in the record, Franciszek Orliński, is not known to me. Could he have been another brother-in-law, married to another of Małgorzata’s sisters, whose name is unknown? It’s entirely possible. From the limited vital records that are available, I know of only these two siblings, Agata and Małgorzata. Surely there were others?

Małgorzata’s age in this record suggests that she was born circa 1830, which would make her a bit older than her sister Agata, who was probably born circa 1837, based on Agata’s own death record from 1895.2  Both sisters were children of Andrzej Kurowski and his wife, Katarzyna, whose maiden name is unknown. If Małgorzata was their oldest child, and Katarzyna was perhaps 20 when Małgorzata was born, then we can guess that Katarzyna was possibly born circa 1810, and Andrzej was probably a few years older. Yet these are only rough guesses, because it’s equally possible that Agata was Katarzyna’s youngest child, born when she was perhaps 45, which would suggest that Katarzyna was born closer to 1792. With so few records available, there are more questions than answers.

Agata Kalota’s death record states that she was born and died in Budy Stare. Although Małgorzata’s death record does not state her place of birth specifically, it seems probable that she was born in Budy Stare like her sister, and that she lived out her whole life in this same village. Małgorzata Kurowska never married, and if she had any children out of wedlock, we may never know. There are no marriage or death records in any indexed parish in Geneteka within 15 km of Młodzieszyn for a child born to a mother named Małgorzata Kurowska and an unnamed father, and available birth records do not exist for Młodzieszyn for the time frame encompassing most of Małgorzata’s childbearing years.

Given the time period in which Małgorzata lived, it’s likely that she lived with family members and spent her days contributing to women’s work on the farm, rather than working in the local sugar factory or doing anything that might merit a mention in archival records. This one glimpse may be all that we get of a woman who lived, laughed, loved, cried, worried, prayed, worked, and played. Rest in peace, Małgorzata.

Sources:

1 “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland),” Księga zgonów 1902-1913, 1902, #96, death record for Małgorzata Kurowska.

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mlodzieszynie (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland),” Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl: Projekt Indeksacji Metryk Parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), Jednostka 301, Ksiega zgonów 1889-1901, 1895, #69, death record for Agata Kalota, accessed on 5 June 2018.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

Magdalena Gębczyńska’s Story

Have you ever discovered an ancestor whose story seem especially compelling to you? For me, it’s my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Magdalena Gębczyńska. To describe the relationship another way, Magdalena was the great-great-grandmother of my maternal grandfather, John Zielinski. She was baptized in the village of Kołaczyce on 16 May 1800, probably within a few days of her birth, in keeping with Catholic customs of the time (Figure 1).1

Figure 1: Baptismal record from St. Anne’s parish in Kołaczyce for Magdalena Gębczyńska. Translation: 16 May 1800, house number 33, Magdal., daughter of father Michał Gębczyński, Catholic, female, legitimate. Father: Michał Gębczyński, Mother: Marianna née Niegos. Godparents: Sebastian Sliz, Konstancja Trzybowiczowa (?), townspeople. s

Although evidence suggests that Magdalena’s family were ethnic Poles, and the village of Kołaczyce lies within the Podkarpackie province of Poland today, an independent Poland did not exist at the time of her birth. The vast Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which existed for centuries was erased from the map in a series of three partitions in 1772, 1793 and 1795. Land that belonged to Poland historically was divided up among Austria, Russia and Prussia until Poland was no more. The village of Kołaczyce was absorbed into the Austrian crownlands after the first partition, which took place when Magdalena’s parents were still children. Five years after the final partition, Magdalena Gębczyńska was born. She was the sixth child and only daughter of Michał Gębczyński and Marianna Niegos or Niegosz.2 At the age of 15, she was married for the first time to Józef Sopalski, who worked as a potter, and together they had two daughters, Katarzyna Barbara and Teodosia Petronella.3 When Magdalena was 3 months pregnant with Teodosia, her husband died on 22 November 1818 of “haectica” (Figure 2).4

Figure 2: Death record from St. Anne’s parish in Kołaczyce for Josephus Sopalski. Translation: 22 November 1818, house number 23, Józef Sopalski, potter, Catholic, male, age 24. Cause of death: “haectica.” The word under “haectica” is “provisus,” which literally means “provided for.” The implication is that Józef  received the the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Last Rites, prior to his death.

Józef Sopalski death 1818 marked

“Haectica” is the Latin word for “hectic fever,” an archaic medical term for a fever that goes up at night and down during the day, which could result from causes as various as tuberculosis or septicemia. On 10 February 1819, Magdalena married Dominik Bulgewicz, three months before the birth of Teodosia on 26 May 1819.Magdalena and Dominik had five children together: Melchior Gaspar (born 1 January 1821), Magdalena (born 14 May 1823), Anna Marianna (born 30 May 1825), Marcianna Agnieszka (born 28 December 1826), and Zofia (born 8 April 1829).Three of these babies, Magdalena, Marcianna and Zofia, died before the age of five, and then Magdalena was widowed a second time, when Dominik died between 1829 and 1834.At the age of 34, and as a mother of four living children, ages 17, 14, 13 and 9, Magdalena was married a third time (Figure 3).8

Figure 3: Marriage record from St. Anne’s parish in Kołaczyce for Magdalena Bulgewicz and Franciszek Łącki. Translation: 3 August 1834, from house numbers 33 (Magdalena) and 84 (Franciszek). Groom: Franciszek Łącki, potter, Catholic, age 46, widower. Bride: Magdalena Bulgewiczowa, widow after the death of Dominik, Catholic, age 35. (The “-owa” suffix on Magdalena’s surname is a Polish grammatical ending which indicates a married woman for that particular family.) Witnesses: Konstanty Niedzielski and Piotr Lechowski, townsmen.8Franciscus Lacki marriage2 marked

Her husband was Franciszek Łącki, a 46-year-old widower and father of five children with his first wife, Tekla Stadnik or Stachnik.9 Like Magdalena and most of our ancestors in that time period, Franciszek was no stranger to deep personal loss, since only two of his children were living at the time of his marriage to Magdalena.10 With Franciszek, Magdalena had five more children: twins, Jakub and Anna (born 24 July 1835), Józef (born 7 February 1838), Katarzyna (born 16 April 1841), and Wojciech (born 22 April 1843).11 Anna and Jakub survived to adulthood and married siblings, Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz and Anna Ptaszkiewicz.12 However, the twins were Magdalena’s only children from this marriage who survived to adulthood. Her youngest three children with Franciszek Łącki all died in infancy.13 On 12 December 1847, Magdalena was widowed a third time when Franciszek died of “ordinary causes” at the age of 66 (Figure 4).14

Figure 4: Death record from St. Anne’s parish in Kołaczyce for Franciszek Łącki. Translation: “#152. Date of death: 12 December 1847. Date of burial: 14 December 1847. House number: 191. Deceased: Franciszek Łącki, townsman, father of a family, “Aspersit idem.” This phrase is literally, “sprinkled by the same,” and simply means that the priest who presided over Franciszek’s funeral was the same priest mentioned in the other records on the page. (During a Roman Catholic funeral, the casket is sprinkled with holy water as a remembrance of the baptism of the deceased.) The slashes in the columns following the information on the deceased indicate the Franciszek was a Catholic male, age 66 when he died, and his cause of death was noted to be “ordinary.” The notation below that, “prov. SS.” indicates that Franciszek received the Sacraments prior to his death.Franciszek Lacki death 1847 image 1 marked

Magdalena Łącka herself passed away a year later, on 17 January 1848, a few months shy of her 48th birthday (Figure 5).15 

Figure 5: Death record from St. Anne’s parish in Kołaczyce for Magdalena Łącka. Translation: “#11. Date of death: 17 January 1848. Date of burial:  19 January 1848. House number: 191. Deceased: Magdalenna [sic], widow of the late Franciszek Łącki, sprinkled (another reference to the Catholic burial rite) by Marcelli Zabicki. Catholic, female, age 50. Cause of death: febris nervosa. Magdalena received the Sacraments prior to her death.15Magdalena Gebczynska death 1848 image 1 marked

Her cause of death was noted to be “februs nervosa,” or “nervous fever,” which may have been typhus. Poor Magdalena died so young, and yet she outlived three husbands, bore 12 children, and outlived half of them. She is almost certainly buried in the parish cemetery in Kołaczyce, along with all of her husbands and all (?) her children, except for her son, Jakub Łącki– my great-great-great-grandfather — who emigrated to the U.S. in 1884.16 May she rest in peace.

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1784-2015,” 1800, baptismal record for Magdal Gębczyńska, 16 May 1800.

2 Ibid., 1786, baptismal record for Josephus Gębczyński, 7 March 1786; and

Ibid., 1789, baptismal record for Josephus Gębczyński, 15 March 1789; and

Ibid., 1791, baptismal record for Augustinus Joannes Gębczyński, 26 August 1791; and

Lucjan Gabriel Cichocki, “Kołaczyce Births,” baptismal record for Benedictus Gębczyński, baptized 16 March 1794, transcribed from the parish records of St. Anne’s Roman Catholic Church, Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland, report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 6 May 2015; Excel spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1784-2015,” 1797, baptismal record for Andreas Gębczyński, 26 November 1797; and

Ibid., 1803, baptismal record for Joannes Paulus Gębczyński, 20 June 1803.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Śluby, 1784-2015,” 1815, marriage record for Josephus Sopalski and Magdalena Gębczeńszczonka, 14 November 1815; and

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1784-2015,” 1816, baptismal record for Catharina Barbara Sopalska, born 21 November 1816; and

Ibid., 1819, baptismal record for Theodosia Petronella Sopalska, born 26 May 1819.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Księga zgonów, 1784 – 2015,” 1818, death record for Josephus Sopalski, 22 November 1818.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Sluby, 1784-2015,” 1819, marriage record for Dominicus Bulgewicz and Magdalena Sopalska, 10 February 1819.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1784-2015,” 1821, baptismal record for Melchior Gasparus Bulgewicz, 1 January 1821; and

Ibid., 1823, baptismal record for Magdalena Bulgewicz, born 14 May 1823; and

Ibid,. 1825, baptismal record for Anna Marianna Bulgewicz. born 30 May 1825; and

Maciej Orzechowski, “Kolaczyce Births,” baptismal record for Marcianna Agnes Bulgewicz, born 28 December 1826, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889″, Stary Kopie,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on 9 January 2015; Excel spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and

Ibid., baptismal record for Sophia Bulgewicz, born 8 April 1829.

7 Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Zgony, 1826-1889,” Stary Kopie, 1828, death record for Magdalena Bulgewicz, 26 June 1828; and

Ibid., death record for Marcianna Bulgewicz, died 17 July 1828; and

Ibid., death record for Sophia Bulgewicz, 29 September 1829.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Śluby, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1834, marriage record for Franciscus Łącki and Magdalena Bulgewiczowa, 3 August 1834.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1784-2015,” 1818, baptismal record for Simon Łącki, born 26 October 1818; and

Ibid., 1821, baptismal record for Marianna Łącki, born 1 February 1821; and

Ibid., 1823, baptismal record for Clara Marianna Łącka, born 9 August 1823; and

Maciej Orzechowski, “Kolaczyce Births,” baptismal record for Valentinus Casimirus Łącki, born 8 February 1826, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889″, Stary Kopie,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts on 9 January 2015, Excel spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and

Ibid., baptismal record for Stanislaus Łącki, born 22 March 1829.

10 Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Księga zgonów, 1784 – 2015,” 1820, death record for Simon Łącki, 6 January 1820; and

Ibid., 1826, death record for Valentinus Łącki, 23 June 1826; and

Ibid., 1829, death record for Stanislaus Łącki 24 June 1829.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1835, baptismal record for Jacobus Łącki and Anna Łącka, born 24 July 1835; and

Maciej Orzechowski, “Kolaczyce Births,” baptismal record for Josephus Łącki, born 7 February 1838, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stary Kopie,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts on 9 January 2015, Excel spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and

Ibid., baptismal record for Catharina Łącka, born 16 April 1841; and

Ibid., baptismal record for Adalbertus Łącki, born 22 April 1843.

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Śluby, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1861, #11, marriage record for Jacobus Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz, 26 November 1861; and

Maciej Orzechowski, “Kołaczyce Marriages,” marriage record for Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz and Anna Łącka, married 15 November 1852,  transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), Śluby, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts on 9 January 2015, Excel spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

13 Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Zgony, 1826-1889,” Stary Kopie, 1839, death record for Josephus Łącki, died 2 October 1839; and

Ibid., 1842, #20, death record for Catharina Łącka, died 9 March 1842; and

Ibid., 1843, #28, death record for Adalbertus Łącki, died 1 June 1843.

14 Ibid., 1847, #152, death record for Franciscus Łącki, died 12 December 1847.

15 Ibid., 1848, #11, death record for Magdalena Łącka, died 17 January 1848.

16 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, record for Jacob Lacki, arrived aboard S.S. Moravia on 6 May 1884, microfilm serial: M237, 1820-1897; microfilm roll: roll 475; line: 46; list number: 506, accessed via https://ancestry.com (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), 27 May 2018.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Geneteka, Part III

Recently, I posted the first installment of an updated, more comprehensive tutorial for using the popular Polish vital records database, Geneteka. In that post, I provided an introduction to Geneteka, a walk through the search interface, and some information about how Geneteka’s search algorithms work. The second installment, posted two days ago, included information on searching with two surnames, using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, searching within a specified parish, using the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, and using the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para.” In today’s final installment, I’ll discuss the last two search options, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” Then we’ll get into the various options for finding scans, based on the repository to which the “skan” button is linked.

Using “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach”

As we’ve already observed, Geneteka’s default search algorithm will return results in which the target search names appear in any field. In many cases, such a broad search is undesirable. For example, if I want to find a death record for my great-great-grandmother, Antonina Zarzycka, some time after 1904, but I have no idea where she died, I’m not interested in all the results that crop up that mention Antonina as the mother of the deceased, or the mother’s maiden name of the deceased, as shown below.

Antonina Zarzycka

Maybe I don’t know her mother’s maiden name, so I can’t narrow the search that way. However, I can still eliminate a lot of the extraneous results by selecting, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach.” When I repeat the search that way, the results include only birth and death records for women named Antonina Zarzycka, and marriage records for brides with that name. Shown below are the results for death records which were returned using these search parameters.

Antonina Zarzycka deaths

Note that this is an example of one of those situations alluded to previously, where an infodot is found next to a name. In this case, it alerts us to the fact that Antonina Zarzycka was known by another name (her maiden name), Marczewska.

Using “Exact Search”

As mentioned earlier, Geneteka’s search algorithms are flexible and powerful, allowing for a fair degree of phonetic latitude with the results that are returned for a target surname. Since the search engine is so flexible, you might think that results will include pretty much every surname that contains the same etymological root as the target name. For example, there are quite a few patronymic surnames which derive from the given name “Grzegorz,” including my great-grandmother’s maiden name, Grzesiak. But although a search for “Grzesiak” turns up variants such as Grzesiek, Grzesik, Grzeszyk, Grzech, and Grusiak, there are still variants under which I’ve found records for my family which did not turn up in a basic search. Such variants include Grześczak, Grzesczak, Grzeszczak, and even Grześkiewicz. (Those old priests got really creative sometimes!)

Grzesiak

This is where Geneteka’s wildcard search feature comes in handy. If I do a search for “Grze*,” the results include all surnames that begin with “Grze” exactly — again, without taking diacritics into consideration. Therefore results include surnames that start with Grze- as well as surnames that start with Grzę-. (Theoretically, at least, results would also include surnames that start with Grże- or Grźe-.) Obviously, this approach will generate a large number of search hits, so it’s best to narrow the search in other ways (e.g. specifying a range of years, a given name, etc.) if you’re going to use the wildcard option.

In my own research, this wildcard search proved to be especially effective when I was searching for records for my Ciećwierz family. Antonina Ciećwierz and Michał Zieliński were my great-great-great-grandparents. Antonina’s 1897 death record reported her parents’ names as Jan and Katarzyna Ciećwierz, and I began to accumulate evidence that the family was originally from the nearby village of Mikołajew, before they moved to Mistrzewice. Unfortunately, a marriage record for Jan and Katarzyna was elusive. I searched within a 15-km radius of Mikołajew for paired names (1) Jan Ciećwierz, and (2) Katarzyna, no maiden name specified, and obtained the following result:

Ciecwierz search

The search produced marriage records for several of Jan and Katarzyna’s children: Józefa in 1871, Antonina in 1873, Stanisław in 1878, and Joanna in 1879. Moreover, the results suggested that Katarzyna’s maiden name was Grzelak. Yet there was no marriage record for Jan and Katarzyna themselves. So how can we tease it out of the database? This is where the exact search comes in handy.  When the search was repeated using “Cie*” instead of “Ciećwierz,” their marriage record was discovered.

Jan and Katarzyna

In addition to simple wildcard searches like this one, Geneteka also permits wildcard searches for both surname fields. For example, I recently assisted someone who was seeking the marriage of Piotr Wąszewski and Marianna Pacewicz in Drozdowo parish. The record was a bit elusive, and the year of the event was uncertain. I finally discovered it by using wildcards in both fields.

Drozdowo

The marriage in 1862 for Piotr “Wąswski” and Maryanna Pancier may, in fact, be the correct record, as the year is in the right ballpark, and Pancier is not too far a stretch from Pancewicz. Obviously, further research is needed, but the indexed records in Geneteka have certainly helped get this research off to a good start. Notice also that I did not check the box for “exact search.” This may be a recent change in the search engine, but I was surprised to note that the results were the same whether or not that box was checked. It may be that the presence of an asterisk in the surname field works the same way as checking the box. There is also the possibility of performing a wildcard search in both the surname and given name fields. So for example, if I want to find all birth records for children with surnames similar to Wąsewski and first initial J, the search result looks like this:

J Waszkiewicz

For kicks, I even tested it with wildcards in all four fields. It still worked, as in the example shown below which shows a search in all of Mazowieckie province for couples (“searching as a pair”) in which one partner was named “J. Was*” and the other had initials “T. N.” In practice, I don’t know that there would be too many circumstances where you would need to search for people only by their initials, but it’s impressive that Geneteka offers this as an option.

Searching by initials

You may have guessed by now that even though this is called an “exact” search, diacritics still don’t matter, so a search for “Was*” is the same as a search for “Wąs*”.  Notice that the exact search can also be used to make your results gender-specific, should you wish to do so, in the case of surnames which exhibit gender, . For example, a search for “Zielinski” with the “exact search” box checked will return results for the masculine version of the surname only.

Masculine surnames

Of course, as soon as you enter a given name, you will make the results gender-specific, as well. Finally, the Exact search can also be used to eliminate all the phonetic variants that are included in a standard search, which could be helpful with a surname like Zieliński if you’re fairly certain it was not likely to have been recorded in some other way.

Locating Scans in Geneteka

Let’s move on now and discuss the process of obtaining scans when this option is available. At first, it seems like it should be pretty straightforward: click the button, and it takes you to the scan, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. There are a number of repositories for scans that are currently linked to indexes in Geneteka, depending on the geographic area. Some of the less common repositories I’ve discovered have been indexed records from Ukraine that are linked to scans in AGAD (the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych in Warsaw), and indexed records from Wielkopolskie province that are linked to pdf files a from Polish digital library (in this case, the Biblioteka Cyfrowa Regionalia Ziemi Łódzkiej), but you may find examples of other less common repositories. In most cases, however, indexes are linked to scans found in one of three places: Metryki, Szukajwarchiwach, and FamilySearch.

Finding scans linked to FamilySearch

With all of these examples, your mileage may vary. Sometimes, the scan button takes you right to the page with the proper image. Other times, you may have to work a bit harder. Here’s an example of an indexed entry in Geneteka that has a Skan button linked to a collection of digital images in FamilySearch.

Jozef Nowak Boby

When we click “Skan,” it takes us to FamilySearch’s collection entitled Lublin, Roman Catholic Church Books, 1784-1964. Moreover, we can see from the heading that we’re looking at records from Boby parish, and specifically, the book, Births (Akta urodzeń) 1844-1866.

Boby records

So far, so good. If we go back to the indexed entry in Geneteka, we can see that the birth record for Józef Nowak was from 1854, record #7. So what we have to do at this point is scroll through the images until we find the right record. Less than 5 minutes later, I’m looking at this:

Jozef Nowak birth

Although it’s not circled in this image, you can see the download button (between “print” and “tools”) near the top right corner of the screen. Obviously, I didn’t have to go through 110 pages of images individually in order to find this. The little tool bar on the side (circled in red on the image below) is invaluable here — especially that icon of the rows of dots, which allows you to zoom out and view a gallery of thumbnail images.

Jozef Nowak birth

Here’s the zoomed view:

Thumbnails

It’s fairly quick work to click on an image, read the date to see what year we’re in, and then repeat that process until we get to the records from 1854. One word of caution is that records from this part of Poland will be in Polish (we’re researching Polish ancestors, after all!) so the dates will all be spelled out in writing rather than in numerals. There are a lot of great online resources to help you find your way, however, including all the Polish translation aids in this document. (Polish numbers can be found here.)

Finding Scans Linked to Metryki

Let’s say I want to find the scan for this record, the marriage of Zygmunt Zarzycki and Henryka Kurkiewicz which took place in Warsaw in 1929. Once again, we’re going to hit the “skan” button, but this time, it takes us to a collection of digital images found in Geneteka’s sister site, Metryki.

Scan again

Metryki is another effort sponsored by volunteers from the PTG, and I discussed previously how to use it directly, without going through Geneteka. (It’s always a good idea to check there for your parishes, because sometimes it happens that there are collections of scans found in Metryki for which there are no indexes in Geneteka, or the range of years covered differs between the two sites.) In this case, however, we’re just following the link from Geneteka, so what we see is this:

Metryki page

Even if you’re not comfortable with Polish, resist the temptation to click that American/British flag icon at the top, because clicking that will take you back to Metryki’s home page, and you don’t want that. Instead, realize that you don’t need much Polish to figure out what’s going on here. The bit highlighted in red at the top tells you what it is you’re looking at: Metrical books of the Roman Catholic parish of All Saints in Warsaw. You can copy and paste that line into Google Translate if you want to. The next line tells us that we’re looking at the book of marriages from 1929 for this parish. All the numbers you see in blue in rows beneath that heading are the file numbers for images from this book. Since the entry in Geneteka told us that Zygmunt and Henryka’s marriage was record number 525, we want to find the file that contains that number, which is underlined in red in the image above. When we click that link, we’re on the page with the marriage record.

Download button

The groom’s name is underlined here in red. Again, you don’t need much Polish to navigate the page, but it helps to know that “Powiększ” is the “zoom-in” button to enlarge the text, and “Pomniejsz” is the “zoom-out” button to shrink the page. The “floppy disk” icon, circled in red, will allow you to download a copy of the image.

Finding scans linked to Szukajwarchiwach

For our final example, we’ll take a look at how to find scans in the Polish State Archives database, Szukajwarchiwach. We’ll start with this indexed entry from Geneteka for the marriage of Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbro(w)ska.

Stanislaw and Jadwiga

When we click “skan,” we find ourselves on this page from Szukajwarchiwach:

Kowalewo 1832

The first thing we want to do is to get oriented to the page. The top section, boxed in red, identifies the collection we’re looking at: Civil records from the Roman Catholic parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County, which is where we want to be. Note that we’re not just looking at a book of births, as we were in the previous FamilySearch example. We’re looking at “Akta urodzonych, małżeństw i zgonów,” which means we’ve got birth, marriage and death records, all in the same book. The “dates” section, further down the page, notes that we’re in the year 1832, which confirms that the link from Geneteka took us to the right place. The indexed entry in Geneteka noted that Stanisław and Jadwiga were married in 1832, but in this case, the record number is not noted. That means we have to first find the marriage index for 1832, then find the record number, then find the record itself. Let’s jump in!

Immediately to the right of that large, red arrow in the image above (the one with all the numbers on it), it says, “Digital copies [27].” That’s what we need to click to get started. That brings us to this page of thumbnail images. The very first thing I usually do is switch the number of scans per page from the default 15 up to 100 to save time.

number of scans

However, that’s less important in this case because it’s a small parish and the entire book from 1832 only covers 27 digital images. The parish of Kowalewo was in Russian Poland, and books from that part of Poland are usually laid out with births in chronological order, then an alphabetical birth index, created by the priest at the end of the year. This was followed by marriage records, in chronological order, and a marriage index, and finally by death records and a death index. Normally, when looking for a marriage record, we need to skip past the births and the birth index, and then it’s easy to spot the marriage records just from the thumbnails, since these records are typically twice as long as the births or deaths. In this particular example, it’s a small parish and a short book, so there is no marriage index — we just need to skim through each record until we spot the names we’re looking for. We can see from the thumbnails that marriage records start on image 10. When we click the image, we see this:

Marriage records, Kowalewo

The button marked in red will allow you to expand the image so it’s readable. When you do that, you come to this page, where you have some tools to adjust brightness, contrast, and magnification. You can navigate through the images using the “previous” and “next” links. To move around the page, click and drag the gray box marked with the red arrow in the image below. SwA navigation

After flipping through a few images, we arrive at image 15, which contains the marriage record for Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbroska. To download a copy, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, where the download link appears.

Grzesiak Dabrowska marriage

That’s pretty much all there is to finding digital images in Geneteka. While it does take a bit of patience and perseverance, and some scans are definitely easier to access than others, it’s still a great finding aid, especially for researchers who might be unaware of the existence of scans for their parish of interest.

That brings us to the end of this tutorial series. I hope it’s helped to give you a better understanding of how Geneteka works so that you’re able to use it more effectively for your research in Polish records. Geneteka is truly a phenomenal resource that’s revolutionized the field of Polish genealogy. Thanks to its tremendous power and the wonderfully flexible search interface, we can find Polish vital records more quickly and easily than ever before, even for those ancestors who were especially mobile. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. Even better, if you find you use Geneteka, and you’re able to make a donation to help keep this project going, please click here. Thank you!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

 

 

 

We Interrupt This Broadcast For a Special Announcement…

Many of you might be wondering right now where the third installment in my Geneteka tutorial is. I’d planned on posting it today, but then, life threw me a curve ball. The curve ball came in the form of some genealogy research that my friend and colleague, Marcel Elias, completed for me today in the Diocesan Archive in Fulda, Germany. Since Fulda is a little out of the way for Marcel, I’d asked him to get to the work when he had time, but we hadn’t established a particular time frame. Well, Marcel decided to surprise me with the research today — and I’m thrilled!

Wagner family tree

Now, this isn’t going to be a post with a whole lot of intensive analysis of genealogical data. Nope, this is just me being incredibly excited about having a whole lot of “new” ancestors to get to know. Presumably you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t care about genealogy, so maybe you can relate. For me, each new surname is a cause for celebration. Who knew I was descended from Orths, and Daubes, and Rieds, and Krählings? Not to mention the Schicks, Jacobis and Lauers that appear on the second page?

Wagner family tree part 2

Each given name is exciting, even when half of them are Johann, Maria, or Elisabetha. Marcel hasn’t had a chance to send me the records yet, so right now, I’m just pondering the GEDCOM file he sent, which I’ve already merged into my existing family tree, along with a few notes he jotted to me on the train on his way home. Things like, “Once upon a time, there was a mill in Roßdorf called Seemühle. And a family Wagner/Wagener operated it. Hence their nickname Seemüller…. the mill your ancestors operated worked already in 1361. But I don’t know if your family was there.” He also mentioned that the records themselves are in Latin, rather than German. I feel like I dodged a bullet there, because German is still a struggle for me, but the amount of Latin required to read typical church vital records is pretty minimal.

One of the best parts about all this research is that it proves that I was right. Researching immigrant ancestors is such a thrill for me because making that jump across the Atlantic can be quite a challenge. Finding the right records with the right clues, wrestling with misspelled place names, hypothesizing about what the ancestral village must be, and then determining the parish which would serve that village, are all part of the game. But until one finds one’s ancestors in records from the hypothesized location, the whole house of cards could come tumbling down. In this case, I nailed it — the village of Roßdorf, near Amöneburg, Germany — so I’m savoring the sweetness of the victory.

I’ve written about my Wagners previously, and in that last post, I concluded, “Although the evidence looks pretty good at this point, the identification of the Wagners’ ancestral village must be considered tentative until we find mention of them in the church records for Roßdorf.” And so it was, until today.

The beautiful thing about this piece of research is that there can be no doubt that this is the right family, even with an exceptionally popular German surname like Wagner. All the parts add up so perfectly. My great-great-grandfather, Henry Wagner (shown in dark green in the first image), was known from U.S. sources to have been born circa 15 December 1829 to parents Johann Heinrich “John Henry” Wagner and Maria Anna Nau. All three of them immigrated to the U.S. circa 1853, along with three of Henry’s siblings, John, August, and Gertrude. Since John Henry and Maria Anna immigrated as well, there was some evidence from U.S. records for their year of birth, in addition to just their names. This evidence suggested that Johann Heinrich and Maria Anna were each born circa 1803.

The records that Marcel located show that Henry Wagner, baptized Carl Heinrich, was born 16 December 1829 to Johann Heinrich Wagner, who was himself born 27 July 1803, and Maria Anna Nau, who was born 18 January 1803. The pieces just don’t come together any better than that. And they were all right there in the village of Roßdorf, exactly where they were supposed to be. It makes me so happy when all the evidence fits.

So, I hope you’ll forgive me if I got a little off-track with the final installment of my Geneteka tutorial. There’s been a whole lot of celebrating going on in the Szczepankiewicz house today, because my ancestors who were lost to the mists of time are lost no more. Thanks for all your hard work, Marcel, and to all those waiting on that Geneteka tutorial — thanks for your patience.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Geneteka: Part II

Yesterday I posted the first installment of an updated, more comprehensive tutorial for using the popular Polish vital records database, Geneteka. In that post, I provided an introduction to Geneteka, a walk through the search interface, and some information about how Geneteka’s search algorithms work. Today I’ll discuss searching with two surnames, using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, searching within a specified parish, using the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, and using the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para.”

Searching with two surnames

Let’s return now to our search for my great-grandfather, Józef Zieliński, anywhere in Mazowiecki province. If you recall, there were 29 pages of results from our first attempt to find him by inputting only his given name and surname. Let’s assume that I do a little more research in U.S. records and discover evidence that he was born between 1890 and 1895. That immediately reduces the results down to a mere 3 pages.

Jozef Zielinski range of years

If I do just a bit more research to procure his marriage record or death record from U.S. sources, I can discover his parents’ names: Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota. This is the most powerful bit of information we’ve discovered so far, because it allows me to zoom in immediately on my great-grandfather’s birth record.

Jozef Zielinski birth

Voilà! Instant gratification! If I want to discover all the children born to this couple, I can search again, leaving out Józef’s given name. (For that matter, inclusion of his mother’s given name is not necessary here, so I’ll leave that out, too.) Remember to remove the restriction on the range of years, however, unless you have a very good idea of your ancestor’s position in the birth order in his family.

Zielinski Kalota

Geneteka is a thing of beauty, truly. Even if I never bothered to accurately determine from U.S. records that my great-grandfather Józef Zieliński was from the village of Mistrzewice in gmina Młodzieszyn, in Sochaczew County, I could have discovered that instantly based on indexed records in Geneteka. Of course, it still makes sense to gather all the information that you can from U.S. records first, as further evidence for the soundness of your conclusion, and to guard against the possibility that there were two men named Józef Zieliński, both born in Poland in the same approximate time period to fathers who both happened to be named Stanisław and mothers who both happened to be named Marianna Kalota. Although that seems highly improbable, it might be more possible if the mother also had a very popular surname such as Nowak or Kowalska.

If we click on the “Marriages” tab, we can look for marriage records that involve these two surnames.

Zielinski Kalota marriages

This result illustrates another feature of the basic search: results will include either of the specified surnames in any field. In the first result, the groom had the surname Kalot (discovered by the search algorithm since the final “a” is truncated) and his mother’s maiden name was Zielińska. In the second result, the groom was a Zieliński, and the maiden name of the bride’s mother was Kalota. Since the other names in these records don’t match well with existing evidence for my family, and since these marriages took place in the parishes of Brzóza and Leszno rather than Mistrzewice or Młodzieszyn, we can conclude that neither of these results is relevant to our search.

Moving on to the death records now, we see that all of these results are relevant and correspond to 8 of the 10 children of Stanisław and Marianna Zieliński whose birth records were discovered previously. (If you’re interested, the sad story of the Zieliński family is here.)

Deaths

There’s one final point I’d like to make about searching with two surnames before we move on, and that is, sometimes less is more. In older Polish records, particularly marriage and death records, it’s not unusual for a woman’s maiden name to be omitted. So if you’re searching for marriage records for all the children of hypothetical couple Jan Kowalski and Jadwiga Lis from the parish of Różan, it’s quite possible that a marriage record will exist for one of their sons (let’s call him Piotr), in which he is described only as “son of Jan and Jadwiga, the spouses Kowalski.” If you restrict your search too much by specifying both surnames, Kowalski and Lis, and both given names, Jan and Jadwiga, you’ll miss Piotr’s marriage record. The search engine won’t find it, because the indexer could not possibly have included Jadwiga’s maiden name in the index since it wasn’t mentioned in the original record. One the other hand, if you search for records containing (1) surname Kowalski, given name Jan, and (2) given name Jagwiga (no surname), Piotr’s marriage record should show up. The other technique that would be helpful here would be to check the box for “Wyszukaj jako para/Relationship search,” but we’ll discuss that further tomorrow.

Using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column

Focusing now on the various buttons in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, we see that the page showing birth records mentioning Zieliński and Kalota has three infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, “i,” “Z”, and “A,” in addition to “Skan.” However, the page showing death records that mention these surnames only has “Z” and “A” infodots, and only two of the records are linked to scans. This is a pretty typical result for Geneteka, and it arises because of the way Geneteka is created. As mentioned in the introduction, Geneteka is an evolving work in progress, and indexing requirements have changed since its inception. Therefore some indexes are more limited than others in the information they provide. In this case, the birth records are as complete as one could wish for, including all information necessary to determine the relevance of a record to one’s research, and a link to the scan. Some of the death entries are slightly less complete, since they’re missing the “i” infodot and the “skan” link, but they’re still pretty good. However, you may encounter indexed entries in Geneteka for which very little information is available beyond the parish, the year of the event, the record number, and the name of the key participants (baptized or deceased in a birth or death record, names of bride and groom in a marriage record). The lack of parents’ names found in some indexes makes it more difficult to determine if a record is relevant to your research or not, but any information online at all is better than nothing, and even such “bare-bones” indexes can be helpful finding aids when going through parish records. If your entry of interest is complete except for a link to a scan, there are often places where these can be found online. (For one example of how to do this, please see this post on using the FamilySearch catalog.)

So what do those infodots tell us? Starting with the “i,” if you hover over it, additional information about the record is revealed. For example, the “i” infodot for Franciszek Zieliński tells us that he was born 16 September 1886 (the little “r” that appears after the year stands for “roku,” the Polish word for year, and is merely an artifact of the translation process.)

i infodot

Other types of information might be available via the “i” as well, such as the towns where the bride and groom lived in a marriage record, whether or not the bride or groom was married previously, or whether the information provided in that entry came only from the sumariusz or skorowidz (internal indexes created by the priest within the book itself), rather than coming from a reading of the actual record. You may also see “i” infodots located in other places in an indexed entry, such as near a name. In such cases they’re usually there to indicate the existence of an alternate name under which the person was known, such as a maiden name in the death record of a married woman, or an alias, usually indicated by “vel” (meaning alias).

The “Z” infodot provides information about the archive that holds the original record which is indexed for a particular entry. In this case, originals are at the Grodzisk branch of the State Archive of Warsaw, and the archive’s address is also provided.

Z infodot

The “Z” button acts not only as an infodot, but also as a link: hovering over it will provide information, but clicking it will take you to the archive’s website. Note that in some cases, the Z will tell you only that the record came from “Archiwum Parafialne,” or the parish archive. That means that these records were indexed because the parish priest permitted the volunteer indexer to go in and index the books on site. In order to get copies of the records, you need to contact the parish, or find a professional researcher in that area. However, in most other cases copies of these records can be obtained in some other way, such as in an online repository like GenBaza, FamilySearch, etc. Just because the information in the “Z” infodot states that a record was obtained from, say, the Archiwum Diecezjalnym w Płocku, doesn’t mean that the only way to obtain a copy is by writing to the archive. Many records from both state and diocesan archives in Poland have been microfilmed or digitized by the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), and are available online or are viewable at your local Mormon Family History Center (FHC). The final infodot, the “A,” reveals the name of the volunteer indexer to whom we owe our debt of gratitude.

Searching within a specific parish

In our ongoing example with the family of Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota, we discovered that all of the births and deaths for their children were recorded in either Mistrzewice or Młodzieszyn. In fact, it’s clear that the family lived in Mistrzewice the entire time, although it appears that the village was transferred to the parish of Młodzieszyn sometime between the baptism of Władysław in 1897 and the baptism of Jan in 1899.

Mistrzewice

We might predict, then, that Stanisław and Marianna were married in or near Mistrzewice circa 1885, before the birth of their oldest child in 1886. However, no marriage records were found for this couple anywhere in present-day Mazowieckie province when we searched for records mentioning both their surnames. Why might that be? The answer can be found by careful examination of the range of records indexed for each parish. To illustrate, let’s go back and repeat our search for surnames Zieliński and Kalota in Mazowieckie, this time using the drop-down menu in the “Parish/Parafia” search box to limit the search to results from Mistrzewice parish. When we do that, the results are displayed with the handy graphic, shown below, which gives us a timeline of the range of years available for indexed records.

Parish search bar

If we switch over to marriages, we see that marriage records for Mistrzewice are indexed from 1855-1863, with a gap in 1864, then continue from 1865-1893, followed by another one-year gap in 1894, and then finish with 1895-1898. Since we anticipate that Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota were married circa 1885, their marriage record should appear in this index if they married in Mistrzewice, but it does not. So where did they marry? Probably someplace nearby, so let’s repeat the search using the “Include search in nearby parishes (15 km radius)/Wyszukaj również w pobliskich parafiach (15km)” option.

Mistrzewice marriages

When we repeat the search with that box checked, the display will tell us exactly which indexed parishes were searched, and their distance from the target parish.

Nearby parishes

However, there’s still no marriage record. Why? Well, in this case, further research revealed that Marianna Kalota’s family was from the parish of Młodzieszyn. Since it’s customary to marry in the bride’s parish, the answer to the problem is apparent after a quick check on the availability of indexed marriage records for Młodzieszyn.

Mlodzieszyn marriages

Stanisław and Marianna married circa 1885, and marriage records for Młodzieszyn are not indexed until 1889. Unfortunately, the State Archive has no earlier records for this parish beyond what’s indexed in Geneteka, nor does the diocesan archive, and the parish website states that records exist only back to 1945. Apparently, I’m out of luck with that marriage record. However, this example demonstrates the importance of paying attention to the range of years that’s indexed for your parish of interest, because it will absolutely influence your results.

Using the Parish Records Collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych

There’s another handy feature associated with that timeline graphic that’s worth mentioning. This is the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, circled here in red.

Parish records collection

When you click that link, it takes you to a page with information about the selected parish in the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych, which is one of the sister sites to Geneteka sponsored by the PTG. (You can also access the site directly, without going through Geneteka, here.) Theoretically, this page is only available in Polish, as indicated by the lack of an American/British flag icon.

Mistrzewice in KZM

In fact, you really don’t need to know a whole lot of Polish to be able to use the site as-is. However, if you’re really uncomfortable this way, there are two options for translating the page into English. The first is to use Google Chrome as your browser, then right-click anywhere on the page and select, “Translate to English,” as shown here.

Translate to English

The second is to copy the URL, and then paste that into the “input” box in Google Translate for Polish to English translation. The URL won’t appear to change, but if you click on the URL in the “output” box, the page will appear in English.

Once we do either of those things, we see that this page has some great information about the parish, including the parish name (Sts. Stanisław and Dorothy), the year the parish was founded, and some information about the old Województwo (province) in which the parish was located prior to the administrative reform of 1998, when Poland reorganized its 49 provinces into the 16 provinces that exist today. Knowing the old province can be useful for looking up the parish at sites like Baza PRADZIAD, which use the old administrative designations to distinguish between parishes with the same name. Similarly, information is provided about the new province and powiat (county) in which the parish is located today.

English version for Mistrzewice

We also see a very helpful note about which portal(s) contain indexed records for this parish, as well as which books are available from the archives. In this case, the only records that are available from the State Archive branch in Grodzisk Mazowieckie are already indexed in Geneteka, so no further information is provided in these boxes about available birth, marriage (“oath”) or death records. There’s also a note explaining that the parish ceased to exist in 1915, which isn’t strictly true. As mentioned previously, the parish functions were transferred to Młodzieszyn in 1898, but the church in Mistrzewice was destroyed by a fire in 1915, which is probably what was meant here. In any case, let’s look at another example, the parish in Kowalewo-Opactwo, Wielkopolskie province, to see an example of a Katalog entry for a parish that’s currently active.

kowalewo

The parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo (which translates as Kowalewo Abbey) is in the historical Poznań area, so marriage records from this parish are indexed in the Poznan Project, in addition to being indexed in Geneteka for the range of years noted. The parish itself only has records since 1916 (births) or 1947 (marriages and deaths), as shown here, underlined in green, so you could presumably write to them to request a copy of a recent record, and they might be willing to comply, within the restrictions imposed by Polish privacy laws. (Under current Polish privacy laws, access to birth records is restricted for a period of 100 years from the date of the event, and access to marriage and death records is restricted for 80 years. Only immediate family or direct descendants can request copies of records dated within this interval.) Finally, this tells us that the Archdiocesan Archive in Włocławek has additional marriage records from 1828-1866, which implies that there’s an extra year’s worth of marriage records available that’s not indexed in either Geneteka or the Poznan Project.

While the information available in the Katalog can be extremely helpful in identifying the repositories in which one might find records for a particular parish, it’s important to realize that you should still do your own research. In this case, the entry fails to mention the LDS microfilms/digitized records that cover births, marriages and deaths for the period from 1868-1879 which were created from original records held by the State Archive in Poznań. Additional records (1880-1889, and 1910-1914) are also available online at Szukajwarchiwach. There are also these microfilms of parish records for Kowalewo that go all the way up to 1979, covering births from 1916-1958, with a gap from 1936-1944, as well as marriages from 1947-1956 and deaths from 1947-1979. Since such recent records are clearly protected by the aforementioned Polish privacy laws, it’s unlikely that these will be digitized any time soon but could nonetheless be researched in person or by proxy at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Despite these occasional flaws, it’s convenient to have so much parish information in one place, which is why it’s worth clicking that “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link on the Geneteka search page for your parish of interest.

Using “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para”

The remaining search options that we haven’t discussed in depth include “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para,” “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” To illustrate the first one, let’s give Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota a break and use the example of Stanisław’s parents, Michał Zieliński and Antonina Ciećwierz. Let’s pretend we have no idea where this family was from, and want to search in all of Mazowiecki province. Since it’s possible that there will be records for this family that don’t mention Antonina’s maiden name, we’ll try searching according to just Michał’s name and Antonina’s given name. As noted previously, Zieliński is a popular name, so that strategy will yield a lot of results to wade through.

Michal and Antonina results

Moreover, as mentioned previously, this search will return results for these names in any field. So for example, the first birth in the list is for Antonina Kucharczyk, daughter of Michał Kucharczyk and Zofia Zielińska — not what we’re searching for at all. However, Geneteka gives us the option to tie Michał Zieliński together with Antonina and search for them as a pair. If we repeat the search with the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para” box checked, our results are much more targeted.

Michal and Antonina as a pair

With this box checked, every birth record that is returned is a child of Michał Zieliński and a mother named Antonina. In all of the instances shown here, the mother’s maiden name was included, so we probably could have narrowed the search just by specifying that piece of information. However, if we switch over to the page of death records from this same search, we see that there is, in fact, one death record we would have missed if we’d specified that maiden name.

Waleria Zielinski death no mother's maiden name

Sure enough, the death record of Waleria Zielińska from 1900 did not mention her mother’s maiden name, and so we might have missed it if we’d been too rigid in our search methods.

Tomorrow, I’ll offer some examples of using the final two search options that require a bit more discussion, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” Then we’ll get into the various options for finding scans, based on the repository to which the “skan” button is linked. See you then!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Geneteka: Part I

A little over a year ago, I wrote a tutorial for using the popular Polish vital records database, Geneteka, and I’m happy to report that many users found it very helpful. At that time, Geneteka had recently made significant changes to their user interface, and my primary goal was to address those changes. Consequently, the tutorial wasn’t as comprehensive as it could have been, especially in regard to locating scans of indexed records discovered through the database. With that in mind, I decided it was time for a major revision. This version is definitely more comprehensive, but now it’s also exceptionally long for a blog post. For that reason, I decided to break it up into three posts which I’ll publish over the next few days. This first installment provides an introduction to Geneteka, a walk through the search interface, and some information about how Geneteka’s search algorithms work. So without further ado, here is my “Version 2.0” of a user’s guide to Geneteka.

What is Geneteka?

Geneteka is a database of nearly 25 million (as of today) Polish vital records that have been indexed by surname and given name, from parishes and registry offices which are grouped according to the contemporary province in Poland in which they lie. Geneteka is part of a family of websites sponsored by the Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (PTG), which is the Polish Genealogical Society. All of these sites are created entirely be volunteers, and they’re hosted online by membership dues paid to the PTG and donations from users. Geneteka is also an evolving work in progress, and indexing requirements have changed since its inception. Therefore it’s important to realize that some indexes are more limited than others in the information they provide, and the differences in information included in these indexes will be discussed in more detail in this tutorial. Each of Geneteka’s “sister sites” is wonderful in its own way, and several of these will probably be discussed in future blog posts. (One of these, Metryki, was already discussed in a previous blog post.) But today, let’s focus on Geneteka.

Geneteka’s home page appears in Polish by default. However, you can easily switch the language to English by clicking the American/British flag, circled here in red.

Geneteka main page

This main page offers an interactive map where we can click on the name of a province of interest, as well as a search box near the top right, where we can type in the name of a parish to see if records for that parish have been indexed here. Some indexes for locations in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine are also included, as well as an additional category called Pozostałe (“Others”) that includes indexes from a few places in Russia, a church in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, and St. Stanislaus Church in Buffalo, New York. Below that search box, there is a list of Polish provinces. Click the name of a province to search for records from that entire province, as an alternative to clicking it on the map. To the right of the list of provinces, there is information on the number of parishes and civil registry offices that have been indexed for each province, as well as the total number of indexed records. From this we can get a feel for how good the coverage is for each particular area. For example, there are fewer than 350 parishes and registry offices that have been indexed for the Lesser Poland province (województwo małopolskie), with about half a million vital records, whereas there are over 1,800 parishes and registry offices indexed for the Mazovian province (województwo mazowieckie), with more than 6.6 million records. Note that even though the city of Warsaw is located in the Mazovian province, there are so many vital records from the city itself that these records are included in a separate category.

Malopolska vs. Mazovia

It’s important to remember that Geneteka is still a work in progress. New indexes are being added weekly, all created by volunteers, who are the unsung heroes of the genealogy community, and to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. However, many parishes have not yet been indexed at all, or have not yet been indexed for the particular range of years needed for one’s research. Therefore I still recommend that you determine your immigrant ancestor’s place of origin first, using records created in his new homeland, rather than trying to make the leap back to Poland by checking Geneteka first. It’s all too easy to attach spurious ancestors to one’s family tree by haphazard searches in Geneteka, especially if the surname is common, or there is a lack of identifying information such as parents’ names for the immigrant ancestor.

As a side note, if you’re interested in checking the most recent additions to the Geneteka database, you can click the link that says, “Nowości w serwisie/News,” circled in red, and it will take you to a page that provides specific information on this.

News

For example, on the day I’m writing this, indexes were added for the parishes of Białotarsk and Grudusk. Both of these parishes are located in Mazowieckie province (MZ), and for Białotarsk, the new information consists of expanded entries (rozszerzenie) for indexes that existed previously in a more limited form, covering births (U), marriages, (M), and deaths (Z) from 1845-1848 and from 1850-1852. The indexer was Bożena Prymus (thank you, Bożena!). If you wish to search the updates for a specific province, you can do that using the drop-down menu.

News details

An introduction to the search boxes

With that introduction out of the way, we can move on to the nitty-gritty. Let’s take the example of a search for ancestors in Mazowieckie province. We click “Mazowieckie” on the map or in the list of provinces on the home page, and arrive at the search screen for indexes from parishes and registry offices in Mazowieckie province.

Mazowiecki search screen

Remember that you can switch the language at any time, on any screen, using the appropriate flag icon at the top, which is very convenient for those who might not be completely comfortable with searching in Polish. As an alternative to clicking the flag icon, people sometimes try to use Google Chrome as their browser and then right-click on the page to translate it, or they attempt to translate the page by copying the URL into Google Translate. While either of these methods will work to some extent, they are not recommended because they produce the unfortunate side-effect of translation of certain surnames and place names, which can make the search results difficult to interpret. Try looking for the Polish villages of “Helmets” (Kaski), “Vineyard” (Winnica), and “Tenement House” (Kamienica) on a map! Page translation using the flag icon will eliminate these undesirable side-effects.

Let’s start by taking a look at each of the search boxes at the top on the left. As we examine the first one, “Teren” (Polish) or “Province” (English), we see that, although we already selected the province, Mazowieckie, on the home page, there’s a drop-down menu which will allow us to switch provinces at any time during the search, which is handy if your ancestors lived near the border between two modern-day provinces.

Province drop down menu

Next, we see the search box for “Parafia” or “Parish.” The default search covers “Wszystkie Miejscowości,” or “All Locations.” Again, this only means all the parishes or registry offices whose records have been indexed for some time period and placed in Geneteka. It does not suggest that the locations that appear in the drop-down menu are the only parishes or registry offices in that province, nor does it even suggest that these are the only indexed records that exist for a particular parish or registry office. There are other indexing databases that are more comprehensive than Geneteka for particular parts of Poland, such as Lubgens for the Lublin area, Projekt Podlasie for the historical Podlasie region, or the Poznan Project for marriage records (only) from the historical Poznań region. (For a more complete list of databases of indexed Polish vital records, please see here.)

Parish drop-down menu

Next, we come to the “Osoba,” or “Person” fields, where one is prompted to enter a surname (at minimum) or a surname and given name. Below that is the option for “oraz” (“or”), where we can enter a second surname (“nazwisko”) and given name (“imię”). This is an exceptionally handy way to drill down to the most relevant results, since it allows you to enter a mother’s maiden name. However, there are a few caveats about using this technique, which we’ll discuss later on.

At the top right, we see that we can limit our search results by specifying a particular range of years (“Zakres lat”). Below that is a list of further options (“Opcje”) which include “Wyszukiwanie dokładne,” or “Exact Search,” “Wyszukaj jako para,” or “Relationship Search,” (literally, “search as a pair”), “Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” or “Skip Search in Parents’ Column,” and each of these options has a small “i” next to it.

infodots

If you hover your cursor over these “i” infodots (hover, don’t click!), additional information is provided by way of explanation. However, in some cases it’s still not clear exactly what those explanations mean until you play around with the website a bit, or read this tutorial. I’ll offer some examples to illustrate the use of these options as we progress.

The next two options are fairly self-explanatory. There is an option to perform a search for a target parish and then include additional parishes within a 15-kilometer radius (“Wyszukaj również w pobliskich parafiach (15km)”). Obviously, if you start with the default search, which is for all locations, this feature is disabled because it’s not relevant. Furthermore, these “additional parishes” are once again limited to parishes whose records are indexed in Geneteka. Selecting this option will not identify every parish that ever existed or exists today within a 15-kilometer radius of the target parish. Finally, there is “Wyszukaj tylko indeksy z ostatnich X dni,” or ” Search only indexes added in past X days.” If you’d like to use this, you must first check the selection box before you attempt to change the search interval. Another info dot explains that this option limits the search to recently added, updated, or corrected indexes within the chosen time frame.

Starting a search: What’s in a name?

Let’s start with a real-life example: searching for my great-grandfather, Joseph Zielinski, anywhere in records from Mazowieckie province. If we’re going to research Polish ancestors, it’s important to recognize that their original Polish given names might not be the names that they used in America. For example, the name Joseph is spelled “Józef” in Polish, Thomas is “Tomasz,” and Adalbert (or sometimes Albert) is the usual translation for the Polish name “Wojciech.” My preference is to input the correct Polish version into the “Imię/Name” box when starting a search. However, the developers of  Geneteka anticipated this issue to some extent, and provided an option to search by certain English given names. Therefore a search for “Joseph,”  “Thomas” or “Albert” in the given name field will produce the same results as a search for “Józef,” “Tomasz,” or “Wojciech.” However, this only works to a point, since there are many traditional Slavic names like Stanisław, Czesław, and Bronisława which lack direct English translations. Morevoer, there are names like Pelagia and Petronilla, that are the same in English as they are in Polish, but weren’t popular in English-speaking countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Polish immigrants who bore these names typically chose a different name to use in English, and the names they chose were entirely personal, possibly bearing some vague phonetic similarity to their original name, but not necessarily. Thus, Stanisław could become Stanley or Stephen, Czesław could become Chester or Charlie, and Bronislawa could become Bernice or Bertha, while Pelagia and Petronilla could be Pearl or Polly. Consequently, searching for these English names will not produce results, or will produce erroneous results. This underscores the need for solid research in U.S. documents prior to beginning your search in Polish databases so you know what your ancestors’ names actually were. Note that diacritics aren’t important in either the surname or the given name field, so you can type “Jozef Zielinski” and still find results for Józef Zieliński. Assuming we add no other identifying information, here’s what that search would produce:

Jozef Zielinski search results

Let’s take a moment to examine these results so we can understand how results are reported. There are three separate tabs for viewing births, marriages and deaths. Births are presented first, by default. Since we didn’t narrow the range of dates at all, results begin in 1707 and continue for 29 pages, through 1916, with such an impressive number of results owing in part to the popularity of the surname “Zieliński.” Reported data include, from left to right, the year of the record (“Rok”), the record number (“Akt”), the given name and surname of the person named in the birth record (“Imię”and “Nazwisko”), the given name of his father (“Imię ojca”), the given name and maiden surname of his mother (“Imię matki” and “Nazwisko matki”), the parish where the event was recorded (“Parafia”), the specific village within the parish where the event took place (“Miejscowość”), and remarks (“Uwagi”). Remember that for rural areas, one Catholic or Protestant parish typically served a number of small villages. Births and deaths typically occurred at home, but then the child or deceased was brought to the parish for baptism (after a birth) or a funeral (after a death). This is why the specific village might be different from the parish in the case of birth and death records. Since marriages always took place in the church (usually in the bride’s parish), there are no additional columns for specific villages in which the bride and groom resided, although this information may optionally be linked to the “i” infodot in the “Remarks” section.

Births, marriages and deaths

Note also that each column heading has next to it a pair of small blue triangles. These allow you to sort the results according to that column, in either ascending or descending order. By default, results are sorted by year, starting with the oldest records first.

Year

However, if we wish to alphabetize search results according to given name, for example, we could click the top blue triangle in the given name column, and the results would be presented as shown below:Given name

Geneteka offers another option for sorting results via the search box located in the upper right corner.

Search

This feature can be used to search for all entries that mention a specific surname, for example, or a particular place. It’s worth noting that if you use this option, diacritics matter. A search for “Dabrow” will return no results, but a search for “Dąbrow” will return results that include this string of characters in any field.

DAbrow

Thus, results include the subset of births which mention given name “Józef,” surname “Zieliński” and also “Dąbrowska” as the mother’s maiden name or Dąbrowa as the place of baptism.

In practice, I don’t use these sorting features much. I prefer to set up the search with sufficient restrictions in other fields that I am able to drill down to the results that are important to me without having to do extensive searching through pages of results. However, others might prefer different methods, and it’s good to know that these options exist for searching and sorting your results, in case you ever need them.

Zielińskis and Zielewskis and Zieleks, oh my! A look at Geneteka’s search algorithms

Let’s take a closer look at the way Geneteka’s search algorithm performs by starting with a broader search for “Zielinski” in Mazowieckie province, with only the surname and no further restrictions.

Zielinski results

The results include a whopping 347 pages of births, but as you start to look through them, you’ll notice a few things about the results that are returned. First, both male and female names are included in the results. The algorithm truncates the final i/a in surnames which exhibit masculine and feminine forms, so that a search for either form will produce results for both forms. There’s one exception to this rule, and that’s for names ending in –dzki/-dzka. For this reason, a search for “Grodzki” will only produce results that reflect the masculine form of the name, and “Grodzka” must be searched separately.

The second thing you’ll notice is that results include not only the surname Zieliński/Zielińska, but also Zielinski/Zielinska — a surname which exists in Poland, but is much less popular and is considered to be “incorrect.” This confirms that the search engine ignores diacritics, as mentioned previously, which is a significant help to English-speaking researchers who might not be aware that their target surname originally included them. In the majority of cases where the spelling “Zielinski” exists in these indexes, it’s because the diacritic was missing in the original record. This is most likely because the priest was a bit sloppy and did not include the kreska (the Polish name for the acute accent on the n), or it was faded and unreadable, rather than that the indexer was sloppy. Indexers are instructed to record surnames and given names exactly as they appear in the record, rather correcting them to their modern spellings. Moreover, if you find that your family name was spelled without a diacritic on a particular record, it does not suggest that your family exhibited a strong preference for spelling the name that way. Many of our ancestors were illiterate, and even if they were not, consistency in surname spellings was just not a priority back then as it is today.

So far, we’ve established that a basic search ignores both diacritics and gender. However, it does more than just that. Closer inspection of the search results reveals additional surnames such as Zielek, Ziła, Zielewska, and Żulińska. These surnames appear because Geneteka’s search algorithm has a built-in flexibility regarding letter substitutions commonly found in old records. For example, “e” and “ew” are treated as equivalents, so that a search for “Olszewski” will also produce results for Olszeski. Other pairs of equivalents include “oy/oj” (so Woyciechowski equals Wojciechowski), “ei/ej” (so Szweikowski equals Szwejkowski), and “sz/ś” (so Szczygielski equals Ścigielski). Since Geneteka ignores diacritics, however, surnames containing certain phonetic equivalents such as “rz/ż” must nonetheless be searched separately, e.g. Zarzycki and Zażycki. Geneteka’s search algorithm also takes into account transliterations between Polish and other languages, so a search for the German surname Schmidt will produce results for Szmit, Schmiedt, Schmit, Szmitt, etc. Also, names ending in “e,” “y” or “a” are truncated, so a search for “Mishke” will return results for Miszke, Miszka, Mischke, and Mischka.

In my next post, I’ll discuss searching with two surnames, using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, searching within a specified parish, using the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, and using the “Relationship serach/Wyszukaj jako para.” Stay tuned!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Digital Images in the FamilySearch Catalog

Recently, I discussed the use of Catholic church records for discovering the place of origin in the Old Country for one’s immigrant ancestors. Many people seem to be put off by the idea of obtaining church records from parishes in the U.S. because it may require some extra effort — letter writing, phone calls, or personal visits to the parish. However, in some cases, it’s possible to find church records — and many other types of records as well — online, at FamilySearch. The key is to know how to search the site to get the most out of it, and many beginners just don’t know how to do that. So today, I’d like to demonstrate the different results that are obtained by using two different strategies to find records in FamilySearch, and to explain how to access browsable images for those who may be unfamiliar with the process.

Even if you’re new to genealogy, you may have heard of FamilySearch. FamilySearch is the search portal for records gathered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). If you’re really brand new to genealogy and have never visited their site before, then you should begin by registering to create a free account.Search box

Once you’ve created an account and are logged in, you can begin by clicking the “search” icon at the bottom, near the center of the page.

Searching Indexed Historical Records at FamilySearch

There are a number of different ways you can use this site to search for records pertaining to your ancestors. Most people begin by using the “Search Historical Records” interface, shown here:Search Historical Records

This is a great way to see what indexed records might be available, but it’s important to remember that it only taps into records that are included in indexed databases. To give you an example of what this strategy will find and what it will not find, let’s look for a baptismal record for Zofia/Sophia Klaus, born in Buffalo, New York in 1891. If I enter that information into the search form, as shown above, here’s what results:

Sophia Klaus, search results

Notice that the top search results include hits from two databases, the Social Security Death Index and Ellis Island passenger arrivals, but no birth records. These aren’t all the results, however. These are just the search results that were determined to be the best matches according to the search algorithm. If we want to view the results another way which allows us to drill down to birth records more easily, we can click the “Collections” view at the top (shown in red in the image above) rather than the “Records” view which is the default display format. Once we click “Collections,” the results are broken down into various categories, such as “Birth, Marriage & Death,” “Census & Lists,” “Migration & Naturalization,” etc. Since we’re looking for a birth record, we’re only interested in results from that first category.

Birth Marriage and Death

The image above shows collections in which an approximate match was found for our Zofia/Sophia Klaus. Notice that the top five “Birth, Marriage & Death” databases are all death records and obituaries. While this may be helpful in locating a birth date (based on a death date) it’s not going to give us an actual birth certificate or baptismal record. For that matter, it helps to realize that, prior to about 1915, there was no full compliance with the law requiring birth registrations in New York State , so we’re better off seeking a baptismal record for someone born in 1891, rather than a birth certificate, in any case. Although the top five databases weren’t much help, maybe we can find something for Zofia in another collection? Let’s try clicking on “Show all 9” (circled in red in the image above) to see what they’ve got.

All 9

The result? Nada.

Searching Browsable Scans at FamilySearch

At this point, many family historians might conclude that FamilySearch doesn’t have any baptismal records for Zofia/Sophia Klaus. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. In reality, FamilySearch offers a vast wealth of genealogical records that have not yet been indexed, but can nonetheless be viewed online as browsable scans. How do we find those records? We search the Family History Library (FHL) catalog, which can be accessed by going back to that “Search” option at the top, and selecting “Catalog” from the drop-down menu.

Catalog search

Once we click “Catalog,” it takes us to the page shown below, where we can search for a place name, in this case, “Buffalo.” Various options are offered for places with “Buffalo” in the name, but if we type anything further (e.g. “New York”) it narrows the options until we’re only looking at one place.

Buffalo, NY

Once we’ve clicked on the desired place (in the green box), we can see all the types of records that are available from the Family History Library pertaining to Buffalo. We’re interested in church records, near the bottom of this image:

Church records

I know that Zofia/Sophia Klaus was the daughter of Polish immigrants Andrew/Andrzej and Marianna/Mary (née Łącka) Klaus, who were Catholic, so she was likely to have been baptized in an ethnic Polish Catholic parish. When I click on “Church records,” I have a variety of options for records from a number of different Christian faiths. If I didn’t know which parishes in Buffalo were founded by Polish immigrants (and which of those parishes were in existence by 1891), a quick internet search could probably assist me, and might in fact lead me to this list of Polish parishes in Western New York, offered by the Polish Genealogical Society of New York State (PGSNYS).

Once all the collections in the catalog which pertain to Polish parishes have been identified, I could search through all of them, looking for baptisms circa 1891 in order to find Zofia. However, a better strategy would be to try to determine which parish the family might have belonged to based on their address in city directories around the time of Zofia’s birth. Cutting to the chase here, let’s take a look at records from St. Adalbert’s Basilica in Buffalo, which we find in the list of available parish records:

Church records St. Adelbert

This is perhaps the only confusing part in this process. I’ve had people come to me saying, “But I clicked ‘Add’ and it didn’t do anything!” At this point, you want to click on the title of the collection, “Church records, 1887-1916,” do not click where it says, “Add.” When you click on the title, you come to this page:

St. Adalbert's

Once you arrive here, it’s important to realize that the good stuff is at the bottom. Don’t click “Add to Print List,” just scroll down on the page, as indicated by the red arrow. Once you scroll down, you’ll see the following:

Film notes

The first thing you should look at is the part that says “Notes,” because this tells you precisely what the film contains — in this case, “Microfilm of original records at St. Adalbert Basilica Parish, Buffalo, New York.” The language of the records is usually noted here (in this case, Latin), as is other helpful information, such as the fact that most volumes include an internal index. This means that you won’t have to search page by page to find your ancestors — you can consult the internal index created by the priest within the parish register itself, and then find the relevant entries pertaining to your ancestors. Finally, the film notes specify the exact range of years that are included for each type of vital event — births, marriages, and deaths.

Below the Notes, there is a section called “Film/Digital Notes.” This tells you the original microfilm number for this collection, as well as the corresponding DGS number (digital folder number) for the images. On the far right, there is a camera icon. This indicates that the images are freely available online, from any computer. Sometimes you’ll see an icon depicting a camera with a key above it. In those instances, access to the images is restricted, and they must be viewed at a Family History Center (FHC). Although this restriction may seem like a nuisance, the situation is really no different than in the “good old days” of microfilm rental, since travel to the FHC was necessary in order to view the microfilms, too. However, in this case we’re really lucky, because we can peruse church records from St. Adalbert’s at 2 am if we wish, wearing our favorite jammies in our comfiest chair.

Once you click that “camera” icon, you see an array of thumbnail images:

Film images

Note also that the DGS number, the image number, and the total number of available images in the collection are noted in the upper left corner. You’ll want to make note of these in your source citation, which is your trail of breadcrumbs for locating the record again should you or another researcher wish to understand how you found the record in the first place. (If you’re not sure how to cite online images like this, Elizabeth Shown Mills explains it all here.)

By browsing through the thumbnails, you can locate the internal index, and ultimately, find the baptismal record for little Zofia/Sophia:

Zofia Klaus

By now you may realize that the catalog can also be used to find other types of genealogical records, including vital records from places in Europe. The important thing to remember when doing a place search in the FHL catalog is that you need to search for the name of the place where the records were created, rather than searching for the name of the village where your ancestors was born. These two places are not always the same. In Russian Poland, for example, the local Roman Catholic church maintained both church registers and the civil vital registers for Roman Catholic residents within the parish, so it is the parish name that should be searched in the FHL catalog. The parish which served a particular village can be determined by checking a gazetteer, and I’ve provided a list of some good ones here.

As an example, let’s suppose that I have evidence that my ancestors came from the village of Wierzbno in Słupca County in the former Kalisz gubernia (province) of Russian Poland. I won’t find that particular village in the FHL catalog, because Wierzbno was not the seat of a parish. Even worse, I will find 3 places called Wierzbno in the catalog, but none of them will be correct because all of these results pertain to places by the same name that are located in other parts of Poland. Searching for my ancestors in these records will be a complete waste of time.

Wierzbno

However, if I check a gazetteer (in this case, Volume 2 of the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, published in 1877), I see that the village of Wierzbno in Słupca County belongs to the parish of Kowalewo (indicated below, with a small typo, as “Kowalew,” — an issue which can be resolved by looking at a map).

Wierzbno in SKP With this information in hand, I can go back to the FHL catalog and check for “Kowalewo,” select the result for the Kowalewo that’s in Słupca County, and find both the original church records (księgi metrykalne, written in Latin) and the copies created for the civil authorities (kopie księg metrykalnych, written in Polish until 1868, and then in Russian).

Kowalewo records

As noted previously, clicking on the title of the collection will bring up the full list of films available. In the case of the księgi metrykalne, we see that none of these microfilms have been digitized. Unfortunately, the Family History Library discontinued their microfilm rental service last year due to the rising costs associated with supporting this outdated technology, and in light of the progress they’ve made with digitizing their vast collection of microfilms. They hope to digitize the remaining microfilms by 2020, but in the meantime, these microfilms are only available at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City. If you’re desperate to obtain records from these microfilms right now, your best option would be to hire a researcher in Poland who could obtain copies from the Archdiocesan Archive in Gniezno for you, since the film notes state that this is the archive which possesses the original records. Alternatively, you could hire a researcher in Salt Lake City to access those microfilms for you, or try some of the other strategies suggested here.

The situation regarding access is much more promising with the civil records (kopie księg metrykalnych) for Kowalewo, however. The “camera + key” icon tells us that each of the seven microfilms has already been digitized, although they can only be viewed at your local FHC. When viewing, you’ll want to pay attention to the item numbers, underlined in red in the image below, because it often happens that the same roll of microfilm or digital folder contains records from different parishes in Poland.

Kopie

Thus, in order to access Akta urodzeń, małżeństw, zgonów 1876-1879 (birth, marriage and death records from 1876-1879) from Kowalewo parish, you’ll have to skip ahead through the images in the digital folder until you get to Item 15.

Sometimes it happens that one finds records for one’s family in an indexing database like Geneteka, but the indexed entry is not linked to a scan. (If you’re researching Polish ancestors but are not familiar with Geneteka, please see this tutorial.) This does not suggest that no scan is available online. Rather, since Geneteka is created by volunteers, and new scans are being added regularly at sites like FamilySearch, Szukajwarchiwach, etc., it may just be that the volunteers have not yet had an opportunity to put links in place.  Therefore, the FHL catalog should always be one of the sites you routinely check when you look for scans for indexed entries found in Geneteka.

An example of this is shown here. Geneteka contains an entry for the marriage record of Wincenty Tomaszewski and Franciszka Czapkiewicz who married in Chrostkowo in 1858.

Tomaszewski

No scan is linked to this entry, so should we assume that this record has not been digitized somewhere? No. A search of the FHL catalog reveals that both church and civil records are available for Chrostkowo. As was true with records for Kowalewo, accessibility is a mixed bag, with some records being available for viewing only at the FHC. On first glance, it appears that our 1858 marriage is going to be one of those records with restricted access, since we anticipate that it will be included in the collection, Akta małżeństw 1846-1889.

Akta malzenstw

However, if we keep scrolling down that page, it becomes clear that there is sometimes overlap or redundancy in the microfilmed/digitized collections from the FHL for a particular parish. In this case, our 1858 marriage record is freely accessible in the collection, Akta małżeństw 1846-1863.

1846-1863

From that point, it’s not too difficult to locate marriage record #25 from 1858, which was accurately described in the Geneteka index as the marriage record for Wincenty Tomaszewski and Franciszka Czapkiewicz, whose names are underlined in red in the image below.

Tomaszewski marriage

At this point, you may be wondering about the reason behind the difference in accessibility for different collections of records from the same parish. The answer to this question often lies in the Notes within the FHL catalog entry. In the case of civil records for Chrostkowo parish (Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1889), the microfilms were made from original records which are held by three different archives: the Geheimen Staatsarchiv in Berlin, the Katholischen Kirchenbuchamt in Munich, and the Archiwum Diecezjalne in Płock.

Archives

In order to place scans online, the LDS must negotiate terms with the owners of the records. Some archives don’t mind if the scans are freely available, but others will allow the LDS to place them online only under more restricted access conditions. From a practical standpoint, most of us don’t really care which archive owns the original records, as long as we can access them one way or another. However, it’s important to be aware of this potential for redundancy in the available collections, and the consequent need for close examination of the Film/Digital Notes in the FHL catalog entry for your parish of interest before concluding that a trip to the FHC is necessary.

As you can see from these examples, there’s much more to FamilySearch than just the indexed records. By utilizing the the catalog, you may discover collections of browsable scans that will allow you to break through your brick walls with unimagined ease. As always, I wish you the very best of luck with your research, and if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy hunting!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018