Genealogy research is fundamentally about resolving questions of identity and pedigree, and those questions proliferate when researching ancestors with popular surnames. When there were two or more individuals the same name living in the same area, at the same time, it can be challenging to sort out historical records. However, indirect evidence can often help us fill in the blanks, which was the case for me recently, as I sorted out some newspaper birth and death notices for my Walsh/Welch/Welsh family.
The Thomas Welch Family of St. Catharines, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York
My great-great-great-grandparents, Robert and Elizabeth (Hodgkinson) Walsh, had eight children, the seventh of whom was their son, Thomas John Walsh. Thomas John Walsh was born 10 February 1859 in St. Catharines, Ontario, and was baptized as John Walsh on 13 March 1859 at the cathedral parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria.1 Thomas J. Walsh (or Welsh, or Welch) married Edith M. Dewey, and although no record of their marriage has been discovered, we can surmise that they married circa 1893 based on information found in the 1930 U.S. census (Figure 1).2
Like many of the other Walsh siblings, Thomas was predominantly recorded under the “Welch” surname variant in his later years, and like them, he also migrated from St. Catharines to Buffalo, New York. So, it was not unexpected to find Thomas recorded in the 1930 census in Buffalo under the name Thomas J. Welch. As shown in Figure 1, the small household consisted of Thomas and his wife, Edith, plus one daughter—24-year-old Nellie Welch—and a boarder, Louis Runzer.
The 1930 census is unique in that it asked individuals to state their age at first marriage (Column 15), and Thomas was recorded as having been married at the age of 33, while Edith was recorded as having married at 23. Based on their respective ages in 1930 (70 years for Thomas and 60 for Edith), we can estimate that they married circa 1893. Earlier census records, e.g. in 19013 and 1915,4 similarly make no mention of children other than Nellie. Small families were rare in that time period, which suggests that Thomas and Edith may have had additional children who died in infancy or early childhood.
Three “New” Welches
I found evidence in newspapers for three more children who were previously unknown: Edith Margaret Welch, Mary Verna Welch, and an unnamed Welch son. Figure 2 shows the death notice published in the St. Catharines Standard for Edith M. Welch.5
Note that this death notice is not currently available online at Newspapers.com; this was found through a search in the Local Names Index database of the St. Catharines Public Library, which then provided a copy of the notice for me from microfilm in their collection. (Gems such as that Local Names Index are a great reason to check out the resources of the public library in each town where your ancestors lived.) The death notice specifies that the deceased, Edith M. Welch, was the daughter of Thomas J. Welch and Edith Welch. Since the mother’s name was also stated, it’s probable that Edith M. was a daughter of “my” Thomas Walsh/Welsh/Welch, rather that some other Thomas Welch who might have been living in St. Catharines concurrently.
A corresponding death certificate (Figure 3) further identifies the little girl as Edith Margaret Welch, and informs us that she was 2 years and 4 months old at the time of death, suggesting a date of birth around November 1903.6
Although the death certificate does not state parents’ names, the family’s religion—Roman Catholic— is consistent with existing evidence for the Walsh/Welch family. The family’s residence was noted to be on King Street. Edith Margaret’s baptismal record (Figure 4) confirmed parents’ names as Thomas Welch and Edith Dewey, providing direct evidence that she was, in fact, one of “my” Walsh/Welches.7
The baptismal record further states that Edith Margaret was born in Buffalo, New York, on 25 November 1903 and baptized by Rev. Denis Morris on 28 February 1904. Only one godparent, Mrs. Hugh Malloy, was noted.
The Other Thomas Welch
The next two newspaper records I discovered were a little harder to place, since they did not identify the child’s mother in either case. On 14 September 1906, the St. Catharines Standard reported that 3-month-old Mary Verna Welch had died the previous day from cholera infantum (Figure 5).8
Additionally, on 15 July 1908, the St. Catharines Standard reported that a baby boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Welch of Lake Street on 14 July 1908 (Figure 6).9
I always associate Lake Street with my Walshes, since I had evidence from city directories that my Walsh family was living there in 1874 and 1879, and in 1885, based on parish census records.10 So, my first thought was that this Thomas Welch family might be “mine.” However, a search of the 1911 census for Thomas Welch revealed a different Thomas Welch family, living at 63 Queen Street (which intersects Lake Street) in St. Catharines at that time, with wife Anna and five children (Figure 7).11
The youngest of Thomas and Anna Welch’s five children was a son named Michael, born in July 1908. This corresponds well with the date of the newspaper birth announcement, implying that the child whose birth was announced was Michael Welch, son of Thomas and Anna. Moreover, census data indicate that the family of Thomas and Edith Welch migrated to the U.S. circa 1906–1907, prior to the birth of this child in 1908.12 All these data combine to suggest that the Welch baby in the newspaper birth announcement is not the son of Thomas and Edith, and therefore is not relevant to my research.
But what about Mary Verna? Her age suggests that she was born about June 1906, just three months after Edith Margaret died. Was she actually Edith Margaret’s sister, or could this have been another child of the other Thomas Welch? A birth in 1906 would place her neatly between the births of Thomas and Anna Welch’s daughter, Marguerite, in 1904, and Michael in 1908. Granted, they already had a daughter named Mary, but if they intended to call this daughter “Verna,” it may have been that the name “Mary” was tacked on at baptism. (Catholic tradition prefers that a child is named for a saint, so it sometimes happened that the priest would add on a saint’s name at baptism—often Mary or Joseph—in cases where the parents preferred another name for the child.)
A burial record for Mary Verna might identify her parents. The death noticed mentioned “Rev. Dean Morris” who conducted Mary Verna’s burial service, and it was this same priest, the Reverend Dean Denis Morris, pastor of the parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, who baptized Edith Margaret Welch.13 Unfortunately, church burial records for this parish are not available online, so it’s not possible to use those to quickly confirm the names of Mary Verna’s parents. Moreover, although baptismal records from St. Catherine of Alexandria are online, no baptismal record was found for her. The information needed to assign Mary Verna to one of the Thomas Welch families was found in her death certificate, however (Figure 8).14
Although the death certificate did not identify Mary Verna’s parents, it stated that her residence at the time of death was on King Street. You may recall from Figure 3 that King Street was noted to be the residence of the Thomas and Edith Welch family in 1906, when Edith Margaret Welch died. Based on this information, I believe that Mary Verna Welch was the daughter of Thomas and Edith (Dewey) Welch, and not Thomas and Anna Welch.
Indirect evidence can help us to fill in the blanks, and permit at least a tentative placement of an individual within a family tree. However, it’s important to keep an open mind, and be willing to revise conclusions as necessary if new evidence is eventually discovered. Further research in church records from Buffalo may turn up baptismal records for Mary Verna Welch and Nellie Welch—whose baptismal record is also absent from the records of St. Catherine’s—which would likely offer direct evidence for Mary Verna’s parents. Obviously, I would expect such evidence to be consistent with my present hypothesis, that Mary Verna was the daughter of Thomas and Edith (Dewey) Welch. But if I’m wrong, it would not be the first time I’ve had to go back to the drawing board and revise a hypothesis. To quote my former undergraduate research mentor, “Keep gathering data, and truth will emerge!”
1Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” 1859, baptismal record for John Walsh, accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 12 October 2022), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, Marriages 1852-1860, image 88 of 104. “
21930 United States Federal Census, Erie County population schedule, Buffalo Ward 26, Enumeration District 333, Sheet 18B, family no. 314, Thomas J. Welch household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 October 2022), citing United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626, 2,667 rolls, no specific roll cited; FHL microfilm no. 2341168.
31901 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, Lincoln and Niagara District no. 85, St. Catharines City Sub-district K, Division no. 2, Sheet no. 4, family no. 35, Thos. Welsh household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 12 October 2022), citing microfilm T-6480, RG31 – Statistics Canada, Item no. 3598169, Image no. z000079736.
41915 New York State Census, Erie County population schedule, Buffalo Ward 23, Assembly District 02, Election District 01, page 19, lines 12-35, Thos. J. Welch household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 October 2022); citing state population census schedules, 1915, New York State Archives, Albany, New York.
5 St. Catharines Standard (St. Catharines, Ontario), 22 March 1906, p 3, death notice for Edith M. Welch; image from microfilm, St. Catharines Public Library, Special Collections, 54 Church Street, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.
6“Ontario, Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas, 1869-1948,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 12 October 2022), Edith Margaret Welch, died 21 March 1906, citing St. Catharines, Lincoln, Ontario, yr 1906 certificate no. 017490, Registrar General; Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,854,401.
7Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Baptisms, 1860-1906, p 169, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Edith Margaret Welch, born 25 November 1903; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 12 October 2022), FHL film no. 1309899/DGS no. 5107195, image 171 of 177.
8St. Catharines Standard (St. Catharines, Ontario),14 September 1906 (Friday), p 4, col. 3, death notice for Mary Verna Welch; digital image, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com : 12 October 2022).
9 Ibid.,15 July 1908 (Friday), p 3, col. 5, birth notice for unnamed son of Thomas Welch; digital image, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com : 12 October 2022).
William W. Evans, Gazetteer and business directory of Lincoln and Welland counties for 1879 (Brantford, Ontario, Canada: William W. Evans, 1878), entries for Welch, Henry; Welch, Welch, J.G.; Welch, Robert; Welch, Robert Jr.; and Welch, Thos. J,, accessed as browsable images, “Canadian Directories Collection,” Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 12 October 2022), path: Southwestern Ontario Counties > Gazetteer and business directory of Lincoln and Welland counties for 1879 > e010780629_p3.pdf, page 23 of 28; and
Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Niagara, Ontario, Canada), Parish Census 1885-86 (Liber Status Animarum), p. 18, Mrs. Walsh household on Lake Street; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 12 October 2022), path: “Canada, Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” > Lincoln > St. Catherines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Censuses 1885–1886 > image 19 of 116.
111911 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, Lincoln District no. 93, St. Catharines City Sub-district no. 39 (St. Andrews Ward), Sheet no. 5, family no. 58, Thomas Welch household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 12 October 2022), citing microfilm T-20383, RG31—Statistics Canada, item no. 6330696, image no. e002000645.
12 1915 New York State census; 1930 United States Federal Census. See footnotes 4 and 2.
I’ve been on a roll lately with research into my Bavarian Murri ancestors, who settled in Buffalo, New York. Recently, I was able to confirm a hypothesis, generated through genetic genealogy and cluster research (also known as FAN research), that they originated in the town of Waldmünchen. I was also able to find an answer to the question of what happened to Mary Murri, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murri’s oldest daughter, which is my topic for today.
Mary Murri of Waldmünchen, Bavaria, and Buffalo, New York
Mary Murri was born on 16 September 1863 in Waldmünchen in the Kingdom of Bavaria to Joseph and Walburga (Maurer or Mauerer) Murri.1 At the age of five, she immigrated to Buffalo, New York, with her parents, arriving in the port of New York on 3 April 1869.2 The 1880 census shows her living with her family (Figure 1).3
In 1880, the Murri family was living at 309 North Street in Buffalo. Joseph, age 53 years, was supporting the family as a laborer, while Walburga was keeping the home, and the children were at school. Mary was reported to be 16 years of age, and her occupation appears to be “At: Servace,” which might suggest that she was employed in servitude, e.g. as a housekeeper. On 21 January 1884, she married Christian Leonard, a discovery made by my Aunt Carol when she obtained Christian and Mary’s civil marriage record.4 However, after the marriage, the Leonard family seemed to disappear. They were not found in the 1900 U.S. census, nor were there any promising matches for them in the 1892 census for New York State, living anywhere in Western New York. Leonard is a common surname, and it was easy to drop this pursuit in favor of easier targets—until now.
DNA Lights the Way, Yet Again
As I reported previously, in recent weeks, I’ve been examining clusters of autosomal DNA matches, looking for leads that would help me connect to earlier generations of my Murri/Maurer family. Figure 2 shows a portion of my dad’s autocluster matrix, generated by DNAGedcom, based on Ancestry DNA matches who share between 9 and 400 centimorgans (cM, a unit of genetic distance) with him. The supercluster outlined in yellow, containing the dark green cluster (334), the red cluster (335) and related matches, is the same one previously assigned to documented Maurer descendants. The boxes that are colored gray, with greenish tops and pinkish bottoms, located in the column above the green arrow, represent comparisons between one particular DNA match, whom I’ll call Donna (not her real name) with two other matches in that cluster. It was Donna’s tree that led me to discover what happened to Mary (Murri) Leonard.
Donna’s public tree, linked to her DNA results, indicated that she was a granddaughter of William Jack Lenhardt, who was born and died in Canada. William’s wife was also Canadian, and in fact, every non-privatized individual in the limited tree was from Canada. That threw me at first. Examining this match outside the context of shared matches, I assumed that we must be related through one of Dad’s Canadian ancestral lines, such as Walsh, Dodds, Hodgkinson, etc. So how could Donna be part of a supercluster of DNA matches who share common Maurer ancestry?
That’s when it hit me. Lenhardt = Leonard! Christian and Mary Leonard must have moved to Canada!
Filling in the Blanks
My focus turned to the connection between William Jack Lenhardt and Mary Murri Leonard. Although Donna’s tree lacked evidence for William Jack Lenhardt’s parents or grandparents, a search on Ancestry pointed me to a different family tree—one among many—which identified William John “Jack” Lenhardt as the son of Michael Lawrence Lenhardt and Henrietta Agnes Henderson.5 Further searches for Michael put all the pieces into place. His marriage record identified his parents as Christian Lenhardt and Mary Murray (Figure 3), a deceptive spelling which turned a Bavarian surname into something decidedly Irish-sounding.6
The groom’s age, 27, suggests a birth year circa 1892 rather than 1894, but he may have fudged that a bit. His religion was reported as Methodist, rather than Roman Catholic, but despite these minor discrepancies, the evidence from this marriage record supports the DNA evidence tying the Christian Lenhardt family of Toronto to Mary Murri Leonard of Buffalo, New York.
Although a number of family trees cite Michael’s date of birth as 8 June 1894, his baptismal record, shown in Figure 4, confirms that he was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith at St. Basil’s in Toronto on 24 June 1894, and that he was born in Toronto on 26 May 1894.7
According to this record, Michael’s parents were Christopher (sic) Lenhardt and Mary Muri, both born in Germany. Only one godparent was identified, whose name looks like M. J. Crotter.
Mary Lenhardt’s own death record adds to the growing body of evidence that she is the same as Mary Murri Leonard of Buffalo, New York (Figure 5).8
According to this document, Mary was living at 70 Shaftesbury Avenue in Toronto, where she died at the age of 66 years on 13 July 1929. The informant was her husband, Christian Lenhardt, who was living with her. Mary was born in Germany circa 1863, and was the daughter of Joseph Murray, consistent with existing evidence. She was buried on 16 July 1929 in Mount Hope Cemetery. Her grave marker may have been placed some time after her death, because the inscription states incorrectly that she died at the age of 62 years.9
Coming Full Circle
Thanks to documentary evidence from the U.S. and Canada, a more complete picture of Mary’s life has now emerged. After her marriage on 21 January 1884, Mary and Christian Lenhardt remained in Buffalo for eight more years. Parish records from St. Boniface Church reveal that four sons were born to them during this time: Nicholas John, on 28 November 1886; Robert John, on 3 June 1888; Joseph John Baptist on 28 June 1890, and Frederick Christian on 7 December 1891.10 Nicholas John died some time before 1892, since his death was indexed in the Buffalo, New York, Death Index, 1885–1891.11Further research in burial records from St. Boniface church should be sufficient to establish a precise date of death. (This is on my to-do list for the next time I’m at the Family History Center.) The Lenhardt family must have moved to Toronto early in 1892, since they are not found in the 1892 New York State census, for which the official enumeration date was 16 February 1892.
Having settled in Toronto, the couple had four more children: a stillborn daughter, Marie, who was born on 28 May 1893;12 the aforementioned son, Michael Lawrence Lenhardt, born 26 May 1894; a stillborn infant son, unnamed, who was born on 17 June 1897;13 and another daughter, Mary, born 6 March 1904.14 The family appears in the 1901 census in Figure 6.15
The census confirms that the Lenhardt family arrived in Canada in 1892. Christian Lenhardt was reported to have been born 8 November 1861 in Germany; he was Roman Catholic, and employed as a basket maker. Mary (Murri) Lenhardt was reported to have been born 15 August 1863 in Germany, which is reasonably close to her actual birthdate of 16 September 1863. Mary was employed as a charwoman. Birth dates reported for Robert and Joseph correspond exactly with dates found in the baptismal records from St. Boniface. Frederick’s reported date of birth was exactly one year off—7 December 1892, rather than 7 December 1891, which was reported on his baptismal record. Michael Lawrence—recorded here as just Lawrence—was reported to have been born on 8 June 1894, which explains why so many family trees contain this error in his birth date.
The next census in which we might expect to find the Lenhardt family is the 1911 census of Canada. However, they are not found. Why might that be? The Toronto city directory for that year identifies Christian, Robert J., and Frederick Lenhardt as residents at 42 Hillsboro Avenue.16 Library and Archives Canada offers a street index to facilitate the determination of census districts and sub-districts for major cities, and according to this index, Hillsboro Avenue was in District 126, Sub-district 2. A search of the 1911 census database, omitting any surnames and specifying only the province of Ontario, District 126, Sub-district 2, returned no results, which suggests that this sub-district must be one for which the census returns have not survived. However, Library and Archives Canada’s index to districts and sub-districts for the 1911 census states that District 126 (Toronto North), Sub-district 2 (Ward 3), is found on Microfilm T-20401. It’s unclear to me whether this suggests that the scans from that microfilm are somehow absent from the database, or if the index information is incorrect, and the census returns from that location truly did not survive. I wrote to the archive this morning and am awaiting their reply.
Mary Lenhardt appears in the census in 1921 for the last time before her death in 1929 (Figure 7).17
By 1921, Mary Lenhardt was 57 years old, and living in her final home, at 70 Shaftesbury Street, in a multigenerational household with her husband, two of her adult sons, a daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. The adult children who were living with Mary and Christian were 31-year-old Joseph Lenhardt, working as a chauffeur, and 28-year-old Michael, employed as an elevator operator, along with Michael’s wife, recorded here as Agnes Etta. The household also included two grandsons, 7-year-old Harold and 5-year-old William. They were the children of Mary’s son, Frederick, and his wife, the former Dora May Redman, whom he married on 29 June 1910.18 The influenza pandemic of 1918 took Dora’s life on 11 October of that year, and Frederick followed her to the grave five days later, on 16 October 1918, leaving their two little boys as orphans.19 Mary’s husband, Christian, was still supporting the family as a basket weaver, although this census described him as a “willow worker.”
Verna or Mary?
The final member of the household enumerated in 1921 was 19-year-old Verna, who was recorded as a daughter of the head-of-household, Christian Lenhardt. I believe this is meant to be Verna Lenhardt, the oldest daughter of Michael and Agnes Etta, who are listed immediately above her in in the census. However, it’s curious—but certainly not unprecedented—that the census-taker was so far off in recording her age. Since Verna was born 4 May 1920, she would have celebrated her first birthday just prior to the census enumeration date of 1 June 1921, so the census-taker missed the mark by 18 years.20 Moreover, the fact that she was recorded as “daughter” of the head of household, rather than “granddaughter,” and the fact that her age suggests a birth circa 1902, led me to speculate whether “Verna” might instead be Christian and Mary’s daughter, Mary Lenhardt, who was born in 1904, and is notably absent from this census. Again, it’s not unprecedented for a person to use a name that’s not recorded on a birth record, so it’s possible that Mary’s full name was Mary Verna, and she was known as Verna among family members.
Nonetheless, I’m inclined to think that the Verna recorded here really was meant to be one-year-old Verna Lenhardt, oldest daughter of Michael and Agnes Etta, since she is otherwise unaccounted for. Furthermore, if Mary Lenhardt, born in 1904, survived to adulthood, it’s likely that she would have been mentioned in one of the dozen or more online trees that document this family. It’s probable, then, that little Mary died in infancy or early childhood, since broad searches in indexed records at Ancestry and FamilySearch failed to produce promising matches. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to confirm this hypothesis that Mary died young. Scanned burial records from St. Basil’s parish in Toronto, where her brother Michael was baptized, are not available before 1906, and Mary is not found in the database, “Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947.” So, the question remains, was Mary Lenhardt still alive at the time of this census? Could it be that both she and one-year-old Verna were living with Christian and Mary Lenhardt in 1921, and the census-taker conflated their identities? The missing 1911 census might shed some light on the situation, in addition to cemetery records, but for now, the fate of Mary Lenhardt, youngest child of Christian and Mary (Murri), will have to remain a mystery.
And so, we’ve now got a pretty good idea of the story arc for Mary (Murri) Lenhardt, thanks to hints obtained from DNA matches. The family tree has been extended by another branch, and a disconnect in the data has been resolved. As a genealogist, I think that’s a pretty good thing.
1 Roman Catholic Church, Waldmünchen parish (Waldmünchen, Cham, Bayern, Germany), Bd. 4, “Taufen 1831-1867,” 1863, p. 383, no. 154, Anna Maria Murri, Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St. Petersweg 11 – 13, 93047 Regensburg, Germany.
2 Manifest, SS Hansa, arriving 3 April 1869, lines 38-42, Muri family; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry(https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 August 2022); citing Microfilm Serial M237, 1820-1897; Line 42; List no. 292.
3 1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, sheet 12D, family no. 120, Joseph Murry household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 07 August 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C., Family History microfilm no.1254830.
4 Carol Roberts Fischer (Ancestry user cfish1063), “Boehringer Family Tree,” Ancestry Public Member Trees, database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 5 August 2022).
5Ancestry user “angt10,” “Tompkins Family Tree,” Ancestry Public Member Trees, database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 07 August 2022).
6“Canada, Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 07 August 2022), Michael Lawrence Lenhardt and Henrietta Agnes Henderson, 25 October 1919; citing registration no. 006061, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,210,696.
7 Roman Catholic Church, St. Basil’s Parish (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), Parish registers, 1858–1910, Baptisms 1858–1910, p 81, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Michael Lenhardt, born 28 May 1894; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 07 August 2022), Family History Library film no. 1305640, DGS no. 5106877, image 83 of 138.
8“Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 07 August 2022), Mary Lenhardt, 13 July 1929, citing registration no. 05647, Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,210,916, image 93 of 1598.
9Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148960636/mary-lenhardt: accessed 07 August 2022), memorial page for Mary Murray Lenhardt (1867–13 Jul 1929), Find a Grave Memorial ID 148960636, citing Mount Hope Catholic Cemetery, Toronto, Toronto Municipality, Ontario, Canada; Maintained by Pete C. (contributor 47614007).
10 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 07 August 2022), Nicolaum Johannem Lenhard, born 28 November 1886; citing Roman Catholic Church, St. Boniface Parish (Buffalo, New York), Baptisms 1849-1899, FHL microfilm no. 928704/DGS no. 7585930.
11Buffalo City Clerk’s Office, Buffalo, New York, Death Index, 1885-1891, p. 456, Nicholas J. Lenhardt, Vol. 10, p 345; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/: 7 August 2022), image 511 of 990.
12 “Canada, Ontario Births, 1869-1912,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 5 August 2022), Marie Lenhardt, 28 May 1893, citing birth registration no. 014831, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,846,239; and
“Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 6 August 20220), Marie Lenhardt, stillborn, 28 May 1893; citing Registrar General, death registration no. 02226, Toronto, York, Ontario; Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,853,581.
13 “Canada, Ontario Births, 1869-1912”, database, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org/), digital images, unnamed male infant Lenhardt, 17 June 1897, citing birth registration no. 003207, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,846,239; and
“Ontario, Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas, 1869-1948,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 6 August 2022), male infant Lenhardt, stillborn, 17 June 1897; citing Registrar General, death registration no. 002554, Toronto, York, Ontario; Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,853,835.
14 “Canada, Ontario Births, 1869-1912,” database with images, FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 5 August 2022), Mary Lenhardt, 6 March 1904; citing birth registration no. 003553, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,210,619.
151901 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, District no. 131, West York, Subdistrict E, Toronto City, Ward 4, Division no. 4, page no. 12, family no. 108, Christi Lenhardt household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1901/Pages/item.aspx?itemid=2633998 : 07 August 2022), citing RG31 – Statistics Canada, microfilm T-6508, item no. 2633998, image no. z000119179.
17 1921 Census of Canada, Ontario population schedule, District no. 132, Toronto North, Subdistrict no. 8, Toronto, Ward 2, page 24, family no. 262, Christian Lenhardt household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/ : 07 August 2022), citing RG31, Statistics Canada, Item no. 3427899, image no. e003039918.
18“Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1938,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 07 August 2022), Frederick C. Lenhardt and Dora May Redman, 29 June 1910; citing registration no. 003013, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,872,068.
19 “Canada, Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 07 August 2022), Dora May Lenhardt, 11 October 1918; citing registration no. 005962, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,862,693; and
Ibid., Frederick Lenhardt, 16 October 1918; citing registration no. 006632, Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada.
20 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/138941522/verna-stauffer: accessed 08 August 2022), memorial page for Verna Lenhardt Stauffer (4 May 1920–23 Sep 2014), Find a Grave Memorial ID 138941522, citing Huxley Cemetery, Hillsburgh, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada; Maintained by Anonymous (contributor 48340051).
The longer I research, the more I am convinced of the unstoppable power of cluster research, combined with autosomal DNA testing, when it comes to breaking through genealogical brick walls. Cluster research is also known as FAN research—genealogical research into an ancestor’s friends, associates and neighbors—and this method has proven to be very successful when the paper trail dries up, and historical records cannot be found which offer direct evidence for parentage or place of origin.
Last autumn, this combination helped me break through a long-standing brick wall, and discover the place of origin of my Causin/Cossin ancestors from Pfetterhouse, Alsace, France. Bolstered by that success, I’ve been attempting to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.
From Bavaria to Buffalo: The Joseph Murre Family
Let me start with a brief introduction to my 3x-great-grandparents, Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre. Joseph Murre (or Murrÿ, Muri, Murri, Murrie, etc.) was born circa 1825 in Bavaria, Germany.1 Around 1862, he married Walburga Maurer, who was born circa 1835.2 They had at least three children while in Germany: Maria/Mary Murre, born circa 1863; Anna Murre (my great-great-grandmother), born 27 September 1865; and Johann/John F. Murre, born circa April 1867.3 The Murre family emigrated from the port of Bremen, arriving in New York on 3 April 1869 aboard the SS Hansa.4 Their passenger manifest is shown in Figure 1.
Unfortunately, the manifest does not specify a place of origin beyond simply “Bavaria,” and neither have any other records discovered to date been informative in that regard—including naturalization records and church records, which are so often helpful in identifying an immigrant’s place of origin.
Three more children were born to Joseph and Walburga Murre in Buffalo: Josephine, born in 1869, Alois/Aloysius Joseph, born in 1872, and Frances Walburga, born in 1876.5 Walburga Murre—who became known as Barbara in the U.S.—died on 18 September 1886 and is buried in the United German & French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, New York.6 Her husband, Joseph, was living in the Erie County Almshouse at the time of the 1900 census, and he died in 1905.7 He, too, is buried in the United German & French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, albeit in a different plot from the one where Walburga is buried.
While it would oversimplify the situation considerably to state that this summary is “all” that was known about the Murre/Maurer family, the fact remains that thus far, I have not identified any siblings or parents for either Joseph Murre or Walburga Maurer, nor have I been able to identify their place of origin in Bavaria.
Step 1: Use DNA to Light the Way
When faced with a similar research question for my Causin/Cossin line, I believe I missed an opportunity by failing to exploit genetic genealogy methodology early on in the research. Now that I’m older and wiser, I decided to tackle my Murre/Maurer origins question using genetic genealogy methods right from the start. Specifically, I began by examining the Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters of my Dad’s autosomal DNA matches, gathered from all his Ancestry DNA matches who share between 20 cM (centimorgans, a unit of genetic distance) and 400 cM of DNA with him. These autoclusters are created by the DNAGedcom Client, an app available with a subscription to DNAGedcom. The clusters are displayed in a matrix that resembles the one shown in Figure 2.
At the time I ran this autocluster analysis, Dad had 385 Ancestry DNA matches who met the specified requirements of sharing between 20 and 400 cM DNA with him. So, Figure 2 shows only a portion of the matrix, which is set up as a grid with those 385 names along the top and also along the left side. Those 385 people are organized into clusters based on common ancestry, and Cluster 57, indicated by the red arrow, is the cluster to focus on to start. Clicking the popup box, “View Cluster,” brings up the image shown in Figure 3.
The green tree icon (circled in red) indicates a DNA match with a family tree linked to his or her test results; names of matches (in the “Person” column) have been redacted for privacy. By scrolling down through the list of Ancestors in Cluster, or by examining the trees (when available), I was able to determine that two of these DNA matches are descendants of Josephine (Murre) Hummel—the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Anna (Murre) Boehringer. The third match lacks a family tree, so it’s not immediately clear how we are related; however, these initial findings imply that we must be related through DNA passed down from ancestors of either Joseph Murre or Walburga Maurer.
The fourth member of that Cluster 57, whom I’ll call L.O., is even more interesting, because her family tree indicates that she is the great-granddaughter of German immigrants Frank and Matilda Maurer of Buffalo, New York. L.O. is the DNA match who shares 41.5 cM DNA with my dad, in the list of people in Cluster 57 shown in Figure 3. At this point, I did not have any information on Frank Maurer’s ancestry. But the fact that he shared a surname with Walburga Maurer, combined with the fact that one of his descendants shares DNA with three documented descendants of hers, strongly suggested that (a) Cluster 57 is a Maurer DNA cluster and not a Murre DNA cluster, and (b) Frank must somehow be related to Walburga.
Hoping to gather more data, I examined the Collins-Leeds Method autoclusters that were generated from gathering Dad’s DNA matches who shared between 9 cM and 400 cM DNA with him. By dropping the minimum threshold for inclusion in the analysis all the way down to 9 cM, I picked up DNA matches who are related more distantly, and the total number of individuals included in the analysis jumped from 385 to 1,651. The cluster that contains the same individuals found in Cluster 57 of the previous analysis, is now numbered as Cluster 334, shown in Figure 4.
Examination of the new and improved version of that “Maurer Cluster” (Cluster 334) revealed that there’s some overlap with the adjacent Cluster 335, as well as some other DNA matches (336–342) that are more loosely related, creating a supercluster. That supercluster includes all the greyed-out boxes around Clusters 334 and 335.
Inspection of available family trees for people in the 334–342 supercluster produced the following data (Figure 5):
Shared cM with Dad
Granddaughter of Eleanor Maurer, daughter of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Great-granddaughter of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of Joseph J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of Eleanor Maurer, daughter of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Grandson of John J. Maurer, son of Franz Maurer & Matilda Grenz
Figure 5: Summary of DNA and family tree data for DNA matches from supercluster 334–342 whose precise relationship to my Dad has yet to be determined.
The DNA matches summarized in Figure 5 were in addition to other DNA matches from that cluster who were already known to me as descendants of Joseph and Walburga (Maurer) Murre.
Most of these matches are in the 10 cM range, with the outlier being L.O., who shares roughly 42 cM with my dad, and this variability may be due simply to the randomness of DNA inheritance through recombination. However, other possibilities exist, such as the possibility that L.O. shares more than the expected amount of DNA with Dad because she’s also related to him in some other way, besides just the Maurer connection. That’s a question for another day, but in any case, there’s ample DNA evidence here to suggest that the genetic link between my family and all these DNA cousins lies in that Maurer DNA. Nonetheless, the precise relationship between Franz Maurer and my 3x-great-grandmother, Walburga (Maurer) Murre, remains unclear. Were they siblings, or perhaps first cousins? If we hypothesize that Franz and Walburga were siblings, then that would mean that Dad and all these great-grandchildren of Franz Maurer would be third cousins once removed (3C1R). While it’s within the realm of statistical possibility for 3C1R to share only 10 cM DNA, according to data from the Shared cM Project, a more distant relationship between Franz and Walburga is more probable.
Step 2: Research Franz Maurer’s Family in Historical Records
Now that we’ve identified a family of interest, who was Franz Maurer, and what evidence can be found in historical records that might offer some clues for our research question? Preliminary research indicated that Franz/Frank Maurer was born circa 1839 in Bavaria, and was married to Franziska/Frances Geigand in Germany. Figure 6 shows the family in the 1880 census.8
Franz was a carpenter, born in Bavaria, and the couple had two children while in Germany: a son, Alois, born circa 1861, and a daughter, Anna, born about 1865. They immigrated in 1867,9 and settled in Buffalo, New York, in the same parish where my Murre family would settle two years later—St. Boniface, formerly located at 145 Mulberry Street. Church records show that another son, Joseph, was born to Franz and Franziska on 18 August 1867, followed by Michael on 21 July 1869.10 Twin boys, Joannes Aloisius and Franciscus (as they were identified in their Latin baptismal records), were born on 2 February 1872,11 but they both died of smallpox that summer, which also took the life of four-year-old Joseph.12 Another son, Frank, was born on 26 June 1873, followed by Henry on 14 July 1876.13 A daughter, Francisca, born 18 August 1880,14 must also have died in infancy, because she disappears from the records. She is not, however, buried in the same cemetery plot as many of the other Maurer children who died in childhood.
On 15 April 1881, Franziska/Frances Maurer died,15 leaving behind her husband and five living children, ranging in age from about 5 years to 20 years old. Four months later, on 22 August 1881,16 Franz remarried a fellow German immigrant, 33-year-old Franziska (Eppler or Ebler) Schabel, a widow whose previous husband, Frank Schabel, died in April 1880.17 At the time of her remarriage, Frances was the mother of two children, Frank Schabel, Jr. (about age 4), and Rose Schabel, who was barely two years old.18 Although Frank Jr. retained his biological father’s surname, Rose was subsequently known as Rose Maurer, and she identified her father as Francis Maurer—not Schabel—on her marriage record.19 Although Frances was still within her childbearing years when she married Frank Maurer, no children from this marriage have been discovered thus far.
The second Frances Maurer must have died before 1888, because Franz Maurer remarried for the third time on 24 January of that year.20 Oddly, there is no evidence for Frances’ death in the Buffalo, New York, death index 1885–1891. However, there may have been a miscommunication with the civil clerks when the certificate was recorded, because there is a death certificate for a Frank Marer (sic) in that time period, which might be that of Frances, despite the masculine version of the given name.21 (Research is ongoing.)
Franz Maurer’s new bride was 34-year-old Matilda Grenz, another German immigrant, and four children were born to this couple: Joseph, on 15 January 1889; Matilda, on 30 April 1891, John, on 21 December 1892, and Eleanor, on 22 January 1897.22 Franz/Frank Maurer, Sr., died in 1910 and is buried in the United German & French Cemetery.23 In 1924, his wife, Matilda, passed away, and she is buried by his side.24
Step 3: Confirm FAN Club Membership
As expected, evidence from Joseph and Walburga Murre’s FAN club confirms the importance of the Franz Maurer family to my quest for the origins of my Maurer/Murre ancestors. Joseph and Walburga Murre named Franz and Franziska Maurer as godparents to their youngest child, Frances Walburga Murre, whose baptismal record from St. Boniface church is shown in Figure 7.25
Interestingly, for both of their other Buffalo-born children, Josephine and Alois Joseph, they named as godparents Alois Geigand and his wife, Josephine. Josephine Murre’s baptismal record is shown in Figure 8.26
Cemetery data from United German and French Cemetery, where Walburga and Joseph were buried, confirm the close relationship between the Maurer and Geigand families. The lot where Walburga was laid to rest was a large one, with at least 20 burials in it, owned by Alois Geigand and Frank Maurer.27 Of the twenty burials, all but four of them have been identified as descendants of Maurer or Geigand families. (Those remaining four burials may also be related, but currently their connection to these families is unclear.) The 1880 census, shown previously in Figure 6, also illustrates the strong links between the families, since they were living in the same house at 240 Locust Street at that time. A detail from this census is shown in Figure 9.
According to this census, Alois and Josephine Geigand were both 68 years old, which implies that they were born circa 1812. These ages suggest that perhaps they might be the parents of Frances (Geigand) Maurer, and I’m hoping that her burial record from St. Boniface might shed some light on that.
This brings us to the Hamburg emigration manifest for these folks, the document that gives me a glimmer of hope that I might be able to discover the origins of my Maurer/Murre family (Figure 10).28
This manifest is irrefutably the correct one for these families. The names and ages of all passengers line up perfectly with data from U.S. records, confirming that 55-year-old laborer, Alois Geigand (indexed as Geigant), and his 54-year-old wife, Josephine, traveled to the U.S. with their two children, 24-year-old Georg and 17-year-old Walbur (sic), aboard the SS Victoria, departing from Hamburg on 1 May 1867. Traveling with them were the family of Franz (indexed as “Fraz”) Maurer, a 23-year-old carpenter; his wife, Franziska, and two children, Alois and Anna. Their place of origin was indexed by Ancestry as Waldmünchen, Bayern—a town in Bavaria, Germany, that’s barely two miles from the Czech border (Figure 11).
It’s always good to get more than one piece of evidence for place of origin before attempting to dive into records from Europe, and in this case, the emigration register from Mainz, Germany, provided that additional evidence (Figures 12a and b).29
Professional researcher, Marcel Elias, provided the following translation of these entries:
“Nr. 394, 24 April 1867, agent’s name Humann, Schiffsvertrag (a confirmation about booked ticket) from 24 April 1867, Names of emigrants:
Geigant Aloys, 55yo
his wife Josepha, 54 yo,
their son Georg, 24 yo
all from Waldmünchen, Bayern, Auswanderungszeugniss (approval for emigration) from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, heading to New York, port of departure Hamburg on April 26
Nr. 395, 24 April 1867, agent’s name Humann, Schiffsvertrag (a confirmation about booked ticket) from 24 April 1867, Names of emigrants:
Maurer, Franz, 28yo
his wife Franziska, 26 (or 28 yo)
children: Alois, 4 ¼
Anna 1 ¼
all from Waldmünchen, Bayern, Auswanderungszeugniss (approval for emigration) from Waldmünchen from 27 March 1867, heading to New York, port of departure Hamburg on April 26″
Observant readers may have noticed that there were other emigrants from Waldmünchen recorded on both the passenger manifest, as well as the emigration register. These other emigrants included group 393, consisting of 30-year-old Maria Maurer and her children, Anna and Johann, as well as 42-year-old Georg Macht. They, too, belong to the Maurer-Geigand FAN Club, and I was not surprised to discover that Maria and Georg were married at St. Boniface on 18 June 1867, less than two months after they arrived in Buffalo.30 Ship-board romance or marriage of convenience? Who knows?
Step 4: Seek Evidence for Murre/Maurer Family in Records from Waldmünchen
Unfortunately, my own ancestors, Joseph and Walburga Murre, were not found in the database of Mainz, Germany, emigration registers, which suggests that they registered in another administrative center. (They also departed from Bremen, rather than Hamburg.) So, these two pieces of evidence—the passenger manifest and the emigration register—are my best hope for tracking down my Murre family. You may also note that Ancestry indexed the last place of residence of the emigrant Maurer-Geigand clan as “Waldmühlen,” rather than “Waldmünchen,” based on the “Wohnort” column. However, the place was clearly recorded as Waldmünchen in the “Legitimationen” column in Figure 12b. This discrepancy might be concerning, apart from the fact that I also happened to find a Buffalo Evening News article from 1933 about the 60th wedding anniversary of Joseph and Anna (Pongratz) Geigand, which states that Joseph Geigand was born in Waldmünchen, Bavaria, Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1871.31 Do I know how Joseph Geigand is related to my family at this point? Heck no. Nonetheless, FAN principles would suggest that he’s got to be a part of the Maurer-Geigand FAN Club, and at this point, that’s good enough for me.
Finding my Murre family in records from Waldmünchen sounds pretty straightforward, but it’s not a slam-dunk. It may be that the Maurers were approximating their place of origin to Waldmünchen, when in fact they were from some smaller village in the vicinity. We won’t know until we try. However, trying is not something I can do on my own. FamilySearch has no scans online for Roman Catholic records from Waldmünchen, nor am I sufficiently proficient in my ability to read German. Church records from Waldmünchen are at the Bischöfliche Zentralarchiv Regensburg (diocesan archive in Regensburg), which is an archive that’s quite familiar to Marcel Elias, the professional researcher I mentioned previously. So, I handed the ball off to Marcel, and I’m awaiting his results with bated breath. Stay tuned.
1 1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 25, Enumeration District 222, Sheet 2A, Erie County Almshouse, line 16, Joseph Murri; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing Family History Library microfilm no. 1241033, original data from National Archives and Records Administration publication T623, 1854 rolls.
2 1870 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 7, page 73, family no. 603, Joseph Murri household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 934 of 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d; Family History Library Film no. 552433.
3 1880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, sheet 12D, family no. 120, Joseph Murry household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, National Archives, Washington, D.C., Family History microfilm no.1254830; and
New York State Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Death Certificates, no. 2064, Anna Mertz, 29 March 1936; Buffalo, New York, City Clerk, 1302 City Hall, 65 Niagara Square, Buffalo, New York; and
1900 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, West Seneca, Enumeration District 264, Sheet 28A, line 10, John Murra in Alois Klug household; digital image, Ancestry (http://search.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, roll 1034 of 1854 rolls, FHL microfilm no. 1241034.
4Manifest, SS Hansa, arriving 3 April 1869, lines 38-42, Muri family; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022); citing Microfilm Serial M237, 1820-1897; Line 42; List no. 292.
5 St. Boniface Roman Catholic Parish Records,142 Locust St. Buffalo, New York, microfilm publication, 2 rolls (Buffalo & Erie County Public Library : Western New York Genealogical Society, 1982), Roll 1: Baptisms (1849-1912), 1869, no. 542, baptismal record for Josephina Muri; and
Ibid., 1872, no. 977, baptismal record for Aloisius Joseph Muri; and
Ibid., 1876, no. 90, baptismal record for Francisca Walburga Murrÿ.
6 Ibid., 1886, baptisms, no. 124, record for Walburga Barbara Murry. Although it was recorded among the baptisms, the text makes it clear that this is a death record. “Walburga Barb. Murry. no. 124. Die 18a Sept. Walburga Barbara Murri quinqueqinta duos annos nata animam Deo reddidit confesso atque Viatico refecta die 20a b.m. rite sepultum est ejus corpus. Ferdinand Kolb.”; and
United German and French Cemetery Roman Catholic Cemetery, Mount Calvary Cemetery Group (500 Pine Ridge Heritage Boulevard, Cheektowaga, New York) to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Murre/Maurer/Geigand burial data, including record of lot owners for Lot 66, Section S; diagram of plot, and record of burials on lot; burial records for Walburga Barb Murri (1886) and Joseph Murre (1905).
7 Ibid., and
1900 U.S. Census, record for Joseph Murri.
81880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 147, page 31C, family no. 305, Frank Maurer household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/1716337:6742 : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 830 of 1,454 rolls, Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
9 Manifest, SS Victoria, departing 1 May 1867 Hamburg to New York, p328, nos. 46-49, Franz Maurer family (indexed as Fraz); imaged as “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 12 July 2022), citing Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 021 A; Page: 327; Microfilm No.: K_1712.
15 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79956024/franziska-mauerer : accessed 12 July 2022), memorial page for Franziska Mauerer (28 Feb 1838–15 Apr 1881), Find a Grave Memorial ID 79956024, citing United German and French Cemetery, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Phyllis Meyer (contributor 47083260).
171880 U.S. Census, Erie County, New York, mortality schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 141, sheet 1, line 19, Frank Schabel, died April 1880; imaged as “U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education, Albany, New York; Archive Roll No. M10.
181880 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York population schedule, Buffalo city, Enumeration District 141, Sheet 93A, household no. 249, Francis (sic) Schabel household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 829 of1,454 rolls.
19Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Lourdes parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Marriages, 1883-1907,1903, no. 22, Joannes C. Bauer et Rosa K. Maurer, 17 June 1903; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G928-9NHL : 12 July 2022), “Church records, 1850-1924,” Family History Library film no. 1292741/DGS no. 4023115, image 1048 of 1740.
21 City of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, Death Index, 1885-1891, p. 486, Marer, Frank, unknown date (bet. 1885-1891), Vol. 10, p 62; digital image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/ : 12 July 2022), image 549 of 990.
22 “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Joseph Maurer, born 15 January 1889; and
“U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 12 July 2022), Matilda Catherine Maurer, born 30 April 1891, SSN 058342914; and “New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Martinam Maurer, born 30 April 1891. Matilda’s baptismal record identifies her as Martina, with the same date of birth, but I believe they are the same individual.
“New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962,” database, Johannem Maurer, born 21 December 1892; and
“New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962”, database, Elleonoram Maurer, born 22 January 1897.
31Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York), 21 April 1933 (Friday), p 21, col 2, “Married 60 Years,” anniversary announcement for Joseph and Anna (Pongratz) Geigand,” digital image, Newspapers (https://www.newspapers.com/ : 12 July 2022).
Last week, I wrote about my attempts to nail down a place of birth for my husband’s great-great-great-grandfather, Antoni Nowicki, whose marriage record from Gradzanowo Kościelne stated that he was born in the village of Kroczewo. There’s only one village in Poland today called Kroczewo, but Antoni Nowicki was definitely not born there. So, I identified a couple alternative locations that were phonetically similar to Kroczewo, including a constellation of villages whose names start with Kraszewo (Figure 1).
All of these “Kraszewos” belong to the parish in Raciąż, and although birth records from the time of Antoni’s birth are digitized at FamilySearch, access is restricted, so I figured the research would have to wait until my next opportunity to visit my local Family History Center (FHC).
After writing that post, I took a look at my calendar, and realized that it might be a while before I had a chance to make it to the FHC. So, I opted for a quick remote research request from the Family History Library, in the hopes that they could at least give me a “yes” or “no” about whether Antoni Nowicki was baptized in Raciąż. This past Wednesday, that answer turned out to be “yes,” and they replied with a copy of Antoni’s birth record (Figure 2).1
The record is in Polish, and is transcribed as follows:
Działo się w mieście Raciążu dnia czternastego/dwudziestego szóstego Lipca, Tysiąc ośmset czterdziestego czwartego roku o godzinie dziesiątej przed południem. Stawił się Maciej Nowicki, Rolnik, zamieszkały w Kroczewie, lat dwadzieścia cztery mający, w obecności Albina Krolewskiego, lat dwadzieścia dwa, Pawła Bułakowskiego, lat czterdzieści mających, na Budach Kraszewskich zamieszkałych, rolników, i okazał Nam dziecię płci męskiej urodzone w Kroczewie dnia siedemnastego/dwudziestego trzeciego Lipca roku bieżącego o godzinie trzeciej rano z jego małżonki Joanny z Ługowskich, lat dwadzieścia mającej. Dziecięciu temu na Chrzcie Świętym odbytym w dniu dzisiejszym nadane zostało imię Antoni, a rodzicami jego Chrzestnymi byli Albin Królewski i Jadwiga Ostrowska (?). Akt ten przeczytany stawającemu i świadkom przez Nas podpisany został. Stawający i świadkowie pisać nie umieją. [Signed] X. Strzałkowski, proboszcz Raciążki”
In English, this translates as,
This happened in the town of Raciąż on the fourteenth/twenty-sixth day of July, in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, at ten o’clock in the morning. Maciej Nowicki appeared, a farmer, residing in Kroczewo, having twenty-four years of age, in the presence of Albin Krolewski, aged twenty-two, Pawel Bułakowski, aged forty, residents in Budy Kraszewskie, farmers, and presented to us a male child born in Kroczewo on the seventeenth/twenty-third day of July of the current year at three o’clock in the morning from his spouse Joanna, née Ługowska, aged twenty. At Holy Baptism, performed today, the child was given the name Antoni, and his godparents were Albin Królewski and Jadwiga Ostrowska (?). This document was read to the declarant and to the witnesses and was signed by Us. The declarant and the witnesses are unable to write. [Signed] Fr. Strzałkowski, pastor of Raciąż.”
This document adds to the growing body of evidence for the Nowicki family by providing a precise birth date for Antoni, who was born 23 July 1844. His parents’ ages suggest birth years circa 1820 for Maciej, and 1824 for Joanna, which makes Joanna a bit older, potentially, than what was supposed previously. Only one other document has thus far been discovered which offers evidence for her year of birth, and that document—the birth record for her son, Franciszek— suggested that she was born circa 1826. Most importantly, this document resolves the practical question of where to look for additional records for this family: Raciąż.
What it does not resolve is the question about where Antoni’s birthplace was located. He was definitely born in Kroczewo; the spelling is identical to the spelling of his birthplace as it was recorded in his marriage record, apart from the fact that this priest had an interesting habit of using the Polish ż in words where a z is typically used, e.g. cżternastego. So although Antoni’s place of birth was recorded as Krocżewo, I think we can safely interpret that as a simple Kroczewo. But where the heck was it? Other records on that same page refer to Kraszewo Gaczułty and Kraszewo Falki, yet the priest distinguished this place name from those in his spelling, which suggests that this was not merely another name for one of the assorted Kraszewos identified thus far. The Słownik Geograficzne Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, which typically mentions alternate spellings for place names when they were known to exist, does not mention any places called Kroczewo other than the one in Płońsk County, which is the wrong Kroczewo (not the one in Raciąż parish). Neither do the entries for the assorted Kraszewo villages mention any alternate spellings that might identify the precise location of “Kroczewo.”
It might be possible to locate a map which includes Kroczewo, assuming a map could be found for the correct time period, and at a sufficient scale to include very small villages. This 1:200,000-scale map from 1913 shows Kraszewo, and “Kraszewo Budy,” which appears to be the village known as Budy Kraszewskie today, given its position relative to “Pulka-Raciążska” which is Pólka-Raciąż today, but no Kroczewo (Figure 3).2
I tried again with a map from the David Rumsey collection, originally published in 1856 (Figure 4).3 Unfortunately, at only 1:370,000 scale, the map only shows the larger villages. Raciąż is called Racionz on this map, but it’s unclear to me whether the “Radzanowo” mentioned here is actually Gradzanowo Kościelne, or if it refers instead to the village of Radzanów, located a little over 5 km north of Gradzanowo.
Next up was a map by Juliusz Kolberg, published in 1827 at a map scale ranging from 1:477,000 to about 1:525,000 (Figure 5).4
This map clearly differentiates between Radzanowo and Gradzanowo, and shows three of the Kraszewo villages—Kraszewo Czubaki, Kraszewo Podborze [sic] and Kraszewo Gaczołki [sic]—to the northwest of Raciąż. Note that Kraszewo Podborze is called Kraszewo Podborne today, and Kraszewo Gaczołki is Kraszewo Gaczułty. Scanning all the other place names on the map within a reasonable distance of the parish in Raciąż, I don’t see any places called Kroczewo.
I finally pulled out the big guns and located a Russian-language 1931 map published at a 1:25,000 scale from the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny (Military Geographic Institute). This map scale is such that an entire map quadrant is dedicated to the town of Raciąż and its environs (Figure 6).
This map shows the Raciąż area in incredible detail, and permits identification of not only the six Kraszewos shown in Google Maps, but Kraszewo Dezerta, which was mentioned in the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego published in 1877. Additionally, there’s a “Ф. Крашево” located south of -Podborne. Maybe that Ф stands for Фольварк, the Russian transliteration of folwark, which is a Polish word for a manor or estate? That’s my current hypothesis, at least.
As interesting as all of this may be, it’s unfortunately not getting me any closer to identifying Kroczewo, since Kroczewo [Крочево] does not appear to be anywhere on this map. At this point, I’m inclined to throw in the towel, and declare this village to be lost to the mists of time, an odd historical artifact preserved in the church books of Raciąż. Maybe Fr. Franciszek Strzałkowski had a clear idea of where this place was when he recorded the birth of Antoni Nowicki way back in 1844, but I sure wish he would have let the cartographers in on the secret.
1 Roman Catholic Church (Raciaz, Plonsk, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego, 1808-1865,” 1844, Akta urodzeń, no. 95, Antoni Nowicki, born 23 July 1844; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 23 March 2022), Family History Library film no. 730110/DGS no. 8024747, image 28 of 785.
2 Offiz. A. Spaczek, Offiz. K. Ginzkey, “Mława,” 1913, 1:200,000 scale topographic map from 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary; digital image, Térképtudományi és Geoinformatikai Intézet (Institute of Cartography and Geoinformatics)(http://lazarus.elte.hu/hun/digkonyv/topo/3felmeres.htm : 28 March 2022), map 38-53.
3 Carl Ferdinand Weiland, Karte von den Konigl: Preussischen Provinzen Preussen und Posen, nebst dem Kaiserlich Russischen Konigreiche Polen. (with) Umgebung von Warshau. (with) Umgebung von Konigsberg. (with) Umgebung von Danzig. Entworfen und gezeichnet von C.F. Weiland. Gestochen von J. Madel III [Map of the Royal Prussian Provinces of Prussia and Posen, together with the Imperial Russian Kingdom of Poland. (with) Surroundings of Warshau. (with) Surroundings of Konigsberg. (with) Surroundings of Danzig. Designed and drawn by C.F. Weiland. Engraved by J. Madel III], (Weimar: Geographisches Institut Weimar, 1856); digital image, David Rumsey Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/f89w04 : 28 March 2022).
As genealogists, we’re taught to follow the paper trail, gathering evidence from historical documents that tell the story of our ancestors’ lives. Even when our ancestors moved around, we can often find clues in the historical records that point to their previous place of residence. So, don’t you just hate it when you find a document that clearly states a person’s place of origin, but it’s not the right place?
Born in Kroczewo? Not So Fast….
I ran into this problem recently while researching my husband’s Nowicki ancestors. His great-grandmother, Helen (Majczyk) Skolimowski, was the daughter of Stanisław and Aniela (Nowicka) Majczyk. Aniela Nowicka was the daughter of Antoni and Jadwiga (Krogulska) Nowicki, so this story begins with Antoni and Jadwiga’s marriage record, which I recently obtained from the Archiwum Diecezjalne w Płocku (diocesan archive in Płock). (I’d like to add that the archive is really a pleasure to work with, and requests can be made quite simply by filling out this form on their website.) A copy of the marriage record is shown in Figure 1.1
The full text of the marriage record is transcribed and translated in the footnotes, for those who are interested, but the portion relevant to this discussion is the passage shown in Figure 2, which describes the groom.
The marriage record describes Antoni as a young man, urodzonym w Kroczewie (born in Kroczewo), son of Maciej and Joanna née Ługowska, the spouses Nowicki, residing with his parents in Bojanowo, age 20. This suggests a birth circa 1845 in Kroczewo, a village with its own church. Both Bojanowo and Kroczewo were located in the Płock gubernia, but the villages are 67 km apart (Figure 3).
So far, so good, right? However, births for Kroczewo are indexed in Geneteka for the entire period from 1817 to 1903 with no gaps, and there is no birth record for Antoni Nowicki. Moreover, Kroczewo is not especially close to Gradzanowo, and generally, when a marriage or death record references a birthplace that was not nearby, the priest made an effort to mention the parish, county, or country in which the birthplace was located. Conversely, a lack of further identifying information suggests that the place in question must be sufficiently nearby that the priest felt no further description was necessary.
This suggests two possibilities: one, that Antoni Nowicki was baptized in Kroczewo, but his birth was recorded or indexed in such a way that I did not locate it in my initial search, and two, that he was baptized elsewhere. A broader search in Geneteka might address both possibilities, so I expanded the parameters to include all indexed birth records in the Mazowieckie province. The result? No promising hits. I played around with search parameters still further, using his parents’ names and the “Wyszukaj jako para/Relationship Search” option, to see if I could find records for any of Antoni’s siblings, and used wildcards under the assumption that their names might have been misrecorded, or that his mother’s maiden name might have been omitted from the record. Even that search, for birth records to surname Nowicki, given names M* and J*, between 1840 and 1850, anywhere in Mazowieckie province, produced no clues, nor did it help to use a wildcard in the surname and search for Now*. As of this writing, he’s just not in Geneteka.
So, what other place might “Kroczewo” be? Antoni married in Gradzanowo Kościelne, and he was living in Bojanowo at the time of his marriage, so I pulled out the map to see what villages are located nearby that resemble “Kroczewo” phonetically. I found a village called Kocewo near Bieżuń, 20 km from Gradzanowo. There’s also a geographic cluster of six “Kraszewo” villages, Kraszewo-Czubaki, Kraszewo Podborne, Kraszewo Rory, Kraszewo-Falki, Kraszewo-Sławęcin, and Kraszewo Gaczułty, all located within 20 km of Gradzanowo. While other candidates exist that are a bit further away, these are my top candidates at the moment.
Down a Rabbit Hole In Search of Kocewo
The next question is, to what parishes did those villages belong? Kocewo’s proximity to Bieżuń suggests that this would be the parish to which it was assigned. However, I was unable to confirm that, using the Skorowidz Królewstwa Polskiego (a gazetteer published in 1877 which includes locations in the Królestwo Polskie, or Kingdom of Poland). In fact, the Skorowidz does not even mention the village of Kocewo (Figure 4); the closest option is Kocewia, which is not the same place.2
Undaunted, I checked the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, published in 1933. Still no Kocewo; the closest entries were Kocewe and Kocewko, but again, neither refers to the same place. What the heck? Mapa.szukacz.pl confirmed my findings from Google Maps: the village of Kocewo is located in gmina Bieżuń, Żuromiń County, Mazowieckie, and has a population of 46. Wikipedia repeats that information, so the village is clearly found in modern sources. However, the only mention of Kocewo in the Słownik Geograficzne Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich was a reference to mudflats (błota) of the river Pełta. The Pełta river runs roughly north-south, but well to the east of the Gradzanowo area. Kocewo was proving to be surprisingly elusive in historical sources.
A search of the Polish version of Wikipedia gave me the clue I needed: “dawn. Myślin-Kocewo,” where “dawn.” is an abbreviation for dawniej, formerly. Apparently, Kocewo is so small even today that it was formerly united with the nearby village of Myślin, which likely accounts for its absence from historical sources. Repeating my gazetteer searches in the M’s rather than the K’s permitted identification of the parish for Myślin-Kocewo as Chamsk circa 1877 and Bieżuń circa 1933 (Figure 2).3
A search for the parish of Chamsk in Geneteka reveals a gap in indexed birth records from 1842 until 1889. Since Antoni Nowicki was born circa 1845, this could explain the absence of his birth record in Geneteka. (On the other hand, the fact that the village of Kocewo did not exists as an independent municipality at the time of Antoni’s marriage, casts doubt on the hypothesis that the priest would have mentioned it as Antoni’s place of birth.) Records for Chamsk from 1826–1911 are online at Metryki, which means I’ll be able to find an answer to the question of whether or not Antoni Nowicki was baptized there. However, a quick peek revealed that no end-of-year index was created in the book that contains the births from 1845, so all 115 of them will have to be browsed individually to find Antoni’s birth, if in fact he was baptized in this parish. It’s research for another day.
Thankfully, identification of the parishes for the assorted Kraszewos (if that’s a word) was more straightforward. Figure 6 shows the Kraszewo entries in the Skorowidz.4
The first Kraszewo, in Ciechanów County, is 53 km from Bojanowo, so I excluded it from the first round of candidates to consider. The last Kraszewo, Kraszewo Czarne, was not even in the Płock province, so it, too, seems less likely. The remaining eight Kraszewos include the six found on the contemporary map, as well as two additional places, Kraszewo Dezerta and Kraszewo Budy, which may have been absorbed by one of the other villages. Kraszewo Bory may have been an older name for Kraszewo Rory, found on the modern map, but from the perspective of finding vital records, it’s irrelevant whether they were two distinct villages or one village under two names, since all the Kraszewos in this cluster belonged to the parish in Raciąż.
Although birth records from Raciąz are indexed in Geneteka, there’s a gap from 1808 through 1875, which might also explain why Antoni Nowicki’s birth is not found. Neither are scans of birth records from Raciąż for the appropriate time period available online at Szukajwarchiwach or another convenient source. They are digitized at FamilySearch, but access is restricted, so this research will have to wait for another day when my local Family History Center is open.
Additional clues regarding the Nowicki family’s migrations can be found in Geneteka. My search for children of Maciej Nowicki and Joanna Ługowska produced a birth record for Antoni Nowicki’s brother, Franciszek Nowicki, who was born in Gołuszyn (Radzanów parish) in 1858 (Figure 7).
Clicking over to the scan reveals that Franciszek was born 22 September 1858, and that his father, Maciej, was a 38-year-old farmer and resident of Gołuszyn, while his mother was 32 years old.5 Similarly, a search of the marriage records produced a marriage record for another son of Maciej and Joanna, Andrzej Nowicki, who married Józefa Maciejewska in Dąbrowa in 1875 (Figure 8).
According to that marriage record, Andrzej Nowicki was twenty-four years old and born in Gołuszyn.6
From this information, a timeline begins to emerge for Maciej and Joanna. Maciej was born circa 1820, and Joanna was born circa 1826, but we don’t know where either of them was born. We don’t know where they married, either; all that searching in Geneteka did not turn up their marriage record. Based on Joanna’s age, we can guess that they were married circa 1844, so Antoni was likely their oldest child. Accurate identification of Antoni’s birthplace may be the key to finding their marriage record as well. By 1851, they were living in Gołuszyn, where Andrzej was born, and they were still living there in 1858 when Franciszek was born. Andrzej’s marriage record also stated that his father, Maciej, was already deceased while his mother, Joanna, was still living, which helps narrow down the time frame for searching for death records for Maciej and Joanna. Joanna’s death record might state her place of of birth, if it was known, and that, too, could point to her place of marriage and birth.
Although this research has gone off the road for the moment, at least the records still offer a compass! Stay tuned!
1 Roman Catholic Church (Gradzanowo, Żuromin, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie,” 1865, Małżeństwa, no. 14, Antoni Nowicki and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, 13 February 1865, privately held by Archiwum Diecezjalne w Płocku, 09-400 Płock, Poland. Proofreading and editing of the following transcription and translation were kindly provided by Dr. Roman Kałużniacki.
“No. 14 Chomąc.
Działo się w Gradzanowie dnia trzynastego Lutego, tysiąc ośmset sześćdziesiątego piątego roku o godzinie trzeciej po południu. Wiadomo czynimy, iż w przytomności świadków Damazego Uzdowskiego, właściciela częściowego z Bojanowa, i Leona Kocięda, gospodarza z Chomącu po lat trzydzieści ośm mających—na dniu dzisiejszym zawarte zostało religijne małżeństwo między Antonim Nowickim, młodzianem, urodzonym w Kroczewie, synem Macieja i Joanny z Ługowskich małżonków Nowickich, w Bojanowie przy rodzicach zamieszkałym, lat dwadzieścia mającym, a Jadwigą Agnieszką Krogulską panną, urodzoną w Łaczewie, córką Marcina i Katarzyny z Pawełkiewiczów, małżonków Krogulskich, w Chomącu przy rodzicach zamieszkałą, lat dziewiętnaście mającą. Małżeństwo to poprzedziły trzy zapowiedzie w dniach dwudziestym drugim, dwudziestym dziewiątym Stycznia i piątym Lutego roku bieżącego w Kościele Parafialnym Gradzanowskim ogłoszone. Małżonkowie nowi oświadczają, iż umowy przedślubnej nie zawarli. Zezwolenie rodziców obojga nowozaślubionych, obecnych Aktowi małżeństwa ustnie oświadczone było. Obrząd ten religijny dopełwiony został przez miejscowego Kommendarza. Akt ten po odczytaniu przez nas został podpisany, Nowożeńcy i świadkowie pisać nie umieją. Xiądz Piotr Pawłowski Komm. Gradzanowski Utrzymający Akta Metryczne-Cywilne.”
14. Chomęc. It happened in Gradzanowo on the thirteenth day of February, in the year one thousand eighteen hundred and sixty-five, at three o’clock in the afternoon. We hereby declare that in the presence of witnesses Damazy Uzdowski, a part land owner from Bojanowo, and Leon Kocięda, a farmer from Chomęc, both thirty-eight years old, on this day was celebrated a religious wedding between Antoni Nowicki, a young man born in Kroczewo, son of Maciej and Joanna, nee Ługowska, the spouses Nowicki, residing in Bojanówo with his parents, aged twenty years, and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, single, born in Łaczewo, daughter of Marcin and Katarzyna, nee Pawełkiewicz, the spouses Krogulski, residing in Chomęc with her parents, aged nineteen years. This marriage was preceded by three announcements made at the Gradzanowo parish church on the twenty-second and twenty-ninth days of January and the fifth day of February of this year. The new spouses declare that they have not entered into any prenuptial agreement. The consent of the parents of both newlyweds who were present at the ceremony was verbally declared. This religious rite was performed by the local magistrate. This document having been read was signed by us, since the Newlyweds and the witnesses, do not know how to write.
Rev. Piotr Pawłowski Komm. Gradzanowo Keeping Civil Metrical Files.
2I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p. 272; digital image, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 19 March 2022).
3 Ibid., p. 405, “Myślin-Kocewo.”
4 Ibid., p. 299, “Kraszewo.”
5Roman Catholic Church (Radzanów, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Radzanowie, 1826-1909,” Akta Urodzonych w roku 1858, no. 100, Franciszek Nowicki; digital image, Metryki.GenBaza (https://metryki.genbaza.pl : 20 March 2022), image _M_1967.jpg, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie.
6Roman Catholic Church (Dabrowa, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymsko-katolickiej Dabrowa k. Mlawy, 1826-1912,” 1875, marriages, no. 9, Andrzej Nowicki and Józef Maciejewska; digital image, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 20 March 2022), Zespól: 0632/D- , image 008-009.jpg.
When researching, I sometimes stumble across records that are out of place or badly indexed. I’m usually struck with a feeling of empathy for some poor researcher out there, looking for a particular historical record and being unable to find it, due to this error.
Lost to Posterity
I’ve been researching my husband’s Lewandowski ancestors lately, and was searching in Ancestry’s database, “New York, U.S., Death Index, 1852-1956,” for a death record for yesterday. Anyone researching this popular Polish surname in U.S. records is probably familiar with the plethora of phonetic variants that were adopted by immigrant Lewandowskis. I’ve found that wildcard searching is an effective strategy for locating all possible variants, such as Levanduski, Levindoski, Lavandeski, Levinduskee, etc. All of these variants follow the pattern, L?v?nd?sk*, where ? replaces one character, and * replaces one or more characters. You can even go one step further, and search for L*nd*sk*, in consideration of the fact that some versions of the surname might have retained the original w instead of the English phonetic equivalent, v. This will return results which include the original spelling, Lewandowski, as well as variants such as Lanvondoski, Lawndowski, Lewandorsky, etc. Due to the popularity of this surname, it should go without saying that you’ll want to confine your search to a particular place and time period, to avoid an overwhelming number of search results.
But what about that first letter, L? Frequently, in old documents, the cursive upper case L was mistaken for an S. If the indexer could not read the handwriting on the original document, then Lewandowski and related phonetic variants could be indexed under Sewandowski. In fact, a search in Ancestry’s Passenger Lists database for the exact surname Sewandowski, produces 86 results. And while this number may not seem huge, it might be significant if your ancestor is among those 86 passengers.
Could Sewandowski be an authentic surname? Not likely. A search of nearly 44 million records in Geneszukacz—the search portal for all the databases of the Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Polish Genealogical Society)—produces exactly one result for Sewandowski, which includes Lewandowski as an alternate transcription of the surname, provided by the indexer. If the “Sewandowski” surname does not exist in Polish records, chances are good that all of those 86 passengers should have been indexed as Lewandowski.
This brings me back to my search for a Lewandowski death record. Bearing in mind this L-to-S transcription issue, I repeated my search in the New York Death Index, this time for *nd?sk*. Behold, search results included this one for Fanny Sewandoska, shown in Figure 1.
The entry appears with other S entries, so it’s evident that the mistake was made when the original, handwritten index was created from the death certificates. Since Ancestry permits the addition of alternate information to database entries, I added “Levandoska” as an alternate surname for Fanny. I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to the original Polish given name for “Fanny.” However, the fact that her surname was recorded in its feminine form, Levandoska, rather than Levandoski, suggests that she was probably an immigrant from Poland, since feminine surname endings were typically abandoned within a generation or two after immigration.
Conversely, we sometimes encounter “bonus records,” tucked into record books for one reason or another, that become found treasures. Back in 2014, while perusing microfilmed records from Transfiguration parish in Buffalo, New York, I stumbled across this baptismal certificate, shown in Figure 2.
The certificate was included as proof of baptism for a bride, Stella Kapela, who was married at Transfiguration church in 1911. The date on the certificate, 1943, was curious, since it was so much later than the records in the place where this certificate was tucked into the book. Perhaps Stella remarried in the parish in 1943? Her name, and her parents’ names, Jacob Kapela and Frances Kraczyk, meant nothing to me, but I did a double-take when I noticed that her godparents were Edward Levenduski and Veronica Lepkoski. Edward was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and Veronica was the sister of Edward’s wife, Mary (Woźniak) Levanduski. St. Stephen’s church in Middleport is the parish in which my mother-in-law’s paternal grandparents married, and it’s a good 40 miles from Transfiguration. Seriously, what were the chances that I’d be reading through the baptisms in one parish, for an unrelated family, and find names I recognized from a parish 40 miles away?!
Although my first thought was that Stella must be a relative, a little digging suggested that she is not. Rather, I think it’s likely that her family was connected to my husband’s family simply because they were all Poles from the Prussian partition, and specifically from the Posen province. Maybe if I dig back a few more generations, something more concrete will emerge, but for now, I think it’s time to lay this aside and move onto other things.
This past week, I’ve been busy with Majczyk research again. A woman named Debbie (whose name I’m using with permission) was seeking information on her grandfather, whose name was John Majczyk. An internet search on the surname led her to this blog post, and she found me on Facebook to see if I could help her learn more about her Majczyk ancestry.
Introducing Jan Majczyk
Debbie explained that her grandfather, Jan/John Majczyk, was a carpenter who came to the U.S. in 1913 on board the SS President Lincoln from “Bromidz, Plock, Poland.” She said that he was born on or about 23 June 1895, that he was the son of Antoni Majczyk and Mary Piankoska, and that he had a sister, Josephine, who moved to Michigan. She told me that John settled first in Northeast Pennsylvania before eventually migrating to Buffalo, New York.
Although I had no match for Jan Majczyk already in my tree, this was a very promising lead. My husband’s great-grandmother, Helena (Majczyk) Skolimowska, was born 23 September 1892 in the village of Rostowa, gmina Gradzanowo, Sierpc County, in the Płock province of the Kingdom of Poland (Russian partition), and she also migrated to Buffalo, New York.1 Helena’s father, Stanisław Majczyk, was born in the village of Bromierz, which is in the phonetic ballpark of “Bromidz.”2 Majczyk is not an exceptionally rare surname, but it’s not overly popular, either; circa 1990, there were only 258 bearers of this surname living in Poland.3 There had to be a connection between my husband’s family and Debbie’s.
I began with a quick search on Ancestry to confirm some of the facts Debbie provided. John’s World War II draft card confirmed his date of birth and residence in Buffalo, New York at that time (Figure 1).4
His passenger manifest confirmed his arrival date, 22 April 1913 on the SS President Lincoln (Figure 2).5
To briefly summarize the data from the manifest, Jan Majczyk (or Majczik, as the name was recorded here) was a 17-year-old single male, and an ethnic Polish citizen of Russia whose last permanent residence was recorded as “Falenczyn.” His nearest relative in the country from whence he came was noted to be his father, Anton Majczik, living in Falenczyn. Anton’s name would be Antoni in Polish, but was probably recorded in German because Jan embarked on his voyage from the port of Hamburg in Germany. He was headed to Wyandotte, Michigan, to a cousin named Franz (Franciszek, in Polish) Barczewski, living at 357 (?) Oak Street in Wyandotte, Michigan. This information appears on the second page of the manifest, not shown here. Jan’s place of birth was also recorded as Falenczyn.
The father’s name, Anton/Antoni, was consistent with Debbie’s information that Jan was the son of Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Piankoska. The fact that he was headed to Michigan was also not surprising, in light of the family story that a sister, Josephine, lived there. Additionally, the name, arrival date, age, ship’s name, etc. all lined up, allowing me to be certain that the Jan Majczyk described in this manifest was Debbie’s grandfather. The only significant discrepancy was the place of birth: this document stated that Jan was born in “Falenczyn,” while Debbie’s information was that he was born in “Bromidz, Plock, Poland.”
However, this discrepancy was quickly resolved with a look at the map. “Falenczyn” is phonetically similar in Polish to “Falęcin,” which you can hear if you plug both spellings into Google Translate and click the sound icon on the Polish input (left) side. There’s a village called Falęcin that’s located about 14 km/9 miles to the southeast of Bromierz where my husband’s Majczyk family originated (Figure 3).
The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, an index of places located within the Kingdom of Poland (Russian partition), published in 1877, shows an older spelling of Falęcin that is more similar to the spelling found on the manifest (Figure 4).6
This entry states that the village of Falencin/Falęcin located near Bromierz was formerly located in gmina Staroźreby, powiat Płocki (Płock County), in the Płock gubernia (province). Today the administrative assignments are similar (gmina Staroźreby, Płock County, Mazowieckie province), though it’s entirely possible that the gmina and powiat borders may not be the same now as they were then. Of special significance for locating vital records is the parish to which the village was assigned, Daniszewo. The next stop was the Polish vital records database, Geneteka, to see what indexed records were available for this parish.
The Quest for Jan’s Birth Record
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, Geneteka does not have indexed birth records for Daniszewo for the period necessary to locate Jan Majczyk’s birth record (Figure 5).
However, it was still possible that a scan of Jan’s birth record was online somewhere, even if it was not indexed in Geneteka, so I quickly checked a few places to see if that was the case. Metryki has no scans from Daniszewo. FamilySearch has a collection of civil transcripts of Roman Catholic birth records for Daniszewo that are digitized, although access to most of these records is restricted to the local Family History Center or Affiliate Library. However, the relevant collection, “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1900,” only includes birth records (Akta urodzeń) up to 1891.
The Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku (state archive in Płock) has the motherlode of vital records for Daniszewo, including a collection from 1826–1935, which spans the period when Jan Majczyk was born. Some of these registers (1826–1865, 1880–1888) are digitized at Szukajwarchiwach. However, records from 1895 are not digitized, which suggests that Jan’s birth record can only be obtained by writing to the archive. Nonetheless, I checked one final site, GenBaza, just in case they might have some scans from Daniszewo. Alas, they did not.
Digging Deeper in Daniszewo
Although it would have been nice to find Jan Majczyk’s birth record, further research was still possible without it. Debbie stated that Jan’s parents were Antoni Majczyk and Mary Piankoska, and a search of marriage records from Daniszewo for these names produced indexed marriage records for three of their daughters (Figure 6).
Although the mother’s maiden name was spelled “Pijankowska” in these entries, rather than “Piankoska,” this was a good phonetic match, which also identified three “new” sisters for Jan Majczyk—Helena, Marianna, and Czesława—all of whom were married in Daniszewo between 1909 and 1916. In the two entries for which additional information was provided through the “i” infodot in the “Remarks” column, it stated that the bride was born in Bromierz, bringing us closer to closing the circle and finding the connection between Debbie’s Majczyk family and my husband’s Majczyks.
Marriage records from Daniszewo were indexed in Geneteka from 1754–1916 with only two small gaps from missing records in 1766 and 1820. With no gaps in coverage during the time when Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska were married, and no marriage record produced by the above-mentioned search, it was clear that they must have been married in some other parish. Expanding the search to include all indexed parishes within 15 km of Daniszewo did not help matters. However, a search in all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province, turned up the result shown in Figure 7.
The index entry stated that Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska were married in 1884 in the parish of Bielsk. The groom was the son of Jacenty Majczyk and Katarzyna Łukaszewska, while the bride was the daughter of Mikołaj Pijankowski and Agnieszka Wąchowska. The added information from the infodot stated that the bride was from Szewce and that the marriage took place on 30 January 1884. Since the index entry was linked to a scan, I clicked through to the original record, which is shown in Figure 8.7
The record is in Russian, which was the official language required as of 1868 in this area, and I read it as follows.
This happened in the posad of Bielsk on the eighteenth/thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred eighty four at four o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Jan Urbański, thirty-three years, and Jan Matusiak, age thirty-nine, both farmers residing in Szewce—on this day a religious marriage was accomplished between Antoni Majczyk, bachelor, son of Jacenty and Katarzyna née Łukaszeska, the spouses Majczyk, born in Bromierz and therein now living with parents, twenty-five years of age; and Marianna Pijankoska, unmarried, daughter of the deceased Mikołaj and his wife, as yet living, Agnieszka née Wąchoska, the spouses Pijankoski; born in Szewce and therein now living, twenty-two years of age. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the thirteenth, twentieth, and twenty-seventh days of January of the current year in the parish churches of Bielsk and Rogotwórsk. Permission for the marriage was given orally by the father of the groom. The newlyweds stated that they made a prenuptial agreement on the thirteenth/twenty-fifth day of January one thousand eight hundred eighty-four, number eighty-five, before Notary Lubowidzki of Płock. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Reverend Jan Trzciński, pastor of Bielsk parish. This Act was read and signed only by Us; those present are unable to write. Keeper of the Civil Registry and Pastor of Bielsk Parish, Jan Trzciński.
Thanks to Monika Deimann-Clemens for her assistance in proofreading this translation.
The full text of the marriage record provides a number of details that were not included in the indexed entry. The groom, Antoni, was born in Bromierz circa 1859, based on his age at the time of his marriage. The bride, Marianna, was born circa 1862 in Szewce. As an amazing stroke of luck, Antoni and Marianna signed a premarital agreement on 25 January 1884 in Płock with the notary Lubowidzki. These premarital agreements can be goldmines of information if the notarial records have survived. It’s always been my dream to find one of these for my own ancestors (see this blog post), but I have thus far been unsuccessful. In this case, however, notarial deeds from 1871–1906 from Antoni Lubowidzki of Płock have survived and are available from the Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku, so a copy of this premarital agreement can be ordered from the archive.
Making the Connection
Having inched one generation further toward a possible connection, the focus turned to Antoni’s father, Jacenty (Hyacinth, in English) Majczyk. He was not in my family tree, either. However, one quick Geneteka search was all that it took to connect the dots (Figure 9).
I set up the search in marriage records from all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province for “Jac*” Majczyk” (to ensure inclusion of results for both Jacenty and its contemporary form, Jacek). In addition to turning up marriage records for three sisters of Antoni Majczyk—Józefa, Pelagia, and Julia—the search produced the marriage record needed to connect my husband’s family and Debbie’s. The index entry for the marriage of Jacenty Majczyk and Katarzyna Łukasiak (an etymological equivalent to Łukaszewska) from Rogotwórsk revealed that they were married on 15 January 1843, that they were from Bromierz, and that Jacenty Majczyk was the son of Jakub Majczyk and Jadwiga Mędlowska.
Jakub Majczyk and Jadwiga Mędlowska (or Mędlewska) were my husband’s great-great-great-great-grandparents. That makes Debbie a fourth cousin once removed to my husband, and a fourth cousin to my father-in-law, whose Majczyk line runs through Jacenty’s younger brother, Józef Majczyk. To put it another way, my husband’s great-grandmother, Helena (Majczyk) Skolimowska would have been second cousins with her fellow immigrant, Jan Majczyk (Debbie’s grandfather) when both of them settled in Buffalo, New York. Were they aware of their relationship, I wonder? Had they ever met in Poland or in the U.S.?
Jacenty and Katarzyna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 10.8
The record is in Polish, and my translation is as follows:
“No. 1. Bromierz. This happened in Rogotwórsk on the third/fifteenth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred forty-three at two o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Mikołaj Dłabik, a land-owning farmer, age sixty, and Rafał Drygalski, a mason, having forty-five years of age, both residents of Bromierz—on this day a religious marriage was accomplished between the upright Jacenty Mayczyk, bachelor, son of Jakób and Jadwiga née Mędlowska, the spouses Mayczyk, born in Bromierz on the seventeenth day of August in the year one thousand eight hundred twenty-one, living with his parents in Bromierz; and Miss Katarzyna Łukasiakówna, daughter of the deceased Roch and Konegunda, the spouses Łukasiak, born in Zdziar Wielki, having twenty-four years of age, living in Bromierz as a servant. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the twentieth, twenty-seventh days of December of the year one thousand eight hundred forty-two, and the third day of January of the current year/first, eighth, and fifteenth days of January of the current year on Sundays in the parish of Rogotwórsk, likewise by the oral permission of those present at the Marriage Act, the parents of the groom and the aunt of the bride. There were no impediments to the marriage. The newlyweds declared that they had made no premarital agreement. This document was read to the declarants and witnesses who are unable to write, and was signed by us.”
EDIT: Thanks to Roman Kałużniacki and Anna Kessling for helpful editions and discussion of this translation.
Even though this record is in Polish, and the preceding marriage record is in Russian, you can see how they follow the same formula. This is what makes vital records relatively easy to learn to translate, even without proficiency in Polish or Russian. The unusually awkward recording of dates in this record is due to the convention of double dating; that is, providing dates according to both the Julian calendar, used in Russia, and the Gregorian calendar, used by Poles and western Europe, and used by us today. In the 19th century, there were 12 days between the Julian and Gregorian dates, and the later date is the one we cite. Therefore, we’d say that the marriage took place on 15 January 1843 and the banns were announced on 1 January, 8 January, and 15 January.
When Debbie first contacted me to inquire about her grandfather, the name “John Majczyk” didn’t immediately ring any bells. However, in reviewing my Majczyk research notes, I noticed that I had discovered him previously, and wondered about a possible connection (Figure 11).
Who knew that, 20 years later, we’d have an answer to this question? And who knows what progress can be made with our Majczyk research, given another 20 years!
1Roman Catholic Church, Gradzanowo Kościelne (Gradzanowo, Żuromin, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie, 1873–1907,” 1892, Urodzenia [births], no. 98, Helena Majczyk, 23 September 1892; digital image, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 23 February 2022), Zespół 0619/D-, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie, Sygnatura 76/619/0.
2Roman Catholic Church, Rogotwórsk (Rogotwórsk, Płock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Rogotwórsku, 1826-1917,” 1860, Urodzenia [births], no. 37, Stanisław Majczyk; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://szukajwarchiwach.pl/50/159/0/-/65/skan/full/yD_N2CH4hl_7FF3PNvsoAg : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/159/0/-/65, image 8 of 33.
3 Słownik nazwisk (database), Serwis heraldyczno-genealogiczny (http://herby.com.pl/ : 23 February 2022), Nazwisko [surname] “Majczyk,” Ogólna liczba [total number] 258; citing Kazimierz Rymut, Słownika nazwisk współcześnie w Polsce używanych [Dictionary of Surnames Used in Poland Today]. Data from circa 1990.
4 “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 February 2022), John Augustine Majczyk, serial no. U2637, order no. unspecified, Draft Board 625, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York; citing The National Archives At St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri, World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) For the State of New York; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group no. 147, Box or Roll no. 379.
5Manifest, SS President Lincoln, arriving 22 April 1913, list 36, line 10, Jan Majczik; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com : 22 February 2022), citing Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.
6I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p 145, “Falencin,” digital images, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 23 February 2022).
7Roman Catholic Church, Bielsk parish (Bielsk, Płock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej Bielsk powiat plocki, 1826-1918,” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1884, marriages, no. 5, Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska; digital image, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/137/0/-/113, scan 78 of 142, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku.
8Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Rogotwórsk, Plock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Rogotwórsku, 1826-1914,” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1843, marriages, no. 1, Jacenty Mayczyk and Katarzyna Lukasiakówna, 15 January 1843; digital image, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/159/0/-/34, scan 20 of 39.
In my last post, I shared some recent discoveries I’ve made regarding my husband’s Drajem/Draheim ancestors, focusing on his great-great-great-grandmother, Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem. Her son, Augustyn Drajem, was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and his marriage certificate reported that he was born 25 July 1866 in Mielno, Mogilno county, located in the part of Poland that was under Prussian rule at the time.1 In the course of my research, I determined that the village of Mielno where August was born was probably the one that belonged to the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno, since his parents’ marriage was recorded in that parish, and both of them were noted to be residents of Mielno.2
However, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and until an actual birth record is found, one can’t make any definitive claims. So, I sought a birth record for Augustyn Drajem circa 25 July 1866 in the records from Niestronno.
I was half-successful.
Baptismal records from Niestronno for 1866–1913 are online at FamilySearch, starting here. Unfortunately, the first few pages of the register are missing (Figure 1).3
Nonetheless, if you look closely at the image in Figure 1, you’ll see that there is a Drajem/Drahaim baptism recorded on that page (Figure 2).4
This half of a baptismal record tells us that Josephus/Józef Drahaim [sic], a blacksmith, and Marianna Kaszyńska were the parents of a child baptized in 1866, with godparents Michael Kaszyński, who was a farmer, and Carolina Kaszyńska, who was a day laborer (“mercenaria;” the word is cut off in this image). Michael and Carolina are almost certainly relatives of Marianna, and further research can hopefully elucidate their precise relationships.
The record book was set up so that each entry extends across two facing pages. Since this book is missing the left side of the page, we’re missing the record number; the date, time, and place of birth; the date of baptism, the child’s name and sex, whether the child was legitimate or not, and the name of the priest who baptized the child, for each entry. The next page in the book shows what a complete baptismal entry should look like, but it contains only three baptisms from December 1866, and then the records from 1867 begin (Figure 3).5
Civil registration did not begin in Prussia until 1874,5 so these church records are the primary source for direct evidence of births that took place in Niestronno, and the villages belonging to this parish, prior to 1874. Thus, this may be the only birth record that exists for Augustyn Drajem. But is it really his? I think it’s likely, although further research in these records is necessary before we can state that with more confidence. Although the possibility exists that Augustyn was born before 1866, and that this baptismal record is for another, unidentified sibling, there’s only a remote possibility that Augustyn was born after 1866. Given existing evidence that Marianna was born between 1820–1822, she would have been 44–46 years old in 1866—pretty much at the end of her childbearing years.
Wojciech Drajem’s Baptismal Record
That said, I also discovered the baptismal record for Augustyn’s brother, Wojciech—in 1862, not 1867, which was the date of birth he reported in his life insurance application (Figure 4).7
Since this record is in Latin, Wojciech was recorded under the name Adalbert, which was commonly used as a Latin equivalent. Although you will almost never see it used in historical records, Voitecus is a more accurate Latin equivalent of the name Polish name Wojciech, which translates as “joyful warrior,” or “he who is happy in battle.”8 However, the Polish name Wojciech became conflated with the German name Adalbert centuries ago, when Saint Vojtěch of Prague took the name of his tutor, St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, at Confirmation, circa 970 AD.9 Interestingly, the German name Adalbert has nothing to do with the name Wojciech etymologically; it means “noble bright.”10
Getting back to the baptismal record, this tells us that Wojciech/Adalbert Drajem was born on 10 April 1862 in Mielno. (We can be sure that April, and not March, is meant because the column heading specifies year and month, rather than month and year). As expected, he was the legitimate son of Joseph Drajem, a blacksmith, and his wife, Marianna (Kaszyńska), both Catholic. Wojciech was baptized on 13 April, and his godparents were Joannes (Jan/Johann/John) Kaszyński, a farmer, and Elisabeth Siwa, a blacksmith’s wife. There’s another word after “agricola,” the godfather’s occuapation, that looks like “folius,” but that can’t be correct, so I’m moving on for now. [EDIT: After reading this article, my distant cousin, genealogical collaborator, and founder of the Genealogical Translations group on Facebook, Valerie Baginski, suggested that the word “filius” might be what’s intended here. That would mean that Jan Kaszyński was a farmer’s son, which seems very reasonable to me!] It’s becoming clear that the Kaszyńskis were a large family, since that surname is popping up so frequently among the godparents of the Drajem children.
You’ll notice that Wojciech/Adalbert Drajem was one of three boys named Adalbert in that image, all of whom were born at the end of March or in April. This is not a coincidence. Poles celebrate name days (imieniny), which are the feast days in the Catholic Church of baptismal patron saints for whom one is named. Sometimes, the liturgical calendar would influence the name that was chosen for a child, in that a child would be named after the saint on whose feast day the child was born, or whose feast day was close to the child’s date of birth. Since St. Wojciech’s feast day is April 23, it makes sense that boys born near this date would be named after him. This is the roundabout reason why some men named Wojciech opted to use the name George after immigration to the U.S.—April 23 is also the feast day of St. George, Święty Jerzy in Polish. So, even though the names Wojciech and Jerzy have nothing in common etymologically, they are linked through a common name day. A handy calendar of name days is here; it’s in Polish, but you can always use machine translation to get your bearings with navigating the website. Once you’ve figured out the basics, it’s best to view the site in Polish, to avoid potential problems with machine translation of Polish names.
At this point, my Drajem research is moving along nicely, and a small group of Drajem descendants and research collaborators has gathered to share photos and research discoveries via email. If you have a connection to this family and would like to participate, please send me a note through the “Contact” form at the top of this page.
1“Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki, 1874 – 1935,” Akta małżeństw 1874-1909, 1890, no. 13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/ : 28 January 2022), Sygnatura 11/711/0/2/50, scans 29-30 of 75.
2Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta małżeństw 1815-1865, 1850, no. 8, Joseph Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/: 28 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 3/DGS no. 8120936, image 593 of 1037.
3 Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Ksiegi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta urodzeń 1810-1865, 1866; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 28 January 2022), FHL film no. 2151453, item 2/DGS no. 8120936, image 831 of 1037.
4 Ibid., 4th entry on the page, partial baptismal record for unnamed child of Josephus Drahaim and Marianna Kaszynska.
7Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Ksiegi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta urodzeń 1810-1865, 1862, no. 9, Adalbertus Drajem, born 10 March 1862; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 28 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 2/DGS no. 8120936, image 511 of 1037.
I’ve been writing a lot about my Hodgkinson research lately, but today I’m going to shift gears and write about some new discoveries on my husband’s Drajem line.
Recently, I was contacted by Debbie, a fellow family historian who’s researching her granddaughter’s ancestry. That granddaughter is my husband’s fourth cousin once removed, and their most recent common ancestors were Józef and Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem. Prior to Debbie’s phone call, I knew nothing of earlier generations of the Drajem family; Józef and Marianna were the end of the line, and I knew only the outlines of their lives. However, after talking with her, I was inspired to dig a little deeper, and learn more about Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem’s story.
I was first introduced to Marianna back in November 2001, thanks to information contained in a life insurance application filed by her son, Wojciech Drajem. This was not an heirloom document, handed down in my husband’s family. Rather, this piece of genealogical gold was mined from the database, “Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA} Insurance Claim File Index,” where I discovered that a death claim packet was available for Wojciech Drajem. This database is maintained by the Polish Genealogical Society of America, which will provide copies of death claim packets for a very nominal fee. When my packet arrived, I was thrilled to discover that it contained Wojciech’s original life insurance application, medical examiner’s certificate, beneficiary certificate, death certificate, insurance claim, and letter of payment. Wojciech’s application, dated 6 February 1915, provided information about his parents and family of origin (Figure 1).1
This document identifies Wojciech’s mother as Marya (__) Drajem, and tells us that she died at the age of 83 of senility. Her husband was Józef Drajem, who died at the age of 50 of unknown causes. Wojciech stated that he had no brothers who were deceased, but one 44-year-old brother who was alive at that time and in good health. He had two living sisters, aged 51–60 years, and one sister who died in childbirth (the certificate states, “in labor”) at the age of 28.
Maryanna Drajem of Buffalo, New York
Back in 2001, as a baby genealogist, I assumed that Marya Drajem died in Poland. It wasn’t until I started researching the family of her daughter, Apolonia (Drajem) Samulski, that I discovered that Marya also immigrated to Buffalo, New York (Figure 2).2
In 1900, Maryanna Drajem was living at 33 Loepere Street with her son-in-law, Ignatz Samulski, daughter Apolonia, and their two children, Pelagia (“Pearl”) and Stanislaus (“Stanley”). She was recorded as a 78-year-old widow, born in February 1822 in “Poland Ger.,” which implies the Prussian partition of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (For a brief summary of Poland’s changing borders, see here.) Her immigration year was not recorded, but her son-in-law arrived in the U.S. in 1880, so it’s likely that she traveled with him and her daughter, or perhaps arrived a few years after they had settled in the U.S. A passenger record has not been found for her to date. Interestingly, this record states that Marianna was the mother of eleven children, seven of whom were still living at the time of the census, which is a bit different from the total of five children reported by Wojciech Drajem in his life insurance application.
Marie (Kaszyńska) Draheim of Buffalo, New York, and Mielno, Posen, Prussia
The first glimpse of Marianna in records from Poland came in this entry from the Poznań Project, which is a database of marriages that took place between 1800–1899 in the Prussian province of Posen and surrounding districts (Figure 3). (A complete list of covered parishes and civil registry offices is found here.)
If you’re new to the variations in surname spelling that are part and parcel of genealogical research, you may be alarmed by the degree to which “Drajem” differs from “Draheim.” Usually, the variants bear some phonetic resemblance to each other, so one way to check whether or not you’re on the right track is to hear the surnames pronounced in Polish using Google Translate. If you click on the “sound” icon in the Polish “input” box on the left, you’ll hear the surname pronounced by a Polish speaker. Similarly, it’s important not to be thrown off by the variety of given names we might find in the records pertaining to the same ancestor. In this case, Mary, Marya, Maria, Marie, Maryanna, and Marianna are all equivalent.
August Drajem was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and was the brother of Wojciech, whose insurance application was discussed previously. This index entry from the Poznań Project is helpful because it confirms their parents’ names as Józef and Marianna, and further identifies Marianna Drajem’s maiden name as Kaszyńska, in addition to the other information it provides. It also tells us that the original record came from the civil registry office in Kucharki, Wielkopolski, Poland, and fortunately, those records can be found online at Szukajwarchiwach, the online catalog for the Polish state archives. August and Agnes’s marriage record (which was also shared in a previous post) is shown below. (Figures 4a and b).3
“Kucharki 1st February 1890 1. Before the undersigned registrar appeared the farm servant August Draheim, personally known, Catholic, born on 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno, living in Kucharki, son of the deceased master tailor Josef Draheim and his wife Marianne, nee Kaszynska, living in America 2. the unmarried maiden Agnes Jamrozik, personally known, Catholic, born on 9 January 1865 in Kucharki, county Kleschen, living in Kucharki, daughter of the innkeeper Johann Jamrozik and his wife Rosalie, nee Juszczak, living in Kucharki. As witnesses appeared: 3. The innkeeper Jakob Tomalak, personally known, 60 yers old, living in Kucharki 4. the innkeeper Adalbert (Wojciech) Szlachetka, personally known, 48 years old, living in Kucharki … read, approved and signed August Draheim Agnieszka Draheim, nee Jamrozik Jakob Tomalak Wojciech Szlachetka The registrar signed Grzegorzewski
Kucharki, 8 February 1890 (signature)”
This document goes well beyond the information in the index entry from the Poznań Project, providing August Drajem’s exact date and place of birth as 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno. The marriage record also tells us that Marianna Drajem was already a widow by the time of August’s marriage in 1890 and living in “Amerika.” Although the Meyers Gazetteer indicates a number of places called “Amerika” that were located within the German Empire, we already have evidence from the census that Marianna had children living in Buffalo as early as 1880. Therefore, it’s quite plausible that the obvious “Amerika”—the United States of America—is really the one that was intended here.
In contrast, the obvious choice was not the correct one when it came to identifying the Mielno where the Drajem family was living when August was born. Although Mapa Szukacz identifies 17 places within the borders of Poland today that are called Mielno, the marriage record specifies that August was born in Mielno in Mogilno County. The Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego has a number of entries for places called Mielno, but the only one described as being in Mogilno County (“pow. mogilnicki”) was the one belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. Kartenmeister similarly offers 23 search results for places called Mielno, but only three entries mention Mogilno County. The three entries correspond to variant place names (Mielno, Moelno, Mölno) for the same village, belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. However, August’s birth record was not found in church records from Pakość in July 1866, nor was it recorded in this parish anywhere within the period from 1864–1867. This suggests that the Mielno located just north of Pakość is not the right place, after all, although other interpretations (i.e. August was born outside the range of years checked, or baptized as a Protestant who subsequently converted to Catholicism) are also possible.
Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłoska Draheim of Buffalo, New York and Mielno, Posen, Prussia
Despite this setback, the Poznań Project came through again with the marriage record for Józef Drajem/Draheim and Marianna Kaszyńska, which offered further insight (Figure 5).
This index entry was the only result in the database for a groom with the given name of Joseph/Józef/Josef and a surname phonetically similar to Draheim, and a bride named Marianna Kaszyńska, and her age is exactly what we would expect, given our previous evidence that points to a birth year circa 1822. The index entry informs us that Marianna and Józef married in Niestronno, that Marianna had been married previously to a man with the surname Radłoski, that her father was deceased, and that her mother’s name was Rosalia Kaszyńska.
Records from the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno are also online, this time at FamilySearch, which permits at-home access to these images (as opposed to viewing only at a Family History Center or Affiliate Library) after logging into a free FamilySearch account. Józef and Marianna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 6.5
Due to the faded ink, the bleed-through from the reverse pages, the cramped handwriting, and my rudimentary ability to read Latin, this one took some time to decipher, and I ran into a bit of trouble in some spots. So, I ran it past my friend, Marcel Elias, for corrections and insights, and with thanks to Marcel, the transcription is as follows:
[Annus Dies et Mensis Copulationis]1850. 7 Julii
[Nomen sacerdotis benedicicensis matrimonium] Bartholem. Cieśliński, Commen’us (“commendarius”) ac Decanus
[Nomen et cognomen Copulatorum, denominatio, domicili, status artis vel Conditionis vitae, et atrum in Ecclesia art privato loco consecrati sunt] Joseph Drahim, ferrifeber, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonisca. Uterque ex Mielno. Copulati in Ecclesia.
[Num copulati vel una pars eorum vinculo matrimonii obstricti vel obstricta fuit. Num sub potestate parentum vel faterum existunt] Juvenis sub potestale parentium. Vidua
[Aetas sponsi]28 [sponsae] 28
[Religio sponsi] Cath. [sponsae] Cath.
[Nomen et cognomen parentum: Sponsi] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Sponsae] Pater mortuus, mater Rosalie Kaszyńska
[Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii… atetaris matrimonium contractum sit] Sponsus cum consenca parentum Sponsa Judi ???? 14 Juni 1850 II 4633
[Dies promulgati onum] 16, 23 et 30 Juni
[Nomen et cognomen, Ors et Conditio vitae adstantium testiam] Adalb. Kaszyński agran (?), Joan Berunt agran., Adalb. Kraczo (?) agran (?)
Translated, this states,
[Year, Day, and Month of Marriage] 7 July 1850
[Name of the priest who blessed the marriage] Bartłomiej Cieśliński, pastor and dean
[Given and surname of those married, denomination, domicile, state or condition of life, and whether the marriage took place in church or in a private location] Joseph Drahim, blacksmith, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonist, both of Mielno. Married in church.
[Whether one of them was bound by matrimony. Whether they are under parental control, or in control of their own fates] Young man under parental control. Widow.
[Age of the groom] 28 [of the bride] 28
[Religion of the groom] Cath. [of the bride] Cath. (Catholic)
[Given name and surname of the parents: Groom] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Bride] father deceased, mother Rosalie Kaszyńska
[Whether the marriage was contracted with parental consent, or with judicial (?) permission] The groom with parental consent, the bride, with permission from 14 June 1850, II 4633 (?)
[Dates on which the banns were published] 16, 23 and 30 June
[Given name and surname, origin and condition of life of present witnesses] Adalbert Kaszyński, farmer, Jan Berunt, farmer, Adalbert Kraczo?
This record is packed with both information and mysteries. Consistent with the index entry from the Poznań Project, the record states that 28-year-old Joseph Drahim, a blacksmith, married 28-year-old widow, Marianna Radłoska on 7 July 1850 in the Roman Catholic church in Niestronno. (I would argue that Joseph’s surname is spelled Drahim, rather than Drahem, in the two places in which it was recorded in this document, but that’s a minor point.) Marianna has a curious notation after her name, “/: Liebener :/,” and the way that it’s written seems to suggest that Liebener was her maiden name, rather than Kaszyńska. Her parents’ names don’t shed much light on the situation, since her father’s name was not provided, and her mother’s name was recorded as Rosalie Kaszyńska, which could be interpreted as a maiden name. However, the other entries on this page do not provide mother’s maiden names; mothers were referred to by their married names, as was the case with Joseph’s parents, Adalbert and Anna Drahim. Moreover, the priest had a pattern of not recording names of deceased parents of the brides and grooms, from which we might infer that any parents whose names were recorded were still alive at the time of the wedding. So, the evidence does seem to favor Kaszyńska as Marianna’s maiden name, and it suggests that her mother, Rozalia (__) Kaszyńska, was still alive in 1850. For now, the “Liebener” notation remains a mystery, and its significance will depend on further research.
The record indicates that Marianna needed some sort of judicial permission in order to remarry, but it’s not entirely clear whether this was from a religious or civil authority. Marcel noted that the phrasing, “Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii…” could suggest that in some cases, the parish was the legal guardian of a person, if the father or both parents of a minor groom/bride were deceased, since luterum is a medieval Latin term for a baptismal font. It may be that the document referenced as granting permission for the remarriage, “14 Juni 1850 II 4633,” can be found in the parish archive.
In addition to providing an introduction to three “new” ancestors for my husband and children—Adalbert and Anna Draheim and Rozalia (__) Kaszyska—this marriage record states that both the bride and groom were from Mielno, which helps us to identify the specific Mielno where August Drajem was born. The village of Mielno that belongs to the parish in Niestronno is, in fact, located in present-day Mogilno County, gmina Mogilno, and I’m still baffled as to why it was not showing up in either of the two gazetteers I checked. These locations are shown in Figure 7.
Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłowska of Popielewo, Mielno, and Buffalo
Although the record of Marianna Kaszyńska’s marriage to Józef Draheim made no mention of her father’s name, it seemed possible that this information was included in the record of her first marriage to (__) Radłoski. I searched the Poznań Project again for brides named Marianna Kaszyńska and grooms with the surnames that were at least 60% phonetically similar to Radłoski. There were no good matches. However, when I repeated the search, leaving off the groom’s surname entirely, a probable match was obtained (Figure 8).
The bride’s age suggests a birth in 1820, which would be a couple years off from prior evidence that she was born in 1822; however, this is still within a reasonable ballpark. Records for the Roman Catholic parish in Trzemeszno are online at FamilySearch, so the original image was retrieved and is shown in Figure 9.6
Although this record, too, was a bit disappointing in that it omitted the names of the couple’s parents, it is almost certainly the correct marriage record for our Marianna Kaszyńska. If you look closely, it’s clear that the groom’s name was actually Stephan Radłowski, and was mistranscribed as Racławski. A death record for Stephan dated prior to 1850 would provide further evidence that this interpretation is correct. The record identifies Popielewo as the village where the marriage took place, and since it was traditional to hold the wedding in the bride’s parish, this suggests that Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem was living in Popielewo in 1838 (Figure 10).
The existence of a previous marriage for Marianna, and the likelihood that she had children with her first husband in those years prior to her marriage to Józef Drajem, may also help to reconcile the discrepancy between Wojciech’s statement that he had one brother and three sisters, with Marianna’s statement in the 1900 census that she was the mother of 11 children. Perhaps Wojciech was considering only his full siblings, neglecting to mention his six half-siblings from his mother’s previous marriage? Further research is required to find the answer.
While this research is far from finished, we have at least opened the door to further discovery in records from Poland. At the outset, we knew little more than Mary Drajem’s name. Now we have evidence that Marianna Kaszyńska was born circa 1820–1822 to a mother named Rozalia (__) and an unknown Kaszyński father, who was deceased by 1850. Marianna was married in Popielewo, Posen, Prussia (Trzemeszno parish) to Stephen Radłowski on 11 November 1838. There is some evidence to suggest that she might have had six children with Stephen Radłowski, and a focus of further research will be the identification of all of her children.
At some point, she moved from Popielewo to Mielno, where she was living when she married Józef Drajem in 1850, following the death of her first husband. She had four children with Józef who have been identified thus far, in research not discussed here: Antonina (b. 1851), Apolonia (b. May 1859), Augustyn (b. 25 July 1866), and Wojciech (b. 12 April 1867). We can infer that Józef died circa 1872, since his marriage record suggests a date of birth circa 1822, and Wojciech’s life insurance application stated that his father died at the age of 50. At some point between 1880 and 1890, Marianna Drajem migrated to Buffalo, New York, where she was living with her daughter, Apolonia Samulska, in 1900. Since Wojciech Drajem reported that his mother died at the age of 83, we can infer that she died circa 1905, and seek death and burial records for confirmation.
In my next post, I hope to discuss some further discoveries I’ve made for the Drajem family. Stay tuned.
1 Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Applicant’s Certificate (Zeznania Kandydata) for Wojciech Drajem, 6 February 1915, claim no. 22169, certificate no. 112904.
2 1900 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 14, Enumeration District 110, sheet 29B, house no. 33, family no. 533, lines 59-63, Ignatz Samulski household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 23 January 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, no roll specified.
3“Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki, 1874 – 1935,” Akta malzenstw 1874-1909, 1890, no. 13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/ : 23 January 2022), Sygnatura 11/711/0/2/50, scans 29-30 of 75.
4 Johann Kargl, reply to post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, Genealogy Translations (Facebook group), 27 March 2016.
5Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta małżeństw 1815-1865, 1850, no. 8, Joseph Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/: 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 3/DGS no. 8120936, image 593 of 1037.
6Roman Catholic Church, Trzemeszno parish (Trzemeszno, Gniezno, Wielkopolskie, Poland), “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1874,” Copulatorum, 1837 – 1842, 1838, no. 22, Stephen Radłowski and Maria Kaszyńska, 11 November 1838; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2004406, item 20/DGS no.8020665, image 847 of 873.
In my last post, I summarized the basic vital data about John Hodgkinson, United Empire Loyalist (U.E.), that I believe is supported by evidence from the historical record. However, there are quite a few family trees out there that make some unusual claims and connections to this family, and offer no evidence to support those assertions. Today, I’d like to discuss a few of the common claims regarding the origins and immediate family of John Hodgkinson.
Let’s begin with a few of the most popular statements found in family trees pertaining to John Hodgkinson, U.E.:
John Hodgkinson was born 29 November 1750 in London, England.
John Hodgkinson was born 29 December 1753 in Mansfield, Nottingham, England to John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley.
John Hodgkinson was married to Sarah Carey Marle on 6 June 1781 in St. Leonards, Shoreditch, London, England.
John Hodgkinson died on 26 October 1826.
John Hodgkinson had other children besides the ones discussed previously (namely, Samuel, Ellender, Francis, and Robert).
Let’s examine these individually.
Statement 1: John Hodgkinson was born 29 November 1750 in London, England
Records from the Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground indicate that John Hodgkinson, U.E., was born in 1750 and died in 1832,1 but there is no specific birth date suggested by Canadian records, nor do we have any definitive evidence for where he might have been born. Certainly, as a Loyalist, he was living in the American Colonies prior to the start of the Revolutionary War, but that’s about all we know for sure. The lack of promising matches for John’s birth or baptism in indexed collections of American Colonial records suggests that there might be some merit to the hypothesis of a birth in England, however. Moreover, the Greater London area was something of a hotspot for this surname in 1881, based on the surname distribution map shown in Figure 1.2 Unfortunately, data for years prior to 1881 are not available, but assuming it’s safe (?) to extrapolate these data to the previous century, then we can infer that the Hodgkinson surname was also quite prevalent in Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, and Staffordshire at the time of John Hodgkinson’s birth. (The popularity within those counties varies based on the the specific parameter in consideration—incidence, frequency, or rank within the area.)
Unfortunately, geographic surname distributions are not especially helpful at predicting a family’s origins when it comes to relatively popular surnames. It doesn’t matter if there were only nine Hodgkinsons living in Northumberland in 1881; if you can definitively trace your ancestry back to them, then you don’t care that the surname is relatively rare in Northumberland. So, while it’s entirely possible that John Hodgkinson, U.E., was born in London on 29 November 1750—and plenty of people seem to believe this to be true, based on all those online trees out there—there needs to be some evidence for this assertion, because that’s certainly not the only place he could have been born. In fact, a quick search of indexed records on FamilySearch for “John Hodgkinson” born in London, England in 1750, produces a slew of possible vital records from all over England. “Hodgkinson” is just not an especially unique surname, so it’s not clear to me how a certain percentage of the Genealogical Community at Large decided that this information was reliable.
Statement 2: John Hodgkinson was born 29 December 1753 in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England to John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley
This second hypothesis is perhaps even more popular than the first, and what makes it so intriguing is that some evidence is offered for this assertion. Several Hodgkinson trees online cite birth records for John Hodgkinson, William Hodgkinson, and a purported sister, Mary Hodgkinson, all baptized in Mansfield, and all of whom were recorded as children of John and Sarah Hodgkinson.3 Moreover, there’s a marriage record for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley, who are assumed to be the parents of these children.4 John’s “birth record” is shown in Figure 2.
On the surface, these data fit the research problem nicely, and it’s very appealing to hope that this hypothesis might be true. Mansfield in Nottinghamshire lies squarely within that “Hodgkinson surname hot zone” shown in Figure 1. Although no maiden name was reported for the mother on the baptismal records of John (baptized 29 December 1753), Mary (baptized 6 April 1755), and William (baptized 10 April 1759), it’s logical to suppose that they might be siblings since the parents’ names are the same in all cases, and they were all baptized in the same place. The marriage of John Hodgkinson “Senior” and Sarah Godley in Mansfield England on 25 June 1752 would fit nicely with the timing of the children’s births, suggesting that this groom and bride might be the same John and Sarah Hodgkinson that were identified in the baptismal records. But how does this family group compare with existing data for the Loyalist Hodgkinsons?
Well, John’s baptism in 1753 is sufficiently close to his documented birth date of 1750 as to make this plausible, especially since the birth date recorded in the Hodgkinson Burying Ground records may have been calculated from his supposed age at the time of death, which may have been “off” by a few years. The structure of this family group is consistent with Canadian evidence indicating that John Hodgkinson was older than his brother, William, as well. It’s also possible that the Mary Hodgkinson identified in the baptismal record could be the “Mary Huskinson” who was recorded as the godmother to Ellender “Huskinson” in the records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Schaghticoke.5 However, if this hypothesis is correct, then William was baptized quite a long time after his birth on 12 August 1751, which is the date cited by the transcript of grave markers from the Hodgkinson Family Burying Ground.6 Could it be that he was actually born in 1751, but baptized as late as 1759? That seems unlikely, in light of existing evidence that the vast majority of babies were baptized within a week after birth in 16th- and 17th-century England.7 Nonetheless, exceptions did exist, and some families were more lax than others in baptizing their children soon after birth. Furthermore, if this were true for the Hodgkinson family of Mansfield, it would also help to reconcile that discrepancy between John’s date of birth according to his grave marker (1750) and his date of baptism.
Any time we find an “index only” record, such as these records for the baptisms of the Hodgkinson siblings and the marriage record for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley, it’s useful to go to the source and view the original documents from which the indexed information was taken. John Hodgkinson’s birth record was found in Ancestry’s “England and Wales Christening Index, 1530–1980” database, and the marriage record for John Hodgkinson (“Senior”) and Sarah Godley was similarly found in Ancestry’s “England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988” database. As the source for the information in both these databases, Ancestry cites the British Isles Vital Records Index, 2nd Edition, published by the Genealogical Society of Utah (the progenitor of FamilySearch) as the source. So in this case, the source of the information is an index citing another index.
A similar situation occurs when searching for these individuals at FamilySearch. William’s and Mary’s birth records can be found in the database, “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” and I suspect that John must be in there as well, although he was curiously absent in searches of the database, both broad and narrow. Mary’s search result is shown in Figure 3.
This particular database is one of FamilySearch‘s “Legacy” databases. Unlike collections of indexed historical records from one particular place, FamilySearch‘s Legacy collections are compilations of records obtained from a variety of sources, including user-contributed (i.e. unverified) data previously published in the International Genealogical Index (IGI). As FamilySearch cautions on their Wiki article about this database, “As this is an index of records compiled from various sources, it is strongly recommended that you verify any information you find with original records.”
Where to find those original records? An easy way to do that is to click on the drop-down arrow for “Document Information.” This displays important information about the original source, as shown in Figure 4, including the digital folder number and the microfilm number.
FamilySearch has recently made some updates to their website, and that may be why some of the search features and links seem “glitchy” to me. You’d think, for example, that clicking on the microfilm number shown in Figure 4 would take you to the catalog entry for that film number. Unfortunately, it links instead to a “No Results Found” page in the Records search. That means we have to take matters into our own hands and navigate to the FamilySearch Catalog, and from there, choose “Search for Film/Fiche Number,” and then paste in (or retype) the film number, 503789. That brings up the page shown in Figure 5.
This tells us that Film number 503789 contains Bishop’s transcripts from two different parishes in Nottinghamshire, Linby and Mansfield. Since the indexed entry stated that the Hodgkinsons were from Mansfield, we can assume it’s that second collection, “Items 2–3: Bishop’s transcripts, Mansfield (Nottingham), 1598–1903” that must contain the images of the baptismal records for John, William and Mary Hodgkinson. (In fact, as an alternative to looking up the film number contained in the Document Information, we could also search according to Place [Mansfield] in the FamilySearch Catalog and find the original images that way.)
Following through with either one of those methods will bring us to the page shown in Figure 6, which contains details on the available Bishop’s transcripts from the parish of Mansfield.
At last, our efforts are rewarded with the information that items 2–3 on film 503789 contain “Baptisms, marriages, burials, 1598–1760,” which is right where we would expect to find the three Hodgkinson baptismal records and the parents’ marriage record. Since the images are not available for home viewing, I had to visit my local FamilySearch Affiliate Library in order to obtain copies. Unfortunately, the original images contain no additional information beyond what was indexed. William Hodgkinson’s birth is shown in Figure 7 as an example.8
So what does this do for us in evaluating the hypothesis that John Hodgkinson, U.E., was baptized in Mansfield on 29 December 1753 and was the son of John Hodgkinson and Sarah, whose maiden name was probably Godley? As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out. Reasonably exhaustive research is one of the criteria required by the Genealogical Proof Standard before we can consider this hypothesis to be proven. While evidence from Canadian records may well have been exhausted, there may still be some insight that can be gained from deeper research in British records. Do John, William and Mary Hodgkinson “disappear” from British records, or can potentially relevant marriage or death records be found, which might imply that these individuals did not emigrate? Do the original parish vital records (not bishop’s transcripts) contain any information not found in the copies? Can evidence for the departure of John, William and Mary Hodgkinson be found in parish chest records from Mansfield? Can probate records be discovered for John Senior or Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson, which mention children living in the American Colonies? Until answers are found to these questions, I think it can only be said that this is an interesting—and plausible—hypothesis in need of further research.
Statement 3: John Hodgkinson was married to Sarah Carey Marle on 6 June 1781 in St. Leonards, Shoreditch, London, England.
Moving right along, there are a number of family trees that contain the claim that the Sarah Hodgkinson who was married to John Hodgkinson, U.E., was in fact, Sarah Carey Marle (1782–1854). According to these trees, Sarah was the mother of Samuel, Robert, and Francis Hodgkinson of Grantham, Upper Canada. These claims originate with this marriage record for John Hodgkinson and Sarah Carey from St. Leonard’s Church (also known as Shoreditch Church) in London (Figure 8).9
This marriage record can be considered as solid evidence that a John Hodgkinson, widower, married Sarah Carey on 6 June 1781 in the presence of Mary Stoneley and William Burgess at Shoreditch Church, but it’s an obvious case of mistaken identity to assume that this record has anything at all to do with John Hodgkinson, U.E.. Sarah Spencer was clearly identified as the wife of John Hodgkinson in his land petition, and in 1781, John was presumably in active service with Butler’s Rangers, since they did not disband until 1784.10 It’s unlikely that he took a quick jaunt back to England to enter a bigamous marriage with Sarah Carey. Sorry, folks, you’ve got the wrong John Hodgkinson.
Statement 4: John Hodgkinson died on 26 October 1826.
John’s grave marker stated that he died in 1832, with no specific date given.11 He does not appear in the index of wills for Lincoln County, Ontario (1796-1918), which is good evidence that he did not leave a will, which might have been helpful in narrowing down a date of death.12 Barring the discovery of any previously-unknown church death records or newspaper obituaries, the date on that grave marker seems to provide the best estimate for John Hodgkinson’s date of death. So where does the date of 26 October 1826 come from? I suspect that this error stems from confusion with the date of death of John’s wife, Sarah Hodgkinson. There’s good evidence that she died in 1826; her death notice was published in the Farmer’s Journal and Welland Canal Intelligencer on Wednesday, 1 November 1826, stating, “Died…In Grantham, on Tuesday last, of dropsy, Mrs. Sarah Hodgkinson, wife of Mr. John Hodgkinson, at an advanced age. The funeral will take place at his residence tomorrow, at 12 o’clock, at noon.”13 Although “Tuesday last” seems to suggest the previous day, 31 October 1826, it could be argued that perhaps the previous Tuesday, 24 October, was meant. Regardless of which date you prefer, it was clearly Sarah Hodgkinson who died in October 1826, and not John, since the wording of the death notice strongly suggests that he was still alive and would be present at his wife’s funeral on 2 November.
Statement 5: John Hodgkinson had other children besides the ones discussed previously (namely, Samuel, Ellender, Francis, and Robert).
There are quite a few family trees out there that attach additional children to John Hodgkinson, U.E., and either of the two wives, Mary Moore and Sarah Spencer, who are supported by evidence from historical documents. Some assert that John had a son, William James Hodgkinson, or a son, Spencer Hodgkinson. Others claim that he had a daughter, Rebecca, or a daughter, Sarah. No sources are cited for these claims, and I believe that’s because there aren’t any to cite. Let’s remember that there was an important monetary advantage to being the son or daughter of a Loyalist in Upper Canada in the late 18th- and early 19th centuries, since each son or daughter of a Loyalist was entitled to a free land grant (typically 200 acres) from the British Crown. It would be unusual for any children of John Hodgkinson who survived to adulthood to neglect this opportunity for free land, and no other land petitions exist for children of John Hodgkinson except for those already cited, for Samuel, Francis and Robert. You don’t have to take my word for that; consider evidence from William D. Reid’s book, The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada, in which he, too, identifies only these children of John Hodgkinson (Figure 9).14
Of course, one could argue that William James, Spencer, Sarah, or Rebecca were nonetheless children of John Hodgkinson, but that they died before reaching an age at which they could petition for a land grant. After all, there is no land petition for Ellender Hodgkinson, yet I’m of the opinion that she was a child of John Hodgkinson and his first wife, Mary Moore. However, the difference is that there is a baptismal record identifying Ellender as a child of John and Mary “Huskinson,” as discussed in my last post, whereas I can find no evidence that these other putative children actually do belong in this family group. It’s not enough to say, “Hmm… I’ve got a Rebecca Hodkginson who was supposed to have been born in Canada in the right time frame for her to be the daughter of John Hodgkinson, U.E… I guess she must be his daughter!” Essentially, that is proposing a hypothesis, and it’s perfectly okay to do that, as long as your online tree indicates in some way that this is your own, unproven, pet theory. To avoid confusing newbies, however, it’s probably more prudent to keep those trees private, so that you can provide appropriate cautions about the hypothetical relationships in your tree when curious people write to you for more information.
Although the Hodgkinson family presents just one example, the issue of hasty, careless, or poorly-reasoned research is pervasive in the world of genealogy. I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to “name and shame” anyone. In fact, I deliberately avoided citing specific online trees where these errors are found. Instead, my hope is to encourage family historians to be a bit more critical and discerning when evaluating evidence from historical sources, rather than jumping on the “same name” bandwagon. We all make mistakes, and in our enthusiasm for pushing back just one generation further, it can be easy to overlook pesky facts that don’t fit our hypotheses very well. However, we owe it to ourselves and to our ancestors to get their stories right, to the best of our ability.
4“England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021), John Hodgkinson and Sarah Godley, 25 June 1752, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.
5 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 10 October 2021), Ellender Huskinson, baptized 23 November 1778; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11.
8“Bishop’s transcripts, Mansfield (Nottingham), 1598-1903,” Baptisms, marriages, burials, 1598-1760, 1759, Baptisms, William Hodgkinson, son of John and Sarah Hodgkinson, 10 April 1759; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 7 October 2021), FHL film no. 503789/DGS no. 7565515, image 551 of 566.
9“London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021), John Hodgkinson and Sarah Carey, 6 June 1781; citing London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers; Reference Number: P91/LEN/A/01/MS 7498/12.
Ernest Cruikshank, The Story of Butler’s Rangers and the Settlement of Niagara (Welland, Ontario: Tribune Printing House, 1893), p. 113; ebook, Project Gutenburg Canada (https://gutenberg.ca/: 10 October 2021).
11 Parnell, p 2.
12Lincoln County (Ontario) Registrar of Deeds, “Will Index, 1796–1918;” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 10 October 2021), surnames beginning with “H,” images 55–68 of 160.
13Farmers’ Journal and Welland Canal Intelligencer (St. Catharines, Upper Canada), 1 November 1826 (Wednesday), p 3, col 4, death notice for Sarah Hodgkinson; online images, Google News (https://news.google.com/ : 10 October 2021).
14William D. Reid, The Loyalists in Ontario: The Sons and Daughters of the American Loyalists of Upper Canada (Lambertville, NJ, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1973), p 150, Hodgkinson, John of Grantham; ebook, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 10 October 2021).