Still Searching For Antonina Naciążek: Some New Insights into Old Data

Sometimes I find that it pays to take a break from my research on a particular family line. When I come back to it, I notice clues in the data that I missed the first time around. This happened recently when I returned to the question of the parentage of one of my Brick Wall Ancestors, my great-great-grandmother Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, who was born circa 1828, married Ignacy Zarzycki circa 1849, and died after 1904. I’ve written about her in several posts previously, and she continues to haunt me. The crux of the problem is that all her children were baptized in Rybno parish, Sochaczew County, but she herself must have been from another parish, since there is no birth, marriage or death record for her in the records of Rybno.

The Search for Antonina, Revisited

My strategy thus far has been to search vital records in the popular database Geneteka in order to identify the families that were living in the vicinity of Rybno with the surname Naciążek, or with one of the known variant forms of this surname, Maciążek and Raciążek, to discover potential parents for Antonina. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is limited by major gaps in the indexed records in Giżyce and Sochaczew, which are the two local parishes where this surname is most prevalent. Records for Giżyce are especially limited, since there are no records for this parish in the diocesan archive in Łowicz. Moreover, the only vital records from Giżyce from the relevant time period that are in possession of the state archive in Grodzisk Mazowieckie are from 1810, and 1823-1825, all of which are indexed in Geneteka. This suggests that most of the records for Giżyce are at the parish itself, where they can only be accessed onsite, at the discretion of the parish pastor.  The situation for Sochaczew is somewhat better, since marriage records are available from the diocesan archive in Łowicz with no gaps from 1802-1842, although there is a large gap after that, from 1843-1861, which is when Antonina Naciążek would have been married (circa 1849).

Search results in Geneteka point to two couples who emerge as most likely candidates for Antonina’s parents. The first couple, Francizek Naciążek and Marianna Kowalska, married in Sochaczew in 1826. The entry noted that the groom was from the nearby parish of Giżyce, so it’s quite possible that they moved back there after their marriage. Since Geneteka contains no birth records from Giżyce after 1825, it’s impossible to identify any children that Franciszek and Marianna might have had without onsite research. My great-great-grandmother Antonina may have been one of those children.

The second couple was Mateusz Naciążek and Petronella Trawińska, who were already married by 1824 when their daughter, Marianna, was born in Giżyce. The data suggest that they subsequently moved to Sochaczew parish, where they had sons Michał in 1826, Stanisław Andrzej in 1832, and Ignacy in 1834, and a daughter, Florentyna Marianna, in 1836. Notice the 6-year gap in the births to this couple after Michał’s birth in 1826?  Such a large spacing is unusual in a family, and as luck would have it, Antonina’s birth circa 1828 would fall right into that gap. This gap in births can’t be explained by any gaps in the available records for Sochaczew, since birth records from this parish are indexed during this entire time period. However, these data are consistent with the hypothesis that Mateusz and Petronella moved back to Giżyce after 1826. Since birth records from Giżyce are not available after 1825, it’s entirely possible that Mateusz and Petronella were the parents of Antonina, circa 1828, and possibly even an additional child born circa 1830 whose births would not show up in Geneteka.

So the focus is presently on Giżyce, whose records might hold a birth record for Antonina, as well as her marriage record. Her death record remains elusive, however. Antonina was still noted be living in 1904 when her son Leonard married, but her husband, Ignacy Zarzycki, died in 1901.1 As a 76-year-old widow, one might expect Antonina to continue living in her own home with assistance from her children, or to move in with one of her adult children. Unfortunately, the former hypothesis does not bear up, because there is no death record for Antonina Zarzycka in the parish records of Rybno or the civil records of the gmina (a gmina is an administrative district smaller than a county, similar to a township). Nor have I been able to find a death record for her in the civil records of gmina Iłów, to which the parish of Giżyce belongs, or in the civil records of Sochaczew. However, the search is frustrated by local registry offices claiming that some books were transferred to the regional archive in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, while that archive asserts that they don’t have the books, so therefore they must be in the local registry offices. Moreover, if Antonina fled her home during the confusion and chaos of World War I, it’s entirely possible that her death may not have been recorded.

Research on the families of each of Antonina’s children is still a work in progress which needs to be completed in order to identify every location where Antonina’s death may have been recorded if she was living with one of her children when she died. Of Antonina’s 11 children, six survived to adulthood and married, four died in childhood or as young unmarried adults, and one is thus far unaccounted for. The six who married included daughters Marianna Gruberska, who was living near Łowicz as of 1887, Paulina Klejn, who was living near Sochaczew as of 1880, and Aniela Gruberska, who was living near Młodzieszyn as of 1914, as well as sons John Zazycki, who was living in North Tonawanda, New York, until his death in 1924, Karol Zarzycki, who was living in Warsaw as of 1908, and Leonard Zarzycki, who was also living in Warsaw as of 1905. No promising match for Antonina’s death record is found in the indexed death records in Geneteka, and there’s no evidence to suggest that she emigrated. Since Łowicz and Warsaw both contain multiple Catholic parishes, finding Antonina’s death record without knowing her exact date of death will be challenging.

The Search for Marianna Kowalska, Revisited

That brings us back to the search for Antonina’s birth and marriage records, which might be easier to locate than her death record. Previously, while gathering clues about Antonina’s early life, I noted an interesting set of records pertaining to the family of Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska, whom I hypothesized might be Antonina’s sister. I discovered Marianna by reasoning that one might expect to find other Naciążek relatives of Antonina’s in the records of Rybno, since family members often settled near one another. In fact, this surname was generally not found in Rybno, with one exception: the 1903 marriage record of one Roch Kowalski mentioned that he was the son of Marianna Naciążek and Aleksander Kowalski.2 The record indicated that Roch was born in Giżyce, and further research revealed four additional children of Aleksander Kowalski and Marianna Naciążek, all of whom married in Giżyce, Sochaczew, or Iłów, underscoring the importance of these parishes— especially Giżyce and Sochaczew—to my quest for the origins of my great-great-grandmother. In addition to these records pertaining to her children, a second marriage record was discovered for Marianna Naciążek herself following the death of Aleksander Kowalski. Marianna married Stanisław Marcinkowski in Giżyce in 1881, and the record indicated that she was born circa 1837 in Czerwonka, a village belonging to the parish in Sochaczew.3

As noted in that previous post, birth records from Sochaczew are available for the period from 1819-1841, but there is no baptismal record for a Marianna Naciążek during this time. The closest possibility is the birth of a Florentyna Marianna Naciążek in 1836, to parents Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska, and I believe that this Florentyna Marianna Naciążęk is the same person as Marianna Naciążek Kowalska Marcinkowska. It’s a bit unusual that she seems to have been called “Marianna” and not “Florentyna” in her adult life, but I believe this may have occurred because she had an older sister named Marianna who died young. There is a birth record in Giżyce in 1824 for Marianna Naciążek, daughter of Mateusz and Petronela, and if this theory is correct, we should expect to find her death record between 1824 and 1836. Although no death record is presently available, this doesn’t mean much, since indexed death records are only available from 1823-1825. Once again, it seems that the records of Giżyce may hold the key to unlocking these genealogical mysteries.

As I looked at this research with fresh eyes, it dawned on me that there was another small piece of evidence I had overlooked previously, which was the fact that Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka gave her daughter the name Florentyna, and that this child’s godmother was Marianna Kowalska (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Birth record from Rybno for Florentyna Zarzycka, born 5 June 1861. Text underlined in red translates,  “….was given the name Florentyna, and her godparents were the aforementioned Wincenty Zarzecki and Marianna Kowalska.” 4

Florentyna Zarzcyka birth 5 June 1861 marked

Yes, I’d analyzed the godparents of all the Zarzycki children previously, and I realized that despite the popularity of the Kowalski surname, this Marianna Kowalska was most likely Marianna Naciążek Kowalska of Giżyce. But somehow I’d failed to make the connection with Marianna Kowalska being named as godmother to this particular child, Florentyna, rather than any of the other children of Antonina and Ignacy Zarzycki.

Although it was not de rigueur in Polish culture to name a child after the godparent of the same sex, this practice was not unheard of. Indeed, Ignacy and Antonina Zarzycki named their second daughter Paulina, presumably in honor of her godmother, Paulina Jagielska.5 So it’s quite possible that little Florentyna Zarzycka was also named in honor of her godmother. This suggests that I’m definitely on the right track with my reasoning that Marianna Kowalska is, indeed, Florentyna Marianna Naciążęk Kowalska, who was pretty clearly some relative of her mother’s. However, at this point we still have too little evidence to conclude that Florentyna Marianna was necessarily Antonina Naciążek Zarzycka’s sister, rather than a cousin.

But wait, there’s more!

In reviewing the chart I made previously showing each of the Zarzycki children and their godparents (Figure 2) and rereading my notes, I noticed a careless supposition. That is, that the surname of Józef Zarzycki’s godmother, Jadwiga Bugajka, was necessarily rare. While this exact surname is rare, I realize now that I was thinking too narrowly, since the surname is merely a variant of the common surname, Bugaj. Given the lack of standardization of surname forms in the 19th century, it’s quite possible that this same Jadwiga Bugajka might be recorded as Jadwiga Bugaj in some records.

Figure 2: Summary of Godparents of Children of Ignacy Zarzycki and Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka. Source citation numbers correspond to sources cited in original blog post.figure-1

So what does that do for us? Why do we care if she’s Jadwiga Bugaj or Jadwiga Bugajka? Well, more recent digging suggested an interesting possibility regarding her relationship to the Zarzycki family.  Figure 3 shows Geneteka search results for Jadwiga Bugaj in Sochaczew.

Figure 3: Geneteka search results for birth records which mention Jadwiga Bugaj in Sochaczew.Bugaj results in Geneteka

In 1851 and 1854, there were two births to children of Maciej Bugaj and Jadwiga Krzemińska. Then there is a gap, and in 1861, there is the birth of Józefa Bednarska to Józef Bednarski and Jadwiga Bugaj. Now, the timing there is rather curious, and might almost suggest a scenario in which Jadwiga Krzemińska married Maciej Bugaj and had two children with him before his death between 1854 and 1861, after which she remarried Józef Bednarski and had 7 more children. (Note that double entries for children with the same name in the same year represent different records for the same event.) However, it was customary in these records for the priest to record the mother’s maiden name, not her first husband’s surname, in the case of a woman who remarried. I think it’s unlikely that the priest would have misrecorded the mother’s maiden name on 10 different birth records, and wrote her surname from her first husband instead. So in absence of evidence to the contrary, I believe that Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj is not the same person as Jadwiga (née Bugaj) Bednarska. But at this point, I’m not fussed about whether she remarried or not, I’m just excited to find evidence of the Krzemiński surname, because it just so happens that Ignacy Zarzycki’s mother was Joanna Krzemińska, who was born circa 1806 in Lubiejew, as evidenced by her death record (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Death record from Rybno parish for Joanna (née Krzemińska) Zarzycka, 30 April 1857. Text underlined in red translates as, “Joanna Zarzycka, wife, tenant colonist, daughter of Jan and Zofia, the spouses Krzemiński, already deceased; born in the village of Lubiejow [sic], having 52 years of age.” 6Joanna Zarzycka death 1857 crop

To answer the question of how Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj is related to the Zarzycki family, we need to find the record of her marriage to Maciej Bugaj and hope that it states her parents’ names. If her parents were Jan and Zofia, we know that she was Ignacy Zarzycki’s aunt. If they are something else, then further research is needed to determine the connection. Maddeningly, there is a gap in existing marriage records for Sochaczew from 1842-1861, according to information from the diocesan archive in Łowicz about their holdings for Sochaczew. Since Jadwiga’s oldest child was apparently born in 1851 based on information found in Geneteka, Jadwiga most likely married circa 1850, right in that gap in the records.

The Krzemiński Family of Bielice, Lubiejew, and Szwarocin

What do we know about the family of Jan and Zofia Krzemiński, and how likely is it that Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj and Joanna (née Krzemińska) Zarzycka were sisters? My 4x-great-grandfather, Jan Krzemiński, was born circa 1782 in either Czerwonka or Czyste.He married 17-year-old Zofia Bielska on Valentine’s Day in 1802 in Sochaczew.8 (The birthplaces of Jan and Zofia are uncertain because their marriage was recorded on a page pertaining to vital events from residents of the villages of Czerwonka and Czyste, but no indication was made regarding which individuals on the page were from which village.)  On 19 July 1802, their oldest son, Jakub, was born in the nearby village of Bielice.9 A gap in birth records from Sochaczew exists from 1803-1809, so it’s not possible to find the birth record for my great-great-great-grandmother, Joanna Krzemińska circa 1806. However, Joanna’s death record (Figure 4) states that she was born in the village of Lubiejow [sic], about 7 miles northwest of Bielice. Since couples had children every 2-3 years, typically, we might expect additional births to Jan and Zofia circa 1804 and 1808, but there are no indexed marriage or death records in Geneteka that identify any children born to this couple in those years.

By 1810, the Krzemiński family had moved to the village of Szwarocin, some 3 miles west of Lubiejew, where their son Błażej was born on 2 February and baptized in Rybno parish (Figure 5).10  Jan Krzemiński was described as a gajowy, which was a forester or gamekeeper. On 21 July 1812, a daughter, Magdalena, was born.11 Two years later, another daughter, Zofia, was baptized on 9 May 1814, and was probably born a day or so before that.12 On 25 February 1816, little Magdalena Krzemińska died of smallpox (ospa, in Polish) at the age of 3 1/2.13 Just nine days after her daughter’s death, Zofia Krzemińska gave birth to another son, Józef.14 Although no death record has been found for this child, it is likely that he died some time before 1821, because Jan and Zofia conferred the name Józef on their next son, born 17 March 1821.15

Figure 5: Map showing locations of places mentioned in records pertaining to the Krzemiński family. The towns of Sochaczew and Rybno, where the parishes are located, are underlined in red and the villages of Czerwonka and Czyste where Jan and Zofia were stated to have been born are similarly noted.Map of Krzeminski villages

After this, the family disappears from the records of Rybno. Justyna Krogulska, who performed the onsite research at St. Bartholomew church in Rybno for me in 2016, noted, “In the years 1826-1860 [there was] no record [of the] deaths of Jan Krzemiński and Zofia Krzemińska. Probably the family moved to another parish. In the years 1826-1846 [there was] no record [of any] marriage on the name Krzemiński / Krzemińska.” 16 

Consistent with the observation that the Krezemiński family moved out of Rybno, a death record for a 75-year-old widow named Zofia Krzemińska was found in the records of Sochaczew in 1843. At the time of her death, Zofia was living in Lubiejów [sic], and her age suggests a birth year circa 1768. Although “our” Zofia was only born circa 1785, based on her age at the time of her marriage, it’s nonetheless possible—likely, even—that the Zofia mentioned in the death record is the same woman, since priests frequently approximated people’s ages when this information was not known precisely. As a smallpox survivor who had already buried a husband and at least two children, Zofia may have looked much older than she actually was when she died.

Zofia Krzemińska was only 36 when her son Józef was born in Szwarocin in 1821, so it’s entirely possible that she might have had a few children after his birth, including, perhaps, Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj. Geneteka contains a birth record for a Maciej Bugaj who might be the same as Jadwiga Krzemińska’s husband, and who was born in Sochaczew in 1823. If Jadwiga Bugaj was approximately the same age as her husband, she would have been born exactly two years after Józef Krzemiński was born in Rybno in 1821. However, birth records for Sochaczew are indexed with no gaps from 1819-1841, and there is no record of Jadwiga’s birth. However this lack of evidence for her birth in Sochaczew does little to disprove my theory about Jadwiga Bugaj’s parentage, given the extent of parish records in this area that are unindexed and can only be found in the parish archives. So at this point, we still don’t know precisely who Jadwiga Bugaj(ka) was, and what relationship she may have had to Antonina and Ignacy Zarzycki that would have inspired them to ask her to be godmother to their son, Józef. Present evidence suggests that she may have been Ignacy’s aunt or possibly a cousin through his mother’s Krzemiński family, but the frustrating difficulty with access to records makes it impossible to state anything definitively.

Despite the difficulties inherent in research in this area—or perhaps because of them—it’s fun to examine every minute detail of the precious data that have been found for my family. Knowing that Marianna Kowalska was actually Florentyna Marianna Naciążęk Kowalska Marcinkowska may not bring me closer to knowing whether she was sister or cousin to my great-great-grandmother, Antonina Zarzycka, but somehow, it’s satisfying to find yet another small consistency in the data. At this point, without knowing what’s contained in those records from Giżyce, I’m betting on Team Mateusz and Petronella as the parents of Antonina and Marianna, but there’s really no compelling reason for it. It may be that Antonina was the daughter of Franciszek and Marianna instead, and that Mateusz and Franciszek Naciążek were brothers. That would make Antonina Zarzycka first cousin to Florentyna Marianna, and it’s certainly plausible that a first cousin might be asked to serve as godmother. As evidenced by the new discovery that Jadwiga Bugajka was most likely Jadwiga Krzemińska Bugaj, a maternal relative of Ignacy Zarzycki, but definitely not his sister, anything is possible.

Perhaps, in time, I’ll be able to gain access to those records from Giżyce, and the answers to all these mysteries will be revealed. Maybe I’ll even get to know who the heck Weronika Jaroszewska was, and why she was named as godmother to three Zarzycki children. Hey, I can dream, right?

Sources:

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie,” (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga ślubów 1888-1908, 1904, no. 15, marriage record for Leonard Zarzycki and Maryanna Majewska, accessed as digital image, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019); and

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie,” (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga zgonów 1886-1903, 1901, no. 44, death record for Ignacy Zarzycki, accessed as digital image, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019).

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie,” (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Ksiega slubów 1888-1908, 1903, no. 1, marriage record for Roch Kowalski and Anastazja Blaszczak, 2 February 1903, accessed as digital image, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019).

3 “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Giżycach” (Giżyce, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga ślubów 1856-1891, no. 9, marriage record for Stanisław Marcinkowski and Marianna Kowalska, 21 February 1881, accessed as digital image, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki, (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019).

4  Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1855-1862, 1861, #36, baptismal record for Florentyna Zarzecka.

5 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1845-1854, 1853, no. 60, baptismal record for Paulina Zarzycka.

6 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga zgonów, 1853-1868,” 1857, #21, death record for Joanna Zarzecka.

7 Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Sochaczew, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi małżeństw, 1802-1825, 1802, no. 2, marriage record for Joannes Krzemiński and Sophia Bielska, 14 February 1802, Archiwum Diecezji Łowickiej, 99-400 Łowicz, Stary Rynek 19 A. “[Towns] Czerwonka et Czyste, [Number] 2, [Month] February, [Day] 14, [Marriage Statement] I, Sebastian Richter, (expositus?) of Sochaczew, after three banns. and without discovering (? “adinvento”) any Canonical impediments, blessed the marriage between the honorable Joannes Krzemiński, young man, and Sophia Bielska, virgin, “inetum” (?) with additional witnesses Jacob Skokoski and Florian Stolarek, Under column heading “Young Man with Virgin,” indicating that it is a first marriage for both the bride and the groom, the age of the groom is given as 20 and the age of the bride is given as 17.

8 Ibid.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Sochaczew, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi urodzonych, 1781-1802, 1802, no. 69, birth record for Jacobus Krzemiński. 19 July 1802, Archiwum Diecezji Łowickiej, 99-400 Łowicz, Stary Rynek 19 A.

10 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1810, births, no. 5, record for Błażej Krzemiński, 2 February 1810.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1812, births, no. 46, record for Magdalena Krzemińska, 21 July 1812.

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1814, births, no. 26, record for Sophia Krzemińska, baptized 9 May 1814.

13 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1816, deaths, no. 9, record for Magdalena Krzemińska, 25 February 1816.

14 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1816, births, no. 13, record for Josephus Krzemiński, 5 March 1816.

15 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1821, births, no. 17, record for Josephus Krzemiński, 17 March 1821.

16 Justyna Krogulska, “Krzemiński Family,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA, 18 May 2016, original held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019.

The Final Clue: Tracing the Wagners Back to Germany

As dead people go, Joseph Riel wasn’t even all that interesting to me. He was just an in-law, the husband of my great-great-great-grandaunt, Gertrude Wagner Riel. He was not even a blood relative, much less a direct-line ancestor, and he and Gertrude died without issue, so I cannot hope to find Riel cousins among my DNA matches. And yet it was Joseph Riel’s grave marker that gave me the final clue to the German place of origin of my Wagner family. Before I explain what was on the grave marker and why it mattered, let me introduce you to my Wagners and summarize the evidence for their place of origin in Germany up to this point.

The Henry Wagner Family of Detroit, Michigan

My great-great-great-grandfather was Henry Wagner, born circa 15 December 1829 in Germany.1 According to the 1900 census, which was recorded when Henry was living as a widower in the household of his son of his son, John, Henry arrived in America in 1855 (Figure 1).2

Figure 1: Excerpt from the 1900 census for Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, showing Henry Wagner in the household of his son, John Wagner.2

Henry Wagner 1900 census crop

On that census, Henry reported his own date of birth as September 1827, and no baptismal record from Germany has yet been obtained to verify the correct date. Henry Wagner’s death certificate reveals that his father was also named Henry Wagner, and his mother was Mary Nau (Figure 2).3

Figure 2: Death certificate for Henry Wagner, 6 February 1907.3Henry Wagner death certificate

Further digging revealed that Henry (Jr.)’s parents, Henry and Mary (née Nau) Wagner also immigrated. The family can be seen in the 1860 census (Figure 3), living in Detroit.Henry himself was already married by that time and living separately.

Figure 3: Excerpt from the 1860 census showing the family of Henry (Sr.) and Mary Wagner with sons John and August, son-in-law Joseph Riehl (sic), and daughter Gertrude Riehl.4Henry Wagner family 1860 census Detroit

Henry Wagner (Sr.) is noted to be a “gentleman”, born circa 1810 in Hessia, whose personal estate was valued at approximately $5,000. Mary, his wife, was also born circa 1810, and their sons John and August were born circa 1832 and 1834, respectively, and were both employed as carpenters. Son-in-law Joseph Riehl was noted to be a blacksmith and he and his wife, Gertrude, were both born about 1835.

The passenger manifest for Henry Wagner (Sr.) and family does not reveal where they were from in Germany, unfortunately (Figure 4).5

Figure 4: Passenger manifest of the S.S. Erbpring Luidrich August, which arrived in New York 29 September 1853, showing the family of Henry Wagner (Sr.).5

Henry Wagner fam Passenger List

The manifest shows the family of Henry Wagner, a 50-year-old male farmer from Germany traveling to the U.S. Henry’s age suggests a birth year of 1803. The name of the passenger below him appears to be “Cath.;” however, the passenger is marked as a 24-year-old male. No trace has yet been discovered in U.S. records for a Catherine Wagner born circa 1829 who belongs to this family, and “Catherine’s” birth year is approximately correct for Henry Wagner (Jr.) who is missing from this manifest. This suggests one of two possibilities: either (a) Henry Wagner (Jr.) immigrated separately from his family, which would explain his absence from this manifest, and Catherine Wagner is a real sibling for whom evidence may yet turn up in U.S. records with further digging, or (b) the name “Cath.” was recorded in error, and the 24-year-old male passenger listed with the Wagner family was actually Henry (Jr.). The names of the other passengers listed below “Cath.” — August, Johnny and Gertrude — are consistent with the known children of Henry (Sr.) and Mary Wagner, although their ages appear to be 20, 22 and 28 (?), suggesting birth years of 1833, 1831, and 1825, which are a bit off from what was reported in the 1860 census. Interestingly, the family matriarch, Mary (née Nau) Wagner is not mentioned with the family group, although there is a good match for her at the bottom of the page — 50-year-old Marianne Wagner. Since she was separated from the family on the manifest, the possibility existed that perhaps Henry (Jr.) was similarly separated, perhaps on the next page after Marianne’s name. However, all pages of the manifest were checked and there was no match for a Henry Wagner of the appropriate age.

The Search for Henry’s Manifest

To examine the possibility that Henry Wagner (Jr.) traveled separately from his family, another search was made for a manifest for Henry Wagner, born circa 1827-1829 in Germany, arriving in the U.S. circa 1855. A possible match was discovered (Figure 5), which shows a single Henry Wagner who arrived on the S.S. General Jacobi on 3 May 1854.6

Figure 5: Excerpt from manifest for the S.S. General Jacobi, arrived in New York on 3 May 1854.6

Henry Wagner passenger record

According to this manifest, 27-year-old Henry Wagner was a German carpenter who was traveling to Buffalo, New York. His age suggests a birth year of 1827, and his occupation, carpenter, matches the occupation reported for John and August Wagner on the 1860 census. While I was excited to see his place of origin reported as “Fritzlar,” I recognized that this information would not help me unless I could be sure that the passenger described here is “my” Henry Wagner. And his destination, Buffalo, is somewhat problematic, since the Wagner family was not known to live in Buffalo. So although this could be the correct manifest, it’s also possible that this passenger was a different Henry Wagner, since the surname is so common.

At this point, we have two hypotheses to evaluate: (a) this is the manifest for “my” Henry Wagner, and he stopped in Buffalo briefly before moving on to Detroit, or (b) this manifest is for a different Henry Wagner who traveled to Buffalo and remained there. If (b) is correct, we should expect to find evidence of a German immigrant named Henry Wagner who matches this passenger, living in Buffalo or thereabouts. Accordingly, census records for Buffalo, New York and adjacent counties were checked, and there is evidence of a Henry Wagner, born in Germany circa 1830, who arrived in the U.S. circa 1852 and lived in Clarence, New York, which would at that time have been farm country on the outskirts of Buffalo. This suggests that perhaps the Henry Wagner who arrived on the General Jacobi is not my Henry after all. So perhaps my Henry really did arrive with his family on the Erbpring Luidrich August in 1853 and was misrecorded as “Cath.”? I think it’s possible, maybe even likely. But with such a common name, we may never know for certain.

Church Records to the Rescue

Since the Wagners’ place of origin in Germany could not be determined from the passenger manifest, other sources had to be checked. In this case, as it often happens, church records proved to be very helpful. As noted on his death record (Figure 2) Henry Wagner (Jr.) and his wife Catherine (née Grentzinger) had only two children, John and Mary (my great-great-grandmother). Both of them were baptized at Old St. Mary’s parish in Detroit, and their baptismal records revealed the place of origin of both their parents.  Shown here is Mary’s baptismal record (Figure 6).7

Figure 6: Extract from baptismal record for Maria Wagner, born 10 July 1860 in Detroit.7

Maria Wagner 1860 page 1 marked

All names in this record are written in Latin. Although the column headings are cut off in this image, the record indicates that Mary Wagner was born 10 July and baptized 15 July 1860, and that she was the daughter of Henry Wagner of “Roßen ChurHessen” and Catherine Granzinger of Oberelsau. Godparents were named as August Wagner and Maria Wagner, and they were probably the baby’s uncle and paternal grandmother.

The baptismal record for Henry and Catherine’s son John (Figure 7) indicates that he was baptized with the name August, although this is the only record discovered to date in which he was referred to that way.8

Figure 7: Extract from baptismal record for Augustinus Wagner, born 3 May 1856 in Detroit.8Augustinus Wagner 1856 p 1marked

The date of birth for “Augustinus” is approximately consistent with dates of birth reported for John Wagner, and since this was the only other birth record discovered for a child of this couple (and since they were known to have only two children), it’s reasonable to conclude that “Augustinus” is really John. It’s customary in parts of Germany to name a child after the same-sex godparent, and since August Wagner was named as this child’s godfather, that might explain the priest’s error in recording the child’s name, if perhaps the priest was from one of those regions. In any case, this record tells us that Henry Wagner was from “Roßdorf, Chur Hessen” and Catherine Grenzinger was from “Steinsolz, Alsatiae.”

“Chur Hessen” in both these records is a reference to Kurhessen, properly called Kurfürstentum Hessen, the Electorate of Hesse, a German state which existed from 1814-1866, at which time its territory was annexed by Prussia. The territory was also known as Hesse-Cassel or Hesse-Kassel. Although the Meyers gazetteer does not reveal any places called “Roßen” that were located in this area, “Roßdorf” turns out to be a better clue, since there were two places by that name that were in Hesse-Cassel. One of these was located in Hanau County, about 2 km north of Bruchköbel, while the other was located in Kirchhain County,  about 5 km southwest of Amöneburg. Based solely on this information, I had no way of knowing which Roßdorf was meant, so I put the Wagner research on the back burner.

The Final Clue

Fast-forward now to last weekend, when I had the opportunity to visit Detroit and present two lectures for the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan at their annual fall seminar. While in Detroit, I was able to visit Mt. Elliott Cemetery in person. This cemetery is the final resting place of all my immigrant Wagners, as well as some of their descendants, so I was eager to get some photographs. I was somewhat disappointed to find that only two monuments for this family are presently visible, although I was very pleased that one of these was for my great-great-great-grandparents, Henry and Catherine (née Grentzinger) Wagner (shown on the right in the featured image at the top of the page). The other monument is for Gertrude and Joseph Rhiel (sic). As I mentioned in the beginning, I was pleased to find this monument, but not overly excited about it, until I got home and took a closer look at the inscription on it. The inscription states that Joseph Rhiel was “geboren in Mardorf, Kurhessen.” A quick check in Meyers reveals the existence of a village called Mardorf that was located in Kirchhain County. This village is apparently too small to be shown on modern maps, but can be seen in relation to Roßdorf and Amöneburg on this old map of the Kassel region circa 1906 (Figure 8).9

Figure 8: Map showing relative locations of Roßdorf, Mardorf, Amöneburg, and Neustadt, Hesse-Kassel, circa 1906.9Map of Rossdorf and Mardorf

Of course, Meyer’s gazetteer identifies a second location called Mardorf that was in Kurhessen, in Homberg County. How can we be sure that Joseph Riel wasn’t from that Mardorf instead?

Cluster research in genealogy (also known as FAN research, research which focuses on our ancestors’ Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) is based on the principle that our ancestors did not live their lives in a vacuum. One person in a village would decide to move and settle in a new area, and he would be followed by others from the same village — a phenomenon known as chain migration. So it’s more logical to suppose that the Riel and Wagner families were from the same part of Germany, and continued that association in Detroit, rather than supposing that they came from villages that were relatively far apart.

While in Detroit, I also had the opportunity to attend Mass at Old St. Mary’s church — the parish to which my Wagner ancestors belonged. After Mass, I had the good fortune to chat with Randy Bowers, operations manager and archivist at the parish. He gave me a draft of a parish history by John D. Little which states, “In 1830 the first German immigrants — all Catholics and mostly farmers — arrived in Detroit from Neustadt, a small country town of about 2,100.”10 This statement offers further evidence that we’re on the right track in identifying the locations of Roßdorf and Mardorf, since the town of Neustadt can be seen on the map in Figure 8, about 22 km (13 miles) from Roßdorf.

Although the evidence looks pretty good at this point, the identification of the Wagners’  ancestral village must be considered tentative until we find mention of them in the church records for Roßdorf.  There is also a great deal more research that can be done to document the Wagners in Detroit, especially in church records. Unfortunately, I had no time during this visit to utilize the vast genealogical resources of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, so that research remains on my to-do list for the time being. However, I’m fairly confident that I’m on the right track, since all the clues regarding place of origin for the Wagners and their FANs are pointing to the same location. Joseph Riel may have been just an in-law to my family, and it’s true that he left no descendants. But in retrospect, it turns out that he was a pretty interesting guy after all.

Sources:

1 Mt. Elliott Cemetery (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan), Grave marker for Henry and Katherina Wagner, photographed 27 October 2017. Inscription: “Hier Ruht in Gott/Henry Wagner/Geboren/D. 15 Dez. 1829/Gestorben/D. 6 Feb. 1906/Katharina Wagner/Geborene/Graenzinger.”

2 1900 U.S. Federal Census (population schedule), Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, E.D. 23, sheet 24B, John Wagner household, http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 3 November 2017.

Death Records, 1897-1920, Michigan Historical Center, Seeking Michigan (http://seekingmichigan.org), 1907, #735, certificate for Henry Wagner, died 6 February 1907 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan.

1860 U.S. census (population schedule), 3rd Ward Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, page 173, Henry Wagner household, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 3 November 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry, Cath., August, Johnny, Gertrude, and Marianne Wagner, S.S. Erbpring Luidrich August, arrived 29 September 1853 in New York,  Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 12; List Number: 1010,  http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 3 November 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry Wagner, S.S. General Jacobi, arrived 3 May 1854 in New York, Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 138; Line: 19; List Number: 406http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 3 November 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, Old St. Mary’s Parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan), Baptisms, 1860, #148, p. 359, record for Maria Wagner. “[Record number] 148, [date of baptism] Julii 15, [date of birth] Julii 10, [child’s name] Maria, [father and place of birth] Henricus Wagner Roßen ChurHessen, [mother and place of birth] Cath. Granzinger, Oberelsau [Oberelsass], [[godparents] August Wagner Maria Wagner, [residence] Detroit, [minister] P. Nagel.”

Roman Catholic Church, Old St. Mary’s Parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan), Baptisms, 1856, #116, p. 219, record for Augustinus Wagner. “[Record number] 116, [date of baptism] 4 Maji, [date of birth] 3 Maji, [child’s name] Augustinus, [father and place of birth] Henricus Wagner Roßdorf ChurHessen, [mother and place of birth] Catharina Grenzinger, Steinsolz, Alsatiae, [[godparents] Augustinus Wagner et Gertrudis Wagner, [residence] Detroit, [minister] P. Beranek.”

Map, “Kassel” circa 1906 from 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary, Elte Department of Cartography and Geoinformatics, http://lazarus.elte.hu, accessed 4 November 2017.

10 John D. Little, The History of Old St. Mary’s, p. 4; photocopy to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 2017; original held by Randy Bowers, Detroit, Michigan.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017