Godparents: Ideal Candidates for Analysis Via the FAN Principle

Who were your ancestors’ FANS?  Genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills first suggested this handy acronym for Family, Associates, and Neighbors and explained, “To prove identity, origin and parentage, study individuals in the context of their FAN club.”1 When it comes to researching my Catholic ancestors, some of my favorite FANS include the godparents that are named on their children’s baptismal records.

Why Godparents?

According to Catholic Canon Law, godparents must be baptized and confirmed members of the Catholic Church who have received the Eucharist.  They must also be at least 16 years of age, although exceptions can be granted, and they may not be the same as the parents.  Typically there is one godfather and one godmother, although sometimes additional godparents were named, especially for the baptism of a noble child.  Godparents were often relatives of the child, as is still the practice today, although there is no requirement for this, and it’s not uncommon for parents to ask close friends to serve as godparents.  Depending on the family culture, godparents might be a married couple, or one might come from the father’s side of the family and one from the mother’s side.  The role of godparents is to provide spiritual support to the parents as they raise their child in the Catholic faith, and some families have an understanding that the godparents will assume financial responsibility for the child in the event of the parents’ death.  Since this is such an important role, godparents are clearly worthy of some of our attention as genealogists.

Godparents are also especially noteworthy as FANs because at least one of them is always a woman, which can provide clues about women’s married names in the era before women were commonly named as legal witnesses. Let’s examine some of the ways in which godparents can shed some light on questions of identity in genealogical problems.

The Naciążek Family, Revisited

In my last post, I wrote about my great-great-grandmother, Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, the frustrating lack of birth, marriage or death records for her, and why it’s possible that her birth and marriage records might no longer exist, based on where those events were likely to have taken place.  I also examined evidence regarding a contemporary of hers named Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska, who is likely to be a relative based on the rarity of the surname and the geographic proximity of her village of residence to that of Antonina.  However, one piece of evidence I did not examine in that post was the issue of godparents:  If Antonina Zarzycka and Marianna Kowalska were cousins or even sisters, as I suspect, then one would expect each of them to be named as a godmother to a child or children of the other.  So what do the records say?

Unfortunately, there are no baptismal records available for the five known children of Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska.  That leaves the baptismal records for the eleven children of Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, which are summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Summary of Godparents of Children of Ignacy Zarzycki and Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka.figure-1

 

And there we have it — the “smoking gun” is the godmother of Florentyna Zarzycka — Marianna Kowalska.  Kowalski (in combination with the feminine form of the name, Kowalska) is a very popular surname, and if we were to consider only the names of the godparents in absence of other data, it would not be obvious which Marianna Kowalska was meant here.  However, in light of the other evidence that Antonina had a cousin or sister with this name who lived nearby, it seems likely that these Marianna Kowalskas are one and the same.

So who are these other godparents?  There is documentary evidence that Ignacy Zarzycki had just three siblings:  a brother Wincenty, and twin siblings Wojciech and Wiktoria.  Wiktoria’s first husband was Ludwik Karol Pszenicki, and Wojciech’s wife was Aniela Tempińska,. so it’s reasonable to conclude that those four godparents — Aniela Zarzycka, Wojciech Zarzycki, Wincenty Zarzycki, and Wiktoria Pszenicka — were siblings to Ignacy Zarzycki by blood or marriage.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the list, there are no obvious matches to known members of the Zarzycki family, and certainly not to the Naciążek family, about whom we know so little.  At first glance, Marianna Marcinkowska’s name stood out as a possible clue. As discussed in my previous post, Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska was remarried to Stanisław Marcinkowski in Giżyce in 1881. However, it’s obvious that the timing does not work for this to be the same person as Tomasz’s godmother, since he was born in 1856, 25 years earlier.  Given the propensity for families to intermarry in those days, the fact that the Marcinkowski family was associated with the Naciążek family may still be significant. None of the other surnames mentioned were associated with the Naciążek family (0r any variant of that surname) in any of the indexed records in Geneteka, anywhere in Mazowieckie province.

It’s still possible that these other godparents might be related to the Zarzycki/Naciążek family, and that the proof of the relationships lies in records that simply have not yet been indexed, or in records that no longer exist.  However, it’s also possible that some of these godparents were merely good friends of Ignacy and Antonina, which is the clear drawback of godparent analysis.  Some of the godparents’ surnames (e.g. Zieliński) are so common that, in absence of any direct evidence, it will be difficult to tie them to the Zarzycki/Naciążek family with any degree of certainty.  Some of them, like Bugajka, are tantalizingly rare, and it’s fascinating to note that one of the only parishes in which this surname is found in Geneteka is Sochaczew, which is one of the two parishes that seems to be associated with my Naciążek family (Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Geneteka search results for death records with the Bugajka surname in Mazowieckie province.figure-1

Could it be that Antonina Naciążek had a sister named Jadwiga who married a Bugajka, and it is she who was named as godmother to Józef Zarzycki in 1859?  Might she even be a daughter-in-law to one of the widows whose deaths are reported here?  It’s possible, maybe even probable, but at present, there’s not enough evidence to draw any conclusions.  My family should have no reason to wonder why I have insomnia some nights.

Speaking of insomnia-provoking questions, who the heck was Weronika Jaroszewska, and why was she named as godmother to three of Antonina’s children?  Another question for another sleepless night.

To sum up, in this example, we hypothesized that two women were siblings, predicted that they should be named as godmothers to each other’s children if that hypothesis were true, and then examined the evidence, which supported the hypothesis.  In my next post, I’ll offer an example of how this sort of analysis can also be used in reverse, to suggest a mother’s maiden name in absence of direct evidence for that.  In the meantime, happy researching!

Sources:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012, p. 1.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1845-1854,” 1850, #48, baptismal record for Maryanna Zarzycka.

3 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1845-1854,” 1853, #60, baptismal record for Paulina Zarzycka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń, 1855-1862,”1856, #48, baptismal record for Tomasz Zarzecki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1855-1862,” 1859, #15, baptismal record for Józef Zarzycki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1861, #36, baptismal record for Florentyna Zarzecka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1863, # 72, baptismal record for Aniela Zarzecka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1866, #27, baptismal record for Jan Zarzycki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1868, #67, baptismal record for Joanna Walentyna Zarzycka.

10 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,”1869, #93, baptismal record for Karol Zarzycki.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1870-1880,” 1872, #15, baptismal record for Roman Aleksander Zarzycki.

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1870-1880,”1876, #87, baptismal record for Leonard Zarzycki.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

 

 

In search of Antonina Naciążek: Mining Geneteka for Clues in Absence of Direct Evidence

The year is drawing to a close. 2017 lies before us, all shiny and new, like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.  Like many of us in the genealogical community, I find New Year’s Eve to be a great time to reflect on the research triumphs and frustrations of the past year, and to make research plans for the coming year. When it comes to genealogical New Year’s resolutions, there are so many ancestors I’d like to learn more about, so many families that I’d like to understand better in their cultural and historical context.  But one of them in particular is at the top of my research to-do list for 2017:  Antonina Naciążek.

Antonina was my great-great-grandmother, notable because she is my only great-great-grandparent about whom I know little more than her name.  My first encounter with her was through the marriage record of her son (my great-grandfather), John Zazycki (Figure 1):

Figure 1:  Marriage record for John Zarzycki and Veronica Grzesiak from Buffalo, New York, 5 August 1901.jan-weronika-zazyki-marriage-1

Subsequent research turned up John’s baptismal record in the parish of Rybno, Sochaczew County, Poland, where her name is spelled “Antoniny z Raciążków” (Antonina née Raciążek, Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Baptismal record for Jan Zarzycki, Rybno parish, 5 March 1866.jan-zarzycki-birth-1866

Anyone who’s been doing genealogy for a while is familiar with the inconsistencies in surname spellings that frequently crop up in records prior to the 20th century, and Polish records are no exception.  Typically, however, the variations that one sees revolve around a common root with different endings, e.g. Grzesiak can become Grzeszak, Grzeszkiewicz, Grześkiewicz, etc.  So I was a little surprised to see Maciążek become Raciążek.  In fact, as further evidence accumulated and additional birth, marriage and death records for Antonina’s children were discovered, the most common variant of Antonina’s surname that emerged was Naciążek.  Naciążek appeared in the documents a total of 9 times, while Raciążek appeared 7 times, and Maciążek appeared just twice.

Unfortunately, I have yet to obtain any documentation that indicates Antonina’s parents’ names.  Based on the birth records for her children, I estimate that Antonina was born circa 1828 and married Ignacy Zarzycki circa 1849.  Her children all seem to have been born in the village of Bronisławy and baptized in St. Bartholomew’s church in Rybno.  However, she herself must have been from another parish, because neither her birth or marriage record, nor her death record, was found in the records of Rybno at either the parish or the local civil records office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, or USC).  A search of Geneteka for Naciążek, Raciążek and Maciążek anywhere in Mazowieckie province failed to produce any birth records for an Antonina born circa 1828.  So where was Antonina from?  Who were her parents?  She was last mentioned as a surviving widow in the marriage record of her youngest son, Leonard Zarzycki, in 1904, so she must have died after that time.  But where?

Geneteka reveals exactly one record that might give us a clue regarding this family’s origins. Figure 3 shows the results of a search of marriage records in Rybno for the Naciążek surname.  Searches for Maciążek and Raciążek produced no results, nor were there any birth or death records for Rybno associated with any of these surnames, apart from records pertaining to known children of Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka.

Figure 3:  Geneteka search results for the Naciążek surname in marriage records for Rybno parish.roch-kowalski-marriage

Of the four records shown, numbers 1, 3 and 4 pertain to known children of Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka.  However, record #2 (boxed in red) is for the marriage of Roch Kowalski to Anastazja Błaszczak.  Further examination of that record (Figure 4) reveals that Roch was “….born and residing in the village of Giżyce, son of the late Aleksander and still-living Marianna née Naciążek, the spouses Kowalski” (text underlined in red), and that he was age 26, suggesting a birth year of about 1877.

Figure 4:  Excerpt of marriage record of Roch Kowalski and Anastazja Błaszczak in Rybno parish, 2 February 1903.  roch-kowalski-marriage-excerpt

Since Roch Kowalski was a contemporary of Antonina Zarzycka’s children, it stands to reason that Roch’s mother was of the same generation as Antonina herself.  Since the parish of Giżyce is located just 8.2 km (about 5 miles) from Bronisławy, and since Naciążek is a relatively rare surname, both in the present-day and historically, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that Antonina and Marianna were related, perhaps even sisters.

Records for the parish in Giżyce are indexed on Geneteka from 1810-1905 with some significant gaps.  One such gap exists from 1826-1890 — during the time when Antonina Naciążek is most likely to have been born (1828-1829).  However, there is a rather tantalizing birth record in 1824 in Giżyce for a Marianna Naciążek, daughter of Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska.  Could this be the same Marianna Naciążek who married Aleksander Kowalski?

Frustratingly, a province-wide search using both the Naciążek and Kowalski surnames does not produce a marriage record for Marianna and Aleksander, which would hopefully reveal Marianna’s parents’ names, nor does it produce Marianna’s death record.  However, it does produce marriage records for four additional children of that couple (Figure 5):

Figure 5:  Geneteka search results for marriage records in Mazowieckie province that contain both the Naciążek and Kowalski surnames.naciazek-kowalski-marriages

Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the column after “Naz. matki” indicates that Józefa Kowalska, Ignacy Kowalski, Ludwik Kowalski, and Stanisław Kowalski were all siblings of Roch Kowalski and children of Marianna Naciążek and Aleksander Kowalski.  Examination of the three records for which scans are available indicates that Józefa and Ignacy were also born in Giżyce.

Note that the search result for Józefa Kowalska’s marriage notes an alternate spelling of her mother’s maiden name, “Naciąszek.” Geneteka’s search algorithms do not automatically recognize Naciąszek and Naciążek as phonetic equivalents, so Naciąszek must be searched separately.  This subsequent search in Geneteka for Naciąszek produces an  especially intriguing result: a marriage record in Giżyce for Stanisław Marcinkowski and Marianna Kowalska in 1881 (Figure 6).

Figure 6:  Geneteka search result for Naciąszek surname in Mazowieckie province.marcinkowski-kowalska-marriage

The marriage record itself verifies that this is indeed “our” Marianna Kowalska, widow of Aleksander (Figure 7):

marcinkowski-kowalski-marriage-1856

The underlined text in Russian and Polish reads, “…Marianna Kowalska née Naciąszek, widow of Aleksander Kowalski [who] died in the village of Giżyce in the year 1878; born in the village of Czerwonka, now in Giżyce… residing, age 44.”

Pay dirt!  Although this record does not tell us the names of Marianna’s parents, it does tell us where and when she was born.  Czerwonka is a village that belongs to the parish in Sochaczew, and her age at the time of her second marriage suggests a birth year of 1837.  Clearly, this Marianna can’t be the same as the Marianna Naciąszek born in 1824 in Giżyce. Figure 8 shows the location of all these villages in relation to each other in Sochaczew County.

Figure 8:  Geographic  locations of Giżyce, Bronisławy, Sochaczew and Czerwonka.map-of-czerwonka

Records for Sochaczew are indexed in Geneteka, but unfortunately, there is no perfect match for a Marianna Naciąszek or Naciążek born in 1837 in Czerwonka.  However, there is a reasonably close match:  the birth of a Florentyna Marianna Naciążek in 1836 in Czerwonka, daughter of…. (dramatic music!)…..Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska, the same couple who were the parents of the other Marianna Naciążek who was born in Giżyce in 1824! If the Marianna who was born in 1824 died prior to 1836, it’s possible that her parents would have honored her by naming a sibling Florentyna Marianna but calling her Marianna.  So maybe she’s our bride of Aleksander Kowalski?  Unfortunately — and frustratingly — there is no marriage record to prove it, nor is there a death record for the Marianna who was born in 1824.

 

Let’s take a moment to recap what we know so far:

  • Only one other Naciążek record exists in Rybno parish, where Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka lived.
  • That record is a marriage record for Roch Kowalski, born in Giżyce, son of Marianna Naciążek and Aleksander Kowalski.
  • Roch Kowalski is the same generation as Antonina Zarzycka’s children, suggesting that Marianna Naciążek is of the same generation as Antonina, perhaps even her sister.
  • Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska’s second marriage record reveals her place of birth as Czerwonka (Sochaczew parish) in 1837 and her place of residence as Giżyce.
  • The closest match for Marianna’s birth in the records of Sochaczew parish is for a Florentyna Marianna Naciążek, born in Czerwonka in 1836, daughter of Mateusz and Petronela (née Trawińska).
  • Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska were parents to another daughter named Marianna Naciążek born in Giżyce in 1824.  Although the Trawiński surname is fairly common, the relative rarity of the Naciążek surname makes it likely that this is the same couple as the one mentioned in the records in Sochaczew.

So, the focus is definitely on Giżyce and Sochaczew for the births and marriages of both Antonina Naciążek and her putative sister, Marianna Naciążek. Marriages for Sochaczew are indexed on Geneteka from 1826-1835,and 1879-1901, leaving a gap when Antonina and Marianna would have married, which would explain why her marriage record does not show up in the Geneteka index. Geneteka’s indexed birth records for Sochaczew cover 1781-1802, 1826-1841, 1849-1864, 1868-1870, and 1874-1884. So Antonina’s birth in 1828-1829 should be there, if she were born in Sochaczew.

But what if Antonina were born in Giżyce, and not Sochaczew?  Geneteka has births indexed for Giżyce for 1810, 1823-1825, and 1891-1905, so there’s a gap for both 1828  when Antonina would have been born, and also for 1849, which is approximately when she would have married. Unfortunately, in reviewing the available ranges of years for available records for both Sochaczew and Giżyce on LDS microfilm and at the Polish State Archives, the hope of identifying Antonina’s and Marianna’s parents definitively seems slim. It appears that Geneteka has indexed all the existing records for these parishes, so the records needed to fill those gaps no longer exist.  One of my goals for the new year is to have a researcher in Poland confirm this for me, and verify that there are no additional records available for either of these parishes at the parishes themselves or in a diocesan archive. Even if those early records are gone, and Antonina’s birth and marriage records are lost forever, it should still be possible to track down her death record after 1904, so that’s on my agenda, too.

If you’re like me, you like wringing every last drop of information from a data set, particularly in cases like this where data are limited.  So what else can Geneteka tell us about the Naciążeks in Giżyce and Sochaczew? Figure 9 shows Naciążek births in indexed records for all of Mazowieckie province.

Figure 9:  Geneteka search result for Naciążek births in Mazowieckie province.naciazek-births-in-mazowieckie

I’ve underlined the ones in red that I believe pertain to the same family.  Notice that the father’s name is sometimes recorded as Mateusz and sometimes recorded as Maciej.  This might be an artifact of the transcription and translation process.  Based on my experience with the records from Sochaczew for this time period, these records are likely to be in Latin, and those names in Latin might be written as Mattheus or Matthias — potentially difficult to differentiate if the handwriting is bad.  It’s also possible that the priest used either spelling indiscriminately, especially since he seems to have been a bit careless with Petronela’s name, which is recorded as Trawińska in most of the records, but as Slawińska in one of them.  Copies of these records are available from the Diocesan Archive in Łowicz, and I plan to order those in the New Year, so hopefully the originals can shed some light on this.

Based on these data, and data from the death records as well, a clearer image of the Naciążek family’s timeline emerges:

  • 1824:  Daughter Marianna born in Giżyce.
  • 1826:  Son Michał born in Sochaczew. (Note that there appears to be an indexing error — Michał’s birth is recorded twice, as record #134 and record #136.  Again, a request for the originals will tell us more.)
  • 1832:  Son Stanisław Andrzej born in Sochaczew.
  • 1834:  Son Ignacy born in Sochaczew.  (Again, this record is indexed twice under both variants of the father’s name, Maciej and Mateusz, but in this case the same record number, 100, makes it clear that there is only one birth record.)
  • 1836:  Daughter Florentyna Marianna born in Sochaczew.
  • 1837:  Son Ignacy dies in Sochaczew.
  • 1840:  Son Jan dies in Sochaczew.  Jan is noted to be 6 days old, and birth records for Sochaczew exist for the time of his birth, so it’s unclear whether his birth record is missing due to an omission by the priest or by the indexer.

If great-great-grandma Antonina does, in fact, belong to this family, her birth would fit into that 6-year-gap between Michał’s birth in 1826 and Stanisław Andrzej’s birth in 1832. Since her birth was not captured in the records for Sochaczew, it’s possible that the family returned to Giżyce for that time period.

One final record worth noting that pertains to the Naciążek family in Sochaczew and Giżyce is the marriage record in 1826 of Franciszek Naciążek and Marianna Kowalska.  (Figure 10).

Figure 10:  Geneteka search results for Naciążek marriages in Mazowieckie province.franciszek-and-marianna-naciazek

Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the “uwagi” column reveals that the groom, Franciszek Naciążek, was from Giżyce although the wedding took place in the bride’s parish in Sochaczew. Franciszek and Marianna could also be potential parents for Antonina Naciążek, although they seem to disappear from the records.  They are not mentioned as parents on any of the indexed birth records in Mazowieckie, and the only other mention of them is in Marianna’s death record in Sochaczew in 1844.

Despite the lack of direct evidence concerning Antonina Naciążek, the indexed records in Geneteka offer a powerful tool for gathering hints about her possible family origins.  While it’s disappointing that Antonina’s birth and marriage records may no longer exist, there’s still some hope of finding her death record, and Sochaczew and Giżyce would be logical places to look for it.  Maybe 2017 will be my lucky year in terms of locating that document, and maybe I’ll get even luckier and it will include her parents’ names, so I can know for certain whether Antonina Naciążek is the daughter of Mateusz and Petronela (née Trawińska) Naciążek. May 2017 be a lucky year for your genealogical research as well. Here’s to finding our dead ancestors!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016

 

 

 

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Have you ever known something about your family for a fact, yet discovered through research that it’s just not true after all?  I’ve had this experience very recently, and it came about as a result of this blog post.  Recently, my mother-in-law’s cousin shared with me this photograph (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Konczal Fabiszewski family circa 1906 lower resolution 001He wondered if I might have any insight into who the people were.  I was excited to see the photo, and believed I could tell him exactly who these people were because Grandma Barth showed me this same photo before she died, and filled me in. I thought this photo would be a nice subject for a blog post, so I started to gather a bit of background documentation to provide some insight into the lives of the people shown here.  In the process,  I’ve discovered that things aren’t really what they seemed, and maybe — just maybe — Grandma might have been wrong about a thing or two.

I admit that I haven’t done much research with Grandma’s family.  She had accumulated so much information on her own, including where her family had come from in Poland, and preliminary research showed her information to be pretty accurate.  So it was easy to accept all her information as fact, and put this on the back burner while working on lines that seemed more challenging.  By way of background, Grandma Barth’s parents were Albert Drajem and Mary Kantowska, both born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants.  Mary Drajem, Grandma’s mother, was the fourth of seven children born to John Kantowski and Mary (née Kończal) Kantowska, who came to Buffalo from Łabiszyn, a small town in what is now Żnin County in the  Kujawsko-Pomorskie province of Poland, but what was at that time part of the Prussian Empire.  According to Grandma Barth, her maternal grandmother, Mary Kantowska, had several siblings who also eventually settled in Buffalo:  a brother, John Kończal, and sisters Katherine and Josephine.  Grandma also reported that Katherine married Constantine Fabiszewski and had seven sons, while Josephine married Teofil Mroziński, and had four children.  It is the Fabiszewski family —  Constantine, Katherine, their children, and an old woman, whom we’ll discuss more closely in a moment — who are shown in this photograph.

The Fabiszewski Family of Buffalo, New York

Figure 2 shows the Fabiszewski family in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census:

Figure 2:  Extract of 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Buffalo, New York, showing the Constantine Fabiszewski family:

Fabiszewski family 1910 census

Based on their heights in this photograph, it seems logical to infer that the oldest son, Peter, is standing in the back row, behind his father, with his brother Casimir to the left in the photo, and Leon to the left again, behind the old woman.  The fourth-oldest son, Frank, appears to the be boy holding the candle and prayer book, both of which suggest that this portrait was taken on the occasion of his First Communion.  The very youngest son, Stanislaus, is standing between his parents, with Joseph and Anthony to the left in the photo of the old woman.  So who is the old woman?

The Mysterious Anna (née WoźniakKończal

Grandma Barth told me that this woman was her own great-grandmother, that her name was Anna (née WoźniakKończal, and that she was the mother of Katherine Fabiszewski, John Kończal, Josephine (née Kończal) Mroziński, and Mary (née Kończal) Kantowska (Grandma’s grandma).  Grandma remembered her vividly, even though Grandma was only six years old when Anna died in 1922.  She’s buried in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, whose records indicate that she was 60 when she died,conflicting with Grandma’s assertion that her great-grandmother died at the age of 70.  In 1920, per both Grandma and the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Anna was living with the family of her daughter Mary Kantowski, in the same house as Grandma Barth’s family (Figure 3):

Figure 3:  Extract of 192o U.S. Federal Census for Buffalo, New York, showing the Kantowski and Drajem families at 221 Clark Street.  Anna Konczal is noted as mother-in-law to head of household, John Kantowski. 1920 Census Kantowski family

Grandma Barth appears in this census as “Jennie,” age 3 years 8 months.  The census indicates that Anna is a 70-year-old widow (Grandma wins on the age question!) and a resident alien who immigrated in 1891.  This immigration year is in contrast to her daughter Mary, who immigrated in 1886 with her husband John.

That 1891 immigration year gave me a good lead in finding her passenger manifest,2 which shows Anna and daughter Josepha Konszal (sic) arriving at the Port of New York on 19 November 1892 (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  Passenger manifestfor Anna and Josepha Konszal (sic), 19 November 1892:Konszal passenger manifest 1892

 

Anna is 40 here and Josepha is 16, which is consistent with their dates of birth from other sources.  They’re from “Clotildowo, Germany,” which fits nicely with the village of Klotyldowo, a village which belonged to the Catholic parish, in Łabiszyn.  They’re headed to Buffalo, New York, which makes sense.  So we know that Anna came over with the then-single Józefa, but was living with her daughter Mary in 1920.  Where was Anna during those intervening years?

Well, ten years earlier, in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Anna Kończal  seems to be found living with her daughter, Józefa Mrozińska, and family (Figure 5):

Figure 5:  Extract from the 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Buffalo, New York, showing the Mroziński family.Teofil Mrozinski family 1910 census

Although we suspect immediately that this is really “our” Anna Kończal and not Teofil’s mother, there are a couple of problems.  Anna’s name is misrendered as “Kończak” instead of “Kończal,” and she is erroneously reported to be Teofil’s mother, and not his mother-in-law.  However, “Kończak” seems pretty close to “Kończal,” and her age and year of immigration match up nicely with the information for “our” Anna that was reported on the 1920 census.  Unfortunately, it can be argued that these latter facts might also be true for Teofil’s mother, so they don’t constitute irrefutable evidence that this Anna is his mother-in-law and not his mother.  Perhaps his mother remarried a man named Kończak after Teofil’s father died, so she was no longer “Mrs. Mrozińska” at the time of the census.  Fair enough.  So how do we resolve this problem?

Next stop, Pennsylvania

Well, Teofil and Josephine’s marriage record should tell us their parents’ names.  Where do well look for that record?  If you’ll notice, the final column on the right in Figure 4 indicates that the oldest two Mroziński children, Stanislaus and Casimir, were born in Pennsylvania, while the younger two were born in New York. Similarly, if you go back to Figure 1, you see that the oldest two Fabiszewski boys, Peter and Casimir, were also born in Pennsylvania.  These data suggest that both the Mrozińskis and the Fabiszewskis might have married in Pennsylvania, prior to the births of their children there.  Sure enough, I found records of marriage for both couples in Shamokin, PA.

The  Mrozińskis’ marriage record  (Figure 6) gave valuable information, but no surprises.

Figure 6:  Marriage certificate for Teofil Mroziński and Józefa Kończal, 1894.Teofil Mrozinski and Jozefa Konczal marriage 1894 crop

Both the bride and groom are from Prussia, consistent with the “German Polish” notation found on census records.  Teofil was living in Shamokin and working as a miner.  His parents were Andreas Mroziński and Rozalia Mrozińska (no maiden name provided).  Josephine was also living in Shamokin, working as a domestic, and her parents’ names are given as Franciszek and Annie Konczal [sic].  Taken together, these facts offer conclusive evidence that the “Anna Kończak” living with the Mroziński family in Buffalo in 1910 really is Teofil’s mother-in-law, and not his mother.

Will the Real Katherine Fabiszewski Please Stand Up?

However, the real surprise came with the marriage record for Josephine’s sister, Katherine, to Constantine (Konstanty, in Polish) Fabiszewski (Figure 7):

Figure 7:  Marriage certificate for Konstanty Fabiszewski and Katarzyna Kubiak, 1894.

Konstanty Fabiszewski and Katherine Konczal 1894 crop marked

Katherine’s name is given as Katarzyna Kubiak, not Kończal, and she’s the daughter of John and Agnieszka Kubiak!  What?  How can that be?  Grandma said that Katherine was sister to John, Mary and Josephine Kończal, and she’s been right about everything else so far!  How could Katherine be a Kubiak?  Could there be two Konstanty Fabiszewskis in Shamokin, both about the same age, both married to women named Katherine?  Well, stranger things have happened, but then where is the marriage record for Katherine Kończal? And didn’t Grandma say that her great-grandmother’s name was Anna (née WoźniakKończal, not Anna (née KubiakKończal?

At this point, I don’t have enough data to resolve this problem.  More work needs to be done. Grandma Barth has proven to be a very reliable source in the past, but this could very well be an instance in which she’s wrong.  I looked back to see where Grandma might have gotten the idea that the surname Woźniak was associated with this family, and found it in Mary Kantowska’s birth certificate, an official copy of which Grandma had carefully preserved (Figure 8):

Figure 8:  Official transcript from 1906 of Mary Kantowska’s 1891 baptismal record from St. Stanislaus Church, Buffalo, New York

Maria Kantowski 1891.jpg

This indicates that Mary Kantowska’s parents were, in fact, John Kantowski and Maria Kończal, and that her godparents were John Kończal and Anna Woźniak. John Kończal is likely to be Mary (née Kończal) Kantowska’s brother, whom Grandma mentioned among the known Kończal siblings. So Woźniaks might indeed be connected to the Kończal-Kantowski family, but this does not explain why Katherine, who was purportedly”née Kończal” Fabiszewska, is actually Katherine, née Kubiak, Fabiszewska.

The Poznań Project Weighs In

Some interesting insight is gained by search results from the Poznań Project. A search for Franciszek Kończal and Anna, no surname specified — which are the names reported for Josephine’s parents on that marriage record — reveals the following (Figure 9):

Figure 9:  Extract of results from Extended Search in the Poznań Project for marriages between grooms with name Franciscus/Franz/Franciszek Konczal and brides named Anna.Franciscus Konczal and Anna Kubiak Poznan Project hit

Here we see Kubiak again, and in Łabiszyn, the home parish of Grandma’s Kończals.  Anna Kubiak’s age in this record suggests a birth year of 1844 –older than what we would expect based on U.S. records, which point to a birth year of 1850-1852, but within the ballpark.  Moreover, a search for Jan Kubiak and Agnieszka, no surname — the names reported for Katherine Fabiszewski’s parents — produces this hit (Figure 10):

Figure 10:  Extract of results from Extended Search in the Poznań Project for marriages between grooms with name Joannes/Jan/Johann Kubiak and brides named Agnes/Agnieszka.

Jan Kubiak and Agnes Konczal

Curiouser and curiouser!  Same parish, and it would seem that Katherine Fabiszewski’s mother was a Kończal.  Taken together, this might suggest a case of siblings marrying siblings — perhaps Joannes Kubiak and Anna Kubiak were siblings, and they married siblings Agnes Kończal and Franciscus Kończal.  The records from Łabiszyn and Buffalo will tell us for sure.

The Mysterious Anna (née Woźniak) (née Kubiak) Kończal

So where does this leave us?  Who IS the woman in the photo, after all?  Is she Grandma Barth’s great-grandmother, Anna (née Kubiak) Kończal?  If so, why is she in a portrait with the family of her probable niece, and not her daughter?  Was Grandma mistaken, and this photo shows Katherine Fabiszewski and her family with her own mother, Agnes (née Kończal) Kubiak?  It appears that Grandma was misinformed about Katherine Fabiszewski being a sister to her own mother, Mary — present data suggest that they were cousins, or perhaps double cousins, but not siblings.  Yet one wonders if it’s even possible that Grandma would misidentify her own great-grandmother in a family photo.  Like Grandma Barth, I was six when one of my great-grandmothers died, and I can easily pick her out in old family photos.  The very fact that this photograph was handed down in Grandma’s family, and not just in the Fabiszewski family, suggests that it was significant to both families, possibly due to the image of a shared great-grandmother.  Moreover, when Anna Kończal died in 1922, her daughter Mary Kantowska was 54, and her granddaughter Mary Drajem (Grandma Barth’s mother) was 31.  Surely they were the ones to pass this photo down to Grandma Barth, and they would have been able to correctly identify their own mother and grandmother.

There are two final bits of information that we can wring out of that 1910 census listing for Anna Kończal in Figure 4.  The “M1” in the column after age tells us that Anna Kończal was married once, and that she’s been married for twenty years.  The next two numbers tell us that she was the mother of six children, three of whom were still living at the time of the census. Starting with those numbers about Anna’s children, the fact that is says three children still living at the time of the census is significant — not four, Katherine, John, Mary and Josephine — as Grandma Barth recollected.  This would make sense if Grandma was wrong about Katherine Fabiszewska being one of the Kończal siblings.   The next bit, about the “M1/20” only adds to the confusion, however.  Josephine Mrozińska is reported to be 36 years old at the time of this 1910 census — making her 16 at the time of her mother’s wedding, if her mother’s only been married 20 years.  So the census-taker appears to have erred with at least some part of that story.  Either this is a second marriage for Anna, or she’s only been married once, but Josephine was born 16 years out of wedlock.

It’s hard to think of a single hypothetical scenario that would resolve all these conflicts in the data. I considered the fact that perhaps Anna Woźniak was married twice — first to a man named Kubiak, with whom she had Katherine, and then to Franciszek Kończal, with whom she had Josephine, John and Mary.  But if that were the case,then the mother’s name reported on Katherine Fabiszewska’s marriage record should be Anna, and not Agnieszka, and we would expect to see two marriage records for Anna in the Poznań Project.  It’s possible that mistakes were made in recording the census, and also possible (though it seems less likely) that a mistake was made in the marriage record.  Further research should be able to resolve these conflicts and reveal the full story.  In the meantime, we’re left with something of a mystery, and questions today where I thought I had answers yesterday.

Sources:

Note:  Where possible, links are provided to sources online.  Other sources are summarized below.  

1St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Cemetery (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA) to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Phone Call, Inquired about a burial for Anna Konczal.  Was informed that she died on April 23, 1922 at age 60 and was buried April 26, 1922  in Sec. K, Lot 79, Grave 7.  Her funeral was at Corpus Christi Church and Urban Funeral Home.

2Anna Konszal, 19 Nov 1892; citing departure port Rotterdam, arrival port New York, ship name Werkendam, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), accessed on 30 August 2016.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016

On Antibiotics And the Brief Life of Wiktoria Zarzycka

Yesterday I had to see my doctor for a possible Lyme disease rash.  He agreed that it looks suspicious and prescribed a course of prophylactic antibiotics.  And oddly enough, that got me thinking about genealogy.  Lyme disease is one of many diseases known to modern-day physicians that is readily treated with antibiotics, and has an excellent prognosis if it’s caught early.  But life was very different for our ancestors, and I often remind myself of this fact when I start romanticizing those by-gone, simpler times.

As I’m sure is true for many of us, I find some ancestors’ stories to be more compelling than others.  For me, one such compelling ancestor is Wiktoria Zarzecka, one of my great-great-great-great-grandmothers.  I first encountered Wiktoria in this 1826 marriage record for her son,  Józef Zarzycki, and his bride, Joanna Krzemińska1:

Jozef Zarzycki and Joanna Krzyminska marriage 1826

The record describes the groom,  Józef Zarzycki, as a “bachelor, of Szwarocin residing, master of the shoemaking profession, born in the village of Szwarocin of Adam and Wiktoria née Stolarska, the married couple Zarzycki; having twenty-two years of age.”1  Interestingly, this record is the only time we see Wiktoria’s maiden name recorded as Stolarska.  In her own marriage record to Adam Zarzecki in 1802, shown below,2  the priest calls her only, “Victoria, from the voivodeship of Sieradz, the names of whose parents I do not know” and tells us that she was age 23 at the time of her wedding, suggesting a birth year of about 1779.  Bransk

 

The Sieradz Voivodeship (Palatinatus Siradiensis), where Wiktoria was said to have been born, existed at that time as an administrative division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and encompassed 6 counties and close to 200 Roman Catholic parishes.  Without knowing her parents’ names and an exact place of birth, further research on this line will be difficult at best.  Wiktoria was born into tumultuous times for Poland.  The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had already been diminished in size after the first partition of Poland in 1772, and Poland would be partitioned twice more, in 1793 and 1795, until it no longer existed by the time of Wiktoria’s marriage in 1802.  Both her birthplace, and her new hometown in the parish of Rybno, had become part of the Prussian Empire when she married Adam Zarzecki, gave birth to their only son, and died on 19 May 1807.  This political situation was as brief as Wiktoria’s life, however: just two months after her death, the Duchy of Warsaw was created by the Franco-Prussian treaty signed at Tilsit on 9 July 1807, creating a semi-autonomous Polish state that was in personal union with the Kingdom of Saxony.

One wonders why the priest might have recorded Wiktoria’s surname as Stolarska on her son’s marriage record in 1826, when it was unknown in 1802.  Perhaps her name truly was Stolarska, but the priest in 1802 was careless in his premarital examination, forgot to ask this information or failed to remember it, and then recorded later that he simply did not know her parents’ names?  How could she not have known her at least her father’s surname, if not her parents’ given names?  Was she born to an unwed mother, and perhaps she was orphaned at a young age?  How did a young, unmarried woman come to travel a distance of perhaps 90 miles from her home and settle in a distant village?  Did she travel with other family members, perhaps?  Unfortunately, the records of Rybno remain silent in regard to most of these questions.  The surname Stolarski does not appear in the parish records at all during this time period,3  which suggests that no other family members accompanied Wiktoria to Rybno.   The name “Stolarski” itself, like all Polish surnames with the root “Stolar-,” derives from the word, “stolarz,” meaning “joiner, carpenter,” so it’s also possible that the priest in 1826 created this surname for Wiktoria when he recorded her son’s marriage, perhaps based on someone’s recollection that her father was a carpenter.  As one might expect with such an etymology, the surname is not uncommon in Poland today, and is widely distributed geographically.  However, it does display a moderately increased prevalence in present-day Piotrków Trybunalski County, which was contained within the Sieradz Voivodeship.  It’s tempting to speculate that perhaps this surname really was used by Wiktoria’s family from that area, whose descendants still live there today.

Wiktoria’s life was sadly brief.  Following her marriage in 1802, she became the mother of her only child, Józef Zarzycki, who was born some time between August 1803 and March 1804 in Szwarocin.5   One might expect to see births to a married couple every two years, on average, but this was not the case for Wiktoria and Adam Zarzycki.  Unfortunately, fewer births mean fewer records which might mention Wiktoria and provide us with glimpses into her life.  In 1807, she died at the age of 28.6  This close-up of her death record tells us that she died of “petocie,” which is mentioned here as an old Polish form of the Latin word, “Petechiae.”  Victoria Zarzycka death crop.png

Petechiae are small, red or purple spots on the skin, caused by minor bleeding from a broken capillary, and can have a variety of causes ranging from infectious diseases, to trauma, to leukemia, and a variety of autoimmune or otherwise non-infectious causes.  However, an infectious, contagious disease is suggested here, since at least eight other deaths on this page were attributed to the same cause (two are shown here).  Two serious illnesses that cause a rash and were common during this time are scarlet fever and typhus.  Both of these illnesses are presently treated with antibiotics, and these diseases are no longer life-threatening with timely intervention.

As a 21st-century American, I’m very grateful for the easy access to antibiotics which I enjoy, and which is one reason why rashes and fevers no longer terrify us as they did our ancestors.  We’ll never know what Wiktoria’s life might have included had she lived longer.  Probably she would have lived quietly, just another illiterate peasant woman, raising her family, tending to her home and garden, and supporting her husband’s shoemaking business in whatever ways she was capable. She probably never imagined that one day her descendents would live all over the world.  Although her story is short, it’s one that captivates me.  Rest in peace, Wiktoria.

 

Sources:

1Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów 1826-1828,” 1826, #11, marriage record for Józef Zarzycki and Joanna Krzymińska.

2Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów 1790-1802,” 1802, #9, marriage record for Adam Zarzecki and Victoria, parents’ names unknown.

3Justyna Krogulska, Warsaw, Poland to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Zarzycki research notes; privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA.

4Hoffman, William F. Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. (Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society of America, 2012), 729.

Justyna Krogulska, Warsaw, Poland to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Zarzycki research notes; privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA. .”I didn’t find the birth certificate of Józef Zarzycki! There is a gap in the documents in the Aug 1803 – Mar 1804. It follows that Joseph was born at the turn of the year 1803-1804.  In the years 1802-1807 were not born other children of Adam Zarzecki and Wiktoria.”

6Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga zgonów, 1802-1807,”1807, #39, death record for Victoria Zarzecka.

© 2016 Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz