If Wishes Were Horses: the Premarital Agreements of Marianna and Barbara Kalota

We all have things we wish for, hope for, and dream about. As genealogists, sometimes our dreams might be considered a little unusual, like longing for an extant copy of the 1890 U.S. census for each enumeration district where one had relatives living at that time. But as the old saying goes, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” In some cases, all the wishing in the world will be in vain, because the thing we want may no longer exist—like the 1890 census. Sometimes it’s possible to obtain the same information in some other way—for example, using a state census or city directory to document an ancestor’s residence in a certain location circa 1890. At other times, we just have to resign ourselves to the reality that what we want is truly unavailable, and the information will be difficult or impossible to obtain by any other means.

When it comes to my Polish ancestors, I’ve always dreamed about prenuptial agreements. Continue reading “If Wishes Were Horses: the Premarital Agreements of Marianna and Barbara Kalota”

Using Cadastral Maps of Galicia

If you’re researching Christian ancestors from the Galicia region of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, chances are good that you’ve come across church records which mention a house number where your ancestor lived at the time he married, died, or had a new baby baptized. Moreover, if you’re interested in genealogy, chances are good that you’ve used Google Maps to obtain a street view of a home located at a particular address where your ancestors lived. So it’s inevitable that those researching Galician ancestors would want to use the house number from an old church record to find that ancestor’s home on a modern map, or at least see what exists in that place now. Unfortunately, this process is not quite as straightforward as it seems. In this post, I’ll provide a little background information about Galician cadastral maps, which can be used to assist in this process, and then walk through the steps needed to locate a Galician ancestor’s house on a cadastral map so you can then determine the corresponding location on a modern map.

What is a Cadastral Map, and What Cadastres Exist for Galicia?

A cadastre (kataster or kataster gruntowy in Polish) is a land or property register typically created for purposes of taxation, and it normally includes both detailed maps and corresponding property registers. In order to create those detailed maps, a survey of the land is required at an appropriate scale so that every separate plot of land can be distinguished on the map, e.g. 1:2,880 or 1:7,200 rather than the scale of 1:28,000 which was typical for a military survey. In Austrian Galicia, there were essentially three land surveys that are important for genealogy. The first of these, known as the Josephine Cadaster (Kataster Józefiński), was conducted between 1785 and 1789 during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. Detailed maps were not created from this survey, only field sketches (Brouillons or Feldskizzen).However, “surveyors were instructed to identify all houses, to record the number of livestock, to describe woods, rivers, and roads, and to indicate the nature of terrain on the maps. Joseph II said of it: ‘If one is to rule countries well, one must first know them exactly.'”2 Although no detailed maps were created to accompany this survey, the property registers (Metryka Józefińska) and some of the field sketches remain, and these have genealogical relevance.

The second important Galician cadastre, the Franciscan Cadastre (Kataster Franciszkański), began with a patent issued by Emperor Franz I on 23 December 1817. Also known as the Stabile cadastre, this cadastre was planned as an ambitious, long-term project for which a land survey was conducted at a scale of 1:2,880. It included such information as detailed descriptions of each parcel of land and its use (agriculture, pasture, forest, pond, etc.) in addition to noting landowners and homeowners — all of which was intended for the purpose of determining appropriate taxes. In recognition of the fact that this cadastre would take a long time to complete, orders were issued in 1819 for a provisional survey largely based on the Josephine Cadastre. This provisional survey was to be used for tax purposes in the interim, while surveying for the longer-term project was being carried out.3 The resulting property registers from this provisional survey of 1819 are known in Poland as the Metryka Franciszkańska. Since they were largely based on the Josephine surveys, the parcel numbers are almost always the same between these two sets of documents.

Meanwhile, the long-term cadastral survey, based on the patent issued by Francis I in  1817, was an ongoing project until it was finally completed in the Austrian part of the Empire by 1861. “A total of 30,556 cadastral parishes with a ground area of 300,082 square kilometers divided into nearly 50 million land parcels were surveyed. This was an astonishing rate of progress, achieved because the surveyors worked from sunrise to sunset, six days a week, and because much routine work was done by assistants.” It was finally implemented in the province of Galicia some 30-35 years after the original patent date, and the resulting cadastre includes a series of maps of Galician villages along with the corresponding descriptive documents, collectively known in Polish as operaty (or operat, singular), all of which were produced between about 1848-1854. To distinguish it from the provisional land survey registers created circa 1819, the documents from this comprehensive land survey are known as the Kataster Galicyjski (Galician Cadastre). Note that the parcel numbers resulting from this survey are almost completely different from the parcel numbers recorded in the Metryka Józefińska and Metryka Franciszkańska, so it’s important not to try to extrapolate too much from those earlier surveys.

There are many types of documents, tables, and statistical data included in the operat for a village and they constitute a treasure trove of information for serious scholars. However, the two that are perhaps most useful and accessible for armchair genealogists are the Alphabetisches Verzeichniss, which is the alphabetical list of parcel owners, and the Hauser Verzeichniss, which lists all the houses in the village. These are the all-important documents that are needed in order to use a cadastral map in combination with the house numbers found in Galician vital records. This will be discussed further shortly, but first, we need to find copies of both the cadastral maps and the corresponding operat documents for our village of interest.

Where Can I Find A Cadastral Map for my Ancestral Village?

Fortunately, a large number of Galician cadastral maps and descriptive property documents have survived, but due to the upheavals of war (and perhaps bureaucracy), the ones you need may be housed in different archives. For example, the cadastral maps for my ancestral village of Kołaczyce belong to the Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie, but the operat for Kołacyzce that are necessary for interpreting these maps are housed in the Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu. You may need to hire a professional researcher to access them for you as only a small fraction of these maps and indexes are online, but the maps themselves are inexpensive–16 zloty (about $4.39 U.S.) each, based on current prices from the Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie. Some cadastral maps may be found online as well, mainly those in possession of the state archives in Przemyśl and in Kraków. Those maps and operaty owned by the archive in Przemyśl are found in Zespół 126, Archiwum Geodezyjne. Those maps and operaty owned by the archive in Kraków are found in fond 29/280/0, Kataster galicyjski. Although none of the cadastral holdings of the Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie are online, a list of maps which can be ordered from this archive can be viewed hereGesher Galicia also maintains a searchable inventory of cadastral maps and cadastral records for Galicia which includes voter records, tax records, school records, and Polish magnate documents, in addition to Galician cadastral records. Last, but not least, you can always search Szukajwarchiwach for maps and related documents for your village of interest, whether that village was in Galicia, or was located elsewhere in Poland.

Although the earlier Metryka Józefińska and Metryka Franciszkańska documents should not be used with the cadastral maps from the 1850s, they may be of interest nevertheless. The Central State Historical Archives in Lviv, Ukraine is the repository for the Metryka Józefińska and Metryka Franciszkańska documents for a large number of Galician towns and villages, and a complete list of these holdings can be found here (note that this document is in Ukrainian).

Locating an Ancestral Home on a Cadastral Map

Now that we know where to find a cadastral map and the accompanying property registers for our ancestral village(s), we can turn our attention to locating our ancestors’ homes on those maps. The Alphabetisches Verzeichniss for my ancestral village of Kołaczyce was dated 1850, and I found it helpful to keep this time frame in mind when perusing the list for my Kołaczyce ancestors (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cover page of Alphabetisches Verzeichniss for Kołaczyce.

Alphabetisches Verzeichniss der Gemeinde Kolaczyce 1850 cover page

Let’s use this index to locate my Łącki ancestors in Kołaczyce. Here is the relevant entry for Franciszek Łacki, boxed in red (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Franz Łącki in the Alphabetisches Verzeichniss for Kołaczyce.6Franz Lacki 191 b

Before we jump in, let’s take a moment to orient ourselves to the layout of the page. On the far left side, we see that Franz Łącki is entry number 133 in the alphabetized list of homeowners. The Roman numerals in the next column indicate the map sections on which we’ll find his parcels of land (more on that below). Circled in green, we see the all-important house number–“191b.” Leaving aside the “b” designation for a moment, this is the same as the number that is mentioned for Franciszek Łącki in vital records from Kołaczyce, such as his 1847 death record  (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Death record for Franciszek Łącki from Kołaczyce, 12 December 1847, with house number (191) underlined in yellow.7Franciszek Lacki death 1847 image 2

The fact that Franciszek Łącki died in 1847, and the homeowners list is dated 1850, explains the word that comes after his name in that alphabetical homeowners list: “erben,” meaning “heirs.” What this entry tells us is that Franciszek Łącki’s heirs continued to live in house number 191 after his death in 1847 — at least through 1850 when the index was created. We can gain a bit more insight into this situation thanks to another document in the operat, the Hauser Verzeichniss, which I’ll come to in a moment.

Going back to the page from the alphabetical homeowners list (Figure 2), we see 16 different numbers in the middle of the entry, and these correspond to the numbers of land parcels which were owned by Franciszek Łącki. At the bottom of the entry, we see in red ink, “Bauparzelle 347.” The word “Bauparzelle” means “building parcel,” and the number that follows this term (347) is the number we need to use in order to locate Franz Łącki’s home on the map. This is the key point — if we assume that Franciszek Łącki’s house number, 191, corresponds to parcel 191 on the map, we’ll be looking in the wrong place. 

Now let’s take a look at the map itself. The map of Kołaczyce was provided by the archive as a series of five high-resolution TIFF files which were scanned from the five individual cadastral maps contained in this set, showing Kołaczyce and the adjacent hamlet of Kluczowa. Each segment of the map has one or more Roman numerals on it. For example, the “downtown” area of Kołaczyce is found on map section IV (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Section from cadastral map of Kołacyzce, showing map section number (IV) boxed in red.8Kolaczyce map 4 marked

However, this is not the section of map that we want, since the alphabetical homeowners list stated that Franciszek Łącki’s land was located on map sections I and II. Zooming in on map section I, we see that Franciszek Łącki actually lived on the outskirts of Kołaczyce, in the Kluczowa neighborhood (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Extract from map section I showing Kluczowa district, with map section number (I) boxed in red.9Kolaczyce map section 1 marked

Zooming in still further, we can now see where Franciszek Łącki’s land and home were located (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Detail from Kołaczyce map section I, showing Bauparzelle 347 and some of the other lots owned by Franciszek Łącki, noted in green.Franz Lacki's land, marked

As evidenced by this map, Franciszek Łącki’s home, which was called house number 191 in the vital records, is the yellow rectangle marked with the black number 347. The red, black and yellow colors are original to the map, along with the charming little “trees,” complete with tree shadows, that dot some of these parcels of land. I’ve underlined in green some of the additional parcels of land owned by Franciszek Łącki that appear on this section of the map.

To find this location on a satellite map, we need to zoom out again and identify some points of reference that can be seen on both the cadastral map and the satellite map. Here’s the cadastral map again, with Franciszek Łącki’s home circled in green and some prominent roads similarly marked in green, near the northern edge of Kołaczyce (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Cadastral map showing Franciszek Łącki’s home in relation to main roads and waterways. Franz Lacki's land, marked, zoomed out

To some extent, we can also use waterways such as the Wisłoka River to orient ourselves, although some waterways which appear on the cadastral map (e.g. the Bukowska River, which forms part of Kołaczyce’s northern border) no longer appear on the modern map. Now here’s the satellite view of the same location, with the same features marked (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Satellite map of the northern Kołaczyce area, showing approximate location of Franciszek Łącki’s home (circled in green) in relation to main roads and waterways, courtesy of Google Maps.satellite map, marked

When I zoom down to the street level on the satellite map, none of the houses appear to be old enough to date back to 1850, so I’m not certain that I’ll find any trace of Franciszek Łącki’s home if I visit that area on my next trip to Poland. Nonetheless, this technique gives a pretty good idea — at least to within a hundred meters or so, based on my mediocre map skills — of where in the world my great-great-great-great grandfather lived and worked, raised his family, and took his last breaths. I think that’s very cool.

Now let’s go back to Figure 2, the entry for Franciszek Łącki in the alphabetized list of homeowners. Remember how the house number was described as “191/b”? That suggests that there was another landowner who owned house number 191 jointly with the heirs of Franciszek Łacki, who would be found under the designation “191/a.” Who might that be? To answer this question, we can check the Hauser Verzeichniss for Kołaczyce (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Cover page of the Hauser Verzeichniss for Kołaczyce.10

Hauser Verzeichniss cover page

This brief index is a list of the house numbers for each home in the village, along with the name of the homeowner. The answer to our question about the other owner of house number 191 is found at the bottom of page 13 (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Extract from Hauser Verzeichniss for Kołaczyce showing owners of house number 191.11Homeowners of House 191

This indicates that the home was jointly owned by (a) Jakob Dąbrowski and (b) the heirs of Franz Łącki. From a genealogical perspective, this is interesting information, although unsurprising. Vital records tell us that Franciszek Łącki was married first to Tekla Stadnik or Stachnik, with whom he had five children, only two of whom lived to adulthood—daughters Marianna and Klara.12 Klara married Jakub Dąbrowski, who is undoubtedly the same as the Jakob Dąbrowski mentioned here.13 After Tekla died, Franciszek married Magdalena Gębczyńska and had five more children with her.14 By 1850, at the time of the Galician cadastre, both Franciszek and Magdalena had passed away along with their three youngest children, leaving 15-year-old twins Jakub and Anna as the remaining residents in the house, in addition to their older step-sister Klara, her husband Jakub, and their children, Jan, Stanisław, and Andrzej.15 

Genealogy and a love of old maps seem to go hand-in-hand for most of us. Our ancestors’ stories are rooted in the time and place where they lived, and cadastral maps help us to understand the element of place in a uniquely specific way. Fortunately, Galician cadastral maps and registers are widely available, relatively inexpensive to obtain, and not difficult to use, once you understand the need for the appropriate homeowner lists. So if you have ancestors from this region, why not poke around a bit in the archival collections mentioned here, to see what’s available for your villages of interest? You might gain a whole new perspective on your Galician heritage as a result.

Sources:

Featured image: Detail from Stadt Kolaczyce mit der Ortschaft Kluczowa, Kreis Jaslo, Provinz Galizien [Miasto Kołaczyce z miejscowością Kluczowa, pow. Jasło – Galicja], scan 59_1313_2848_04; file 2848, collection  59/1313/0 Kataster gruntowy; Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie, Rzeszów, Podkarpackie, Poland.

1 Kain, Roger J.P., and Elizabeth Baigent. The Cadastral Map in the Service of the State: A History of Property Mapping. (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 194; digital images, Google Books, (https://books.google.com : accessed 25 September 2018).

2 Ibid., p. 195.

3 Nowak, Daniel. “Metryki Józefińskie 1785-1788 r. i Franciszkańskie 1819-1820 r. nie tylko dla genealogów.” Pamięć Bliskich, http://pamiecbliskich.com, accessed 25 September 2018.

Kain and Baigent, The Cadastral Map in the Service of the State, 198.

Alphabetisches Verzeichniss der Gemeinde Kolaczyce sammt Ortschaft Kluczowa, Kreis Jaslo, Steuer Brzostek, Provinz Galizien, 1850, page 27; file 4, “Zbiór dokumentów dworskich;” series 543, Kołaczyce; collection 56/126/0 Archiwum Geodezyjne; Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu, Przemyśl, Podkarpackie, Poland.

Alphabetisches Verzeichniss der Gemeinde Kolaczyce sammt Ortschaft Kluczowa, Kreis Jaslo, Steuer Brzostek, Provinz Galizien, 1850, entry for Łącki, Franz, page 74; file 4, “Zbiór dokumentów dworskich;” series 543, Kołaczyce; collection 56/126/0 Archiwum Geodezyjne; Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu, Przemyśl, Podkarpackie, Poland.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Zgony, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1847, record #152, death record for Franciscus Łącki, 12 December 1847, Archiwum Archidiecezjalne w Przemyślu, Przemyśl, Podkarpackie, Poland.

Stadt Kolaczyce mit der Ortschaft Kluczowa, Kreis Jaslo, Provinz Galizien [Miasto Kołaczyce z miejscowością Kluczowa, pow. Jasło – Galicja], scan 59_1313_2848_04; file 2848, collection  59/1313/0 Kataster gruntowy; Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie, Rzeszów, Podkarpackie, Poland.

9 Ibid., scan 59_1313_2848_01+03.

10 Provinz Galizien Kreis Jasło Steuer Bezirk Kołaczyce Hauser Verzeichniss der Gemeinde Kolaczyce im Jahr 1850, file 4, “Zbiór dokumentów dworskich;” series 543, Kołaczyce; collection 56/126/0 Archiwum Geodezyjne; Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu, Przemyśl, Podkarpackie, Poland.

11 Ibid., p. 13, house no. 191.

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

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

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

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

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

13 Maciej Orzechowski, “Kołaczyce Marriages,” marriage record for Jacobus Dąbrowski and Clara Łącka, 28 September 1843, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Śluby, 1826-1889,’ Stare Kopie,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on 9 January 2015; Excel Spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maciej Orzechowski, “Kolaczyce Births,” baptismal record for Joannes Dąbrowski, born 9 December 1844, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stary Kopie,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts on 9 January 2015, Excel spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and

Ibid., baptismal record for Stanislaus Dąbrowski, born 1 May 1847; and

Ibid., baptismal record for Andreas Dąbrowski, born 21 October 1849.

 

For further reading:

Zbigniew Stettner’s article for Polish Origins, “Cadastral Records for Galicia Online.

Matthew Bielawa’s article, “The Central State Historical Archive in Lviv, Ukraine and Polish Genealogical Research.

https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kataster_nieruchomo%C5%9Bci (Provides a little information on cadastres in both the Austrian and Prussian partitions of Poland.)

References and more Information about the Gesher Galicia Map Room (in particular, the links mentioned in the references are very informative): https://maps.geshergalicia.org/references/index.html#cad 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, 2018.

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

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

Panning for Paneks

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

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

Searching for Święcickis

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

The Gontarek Family of Minnesota and Młodzieszyn

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

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

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

Gontarek births

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

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

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

Bronislawa Gontarek birth 1885 marked

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

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

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

Marianna Gontarek death 1890

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piotr and Anna Swiecicki marriage

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

Boom!

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case for the Legitimate Birth of Marianna Panek

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

The Panek Family of Sochaczew

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

Zielinskis of Bibiampol

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

Piotr and Marianna Zielinski marriage

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

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

Panek births

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

Helena and Julianna births

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

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

Panek deaths

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

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

Julianna Swiecicka

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

Swiecicka births

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

Helena Panek death

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

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

Helena and Julianna births

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

 

Accepting Uncertainty

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

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

The Kalisiak Family of Strugi and Starpiączka

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

Children of Andrzej and Marianna Kalisiak

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

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

Dorota Kalisiak birth

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

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

Mikolajew deaths

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

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

Dorota and Antoni deahts

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

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

Kasprzaks of Bronno

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

 

 

 

Just One Glimpse of A Quiet Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

Magdalena Gębczyńska’s Story

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

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

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

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

Józef Sopalski death 1818 marked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

The Many Wives of Józef Grzesiak

Veritatem Temporis filiam esse dixit.” (Truth is the daughter of time.) — Aulus Gellius

Conflicts in documentary evidence happen all the time. The logical resolution of such conflicts is one of the hallmarks of sound genealogical research that separates the professionals and experienced family history researchers from the novices. A perfect illustration of this is the story of my great-great-grandfather, Józef Grzesiak, and his many (?) wives.

Growing up, I used to ask my maternal grandmother to tell me about her mother’s family in Poland, and my desire to document those stories inspired my early family history efforts. Grandma’s mother was Veronica (née Grzesiak) Zazycki, but Grandma never knew the names of her grandparents, because “people didn’t talk about those things back then,” as she told me time and again. Nevertheless, Grandma knew a few details, such as the fact that her mother’s parents owned the grain mill that I wrote about previously. She told the story of how “Veronica’s mother died when Josephine was born, so at age 18, Veronica came to America. She found employment working in the kitchen of a restaurant.  She spoke no English, so her employers called her Mary and they communicated through signs and gestures.  She saved her money and sent it to her two brothers, Władysław (“Walter”) and Tadeusz, (Thaddeus), and her sister Józefa (Josephine), so they could come to America.”1 Grandma also told the story, shared previously, of how Walter married an actress in Poland who didn’t want to leave her career, which ultimately ended their marriage.

When I started my research, I didn’t know whether or not I’d ever be able to document some of these details, but I figured that it should be easy to answer the question, “Who were Veronica Grzesiak’s parents?” And in fact, it was pretty easy. On her marriage record to John Zazycki in 1901, Veronica reported her parents’ names as Joseph Grzesiak and Marianna Krawczynska (Figure 1).2

Figure 1: Marriage record for John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak, 5 August 1901.2Jan & Weronika Zazyki Marriage 1 marked

This document also told me which partition of Poland Grandma’s parents were from (Russian), and Veronica’s age reported here, 22, allowed me to estimate that she was born circa 1879. So far, so good.  However, when Veronica’s brother Thaddeus was married to Mary Gorski, he reported his parents’ names as Joseph Grzesiak and Mary Cebulska (Figure 2).3

Figure 2: Extract from marriage record for Thaddeus Grzesiak and Mayme (Mary) Gorski, 20 April 1910.3

Tadeusz Gresiak & Marya Gorska marriage record 1 marked

Now this was interesting, and it seemed like just the kind of detail that those family stories were likely to gloss over, since “people never talked about these things back then.” Okay, I concluded, no big deal, apparently Veronica and Thaddeus were half-siblings, sharing a father, but different mothers.

However, their sister Josephine named yet a different mother on her marriage record. When she married Joseph Cymerman in 1902, she stated that her parents were Joseph Grzesiak and Anna Nowacka (Figure 3).4

Figure 3: Extract from marriage record for Joseph Cymerman and Josepha Grzesiak, 5 August 1902.4

Jozefa Grzesiak & Jozef Cymermann marriage record 1 marked

Well, okay, maybe Joseph Grzesiak was very unlucky and lost two of his wives, so he married for a third time. It happened. But then there is yet another wife’s name reported on the death record for the oldest Grzesiak sibling, Walter (Figure 4).5

Figure 4: Extract from death record for Walter Grzesiak.5

Walter_Grzesiak_-_death

On this document, Walter was reported to be the son of Joseph Grzesiak and Maryanna Szafron. Now, most genealogists consider death records to be less accurate sources for information about an individual than some other types of records (e.g. marriage records) since the informant is probably grieving, possibly in shock, and may not be well-informed about the early life of the decedent, including parents’ names.  However, in this case, the informant was none other than Thaddeus (signing himself here as Theodore) Grzesiak — Walter’s brother.

So what do we make of this?  We have four siblings, all children of Joseph Grzesiak, but four different mother’s names reported on four different documents by three of the siblings.  Were they all half-siblings, each with the same father but a different mother?  I ran this theory past Grandma while she was still alive, and she didn’t buy it.  She had never heard of Walter, Thaddeus and Josephine being half-siblings to her mother, but she had no explanation for the discrepancies on the documents.  The maiden names reported for the mothers — Marianna Krawczyńska, Marianna Szafron, Marya Cebulska, and Anna Nowacka — weren’t even phonetically similar, apart from the fact that the siblings more or less agreed on a first name of Marianna. And was it grief that caused Thaddeus to change his story, reporting on his own marriage record that his mother was Maria Cebulska but then deciding 36 years later that her name was Marianna Szafron? Was it possible that the Grzesiak siblings did not even know their own mother’s name?  Perhaps there was an explanation:  Grandma said that Veronica’s mother had died (shortly?) after the birth of the youngest sibling, Josephine. Since Thaddeus and Veronica were only 7 and 5 when Josephine was born, maybe none of the children knew her well?

The only way to answer this question was to examine evidence from Polish records. The birth records for Walter, Veronica, Thaddeus and Josephine should tell us who their mothers were. If Joseph had several wives who died in succession, there would be death records for those wives and marriage records to tell the tale.

Polish Records to the Rescue

A very robust paper trail consisting of naturalization records (Figure 5),6 passenger manifests,7,8 and draft registrations,9 in addition to a personal recollection shared with me by Tadeusz Grzesiak’s son, Arthur Gray,10 all pointed to the Grzesiaks’ place of origin as the village of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County, which was at that time located in the Kalisz gubernia (province) of Russian Poland.

Figure 5: Władysław Grzesiak’s petition for naturalization, 23 January 1917, showing place of birth “Kowalewo, Poland, Russia” on 17 September 1867.Walter Grzesiak Petition

In the church records of Kowalewo, birth records were discovered for each of the immigrant Grzesiak children. Władysław Grzesiak was born 20 September 1867, fairly consistent with the birth date he reported for himself on his naturalization petition (Figure 6).11 

Figure 6: Polish-language birth record for Władysław Grzesiak, born 20 September 1867, with names of parents and child underlined in red.11OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this document, Władysław’s parents are reported to be Józef Grzesiak, age 26, a farmhand (parobek) residing in Kowalewo, and his wife, Maryanna née Krawczyńska, age 20. Similarly, the birth record for Tadeusz Grzesiak was discovered, and his parents, too, were reported to be Józef Grzesiak and Marianna née Krawczyńska (Figure 7).12

Figure 7: Russian-language Birth record for Tadeusz Grzesiak, born 27 March 1874, with names of parents and child underlined in red.12Tadeusz Grzesiak birth record marked

It’s evident that there’s a language change between these two records. Władysław’s birth record was written in Polish, while Tadeusz’s birth record was written in Russian. This was one of the punitive measures imposed by the Russian Government on Polish territories as a result of the failure of the January Uprising of 1863. Prior to 1867, the use of the Polish language was permitted in official record-keeping, but starting in 1868 (earlier in some areas) official records and even church records were required to be kept only in Russian. Tadeusz’s birth date, 27 March 1874, is a few years off from his date of birth as he reported it on his World War II draft registration — 24 March 1878. However, it was not unusual for people to report their dates of birth inaccurately in an era when there was no reason to know this information precisely, as there is today. In this document, Józef Grzesiak was reported to be a 33-year-old “master of the house” (хозяин), while his wife, Marianna, was age 31. The age difference between Józef and Marianna, which was 6 years in the first record, has magically diminished to 2 years, but again, such discrepancies are very common in these records.

Next, we have the birth record for my great-grandmother, Weronika Grzesiak, who was born 27 December 1876 (Figure 8).13 

Figure 8: Russian-language birth record for Weronika Grzesiak, born 27 December 1876, with names of parents and child underlined in red.13Weronika Grzesiak birth marked

Once again, parents were recorded as Józef Grzesiak, “master of the house,” of Kowalewo, age 37, and his wife, Maryanna née Krawczyńska, age 33.

Finally, the birth record of Józefa Grzesiak was discovered.14 Józefa was born 6 March 1881, and yes, her parents were none other than Józef Grzesiak and Marianna née Krawczyńska (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Russian-language birth record for Józefa Grzesiak, born 6 March 1881, with names of parents and child underlined in red.14Jozefa Grzesiak birth record

This time, Józef Grzesiak was recorded as “master of the house,” age 40, while his wife, Marianna, was age 37. Ultimately, Józef’s and Marianna’s dates of birth can only be known accurately when their birth records are discovered — and I discovered those a long time ago, but that’s another story for another day.

As if this weren’t sufficient evidence to put to rest the notion that the immigrant Grzesiak siblings were half-siblings, the icing on the cake was the search in marriage records and death records for any marriages for Józef Grzesiak or death records for previous wives. The only marriage record discovered was his marriage in Kowalewo in 1865 to Marianna Kawczyńska (sic) (Figure 10).15

Figure 10: Polish-language marriage record from Kowalewo for Józef Grzesiak and Maryanna Kawczyńska (sic), 31 October 1865 with names of the groom and bride underlined in red.15Jozef Grzesiak and Marianna Krawczynska marriage

The fact that this is the only marriage record found for Józef Grzesiak in Kowalewo is unsurprising, given that all of his children’s birth records name the same mother, Marianna Krawczyńska. The date of the record makes sense — they were married about 2 years before Władysław’s birth in 1867, not an unusually long period of time to be married prior to the birth of an eldest child. Józef was described as a 25-year-old bachelor, born in Cienin Zaborny but residing in Kowalewo with his parents, Stanisław and Jadwiga, at the time of his marriage. Marianna was noted to be age 22, born in Zagórów and residing in Kowalewo, daughter of Antoni and Wiktoria.

So at the end of the day, there is absolutely no evidence in Polish records for any wives of Józef Grzesiak other than Marianna Krawczyńska, whom he married in 1865 and with whom he had 6 children: the four immigrant Grzesiak siblings, as well as two daughters, Konstancja and Pelagia, who remained in Poland, and whose story I touched on a bit previously. There was no Maria Cebulska, no Anna Nowacka, no Marianna Szafron. They didn’t exist. Grandma Veronica was the only one of her siblings who accurately reported her mother’s name on a document in the U.S. So where did Tadeusz and Józefa come up with those names? Maybe Grandma was right all along — “people just didn’t talk about those things back then.” Maybe Tadeusz and Józefa really had no idea what their mother’s name was. One thing is certain, though: Marianna Grzesiak did not die when Józefa was born, or even shortly thereafter. No, Marianna Grzesiak died in Russian Poland in 1904, when her youngest daughter Józefa was 23 years old and married.16 So isn’t it a little odd that at least two of her children didn’t appear to know her name, and that the story was handed down that she died before Veronica and her siblings left Poland for America? I have some speculations about that, but it’s another story for another day.

Genealogists usually find that the best strategy for handling conflicting evidence is to keep gathering data until the truth emerges. Sometimes some analytical skill is required to interpret the data, but at other times, it’s just a question of perseverance to find the right records to settle the question. In this case, one could look at the data from U.S. records and conclude that Józef Grzesiak had three or four wives, or one could dig deeper, find the Grzesiak children’s birth records and Józef and Marianna’s marriage record from Poland, and know the truth.

Sources

1 Helen Zielinski, interviews by Julie Szczepankiewicz, circa 1986-1998; Notes from interviews privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 2018.

2 City of Buffalo, Bureau of Vital Statistics, marriage record for John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak, 5 August 1901, certificate no. 202, Buffalo, Erie, New York, Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York.

3 New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, marriage record for Thaddeus Grzesiak and Mayme (Mary) Gorski, 20 April 1910, certificate no. 9051, Buffalo, Erie, New York, Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York.

City of Buffalo, Bureau of Vital Statistics, marriage record for Joseph Cymerman and Josephine Grzesiak, 5 August 1902, certificate no.198, Buffalo, Erie, New York, Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York.

New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, death certificate for Walter Grzesiak, 25 April 1946, no. 2600, Buffalo, Erie, New York.

Wladyslaw Grzesiak, Petition for Naturalization, No. 4950, 23 January 1917, Supreme Court of New York, Buffalo, Erie, New York.

7 Maryland, Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 (image), Veronika Grzesiak, S.S. Willehad, April 1898, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 25 February 2018.

Maryland, Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 (image), Jozef, Kazimira and Jozefa Grzesiak, S.S. Rhein, May 1900, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 25 February 2018.

World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for New York State, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 2555973; record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147, record for Tadeusz George Grzesiak, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 25 February 2018.

10Arthur Gray, interview by Julie Szczepankiewicz, circa 1998; Notes from interview privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 2018.

11 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1867, births, #39, record for Władysław Grzesiak, accessed in person at the archive by Zbigniew Krawczyński, Archiwum Państwowe w Poznaniu. Oddział w Koninie, 3 Maja 78 Konin, Poland.

12 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1874, births, #17, record for Tadeusz Grzesiak, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl, accessed on 25 February 2018.

13Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki),  Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1876, births # 72, record for Weronika Grzesiak, accessed on 25 February 2018.

14 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki) (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1881, births, #15, record for Józefa Grzesiak, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl, accessed on 25 February 2018.

15Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1865, marriages, #10, record for Józef Grzesiak and Maryanna Kawczynska, 31 October 1865, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl , image 20.jpg, accessed on 25 February 2018.

16 Roman Catholic church, Zagórów parish (Zagórów, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1947, Akta zgonów 1891-1906, 1904, #52, death record for Marianna Grzesiak, DGS 8018016, Image 383, accessed on 25 February 2018.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

Where Were Your Ancestors in 1857?

Genealogists often think in terms of family timelines, tracing one particular family line through many generations. However, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to examine my family tree in cross section. That is, what was happening in each of my family lines in the year 1857? I chose that year because I wrote recently about my 3x-great-grandparents’s marriage in Roding, Bavaria in 1857, and that got me wondering what my other ancestors were doing in that same year, and where they were living around the world. It turns out this is a pretty useful (and fun!) exercise. I gained new insights into each family group, and it also served to point out deficiencies in my research, and families that I’ve neglected, that I should perhaps plan to spend more time on in 2018. Here, then, is a summary of my ancestral couples who were alive at that time. Although the map in the featured image is not “clickable,” you can use this link to explore that map in greater depth, if you’d like.

Maternal grandfather’s line

In 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents, Michał Zieliński and Antonia (née Ciećwierz) Zielińska, were living in the village of Mistrzewice in Sochaczew County in what was at that time the Królestwo Polskie or Kingdom of Poland, which officially had some autonomy, but was in reality a puppet state of the Russian Empire. They’d been married about four years, although I don’t know the precise date of their marriage because 19th century records for Mistrzewice prior to 1859 were largely destroyed. Michał and Antonina had one daughter, Zofia, who was about 2, and Michał supported his family as a gospodarz, a farmer who owned his own land.1

Meanwhile, in the nearby village of Budy Stare, Sochaczew County, my 3x-great-grandparents Roch Kalota and Agata (née Kurowska) Kalota welcomed their (probably) oldest daughter, my great-great-grandmother, Marianna Kalota, who was born circa 1857. Again, the destruction of records has been a problem for researching this line, but available records tell us that Roch Kalota, too, was a farmer.2

In the south of Poland in 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents on my Klaus line had not yet married. Jakub Klaus was the son of Wawrzyniec (Lawrence) Klaus and Anna Żala or Żola. He was a young man already 27 years of age, but he did not marry his wife, Franciszka, until 1860.Franciszka Liguz was the daughter of Wawrzyniec Liguz and Małgorzata Warzecha, age 21 in 1857. Both Franciszka and her husband-to-be, Jakub, lived in the village of Maniów in Dąbrowa County in the Galicia region of the Austrian Empire, and Jakub was described as a famulus, or servant.

Still further south in what is now Poland, my 3x-great-grandparents Jakub Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz were 4 years away from their eventual wedding date.4 In 1857, Jakub was a 22-year-old shoemaker from the village of Kołaczyce in Jasło County in the Austrian Empire, and Anna was the 23-year-old daughter of a shoemaker from the same village.

Maternal grandmother’s line

Heading further north again in Poland, back into Sochaczew County in Russian Poland, my 2x-great-grandparents Ignacy and Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycki were about 8 years into their marriage, raising their family in the village of Bronisławy. By 1857, they had three children for whom birth records have been discovered, Marianna,5 Paulina,and Tomasz.7 Ignacy was a land-owning farmer who was born in the nearby village of Szwarocin,8 but his wife Antonina’s place of birth remains a mystery.

Moving west now, in 1857 my 3x-great-grandparents Stanisław and Jadwiga (née Dąbrowska) Grzesiak were living in Kowalewo Opactwo, a village that was located in Słupca County at the far western edge of the Russian Empire, within walking distance of the border with Prussia. Ages 51 and 41, respectively, they were already parents to 12 of their 13 children. Stanisław was usually described as a shepherd or a tenant farmer.9

In the nearby town of Zagórów, my 3x-great-grandmother, Wiktoria (née Dębowska) Krawczyńska was living as a 53-year-old widow, having lost her husband Antoni Krawczyński 10 years earlier.10 Antoni had been a shoemaker, and he and Wiktoria were the parents of 8 children, of whom 4 died in infancy. By 1857, the surviving children ranged in age from 27 to 14 — the youngest being my great-great-grandmother, Marianna Krawczyńska.

Paternal grandfather’s line

Meanwhile, in Detroit, Michigan, my 3x-great-grandparents Michael Ruppert and Maria Magdalena Causin were newlyweds in 1857, having married on 12 May of that year.11 Michael had immigrated to the U.S. just four years earlier, at the age of 19, with his parents and siblings.12 The Rupperts were from the village of Heßloch in the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, or what is now Alzey-Worms district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.13 Michael was a carpenter, and he and his family had already begun to use the surname Roberts.14 His wife Maria Magdalena Causin/Casin/Curzon is a bit of a mystery, and will likely be the subject of future blog post, because she doesn’t show up in the records until her marriage in 1857, and her parents’ names are not on her marriage or death records.

In 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents Henry and Catherine (née Grentzinger) Wagner and were also living in Detroit, had been married for 2 years and were parents to their first child, John Wagner.15 Henry was a teamster who had arrived in Detroit about 3 years previously along with his parents and siblings, all immigrants from the village of Roßdorf in the Electorate of Hesse, a state within the German Confederation.16  This was a first marriage for Henry, but a second marriage for Catherine, since she was a young widow after the death of her first husband, Victor Dellinger or Dalmgher.17 In addition to burying her husband some time between 1850-1855, it appears that both of Catherine’s children from that first marriage 18 also died young, since they were not mentioned in the 1860 census in the household of Henry and Catherine Wagner. Catherine herself was an immigrant from Steinsoultz, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, who came to Detroit with her parents and siblings some time between 1830 and 1834.

Across the border and some 225 miles to the east, my 3x-great-grandparents Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh made their home in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. In 1857, Elizabeth Walsh was a 39-year-old mother of 5, pregnant with her 6th child, Ellen, who was born in December of that year.19 Elizabeth was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of United Empire Loyalists, so her family were among the first settlers in St. Catharines. Her husband, Robert Walsh, was a 49-year-old tailor from Ireland whose family origins have proven to be more elusive than his wife’s.

Also living in St. Catharines were my 3x-great-grandparents, Robert and Catherine Dodds. In 1857, Robert was a 40-year-old immigrant from England, usually described as a laborer or farm laborer. Nothing is known about Robert’s family of origin. He married his wife, Catherine, circa 1840, and by 1857 they were the parents of three daughters and three sons.20 Catherine’s origins, and even her maiden name, are unclear. There is evidence that she was born circa 1818 in Martintown, Glengarry, Ontario to parents who were Scottish immigrants or of Scottish extraction, but no birth record or marriage record has yet been discovered for her.

Paternal grandmother’s line

Jacob and Catherine (née Rogg or Rock) Böhringer, my 3x-great-grandparents, were German immigrants from the Black Forest, having lived in the village of Gündelwangen in the Grand Duchy of Baden21 prior to their migration to Buffalo, New York in 1848.22 By 1857, Catherine and Jacob had already buried three of their seven children, including oldest daughter Maria Bertha, who was born in Germany and apparently died on the voyage to America. Jacob was a joiner or a cabinet maker.23

In 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents Joseph Murre and Walburga Maurer were still about 5 years away from their eventual wedding date. They were born and married in Bavaria, Germany, although I have yet to discover their specific place of origin. I don’t know the names of the parents of either Joseph or Walburga. Joseph was a woodworker who was employed in a planing mill in Buffalo, New York in 1870 24 and was later listed as a carpenter in the Buffalo city directory in 1890. He and Walburga arrived in New York on 3 April 1869 with their children Maria, Anna and Johann.25

In October 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents Johann Meier and Anna Maria Urban were married in the parish church in Roding, Bavaria.26 Their first child, Johann Evangelista Meier, was born out of wedlock two years previously although the father was named on the baptismal record with a note that the child was subsequently legitimized. Johann and Anna Maria would go on to have a total of 10 children, 3 of whom migrated to Buffalo, New York.

In 1857, my 4x-great-grandparents, Ulrich Götz or Goetz and Josephine Zinger, were living somewhere in Bavaria and raising their 4-year-old son, Carl Götz, who was my 3x-great-grandfather. Almost nothing is known of this family, including where they lived in Bavaria or the names of Carl’s siblings. Carl grew up to be the second husband of a much older wife, Julia Anna Bäumler, who was already 19 in 1857. Julia had at least one child from a previous relationship, a son, John George Bäumler, who was born in 1858. Julia and Carl married in Bavaria circa 1875, a development which may or may not have influenced John Bäumler’s decision to emigrate from Bavaria to Buffalo, New York in 1876.28 Julia gave birth to her only child with Carl, Anna Götz (my great-great-grandmother), in 1877, and the Götz family eventually followed John Bäumler to Buffalo in 1883. Julia Götz’s death record states that she was born in “Schlattine, Bavaria,” which suggests the village of Schlattein in Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bavaria, but further research is needed to confirm this location.

So there you have it: a summary of where my ancestors were in the world, and in their lives, in the year 1857. But what about your ancestors? Where were they living, and what were they doing? Is there a more interesting year for your family than 1857? Choose a different year, and tell me your ancestors’ stories!

Selected Sources:

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mistrzewicach, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl, 1875, Małżeństwa, #2, record for Zofia Zielińska and Piotr Malinowski, accessed on 10 November 2017.

2 Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mlodzieszynie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl, Księga zgonów 1889-1901, 1895, #59, death record for Wojciech Kalota, accessed on 10 November 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary Magdalene parish (Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolskie, Poland), Księgi metrykalne, 1786-1988, Akta małżeństw 1786-1988, Maniów, 1860, 16 September, marriage record for Jacobus Klaus and Francisca Liguz, Family History Library film # 1958428 Items 7-8.

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

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

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’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1828, #34, baptismal record for Ignacy Zarzycki.

Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. słupecki), 1832, marriages, #14, record for Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbrowska, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/, accessed 17 November 2017.

10 Roman Catholic Church, Zagórów parish (Zagórów (Słupca), Poznań, Poland), Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1947, 1843, #137, death record for Antoni Krawczyński.; FHL film #2162134, Item 1, Akta zgonów 1844-1849.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s parish (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA), “Marriages”, 1857, #15, marriage record for Michael Ruppert and Magdalena Causin.

12 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (index and image), record for Franz, Catherine, Michael, Arnold, and Catherine Rupard, S.S. William Tell, arrived 4 March 1853, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 123; Line: 51; List Number: 146, accessed 17 November 2017.

13 Roman Catholic Church (Heßloch (Kr. Worms), Hesse, Germany), Kirchenbuch, 1715-1876, 1834, baptismal record for Michael Ruppert, FHL film #948719.

14 1860 U.S. Census (population schedule), Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, p. 142, Michael Roberts and Frank Roberts households, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

15 Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1940, database, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org), database with images, 1855, #11, record for Henry Wagner and Catherine Dellinger, accessed 17 November 2017.

16 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry, Cath., August, Johnny, Gertrude, and Marianne WagnerS.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 17 November 2017.

17 Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1940,  (images and transcriptions), Wayne County, marriage certificates, 1842-1848, v. B, #1733, marriage record for Victor Dellinger and Catherine Grenzinger, 3 February 1846,  FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org, accessed 17 November 2017.

18 1850 U.S. Federal Census (population schedule), Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, page 156B and 157, Victor Dalmgher household, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.  

19 Census of 1861, database, Library and Archives Canada, St. Catharines, Lincoln, Canada West (Ontario), Robert Walsh household, item number 2721097, accessed 17 November 2017.

 20 Census of 1861, database, Library and Archives Canada, Grantham, Lincoln, Canada West (Ontario), Library and Archives Canada, Robert Dodds household, Item number 1884852, accessed 17 November 2017.

21 Roman Catholic Church, Gündelwangen parish (Gündelwangen, Waldshut, Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany), Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1810-1869, 1847, baptisms, #4, record for Maria Bertha Rogg, p. 165, with addendum on page 171, Family History Library film #1055226.

22 Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1850,  record for Jacob Behringer, Catherine, and Marie Behringer, S.S. Admiral, arrived 4 November 1848 in New York, http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

23 1860 United States Federal Census (population schedule), 7th Ward Buffalo, Erie, New York, p. 77, Jacob Barringer household, http://familysearch.org, accessed 17 November 2017.

24 1860 United States Federal Census (population schedule), 7th Ward Buffalo, Erie, New York, p. 73, Joseph Murri household, http://familysearch.org, accessed 17 November 2017.

25 Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Joseph, Walburga, Anna, Marie, and Johann Muri, S.S. Hansa, arrived 3 April 1869 in New York,  Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 308; Line: 38; List Number: 292. http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

26 BZAR, Roman Catholic Church, St. Pancrus parish (Roding, Cham, Oberpfalz, Germany), Marriage record for Johann Maier and Anna M. Urban, 27 October 1857, Vol. 27, page 3 MF 573.

271900 United States Federal Census (population schedule), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 107, Sheet 16B, Charles Goetz household, https://.ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

28 1900 United States Federal Census (population schedule), Gainesville, Wyoming, New York, E.D. 122, Sheet 9A, John Baumler household, https://.ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

Frank Zielinski and the Board of Special Inquiry

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

— Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, 1883.

Despite Lazarus’ idealized portrayal of America’s welcome toward immigrants, there has always been a fair amount of suspicion toward the most recent wave of newcomers, and concern that they would take away jobs from American citizens or require public assistance. Any family historian who has ever studied a passenger manifest from the early 20th century has seen the columns in which immigrants were required to verify that they were in good mental and physical health, that they were not deformed or crippled, that they were not anarchists or polygamists. Immigrants could be sent back home for any number of reasons, and although only about 2% of Ellis Island immigrants were actually turned away, many of our ancestors were subjected to a more detailed physical exam or a special hearing prior to admittance.

Consequently, many of us have discovered evidence in our own family trees of  immigrants who were detained for a hearing with the Board of Special Inquiry. In my family, my great-grandfather’s brother, Franciszek (Frank) Zieliński, was one such example. Franciszek arrived at Ellis Island on 7 April 1907, and his passenger manifest is shown here on the Ellis Island site (free) or via Ancestry, here (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Extract from passenger manifest of Franciszek Zelinski (sic) from the S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907.1Frank Zielinski marked manifest left crop

Franciszek appears on line 11, a single, male farm laborer, age 26, not able to read or write, which was not unusual for men living in Russian Poland at that time. His last permanent residence was noted to be Sochaczew, Russian Poland. Franciszek did not have a ticket to his final destination and he had only one dollar to his name, but he was reported to have paid for his ticket himself. Franciszek and a traveling companion, Aleksander Winnicki, were both going to join the brother-in-law of a third companion, Walenty Jankowski, who reported that he was from the village of Czyste, which is near Sochaczew. Walenty’s brother-in-law, Antoni Bejger (?), was living in Buffalo, New York. Although this manifest page is genealogical gold, it tells only half the story. As evidenced by the “SI” notations and subsequent “Admitted” stamps, all three of these men, along with four others on this page, were flagged for detainment and a hearing with the Board of Special Inquiry (SI).

These Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry appear as separate documents that usually constitute the final pages of the ship’s manifest, or possibly the first few pages of the manifest, as some manifests were microfilmed in reverse order. It’s common for a search on Ancestry to reveal one of the manifest pages for a particular immigrant (the main manifest page or the Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry page), but not both. However, you can always browse manually to find the additional page if there is reason to suspect that it should exist. Figure 2 shows the page from the Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry where Franciszek Zieliński was mentioned.

Figure 2: Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, Franceszek Zelinski (sic), S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907.2

Board of Special Inquiry manifest Frank Zielinski crop

The left-most columns on this manifest confirm the data found in the original manifest entry for Franciszek, indicating “26m” for a 26-year-old male, followed by his name. The next columns report group number and page number on the manifest where he was originally recorded. There is a column for number of persons held, which was only one, in Franciszek’s case. However, other entries note larger traveling parties, such as the group of 8 recorded further down on the page — a mother traveling with 7 children, who was detained as a Likely Public Charge (L.P.C.). The next column reveals the reason for Frank’s detainment, “C.L.” This notation stands for “Contract Labor,” and Franciszek’s traveling companions, Aleksander Winnicki and Walenty Jankowski, were detained for this same reason.

Apparently, Franciszek and the others were suspected of immigrating in violation of the Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885. This law was intended to discourage the practice among American companies of promising jobs to immigrants upon arrival, bringing them in under contract, or prepaying their passage. In addition,

The law aimed at reducing immigration to the country and supplying the workforce with better skilled trained craftsmen. The act prohibited all companies and individuals from bringing immigrants into the United States under contract or through indentured servitude. A less overt purpose of the law was to raise the quality of new immigrants by excluding people who could not pay their own way to reach the United States. Immigrants who could afford to travel to the United States on their own income were most welcome.3

The next columns on the manifest report the name of the immigration inspector, Leonard, and the actions of the Boards of Special Inquiry. In the case of Franciszek and his friends, the hearings took place on that same day, 7 April (reported in the “Date” column), and a transcript of the proceedings was recorded by the secretary “Lov” on page 10 of the stenographer’s notebook. One such transcript can be found here, although the transcript from Franciszek’s hearing would not have been preserved because he was ultimately admitted to the United States. The only records that were not destroyed were for cases in which the BSI judged in favor of exclusion an immigrant, and the immigrant appealed the decision. The documents surrounding those appeals are housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and additional information about obtaining them can be found here.

The final columns on the far right side of the page are also interesting, in that they provide a tally for the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners the detained person or party received while in detainment. The cost of these meals was billed to the steamship company. Unfortunately, the top corner of the original page was torn prior to microfilming, so this information is not available in Frank’s case.

Ultimately, Frank was admitted to the U.S., possibly because he was able to persuade the BSI that he did, in fact, pay for his own ticket as he reported on the manifest. Nevertheless, these Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry provide fascinating details to add to our understanding of our immigrant ancestors’ stories. So the next time you see an “admitted” stamp on a manifest next to the name of an immigrant ancestor, be sure to dig a little deeper in the manifest to uncover the rest of the story.

 

For further reading:

Grounds for Exclusion noted on BSI lists:  http://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/manifests/bsi/causes.html, and

http://www.dvhh.org/dta/usa/general-research/alien_detentions.htm

Interesting story about an immigrant whose admittance was denied by the BSI, but who gained entry upon appeal:

http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/Manifests/bsi/

Sources:

1 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image), Ancestry.com, (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003), Record for Franciszek Zelinski, S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907, list 10, line 11, accessed 8 October 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image), Ancestry.com, (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003), Franceszek Zelinski (sic) in Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907, page 121, accessed 8 October 2017.

Bell, Keith J. “Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885,”  Immigration to the United States, http://immigrationtounitedstates.org, accessed 8 October 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017