On the Trail of Stanisław Majczyk!

It’s probably happened to all of us: you get an email from a DNA match, and your curiosity is piqued to figure out the match. Some may think of this kind of research as pursuit of a BSO (Bright Shiny Object); others may think of it as a serendipitous research prompt. Today, I’m thinking it’s the latter, because it was thanks to this kind of spontaneous, drop-everything-and-go-down-the-rabbit-hole research, that I broke through a brick wall and discovered a new generation of names in my husband’s ancestry.

The Party of the First Part

It all started when Karen Benson (whose name I’m using with her permission) wrote to me regarding DNA matches on Ancestry between her family and my family. Specifically, both Karen and her brother were matches to my husband (Bruce), and two of our sons, and she was hoping I might be interested in collaborating to determine precisely how our two families are related. Since Bruce’s family is of entirely Polish ethnicity, she suspected that the connection was through one of her Polish grandparents, Franciszek/Frank Kondzik or Antonina “Anna” (née Kocot) Kondzik, rather than through the Slovak side of her family.

Karen had obtained good evidence that both Frank and Antonina were from the same part of Poland; namely, the area around the town of Różan. To briefly summarize, Frank’s naturalization petition stated that he was born in “Rozan, Poland” circa 9 July 1883 (Figure 1), and on his World War II draft registration card, his birth was reported as 8 June 1883 in “Roziun, Poland” (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Extract from naturalization petition for Frank Kondzik with date and place of birth boxed in red.1Frank Kondzik declaration

Figure 2: Extract from Frank Kondzik’s World War II draft card with place and date of birth boxed in red.2Frank Kondzik WWII draft card

Those birth dates are reported to a degree of precision that was typical for Polish immigrants of this era, so it’s okay that they don’t match exactly. There’s only one place within the borders of Poland today called Różan (and no places called Rozuin), so the evidence is consistent so far, and we’re off to a good start. Although vital records from Różan are indexed in Geneteka, coverage doesn’t begin until 1897, so it’s not possible to find Franciszek’s birth record to confirm the location. However, this surname does exist in this parish, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Search result from Geneteka for birth records from Różan parish with surname Kondzik. “Inne nazwiska Kondzik” means that the father of the person whose birth record was indexed, Franciszka Kłendzik, was noted to go by an alternate surname, Kondzik, in addition to Kłendzik.

Kondzik in Geneteka

Unfortunately, a search of PRADZIAD (the vital records database of the Polish state archives), accessed through Szukajwarchiwach, indicates that no Roman Catholic civil birth records for Różan prior to 1897 are in the holdings of the Polish state archives. It may be that these early records are available onsite at the parish, or in the diocesan archive in Łomża, but for now, we’re at a standstill. 

Although Frank’s naturalization declaration stated only that his wife’s name was Anna and that she was born in Poland, Karen had other evidence to help us locate Anna’s family in Polish records. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Anna Kondzik provided her date of birth as 21 November 1890 and her date of death as 4 June 1992 (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Entry from SSDI for Anna Kondzik.3Anna Kondzik SSDI

Her grave marker confirmed that this same “Anna” Kondzik was originally Antonina (Figure 5), and her entry in the Social Security Applications and Claims index provided her parents’ names as “Vincent Kocot” and “Rosalie Kacmarchek” (Figure 6).

Figure 5: Antonina Kondzik in Ancestry‘s Find-a-Grave index.4Antonina Kondzik FAG

Figure 6: Anna Kondzik in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index.5 Anna Kondzik in SSA&C

Anna’s parents’ given names are translated, while her mother’s maiden name is transliterated, so we can expect that their names in Polish records will be Wincenty Kocot and something along the lines of Rozalia Kaczmarczak.

Anna/Antonina’s passenger manifest is the final clue needed to locate her family in Polish records. According to the manifest, 20-year-old Antonina Koczot [sic] was a Polish immigrant from Russia. (If you’re puzzled as to why a Pole might be living in Russia in this era, this might help.) She departed from the port of Hamburg in 1913, leaving behind her father, “Vincenti Kocot” in their home village of “Dusababa,” transcribed by Ancestry as Busababa (Figure 7). There’s no place in Poland today or within Polish borders historically that was called Dusababa or Busababa, but the village of Dyszobaba is a good fit, phonetically—and as a bonus, it’s located just north of the town of Różan, where Anna’s husband Frank was born (Figure 8).

Figure 7: Extract from passenger manifest for Antonina Koczot.6Antonina Kocot manifest

Figure 8: Map courtesy of Google Maps, showing relative locations of Dyszobaba and Różan, presently located in the Mazowieckie province of Poland. Dyszobaba

The Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Lands] informs us that the village of Dyszobaba belonged to the Roman Catholic parish in Sieluń, which appears north of Dyszobaba on the map in Figure 8, so we’ll need to start with parish records from Sieluń in order to find records of Antonina’s family.7

Birth records from Sieluń circa 1890 when Antonina Kocot was born are not indexed in Geneteka. Nonetheless, a quick search in the database reveals a number of marriage records for children of Wincenty Kocot and Rozalia Kaczmarczyk (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Results of a search in Geneteka for marriage records from Sieluń with parents’ names Kocot and Kacz*, searching as a pair.Wincenty and Rozalia's kids

The Party of the Second Part

Now that we’ve got a good handle on the region in Poland where both of Karen’s Polish grandparents were from, the question remains as to how they might be connected to Bruce’s family. Since this part of Poland was under Russian control throughout most of the 19th century, my first thought was that the connection must lie within one of Bruce’s family lines which also originated in Russian Poland. The majority of his immigrant Polish ancestors were from Prussian Poland, leaving only three immigrants from the Russian partition for us to consider: Michał Szczepankiewicz, Stanisław Skolimowski, and Helena Majczyk. Michał’s family was from Kleczew and other parishes in what is now Konin County, Wielkopolska—not especially close to the Różan area. Helena Majczyk was born in Rostowa, a village belonging to the parish in Gradzanowo Kościelne, and Stanisław Skolimowski was born in Garlino-Komunino, a village belonging to the parish in Grudusk. These places are shown on the map in Figure 10.

Figure 10: Map courtesy of Google Maps, showing locations of Bruce’s ancestral parishes relative to Karen’s. Map of Bruce's villages relative to Rozan

Since Grudusk is a little less than 40 miles from Sieluń, I thought perhaps the Skolimowski family was the key. However, as I wrote recently, the deeper roots of Stanisław Skolimowski’s father, Tadeusz, lay in Boleszyn, a village located in Prussian Poland, rather than in the Grudusk area. Maybe then the match was through Stanley Skolimowski’s mother, Marianna Kessling? Could be, but what about those Majczyk lines? It occurred to me that, if the shared DNA came from the Majczyk side, I’d never know, because my research into Bruce’s Majczyk ancestors was fairly shallow. I’d only gotten as far as the marriage record for his great-great-grandparents, Stanisław Majczyk and Aniela Nowicka, who were the parents of his immigrant great-grandmother, Helena (née Majczyk) Skolimowska, when I hit a snag. The marriage record is shown in Figure 11. 

Figure 11: Marriage record from the parish of Gradzanowo Kościelne for Stanisław Majczyk and Aniela Nowicka, 17 September 1888.8Stanislaw Majczyk and Aniela Nowicka

The record is in Russian, and states in translation,

“Rostowa and Bojanowo. It happened in the village of Gradzanowo on the fifth/seventeenth day of  September in the year one thousand eight hundred eighty eight at seven o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Jan Woźniak, homeowner [хозяин], age forty-four years, of the village of Bojanowo, and Paweł Krogulski, homeowner, age forty-five years, of the village of Gradzanowo Kościelne—on this day a religious marriage was performed between Stanisław Majczyk, bachelor, reserve soldier, twenty-seven years of age, born in the village of Bronisze and residing in the village of Rostowa as a homeowner; son of Józef and the late Katarina née Smiadzinska, the spouses Majczyk; and Aniela Nowicka, single, nineteen years of age, born in the village of Bojanowo and residing there with her parents, homeowners; daughter of Antoni and his wife Jadwiga, née Krogulska, the spouses Nowicki. This marriage was preceded by three announcements before the assembled people on Sundays here in the parish on the seventh/nineteenth [and] fourteenth/twenty-sixth days of August, and the twenty-first day of August/ second day of September of the current year. The newlyweds stated that they contracted a prenuptial agreement with the notary of the town of Sierpc, Domagalski, on the twenty-second day of August/third day of September of the current year, [document] number six hundred sixty-fourth. Permission of the father of the bride, present in person at the marriage ceremony, was given orally. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Us. This document was read to the illiterate newlyweds and witnesses and was signed by Us only. [signed] Civil Registrar, Administrator of Gradzanowo Parish, Fr. Julian Kaczyński.”

The Snag

The part underlined in red states, “урожденномъ въ деревни Бронишъ,” and a bit further down, his mother’s maiden name is written as “Смядзинской.” We’ll revisit that maiden name later, but the first bit translates as “born in the village of Bronisz.” That’s all we get, “born in the village of Bronisz,” before the priest continues by telling us where Stanisław was residing at the time of his marriage, and who his parents were. Normally when the bride or groom was born in a village that was in a different parish from the one in which the marriage was being conducted, the priest would note the parish that the birthplace was in. Similarly, if the birthplace was in a different partition (e.g. Kingdom of Prussia or Kingdom of Austria) that would also be noted. No such clues were provided in this record, however, so we’re left to fend for ourselves when it comes to figuring out where Stanisław Majczyk was born. 

Since there’s no place in Poland called Bronisz, it’s probable that the village of Bronisze was meant. The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, a gazetteer of places in Russian Poland published in 1877, informs us that there were two such places in Russian Poland (Figure 12). 

Figure 12: Extract from the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego showing entries for Bronisze.9 Column headings are place name, gubernia (province), powiat (county), gmina (administrative level comparable to a township), and parish. Bronisze in SKP

The two candidates for the parish in which Stanisław Majczyk’s baptismal record might be found are Żbików and Karniewo, and neither one is especially close to Gradzanowo. Could I have mistranslated the place name? Figuring that a second pair of eyes couldn’t hurt, I ran my translation of the place name past a Polish genealogy colleague, and he read it as Bronisze as well.

I set off to find a birth record for Stanisław Majczyk circa 1861 in records from one of these parishes. I first discovered that marriage record back in August 2014, and at that time, according to my research notes, Karniewo records were online at Metryki GenBaza, but only for a very limited range of years (1884; 1890-1912). Zbików, however, had records online from 1808-1912. I checked birth records from Zbików between 1857–1864 for a baptismal record for Stanisław Majczyk, to no avail. Not only was there no record of Stanisław’s birth, the Majczyk surname did not even appear in the parish records. There were some Maciaks and Marczaks in the parish, but no Majczyks. I took this to mean that he was probably born in Karniewo, and I commented in my research notes that records for Karniewo from 1775-1890 were at the diocesan archive in Płock, along with some earlier records from the 1600s. I wrote to that archive back in September 2014 and never received a reply. (Presently, those records from the diocesan archive in Płock are digitized and available at FamilySearch.) In the meantime, I busied myself with other research, and pretty much forgot about poor Stanisław Majczyk—until Karen wrote to me about that DNA match.

Geneteka to the Rescue, Again!

As I pondered the match, I realized that six years is a long time in the world of internet genealogy, and there are many more scans and indexed records online now, than there were back in 2014, when I first discovered Stanisław Majczyk’s marriage record and hit the snag with Bronisze. Birth records for Żbików are now indexed in Geneteka from 1808–1914, with just a few gaps, and a quick search confirmed my earlier findings: no Majczyks in general, and no Stanisław in particular. That left Karniewo, which also happens to be in Maków County—the same county in which Różan and Dyszobaba are located! That seemed to be a promising sign that things were moving in the right direction toward figuring out this DNA match. Karniewo is also indexed now, with an uninterrupted chunk of birth records from 1843–1875, so I eagerly repeated the search for Stanisław in that parish and found…nada. What the heck? I opened up the search to all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province and searched for Stanisław Majczyk, born between 1857–1866…and there it was, in all its glory, the birth record for my husband’s great-great-grandfather! (Figure 13)

Figure 13: Search result from Geneteka for a birth record for Stanisław Majczyk, born in any indexed parish in Mazowieckie province between 1857–1866. Geneteka search result for Stanislaw Majczyk

Quite honestly, this one would have been tough to find using old-school methodology, but the index entry states that he was born in 1860, father’s name Józef, and mother’s name Katarzyna, as expected. The mother’s maiden name, Radzińska, is in the same phonetic ballpark as Smiadzinska, if we assume that Fr. Julian Kaczyński was a little hard of hearing. The hypothesis that Fr. Kaczyński was either hard of hearing, or a bit careless, or perhaps tired and overworked, is supported by the fact that Stanisław was actually born in Bromierz, not Bronisze.  And apparently this problem plagued the parish priest in Rogotwórsk, as well, because another search for additional children born to Józef and Katarzyna, no maiden name specified, produced yet another variation of her maiden name (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Search result from Geneteka for children of Józef and Katarzyna Majczyk baptized in Rogotwórsk parish. Majczyk siblings

Birth records for two of Stanisław’s siblings, Jan Majczyk and Marianna Majczyk, report their mother’s maiden name as Śledzieńska, rather than Radzińska, which is somewhat closer to the “Smiadzinska” version recorded on the marriage record. The best part is that when we click over to the “Marriages” tab, Józef and Katarzyna’s own marriage record has been indexed, which provides the names of their parents—another generation back in the family tree! (Figure 15)

Figure 15: Search results in Geneteka for marriage records mentioning Józef Majczyk and Katarzyna in Rogotwórsk parish. Jozef and Katarzyna Majczyk marriage

Coming Full Circle

I’ll have a lot of fun researching all these new Majczyks in a brand-new parish in the coming days and weeks, but there’s a bit of irony here. None of these new Majczyk discoveries are likely to help me determine how Bruce and his DNA match, Karen, are related. Although I initially approached the DNA match from the angle of historical records, reasoning that the match was most likely through Bruce’s Russian-partition ancestors since Karen’s immigrant Polish ancestors were from the Różan area in Russian Poland, there was a very basic step I should have taken first. Both of Bruce’s parents have contributed DNA samples for autosomal testing, so what I should have done was first checked to see which of his parents was also a match to Karen and her brother. When I went back and did that, after my heady, rapid progress on the Majczyk line, I realized that Karen and her brother are a match to my mother-in-law, not my father-in-law.

None of my mother-in-law’s immigrant ancestors came from the Russian partition, at least as far back as I’ve managed to research each line. They were all from Prussian Poland. The joke’s on me, I guess! Shared matches suggest that the match is through Bruce’s maternal Bartoszewicz line, which is another line I’ve been neglecting to research due to time constraints. However, preliminary research in U.S. records point to origins in the vicinity of Toruń, some 225 km/140 miles from Karen’s ancestral area of Różan, so this match will definitely take some time and research to figure out.

Even though progress toward understanding the DNA match has currently left me with more questions than answers, I’d say this was a worthwhile rabbit hole to go down, after all. It led to the parish of Rogotwórsk, Stanisław Majczyk’s birth record, and abundant new discoveries to further my understanding of Bruce’s Majczyk ancestry. I’ll take it! 

Sources:

1 Frank Kondzik, declaration of intention for naturalization no. 125740 (10 September 1928); imaged in “Pennsylvania, Federal Naturalization Records, 1795–1931,” database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 July 2020), citing Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685–2009; National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Record Group 21, no specific roll cited. 

2 “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 July 2020), Frank G. (only) Kondzik, serial no. U-2382, no order no., Draft Board 23, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; citing World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania, State Headquarters ca. 1942, NARA microfilm publication M1951; no specific roll cited. 

3 “U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935–2014,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 July 2020), entry for Anna Kondzik, 1992, SS no. 161-50-9266; citing “U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).”

4 “U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s–current,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 July 2020), entry for Antonina Kondzik (1890–1992), citing memorial page 62609270, originally created by Margaret Janco; citing Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Lower Burrell, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA; maintained by Karen Benson (contributor 49425389).

5 “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936–2007,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 July 2020), entry for Anna Kondzik, 1992, SS no. 161-50-9266; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Numerical Identification (NUMIDENT) Files, 1936 – 2007, NARA Record Group 47.

6 Manifest, SS Pretoria, arriving 23 May 1913, p 185, line 20, Antonina Koczot; imaged as “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (Including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820–1957,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 July 2020); citing National Archives microfilm publication T715, 8892 rolls, no specific roll cited.

7 Filip Sulimierski, et al., Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Lands] (Warszawa: Nakładem Władysława Walewskiego, 1880-1902), Tom II, 258, “Dyszobaba,” DIR—Zasoby Polskie (http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/ : 18 July 2020).

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej Gradzanowo 1873-1907,” 1888, Małżeństwa, no. 36, marriage record for Stanisław Majczyk and Aniela Nowicka, accessed as browsable images, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl: Projekt indeksacji metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 18 July 2020), Zespół 0619/D, citing 76/619/0 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie, Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie [Mława Branch, State Archive of Warsaw]. 

9 I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p 55, “Bronisze,” digital images, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 18 July 2020).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

 

 

 

 

More Translation Tips: Resources for Surnames and Place Names

In my last post, I offered some tried-and-true tips for learning to translate Polish and Russian genealogical documents. Today I’d like to offer a couple additional recommendations for strategies that I’ve found to be extremely helpful for deciphering surnames and place names found in vital records.

As mentioned previously, vital records are very formulaic. There’s a lot of standard language in them, but the parts that frequently give us the most trouble are the names and places. Unfortunately, these are also the most interesting parts, so when it comes to deciphering this information, it’s important to pull out all the stops, and use every resource at your disposal. For research into Polish ancestors, here are a few of my favorites:

The Słownik Nazwisk database

The Słownik nazwisk database is a searchable database of over 800,000 surnames that were in use in Poland in 1990. William F. Hoffman provides a nice explanation of the database and offers instruction on how to use it here. The capacity for using wildcards to search the database makes it a great starting point when  struggling to decipher a particular surname in a record. If, for example, you’re pretty sure that the surname starts with “Cie-,” followed by some letters you can’t make out, and then ends in “-rski,” you can do a wildcard search for “Cie*rski” and see the surnames that were extant circa 1990 that might fit the bill. The only drawback here may be, “extant circa 1990,” since the database will not pick up surnames that might have died out long before then.

Geneteka

Where would we be without Geneteka? Not only is it our go-to finding aid for Polish vital records, but it can also be used to help decipher surnames when translating. Sometimes it happens that the particular record you’re translating is from a parish that is indexed in Geneteka, but falls outside the range of years that is indexed. For example, birth records for the parish of Wyszyny Kościelne are presently indexed in Geneteka from 1826–1909 with a gap from 1898–1900. (Since new indexes are added to Geneteka all the time, this range of years may be extended at some point.) But let’s say you’re translating a birth record from Wyszyny from 1823, online here. The indexed records are nonetheless useful to you because they can inform you of the surnames that were found in that parish. As with the Słownik Nazwisk, wildcard searches (“exact search”) are your friend when using Geneteka this way. If a surname clearly starts with “Wa-,” you can search within that parish for “Wa*” and use the resulting list of surnames to help decipher the name in the record. Remember, too, that you can broaden the search by adding in indexed parishes within a 15-km radius, or even search indexed parishes within a whole province, to pick up individuals who might have been from another parish originally. Using Geneteka in this manner gets you around the problem of the Słownik Nazwisk being limited to surnames that were in use in Poland circa 1990.

When it comes to deciphering place names, it’s helpful to fall back on both maps and gazetteers, to wit:

Magnificent Maps

This is probably Step 1 in your problem-solving process. When translating a vital record, you presumably know the location of the parish in which the record was created. Pull up a map of that location, and use it to identify other villages in the area. However, you may find that very small villages which were mentioned in vital records no longer appear on modern maps, possibly because they were absorbed by larger towns in the area. In such cases, it’s helpful to check an older map, preferably one from the same period (more or less) in which the record was created. Here are some good online sources for period maps of Poland and historically Polish lands.

Gazetteers are also incredibly helpful when translating vital records because they typically provide information on the administrative hierarchy for a location, as well as parish assignment. It was common for priests to provide some descriptive details, such as the parish or district in which the place was located, when identifying the birthplaces of key individuals in a vital record, and gazetteers can help you make sense of those details.

A good example of this is shown below in Figure 1. This is an extract from the marriage record for Tadeusz Skolimowski and Marianna Kessling, who were married in Wyszyny Kościelne on 28 January 1877. Tadeusz and Marianna were my husband’s great-great-grandparents, and my further research depended on my ability to correctly identify the birthplaces of the bride and groom.

Figure 1: Extract from marriage record of Tadeusz Skolimowski and Marianna Kessling, Wyszyny Kościelne, 28 January 1877, with details about the groom underlined in red.1Tadeusz Skolimowski marriage extract marked

The text underlined in red starts with the groom’s name in Polish instrumental case, “Skolimowskim Tadeuszem,” and then continues in Russian, “тридцати шести лҍтъ отъ роду холостымъ садовникомъ и жителемъ деревни Косинки Капличне уроженцемъ деревни Болешинъ тогожѣ прихода въ прусскомъ королествҍ,” which means, “age thirty-six, a single gardener and a resident of Kosinki Kapliczne, born in the village and also parish of Boleszyn in the Kingdom of Prussia.”

There are two places to identify here, Tadeusz’s place of residence at the time of his marriage, and his place of birth. Although his place of residence looks to me like Косинки Капличне (Kosinki Kapliczne), a quick look at the map tells me it’s got to be Kosiny Kapiczne, a few kilometers west of Wyszyny Kościelne (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Map of Wyszyny Kościelne and surrounding villages, Google Maps.Map of Wyszyny area

Although certain that this is the correct location, I ran my transcription past William F. “Fred” Hoffman, co-author of In Their Words: A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents: Volume II: Russian, to see if he agreed that the place was spelled “Капличне [Kapliczne],” or if perhaps I was just misreading the handwriting and seeing an л where none was intended. Fred gave me permission to quote his reply, in which he wrote,

“I clearly read the name of the village as Kosinki Kapliczne. I’m guessing that may be a local variant of the name. The Kosiny vs. Kosinki is no big deal, that kind of thing goes on all the time with Polish names. But KapLiczne vs. Kapiczne appears to be a mistake, or, maybe, a regional form. I looked this place up in a series on the history of place names, and that name was consistently -picz-, not -plicz-. Russian does sometimes insert an -л- in palatalized situations where we wouldn’t expect it: for instance, the verb for “to love” is любить, but “I love” is я люблю. So perhaps the priest thought Капличне might be a proper Russified form. But I suspect I’m being too clever here. Maybe it’s a simple mistake. For a priest, confusion with kaplica, “chapel,” might explain how that -l- snuck in there where it doesn’t belong. It seems certain Kosiny Kapiczne is the right place. Scholars say the Kapic- part comes from association with a local fellow named Piotr Kapica — no -L-.”

Great Gazetteers

For kicks, I also looked up this location in the Skorowidz Królewstwa Polskiego (T. 1), which is a gazetteer of places in the Kingdom of Poland (i.e. Russian Poland), published in 1877. The Skorowidz tells me that Kosiny Kapiczne, village and folwark (manorial farm), was located in the Płock gubernia (province), Mława powiat (county), and Kosiny gmina (community, consisting of several villages), and that it belonged to the parish in Bogurzyn (Figure 3). The village of Bogurzyn can be seen just to the west of Kosiny Kapiczne on the map in Figure 2.

Figure 3: Entry for Kosiny Kapiczne in the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego.2

Kosiny in SKP

The parish assignment is an important detail, from the standpoint of translations. In situations where the bride and groom were living in different parishes, it was customary for the banns to be read in both parishes, so that anyone with any objections to the marriage might come forward. If we were in any doubt at this point about whether or not we had read the name of Tadeusz’s place of residence correctly, we could use the name of the parish to test our hypothetical identification of the village. In this case, we can predict that the parish of Bogurzyn will be named further down in the record when the banns are mentioned. Sure enough, Figure 4 shows that it is.

Figure 4: Extract from marriage record of Tadeusz Skolimowski and Marianna Kessling, Wyszyny Kościelne, 28 January 1877, with details about the marriage banns underlined in red.Bogurzyn in record

This section states, “Браку зтому предшествовали три оглашенія публикованнъл въ Вышинскоемъ и Богурзинскоем приходскихъ костелахъ,” which means, “This marriage was preceded by three announcements published in the parish churches of Wyszyny and Bogurzyn.” Bingo.

Moving on to Tadeusz’s birthplace, the record tells us that he was born in Boleszyn in the Kingdom of Prussia. An internet search informs us that this is not a unique place name in Poland: there is a village called Boleszyn that’s presently in the Świętokrzyszkie voivodeship, and another village by that name in the Warmińsko-mazurskie voivodeship. A quick look at a rough map of the borders between Russia and Prussia in the late 19th century is enough to suggest that the latter village is the one we want. Nonetheless, this is still a hypothetical identification until we find a record of Tadeusz’s birth in the parish of Boleszyn. In this case, it’s simple to do that. Records for Boleszyn are freely available on FamilySearch, and Tadeusz’s marriage record informs us that he was 36 years old in 1877, suggesting a date of birth circa 1841. A few minutes of searching results in his birth record, shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Birth record from the parish in Boleszyn for Tadeusz Skolimowski, born 17 September 1841.3Tadeusz Skolimowski birth 1841

This record confirms that Thaddeus/Tadeusz was born 17 September 1841 in Słup, baptized on September 26, and that he was the son of Laurentius (Wawrzyniec, in Polish) Skolimowski and Marianna née Zwolińska. Godparents were Mateusz Kalinoski (sic) and Franciszka Winter, wife of the church organist. Although not included in the underlined text in Figure 1, the next section of his marriage record identified Tadeusz’s parents as Wawrzyniec Skolimowski and Marianna (née Zwolińska) Skolimowska, both of whom were already deceased. Since the child’s name, parents’ names, year of birth and the baptismal parish all line up with the body of evidence accumulated for Tadeusz, we can overlook the fact that he was actually born in the village of Słup rather than in the village of Boleszyn as stated on the marriage record.

If this record were not so easy to find—if perhaps these records were only available onsite at the parish, and we’d need to hire an onsite researcher to get a copy of Tadeusz’s birth record—then we might want to take an extra step to confirm the location of Boleszyn before sending someone off on a wild-goose chase. The marriage record provided a small but important detail about the village of Boleszyn with the statement, “деревни Болешинъ тогожѣ прихода,” which indicates that the particular Boleszyn we’re looking for had a Catholic church located right in the village. We can therefore predict that if we look up the village of Boleszyn in a gazetteer of places in the German Empire, the correct village will be the seat of a parish. So what gazetteer should we use? Well, the Meyers Gazetteer is always good, except it requires us to know what the village of Boleszyn would be called in German, and we only have the Polish name (transliterated from Russian) available. We could transliterate again, guess that the village name might be something like Bolleschin, and do a search for that name in the Meyers Gazetteer, and in this case, we’d be right. Even if that weren’t exactly correct, we could do a wild-card search for “Bol*” which will produce all villages starting with “Bol-” and we can sift through the results. But sometimes the German names for places in Poland aren’t simple transliterations (e.g. the German name for the Polish town of Zagórów is Hinterberg), so this method might not pan out.

For these reasons, my first-choice gazetteer in this case would be Kartenmeister, since that gazetteer allows the input of Polish place names. Kartenmeister quickly informs us that the village of Boleszyn was also known as Bolleschin or Bolleßyn, and was the seat of both a Catholic parish and a German Standesamt (civil registry office). Moreover, both gazetteers confirm that there was only one village by this name in the German Empire, so we can be confident that this is the place mentioned in the marriage record.

As you can see, the various surname databases, maps, and gazetteers can be valuable resources to tap into when translating vital records pertaining to your Polish ancestors. Even situations in which village names are misspelled, such as Tadeusz Skolimowski’s place of residence, or misidentified, such as his place of birth, present only minor obstacles when armed with the correct tools for understanding the problem. Hopefully some of these tools will be useful to you, and if they are, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Happy researching!

Sources:

1 Roman Catholic Church (Wyszyny Koscielne, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej Wyszyny powiat mlawski, 1826-1909,” 1877, Małżeństwa, no. 3, marriage record for Tadeusz Skolimowski and Maryanna Kessling, accessed as browsable images, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/metryka.php?ar=13&zs=0629d&sy=1877&kt=2&plik=003.jpg#zoom=1&x=1976&y=126: 24 June 2020)

2 I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Volume 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), “Kosiny kapiczne w. i fol.,” page 286.

3 Roman Catholic Church, St. Martin’s parish (Boleszyn, Nowe-Miasto, Warminsko-mazurskie, Poland), Taufen 1761-1852, 1841, no. 29, baptismal record for Thadeeus Skolimowski, accessed as browsable images, “Kirchenbuch, 1644-1938,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSZY-H425?i=302&cat=310222 : 24 June 2020), path: Taufen 1701-1759, 1761-1852 Heiraten 1644-1862 Tote 1761-1787, 1789-1845 (DGS no. 7948735) > image 303 of 635.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

Grandma Helen’s Letter: How Family Stories Measure Up

My mother’s been holding out on me. For many years, she’s maintained that she’s really not interested in family history. And I can accept that. Although it’s difficult for me to empathize, I do understand intellectually that there are some people who just aren’t enthralled at the prospect of digging up documents pertaining to long-gone generations of the family, and Mom is one of those people. However, while helping to sort and reorganize accumulated papers in her desk recently, I discovered a folder, neatly marked “Genealogy Information.” What?! Curiosity piqued, I sifted through the contents of the folder, and  discovered that most of it was merely stuff I’d given to her over the years, hard copies of emails I’d written to my parents as I made new family history discoveries. However, some of it was pure genealogical gold, including a bridal picture of my great-grandaunt, Wanda, an envelope of prayer cards from family funerals, and—best of all—a letter written by my grandmother, Helen Zielinski, in 1977.

The letter was addressed to my parents, my sister, and me. At that time, my family was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, while Grandma and Grandpa still lived in North Tonawanda, New York. The letter was dated 4 December, and the first page is delightfully chatty. Grandma noted that she’d call on Friday, thanked Mom for some photos Mom recently sent, expressed concern that my other Grandma, Marie Roberts, had been in the hospital, and offered to send Christmas cookies in case my mother did not have time to bake. The next pages, however, are even better: Grandma provided brief biographical information about each of her parents and Grandpa’s parents, as well as some other interesting tidbits of family history.

This part of the letter was written in order to help my sister with a family history project she was doing in school. At that time, my sister was in 4th grade and I was in 3rd grade, and she was working on a “Roots” project, which (sadly) I was not also required to do when I got to 4th grade. The project was aimed at helping the students discover their family history, so it was necessary for them to interview their elders and ask about previous generations of the family, as well as any family traditions or ethnic customs that were still practiced. I remember when this project was taking place, and I knew that Grandma had contributed a great deal of information. It made sense that Mom would have saved this letter; however, I’d never actually seen it or read it previously.

It’s clear that Grandma really enjoyed helping with the project, and she wrote about how she spoke with two of her cousins, Carrie Baginski and Arthur Gray, to help her fill in the blanks. It was really fascinating for me to read this information, recorded in Grandma’s own handwriting. It was especially interesting to see how this information measured up against the documentary paper trail that I’ve been gathering over the years since then. Here, then, is Grandma’s original information, recalled and recorded by her at the age of 57, in collaboration with information from some of her cousins, compared with “the rest of the story.”

On Joseph Zielinski (My Great-Grandfather):

Starting off with her father-in-law, Joseph Zielinski, Grandma wrote, “Born in Poland in 1892—lived with his parents on a farm in a village called ‘Sochaczew’ near Warsaw. He arrived in New York City in 1914. He left Poland because he would have had to serve in the Russian Army. Joseph had one brother named Frank who was killed in World War II in America. Joseph died at age 80 in August 1973.”[1]

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 3

Analysis: Grandma was spot-on about Joseph’s birth year in 1892, in spite of census records, a World War II draft registration, and the record from his second marriage, which would all argue that Joseph was born between 1893-1894. Joseph’s birth record confirms that he was born 10 October 1892; however, he was born in the village of Mistrzewice, not in the town of Sochaczew. Mistrzewice is located in Sochaczew County, and the Zieliński family’s deeper roots lie in the parish of Sochaczew itself, since Joseph’s grandfather, Michał Archanioł Zieliński, was born in the village of Bibiampol and baptized in Sochaczew. Therefore it’s actually true, in one sense, that the Zieliński family was “from” Sochaczew, although it would have been more accurate (and would have saved me some time in searching!) if the family history had mentioned Mistrzewice as their more recent place of origin.

It may very well be that Joseph left Poland so he would not have to join the Russian army. Exactly how he managed to avoid the conscription that was mandatory in Russia at that time is unclear, but his World War I draft registration does not indicate any prior service in the Russian army. In contrast, the World War I draft card for Joseph’s brother, Frank, states that he served three years in the Russian infantry. Taken together, these facts seem to confirm the family story that Joseph was able to slip out of the Russian Empire before they could force him into service. It’s also true that Joseph’s brother, Frank, was killed in the war. However, he was killed in World War I, not II. It seems likely that Grandma merely made a recording error when she wrote that Frank was killed in World War II, since the oral family tradition always referenced World War I.

Grandma’s wording does not make it clear if she was aware of other siblings that Joseph and Frank might have had, and one might suspect that she would have identified those siblings by name if she could have. I know now that Joseph and Frank had eight additional siblings—five brothers and three sisters. Five of these siblings (three younger brothers and two younger sisters) were still alive when Joseph left Poland for the U.S., and he arrived in 1912—not 1914. All in all, Grandma was pretty accurate in the information she provided.

On Genevieve Zielinski (My Great-Grandmother):

Next, regarding her mother-in-law, Grandma wrote, “Maiden name—Klaus. Born in 1898 in North Tonawanda, N.Y. Married Joseph Zielinski in 1915. They had five children, John (born Oct. 18, 1916), Frank, Helen, Stanley, and Irene. Genevieve died at age 44 in the year 1942.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 4

Analysis: Grandma was pretty close with Genevieve’s birth year, but Genowefa Klaus was, in fact, born 28 September 1897 in Buffalo, New York, rather than in North Tonawanda. She married Joseph Zielinski on 6 October 1915 at the church of Our Lady of Częstochowa in North Tonawanda, and of course, the names of their children (my grandfather and his siblings) are accurate. She died on 6 May 1942 at the age of 44, so once again, Grandma did pretty well.

On Mary Klaus (My Great-Great-Grandmother):

Things start to get a little bumpy with Grandma’s next report about her husband’s grandmother. Regarding Mary Klaus, Genevieve Zielinski’s mother, Grandma wrote, “Maiden name—Olszanowicz. Arrived in Texas from Poland. She and her husband had eight (in N.T.) children, Anna, Joe, Pauline, Eddy, Genevieve, Walter, Helen and Rudolf. Anna is still alive, living in Chicago. Mary died in N. Tonawanda at age 65.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 5

Analysis: Oh, Grandma. Would that I had never heard that story about Texas. I spent so much time trying to find any possible shred of evidence for our family’s sojourn there. And it wasn’t just you, Grandma. Cousin Julia Ziomek reported that same story, in even greater detail. I wrote about it most recently here, but also here, here, and here. The truth, as near as I can figure, is that the entire story was a fabrication created to avoid embarrassing questions about the circumstances surrounding the births of Mary’s two oldest sons, Joseph and John, who were born out of wedlock in Buffalo, New York, prior to Mary’s marriage to her first husband, Andrew Klaus. Mary’s maiden name was not Olszanowicz, either—it was Łącka. Olszanowicz was the name of her second husband, whom she married after Andrew’s death. That marriage did not last long—only three months, reportedly—which may explain why poor Walter Olszanowicz was so easily forgotten, although his name was still recalled in association with Mary. In total, Mary Klaus had 11 children. In addition to Joseph and John, her children with Andrew included Zofia (who died in infancy), Anna, Pauline, Bolesław (who also died in infancy), Genevieve, Edward, Walter, Rudolf, and Helen. Grandma was right, Anna (née Klaus) Gworek Matysak was still alive in 1977 when this letter was written. However, Mary (née Łącka) Klaus Olszanowicz was quite a bit older than most U.S. records would indicate, and she was actually 75, not 65, when she died in 1942.

On John Zazycki (my great-grandfather):

Grandma wrote the following about her father, John Zazycki: “Born in Warsaw, Poland 1866. Came to the United States and went to Alaska to seek employment. While in Poland he served in the Russian Cavalry and got his apprenticeship as a blacksmith. He died in 1924 at age 58. John’s forefathers were named Zazycki because they lived behind a creek. Za—behind, zekom—creek.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 6

Analysis: As often happened with immigrants, John Zazycki approximated his birthplace to a nearby large city, rather than citing the small village where he was actually born. I now know that John was born 5 March 1866 in the village of Bronisławy, which was located in Sochaczew County in the Warsaw gubernia, or province of the Russian Empire. So in that sense, Grandma’s information that her father was born in Warsaw in 1866 was correct, if not especially precise, since Bronisławy is about 50 miles west of the city of Warsaw. I have not been able to confirm any Russian military service for John, although it’s quite likely that he did serve, since such service was compulsory. Similarly, John died in 1924 at the age of 58, exactly as Grandma reported, and we have documentary evidence that John was apprenticed to a master blacksmith, Józef Gruberski, who was also his brother-in-law. Even Grandma’s Polish surname etymology is approximately correct, although I’ve read that it should be “za rzeka” (“beyond the river”). That leaves the final statement, that John initially went to Alaska to seek employment prior to his arrival in Buffalo, New York.

It turns out that this is a difficult claim to fact-check. John’s naturalization papers state that he arrived in the U.S. on 15 January 1895, and that he resided in the U.S. continuously for 5 years prior to his petition for naturalization in Buffalo on 12 July 1900. Alaska was a U.S. territory, so presumably, John could have traveled to Alaska following his arrival in New York and still count that time toward his 5-year-residency requirement for naturalization. If he did go to Alaska, he was not there for long, and documenting him there, without knowing a specific location, is akin to chasing down my Klaus family in Texas. And we all know how that ended.

On Veronica Zazycki (My Great-Grandmother):

I’ve written previously about some of the interesting statements made by Grandma about her mother, Veronica Zazycki. Grandma wrote, “Maiden name—Grzesiak. Born in the year 1876 in the village ‘Poznan’ near Warsaw. Her parents owned a grain mill. She had a sister Josephine and two brothers—Walter and Thaddeus. They lived near the church and parish house and Veronika’s mother sewed all the vestments for the priest. Veronika’s mother died when Josephine was born so at age 18 she came to America in year 1894. She found employment working in the kitchen of a restaurant. The people could not speak Polish and Veronika could not speak English so they used sign language and called her Mary. She saved her money and sent it to her two brothers so they could come to America. In the meantime, Walter (her brother) married a Polish actress named Wanda and she did not want to leave her career, so he left without her. They say she died of a broken heart.

Veronika married John Zazycki and they had twin boys as their first born, Benjamin and Roman. Wanda was next, then came Leon, Antoinette, Joseph, Angela, and last but not least, their beautiful baby daughter Helen who is sitting here writing ‘Roots.’

Veronika was a seamstress who supported her family after her husband died. She lived to age 62 and was killed in an automobile accident in 1938. Helen’s birthday is Nov. 30th, 1920.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 8

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 9

Analysis: Veronica (née Grzesiak) Zazycki was born 27 December 1876 in the village of Kowalewo-Opactwo. The village is about 50 miles east of Poznań, but “Poznań near Warsaw” doesn’t make a lot of sense since Poznań and Warsaw are nearly 200 miles apart. Nonetheless, the reference to Warsaw is interesting in light of the fact that members of the Grzesiak family were living in Warsaw in the years after Veronica moved to the U.S. Her passenger manifest informs us that Veronica arrived in Baltimore in March 1898, and in June 1898, her sister Konstancja married Julian Cieniewski in Warsaw, while her brother Walter married Kazimiera Olczak in Warsaw two months later. These facts underscore two more points—first, that Walter’s wife was not named Wanda, but rather Kazimiera; and second, that Veronica had additional siblings besides Walter, Thaddeus and Josephine. Polish birth records from Kowalewo-Opactwo revealed two more Grzesiak sisters, Pelagia and Konstancja, whose existence was not known to Grandma.

The part about the grain mill, and the proximity of the family home to the church, was something I wrote about in a previous post, as there may be some evidence for that. The part about Veronica’s mother dying when Josephine was born is utterly false, however, as Veronica’s mother, Marianna (née Krawczyńska) Grzesiak, did not die until 1904, several years after most of her children were settled in America. Grandma was a bit off on the timing of Veronica’s immigration, since Veronica did not immigrate in 1894, at the age of 18, but rather in March of 1898, at the age of 21. I have not been able to document the story about Veronica working in the kitchen of a restaurant and being called Mary. However, it always struck me as a bit strange that they would call her Mary when Veronica is a not a name that is unusual or difficult to pronounce in English.

I have a hunch that this part of the story may have something to do with another Mary whom I discovered through my research, Mary Staszak. When Veronica immigrated, her passenger manifest reported that she was headed to her “brother-in-law” in Buffalo, Michael Staszak. Further research revealed that Michael was not Veronica’s brother-in-law at all. Nonetheless, Michael’s wife, Marianna (née Derda) Staszak, was from the same village as Veronica and they traveled together on the ship, although they were recorded on different pages of the ship’s manifest. Research in records from Poland has not revealed any obvious way in which Veronica Grzesiak and Mary Staszak were related. My guess is that they were merely good friends, or at best, distant cousins. But the association between the name Mary, and this story from Veronica’s early days in the U.S., strikes me as something more than coincidental.

The next part about Walter and his actress wife is probably accurate. Walter and Kazimieria (née Olczak) Grzesiak did meet and marry in Warsaw, and I wrote about their story previously. At this point, I think she probably was an actress when they met. However, she did not die of a broken heart, nor did she remain in Poland while Walter came to the U.S. alone. In fact, she came to the U.S. in 1900, along with Walter’s sister, Josephine, and the Grzesiak patriarch himself, Józef, father of Walter, Veronica, Thaddeus and Josephine. Kazimiera was still in Buffalo and married to Walter in 1905 when the New York State census was conducted, but they were separated by 1910, and subsequent newspaper articles from 1912 indicate that Kazimiera had left Walter for another man.

The final part of the story, in which Grandma recounts her siblings’ names is, of course, accurate. However, Grandma’s mother died in 1940, not 1938, at the age of 63. The last line is also interesting to me. Grandma’s birth date of record was, indeed, 30 November 1920. However, we always “knew” her birthday was November 25th, and that’s the day we celebrated it. The story was that Grandma was born on Thanksgiving Day, so the registry office was closed. The midwife could not get in to report the birth immediately, and there were penalties for delays in reporting. So, when she finally visited the office on the 30th to report Grandma’s birth, she simply told them that the baby had been born that day. A quick check of a 1920 calendar confirms that Thanksgiving fell on 25 November that year, so I believe that this story is accurate, although I have no way of proving it to be so.

The last page of the letter includes some miscellaneous information about the family. Grandma wrote, “Genevieve Zielinski embroidered the picture in 1940 and gave it to Helen and John in 1941 when we got married. Dad thinks that the name Zielinski was given to the people because they came from Green County. Green is ‘Zielone,’ County would be ‘Miasto.’ Don’t know of any living relatives. I am giving you all the information I could gather after 7 phone calls on Friday. Seems like names and dates were not important. I am happy to give my Granddaughters the enclosed pictures. Perhaps you would want to mention the fact that Daddy’s parents plus John, Frank and Helen went for a visit to Poland in 1921 and stayed for 3 months.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 10

The picture that Grandma referenced (below) is now a cherished family heirloom, of course, belonging to my mother. When Grandma Genevieve stitched that picture in the year before she died, she was a patient in the sanatorium, suffering from tuberculosis.IMG_5037 (2)

As for the remaining statements, Grandpa’s theory about the origin of the Zieliński surname is pretty much in line with accepted etymology in that the surname derives in some form from the Polish word for “green.” The lack of (close) living relatives from Poland which Grandma mentioned was always a disappointment to me, but ultimately I’ve been able to connect with distant cousins there who were identified through deeper research. The “enclosed pictures” which she mentioned were unfortunately separated from this letter, although I’m certain that my mother still has them, somewhere. And finally, the comment about Grandpa’s family trip back to Poland in 1921 has since been well documented, and I was even able to discover the reason for the trip—the death of the last surviving Zieliński sibling in Poland, Władysław, who died on 23 March 1921, leaving their elderly mother alone to manage the family farm.

So now we’ve come full circle. The family history stories that Grandma recorded in her letter got me started on my path to discover the past, but they are no longer my only source of information. After years of research, I understand which parts of the stories are accurate and which are not, and I even had the opportunity to share with Grandma some of my findings about her family before she passed in 2015. I’m now nearly the age that Grandma was when she wrote that letter, and I’ve taken on her role of story teller, helping a new generation to know a bit about our family’s origins, identifying the patriarchs and matriarchs whose DNA we carry. I only hope that my stories may be as inspirational as hers.

Source:

[1] Helen Zazycki Zielinski, North Tonawanda, New York, to the Roberts family, Cincinnati, Ohio, letter, 4 December 1977, privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

 

From Maniów to Plymouth to Chicopee: The Family of Jan Klaus

Note: This article originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of Biuletyn Korzenie, the newsletter of the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts. It is being reprinted here with permission.

Jan Klaus was no stranger to me. I’d never met him, of course, but I’d known about this brother of my great-great-grandfather, Andrzej Klaus, since March 2013, when I first discovered his baptismal record in an index at FamilySearch. What I didn’t know was what happened to him. Until recently, I never knew for certain that he immigrated to the U.S., although I suspected it. The name “John Klaus” (or Claus, or Clouse) is sufficiently common that it’s not the kind of name one spends a lot of time chasing when it’s only a collateral line. And I certainly never knew that his descendants settled in Chicopee after his death—that is, until one day, when a DNA match brought all these pieces of the puzzle together.

The Klaus-Liguz Family of Maniów and Wola Mielecka, Galicia

Jan Klaus was born on 9 October 1860 in the village of Maniów, in the Dąbrowa powiat (district or county) of the Galicia province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[1] His baptismal record is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Baptismal record from the church of St. Mary Magdalene in Szczucin for Jan Klaus, born 9 October 1860. Transcription of each column is as follows: [Record number] 20, [Date of birth] 9 October 1860, [Date of baptism] 10 October 1860, [House number] 28, [child’s name] Joannes, [religion] Catholic (indicated by tally mark in the appropriate column), [sex] male (indicated by tally mark in the appropriate column), [status] legitimi, [Father] Jacobus Klaus natus Laurentio et Anna Żel, famulus, [Mother] Francisca nata Laurentio Liguz et Margaretha Warzecha, [Godparents] Adalbertus Liguz et Catharina Mamuska, hor. [hortulanus].”

jan-klaus-baptismal-record-marked

The record is in Latin, and states that Joannes Klaus, or Jan Klaus, as he would have been known among the ethnic Poles in that village, was the son of Jacobus (Jakub) Klaus, who was himself the son of Laurentius (Wawrzyniec) Klaus and Anna (née Żel) Klaus. Although it appears to be written as Żel in this document—note that the vowel looks more like the “e” in “Laurentio,” rather than the “a” in “Jacobus”—Anna’s name is more often recorded as Żala. Jan’s mother was noted to be Francisca (Franciszka), daughter of Laurentius (Wawrzyniec) Liguz and Margaretha (Małgorzata) née Warzecha. The godparents were Adalbertus (Wojciech) Liguz and Catharina (Katarzyna) Mamuska. Jan’s father, Jakub, was a servant (famulus) at the time of his birth, and his godfather was a gardener (hortulanus). Jan was baptized at the church of St. Mary Magdalene in Szczucin, the parish to which the village of Maniów belonged at the time of Jan’s birth (Figure 2).

Figure 2: St. Mary Magdalene parish in Szczucin. Photo taken by the author in July 2015.St. Mary Magdalene Church in Szczucin

Jan was Jakub and Franciszka’s oldest child. Their marriage record tells us that Jakub was a 30-year-old servant when he married 24-year-old Franciszka on 16 September 1860 in that same parish church of St. Mary Magdalene.[2] At least six more sons were born to Jakub and Franciszka following Jan’s birth: Józef in 1863, Andrzej in 1865, Michał in 1867, twins Piotr and Paweł in 1870, and then Tomasz in 1872, before finally a daughter, Helena, was born in 1875.[3] Several of these children did not survive to adulthood. Unambiguous evidence exists for the deaths of Paweł, Piotr and Helena in childhood.[4] An additional death record from 1874 exists for Józef Klaus, son of Jakub and Franciszka Liguz, but the evidence is problematic, since the record states that he was 7 years old at the time of death, suggesting a birth year circa 1867, rather than 1863.[5] Despite this discrepancy, it seems likely that this is nonetheless the death record for the same Józef Klaus who was born in 1863, which brings the number of Klaus children who died in infancy or childhood to four out of the eight documented births. Figure 3 summarizes these data in chart form.

Figure 3: Children of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz.Jakub Klaus descendants with border

The Emigrant Klauses

Of the remaining children of Jakub and Franciszka Klaus, I knew that my great-great-grandfather, Andrzej Klaus, immigrated to Buffalo, New York. I subsequently discovered that his brother Tomasz did, as well, since there is a record of the marriage of Tomasz Klaus of “Mielecka Wola, Gal.” to Wiktoria Rak in 1900 at St. Stanislaus Church.[6] The record states that Tomasz was the son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Słowik, not Liguz, and research is ongoing to determine if Słowik was perhaps the surname of Franciszka’s second husband, or was merely an error. The fate of Michał Klaus remains unknown, as no death or marriage record for him has yet been discovered in Polish or U.S. records. Jan Klaus similarly seemed to disappear from Polish records, and I suspected that he emigrated when I discovered a Jan Klaus on a Hamburg emigration manifest that seemed to be a good match (Figure 4).[7]

Figure 4: Extracted image from Hamburg passenger manifest showing Jan Klaus.Jan Klaus Hamburg emigration manifest marked

The manifest was from the S.S. Marsala, which departed from Hamburg on 14 September 1888. The passenger, Jan Klaus, was described as a 28-year-old Arbeiter (laborer) from the town of Mielec in the Austrian Empire. His age suggests a date of birth circa 1860, which would be consistent with the date of birth for my great-great-granduncle, and Mielec was the town closest to the small village of Maniów where “my” Jan was born. Figure 5 shows the locations of Szczucin, Maniów, Wola Mielecka, and Mielec in relation to one another.

Figure 5: Places in Poland associated with the Liguz-Klaus family. Jakub was born in Wola Mielecka, Franciszka in Maniów, and some of their children were born in each of these two villages.Map for Jan Klaus blog post

When one finds a Hamburg emigration manifest, it’s often possible to locate the corresponding arrival manifest, and it’s a good idea to seek these out, as they sometimes contain additional information beyond what’s found on the emigration manifest. Jan’s arrival manifest was no exception (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Extracted image from New York arrival manifest showing Jan Klaus.[8]Jan Klaus New York arrival manifest marked

As expected, much of the information on this manifest recapitulated the information found on the manifest recorded at the port of departure. Jan Klaus, age 28 years, was noted to be a male workman from Mielec, Austria. Some of the additional information provided on this manifest was not especially significant, such as the fact that he was marked as an alien (as expected), that he had no baggage, and that he was assigned to the main compartment aboard the ship. More significantly, it was noted that his intended destination was New York—a fact which might be useful in tracing him further in U.S. records. However, this particular manifest included the column, “Date and Cause of Death,” and the line for Jan Klaus contains the notation “11–6.” Given that the Marsala departed Hamburg on 14 September and arrived on 1 October, the significance of these particular numbers is unclear, but certainly the presence of some notation in this column suggested that the passenger Jan Klaus died during the voyage. In the light of this information, and in absence of any good matches for this Jan Klaus in records from Buffalo, where his brothers Andrzej and Tomasz settled, I accepted the tentative conclusion that Jan may not have survived, and I moved on to other research questions.

DNA Points the Way

Fast forward to December 2018. While reviewing some of my mother’s DNA matches, I came across a match to “N.F.M.” whose family tree indicated that her great-grandfather was John Klaus, born circa 1861. N.F.M was a DNA match to me as well, although we matched only as distant cousins, sharing a modest 19 centimorgans (cM) across 2 segments. I was immediately intrigued, and my excitement grew when I read that her John Klaus died in Plymouth, Pennsylvania in 1920. This fact was significant to me because my great-great-grandfather Andrzej Klaus named Plymouth, Pennsylvania as his destination when he immigrated in 1889 (Figure 7).[9]

Figure 7: Image extracted from passenger manifest of the British Queen, showing passenger Andrzey [sic] Klaus with destination as Plymouth, Pennsylvania.Andrzej Klaus manifest marked 1889

I was never able to document Andrzej in Plymouth, and since he married Marianna Łącka in Buffalo on 21 January 1891, it’s clear that he didn’t stay in Plymouth for long.[10] Neither could I find a corresponding arrival manifest for the British Queen, which should have arrived in an American port in mid-April 1889 based on its departure from Hamburg on 26 March. The arrival manifest might have stated the name of the friend or relative with whom Andrzej was staying, and lacking this information, I had no basis for further speculation about the identity or surname of this friend or relative. However, in light of this new evidence that I was genetically connected to a descendant of John Klaus from Plymouth, Pennsylvania, a missing piece to the puzzle seemed to fall into place.

An important thing to remember about autosomal DNA testing is that it doesn’t prove anything on its own. Even when there is a paper trail documenting both individuals’ descent from a common ancestor, it could still be the case that the individuals are related through some as yet undiscovered relationship which could be the source of the shared DNA segment. Nevertheless, DNA evidence can be very helpful in cases such as this, when there is a common surname involved, because it can help us identify a target individual or family for further documentary research. Since the match between my mother and N.F.M. was found on Ancestry DNA, it’s not possible to know anything about the chromosome number or specific position of the matching DNA segments. However, shared matches between my mother and N.F.M. can be examined, and the amount of shared DNA (in cM) can be considered as well.

Examination of Shared Centimorgans

If we begin with the assumption that N.F.M.’s tree is correct—a reasonable assumption in this case—then she is the great-granddaughter of John (Jan in Polish) Klaus and his wife, Mary or Marya Frankowska. Since my mother is the great-granddaughter of John Klaus’s brother Andrzej (Andrew in English), Mom and N.F.M. should be third cousins, and should share an amount of DNA that falls within the normal range for that relationship. According to data gathered by Blaine Bettinger’s “Shared cM Project,” third cousins can be expected to share anywhere from no DNA, up to 274 cM, with an average of 74 cM shared DNA.[11] Since it’s possible that third cousins will not share any DNA (thanks to the random nature of DNA inheritance through recombination), the fact that Mom and N.F.M. share only 25 cM of DNA over 3 segments is not a concern, despite the fact that this amount is below the statistical average expected for this relationship. Moreover, since mom’s line of descent from Andrew was through (1) her father, (2) his mother, and (3) his mother’s father (Figure 8), we would expect that the list of shared matches between Mom and N.F.M. would include additional paternal cousins of Mom’s who were known to be documented descendants of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz.

Figure 8: Relationship chart for Mom and N.F.M. Since their great-grandfathers (Andrzej and Jan) were siblings, their grandmothers (Genevieve and Mary) were first cousins, and their late fathers (John Frank and John Henry) were second cousins. Some data have been redacted to protect the privacy of the living.Relationship chart for Mom and Nancy Foster Mulroy

Evaluation of Shared Matches

In fact, that’s exactly what we find. For example, Mom has a paternal first cousin, M.D., whose mother was John Frank Zielinski’s sister. This means that M.D. would also be a documented third cousin of N.F.M, although they may or may not share any DNA. As it happens, Ancestry reports M.D. as a shared match between Mom and N.F.M., as predicted. Although it’s not possible to know how many centimorgans of DNA are shared between M.D. and N.F.M. or where those matching segments are located, we know that M.D. and N.F.M must match at the level of 4th cousin or closer, based on Ancestry’s cut-offs for reporting shared matches.

Although M.D. is the only one of Mom’s known cousins who also matches N.F.M., additional DNA evidence can be found in Mom’s match list on Ancestry. Further examination of Mom’s DNA matches revealed a match to R.D.S, who is another great-granddaughter of John Klaus and Mary Frankowska, just like N.F.M. While N.F.M. was descended from John and Mary through their grandson, John Henry (see Figure 8), R.D.S. is descended from them through John Henry’s sister, Mary Catherine. Examination of the shared matches between R.D.S. and Mom produces two of Mom’s documented second cousins, R.S.L. and D.M.R., both of whom are descended from Genevieve Klaus’s sister, Anna Klaus Gworek.

Back to the Paper Trail

At this point the DNA evidence strongly supports our hypothesis that John Klaus of Plymouth, Pennsylvania, husband of Mary Frankowska, is, in fact, the same as Jan Klaus, brother of Andrzej and son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz. Although neither N.F.M. nor R.D.S. had done any research in Polish records, R.D.S.’s tree provided further documentation to add to the growing body of evidence: John Klaus’s death certificate stated his parents’ names as Jakub Klaus and “Frency Bigus” (Figure 9).[12]

Figure 9: Death certificate of John Klaus of Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, showing parents’ names.John Klaus death certificate marked

The informant on the certificate was John’s wife, Mary, and it’s easy to see how “Franciszka Liguz” might have been transformed into “Frency Bigus” in a moment of grief, given that she’d probably never met her mother-in-law.

Coming back full circle now to that passenger manifest for Jan Klaus from the S.S. Marsala in 1888, it appears that it was the correct manifest after all. John reported in the 1910 census that he arrived in the U.S. in 1889, which is reasonably consistent with that October 1888 arrival.[13] Moreover, the record of his marriage to Mary “Fratzkoska” [sic] on 21 January 1890 confirms that he was in the U.S. by that date.[14] It may be that New York was his intended destination upon arrival, as recorded on the manifest, and he decided to settle in Plymouth at a later date. Perhaps the numbers written in the “Date and Cause of Death” column had some other obscure significance, since it’s clear that Jan Klaus did not die on the voyage to America. However, the  general agreement between the date of arrival, the passenger’s name, his date of birth, and his origin in Mielec all support the conclusion that this is probably Jan’s passenger manifest, in spite of the discrepancies.

Epilogue: Mary Frankowska’s Story

Following their marriage in 1890, John and Mary went on to have ten children, all born in Pennsylvania, according to the 1910 census. However, only 6 of these children—Thomas, Frances, Mary, Katherine, John Jr., and Leon—were still living in 1910, so there are four more children whose births and deaths might be documented through baptismal records from the church they attended in Plymouth. The oldest son, Thomas Klaus, left Plymouth and was living in Southwick, Hampden, Massachusetts as early as 1914 when he married his wife, Florence Phillips.[15] Frances, Mary, and Katherine Klaus all eventually followed suit and moved to Western Massachusetts, along with their brother Leon. (John Klaus, Jr. settled in Jersey City, New Jersey.) After John Klaus (Sr.) died in Plymouth, Pennsylvania in 1920, his widow Mary (née Frankowska) followed her children to western Massachusetts, where she died in Chicopee in 1923.[16]

When I started researching Jan Klaus’s family for myself, I became curious about Mary Frankowska’s origins. As mentioned, neither of the DNA matches, N.F.M. and R.D.S, had done any research in Polish records, and Mary’s parents’ names were not known. The 1910 census reported that she was born in Austria, and I wondered if perhaps she was from the same part of Galicia as her husband. I decided to check the FamilySearch database, “Poland, Tarnów, Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books, 1612-1900” for her baptism. The name of this database is a bit misleading since it indexes only baptismal records, rather than containing any marriage or death records whose inclusion might be implied by the use of the term “Church Books.”[17] Nevertheless, it can be a good starting point for researching immigrants who are suspected to have originated in the Tarnów region. Interestingly, the search produced a baptismal record for Marianna Josepha Frankowski, daughter of Josephus Frankowski and Anna Dachowski, born 5 August 1863 in—drumroll, please!—“Maniów, Maniów, Kraków, Poland.”[18] This is the same Maniów where Jan Klaus was born, and the year of birth, 1863, was consistent with the year of birth suggested by Mary Klaus’s age as reported on the 1910 census and her marriage record. If this was, in fact, her birth record, then Mary Klaus and her husband John were actually from the same village in Poland—not an uncommon situation, but a delicious bit of research serendipity nonetheless.

Mary’s death certificate was the linchpin needed to confirm this hypothesis. I requested a copy from the city clerk in Chicopee, and bingo! The parents of Mary Klaus were Joseph Frankowski and Anna Dachowska, a perfect match to the birth record in the FamilySearch index (Figure 10). According to the certificate, Mary died on 30 December 1923 at the age of 60, suggesting a birth year of 1863. Consistent with expectations, the certificate states that she was the widow of John Klaus, was living at 220 School Street, and had been a resident of Chicopee for one year prior to her death. The informant was her daughter Catherine Klaus who was living with her, and Mary was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Chicopee on 2 January 1924.

Figure 10: Death certificate of Mary (née Frankowska) Klaus of Chicopee, Hampden, Massachusetts, widow of John Klaus.Marya Klaus death 1923 cropped marked

More research can still be done in both Polish and U.S. records to flesh out the history of John and Mary (née Frankowska) Klaus and their descendants, but the outline of the story has been firmly established. The paper trail tells the story of Jan’s emigration aboard the S.S. Marsala in 1888, his residence in Plymouth, and his marriage to Marianna Frankowska, a young woman from his home village, in 1890. We know of their 10 children, and we can trace the lineages of some of those children into the present day. Their descendants carry a legacy in the form of bits of DNA which allow us distant cousins to identify each other as fellow descendants of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz. With every connection we make, our understanding of the family’s history deepens and grows. Who knew that this Buffalo girl had family connections to Chicopee? I do now.

Sources:

[1] Roman Catholic Church, Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej – Różańcowej (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych,” 1860, births, #20, record for Joannes Klaus, born 9 October 1860.

[2] Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary Magdalene parish (Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1786-1988,” Akta małżeństw 1786-1988, Maniów, 1860, 16 September 1860, marriage record for Jacobus Klaus and Francisca Liguz, FHL Film no. 1958428, Items 7-8.

[3] Roman Catholic Church, Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej – Różańcowej (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych”, 1863, baptismal record for Josephus Klaus, born 26 February 1863; and

Roman Catholic Church, Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej – Różańcowej (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych”, 1865, births, #37, record for Andreas Klaus, born 25 November 1865; and

Roman Catholic Church, Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej – Różańcowej (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych”, 1867, #20, baptismal record for Michael Klaus, born 1 September 1867; and

Roman Catholic Church, Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej – Różańcowej (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych”, 1870, #18, baptismal record for Paulus and Petrus Klaus, born 28 May 1870; and

“Podkarpackie,” database, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Geneteka, (http://geneteka.genealodzy.pl), Search result for Klaus births in Podkarpackie, 1872, #23, Tomasz Klaus, son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Nygus (sic), parish Ksiaznice-Wola Mielecka, born in Wola Mielecka on 3 September 1872, source, parish archives, indexed by Krzysztof Gruszka, accessed 3 August 2017; and

“Podkarpackie”, database, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Geneteka, (http://geneteka.genealodzy.pl), Search result for Klaus births in Podkarpackie, 1875, #23, Helena Klaus, son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Nygus (sic), parish Ksiaznice-Wola Mielecka, born in Wola Mielecka on 25 September 1875, source, parish archives, indexed by Krzysztof Gruszka, accessed 3 August 2017.

[4] “Podkarpackie”, database, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Geneteka, (http://geneteka.genealodzy.pl), Search result for Klaus deaths in Podkarpackie, 1879, #7, Pawel Klaus, son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz, parish Ksiaznice-Wola Mielecka, died in Wola Mielecka on 14 March 1879 at the age of 8 years, source, parish archives, indexed by Krzysztof Gruszka, accessed 3 August 2017; and

Roman Catholic Church, Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej – Różańcowej (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych”, 1870, #18, baptismal record for Paulus and Petrus Klaus. Note: There is a cross next to Petrus’ name which indicates that he died 22 July 1870; and

“Podkarpackie”, database, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Geneteka, (http://geneteka.genealodzy.pl), Search result for Klaus deaths in Podkarpackie, 1878, #28, Helena Klaus, daughter of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz, parish Ksiaznice-Wola Mielecka, died in Wola Mielecka on 15 August 1878 at the age of 3 years, source, parish archives, indexed by Krzysztof Gruszka, accessed 3 August 2017.

[5] “Podkarpackie”, database, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Geneteka, (http://geneteka.genealodzy.pl), Search result for Klaus deaths in Podkarpackie, 1874, #4, Józef Klaus, son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz, parish Ksiaznice-Wola Mielecka, died in Wola Mielecka on 12 January 1874 at the age of 7 years, source, parish archives, indexed by Krzysztof Gruszka, accessed 3 August 2017.

[6] Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Marriages, 1900, #77, record for Tomasz Klaus and Wiktorya Rak, 20 November 1900, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS4N-64QV-L?i=1468&cat=23415: http://familysearch.org : 7 August 2017), image 1469 of 1979.

[7] “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,“ Ancestry, (http://ancestry.com : 31 July 2019) S.S. Marsala, departing 14 September 1888, p 338, line 197, Jan Klaus, citing Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1738, Volume 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 062 B.

[8] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVSL-CV45 : 17 December 2018), S.S. Marsala , arriving in New York on 1 October 1888, passenger no. 197, Jan Klaus, 1888; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

[9] “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934,” Ancestry, (http://ancestry.com : 7 August 2019) S.S. British Queen, departing Hamburg 26 March 1889, p. 361, line 4, passenger Andrzey Klaus, citing Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13155, Volume: 373-7 I, VIII B 1 Band 077.

[10] Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Marriages, 1891, no. 26, record for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka, 21 January 1891, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS4N-64SL-7?i=1407&cat=23415 : 7 August 2019), image 1408 of 1979.

[11] Blaine Bettinger, “August 2017 Update to the Shared cM Project,” The Genetic Genealogist, https://thegeneticgenealogist.com: posted 26 August 2017).

[12] Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1966,” database, Ancestry, (http://ancestry.com : 7 August 2019), Plymouth, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, no. 60801, certificate for John Klaus, died 13 May 1920, citing  Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1965; Certificate Number Range: 058501-061500, record for John Klaus, citing Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

[13] “1910 United States Federal Census” (population schedule), Plymouth Ward 5, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, Enumeration District 105, Sheet 5A, John Klaus household, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 12 December 2018),  citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1369.

[14] Clerk of Orphans Court of Luzerne County, Marriage License Docket, license no. 7356, John Clause and Mary Fratzkoska, married 21 January 1890, accessed as digital images,”Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885-1950,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org :  19 December 2018), DGS no. 004268759, image 292 out of 625.

[15]“Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 19 December 2018),  record for Thomas Klous [sic] and Florence Phillips, June 24, 1914, Southwick, Hampden, Massachusetts.

[16] Chicopee, Hampden, Massachusetts, no. 177 [?], death certificate for Marya Klaus, 30 December 1923; Chicopee Town Clerk’s Office, Chicopee, Massachusetts.

[17] “Poland Tarnow Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books – FamilySearch Historical Records Coverage Table,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Poland_Tarnow_Roman_Catholic_Diocese_Church_Books_-_FamilySearch_Historical_Records_Coverage_Table : 10 August 2019).

[18] “Poland Tarnow Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books, 1612-1900,” Marianna Josepha Frankowski, baptized 5 August 1863, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X5HQ-G5J : 10 August 2019).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

Using the PRADZIAD Database

Update (June 1, 2020): Shortly after this post was written, the Polish state archives announced that the current version of PRADZIAD will only be available through the new version of Szukajwarchiwach. I was disappointed by this development, because I preferred the old PRADZIAD format for displaying search results. However, life is all about change, so adapt we must. A tutorial for using the new Szukajwarchiwach site can be found here.

One of the most frequently-asked questions in Polish genealogy groups on Facebook is, “Where can I find vital records—whether church books or civil registrations—for X parish or registry office?” There are really only four answers to this question: vital records might be at the parish, the diocesan archive, the regional state archive, or the local civil records office (urząd stanu cywilnego, or USC). The devil is in the details, however. Sometimes it’s difficult to ascertain precisely which books are held by a given repository, without a phone call or email to the repository. At other times, it’s much simpler, and one of the tools that makes life simple is the PRADZIAD database.

What is PRADZIAD?

PRADZIAD’s official name is Baza danych Program Rejestracji Akt Metrykalnych i Stanu Cywilnego, or The Program for the Registration of Records from Parish and Civil Registration Offices. The name is also something of a play on words, since “pradziad” is the Polish word for “great-grandfather,” and this database pertains specifically to metrical books and civil registers, which are the source of vital records. Although the database originally (prior to 2011) excluded information from some of the state archives (Lublin, Poznań), it presently contains information on the vital records holdings of all the Polish state archives, plus some additional archives:

  • the Roman Catholic diocesan or archdiocesan archives in Łódź, Poznań, Płock, Szczecin, Warszawa-Praga, Włocławek, and Wrocław;
  • the Książnicy Pomorskiej im. Stanisława Staszica w Szczecinie (the Stanisław Staszic Pomeranian Library in Szczecin);
  • the records for the diocese of Pińsk held by the Archiwum Diecezjalnym w Drohiczynie (Roman Catholic diocesan archive in Drohiczyn);
  • the Fundacji Kultury i Dziedzictwa Ormian Polskich (the Foundation of Culture and Heritage of Polish Armenians); and
  • the “Zabużańskie archive,” which holds record books of the Jewish and Roman Catholic denominations that were formerly located in the Kresy (territories of Poland that became part of the USSR after 1944). The Zabużańskie books are currently stored at the Urząd Stanu Cywilnego m.st. Warszawy (Registry Office of the Capital City of Warsaw) but are gradually being transferred to the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych (Central Archive of Historical Records).

How Do I Search PRADZIAD?

The database can be searched quickly, easily, and with an English search interface, here. This same search screen is shown in Figure 1:

Figure 1: PRADZIAD search screen.PRADZIAD search screen

Although it’s pretty straightforward, there are a few things that are helpful to know in setting up a search.

  1. Diacritics are not required, so searching for “Lodz” will produce results for Łódź.
  2. The search term must be the name of the parish or registry office that served a village, not just the village name. If my ancestors were from Wola Koszucka, a village belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Kowalewo Opactwo, powiat słupecki (Słupca County), I must search for Kowalewo, not Wola Koszucka. Not sure how to find the parish? Use a gazetteer. A number of them are listed here.
  3. All other input boxes except for the place name are optional. I usually skip the box where it says, “enter the name of the commune on the territory of which the town searched for is located or the county on the territory of which it was located before the war” because it’s easier to refine the search in other ways. However, when searching for a common place name (e.g. Dąbrowa), it’s useful to utilize the drop-down menu in the next option, where it states, “select the name of the province within the 1975-1998 or 1918-1939 borders.” This will help narrow the search results. If the province in which the parish was located under the old administrative structure is not known, there’s a handy tool offered by the PTG (Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne) that can help. The PTG are the same folks who bring us Geneteka and Metryki and a whole host of other genealogical gems, and this particular tool is called the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych (Catalog of Metrical Resources). The search page is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Search interface for the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych.Katalog

Diacritics are not required here, either, so I can search for “Dabrowa,” and find a list of all the parishes in Poland with “Dąbrowa” as part of the name (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Search results from the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych for “Dabrowa.” Only the top 16 search results out of 42 are shown.Katalog results for Dabrowa

The column boxed in red, “stare,” indicates the former województwo (province) to which the parish was assigned during the period from 1975-1998. From this chart, it is apparent that the parish of Dąbrowa which is located in the present-day Mazowieckie province, was formerly within the Ciechanów province. When this information is added to the search screen in PRADZIAD, the search hits are reduced from 111 down to 12.

4. Additional options for limiting search results include specifying the religion, and specifying the type of document (birth, marriage, death, etc.) While I rarely use the latter option, there are definitely times when specifying the religion can be useful.

The Fine Print

As you will have guessed by now, this database does not offer any information on individuals. It’s not a nominal index like Geneteka where the name of an ancestor can be searched. This database will only provide information on the vital-records holdings of the state archives (and a few additional archives, as noted above) for a particular location. A lack of results in PRADZIAD, does not imply that all the vital records for that location were destroyed, as vital records may still be found in the diocesan archive, the parish itself, or the USC (which would typically have the most recent 100 years of civil registrations, which are protected by Polish privacy laws). PRADZIAD offers no information on collections other than metrical books—such as census records, population registers, business records, town records, maps, photographs, notarial records, court records, etc.—which might be available for a given town. These can be discovered through a search at Szukajwarchiwach instead, where results will include all the holdings of the state archives related to a particular search term, including metrical books, where applicable. (For more information on using Szukajwarchiwach, a tutorial is available here.) Finally, search results displayed at PRADZIAD will not offer any indication of which collections might be found online and which can only be obtained by other means. It’s up to the researcher to perform his own due diligence before writing to the archive to request a search. (Examples of sites which offer online scans of vital records from Polish parishes include Szukajwarchiwach, Genealogia w Archiwach, Metryki, GenBaza, FamilySearch, etc.)

So what’s the point in searching only in PRADZIAD, if Szukajwarchiwach offers more comprehensive search results? It may be nothing more than a matter of personal preference, but for a researcher who is focused on finding vital records, the search format may be a little easier, and the results may be a little less to wade through, when using PRADZIAD. More information about writing to archives in Poland and examples of using PRADZIAD can be found here.  Happy researching!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

 

Party Like It’s 1899, Continued

In my last post, I wrote about an imaginary visit to the year 1899, prompted by a post in the Facebook group, “GAA (Genealogy Addicts Anonymous)” In that group, Admin Claudia D’Souza recently posed the question to the members of the group, “Imagine you wake up and you are in the year 1899! Who are you going to visit, & what are you going to find out?” I had quite a bit of fun thinking about that question—so much fun, in fact, that I decided to break up my musings into two posts. Since I already discussed my game plan for visiting and interviewing my relatives on my paternal side, I’ll move on now to my plan for visiting my maternal relatives, based on hypothetical time travel to August 31st, 1899. I’ve updated the interactive map to include all the new places I’ll be visiting on my journey.

My Maternal Grandmother’s Family

Many of my Mom’s relatives were already in Buffalo by today’s date in 1899, so I’ll start my journey there. I’ll head first to 25 Clark Street, on Buffalo’s East Side. This is where 22-year-old Weronika/Veronica Grzesiak has been living in Buffalo for a little over a year, boarding with the family of Michał/Michael and Marianna/Mary (née Derda) Staszak.

Figure 1: Wedding portrait of Weronika Grzesiak and Jan Zażycki, 5 August 1901, Buffalo, New York. Left to right, Tadeusz Grzesiak (brother of the bride), Jan Zażycki, Józefa Grzesiak (sister of the bride), Weronika Grzesiak.Veronica Grzesiak & John Zazycki wedding

Veronica, who will be my great-grandmother, named Michael Staszak as the relative she was going to join, and her passenger manifest clearly states “brother-in-law and sister,” which suggests that she must be related to his wife. Interestingly, Polish records offer no evidence that Veronica and Mary were related in any way, much less through a relationship as close as sister or half-sister. However, Mary Staszak was from Kowalewo-Opactwo, the same village in which Veronica grew up, so it’s probable that they were good friends. Moreover, Veronica and Mary traveled together on the S.S. Willehad when they made the journey from Kowalewo to Buffalo, along with Michael and Mary’s two children, 9-year-old Józefa and 7-year-old Franciszek.

I know a lot about Veronica’s ancestry, yet I still have questions about her family. I know that at least two of her siblings, Władysław and Konstancja, moved to Warsaw and were married there in August 1898 and June 1898, respectively. What prompted their move? Did any of the other siblings move as well? What happened to Pelagia, the sister who disappears from the records after her birth in Kowalewo in 1869? I know that Veronica is working hard in the kitchen of a restaurant and saving up her money to bring her father and siblings to the U.S. I also know that one year from now, her father, Józef, and siblings Tadeusz, Józefa, Władysław, and Władysław’s wife, Kazimiera, will join her in Buffalo. Why will her mother, Marianna (née Krawczyńska) Grzesiak, not come as well? Will she merely choose to stay in Warsaw with her daughter Konstancja and Konstancja’s husband, Julian Cieniewski?

By May of 1900 when most of the family leaves for America, Konstancja will already be pregnant with her daughter Wiktoria, due in December. Will she simply plead for her mother to stay with her and help her through the birth, until Marianna finally relents and allows her husband and other children to go to America without her? Or was something else going on? Why will Józef report on his passenger manifest that he was a widower, and why will three of her children appear not to know their mother’s name, reporting it variously on U.S. records as Anna Nowacka, Mary Cebulska, and Marianna Szafron? Why will the story be handed down that Marianna Grzesiak was already deceased by the time Veronica left for America, when in fact she will not die until 1904? All these facts seem to suggest that Marianna was estranged from her family for some reason. Was this the case, or am I just over-interpreting the data?

More answers might be found by visiting her family in the Old Country, so I’ll book passage to Bremen or Hamburg, and from there, make my way to Warsaw, where I hope to find Weronika’s oldest brother, Władysław Grzesiak, and his new bride, Kazimiera (née Olczak), living in the Koło neighborhood within the Wola district of the city. I’ll want to ask Władysław where his parents are living, and which of his siblings are also living in Warsaw. I expect I’ll find the youngest sister, Józefa, here, since family stories handed down among her descendants suggest that she, too, may have lived in Warsaw just prior to emigration. It may very well be that the entire Grzesiak family has moved here within the past year. Władysław’s marriage record from August 1898 stated that his parents were living in “Borowo,” although the record failed to specify which place was meant, out of nearly two dozen places by that name located within the borders of Poland today. However, Józef Grzesiak was apparently living in Warsaw by 27 March 1899, since he was named as a witness on the birth record for his first grandson, Marian Cieniewski, son of Konstancja Grzesiak and Julian Cieniewski. Sadly, the record notes that baby Marian was born alive and was baptized with water, but died the same day.

Once Władysław gives me his parents’ address, I will be eager to visit the home of Józef and Marianna (née Krawczyńska) Grzesiak, my great-great-grandparents. They’re a couple shrouded in mystery for me, for reasons already described. It’s speculation, but I’ve often wondered if Marianna might have suffered from some mental illness. In an era when mental illness were poorly understood, it was not uncommon for families to distance themselves from their afflicted loved ones, even going so far as to tell the younger generations that their elder relative was already deceased. It’s difficult to understand precisely why Marianna’s death record from 1904 states that she was a pauper, living in Zagórów, the village of her birth, yet survived by her husband, Józef. Why would she have been a pauper, since she had a husband and at least one adult daughter living in Warsaw, who might presumably be able to care for her? A visit to 1899 won’t tell me where and when Józef will eventually die, and his death record has not yet been discovered. Still, I will enjoy the chance to get to know them a bit, and also to discover whether the unique pierogi recipe handed down in my family—filled with a combination of sauerkraut, potatoes, and onions—originated with Marianna, or was an invention of her daughter Weronika. 

When my visit with the Grzesiaks has ended, I’ll head back to Buffalo, to 44 Lathrop Street to visit Weronika Grzesiak’s future husband and my great-grandfather, Jan/John Zażycki. John is a 33-year-old molder in a factory, who has been living in the U.S. for 4 years and has already declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen. I wonder if he and Veronica have met yet? While I know something of Jan’s paternal ancestry, his mother, Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, has been a stumbling block for me. Maybe he can tell me where she was born, and where his parents were married. Maybe he can tell me something about her siblings and parents. Was he really the only one of the 11 children in his family who immigrated to America, as present data suggest? What prompted that move?

Antonina herself was still alive in 1899, so when I’ve finished my interview with John, I’ll return to Poland (imaginary travel is cheap, after all!) and make my way to the small village of Bronisławy, about 43 miles west of Warsaw. There I’ll find Antonina and her husband, Ignacy Zarzycki. Ignacy is a 71-year-old peasant farmer who owns his own land—a gospodarz, in Polish. His wife is about the same age, and they are the parents of 11 children, although they have already buried four of them, including a son, Roman, who died 8 years ago at the age of 19. Ironically, their son John will also have a son named Roman who will die an untimely death at the age of 23, but they don’t know this yet. I’m sure they’ll be eager for information about John, and how he’s faring in America. I’ll be equally eager for information on the whereabouts of their son, Tomasz, for whom I’ve not yet been able to locate a marriage or death record. Given the difficulty with obtaining records from parishes in this area, it’s likely that he married and settled in another nearby parish, but which one? 

Mostly, however, I’ll want to hear Antonina’s story. Is my current hypothesis correct, that  her parents were Mateusz Naciążęk and Petronella Trawińska? Who were her siblings? It will be fascinating to meet this woman whose origins have been such a mystery to me, my most recent ancestor about whom so little is known. Antonina won’t be able to tell me where she will die, of course, but I will be sure to ascertain the whereabouts of all of her living, adult children, since she may go to live with one of them when her husband Ignacy passes away in two years’ time. I have evidence that two of her children, Leonard and Karol, moved to Warsaw, while two daughters, Aniela Gruberska and Marianna Gruberska, were living in villages within the nearby parish of Młodzieszyn.  A third daughter, Ewa Klejn, was living in the vicinity of Sochaczew in 1880, but at the present time that’s all I know. 

My Maternal Grandfather’s Family

Having concluded my visits with my maternal grandmother’s family, I’ll book passage back to America to meet my maternal grandfather’s relatives. My journey will take me back to Buffalo once again—back to Clark Street, no less—where my great-great-grandparents, Andrzej/Andrew and Marianna/Mary (née Łącka) Klaus, are living at 43 Clark Street, less than a block away from the home of Veronica Grzesiak.

Figure 2: Wedding photo of Mary Łącka Klaus and her second husband, Władysław/Walter Olszanowicz, 21 November 1916, North Tonawanda, New York. Back Row, left to right: Apolonia/Pauline Klaus Sobuś (Mary’s daughter), holding her son, Edward Sobuś; Stanisław/Stanley Sobuś (Pauline’s husband); Anna Klaus Gworek (Mary’s daughter); Jacob Gworek (Anna’s husband); Genowefa/Genevieve Klaus Zielinska (Mary’s daughter, my great-grandmother).
Front Row, left to right: Julia Sobuś Ziomek (Cousin Jul, daughter of Pauline Klaus Sobuś); Unknown (most probably the groom’s marriage witness, Mary Jedrychanka); Walter Olszanowicz ; Mary Łącka Klaus; Joseph Zieliński (Genevieve’s husband, my great-grandfather); Marie Gworek Glitta (crouching on floor, Anna’s daughter); Helen Klaus (Mary’s daughter)null_00001

In 1899, Andrew is a 33-year-old day laborer and the father of three daughters, Anna, Pauline, and Genowefa/Genevieve (my great-grandmother, Figure 3). He and his 32-year-old wife Mary have already buried two children, a daughter named Zofia/Sophia, and a son named Bolesław. Andrew is also the step-father to Mary’s two sons, Joseph and John, who were born prior to their marriage. On this date in 1899, Mary is heavily pregnant with the couple’s sixth child, Edward, who will be born on September 11th. I know a great deal about both of their families, but there are still missing details.

Figure 3: Genevieve Klaus on her First Communion day, circa 1907.Genevieve Klaus 1st Communion circa 1907

I’ll want to ask Andrew what happened to his brother Michał, who disappears from the records in Poland. I’m also curious to know why he chose to move on to Buffalo, New York, instead of remaining in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, where his brother John Klaus was already living. I’ll be very interested to ask Mary what happened to her father, Jakub Łącki, and her brother, Józef/Joseph, who immigrated with her. Jakub disappears from the records completely after the passenger manifest documenting his arrival in New York in 1884. There’s a family story about a family member who died on the voyage, but it was supposed to be one of Mary’s and Andrew’s children. There’s no evidence that Mary and Andrew knew each other until he arrived in Buffalo circa 1890; could it be that the story got confused, and it was Mary’s father, Jakub, who died on the voyage? Evidence for Joseph Łącki after emigration is also scant. Where is he now? 

After planting a kiss on the forehead of the toddler who will be my great-grandmother, it’s time to return to Sochaczew County in the Russian Empire, this time for a visit to the village of Mistrzewice. Once in the village, I’m sure the locals will be able to direct me to the farm of Stanisław and Marianna (née Kalota) Zieliński, my great-great-grandparents. Stanisław is a 36-year-old farmer (gospodarz) whose father first moved to Mistrzewice from the nearby village of Bibiampol, just a few miles to the south. Marianna grew up in the village of Budy Stare, about five miles to the east. They are the parents of seven sons, although only five of them are currently living: 13-year-old Franciszek, 7-year-old Józef (my great-grandfather), 4-year-old Szczepan, 2-year-old Władysław, and baby Jan, who was just born in March.

Figure 3: Wedding photo of Joseph Zielinski and Genevieve Klaus, 6 October 1915. The best man, Franciszek/Frank Zielinski, seated on other side of the bride, and the woman seated on the other side of the groom is most likely the maid of honor, Josephine Urbaniak.Genevieve Klaus & Joseph Zielinski wedding party

I have a pretty good handle on the deeper ancestry of both Stanisław and Marianna, for at least a few generations. Due to the difficulty in accessing records, I don’t know the names of Marianna’s maternal great-grandparents, but then again, she may not know them, either. Mostly, I’ll enjoy this opportunity to get to know the two of them, observing their interactions with each other and with their children. There are no family stories whatsoever about what Stanisław was like, but the stories that have survived about Marianna, who will die in 1936, don’t paint a picture of a very kind woman. That said, Marianna will experience a great deal of loss in her life, as she will outlive her husband and nine of her ten children. But right now, that’s mostly in Marianna’s future. Perhaps now, in 1899, she is a more cheerful, hopeful woman—a younger wife and mother, still in the prime of her life.

I have one final stop to make before I leave the year 1899, to the village of Budy Stare, to meet Marianna’s father—my great-great-great-grandfather, Roch Kalota. In his prime, Roch was a farmer, but now he’s about 61, and I wonder if he’s starting to slow down and let his sons do more of the hard work around the farm. My understanding of Roch’s family is somewhat incomplete. I know that he married a 21-year-old widow, Agata (née Kurowska) Orlińska, in 1858, and that they had at least seven children together. There are a few gaps in the chronology of their children’s births, however, due to difficulty in accessing church records from their parish, so hopefully Roch can fill those in for me. Agata passed away in 1895, and most of his children are married and have children of their own. The youngest two (that I’m aware of), Katarzyna and Antoni, are still unmarried and living at home, and I’ll enjoy chatting with them as well.

That will wrap up my time-travel to the year 1899. All in all, this was a pretty enjoyable exercise, imagining the life of each of my ancestors in that particular year in their lives. Pondering what is known about each person also helps me to see how much is still unknown in each family’s story. In some cases, this information may yet be discovered without any time machines, so I don’t mean to suggest that every question raised here is necessarily a “brick wall.” It may be that the answers will be found easily, once I make time to do the research, or once I’m able to gain access to the records. So it’s probably time to get back to the present and start looking for the documents that will lead me to the answers I seek. 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

Farewell to Texas

So often, what we find in our genealogical search process depends on what we’re looking for. We all come in with some preconceived notions about our ancestors based on oral family history, and although those stories often contain a kernel of truth, it’s embedded within a distorted narrative. Sometimes those narratives are quite compelling, and it’s hard to let them go, but it’s necessary to do that in order to examine our ancestors’ stories objectively and ask the right questions that will lead us to the truth.

For quite a while now, I’ve been wrestling (albeit intermittently) with the question of where and when Joseph and John Klaus were born. They were the oldest brothers of my great-grandmother, Genowefa/Genevieve (née Klaus) Zielinski. There’s a captivating story that they were born in Texas while their parents, Andrzej/Andrew and Marianna/Marya/Mary (née Łącka) Klaus lived there for a while circa 1890 before moving to St. Louis, Missouri, and then on to Buffalo and finally North Tonawanda, New York. I’ve written about this research previously (most recently here), and about the problematic timeline for their proposed birth events in Texas. To quickly summarize the evidence regarding date and place of birth for each of them, the 1900 census states that Joseph was born March 1891 in New York, and John was born June 1892 in New York.1 However, that same census also states that their sisters Anna and Pauline were born in New York, although birth and baptismal records for Anna and Pauline confirm that they were born in St. Louis, consistent with the family story.2 Joseph’s World War I draft registration states that he was born 17 February 1886—however, Andrew Klaus did not immigrate to the U.S. until 1889.3 Joseph’s marriage record suggests a birth year of 1887, and his death certificate states that he was born 25 February 1886 in Buffalo.4

John died at the age of 15, leaving only a very brief paper trail. In addition to the 1900 census, he was mentioned in a newspaper article about his arrest for stealing coal, dated 27 January 1905 .5 He was reported to be age 15 at that time, suggesting a date of birth circa 1889. John died of tubercular meningitis on 18 June 1905 at the age of 15 years, 8 months, 3 days, suggesting a date of birth of 15 October 1889.6 According to his death certificate, he was born in New York.

So all the evidence pointed to a birthplace in New York for both Joseph and John, but their birth records remained elusive, and I was still somehow hoping that I’d find them in Texas. I’d checked all the ethnic Polish Roman Catholic parishes in Buffalo that were in existence at the time of their births (St. Stanislaus, St. Adalbert, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and had not found their baptismal records. Since Andrew Klaus and Mary Łącka did not marry until 21 January 1891 in Buffalo, it seemed likely that Joseph and John were both born out of wedlock, or that Mary was married previously. However, I could find no evidence for a prior marriage for Mary in the records from St. Stanislaus, the parish to which she belonged when she married Andrew Klaus.

Yet sometimes I amaze myself with my own stupidity.

There I was, standing at the kitchen sink the other night, washing up the dinner dishes, not thinking about anything in particular, when suddenly it hit me. Despite the fact that I knew that one or both of the oldest Klaus boys was likely to have been born out of wedlock, what name did I search for when I checked the baptismal index for St. Stanislaus? Klaus! (Stupid, right? Gah!) Somehow, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, I was assuming a scenario in which Andrew was still the father of Joseph and John, even if they were born prior to his marriage to Mary. Immediately I ran to my computer to check the baptismal index for Józef Łącki, and lo, and behold—there he was (Figure 1)!

Figure 1: Baptismal record from St. Stanislaus Church for Józef Łącki, born 25 February 1888.7Joseph Łącki birth 1888 cropped

He was there all along, right where he was supposed to be. Born 25 February 1888 in Buffalo, consistent with existing evidence for his date of birth, Joseph was baptized the following day and was noted to be the illegitimate son of Maryanna Łącka of Kołaczyce, Galitia [sic]. Godparents were Mikołaj Kołodziej and Marya Graca. Done and dusted.

So now I’ve found Joseph, but where’s John? A search of the baptismal index for Łącki births failed to turn up any additional children born to Mary Łącka, and the marriage index did not indicate any other marriages for her besides the one to Andrzej Klaus in 1891. Could John have been baptized in another parish—maybe in Texas? There’s got to be some truth to that family story, right? Cousin Jul accurately reported the family’s sojourn in St. Louis, so why would the tale about Texas be untrue?

I decided to go through the all the baptisms from St. Stanislaus in 1889 individually, and that’s when I found John Klaus—more or less (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Baptismal record from St. Stanislaus parish for Jan Konieczny, born 10 October 1889.8 Jan Klaus 1889 crop

According to this record, Jan Konieczny was born 10 October 1889 and baptized the same day. He was the son of Maryanna Łącka of Kołaczyce, Galicia—unmistakably the right mother. But his father was noted to be Jan Konieczny of “Brzyski, Gal.” This suggests the present-day village of Brzyska in Jasło County, which is just a little over 2 miles from Kołaczyce. The date of birth and mother’s name mean this has got to be our John Klaus, but there’s no marriage record for Jan Konieczny and Mary Łącka in the records of St. Stanislaus. There is, however, a marriage record for Jan Konieczny and Karolina Nyc, who married at St. Stan’s on 2 September 1889, a month before this child’s birth (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish for Jan Konieczny and Karolina Nyc, 2 September 1889.9Jan Konieczny marriage 1889

According to the marriage record, Jan Konieczny married Karolina Nyc on 2 September 1889. He was the son of Maciej Konieczny and Katarzyna, whose maiden name was not specified, and he was born in “Brzesko, Gal.” Brzesko is a village in Galicia located approximately 43 miles east of the village of Brzyski mentioned in the baptismal record. Karolina Nyc was another native of Galicia, born in the village of Brzeźnica to Bartłomiej Nyc and Maria Polniaszek. There were three unique places in Galicia called Brzeźnica, so further research would be needed to determine in which one of these villages Karolina was born.

So what’s going on here? Are there two different men named Jan Konieczny, one from Brzyski who married to Mary Łącka and was the father of her child, Jan, as suggested by the birth record, and a second Jan Konieczny from Brzesko who was the husband of Karolina Nyc? A survey of indexed records from Ancestry and FamilySearch does not support the hypothesis that there were two different men named Jan/John Konieczny, both from Galicia/Austrian Poland and living in Buffalo concurrently. Moreover, the difference between the two records in the spelling of Jan’s place of origin, Brzesko vs. Brzyski, is a minor discrepancy of a sort that’s common in the records from St. Stanislaus. In fact, in baptismal records for the children of Andrew and Mary Klaus, Andrew’s place of origin was recorded as Maniówo, Maniewo, Szczeciny, and Monowice, when in fact he was born in Maniów in gmina Szczucin.10

If we believe, then, that Jan Konieczny, the father of Mary Łącka’s child, is the same Jan Konieczny who married Karolina Nyc just a month earlier, what are the implications of that? The birth record does not explicitly state that the child, Jan Konieczny, was born from the legitimate marriage of Jan Konieczny and Mary Łącka, it only states that Jan was the father. It would be unusual, but not unheard of, for a father to acknowledge such a child born out of wedlock. In such cases there is sometimes a notation on the baptismal record, “pater naturalis,” or “natural father,” but this record includes no such notation.

Could it be that the father’s given name was recorded incorrectly? This seems more plausible. The evenness and consistency of the handwriting throughout these images suggests that these records may have been recopied at some point prior to microfilming by the Latter-Day Saints. If originals are available at the diocesan archive in Buffalo, and if access to these records could be obtained, they might contain some answers. So if we suppose that Mary Łącka was married previously to another man named Konieczny, who was he, and where is their marriage record? It seems like it should be at St. Stan’s, since that was the parish in which Mary was living when she gave birth to her oldest sons Joseph and John in 1888 and 1889, respectively, and also the parish in which she was living when she married Andrew Klaus in 1891. Yet the only record of marriage for a woman with the surname Łącka or Łączka between 1874-1894 in St. Stanislaus parish (as determined by searching Kasia Dane’s online index of marriage records from St. Stan’s) is the record for Mary and Andrew Klaus. Similarly, there are no Konieczny marriage records that suggest that the bride may have been Mary Łącka under a badly misspelled or mistranscribed surname. However, that index does reveal a connection between the Konieczny and Łącki families. On 30 June 1886, Maria Łącka and Jakób (or Jakub, in modern Polish) Konieczny were witnesses to the marriage of Jan Lewczyk and Katarzyna Węgrzyn (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish for Jan Lewczyk and Katarzyna Węgrzyn, 30 June 1886.11Jan Lewczyk and Katarzyna Wegrzyn 1886

According to this record, the bride was also a native of Kołaczyce like Mary Łącka, although neither the surname Węgrzyn nor her mother’s maiden name, Ochałek, appears in my family tree. This suggests that Katarzyna and Mary may have been more distant cousins, or perhaps just old friends. More relevant to the question at hand, this record offers evidence of a Jakub Konieczny with whom Mary Łącka was at least acquainted as of June 1886. Could the birth record for Jan Konieczny have been recorded in error—should it have been Jakub Konieczny who was the father?

All of this is entirely speculative, since there’s not much evidence to go on, in absence of a marriage record for Mary Łącka to any man with the surname Konieczny. While there’s always the possibility that Mary eloped and married in a “Gretna Green” location (Erie, Pennsylvania seems to have been such a location for people in the Buffalo, New York area), elopement was far less likely for ethnic Poles. Babies might be born out of wedlock for a variety of reasons, and I have no interest in speculating on the circumstances of their conception or pronouncing moral judgments on my ancestors. Nonetheless, the fact that those babies were always baptized within a few days of birth is a testament to the importance of the Catholic faith in the family’s culture, so it’s extremely unlikely that Mary would have settled for a civil marriage outside of the church. Moreover, if Mary Łącka had been married prior to her marriage to Andrew Klaus, there should be not only a marriage record, but also a death record for her first husband dated some time between 1889 when Jan Konieczny/Klaus was conceived, and January 1891 when Mary married Andrew Klaus. However, searches of the Buffalo, New York death index from 1885–1891, as well as the New York State death indexes from 1889, 1890 and 1891, did not reveal any Konieczny deaths.

Of course, not every immigrant who came to the U.S. remained here. Many worked for a few years and then took their savings back to the Old Country with them. Could it be that Jakub fathered a child with Mary and then returned to Poland? A search of indexed records at FamilySearch and Ancestry does not offer evidence for a Jakub/Jacob/James Konieczny from Galicia/Austrian Poland who was already in Buffalo by 1890. Church records were also examined to determine the given names of all the Konieczny men mentioned in them. Both marriage records from 1874–1894, and baptismal records from Volumes I, II and III, which cover the years from 1874–1895, were examined. Based on these, the following Konieczny men were identified:

  • Walenty (father of Anna, 17 July 1890, and Zofia, 16 April 1893)
  • Wojciech (father of Andrzej, born 26 November 1882; Anastazja, born 6 April 1889, and Józefa, born 17 August 1887)
  • Szczepan (father of Helena, born 5 May 1880, and Franciszek, born 4 October 1881)
  • Jan (father of Władysław, born 24 December 1890; Marya, born 21 January 1893, and Stanisław, born 24 August 1895). According to marriage records, Jan was the brother of 
  • Andrzej (father of Anna, born 5 December 1893, and Honorata, born 4 October 1895).

There’s no further mention of Jakub Konieczny in these church records after the marriage of Jan Lewczyk and Katarzyna Węgrzyn in 1886, suggesting that he may have moved back to Poland or relocated within the U.S.

Ultimately, we may never know who the father of Jan Klaus really was. As so often happens with genealogy, each new answer creates additional questions. Despite these uncertainties, I’m convinced that the Jan Konieczny, who was born in Buffalo, New York on 10 October 1889 and baptized the same day at St. Stanislaus parish, son of Marya Łącka and “Jan Konieczny,” was, in fact, the same child who grew up with Andrew Klaus as his foster father, and was later known as John Klaus. John Klaus, my great-granduncle—or half great-granduncle, as appears now to be the case, wasn’t born in Texas after all, nor was his oldest brother (or half-brother), Joseph. So why the elaborate story about the family living in Texas? Maybe it was intended to be an amusing tall tale that was misunderstood as the truth by Mary Klaus’s grandchildren. If nothing else, I’ve learned another lesson in examining my assumptions as I research. Farewell, Texas. You were never part of my family history after all.

Sources:

1 “United States Census, 1900,” Buffalo Ward 11, Erie, New York, Enumeration District 84, Sheet 28A, line 41, Andro Klano [sic] household, accessed as digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 17 June 2019), New York > Erie > ED 84 Election District 3 Buffalo city Ward 11 > image 55 of 59; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), Baptismal Records, January 1, 1888–May 5, 1895, 1892, no. 127, record for Anna Klaus, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1880-1993,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019), Film 1872178/DGS 7856319 > Item 4, Baptisms > image 283 of 1149; and 

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), Baptismal Records, January 1, 1888–May 5, 1895, 1894, no. 2, record for Apolonia Klaus, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1880-1993,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019), Film 1872178/DGS 7856319 > Item 4, Baptisms > image 301 of 1149.

3 “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 19 June 2019), Joseph J Claus, 1917-1918; citing Chautauqua County no 1, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,712,292; and

Staatsarchiv Hamburg, “Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934” (database with images), record for Andrzey KlausAncestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 19 June 2019), Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII B 1 Band 077; Page: 361; Microfilm No.: S_13155.

4 Dunkirk, Chautauqua, New York, marriage certificate no. 431 (1910), Joseph Klaus and Mary Brzuszkiewicz; Dunkirk City Clerk’s Office, 342 Central Avenue, Dunkirk, New York; and

Dunkirk, Chautauqua, New York, death certificate no. 130 (1918), Joseph Claus, 7 October 1918; Dunkirk City Clerk’s Office, 342 Central Avenue,
Dunkirk, New York.

“Coal Thieves Were Fined,” The Evening News (North Tonawanda, New York), 27 January 1905, p. 1, Old Fulton New York Post Cards (https://fultonhistory.com. : 4 August 2017).

North Tonawanda, Niagara, New York, death certificates no. 2016 (1905), John Klaus, 18 June 1905; North Tonawanda City Clerk’s Office, 216 Payne Avenue, North Tonawanda, New York.

7 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), baptismal register II, 1883-1890, p. 368, no. 137, record for Józef Łącki, born 25 February 1888 accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) Baptisms 1874-1903 > image 502 out of 1979.

8 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), baptismal register II, 1883-1890, p. 532, no. 702, record for Jan Konieczny, born 10 October 1889, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) Baptisms 1874-1903 > image 584 of 1979.

9 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Matr. 1873–1891, p. 154, no. 88, marriage record for Jan Konieczny and Karolina Nyc, 2 September 1889, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019), image 1385 of 1979.

10 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), baptismal register III, 1890-1895, p. 640, no. 757, record for Bolesław Klaus, born 24 October 1895, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) image 502 out of 1979; and 

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), baptismal register IV, 1895-1903, p. 196, no. 620, record for Genowefa Klaus, born 28 September 1897, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) image 1074 out of 1979; and 

Ibid., p. 352, no. 396, record for Edward Klaus, born 11 September 1899, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) image 1155 out of 1979; and 

Ibid., p. 426, no. 476, record for Władysław Klaus, born 10 October 1900, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) image 1194 out of 1979.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

 

 

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Matr. 1873–1891, p. 90, 1886, no. 64, marriage record for Jan Lewczyk and Katarzyna Węgrzyn, 30 June 1886, accessed as browsable images, “Church records, 1873-1917,” FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : 19 June 2019) Marriages > image 1353 of 1979.

 

Solving the Puzzle: Establishing a Paper Trail to Match DNA Evidence

In my last post, I wrote about a new DNA match that I’ve been puzzling over, between my mother and our genetic cousin, Ron Wilczek, who gave me permission to use his name on my blog. However, in looking at this research again more closely, I’ve been able to solve the puzzle and figure out how Ron and I are related, thanks to a document gifted to me by a friend, which provided the crucial bit of evidence that was the key to solving the problem.

To quickly recap, Ron’s great-grandfather, Izydor Wilczek, was a Polish immigrant who arrived in the U.S. circa 1903 and settled in North Tonawanda, New York. In 1895, Izydor married Zofia Krawczyk in the parish of Żyrardów, presently located in Żyrardów County, Mazowieckie province, Poland.According to that marriage record, Izydor was born in Budy Stare, a village which happens to be less than 6 kilometers distant from the village of Młodzieszynek where my Wilczek ancestors lived. Both villages were served by the Catholic parish in Młodzieszyn, which was the same parish to which my great-grandfather, Joseph Zieliński, belonged prior to his immigration to North Tonawanda, New York in 1912. It was Joseph’s great-grandmother who was named Marianna Wilczek. So if Ron and I both have Wilczek ancestors from villages in the vicinity of Młodziesyzn, then obviously this must be how we’re related, right? It should just be a matter of documenting the common Wilczek ancestor from whom Ron and my mother inherited that bit of shared DNA?

Not so fast. That same marriage record for Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk also revealed that Zofia was born in Kuznocin, a village which belongs to the parish in Sochaczew and which was home to my Krzemiński, Bielski, and Świecicki ancestors. So was it Izydor or Zofia who was the most recent common ancestor who contributed that single segment of DNA shared between Ron and my mom? We really need some documentary evidence in order to figure this out, and the first step is further research into Izydor Wilczek’s roots in Młodzieszyn and Zofia’s roots in Sochaczew.

In Search of Zofia Krawczyk’s Maternal Ancestry

Zofia Krawczyk was age 20 at the time of her marriage in 1895, suggesting a birth circa 1875. A matching birth record was quickly identified in the indexed records in Geneteka (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Geneteka search results for birth records mentioning Zofia Krawczyk in Sochaczew.Geneteka search results for Zofia Krawczyk

The first result, showing Zofia Krawczyk born to Marianna Krawczyk and an unknown father, is clearly a match for the Zofia mentioned in the marriage record to Izydor Wilczek. Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the “Remarks” column reveals that she was born on 14 May 1874, and hovering over the “z” column informs us that a copy of the record can be requested from the Archiwum Diecezjalnego w Łowiczu, the diocesan archive in Łowicz. Although the unknown father presents a roadblock at this point, perhaps we can more easily identify Marianna Krawczyk’s parents?

If we assume that Marianna Krawczyk was between the ages of 13 and 45 when she gave birth to Zofia in 1874, then she herself would have been born between 1829 and 1861. A search for a birth record for Marianna Krawczyk in all indexed parishes within a 15 kilometer radius of Sochaczew, between 1829 and 1861, produces the results shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Geneteka search results for birth records dated between 1829-1861 mentioning Marianna Krawczyk from all indexed parishes within a 15 kilometer radius of Sochaczew, omitting results in the parents’ columns. Geneteka search results for Marianna Krawczyk

There are three possible matches, all from Sochaczew parish, but none specifically from the village of Kuznocin where Zofia was born. However, Zofia’s marriage record provided one important clue buried at the end of the record, where it stated, “Permission for the marriage of the underage bride was given orally by the stepfather, Jan Skrzyński, present at the marriage act.” Repeating the search with the date restrictions removed, and clicking over to the “marriages” tab, produces the results shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Geneteka search results for marriages after 1829 for given name Marianna and surname Krawczyk from all indexed parishes within a 15 kilometer radius of Sochaczew, omitting results in the parents’ columns.Marianna Krawczyk marriages in Geneteka

Bingo! The first item underlined in red is the 1876 marriage of Jan Skrzyński and Marianna Krawczyk, which took place in Sochaczew. According to this indexed entry, the bride was the daughter of Andrzej Krawczyk and Tekla Pietraszeska, and information revealed by the “i” infodot (not shown in this image) states that the bride was 25 years old and born in Gawłów. Although a scan is not available, this record, too, can be requested from the Archiwum Diecezjalnego w Łowiczu.

If Marianna was 25 in 1876, it suggests that she was born in 1851. However, this information does not align perfectly with the information from the available birth records for women named Marianna Krawczyk from Sochaczew shown in Figure 2. The Marianna Krawcyzk born in 1851 was born in Żuków, not Gawłów, and her mother’s maiden name was Piotrowska, not Pietraszeska. On the other hand, the Krawczyk girl born in Gawłów was named Marcjanna, not Marianna, and she was born in 1859, not 1851. Moreover, her mother’s name was still Piotrowska, not Pietraszeska. So how do we reconcile this? We remember that no single document can be trusted to be 100% accurate and completely reliable. Each piece of evidence must be evaluated in light of the total. In this case, it seems more likely that the Marianna Krawczyk born in 1851 is the same as the Marianna Krawczyk who married in 1876, despite the discrepancies in the place of birth recorded in the marriage record and in the spelling of the mother’s maiden name. This assertion is bolstered by the fact that the Marcjanna Krawczyk born in 1859 appears to have died in 1861, which we discover when we click over to the “deaths” tab in Geneteka.

The second marriage record underlined in red in Figure 3 should also inspire confidence in the conclusion that Marianna’s mother’s name was most likely Piotrowska rather than Pietraszeska (although both names are patronymic surnames related to the given name Piotr). That record shows the marriage of Mateusz Krawczyk, son of Andrzej Krawczyk and Tekla Piotrowska, to Marianna Winnicka in the parish of Młodzieszyn in 1893. Mateusz is clearly a full brother to Marianna Krawczyk, and as additional documents emerge which mention Piotrowski, it becomes clear that the Pietraszeska variant was an anomaly. Having established that Zofia Krawczyk’s mother, Marianna Krawczyk, was the daughter of Andrzej Krawczyk and Tekla Piotrowska, we come to a dead end. Although further searching in Geneteka can fill out the family tree, producing additional birth, marriage, and death records for children of Andrzej Krawczyk and Tekla Piotrowska,  there is no marriage record for Andrzej Krawczyk and Tekla Piotrowska which identifies their parents’ names. Similarly, no death records were found for either Andrzej or Tekla which might provide this information. All that can be done quickly and easily to trace Zofia Krawczyk’s ancestry in the hope of finding a connection between her and my family has been done, and no connection has been discovered.

In Search of Izydor Wilczek’s Paternal Ancestry

Moving on, then, to research into Izydor Wilczek’s ancestry, we recall that Izydor’s 1895 marriage record described him as age 30, born in Budy Stare to Andrzej Wilczek and Anna Kornacka. This suggests a birth year circa 1865, and again we hit a snag because birth records for Młodzieszyn are only readily available after 1885. The situation with marriage records from Młodzieszyn is similarly frustrating, since these are only available from 1889–1898 and then again from 1911–1928. Although it is not possible to easily obtain Izydor’s birth record or his parents’ marriage record, a search for a death record for his father, Andrzej Wilczek, pays off (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Geneteka search results for death records for given name Andrzej and surname Wilczek in Młodzieszyn parish.Geneteka search results for Andrzej Wilczek

According to this indexed entry, Andrzej Wilczek died in 1900 in the village of Budy Stare in Młodzieszyn parish. The record is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Death record from Młodzieszyn parish for Andrzej Wilczek, 16 August 1900.2Andrzej Wilczek death 1900 marked

The record is written in Russian, which was the official language required for all church and civil vital records in this area at the time, and the full translation appears in the footnotes. It states that Andrzej Wilczek was a farmer, born and residing in Budy Stare, age 72, which suggests a birth year circa 1828. The most important part for solving our DNA puzzle is the section underlined in red, which translates, “…son of Jan and Joanna née Winnicka. He leaves after himself his widowed wife, Anna née Kornacka…” The statement of his wife’s name confirms that this death record does indeed pertain to Andrzej Wilczek, father of Izydor Wilczek, rather than to some other Andrzej Wilczek who might have been living in Budy Stare at the same time. Having determined that this is definitely the right guy, the information about Andrzej’s parents becomes the link which allows me to connect Ron Wilczek’s family to my own, because I have preliminary evidence that Jan Wilczek was the full brother of my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Marianna Wilczek.

Why Genealogy Friends Are the Best Kind of Friends

How do I know that Jan and Marianna Wilczek were siblings? As mentioned previously,  records from the parish of Młodzieszyn are not readily available, as the only existing copies of books prior to 1885 are onsite at the parish itself. The current pastor, Fr. Dariusz Kuźmiński, is understandably busy with tending to the spiritual needs of his congregation, and has little time for research in old records. However, last November, my friend Justyna Cwynar visited the parish on my behalf to request some Masses for the deceased members of my family, and while she was there, Fr. Kuźmiński kindly permitted her to spend about ten minutes with the parish books. It was unfortunately all the time that Fr. Kuźmiński could give her since he had other commitments, so Justyna worked quickly. She first located the marriage record for Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek which was discussed in the last post, and she also discovered this marriage record for Jan Wilczek and Joanna Winnicka (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Marriage record from Młodzieszyn parish for Jan Wilczek and Joanna Winnicka, 20 January 1828.3Jan Wilczek and Joanna Winnicka 1828 copy 2 crop

The record is written in Polish, and states in translation,

“This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the twentieth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred twenty-eight at twelve o’clock noon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Grzegorz Orliński, land-owning farmer residing in Budy Młodzieszyńskie, age thirty, and Izydor Wilczek, land-owning farmer residing in Budy Młodzieszynek, having sixty-two years of age—on this day was concluded a religious marriage between Jan Wilczek, a bachelor born in Budy Młodzieszynek to Izydor and Katarzyna nee Chlupińska, the spouses Wilczek, residing in that same place as land-owning farmers; living with his parents, having nineteen years of age; and Miss Joanna Winnicka, daughter of Maciej, already deceased, and Jadwiga, the spouses Winnicka, residents of Budy Młodzieszyńskie; age sixteen, born in Budy Młodzieszyńskie and living with her mother. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the sixth, thirteenth, and twentieth days of January of the current year in the parish of Młodzieszyn, and likewise by the oral permission of those present at the marriage act—the mother of the bride and likewise both parents of the groom. There were no impediments to the marriage. The newlyweds stated that they had made no prenuptial agreement. This document was read to the declarants and witnesses, who are illiterate. [signed] Fr. Wawrzyniec Kruszewski, pastor of Młodzieszyn.”

And there you have it.

Unlike the marriage record for my ancestors, Marianna Wilczek and Antoni Kalota, which only stated that she was the daughter of Izydor and Katarzyna without specifying Katarzyna’s maiden name, the present record states that Katarzyna’s maiden name was Chlupińska. Although Wilczek is a fairly common Polish surname, especially in this part of Poland, the name Izydor is sufficiently uncommon to permit a reasonable certainty that there were not two distinct couples named Izydor and Katarzyna Wilczek who were living concurrently in the same parish. However, the possibility still remains that Izydor Wilczek could have been married sequentially to two different women named Katarzyna. Lacking evidence from additional marriage and death records in the parish, the hypothesis that Marianna Wilczek and Jan Wilczek were full siblings and both children of Izydor Wilczek and Katarzyna Chlupińska remains tentative. Jan Wilczek’s age in this record suggests that he was born circa 1808, and an added bonus in this record is the fact that the first witness, 62-year-old Izydor Wilczek, was almost certainly Jan’s father. We can therefore infer that Izydor was born circa 1766.

That’s a Wrap (For Now)

Despite the limitations on available records for Młodzieszyn, further research can be done in the indexed records in Geneteka to identify additional children of Andrzej Wilczek and Anna Kornacka. (Note that one such child, Paulina (née Wilczek) Orlińska, turned up during the search for Andrzej’s death record shown in Figure 4.) However, for the purpose of understanding the DNA match between Mom and Ron, we have already established a paper trail, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Relationship chart showing documented relationship between Ron Wilczek and my mother, showing their proposed common descent from most recent ancestral couple, Izydor Wilczek and Katarzyna Chlupińska.relationship-chart-for-ron-and-mom.png

The chart indicates that my mom and Ron are fifth cousins, a relationship which is consistent with the amount of DNA they share (26.3 centimorgans, cM). Of course, the established paper trail does not prove conclusively that the shared DNA must come from the ancestral couple of Izydor Wilczek and Katarzyna Chlupińska. In order to do that, it would be necessary to identify additional living descendants of this same couple, who match Ron and Mom on this same DNA segment. Ideally, those tested would descend from Izydor and Katarzyna through other children besides Marianna and Jan Wilczek, such as the Paulina (née Wilczek) Orlińska mentioned in the death record in Figure 4. But present documentary evidence is sufficient to establish this relationship as a preliminary hypothesis for further testing, if one wished to determine beyond the shadow of a doubt that this particular DNA segment was inherited from either Izydor Wilczek or Katarzyna Chlupińska.

Personally, I’m satisfied with this progress. This DNA match spurred me to new discoveries about the interrelatedness of the Polish immigrant community in North Tonawanda; it pointed to a new migration pathway to ponder, which brought migrants from Sochaczew County to Żyrardów County; and it opened paths to further research into the descendants of my 5x-great-grandparents, Izydor Wilczek and Katarzyna Chlupińska. This should keep me busy for quite a while. I’m deeply grateful for the kindness and generosity of two individuals: my friend Justyna Cwynar, who made time during her trip to Poland to stop by Młodzieszyn for me, and Fr. Dariusz Kuźmiński. who permitted access to these priceless vital records. Without them, these discoveries would not have been possible.

And now, back to those Walshes!

Sources:

1 Roman Catholic Church, Żyrardów parish (Żyrardów, Żyrardów, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi metrykalne parafii rz-kat. w Żyrardowie, Księga UMZ 1895 r., marriages, no. 63, Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk, 24 February 1895, accessed as digital images, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 24 May 2019).

2 “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mlodzieszynie,” Ksiega zgonów 1889-1901, 1900, no. 55, death record for Andrzej Wilczek, died 16 August 1900, accessed as digital images, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 24 May 2019). Translation: “No. 55, Budy Stare. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the fourth/seventeenth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred at eleven o’clock in the morning. They appeared, Franciszek Orliński, farmer, [having] fifty-five years, and Mateusz Orliński, farmer, [having] sixty-three years from birth, residents of the village of Budy Stare, and stated that, on the third/sixteenth day of August of the current year, at eleven o’clock in the morning, in the village of Budy Stare, Andrzej Wilczek died; a farmer, having seventy-two years of age, born in the village of Budy Stare, son of Jan and Joanna née Winnicka. He leaves after himself his widowed wife, Anna née Kornacka, residing in the village of Budy Stare. After eye witness confirmation of the death of Andrzej Wilczek, this document was read to the illiterate witnesses and was signed by Us only. [signed] Fr. J. Ojrzanowski.”

Roman Catholic Church, Młodzieszyn parish (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie,” unknown dates, 1828, marriages, no. 1, Jan Wilczek and Joanna Winnicka, 20 January 1828, Parafia Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Młodzieszynie, Chodakowska 1, 96-512 Młodzieszyn, Poland.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

Puzzling Through a DNA Match

Although I’m mostly working on my Walsh research these days, there’s some Polish research that’s in the back of my mind that I thought I’d write about today. This research relates to an exciting DNA match I found recently on my Mom’s side. Although I still don’t know exactly how we’re related, I’m sure we’re on the right track.

Like many of you, I regularly check my list of new “close” matches (4th cousins or better) at the sites where I have done DNA testing with various family members. Since I’m fortunate enough to have test data for both my parents, I prefer to check their match lists rather than my own since their matches yield better information about earlier generations of the family. During one of the checks on Mom’s matches, I noticed a 4th-cousin-level match to Ron Wilczek, who gave me permission to use his name in my blog. Ron had a tree linked to his DNA data, and I was immediately intrigued by the fact that his grandfather was reported to be a Polish immigrant to North Tonawanda, New York, named Stanisław Wilczek. Both the surname and the location were significant to me, because my mom’s grandfather was another Polish immigrant to North Tonawanda named Joseph Zielinski, and Joseph’s great-grandmother was Marianna Wilczek.

The Wilczek family of Młodzieszyn Parish

Marianna was born circa 1810, and she married Antoni Kalota in the parish of Młodzieszyn in 1830. The record of their marriage was kindly obtained for me through onsite research at the parish by my friend Justyna Cwynar, and is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Marriage record from Młodzieszyn parish for Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek, 31 January 1830.1Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek 1830 crop

The record is written in Polish, and in translation it states,

“No. 2. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the thirty-first day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred thirty at twelve o’clock noon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Antoni Chaba, land-owning farmer of Młodzieszyn, having forty-eight years of age, and Antoni Wilczek, land-owning farmer of Budy Młodzieszynek, having twenty-seven years of age, brother of the aforementioned Marianna Wilczkówna—on this day was concluded a religious marriage between Antoni Kalota, bachelor, land-owning farmer of Budy Młodzieszynek, age twenty years, son of Grzegorz and Helena, the spouses Kalota, former residents of Młodzieszyn; born in Młodzieszyn; and Miss Marianna Wilczkówna, age nineteen, daughter of Izydor and Katarzyna, the spouses Wilczek, residing as land-owning farmers in Budy Młodzieszynek; born in that same place and living there with her parents. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the tenth, seventeenth, and twenty-fourth days of January of the current year in the parish of Młodzieszyn and likewise by the oral permission of the parents of the bride, present at the marriage act; on the part of the groom, permission was officially declared by the family council before the village mayor of gmina Trojanów on the ninth day of January of the current year. There were no impediments to the marriage. The newlyweds stated that they had made no prenuptial agreements. This document was read to the declarants and witnesses who are unable to write. [signed] Pastor Fr. Fabian Hirschberger.”

Marianna’s name was recorded as Wilczkówna, but this is merely an old-fashioned form indicating an unmarried woman of the Wilczek family. She was noted to be the daughter of Izydor and Katarzyna, whose maiden name was not provided in this document.

The second witness on the marriage record for Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek was Antoni Wilczek, who was also identified as her brother, and whose age suggests a birth circa 1803. The record states that Marianna was born and residing with her parents in “Budy Młodzieszynek,” a place which does not appear in the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Lands). It’s unclear from this record whether the village of Młodzieszynek was intended, or instead the village of Budy Młodzieszyńskie, both of which belonged to the parish in Młodzieszyn. According to the Słownik, Budy Młodzieszyńskie had 44 homes, while Młodzieszynek had 15 homes circa 1827, contemporaneous with the time frame for the marriage of Marianna and Antoni Kalota. 2

The DNA Match

Mom and Ron share a single segment of DNA on Chromosome 17. The matching segment consists of 26.3 cM and 11,008 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), according to the chromosome browser at MyHeritage, where Ron uploaded his raw DNA data from Ancestry. The Shared cM Tool at DNA Painter, which offers statistical probabilities for each relationship that is possible based on a given amount of shared DNA, reports a 55.88% chance that the relationship between Mom and Ron is pretty distant, along the lines of 4th-8th cousins, but encompassing a number of possible relationships within that range (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Most probable relationships predicted by 26.3 cM shared DNA, according to DNA Painter.Shared cM Screenshot for DNA shared between Ron and Mom

26.3 cM is likely to be identical by descent, indicative of shared ancestry, rather than by identical by chance, i.e. a false positive. However, the Wilczek surname is sufficiently common throughout Poland that we cannot assume that this is necessarily how Ron and Mom are related without documentary evidence to prove the relationship (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Approximate geographic distribution of the Wilczek surname throughout Poland, circa 2009, courtesy of Nazwiska Polskie. Numbers in colored circles indicate approximate number of bearers of the surname in that region.Wilczek surname distribution

So what do we know—or what can we discover—about the origins of Ron’s Wilczek ancestors that might help confirm the hypothesis that the connection lies with the Wilczek family of Młodzieszyn parish?

The Wilczek Family of North Tonawanda, New York

According to Ron’s tree, his grandfather, Stanisław, was the son of Izydor and Sophia Wilczek, both of whom also immigrated from Russian Poland to North Tonawanda. Izydor is not an especially common Polish given name, and its appearance in both Ron’s family and my own offers further evidence that our connection lies somewhere within the Wilczek family of Młodzieszyn. The 1910 census shows the Wilczek family living at 36 Eighth Avenue in North Tonawanda (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Extract from the 1910 census showing Izydor Wilczek and his family in North Tonawanda, New York.3Wilczek fam 1910 census

According to the information in the census, Izydor was born circa 1874 in Russian Poland and had been married for 15 years, suggesting a marriage date circa 1895. He was reported to have immigrated in 1903 but was not a naturalized citizen. His wife, Sophie, arrived three years later in 1906. Although there were only four children living with the family in 1910, the census revealed that Sophie was the mother of 8, so we know there were four additional children that we need to identify in order to get a complete picture of the family.

In addition to the 1910 census, Ron’s tree contained one another piece of information that was especially interesting. His tree stated that his grandfather, Stanisław Wilczek, was born in Żyrardów, Poland, a town which is located some 40 km south of Młodzieszyn (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Locations of Żyrardów and Młodzieszyn within the Mazowieckie province of Poland, courtesy of Google Maps.Map of Zyrardow to Mlodzieszyn

If Ron’s Wilczek ancestors were originally from Żyrardów or nearby villages, that would fly in the face of my hypothesis that we descend from common Wilczek ancestors in Młodzieszyn. Could his information be incorrect? Or did his branch of the Wilczek family move south, and if so, how long ago?

Geneteka to the Rescue, Again!

Fortunately, this was an easy thing to check. Records for Żyrardów are indexed in the popular Polish vital records indexing database, Geneteka, for the time period when Stanisław Wilczek and his siblings were born. A quick search for records pertaining to Izydor and Zofia (the Polish version of the name Sophie) Wilczek demonstrated that Ron’s oral family history was accurate: Stanisław Wilczek was born in Żyrardów (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Geneteka search results for birth records pertaining to Izydor and Zofia Wilczek, searching all locations in Mazowieckie province. Geneteka Search Results for Izydor Wilczek

In addition to Stanisław’s birth record, this search also produced birth records for the two Polish-born siblings mentioned in the 1910 census, Feliksa and Antonina. Furthermore, it identified two of the children born to Zofia Wilczek who were reported to be deceased prior to 1910, Zofia Stanisława and Józef. Their death records can be found by clicking over to the “Deaths” tab in the search results. Best of all, the marriage record for Izydor and Zofia was also indexed and linked to a scan, which is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Marriage record from Żyrardów parish for Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk, 24 February 1895.4Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk marriage 1895

The marriage record is written in Russian, and is translated as follows:

“No. 63. Teklinów and Budy Stare. This happened in the town of Żyrardów on the 12th/24th day of February 1895 at 7:00 in the evening. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Antoni Peńsko and Jan Wysocki, both adult laborers residing in Ruda Guzowska—on this day a religious marriage was contracted between Izydor Wilczek, bachelor, reserve solder, farmer, born in Budy Stare in Młodzieszyn parish, and residing in that place with his parents; son of Andrzej and Anna née Kornacka, the spouses Wilczek, age 30; and Zofia Krawczyk, single, seamstress, born in Kuznocin, Sochaczew parish, and residing in Teklinów, daughter of the unmarried Marianna Krawczyk; age 20. The marriage was preceded by three readings of the banns in the local parish church and in the parish of Młodzieszyn on the 10th, 17th, and 24th days of February of this year. No impediments to the marriage were found. The newlyweds stated that they had made no premarital agreements between them. Permission for the marriage of the underage bride was given orally by the stepfather, Jan Skrzyński, present at the marriage act. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Fr. Kazimierz Nowosielski, vicar of the local parish. This document was read aloud to the newlyweds, witnesses, and stepfather, who are illiterate, and was signed by Us. [signed] Acting Civil Registrar, Fr. Jan Ka??? [illegible]”

So Izydor was indeed born in a village belonging to Młodzieszyn parish, and he was still living there at the time he married Zofia. This confirms my hunch about Izydor’s origins and suggests that I’m on the right track. It may be that the common ancestor shared between me and Ron was a Wilczek from Młodzieszyn. The record goes on to identify Izydor’s parents as Andrzej Wilczek and Anna Kornacka, who were unknown to me, so further research in the records of Młodzieszyn is needed to elucidate the relationship between Izydor Wilczek and my great-great-great-grandmother Marianna (née Wilczek) Kalota. However, the record also presents a plot twist: the bride, Zofia Krawczyk, was a native of the village of Kuznocin in Sochaczew parish! This is potentially relevant because I’ve traced my Krzemiński, Bielski, and Świecicki ancestors back to villages belonging to Sochaczew parish, so it muddies the waters quite a bit when it comes to determining the common ancestor from whom Mom and Ron inherited that segment of DNA on Chromosome 17. Moreover, it’s problematic that Zofia’s father is unknown, as our connection might lie with him.

Although an answer to this problem is not immediately apparent, it may be that additional research can present the solution. In the meantime, it’s obvious that we’re on the right track. This is a story that will be continued…. stay tuned!

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, Młodzieszyn parish (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie,” unknown dates, 1830, marriages, no. 2, Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek, 31 January 1830,  Parafia Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Młodzieszynie, Chodakowska 1, 96-512 Młodzieszyn, Poland.

2 Filip Sulimierski, et al., Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Lands] (Warszawa: Nakładem Władysława Walewskiego, 1880-1902), Tom VI, 536, “Młodzieszyn,” DIR—Zasoby Polskie (http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/ : 17 May 2019).

3 “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M5HJ-T4L : 17 May 2019), Izidor Wilczek household, North Tonawanda Ward 3, Niagara, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 126, sheet 20A, family 309, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1049; FHL microfilm 1,375,062.

4 Roman Catholic Church, Żyrardów parish (Żyrardów, Żyrardów, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi metrykalne parafii rz-kat. w Żyrardowie, Księga UMZ 1895 r., marriages, no. 63, Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk, 24 February 1895, accessed as digital images, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 17 May 2019). 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

Ancestry’s New ThruLines Utility Needs More Work

Last week, AncestryDNA® unveiled a new utility called ThruLines.™ You can read more about getting and using ThruLines™ from Ancestry’s article, here. Like many of you, I was anxious to play with it and see what, if anything, it did for me. I must say, I’m underwhelmed. Granted, the tool is still in Beta testing, so hopefully improvements will be made to the accuracy of the matching algorithm as time goes by. But as it is now, my concern is that ThruLines™ will only add to the existing confusion and misunderstanding of fledgling genealogists. Let’s walk through this utility to see what it offers and where the problems lie.

This shows my new Ancestry DNA home screen. I can access ThruLines™ on the right, and there’s a link at the bottom to click if I choose to continue using DNA Circles.

ThruLines first screen

The second screen gives me a portal to each of my ancestors to explore.

ThruLines second screen

When I first scrolled down on this screen, before I began to write this article, Ancestry highlighted a Potential Ancestor named Marianna Kozłowska, and informed me that she was my great-great-grandmother. Intrigued, I clicked on this person to examine the evidence for this assertion. On the next screen, Ancestry informed me that Marianna Kozłowska was the mother of my great-grandfather, Joseph Zielinski, and that she was mentioned in the family tree of a particular Ancestry member. If we take the information in the family tree at face value, Marianna Kozłowska was the daughter of Antoni Kozłowski and Tekla Stępkowska, born 1863 in Nowy Garwarz, Mazowieckie, Poland, near Glinojeck. (Antoni and Tekla were also reported to be my potential ancestors.) Marianna was married to Stanisław Zieliński, who was born 1863 in Wkra (also near Glinojeck). That fact is apparently the basis on which Ancestry’s algorithm determined that Marianna Kozłowska was my ancestor. I, too, have a great-great-grandfather named Stanisław Zieliński, who was born in 1863 and was married to a woman named Marianna.

The problem is, I have good documentary and DNA evidence that proves that my great-great-grandfather Stanisław Zieliński was born in Mistrzewice, Mazowieckie, Poland, not Wkra, and was married to Marianna Kalota, not Marianna Kozłowska.1 Moreover, my Marianna Kalota was the daughter of Roch Kalota and Agata Kurowska of Budy Stare, Mazowieckie, she was not the daughter of Antoni Kozłowski and Tekla Stępkowska. Marianna Kalota’s parents’ names and grandparents’ names are stated in my online tree, so it’s not as if there’s anything to suggest to Ancestry’s algorithms that I’m uncertain about the identifies of those ancestors. Closer examination of the tree which mentioned “my” ancestor, Marianna Kozłowska Zielińska revealed that the tree owner really has no good evidence for her claims about Marianna Kozłowska’s place of birth. For example, the passenger manifest that was supposed to document Marianna Kozłowska’s emigration to the U.S. was for a woman whose husband’s and children’s names did not match the data in the tree. Furthermore, the Marianna in the manifest was from Eckardtsfelde, Prussia, which is some 230 km west of Glinojeck.

There’s no shame in being confused about the origins of one’s ancestor, and everyone makes mistakes when they’re starting out in genealogy, so I’m not using this example merely to criticize the research of the woman who posted this tree. But I thought that surely there must have been some other basis for Ancestry’s conclusion that Marianna Kozłowska was my ancestor. Since this tree owner was clearly confused about where her Marianna Kozłowska was born, was it possible that she’s nonetheless a distant cousin of mine who simply made a few wrong turns while tracing her tree?

I checked out the profile of the woman who posted the family tree in question. If you’ve never done this before, you can access the profile of any Ancestry member with an online tree by clicking on the username found at the top left corner of the screen showing their tree. That will bring you to the screen shown below.

Ancestry Member Profile page

If that person is a match to you, or if any of the kits that (s)he manages are a match to you, it will be noted here. Additionally, if you manage other DNA results besides your own, you can use the drop-down menu, “Select DNA Test,” circled here in red, to compare this particular Ancestry user with any of the kits you manage.

To my surprise, she was not a DNA match at all. Not only did she not match me, she did not match my mother, the great-granddaughter of Stanisław and Marianna Zieliński. At this point it was pretty clear that the only basis for the assignment of Marianna Kozłowska Zielińska as my ancestor was her marriage to a man with the same name and year of birth as my great-great-grandfather. Never mind that Zieliński is the 8th-most popular surname in Poland, so there were undoubtedly quite a few Polish men named Stanisław Zieliński who were born in 1863. Sigh.

There is a bright side to this story, however. Ancestry requested feedback on my experience with ThruLines,™ via a little popup window, so I gratefully obliged them and expressed my concerns about their algorithm. Ancestry responded with lightning speed, such that when I returned to the site a few hours later to grab some screen shots for this blog post, there was no longer any mention of Marianna Kozłowska or her parents among my Potential Ancestors. Whew! Kudos to Ancestry for taking such prompt action in response to critical feedback. If nothing else, it underscores their desire to do the right thing by their customers.

Let’s examine another Potential Ancestor and see how that one shapes up. To quickly find these, I sorted my results according to this “Potential Ancestors” option using the drop-down “Filter by” menu at the top left. Once filtered, the results are shown below.

Potential Ancestors

Mary Cebulska intrigued me because there is a Maria Cebulska in my family tree, although she’s on my husband’s side. I also have Cybulskis in my tree since they married into the Zieliński family in Poland. However, examination of the family tree from whence this data came reveals that this is a reference to a fictitious Mary Cebulska who was purportedly married to my great-great-grandfather, Józef Grzesiak. This case was a bit trickier, since there was actual documentary evidence from a U.S. marriage record which stated that Józef’s wife’s name was Mary Cebulski. It turns out to be incorrect, and I wrote about this evidence previously. However, it was at least an honest mistake that any researcher might make if they were to base their case only on U.S. records instead of examining the evidence from Polish records. I won’t fault Ancestry for that one.

Next up, we have Walburga Meinzinger. I was a little surprised to find her in the list of “potential” ancestors because she’s an actual ancestor identified in my family tree on Ancestry. When I click on her name in this list, I arrive at a screen that tells me a little more about the connection.

Thrulines Walburga Meinzinge3r

Ancestry’s proposal of Walburga Meinzinger as my 4x-great-grandmother is based on her appearance in a tree posted by my paternal aunt, with whom I collaborate. Clicking on the “10 DNA Matches” brings me to a screen which may be the best part of the ThruLines™ utility, thanks to the clear graphic depiction of the relationships between me and my DNA matches who are also descendants of my great-great-grandparents, Wenzeslaus Meier and Anna Goetz.

Meinzinger tree

Is this new information for me? No, I had already discovered my connection to these folks by clicking on “shared matches” and either examining their online trees (where available) or writing to them. And the information about number of shared DNA segments and centimorgans of shared DNA is no more useful now than it was previously, in the absence of a chromosome browser which would allow me to paint these shared segments onto my chromosome map. Moreover, it’s misleading for Ancestry to highlight Walburga Meinzinger as the common link between me and all of these matches, since the most recent common ancestral couple isn’t Walburga and her husband, Christoph Meier, but rather Walburga’s grandson, Wenzeslaus Meier and his wife, Anna Goetz. At this point we have no evidence that Walburga is necessarily the ancestor “thru” whom I’m related to these 10 DNA matches, since it’s entirely possible that none of the DNA that we share came from her, but instead came from (for example) the Goetz side.

Finally, let’s take a look at Ancestry’s suggestion of Elisabeth “Lizette” Christina Gross as another one of my potential ancestors. This time, Ancestry informs me that Elisabeth was the mother of my 3x-great-grandfather, Carl Goetz. According to the tree which was supposed to be the source of the information, Elisabeth was born 2 February 1833 in Heilbronn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. She married Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Goetz, and they were the parents of one Carl Wilhelm Christian Goetz who was born 5 October 1853 in Bavaria (Bayern), Germany and died 19 March 1933 in Buffalo, New York. 

My Carl (or Charles, in English) “coincidentally” also died on 19 March 1933 in Buffalo, New York,2 and equally “coincidentally,” was born on 5 October 1853 in Leuchtenberg, Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bayern, Germany.3 However, he was the son of Ulrich Goetz and Josephine Zenger, as evidenced by his death certificate (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Death certificate of Charles Goetz (Carl Götz), 19 March 1933, with parents’ names underlined in red.2Charles Goetz death 1933 marked

Moreover, there’s no evidence that my Carl ever used the middle names Wilhelm and Christian. While the birth dates quoted by this tree owner for her Carl Wilhelm Christian Goetz are a match for the documented birth and death dates of my Carl Goetz, the parents’ names and place of birth are clearly not a match. So this tree owner is erroneously conflating my Carl Goetz with her Carl, who may or may not have been the son of parents named Elisabeth “Lizette” Christina Gross and Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Goetz. It’s not clear to me precisely how she came to the conclusion that my Carl belonged in her family tree, beyond indiscriminate borrowing from online trees, but it’s very clear that he does not. Once again, I thought perhaps there was DNA evidence linking me to this tree owner through some other line, that might have been the basis for Ancestry’s identification of Elisabeth “Lizette” Christina Gross as my Potential Ancestor. Once again, I was disappointed. This tree owner isn’t a match to me, or to my father (Carl Goetz’s great-great-grandson).

The point here isn’t that there are inaccurate family trees online; we all know that already. But I think Ancestry’s ThruLines™ tool exacerbates the problem. Since ThruLines™ are accessed through the “DNA” tab and not the “Search” tab, it suggests that the highlighted “Potential Ancestors” are proposed on the basis of DNA matching rather than being based solely on the existence of trees containing individuals with the same names as one’s own ancestors. Unfortunately, in all the cases I examined, the DNA matches were too far “downstream” for them to be useful in drawing any conclusions about my potential relationship to more distant ancestors. The fact that I share DNA segments with my mother, my sister, and my four children cannot be used as evidence of our common descent from someone purported to be my great-great-grandmother. So if these “Potential Ancestors” are being identified solely on the basis of online family trees, then it would be more honest to have them suggested under the “Search” tab rather than the “DNA” tab.

If beginning genealogists are going to use these ThruLines,™ they need to understand that the the “Potential Ancestor” designations are no more reliable than the record hints or “shaky leaf” hints which Ancestry provides. While I love Ancestry for the convenience it offers in allowing me to locate and download documents pertaining to my family online, in the comfort of my home, at 2 am, I do wish they would leave well enough alone. I think it would be much better to put the records online, put the family trees online, and put the DNA data online, and then leave it to genealogists to connect the dots between those data sets themselves.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to hope that, in time, the usefulness of tools like ThruLines™ will increase. There seem to be plenty of people who are raving about this tool in the various Facebook genealogy forums, but so far, my personal experience with it has not been positive. As Blaine Bettinger wrote in the “Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques” Facebook group, “As a community, we need to decide whether we want automated tools that will unavoidably perpetuate mistakes, or whether we want NO automation. Those are the only two options.” Call me a Luddite, but I don’t think automation like this is doing us any favors. I look forward to the day when Ancestry proves me wrong.

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, Młodzieszyn parish (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie,” unknown dates, 1885, marriages, #21, record for Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota, 15 November 1885.

2 New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1933, no. 1688, certificate for Charles Goetz, died 19 March 1933.

3 Roman Catholic Church, St. Margaret’s parish (Leuchtenberg, Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bayern, Germany), Band 6, Taufen 1848 – 1869, p. 26, no. 38, birth record for Karl Götz, Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St.Petersweg 11-13, D-93047 Regensburg, Germany.

4 Blaine Bettinger, “Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques” Facebook group, post on 27 February 2019, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/geneticgenealogytipsandtechniques/permalink/594183891045315/ : 3 March 2019).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz  2019