Researching Marianna Drajem

I’ve been writing a lot about my Hodgkinson research lately, but today I’m going to shift gears and write about some new discoveries on my husband’s Drajem line.

Recently, I was contacted by Debbie, a fellow family historian who’s researching her granddaughter’s ancestry. That granddaughter is my husband’s fourth cousin once removed, and their most recent common ancestors were Józef and Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem. Prior to Debbie’s phone call, I knew nothing of earlier generations of the Drajem family; Józef and Marianna were the end of the line, and I knew only the outlines of their lives. However, after talking with her, I was inspired to dig a little deeper, and learn more about Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem’s story.

Marya Drajem

I was first introduced to Marianna back in November 2001, thanks to information contained in a life insurance application filed by her son, Wojciech Drajem. This was not an heirloom document, handed down in my husband’s family. Rather, this piece of genealogical gold was mined from the database, “Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA} Insurance Claim File Index,” where I discovered that a death claim packet was available for Wojciech Drajem. This database is maintained by the Polish Genealogical Society of America, which will provide copies of death claim packets for a very nominal fee. When my packet arrived, I was thrilled to discover that it contained Wojciech’s original life insurance application, medical examiner’s certificate, beneficiary certificate, death certificate, insurance claim, and letter of payment. Wojciech’s application, dated 6 February 1915, provided information about his parents and family of origin (Figure 1).1

Figure 1: Application for life insurance from the PRCUA for Wojciech Drajem, 6 February 1915.

This document identifies Wojciech’s mother as Marya (__) Drajem, and tells us that she died at the age of 83 of senility. Her husband was Józef Drajem, who died at the age of 50 of unknown causes. Wojciech stated that he had no brothers who were deceased, but one 44-year-old brother who was alive at that time and in good health. He had two living sisters, aged 51–60 years, and one sister who died in childbirth (the certificate states, “in labor”) at the age of 28.

Maryanna Drajem of Buffalo, New York

Back in 2001, as a baby genealogist, I assumed that Marya Drajem died in Poland. It wasn’t until I started researching the family of her daughter, Apolonia (Drajem) Samulski, that I discovered that Marya also immigrated to Buffalo, New York (Figure 2).2

Figure 2: Detail from 1900 census showing Maryanna Drajem in the household of Ignatz Samulski. Click to view larger image.

In 1900, Maryanna Drajem was living at 33 Loepere Street with her son-in-law, Ignatz Samulski, daughter Apolonia, and their two children, Pelagia (“Pearl”) and Stanislaus (“Stanley”). She was recorded as a 78-year-old widow, born in February 1822 in “Poland Ger.,” which implies the Prussian partition of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (For a brief summary of Poland’s changing borders, see here.) Her immigration year was not recorded, but her son-in-law arrived in the U.S. in 1880, so it’s likely that she traveled with him and her daughter, or perhaps arrived a few years after they had settled in the U.S. A passenger record has not been found for her to date. Interestingly, this record states that Marianna was the mother of eleven children, seven of whom were still living at the time of the census, which is a bit different from the total of five children reported by Wojciech Drajem in his life insurance application.

Marie (Kaszyńska) Draheim of Buffalo, New York, and Mielno, Posen, Prussia

The first glimpse of Marianna in records from Poland came in this entry from the Poznań Project, which is a database of marriages that took place between 1800–1899 in the Prussian province of Posen and surrounding districts (Figure 3). (A complete list of covered parishes and civil registry offices is found here.)

Figure 3: Search result from the Poznań Project showing the marriage of August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik in Kucharki in 1890.

If you’re new to the variations in surname spelling that are part and parcel of genealogical research, you may be alarmed by the degree to which “Drajem” differs from “Draheim.” Usually, the variants bear some phonetic resemblance to each other, so one way to check whether or not you’re on the right track is to hear the surnames pronounced in Polish using Google Translate. If you click on the “sound” icon in the Polish “input” box on the left, you’ll hear the surname pronounced by a Polish speaker. Similarly, it’s important not to be thrown off by the variety of given names we might find in the records pertaining to the same ancestor. In this case, Mary, Marya, Maria, Marie, Maryanna, and Marianna are all equivalent.

August Drajem was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and was the brother of Wojciech, whose insurance application was discussed previously. This index entry from the Poznań Project is helpful because it confirms their parents’ names as Józef and Marianna, and further identifies Marianna Drajem’s maiden name as Kaszyńska, in addition to the other information it provides. It also tells us that the original record came from the civil registry office in Kucharki, Wielkopolski, Poland, and fortunately, those records can be found online at Szukajwarchiwach, the online catalog for the Polish state archives. August and Agnes’s marriage record (which was also shared in a previous post) is shown below. (Figures 4a and b).3

Figure 4a: First page of the civil marriage record from Kucharki for Augustyn Draheim and Agnieszka Jamrozik, 1 February 1890.
Figure 4b: Second page of the civil marriage record from Kucharki for August Draheim and Agnieszka Jamrozik, 1 February 1890.

The record is in German, and Johann Kargl provided the following translation in the now-defunct Facebook group “Genealogy Translations,” whose successor is the Genealogical Translations group.4

“Kucharki 1st February 1890
1. Before the undersigned registrar appeared the farm servant August Draheim, personally known, Catholic, born on 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno, living in Kucharki, son of the deceased master tailor Josef Draheim and his wife Marianne, nee Kaszynska, living in America
2. the unmarried maiden Agnes Jamrozik, personally known, Catholic, born on 9 January 1865 in Kucharki, county Kleschen, living in Kucharki, daughter of the innkeeper Johann Jamrozik and his wife Rosalie, nee Juszczak, living in Kucharki.
As witnesses appeared:
3. The innkeeper Jakob Tomalak, personally known, 60 yers old, living in Kucharki
4. the innkeeper Adalbert (Wojciech) Szlachetka, personally known, 48 years old, living in Kucharki

read, approved and signed
August Draheim Agnieszka Draheim, nee Jamrozik
Jakob Tomalak
Wojciech Szlachetka
The registrar
signed Grzegorzewski

Kucharki, 8 February 1890
(signature)”

This document goes well beyond the information in the index entry from the Poznań Project, providing August Drajem’s exact date and place of birth as 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno. The marriage record also tells us that Marianna Drajem was already a widow by the time of August’s marriage in 1890 and living in “Amerika.” Although the Meyers Gazetteer indicates a number of places called “Amerika” that were located within the German Empire, we already have evidence from the census that Marianna had children living in Buffalo as early as 1880. Therefore, it’s quite plausible that the obvious “Amerika”—the United States of America—is really the one that was intended here.

In contrast, the obvious choice was not the correct one when it came to identifying the Mielno where the Drajem family was living when August was born. Although Mapa Szukacz identifies 17 places within the borders of Poland today that are called Mielno, the marriage record specifies that August was born in Mielno in Mogilno County. The Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego has a number of entries for places called Mielno, but the only one described as being in Mogilno County (“pow. mogilnicki”) was the one belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. Kartenmeister similarly offers 23 search results for places called Mielno, but only three entries mention Mogilno County. The three entries correspond to variant place names (Mielno, Moelno, Mölno) for the same village, belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. However, August’s birth record was not found in church records from Pakość in July 1866, nor was it recorded in this parish anywhere within the period from 1864–1867. This suggests that the Mielno located just north of Pakość is not the right place, after all, although other interpretations (i.e. August was born outside the range of years checked, or baptized as a Protestant who subsequently converted to Catholicism) are also possible.

Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłoska Draheim of Buffalo, New York and Mielno, Posen, Prussia

Despite this setback, the Poznań Project came through again with the marriage record for Józef Drajem/Draheim and Marianna Kaszyńska, which offered further insight (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Search result from the Poznań Project showing the marriage of Joseph Drahem and Marianna Radłoska nee Kaszyńska in Niestronno in 1850.

This index entry was the only result in the database for a groom with the given name of Joseph/Józef/Josef and a surname phonetically similar to Draheim, and a bride named Marianna Kaszyńska, and her age is exactly what we would expect, given our previous evidence that points to a birth year circa 1822. The index entry informs us that Marianna and Józef married in Niestronno, that Marianna had been married previously to a man with the surname Radłoski, that her father was deceased, and that her mother’s name was Rosalia Kaszyńska.

Records from the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno are also online, this time at FamilySearch, which permits at-home access to these images (as opposed to viewing only at a Family History Center or Affiliate Library) after logging into a free FamilySearch account. Józef and Marianna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 6.5

Figure 6: Marriage record from the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno for Józef Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850. Click to view larger image.

Due to the faded ink, the bleed-through from the reverse pages, the cramped handwriting, and my rudimentary ability to read Latin, this one took some time to decipher, and I ran into a bit of trouble in some spots. So, I ran it past my friend, Marcel Elias, for corrections and insights, and with thanks to Marcel, the transcription is as follows:

“[Numerus] 8

[Annus Dies et Mensis Copulationis] 1850. 7 Julii

[Nomen sacerdotis benedicicensis matrimonium] Bartholem. Cieśliński, Commen’us (“commendarius”) ac Decanus

[Nomen et cognomen Copulatorum, denominatio, domicili, status artis vel Conditionis vitae, et atrum in Ecclesia art privato loco consecrati sunt] Joseph Drahim, ferrifeber, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonisca. Uterque ex Mielno. Copulati in Ecclesia.

[Num copulati vel una pars eorum vinculo matrimonii obstricti vel obstricta fuit. Num sub potestate parentum vel faterum existunt] Juvenis sub potestale parentium. Vidua

[Aetas sponsi]28 [sponsae] 28

[Religio sponsi] Cath. [sponsae] Cath.

[Nomen et cognomen parentum: Sponsi] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Sponsae] Pater mortuus, mater Rosalie Kaszyńska

[Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii… atetaris matrimonium contractum sit] Sponsus cum consenca parentum Sponsa Judi ???? 14 Juni 1850 II 4633

[Dies promulgati onum] 16, 23 et 30 Juni

[Nomen et cognomen, Ors et Conditio vitae adstantium testiam] Adalb. Kaszyński agran (?), Joan Berunt agran., Adalb. Kraczo (?) agran (?)

[Annotatio] Mielno.”

Translated, this states,

[Number] 8

[Year, Day, and Month of Marriage] 7 July 1850

[Name of the priest who blessed the marriage] Bartłomiej Cieśliński, pastor and dean

[Given and surname of those married, denomination, domicile, state or condition of life, and whether the marriage took place in church or in a private location] Joseph Drahim, blacksmith, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonist, both of Mielno. Married in church.

[Whether one of them was bound by matrimony. Whether they are under parental control, or in control of their own fates] Young man under parental control. Widow.

[Age of the groom] 28 [of the bride] 28

[Religion of the groom] Cath. [of the bride] Cath. (Catholic)       

[Given name and surname of the parents: Groom] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Bride] father deceased, mother Rosalie Kaszyńska

[Whether the marriage was contracted with parental consent, or with judicial (?) permission] The groom with parental consent, the bride, with permission from 14 June 1850, II 4633 (?)

[Dates on which the banns were published] 16, 23 and 30 June

[Given name and surname, origin and condition of life of present witnesses] Adalbert Kaszyński, farmer, Jan Berunt, farmer, Adalbert Kraczo?

[Remarks] Mielno.”

This record is packed with both information and mysteries. Consistent with the index entry from the Poznań Project, the record states that 28-year-old Joseph Drahim, a blacksmith, married 28-year-old widow, Marianna Radłoska on 7 July 1850 in the Roman Catholic church in Niestronno. (I would argue that Joseph’s surname is spelled Drahim, rather than Drahem, in the two places in which it was recorded in this document, but that’s a minor point.) Marianna has a curious notation after her name, “/: Liebener :/,” and the way that it’s written seems to suggest that Liebener was her maiden name, rather than Kaszyńska. Her parents’ names don’t shed much light on the situation, since her father’s name was not provided, and her mother’s name was recorded as Rosalie Kaszyńska, which could be interpreted as a maiden name. However, the other entries on this page do not provide mother’s maiden names; mothers were referred to by their married names, as was the case with Joseph’s parents, Adalbert and Anna Drahim. Moreover, the priest had a pattern of not recording names of deceased parents of the brides and grooms, from which we might infer that any parents whose names were recorded were still alive at the time of the wedding. So, the evidence does seem to favor Kaszyńska as Marianna’s maiden name, and it suggests that her mother, Rozalia (__) Kaszyńska, was still alive in 1850. For now, the “Liebener” notation remains a mystery, and its significance will depend on further research.

The record indicates that Marianna needed some sort of judicial permission in order to remarry, but it’s not entirely clear whether this was from a religious or civil authority. Marcel noted that the phrasing, “Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii…” could suggest that in some cases, the parish was the legal guardian of a person, if the father or both parents of a minor groom/bride were deceased, since luterum is a medieval Latin term for a baptismal font. It may be that the document referenced as granting permission for the remarriage, “14 Juni 1850 II 4633,” can be found in the parish archive.

In addition to providing an introduction to three “new” ancestors for my husband and children—Adalbert and Anna Draheim and Rozalia (__) Kaszyska—this marriage record states that both the bride and groom were from Mielno, which helps us to identify the specific Mielno where August Drajem was born. The village of Mielno that belongs to the parish in Niestronno is, in fact, located in present-day Mogilno County, gmina Mogilno, and I’m still baffled as to why it was not showing up in either of the two gazetteers I checked. These locations are shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Map showing locations of Mielno, where Marianna Drajem was living when her son August was born; Niestronno, where she married Józef Drajem, and Kucharki, where her son August was married, courtesy of Google Maps. Click to view larger map.

Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłowska of Popielewo, Mielno, and Buffalo

Although the record of Marianna Kaszyńska’s marriage to Józef Draheim made no mention of her father’s name, it seemed possible that this information was included in the record of her first marriage to (__) Radłoski. I searched the Poznań Project again for brides named Marianna Kaszyńska and grooms with the surnames that were at least 60% phonetically similar to Radłoski. There were no good matches. However, when I repeated the search, leaving off the groom’s surname entirely, a probable match was obtained (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Search result from the Poznań Project showing the marriage of Stephanus Racławski and Marianna Kaszyńska in Trzemeszno in 1838.

The bride’s age suggests a birth in 1820, which would be a couple years off from prior evidence that she was born in 1822; however, this is still within a reasonable ballpark. Records for the Roman Catholic parish in Trzemeszno are online at FamilySearch, so the original image was retrieved and is shown in Figure 9.6

Figure 9: Marriage record from the Roman Catholic parish in Trzemeszno for Stephan Radłowski and Maria Kaszyńska, 11 November 1838. Click to view larger image.

Although this record, too, was a bit disappointing in that it omitted the names of the couple’s parents, it is almost certainly the correct marriage record for our Marianna Kaszyńska. If you look closely, it’s clear that the groom’s name was actually Stephan Radłowski, and was mistranscribed as Racławski. A death record for Stephan dated prior to 1850 would provide further evidence that this interpretation is correct. The record identifies Popielewo as the village where the marriage took place, and since it was traditional to hold the wedding in the bride’s parish, this suggests that Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem was living in Popielewo in 1838 (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Map showing locations of Popielewo, where Marianna Kaszyńska was living when she married Stephan Radłowski; Trzemeszno, where that marriage was recorded; Niestronno, where she married Józef Drajem, and Mielno, where Marianna Drajem was living at the time of her second marriage. Google Maps. Click to view larger map.

The existence of a previous marriage for Marianna, and the likelihood that she had children with her first husband in those years prior to her marriage to Józef Drajem, may also help to reconcile the discrepancy between Wojciech’s statement that he had one brother and three sisters, with Marianna’s statement in the 1900 census that she was the mother of 11 children. Perhaps Wojciech was considering only his full siblings, neglecting to mention his six half-siblings from his mother’s previous marriage? Further research is required to find the answer.

While this research is far from finished, we have at least opened the door to further discovery in records from Poland. At the outset, we knew little more than Mary Drajem’s name. Now we have evidence that Marianna Kaszyńska was born circa 1820–1822 to a mother named Rozalia (__) and an unknown Kaszyński father, who was deceased by 1850. Marianna was married in Popielewo, Posen, Prussia (Trzemeszno parish) to Stephen Radłowski on 11 November 1838. There is some evidence to suggest that she might have had six children with Stephen Radłowski, and a focus of further research will be the identification of all of her children.

At some point, she moved from Popielewo to Mielno, where she was living when she married Józef Drajem in 1850, following the death of her first husband. She had four children with Józef who have been identified thus far, in research not discussed here: Antonina (b. 1851), Apolonia (b. May 1859), Augustyn (b. 25 July 1866), and Wojciech (b. 12 April 1867). We can infer that Józef died circa 1872, since his marriage record suggests a date of birth circa 1822, and Wojciech’s life insurance application stated that his father died at the age of 50. At some point between 1880 and 1890, Marianna Drajem migrated to Buffalo, New York, where she was living with her daughter, Apolonia Samulska, in 1900. Since Wojciech Drajem reported that his mother died at the age of 83, we can infer that she died circa 1905, and seek death and burial records for confirmation.

In my next post, I hope to discuss some further discoveries I’ve made for the Drajem family. Stay tuned.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Selected Sources:

1 Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Applicant’s Certificate (Zeznania Kandydata) for Wojciech Drajem, 6 February 1915, claim no. 22169, certificate no. 112904.

2 1900 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 14, Enumeration District 110, sheet 29B, house no. 33, family no. 533, lines 59-63, Ignatz Samulski household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 23 January 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, no roll specified.

3 “Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki, 1874 – 1935,” Akta malzenstw 1874-1909, 1890, no. 13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/ : 23 January 2022), Sygnatura 11/711/0/2/50, scans 29-30 of 75.

4 Johann Kargl, reply to post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, Genealogy Translations (Facebook group), 27 March 2016.

5 Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta małżeństw 1815-1865, 1850, no. 8, Joseph Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/: 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 3/DGS no. 8120936, image 593 of 1037.

6 Roman Catholic Church, Trzemeszno parish (Trzemeszno, Gniezno, Wielkopolskie, Poland), “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1874,” Copulatorum, 1837 – 1842, 1838, no. 22, Stephen Radłowski and Maria Kaszyńska, 11 November 1838; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2004406, item 20/DGS no.8020665, image 847 of 873.

Overview of Vital Records in Poland: Part III: Additional Examples and Observations

In my previous two posts, I gave some historical background about the evolution of vital records keeping in Poland, and about the implications of those practices for researchers today, seeking records of their ancestors.  Today, I’d like to provide some examples of the kinds of records you might expect to see from the various partitions and from different time periods, to give you an idea of what you might expect to encounter in your own research.

Examples from Prussian Poland

I’ll start off with a couple of examples from the Prussian partition, and a little confession: Although my husband has ancestors from Prussian Poland, and although I have every intention of researching those ancestors at some point, I haven’t done much research in this area yet.  Therefore, I don’t have a huge wealth of examples to offer, but here are a couple.  Figure 1 shows a Catholic baptismal record from 1858 for Stanislaus (Stanisław in Polish) Lewandoski,also known as Edward Levanduski, my husband’s great-great-grandfather, about whom I wrote previously.

Figure 1:  Baptismal record from Gąsawa parish for Stanislaus Lewandoski [sic], born 29 October 1859.1stanislaus-lewandowski-1859-p-1-crop

The record is in columnar form, and column headings, from left to right, tell us the number of the birth record, the year, day and month of the birth, the place of birth, date of baptism and child’s name, the name of the priest who baptized the child,  the parents’ names, father’s occupation, and then additional information on godparents’ names (cut off in this image).  The record is written in Latin.  Unfortunately, no information is given on the parents’ ages.

Figures 2a and 2b show a civil marriage record from Kucharki from 1890 for my husband’s great-great-grandparents, Augustyn and Agnieszka Drajem.2

Figure 2a:  Civil marriage record from Kucharki for August Drajem and Agnieszka Jamrozik, 1 February 1890, p. 1.2august-draheim-and-agnieszka-jamrozik-1890-p-1

Figure 2b:  Civil marriage record from Kucharki for August Drajem and Agnieszka Jamrozik, 1 February 1890, p. 2.2augustyn-draheim-and-agnieszka-jamrozik-1890-p-2

As we would expect, the record is in German, and the translation, kindly provided by Johann Kargl in the Facebook group “Genealogy Translations,” is as follows:

“Kucharki 1st February 1890
1. Before the undersigned registrar appeared the farm servant August Draheim, personally known, Catholic, born on 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno, living in Kucharki, son of the deceased master tailor Josef Draheim and his wife Marianne, nee Kaszynska, living in America
2. the unmarried maiden Agnes Jamrozik, personally known, Catholic, born on 9 January 1865 in Kucharki, county Kleschen, living in Kucharki, daughter of the innkeeper Johann Jamrozik and his wife Rosalie, nee Juszczak, living in Kucharki.
As witnesses appeared:
3. The innkeeper Jakob Tomalak, personally known, 60 yers old, living in Kucharki
4. the innkeeper Adalbert (Wojciech) Szlachetka, personally known, 48 years old, living in Kucharki

read, approved and signed
August Draheim Agnieszka Draheim, nee Jamrozik
Jakob Tomalak
Wojciech Szlachetka
The registrar
signed Grzegorzewski

Kucharki, 8 February 1890
(signature)”

Notice that the record was created on a fill-in-the-blank form, with all the standard boilerplate text preprinted, so translating these civil records becomes a matter of learning to read a relatively small amount of German script.  In contrast to the brief church book entry, this record contains a lot of wonderful genealogical details, including the precise birthdate and birth place of the bride and groom, occupations and ages of the witnesses, and more.

For those of you who might be panicking and thinking,  “But I can’t read German!” help is on the way.  The very best translation guides that I have found for genealogy are written by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman.  Their “In Their Words” series of genealogical translation guides encompasses 3 volumes to date, Volume I:  Polish, Volume II:  Russian, and Volume III:  Latin.  Volume IV:  German is currently in the works and will hopefully be out very soon.  I cannot praise these books highly enough.  These are the books that are constantly lying around the house, never making it back to the bookshelf, because I’m always referring to one or another of them for something.  I can’t wait for their German book to be published so I can learn to read these records for myself.  In the meantime, there’s always the Genealogy Translations group on Facebook, if you (or I) need assistance.

Examples from Russian Poland

In Russian Poland, the standard Napoleonic format existed from 1808-1825, followed by a modified format that was used from 1826 through the 20th century. So a civil death record from 1936 (Figure 3) looks much the same as a civil death record from 1838 (Figure 4).

Figure 3:  Death record from Budy Stare for Marianna Zielińska who died 4 April 1936.3marianna-zielinska-death-1936

Translation:  “Budy Stare.  It happened in Młodzieszyn on the 4th day of April 1936 at 8:00 in the morning.  They appeared, Stanisław Wilanowski, age 40, farmer of Mistrzewice, and Kazimierz Tomczak, farmer of Juliopol, age 26, and stated that, on this day today, at 5:00 in the morning, in Budy Stare, died Marianna née Kalota Zielińska, widow, age 79, born and residing with her sister in Budy Stare, daughter of the late Roch and Agata née Kurowska, farmers.  After visual confirmation of the death of Marianna Zielińska, this document was read aloud to the witnesses but signed only by us.  Pastor of the parish of Młodzieszyn actiing as Civil Registrar.”

Figure 4:   Death record from Kowalewo-Opactwo for Wojciech Grzeszkiewicz [aka Grzesiak], who died 25 April 1838.4Wojciech Grzeszkiewicz death.jpg

Translation:  “Kowalewo.  It happened in the village of Kowalewo on the 15th/27th day of April 1838 at 10:00 in the morning.  They appeared, Stanisław Grzeszkiewicz, shepherd, age 31, father of the deceased, and Jan Radziejewski, land-owning farmer, age 40, both of Kowalewo, and stated to us that, on the 13th/25th of the current month and year, at 4:00 in the afternoon, died in Kowalewo, likewise born there in house number two, Wojciech Grzeszkiewicz, son of the aforementioned Stanisław and Jadwiga née Dąbrowska, having one year of age.  All persons mentioned in this Act are of the Catholic religion.  After visual confirmation of the death of Wojciech, this document was read aloud to the witnesses and was signed.”

Since records from all villages within a parish were kept in the same book in Russian Poland, we see the name of the village where the event took place inscribed in the margin, next to the record number.  So in Figure 4, the death occurred in Budy Stare, but was recorded by the priest in the Catholic parish in Młodzieszyn.  When you compare the translations of these two records, you see that there’s not much difference in the format.  It’s pretty stable across 102 years and 120 miles in these examples.  That’s even true during the period from about 1868 until 1918, when records from Russian Poland were required to be kept in Russian.  Take a look at this death record from Mistrzewice in 1897, for my 3x-great-grandmother, Antonina (née Ciećwierz) Grzegorek (Figure 5):5

Figure 5:  Death record from Mistrzewice for Antonina Grzegorek, who died 21 March 1897.5antonina-grzegorek-death-1897-crop

Translation:  “Mistrzewice.  It happened in the village of Mistrzewice on the 11th/23rd day of March 1897th year at 12:00 at noon. They appeared, Józef Grzegorek, farmer, age 47, and Wawrzyniec Wilanowski, farmer, age 38, residents of Mistrzewice, and stated that, on the 9th/21st day of March of the present year, at 1:00 am [literally, “in the first hour of the night”], died in the village of Mistrzewice, Antonina Grzegorek, farm wife, age 59, born in Mistrzewice, daughter of Jan and Katarzyna, the spouses Ciećwierz. She leaves after herself her widower husband, Ludwik Grzegorek, residing in the village of Mistrzewice. After visual confirmation of the death of Antonina Grzegorek, this document was read aloud to those present and was signed.”

The style of this record is very much the same as in the previous examples.  This is good news for those who are interested in learning to translate vital records, and it suggests a potential research strategy:  If the prospect of translating Russian records is intimidating,  try to trace back before 1868, and work on the records written in Polish first.  This worked really well for me.  My first foray into vital records from Poland occurred when I began researching the family of my great-grandmother Weronika Grzesiak.  She was born in 1876 in a village within Russian Poland, so her birth record was written in Russian, along with the birth records for most of her siblings. I took one look at the page and thought it was hopeless. However, I knew her parents were married about 1865, back when the records were still written in Polish.  I decided to look for their marriage record first, and then research earlier generations of the family tree.  Starting out with those Polish records gave me a chance to familiarize myself with the grammatical structure of Slavic languages and the format of the vital records, and eventually I gained enough confidence to tackle that Russian cursive.

There are some good translations aids out there, some of which I shared previously.  However, if you’re going to get serious about learning to translate Polish and Russian vital records comfortably, then you really need to get copies of Shea and Hoffman’s translation guides that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I know quite a few people — native English speakers — who never studied Polish or Russian formally, but have nonetheless taught themselves to read vital records in those languages, and it’s thanks to Shea and Hoffman.

Examples from Austrian Poland

In contrast to the relatively stable format found in records from Russian Poland, Austrian records seem to become progressively more informative throughout the 19th century, to a greater extent than is true for the other partitions.  In this first example (Figure 6) from 1843, we see the typical columnar format that was prescribed for both church and civil records at this time:6

Figure 6:  Marriage record from Kołaczyce for Franciszek  Łącki and Magdalena Bulgewiczowa, 3 August 1834.6franciscus-lacki-marriage2

Column headings, from left to right, tell us the month and date of the wedding, the house numbers of the bride and groom and who is moving in with whom.  In this case, “de 33 ad 84” suggests that after the marriage, the groom will be moving from his house, number 33, to the bride’s house, number 84.  The groom’s name and occupation (“figulus,” i.e. potter) is given, and check marks in the appropriate columns tell us that he was Catholic and a widower.  The “Aetas” column tells us that he was 46 years old.  Similarly, the bride was a 35-year-old Catholic widow named Magdalena Bulgewicz, widow of the late Dominik.  Although the standard nominative form of Magdalena’s married name was Bulgewicz, the form used here, “Bulgewiczowa,” describes a married woman of the Bulgewicz family.  Her maiden name is not provided.  Additional information includes the names and social position of the witnesses, and the name of the priest who performed the marriage.

In contrast, this slightly later record from 18617 in the same parish (Figure 7) includes all the same information as the earlier record, but also includes the names of the parents of the bride and groom (boxed in red) and provides a bit of a description about them (“oppidario,” meaning “townsperson”).

Figure 7:  Marriage record from Kołaczyce for Jakub Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz, 26 November 1861.7jacobus-lacki-marriage2

Disappointingly, this early marriage record from Kołaczyce from 17507 (Figure 8) shows relatively little information.

Figure 8:  Marriage record from Kołaczyce for Stanisław Niegos and Teresa Szaynowszczonka.8stanislaw-niegos-and-teresa-szajnowska-1750

In translation, this reads, “On this same day, I who am named above, blessed and confirmed a marriage contract between Stanislaus Niegos and Teresa Szaynowszczonka, having been preceded by three banns and with no canonical impediments standing in the way, in the presence of witnesses Casimir Rączka and Joannes Dystanowicz, all of Kołaczyce.”  The form of the bride’s name used here, “Szaynowszczonka,” indicates an unmarried woman of the Szaynowski family, which would be rendered “Szajnowska” in modern Polish.

It helps to remember that this record predates the requirement for church records to perform double-duty as civil records for the Austrian authorities.  Therefore, the priest’s only purpose in keeping it was to fulfill the obligations imposed upon him by the Roman Ritual.  Since the Church had no interest in the addresses, ages, or occupations of the individuals mentioned in the record, that kind of information does not appear.  In any case, finding a marriage record from 1750 for one’s Polish ancestors is actually pretty respectable, which brings us to my next point.

A Word About Early Records…..

Don’t expect too much from early records, and by “early,” I’m referring to Polish vital records for peasants, late-1600s to about 1750 records.  As is evident from the history, recognition of the importance of vital records developed gradually.  Perhaps this is why I have frequently found church records to be somewhat “spotty” in the late 1600s and early-to-mid 1700s.  By “spotty,” I mean that records that “ought” to be found in a particular parish in a given year just aren’t there.  It’s impossible to say for certain why this is, and in some of these cases, the event may have occurred in Parish B, despite evidence from other documents stating that it occured in Parish A.  But for whatever reason, it seems that priests became more conscientious about over time, as their responsibilities as record-keepers for the civilian authorities increased.  If you’re able to locate those early vital records, that’s a victory, but understand that there’s a chance the record will just not be there.

Poland’s complicated geopolitical history is reflected in her record-keeping practices, which can be confusing to the uninitiated.  The different languages in which the records are kept might be challenging, too.  However, the payoff comes in the satisfaction of being able to locate and read your ancestors’ story for yourself, as preserved by their paper trail.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the history of Polish vital records, with some examples from each partition.  As always, I welcome feedback, including observations and insights based on your own research, so feel free to leave a note in the comments.  Happy researching!

Sources

Roman Catholic Church, Gąsawa parish (Gąsawa, Żnin, Poland), Księgi metrykalne, 1782-1960, Akta urodzeń 1847-1860, 1859, births, #73, record for Stanislaus Lewandoski.; 1191249 Items 1-3.

“Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki,” Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/), Akta malzenstw 1874-1909, 1890, #13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik, accessed on 1 October 2016.

Urząd stanu cywilnego gminy Młodzieszyn, Sochaczewski, Mazowieckie, Poland, 1936, #16, death certificate for Marianna Zielińska.

 “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki),” Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach (Szukajwarchiwach.pl), 1838, Zgony, #5, record for Wojciech Grzeszkiewicz, accessed on 1 October 2016.

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mlodzieszynie, ” Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt Indeksacji Metryk Parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1897, Zgony, #3, record for Antonina Grzegorek.  Accessed on 1 October 2016.

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

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

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Księga małżeństw parafii Kołaczyce 1748 – 1779,” 1750, marriage record for Stanislaus Niegos and Teresia Szaynoszczonka,  Archiwum Archidecezjalne w Przemyślu, Przemyśl, Poland.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016