A Catholic Genealogist’s Spiritual Bouquet for All Souls’ Day

November 1 and 2 are two important days in the Roman Catholic tradition—the feasts of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. On All Saints’ Day, November 1, we celebrate the Church Triumphant—all the faithful deceased, known and unknown, who are now saints in heaven with God. On All Souls’ Day, November 2, our focus shifts to the Church Penitent—all the faithful departed whose souls must undergo purification (Purgatory) in order to enter the joy of heaven. We, the living, are the Church Militant, and together with the Church Triumphant and the Church Penitent, we make up the Communion of Saints. The basic premise of the Communion of Saints is that we’re all in this together: the prayers of the living can benefit those in purgatory, and the intercession of the saints can aide those of us who are still struggling through life.

This act of praying for others is so important, that the Catholic Church designates praying for the living and the deceased as one of the seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy. So, on All Souls’ Day, especially, we are encouraged to remember and pray for our deceased family members. Praying for the faithful departed can certainly be done in a general way, but many of us like to remember our family members by name. Consequently, All Souls’ Day is a holiday that Catholic genealogists can really embrace in a big way, since genealogy is all about the identification of our ancestors by name.

While the Rosary is a popular Catholic devotion for prayer and meditation, it occurred to me that its structure could also lend itself to use in offering a spiritual bouquet for All Souls’ Day. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, a spiritual bouquet is “a collection of private devotional acts and prayers chosen and performed by one person for the benefit of another.”1 For those who might be unfamiliar with the Rosary, it’s a set of prayers that are recited, using a special string of 60 beads as an aid in keeping track of the progression through the prayers. A Rosary consists of opening prayers, then five sets of prayers called “decades,” followed by closing prayers. Each decade consists of an Our Father, followed by the Hail Mary (repeated ten times), and then the Glory Be. While it’s common to meditate on one of twenty Mysteries—events that took place during the life and death of Jesus and His Mother, Mary—while praying the Rosary, it’s also acceptable to focus on the words of the prayers themselves. I think that approach is easier if one is offering each prayer for a different ancestor or ancestral couple.

There are many ways that the Rosary can be adapted to pray for one’s ancestors, depending on where one begins with the family tree. In my Rosary, I wanted to include the souls of deceased members of both my family, and my husband’s. Since my mother is the only one of our parents who is deceased, I decided to offer the “Hail, Holy Queen” prayer (one of the closing prayers) for her, and offer the ten Hail Mary prayers of each decade for the souls of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, as shown below in Version 1. Praying one decade each for my father-in-law’s family, my mother-in-law’s family, my father’s family, and my mother’s family, leaves one extra decade, which I decided to offer for all souls who have no one to pray for them.

As an alternative, I also set up a version focused only on my family (Version 2). In this version, the first decade is again offered for those souls who have no one to pray for them, followed by a decade each for my paternal grandfather and his family, my paternal grandmother and her family, my maternal grandfather and his family, and my maternal grandmother and her family. It’s a little easier to follow when using an example with names, so I’ve created examples for both Version 1 and Version 2, below. However, please note that in both versions, grandparents’ names have been redacted to protect the privacy of the living (my husband’s parents and my dad).

If you, too, are a Catholic genealogist, you can easily adapt one of these strategies to fit your own family tree. I made it easier for myself by printing out a “cheat sheet” with the names on it, but more power to you if you can do this from memory! Since it takes a little more focus, this is the sort of Rosary that lends itself to a quiet time and place, rather than a “Rosary on the run,” that you might say while you’re out walking or in the car.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 1

Opening prayers: As usual.

First decade: All souls who have no one to pray for them.

Second decade: My father-in-law’s family

  1. Husband’s paternal grandfather
  2. Husband’s paternal grandmother
  3. Paternal grandfather’s father, Michael Szczepankiewicz
  4. Paternal grandfather’s mother, Agnes (Wolińska) Szczepankiewicz
  5. Paternal grandmother’s father, Stanley Skolimowski
  6. Paternal grandmother’s mother, Helen (Majczyk) Skolimowski
  7. Parents of paternal grandfather’s father, Wojciech and Anna (Augustyniak) Szczepankiewicz
  8. Parents of paternal grandfather’s mother, Joseph and Tekla (Bogacka) Wolinski
  9. Parents of paternal grandmother’s father, Tadeusz and Marianna (Kessling) Skolimowski
  10. Parents of paternal grandmother’s mother, Stanisław and Aniela (Nowicka) Majczyk

Third decade: My mother-in-law’s family

  1. Husband’s maternal grandfather
  2. Husband’s maternal grandmother
  3. Maternal grandfather’s father, Joseph Ferdinand Bartoszewicz
  4. Maternal grandfather’s mother, Katherine (Levanduski) Bartoszewicz
  5. Maternal grandmother’s father, Albert Drajem
  6. Maternal grandmother’s mother, Mary (Kantowski) Drajem
  7. Parents of maternal grandfather’s father, Szczepan and Joanna (Olszewska) Bartoszewicz
  8. Parents of maternal grandfather’s mother, Stanisław “Edward” and Mary (Woźniak) Levanduski
  9. Parents of maternal grandmother’s father, Augustyn and Agnes (Jamrozik) Drajem
  10. Parents of maternal grandmother’s mother, John and Mary (Kończal) Kantowski

Fourth decade: My father’s family

  1. My paternal grandfather
  2. My paternal grandmother
  3. Paternal grandfather’s father, John Frank Roberts
  4. Paternal grandfather’s mother, Katherine Elizabeth (Walsh) Roberts
  5. Paternal grandmother’s father, John Sigismund Boehringer
  6. Paternal grandmother’s mother, Anna Julia (Meier) Boehringer
  7. Parents of paternal grandfather’s father, Michael Frank and Mary Elizabeth (Wagner) Roberts
  8. Parents of paternal grandfather’s mother, Henry and Martha Agnes (Dodds) Walsh
  9. Parents of paternal grandmother’s father, John G. and Anna Franziska (Murri) Boehringer
  10. Parents of paternal grandmother’s mother, Wenzeslaus and Anna (Goetz) Meier

Fifth decade: My mother’s family

  1. My maternal grandfather
  2. My maternal grandmother
  3. Maternal grandfather’s father, Joseph Zielinski
  4. Maternal grandfather’s mother, Genevieve (Klaus) Zielinski
  5. Maternal grandmother’s father, John Zazycki
  6. Maternal grandmother’s mother, Veronica (Grzesiak) Zazycki
  7. Parents of maternal grandfather’s father, Stanisław and Marianna (Kalota) Zieliński
  8. Parents of maternal grandfather’s mother, Andrew and Mary (Łącka) Klaus
  9. Parents of maternal grandmother’s father, Ignacy and Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycki
  10. Parents of maternal grandmother’s mother, Józef and Marianna (Krawczyńska) Grzesiak

Hail, Holy Queen: For my mother

All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 2

Opening prayers: As usual.

First decade: All souls with no one to pray for them.

Second decade: My paternal grandfather and his family

  1. Paternal grandfather
  2. Paternal grandfather’s father, John Frank Roberts
  3. Paternal grandfather’s mother, Katherine Elizabeth (Walsh) Roberts
  4. Father of person in 2, Michael Frank Roberts, in my case
  5. Mother of person in 2, Mary Elizabeth (Wagner) Roberts
  6. Father of person in 3, Henry Walsh
  7. Mother of person in 3, Martha Agnes (Dodds) Walsh
  8. All other deceased members of the Roberts family (Surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Wagner family (Maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Walsh and Dodds families (Surname from 6, Maiden name from 7)

Third decade: My paternal grandmother and her family

  1. Paternal grandmother
  2. Paternal grandmother’s father, John Sigismund Boehringer
  3. Paternal grandmother’s mother, Anna (Meier) Boehringer
  4. Father of person in 2, John G. Boehringer
  5. Mother of person in 2, Anna Franziska (Murri) Boehringer
  6. Father of person in 3, Wenzeslaus Meier
  7. Mother of person in 3, Anna (Goetz) Meier
  8. All other deceased members of the Boehringer family (surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Murri family (maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Meier and Goetz families (surname from 6, maiden name from 7)

Fourth decade: My maternal grandfather and his family

  1. Maternal Grandfather
  2. Maternal grandfather’s father, Joseph Zielinski
  3. Maternal grandfather’s mother, Genevieve (Klaus) Zielinski
  4. Father of person in 2, Stanisław Zieliński
  5. Mother of person in 2, Marianna (Kalota) Zielińska
  6. Father of person in 3, Andrew Klaus
  7. Mother of person in 3, Mary (Łącka) Klaus
  8. All other deceased members of the Zielinski family (surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Kalota family (maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Klaus and Łącki families (surname from 6, maiden name from 7)

Fifth decade: My maternal grandmother and her family

  1. Maternal Grandmother
  2. Maternal grandmother’s father, John Zazycki
  3. Maternal grandmother’s mother, Veronica (Grzesiak) Zazycki
  4. Father of person in 2, Ignacy Zarzycki
  5. Mother of person in 2, Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycka
  6. Father of person in 3, Józef Grzesiak
  7. Mother of person in 3, Marianna (Krawczyńska) Grzesiak
  8. All other deceased members of the Zazycki family (surname from 2)
  9. All other deceased members of the Naciążek family (maiden name from 5)
  10. All other deceased members of the Grzesiak and Krawczyński families (surname from 6 and maiden name from 7)

Hail, Holy Queen: For my mother

Sources:

1 “Spiritual bouquet,” Collins Dictionary (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/spiritual-bouquet : 31 October 2022).

Featured Image: Pixabay, “Holding String of Beads,” Stockvault (https://www.stockvault.net/photo/216640/holding-string-of-beads#, uploaded 22 November 2016, accessed 31 October 2022), Creative Commons license CC0 1.0 Universal.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Playing “Telephone” Across Generations: Documenting Family Stories

Family stories are always the starting point for genealogy research. Beginners are typically instructed to start with themselves and work backwards, interviewing older family members or generational peers to discover what they remember, or remember hearing, about past generations. Often it feels like a game of “telephone” played out over many decades. You may remember “telephone” as that game in which a number of players stand in a circle, and a complicated phrase is whispered from one person to the next. Repetition is not allowed, so although each person does his best to listen carefully, the phrase becomes distorted, often comically, as it is passed around. Finally the result is whispered to the person who began the game, who announces what the original phrase actually was, and everyone gets a good laugh. As family historians, our job is to sift out the wheat from the chaff, using our ancestors’ paper trail to document what we can from the family stories, but keeping in mind that not everything we were told is going to be verifiable.

I became interested in my family history soon after I was married in 1991. My husband and I were incredibly fortunate to have six living grandparents at that time, as well as plenty of their siblings still living. As I’ve tried to document all the many bits of information I gathered from them, one truth in particular has emerged:  if an older relative remembers a specific name, it’s safe to say that the person is connected to the family in some way, even if it’s not in the way that he or she remembers. Remembered names aren’t just pulled out of thin air.

As one example of this, I interviewed Uncle Mike Stevenson (Szczepankiewicz) about the Szczepankiewicz family history. Uncle Mike was the youngest brother of my husband’s grandfather, Stephen Szczepankiewicz. Although he knew a great deal about his father from his mother’s stories, Uncle Mike had never met him: he died on 14 February 1926,1 and Uncle Mike was born 3 months later, on 23 May 1926.Nonetheless, Uncle Mike proved to be a reliable source. He told me that his father, Michael Szczepankiewicz, had never naturalized. This assertion is validated by the 1925 New York State census, in which Michael Szczepankiewicz is listed as an alien (Figure 1):3

Figure 1:  Extract of 1925 New York State census showing Michael Szczepankiewicz and family.3michael-szczepankiewicz-family-1925

This extract shows that 49-year-old Michael Szczepankiewicz was born in Poland, had been living in the U.S. for 20 years, was an alien (“al”) at the time of the census, and was employed in “building labor.” Since Michael died in 1926, and the naturalization process took longer than a year, it would not have been possible for him to naturalize prior to his death. Uncle Mike also mentioned that his father was a stone mason who helped to build Transfiguration Church in Buffalo. Although I have yet to document this directly (maybe payroll records exist in the archive of the diocese of Buffalo dating back to the construction of Transfiguration Church?), the fact that Michael was a construction laborer is consistent with that claim.

When I asked Uncle Mike about the family of his mother, Agnes (née Wolińska) Szczepankiewicz, he told me that Agnes’s mother was named Apolonia Bogacka. Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out. Records showed that Agnes’s mother’s name was Tekla, as shown by the 1892 census for New York State (Figure 2): 4

Figure 2:  Extract from 1892 census of New York State showing the family of Joseph Wolinski, including wife “Teckla” (sic).4wolinski-family-1892

So where did the name “Apolonia Bogacka” come from? The answer was found in the 1900 census (Figure 3).5  Living with Joseph Wolinski’s family is his mother-in-law, “Paline” Bogacka.  The name “Pauline” was commonly used by women named Apolonia in the U.S. as a more American-sounding equivalent.

Figure 3:  Extract from the 1900 U.S. Federal census showing the family of Joseph Wolinski, including mother-in-law “Paline” (sic) Bogacka.5joseph-wolinski-family-1900-census

So it turns out that Uncle Mike’s great-grandmother had also emigrated, and he was confusing her name with the name of his grandmother!

As another example, my grandfather’s first cousin, Jul Ziomek, told me in a 1992 interview that the mother of her grandmother, Mary (née Łącka) Klaus, was named Janina Unicka. Jul was a very reliable source in other matters, but in this case, her memory did not serve her well. The civil record for Mary Klaus’s second marriage, to Władysław Olszanowicz, tells us that her mother’s name was (phonetically) Anna “Taskavich” (Figure 4).6

Figure 4:  Civil marriage record from North Tonawanda, New York, for Mary Klaus and Władysław Olsanowic (sic).6mary-klaus-second-marriage

The correct spelling of Mary’s mother’s name in Polish is found on Mary’s baptismal record from her home village of Kołaczyce — she was Anna Ptaszkiewicz (Figure 5).7

Figure 5:  Baptismal record from Kołaczyce, Austrian Poland for Marianna Łącka.7marianna-lacka-birth

The section of the record in the red box pertains to the mother of the child and reads, “Anna filia Francisci Ptaszkiewicz ac Salomea nata Francisco Sasakiewicz.” For those who might be unfamiliar with Latin, this translates as “Anna, daughter of Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz and Salomea, daughter of Franciszek Sasakiewicz.”

Believe it or not, it’s quite reasonable, based on Polish phonetics, that an English speaker might come up with a spelling of “Taskevich”for “Ptaszkiewicz.”  But no matter how you slice it, this is pretty far off from “Janina Unicka.”  So where did Jul come up with that name? The 1910 census gives us a clue (Figure 6):8

Figure 6:  Andrew Klaus family in the 1910 U.S. Federal census.8andrew-klaus-fam-1910

Living with the family of Mary Klaus, there is a boarder named John Unicki.  At this point I have traced Mary Klaus’s family back in Poland for another 3-4 generations, which is as far back as existing vital records go, and I’ve seen no evidence of the Unicki surname anywhere in the extended family tree.  I’ve concluded that cousin Jul’s memory was inaccurate on this point. It must have been dim memories of this boarder, Jan Unicki, living with her grandparents that caused her to associate the name “Janina Unicka” with her grandmother’s family.

As one final example, my husband’s grandfather, Stephen Szczepankiewicz, told me that his father, Michael Szczepankiewicz, immigrated from Russian Poland to Buffalo, New York, along with four brothers and no sisters. He recalled the names of his father’s brothers as Bernard, Felix, Alexander and Joseph. It turns out that he was partially correct.  Further research indicates that his father did indeed have brothers who also emigrated from Poland to Buffalo who were named Bernard (Anglicized from Bronisław), Alexander, and Joseph.  What Grandpa didn’t know was that there were two more brothers who emigrated, Adam and Walter (also known as “Wadsworth” — both names are Anglicized versions of his Polish name, Władysław), as well as a sister, Marcjanna, who emigrated to Buffalo along with Bronisław and then disappears from records there (Figure 7):9

Figure 7:  Passenger manifest for Marcyanna and Bronisław Szczepankiewicz, arriving in the port of New York on 3 May 1902.9marcjanna-manifest-cropped

 

Try as I might, I could not document a brother named Felix/Feliks Szczepankiewicz, or find one with a name that was even close to that.  Why would Grandpa remember an Uncle Felix if there never was one? Well, it turns out that there was an Uncle Felix, but it was on his mother’s side, not his father’s side. Grandpa Steve’s mother was Agnes/Agnieszka Wolińska.  If we take a closer look at that 1892 census for the Woliński family shown in Figure 2 and the 1900 census shown in Figure 3, the oldest child in the family is Feliks.  So it seems likely that Grandpa was just mixing up which side of the family Uncle Feliks was from.

As is evident from these examples, family stories work best when used as a starting point for genealogy research, but we can’t let our research end there. Time can play tricks with people’s memories, so it’s important to attempt to document everything we’ve been told.  If conflicts exist between the story and the evidence, consider how these might be reconciled.  As you document each story, you’ll begin to get a sense of the reliabilty of each relative’s memory. If you have any particularly wild stories that you’ve been able to document, please let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear about them!

Sources:

Buffalo, Erie, New York, Death Certificates,1926, certificate #1029, record for Michael Sczepankiewicz (sic).

“United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VMDV-RJ7 : 20 May 2014), Michael A Stevenson, 28 Apr 2011; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing), accessed on 8 November 2016.

Ancestry.com, New York, State Census, 1925 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), http://www.ancestry.com, Record for Stepahn Szczepankiewicz, accessed on 8 November 2016.

Ancestry.com, New York, State Census, 1892 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), http://www.ancestry.com, Record for Joseph Wolinski household, accessed on 8 November 2016.

Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004), http://www.ancestry.com, Year: 1900; Census Place: Buffalo Ward 9, Erie, New York; Roll: T623_1026; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 69, record for Joseph Wolinski household, accessed on 8 November 2016.

6 “New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936″, database, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Family Search, (https://familysearch.org), Wladyslaw Olsanowic and Mary Klaus, 21 Nov 1916; citing county clerk’s office, , New York, United States; FHL microfilm 897,558. accessed on 8 November 2016.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889”, Stare Kopie, 1866, #20, Record for Marianna Łącka.

Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006), http://www.ancestry.com, Year: 1910; Census Place: North Tonawanda Ward 3, Niagara, New York; Roll: T624_1049; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0126; FHL microfilm: 1375062, record for Andrew Klaus, accessed on 8 November 2016.

Ancestry.com, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), http://www.ancestry.com, Year: 1902; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0272; Line: 5; Page Number: 132, record for Marcyanna Sczezyoankiemg, accessed on 8 November 2016.