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

 

 

The Mysterious Wanda Gruberska: The Next Chapter

In my last post, I shared an article I wrote for the Polish Genealogical Society of America’s journal, Rodziny, about finding a new DNA match to a cousin who knew only his grandmother’s birth name, Wanda Gruberska, but little else about her, since she was adopted as a child and had her name changed. Today I’d like to provide a few updates to the story, based on new research findings since its publication.

To briefly recap, when I was contacted by this DNA match, I recognized the Gruberski surname because my maternal grandmother’s Zazycki family had multiple ties to the Gruberski family in Poland through marriage. However, Wanda Gruberska herself was not in my family tree, and at that point, I did not know who her parents might be. By process of elimination I was able to identify Wanda’s parents as Jan/John Gruberski and Marianna/Mary (née Pindur) Gruberska, demonstrate that they immigrated to Minnesota, prove that Mary died in 1918, and discover that one of the Gruberskis’ children was living in an orphanage in St. Paul in 1920. However, I still had no direct evidence of Wanda’s birth to these parents or of her own placement in that orphanage. I suspected that Wanda might have been baptized at St. Adalbert’s church in St. Paul, Minnesota, based on her family’s address in city directories.

The Smoking Gun, and a New Sister

What I did not realize at that time was that baptisms and marriages from this parish, as well as other Polish parishes in Minnesota, were indexed by John Rys and compiled into searchable databases which can be accessed via the website of the Polish Genealogical Society of Minnesota. John kindly provided me with a copy of Wanda’s baptismal record (Figure 1),1 as well as a copy of the baptismal record for another sister, Helena Josepha (Figure 2).2

Figure 1: Baptismal record from St. Adalbert’s church, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Wanda Grubarska, born 7 May 1916.1Wanda Gruberska baptism 1916

Figure 2: Baptismal record from St. Adalbert’s church, St. Paul, Minnesota, for Helen Josepha, born 18 March 1914.2Helena Gruberska baptism 1914

Wanda’s surname is spelled “Grubarska” in the first record, and her year of birth, 1916, makes her a full three years younger than her family suspected. However, this birth record is nonetheless a “smoking gun” —  the direct evidence which irrefutably identifies Wanda as a child of the parents whom I predicted for her, based on all prior evidence. Although I was previously unaware of another sister, Helena, it makes sense that John and Mary might have had another child born in the U.S. if Wanda was born as late as 1916. John and Mary’s oldest children, Stanisław and Genowefa, were born in Poland in 1908 and 1910, respectively, and arrived in the U.S. in April 1913 with their mother Mary and uncle Bolesław (Bill) Gruberski. Helena had to have been the first of John and Mary’s children born in the U.S., since her March 1914 birth date suggests that she was conceived in June 1913.

The Godfather

Helena’s godfather, Leon Gruberski, was another surprise, since I don’t have him in my family tree. However, my data on the children of Marianna Zarzycka and Józef Gruberski are still incomplete. As mentioned previously, the family lived in Bronisławy, a village belonging to the parish in Rybno. The majority of the 19th-century records for Rybno have not been microfilmed, nor are they available from the Polish State Archives (apart from a narrow range of years starting in 1886). Instead, the records are still in possession of the local Catholic parish. Thanks to a gracious pastor and a diligent researcher (Justyna Krogulska), I have been able to obtain records for my family from this parish, but it looks like another round of research is in order, focusing specifically on the Gruberski family.

Although Leon’s birth record is currently unavailable, a quick check on Ancestry produced his passenger manifest (Figures 3a and b, which can also be viewed free via Ellis Island):

Figure 3a:  Extract from first page of passenger manifest for Leon Gruberski.4Leon Gruberski passenger manifest page 1

Figure 3b: Extract from second page of passenger manifest for Leon Gruberski.4Leon Gruberski passenger manifest page 2

The manifest informs us that Leon arrived in New York on 5 May 1909, that he was single, and that he was born about 1885 in “Bronislawa.” His nearest relative in that place was his father, Józef Gruberski, who was living in “Bronislawa, Warschau,” and Leon was a citizen of Russia. All of this is consistent with the village of Bronisławy, which was located in the Warsaw gubernia (province) of the Russian Empire. On page 2, we see that he was headed to his “step brother,” Piotr Przanowski, living at 153 Box (?) Street in St. Paul, Minnesota. Leon may have used the term “step brother” in a rather broad sense. The Przanowski family was clearly associated with the Gruberski family because Leon’s brother, Roman Gruberski, was married to Julianna Przanowska, who was the daughter of Stanisław Przanowski and Franciszka Dobińska. A quick check in Geneteka reveals that Julianna did indeed have a brother named Piotr Przanowski, who married Łucja Gajowniczek in Iłów in 1897, and this is probably the Piotr Przanowski mentioned in Leon’s passenger manifest. Assuming that further research does not turn up evidence of a closer relationship, Piotr can’t properly be called a “step brother” to Leon. However, our ancestors typically employed a very expansive concept of family when reporting their relationships to contacts in the U.S., and this fact, compounded with the language barrier, probably explains the notation on the manifest.

In any case, Leon seems to disappear from U.S. records subsequent to that 1909 passenger manifest. We know he must have remained in the U.S. through 1914 at least, since he was godfather to his niece, Helena Józefa, in April of that year. This, in turn, implies that he should be found in the 1910 census. Very often, Polish immigrants can be tough to locate in U.S. census records because their names were misspelled by the census-taker on the original form, or mistranscribed during the indexing process. One of my favorite tricks for getting around this is to omit the surname entirely and search using other known data. However, a search of the 1910 census for men named Leon, no surname specified, born 1880-1890 in Russia, living in St. Paul, Minnesota, produced no promising hits. I also checked for his contact in the U.S., Piotr Przanowski, since occasionally one might see a boarder mistakenly recorded on a census record under the surname of the head of household. I successfully located the household of Peter Przanowski — misindexed as Peter Pozanowski — living in South St. Paul in 1910. I’m sure it’s the right family, because his wife’s name was Lucy and he and his wife reported that they’d been married for 13 years, suggesting a marriage date of 1897. Both of these facts match the marriage record in Geneteka precisely. However, there was no Leon living with them, so for now I’ll put Leon on the back burner and move on.

Crowdsourcing at its Best

Since publishing that article, I also obtained Mary Gruberski’s death certificate (Figure 4).4

Figure 4: Death certificate for Mrs. John (Mary) Gruberski, 11 December 1918.Mary Gruberski death 1918.jpg

At the time of her death, the Gruberskis were living at 844 Gaulthier (sic) Street in St. Paul. Mary’s date of birth was reported to be 25 March 1880, but based on her age reported on her marriage record, 1890 would be a more probable birth year for her. Mary died of epidemic influenza on 14 December 1918 and was buried two days later in Calvary Cemetery. She was reported to be the wife of John Gruberski, but the document is worded in such a way that it makes no distinction between a wife, a widow, and a divorcée, so we cannot tell from this information whether or not John Gruberski is already deceased. However, the fact that John himself was not the informant is potentially significant. The name of the person who was the informant is unclear, but he did not know Mary’s parents’ names, or her precise place of birth, which suggests that he may not have known her well.

I was really bothered by the fact that I couldn’t read the informant’s name on this document. The disjointed appearance of the signature made it look almost like a short name, e.g. Geo. (George) Doun or Dorn, followed by a phrase, which I thought might contain some clue about the relationship of the informant to the deceased. Moreover, the 1910 census did indeed show a man by the name of George Dorn who lived at 1058 Rice Street in St. Paul in 1910, less than a mile from the Gruberskis’ address on the death certificate. However, this theory was blown out of the water last night by the amazing Kasia Dane in the Polish Genealogy group on Facebook.

One of my favorite strategies when I need another pair of eyes or a fresh perspective, is to crowdsource the problem by posting in a Facebook group. I posted this record in Polish Genealogy recently, and after some discussion, Kasia produced irrefutable evidence that the informant was a Belgian immigrant named Georges Dommels-Huizen. Kasia’s most compelling piece of evidence was this World War I draft card, which informs us that Georges was employed as a records clerk at the City and County Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a hospital records clerk, Georges would have had access to the basic information contained in Mary’s medical chart when she was admitted to the hospital.

Bill Gruberski’s Day in Court

Rather than resting on her laurels, Kasia dug a little deeper and turned up a spectacular find in Internet Archive. It’s often surprising what information one can find by a simple internet search using the name of a research subject combined with an identifying fact or two. In this case, a search for “Mary Gruberski 1918” produced a book entitled Minnesota Reports, which is a summary of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of Minnesota, published in 1922.5 The case summary tells us that Mary took out a life insurance policy on herself in 1918, shortly before her death, naming her brother-in-law, Bolesław “Bill” Gruberski, as the beneficiary. The insurer was the Brotherhood of American Yeomen, which was a fraternal beneficiary organization. The policy was issued in September of 1918, but prior to issuance of the life insurance certificate, the insurer required Mary to undergo a physical examination and to answer questions about her own health history, family health history, and her physical condition. The medical examination took place on 18 August 1918, and one of the questions asked was, “Are you pregnant?” At the time of the exam, Mary was 5 1/2 months pregnant, and she delivered a full-term baby on 15 November 1918, one month before her death.

Since the death claim was made so soon after the policy issued, it seems that the insurer balked at making the payout on the policy. They argued that the policy was void if any of the statements made during the medical exam regarding Mary’s physical condition were untrue, and they claimed that Mary stated that she was not pregnant. Never mind that her death was completely unrelated to her pregnancy, the whole case came down to the question of whether or not the statements made during the exam were warranties that could invalidate the insurance certificate if proven to be false. The plaintiff, on the other hand, charged that the medical examiner erroneously inserted Mary’s answers into the medical report, and that Mary did, in fact, admit to being pregnant. Mary was known to be illiterate, with limited English-speaking skills. Both sides offered conflicting testimony regarding Mary’s actual oral statement, and whether or not an interpreter was used, and it was noted to be strange that the medical examiner recorded her waist measurement, yet did not realize that she was 5 1/2 months pregnant. When the case was first tried in the Ramsey County District Court, it was judged in favor of the plaintiff — that is, the insurer was required to pay a death benefit of $1,000 to Bill Gruberski for his sister-in-law’s death. The defendant appealed that verdict, but it was upheld by the State Supreme Court.

So what are the genealogical implications of this new evidence? First, we now know that John and Mary Gruberski had at least 5 children prior to Mary’s death in 1918: Stanisław, Genowefa, Helena, Wanda, and this new baby born in November 1918, just a month before Mary’s death. Second, these data support my suspicion that John Gruberski might have preceded Mary in death. It’s a little odd that she would have named her brother-in-law as her beneficiary if her husband were still alive. Perhaps her intention was to have Bill use the money for the care of her children. In any case, the question remains as to when John Gruberski died, and the probable timeframe for this event is pretty narrow. If John and Mary’s youngest child was born in November 1918, the baby would have been conceived in February of that year. Therefore John must have died some time after the baby’s conception, but before Mary applied for the life insurance policy in August 1918, and named her brother-in-law, and not her husband, as beneficiary. It’s also theoretically possible that John did not die in 1918, but rather abandoned his family and moved back to Poland, and I hope to address this question with futher research.

The Seven Siblings

There’s one final new development that I want to share in this next chapter of the story. As mentioned previously, John and Mary’s oldest son, Stanisław, was reported in the 1920 census to be an inmate at St. Joseph’s German Catholic Orphan Society Home in St. Paul, Minnesota. I contacted the Archdiocesan Archives for St. Paul to inquire about records from the orphanage, and was delighted to learn that they do have records for Wanda and all her siblings, which I can request from their archive 100 years after the date of the record.  The earliest records will be available in January 2019 and the latest in September 2025.  It seems a long time to wait, but I’m in this for the long haul. The surprise came when the archivist wrote that they have records for seven Gruberski children, not just five.  Based on the dates of birth of the children previously discovered, the remaining two children must have been born in 1915 and 1917.  Given how large this family was, it seems odd that Stanisław was the only one of the siblings who was reported to be living in the orphanage in 1920. Prior to my correspondence with the Archdiocesan Archive, I assumed that the younger children might already have been adopted by 1920, leaving only Stanisław there. However, assuming that the release dates on the orphanage case files correspond to the dates when each child was legally adopted, there should have been three additional Gruberski children reported on the census, based on the census date of January 1920. Why they were not reported on the census is another mystery for another day.

There’s also the mystery of where these children would have been baptized, since the only baptismal records found at St. Adalbert’s were for Wanda and Helena. The obvious answer is that they must have been baptized in a different parish, so I took a look at the family’s addresses in city directories to determine what other parish they might have lived in. Unfortunately, this approach didn’t help much. In the 19147 city directory for St. Paul, John Gruberski was reported to be living at 720 S. Concord Street, which isn’t especially close to any of the ethnic Polish Roman Catholic churches in St. Paul. In 1915,8 he was listed in several places in the directory.  He appears first in the alphabetical listing of residents, which confirmed the previous home address of 720 S. Concord Street, and was also mentioned in the business directory under both “blacksmiths” and “horseshoers” where it was noted that his blacksmithing business was located at 161 Milford. In 1916,the only Gruberski listing is for “Jochim,” although it’s clearly the same as our John, since he’s a blacksmith working at 161 Milford. This time his residence is reported to be 865 Rice Street, but that’s still only a mile away from St. Adalbert’s.

In 1917,10 I found John’s brother, Bill Gruberski, living and working at his brother’s former address, 161 Milford. Moreover, the 1917 directory shows “Joachim Gruberski,” also a blacksmith, living at 887 Albemarle. Google Maps informs me that 887 Albemarle is about 26 feet away from 161 Milford, so right next door. By 1918,11 there’s no longer any mention of any John, Jochim, or Joachim Gruberski, but William Grubarski is mentioned as a “helper” living at 844 Galtier, which is again, quite close to St. Adalbert’s. 844 Galtier is an address we’ve seen before:  it’s where Mary Gruberski was living at the time of her death in December 1918. Moreover, both of these facts are consistent with our present hypothesis, that John Gruberski died (or perhaps abandoned his family) between February 1918 and November 1918. It seems quite plausible that Mary and her children might have moved in with her brother-in-law and his family if her husband died suddenly while she was pregnant with her seventh child.

Although this analysis of the city directories has helped us to understand some aspects of the story, it did not suggest any other parishes where the Gruberski children might have been baptized, since all the addresses associated with the family point to St. Adalbert’s. At this point, I don’t have any answers, merely speculation. Maybe, for some reason, some of the children were baptized at nearby St. Stanislaus parish, even though it was an ethnic Czech parish and therefore probably not the first choice for Polish immigrants? They were most likely not baptized at the ethnic Polish St. Casimir church in St. Paul, because their baptisms would have been captured in John Rys’s database. So this, too, remains another mystery for another day.

To Be Continued….

To sum it up, this next chapter in the saga of the Gruberski family in St. Paul has been pretty interesting, and the pieces of the story are starting to come together. We now have Wanda’s baptismal record, which provides direct evidence for her parentage, and we have a baptismal record for one additional sibling, Helena. We’ve learned of the existence of three more siblings, previously unknown, and we know the dates on which we can request adoption records for each of the seven siblings from the Archdiocesan Archive. We’ve discovered Leon Gruberski, John’s brother, and have a plan in place for further research in Polish records to obtain his birth record, and the birth records for all additional children of Józef Gruberski and Marianna Zarzycka. The report of a successful lawsuit, brought by Bill Gruberski against the Brotherhood of American Yeomen after their refusal to pay the death claim on Mary Gruberski’s life insurance policy, provided key genealogical details including the date of birth of Mary’s youngest child, and the fact that Mary named her Bill, rather than her husband, as her beneficiary. This, in combination with data from Mary’s death record and city directories, contributed evidence to our developing hypothesis that John Gruberski died between February 1918 and August 1918. Some questions still remain, of which the most important are those regarding the fate of John Gruberski, but hopefully further research can resolve those. Stay tuned!

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, St. Adalbert’s Parish (St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota), Baptisms, 1911-1923, 1916, #61, baptismal record for Wanda Gruberska.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Adalbert’s Parish (St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota), Baptisms, 1911-1923, 1914, #15, baptismal record for Helena Josepha Gruberski.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957  (images and transcription)Year: 1909; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1257; Line: 14; Page Number: 149, record for Leon Gruberski, accessed 31 August 2017

Minnesota, Division of Vital Statistics, Death Certificates, 1918, #8746, record for Mrs. John (Mary) Gruberski, died 14 December 1918 in St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota.

Minnesota Reports, Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota (1922), Bill Gruberski v. Brotherhood of American Yeomen, a Fraternal Beneficiary Organization, May 6, 1921, Case number 22,197, pp. 49-53.; book digitized by Google from the library of Harvard University and uploaded to the Internet Archive by user tpb., Internet Archive (https://archive.org/), accessed 31 August 2017.

6 1920 United States Federal Census (image and transcription), Year: 1920; Census Place: St Paul Ward 11, Ramsey, Minnesota; Roll: T625_855; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 140; Image: 1041, https://www.ancestry.com, Record for Stanislaus Gruberski, accessed 31 August 2017.

7U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (image and transcription), R.L. Polk and Co.’s St. Paul City Directory, 1914, (St. Paul, Minnesota: R.L. Polk & Co.), record for John Gruberski, p. 734, https://www.ancestry.com, accessed 31 August 2017.

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (image and transcription), R.L. Polk and Co.’s St. Paul City Directory, 1915, (St. Paul, Minnesota: R.L. Polk & Co.), record for John Gruberski, pp. 698 and 1757, https://www.ancestry.com, accessed 31 August 2017.

U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (image and transcription), R.L. Polk and Co.’s St. Paul City Directory, 1916, (St. Paul, Minnesota: R.L. Polk & Co.), record for Jochim Gruberski, p. 712, https://www.ancestry.com, accessed 31 August 2017.

10 U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (image and transcription), R.L. Polk and Co.’s St. Paul City Directory, 1917, (St. Paul, Minnesota: R.L. Polk & Co.), record for Bill and Joachim Gruberski, p. 708, https://www.ancestry.com, accessed 31 August 2017.

11 U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (image and transcription), R.L. Polk and Co.’s St. Paul City Directory, 1918, (St. Paul, Minnesota: R.L. Polk & Co.), record for Wm. Grubarski, p. 501, https://www.ancestry.com, accessed 31 August 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

 

The Mysterious Wanda Gruberska: A Genetic Genealogy Success Story

Note: This story was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Rodziny, the journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America. With their permission, I’m publishing it again here, with the intention of following it up with some new data that I’ve obtained since it was published.

Recently I got some exciting new autosomal DNA test results for my “Uncle” (mother’s maternal first cousin), Fred Zazycki.  Uncle Fred generously consented to provide a saliva sample for autosomal DNA testing through Ancestry, which is really an incredible gift.  Why is it better for me to have his DNA tested in addition to my own?  Let’s quickly review some basic concepts in genetic genealogy.

The ABCs of DNA

Each of us has 23 pairs of chromosomes located in the nucleus of almost every cell in the body.  These chromosomes contain the genetic material (DNA) that makes us unique individuals.  Of these 23 pairs of chromosomes, 22 pairs are called autosomes, and the final pair are the sex chromosomes.  For men, the sex chromosomes are an X inherited from the mother and a Y inherited from the father.  Women inherit two X chromosomes, one from the mother and one from the father.

One copy of each of the 22 paired autosomes comes from the mother, and one from the father, so roughly half our genetic material comes from each parent. Each parent’s genetic contribution gets cut in half with each successive generation, so although I inherit half my DNA from my mother, I only inherit a quarter of my DNA (on average) from each of my maternal grandparents, and only 1/8 of my DNA (on average) from each of my maternal great-grandparents. If we extend this further, each of us has 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents, and each of them will only contribute 1/64 of our genetic makeup, or about 1.563%, on average. However, due to a process called recombination that affects the way bits of DNA are inherited, these are only statistical averages.  In practice,  one might inherit a bit more or a bit less from any given ancestor, and all of us have many ancestors from whom we’ve inherited no DNA at all.

For this reason, it’s important to try to test the oldest generations in a family first.  Since Uncle Fred is one generation closer than I am to our immigrant ancestor, John Zazycki, Uncle Fred will have inherited an average of twice as much DNA from John Zazycki as I did. This means that his DNA “looks back” into the family tree a generation further than mine is able to.

The Zarzycki and Gruberski families of Bronisławy and Błędów

Almost as soon as Uncle Fred’s DNA test results posted, and before I’d even had a chance to look at them, I already had a message in my Ancestry inbox from a DNA match who wanted to investigate the connection. The DNA match,”Cousin Jon,” has a family tree on Ancestry which included a surname I recognized:  Gruberski.  My great-grandfather John Zazycki had an oldest sister, Marianna Zarzycka, who married Józef Gruberski in 1874 in Rybno (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Marriage record from the parish in Rybno, Sochaczew County, for Marianna Zarzycka and  Józef Gruberski, 25 October 1874.1

marianna-zarzycka-and-jozef-gruberski-1874

A full translation of this record is provided in the footnotes, if you’re really interested in reading the whole thing.

From this record and from the parish records in Łowicz, we know that Józef Gruberski was a 40-year-old widower when he married 24-year-old Marianna Zarzycka. His first wife, Anna Trojanowska, had died four years earlier, and he came into this second marriage with four children. The records of Rybno also reveal that the paths of the Zarzycki and Gruberski families crossed in other ways besides just this marriage.  In 1890, Józef Gruberski and Anna Trojanowska’s third son, Antoni Gruberski, married Aniela Zarzycka.  Aniela was the younger sister of Antoni’s step-mother, Marianna (née Zarzycka) Gruberska. (Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Marriage record from the parish in Rybno, Sochaczew County, for Aniela Zarzycka and Antoni Gruberski, 19 January 1890.2aniela-zarzycka-and-antoni-gruberski-1890

For my great-grandfather Jan Zarzycki, Józef Gruberski was not only husband to his sister Marianna and father-in-law to his sister Aniela, he was also the boss.  Józef Gruberski was the master blacksmith under whom Jan had apprenticed.  We know this because one of the documents which Jan brought with him from Poland, which was handed down in our family, was an identification booklet that included basic biographical information written in Russian and Polish. (Figure 3).

Figure 3:  Identification booklet from Russian Poland for Jan Zażycki.3jan-zazycki-working-papers-p3

In our family, my grandmother’s brother, Joseph, fondly known as Uncle J, was the one who inherited the book from his father, Jan Zażycki.  He, in turn, passed it down to my cousin, John, who is Jan Zażycki’s namesake.  Consequently, I don’t have the actual book in my possession, but my cousin kindly made a photocopy of some of the pages for me, which included notes from a translator. Some of these aren’t especially accurate, but I don’t have a copy without the notes, so we’ll overlook that part.  The interesting thing to note in this context is the part highlighted in red, that states, “Pracuje u Józefa Gruberskiego/Majstra tegoż kunsztu kowalskiego.”  This tells us that Jan Zażycki was a blacksmith who was working for Józef Gruberski, master of the blacksmithing craft. The word “czeladnik” in the corner next to Jan’s name means “journeyman,” which would suggest that Jan had completed his training and was now fully qualified to be employed as a blacksmith.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker….

Given all the ways in which the Zarzycki family and the Gruberski family had intertwined, it seemed very likely that this must be how Uncle Fred’s new DNA match was connected to our family.  So what do we know about the match itself? Well, GEDmatch reports that it consists of substantial matches on Chromosome 12 (32.8 cM), Chromosome 17 (28.4 cM) and Chromosome 21 (30.4 cM), for a total of a whopping 91.5 cM, which is fantastic, given that this is to a cousin previously unknown to the family (Figures 4a and 4b).

Figure 4a:  GEDmatch Autosomal Comparison Between Uncle Fred and Cousin Jon. Green = base pairs with full match, yellow = base pairs with half match, red = base pairs with no match, and blue = matching segments > 7 cM (centiMorgans, a measure of genetic distance).gedmatch-1

Figure 4b:  gedmatch-2

GEDmatch estimates 3.6 generations to the MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) between Uncle Fred and Cousin Jon.  Interestingly, when I checked my own matches, I also match Cousin Jon, although the match is much smaller.  I ran a GEDmatch Segment Triangulation, which verified that all three of us do share a common segment consisting of 12.2 cM on Chromosome 17 (Figure 5):

Figure 5:  GEDmatch Segment Triangulation graphic showing start and stop points for the matching segment shared by Uncle Fred, Cousin Jon and me.Figure 4

In my case, GEDmatch estimates 5.1 generations to MRCA, even though I’m only one generation away from Uncle Fred, which nicely illustrates the inequalities of DNA inheritance.

The Sad Tale of Wanda Gruberska

So who was the mystery Gruberska cousin? Unfortunately, Cousin Jon’s family didn’t know much about the Gruberski family at all.  According to family recollection, Jon’s grandmother was born Wanda Evangeline Gruberska.  The family believed that she was Polish.  Wanda was born circa 1913, and was left at an orphanage, either in Minnesota or Michigan, shortly after arriving in America.  She was adopted out of the orphanage and her name was changed to Katherine Burke.  By the time the 1930 census was enumerated, she was living with her adoptive family.  Cousin Jon’s family suspected that she was not actually an orphan, but that her biological mother was unable to care for her. Armed with that information, I set out to see how Wanda fit into my family tree.

Since two of the Zarzycki women (Marianna and Aniela) had married Gruberski men (Józef and Antoni), I took a look at both of those lineages to identify the most likely candidates to be Wanda’s father.  Józef and Marianna Gruberski had four children that I’d been able to discover through Polish vital records:  Roman (b. 1876), Jan (b. 1877), Bolesław Leopold (b.1880), and Julia Antonina (b. 1887).  Any one of the boys could have been Wanda’s father, or Julia might have been Wanda’s unwed mother.

Antoni and Aniela Gruberski had two sons, both named Bronisław, the second one (b. 1903) named after the first son Bronisław who died at the age of three. Aniela Gruberska was born in 1863, so she would have been 50 by 1913 when Wanda was born — too old to be Wanda’s mother.  Similarly, her son Bronisław, and any unknown sons born after him, would be too young to be Wanda’s father.  That ruled out that lineage, so the focus must be on the children of Józef and Marianna Gruberski.  What was known about their descendants?

Parish records from Ilów show that Roman Gruberski married Julianna Przanowska on 21 February 1906.4  Although birth records for this parish are online and indexed at Geneteka through 1909, there are no births to this couple during that time, nor are there any births to this couple recorded in any of the indexed records on Geneteka. Parish records from Szymanów reveal that Jan Gruberski married Marianna Pindor on 23 July 1907.5  In addition to the marriage record, indexed records in Geneteka contain one birth for a child from this marriage, that of Stanisław Alfons Gruberski, who was born in Ilów on 1 May 1908.Finally, parish records from Rybno indicate that Bolesław Gruberski married Helena Zarzycka on 6 March 1902.7  Yes, it’s another connection between the Zarzycki and Gruberski families.  Helena was Bolesław’s first cousin once removed, the youngest of the ten children of Wojciech Zarzycki and his wife, Aniela (née Tempińska). Therefore she was first cousin to Bolesław’s mother, Marianna Gruberska, even though there was 31 years’ difference in the ages of the two women.  Bolesław and Helena had at least four children that I’ve been able to discover, Wacław (b. 1902), Marianna (b. 1903), Genowefa (b. 1905) and Stanisław (b. 1906), all of whom married in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki parish between 1926-1930.

So at this point, we have some individuals who might be good candidates to be the parent(s) of Wanda Gruberska.  Was there any evidence that any of them had emigrated?Yep!  A little digging on Ancestry turned up a passenger manifest from 1910, which showed both Jan and Roman Gruberski coming to the U.S. in 1910 (Figure 6).

Figure 6: First page of the passenger manifest for Jan and Roman Gruberski, arriving 4 May 1910.8new-york-passenger-lists-1820-1957-jan-gruberski

On closer inspection, we see that Jan and Roman Gruberski are reported to be 31 and 34, respectively, suggesting birth years of 1879 and 1876, which is reasonably consistent with what we’d expect for our Gruberski brothers. Younger brother Jan is noted to be a laborer, while Roman was recorded as a blacksmith, consistent with the tradition of blacksmithing in the Gruberski family. Jan is reported to be from “Blędowo,” while Roman is from “Bronisławow,” which correspond to the locations of Błędów and Bronisławy, where the family is know to have lived.  Jan’s nearest relative in the old country is his wife, Marya Gruberska, and Roman’s is his wife, Julia Gruberska — names that fit exactly with what is known about our Gruberski brothers.  They were headed to Buffalo, New York, which is where my great-grandfather Jan Zazycki first settled when he immigrated in 1895.  The manifest contains a second page which I won’t discuss in detail, since we already have more than enough information to verify that these are our Gruberski brothers and since it doesn’t add anything significant or contradict anything already supposed.

So far, so good.  Two of our potential candidates for Wanda’s Gruberska’s father have made it to Buffalo.  But how do we get from Buffalo to an orphanage in Michigan or Minnesota, and which one is the father? Further digging produces a second passenger manifest, this one from 1913, which shows the third brother, Bolesław Gruberski, accompanying his sister-in-law, Marianna Gruberska, to the United States, along with her two children, Stanisław and Genowefa (Figure 7).

Figure 7:  First page of the passenger manifest for the Gruberski family, arriving 22 April 1913.9new-york-passenger-lists-1820-1957-boleslaw-leopold-gruberski

Again, the ages match with what we would expect for our three known Gruberski family members, and there is a new addition to the family:  little Genowefa Gruberska, age 2 years 6 months, who is the daughter of Marianna Gruberska.  Genowefa’s age indicates a birth date of October 1910.  All of them are reported to be from “Jeziorka,” which suggests the village of Jeziorko, about halfway in between Błędów and Bronisławy.  Marianna reported her nearest relative in the old country to be her mother, Florentyna Gonsewska.  The surname Gonsewska is new, perhaps indicating a second marriage, but her mother’s given name was definitely Florentyna.  Marianna’s brother-in-law, Bolesław Gruberski, reports his nearest relative as his wife, Helena Gruberska. The final column gives us a critical bit of information:  they were headed to St. Paul, Minnesota!

The second page of the manifest confirms that their relative in St. Paul is, in fact, Marianna’s husband, Jan Gruberski, who is also reported as the father of Stanisław and Genowefa and the brother of Bolesław (Figure 8).

Figure 8:  Detail of second page of passenger manifest for Gruberski family, arriving 22 April 1913.9detail-of-manifest

The pieces are starting to fall into place, and we’re getting closer now to the orphanage in “Michigan or Minnesota” where Wanda Gruberska was adopted.  The 1915 St. Paul City Directory confirms that our John Gruberski is still living there, two years after the arrival of his wife and children, and that he’s still working as a blacksmith (Figure 9).

Figure 9:  Detail of R.L. Polk and Co.’s St. Paul City Directory 1915, showing John Gruberski.10john-gruberski-1915-city-directory-marked

Since John’s wife Marianna arrived in April of 1913, it’s entirely possible that another daughter, Wanda, could have been born to them by January of 1914, which is reasonably consistent with Wanda’s approximate birth year of 1913. Minnesota did not conduct a state census in 1915, so the next opportunity for catching a glimpse of the whole family in documents would be the 1920 U.S. Census.  However, the only member of the family who is readily found in the 1920 census is the young son, Stanisław — living in an orphanage (Figure 10).

Figure 10:  Detail of the 1920 census for St. Paul (Ward 11), Minnesota, showing Stanislaus Gruberski.111920-united-states-federal-census-stanislaw-alfons-gruberski

Interestingly, Stanisław is the only Gruberski child found in the census listings for that orphanage. His sister Genowefa is not there, nor is there any sign of a sister Wanda. Moreover, I have not yet been able to locate the parents, Jan and Marianna, in the 1920 census.  So what happened?

The Minnesota Deaths and Burials database gives us a clue (Figure 11), although the year of birth is significantly off from what we’ve seen in other records.

Figure 11:  Entry for Mary Gruberski in the Minnesota Deaths and Burials database.12mary-gruberski-death

Marianna’s year of birth suggested by records from Poland (her marriage record and Stanisław’s birth record) was 1890-1891.  However, it was 1886 based on her passenger manifest, and the fact that her husband was the only Gruberski noted in the 1915 St. Paul City Directory suggests that Gruberski wasn’t a popular surname in the city at that time.  Morever, the death date of 1918 is consistent with her son being placed in an orphanage by 1920.  Without a family support system to help care for his children after his wife’s death, John Gruberski may have felt that he had few options.

Epilogue

Of course, this still leaves many unanswered questions, which can hopefully be resolved with more data.  Although the evidence points to Wanda Gruberska being the daughter of Jan and Marianna (née Pindor) Gruberski, it should be possible to confirm that by locating a birth/baptismal record for Wanda.  It would also be nice to obtain death and burial records for her mother and possibly her sister, Genowefa. St. Adalbert’s parish was an ethnic Polish parish located just one mile from the Milford Street address noted for John Gruberski in the 1915 city directory, so that would be a reasonable place to search for such records.  And what became of the father, John Gruberski?  He and his brother Roman seem to disappear from indexed records. However, the paper trail for his brother Bolesław suggests that he adopted the name William in the U.S. (a common choice for men named Bolesław), was still married to Helena (“Ellen”) when he registered for the draft in 1917, was a widower by 1940, and died in Chicago in 1943. Helen is not mentioned in any indexed records in the U.S. discovered to date, apart from her husband’s World War I draft registration. So her stay in the U.S. may have been brief, especially considering that all her children married in Poland.

The story had a happy ending for young Wanda, who became Katherine Burke.  Cousin Jon’s family reports that she married, raised her family, loved to cook, and was beloved by her children and grandchildren until her death in 1991.  But what of her brother, Stanisław Gruberski, last seen as an 11-year-old boy in the orphanage in 1920?  He, too, disappears from the records, but like his sister Wanda, his name might have been changed upon adoption.  We may never know if there are any cousins stemming from his line — unless, of course, they wonder about their origins and turn to DNA testing for answers.

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga ślubów 1868-1886, 1874, #15, marriage record for Józef Gruberski and Maryanna Zarzycka. “#15, Bronisławy.  It happened in the village of Rybno on the thirteenth/twenty-fifth day of October in the year one thousand eight hundred seventy-four at four o’clock in the afternoon.  We declare that, in the presence of witnesses Maciej Bartoszewski, age thirty-eight, and Wawrzyniec Pytkowski, age forty, both farmers residing in the village of Bronisławy, that on this day was contracted a religious marital union between Józef Gruberski, widower after the death on the tenth/twenty-second day of October in the year one thousand eight hundred seventy in the village of Błędów of his wife, Anna née Trojanowska; blacksmith residing in the village of Błędów, born in the village of Ożarów, age forty, son of the late Mateusz and Nepomucena née Banowska, the spouses Gruberski; and Maryanna Zarzycka, single, born in the village of Bronisławy, age twenty-four, daughter of Ignacy and Antonina née Naciążek, the spouses Zarzycki, farmers residing in the village of Bronisławy; in that same village of Bronisławy residing with her parents.  The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the twenty-second day of September/fourth day of October, the twenty-ninth day of September/eleventh day of October, and the sixth/eighteenth day of October of the current year in Rybno and in the parish church in Łowicz.  The newlyweds stated that they had no prenuptial agreement between them.  The marriage ceremony was performed by Fr. Józef Bijakowski (?).  This Act to the declarant and witnesses was read aloud but signed only by us because they are unable to write.   [Signed] Fr. Józef Bijakowski, pastor of Rybno performing the duties of Civil Registrar.”

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacjia metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1890, Marriages, #1, accessed on 26 January 2017. “#1. This happened in the village of Rybno on the seventh/nineteenth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred ninety at three o’clock in the afternoon.  We declare that, in the presence of witnesses Mateusz Kania, farmer residing in the village of Bronislawy, age thirty-seven (?), and Aleksander Lesiak, organist residing in the village of Rybno, age thirty-two; on this day was contracted a religious marriage between Antoni Gruberski, blacksmith, soldier on leave, single, born in the village of Bledów, in the district of Lowicz, son of Józef and the late Anna née Trojanowska, the spouses Gruberski, residing in the village of Bronislawy, having twenty-six years of age; and Aniela Zarzycka, single, residing and born in the village of Bronislawy, living with her parents, daughter of Ignacy and Antonina née Naciazek, the spouses Zarzycki, having twenty-four years of age.  The marriage was preceded by three readings of the banns in the local parish church on the twenty-fourth and thirty-first days of December in the year one thousand eight hundred eighty nine [corresponding to the fifth and twelvth days of January and the] seventh/nineteenth days of January of the current year, after which no impediments were found.  The newlyweds stated that they had no premarital agreement between them.  The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Fr. Grigori Gruzinski (?), local administrator of the parish of Rybno.  This document was read aloud to the declarants and witnesses and was signed by Us and by the second witness due to the illiteracy of the other witnesses. [Signed] Fr. Grigori Gruzinski, Administrator of the parish and keeper of vital records [signed] Aleksander Lesiak”

Książka Rzemieślnicza Czeladnika Kunsztu Kowalskiego Jana Zarzyckiego, Worker’s identification book for Jan Zarzycki, 29 August 1886, privately held by John D. Zazycki, Milford, Ohio, 2000.

4  Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Ilowie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacji metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1906, Marriages, #15, record for Roman Gruberski and Julianna Przanowska, accessed on 26 January 2017.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Szymanowie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacji metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1907, marriages, #25, record for Jan Gruberski and Maryanna Pindor, accessed on 26 January 2017.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Ilowie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacji metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1908, births, #52, record for Stanislaw Alfons Gruberski, accessed on 26 January 2017.

7 Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacjia metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), Ksiega slubów 1888-1908, 1902, #6, marriage record for Boleslaw Leopold Gruberski and Helena Zarzycka, accessed on 26 January 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image), Jan Gruberski and Roman Gruberski, S.S. Bremen, 4 May 1910, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed January 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image), Marianna, Stanisław, Genowefa, and Bolesław Gruberski, S.S. President Lincoln, 22 April 1913, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed January 2017.

10 U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (images), John Gruberski, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1915, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed January 2017.

11 1920 U.S. Census (population schedule), St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota, ED 140, sheet 4A, Stanislaus Gruberski, St. Joseph’s German Catholic Orphan Society (institution), http://familysearch.org, accessed January 2017.

12 Minnesota Deaths and Burials, 1835-1990, index-only database, https://familysearch.org, record for Mary Gruberski, 14 Dec 1918; citing St. Paul, Ramsey, Minnesota, reference 1407; FHL microfilm 2,218,025, accessed on 27 January 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017