Celebrating My Blogiversary!

It’s hard to believe it, but I started this blog six years ago today as a way to share my family history discoveries and my enthusiasm for genealogy with fellow genealogists, distant cousins, research collaborators, and everyone in between. For six years, you’ve celebrated my successes with me and commiserated with my stumbling, offering encouragement for all those “brick walls.” I’ve shared my musings, insights, resources, and strategies, and you’ve shared your own tips, kind remarks, and research challenges. I’ve gotten to know new living cousins, and discovered dozens of “new” ancestors and deceased relatives to add to my family tree.

So what does six years of blogging look like, by the numbers? Like this:

My favorite discoveries from the past six years, in no particular order:

  • The origins of my immigrant Causin/Cossin ancestors from Alsace.
  • The marriage record of my great-grandmother’s brother, Władysław/Walter Grzesiak, who unexpectedly married in Warsaw, 150 miles from his birthplace, which opened the door to additional new discoveries for my Grzesiak family.
  • The marriage record from Buffalo, New York, for my great-great-grandparents, Marianna/Mary Łącka and Andrzej/Andrew Klaus, and the baptismal records of Mary’s first two sons, which finally disproved the family myth that the Klaus family ever lived in Texas.
  • The identification of distant cousins on my Klaus, Słoński, Wilczek, Panek, Dodds, Zarzycki, and Causin lines, made through DNA testing, which led to a clearer understanding of the migrations and dispersions of those families.
  • The discovery of a baptismal record for Ellender Hodgkinson, which spurred further research into her godmother, Mary Hodgkinson, which in turn led to the discovery of the last will and testament of John Hodgkinson, Sr., which identified previously unknown siblings of my 5x-great-grandfather, John Hodgkinson, and offered direct evidence that his father also immigrated to the U.S. from England.
  • The marriage record for my 3x-great-grandmother, Catherine Grentzinger, and her first husband, Victor Dehlinger, which opened doors into further discoveries into the origins of the Dehlinger and Grentzinger families.
  • The death records from Młodzieszyn for the siblings of my great-grandfather, Joseph Zielinski, which allowed me to piece together a timeline that finally explained why my grandfather returned to Poland with his parents in 1921.
  • The grave marker of Joseph and Gertrude (Wagner) Riel from Mt. Elliott Cemetery in Detroit, which identified Joseph’s place of birth in Germany, which allowed me to leverage the FAN principal and definitively identify the the place of origin of my Wagner ancestors.

Time certainly does fly when you’re having fun! I’m looking forward to further adventures in genealogy, and I’m excited to be able to share my discoveries with you. Thanks for all the positive feedback and encouragement over the past six years. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to have your company on this journey.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Visualizing Challenges to Genetic Genealogy Research Using Leeds and Collins-Leeds Methods

When it comes to genetic genealogy, it’s best to hope that each generation in your family tree was large, with lots of descendants living in countries where DNA testing is popular. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Small families, and families in which many of the distant cousins are living in a place where DNA testing is not as popular (e.g. Poland) make it difficult to find those DNA matches that can lead to breakthroughs in your research. Whether you know, or only suspect, that this is the case for your family, you can visualize the situation using some of the available tools out there, such as Leeds worksheets, and Collins-Leeds matrices.

What is the Leeds Method?

Back in 2018, which is a lifetime ago in the world of genetic genealogy, researcher Dana Leeds described her method for color-coding DNA matches using a spreadsheet, which she developed in order to help a client identify his biological family. Elegant in its simplicity, the Leeds Method took off, and it inspired a number of next-generation automated tools which cluster a tester’s DNA matches based on shared ancestry. Sites which offer autocluster tools include MyHeritage, DNAGedcom, Genetic Affairs, and GEDMatch, and AncestryDNA’s colored-dot grouping tool is also based on this method. With all these automated options available, it’s become a bit passé to create a Leeds Method spreadsheet manually. Nonetheless, I want to share one with you here, because it’s a compact visual aid for illustrating some “structural defects” in my mom’s family tree, and their impact on her DNA match list.

Figure 1 shows a Leeds Method worksheet created from my mother’s list of DNA matches on Ancestry.

Figure 1: Leeds Method worksheet for my mom’s DNA matches on Ancestry. Click image to view larger.

Leeds’ basic goal was to sort a list of DNA matches into four clusters, representing matches who are related to the tester through each of that person’s four grandparents. Individuals to whom we are related through only one of our four grandparents are our second cousins, so second cousins would be ideal test subjects for creating a Leeds worksheet. Thanks to the random nature of DNA inheritance, the amount of DNA shared between any two second cousins can vary, but typically, they share about 200 centiMorgans (cM) DNA, where a cM is the unit used to express genetic distance. (More cM shared = closer genetic relationship.) The exact amount of shared DNA between two second cousins can be as little as 41 cM, and as much as 592 cM, according to data gathered by Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project.

With that in mind, Leeds opted to focus on DNA matches who shared between 90 cM and 400 cM DNA. Using her method, a color is assigned to the first match in the the list who shares between 90–400 cM with the tester, and then that same color is assigned to all the shared matches (or “in common with”) matches. This process is repeated until all the matches who share 90–400 cM have been assigned a color. Ideally, you want to exclude first cousins (1C), and descendants of first cousins (1C1R, 1C2R, etc.), because they will match you on two grandparents, not just one. This can be a little tricky if your family tree is not well-developed, because the amount of DNA shared between two people who are 1C1R, 1C2R, or 1C3R, can fall within that 90–400 cM range. However, the beauty of the Leeds Method is that it works even if you don’t know precisely how you’re related to someone, so having a few “mystery” matches in your worksheet that are 1C1R, etc., shouldn’t throw you off too much.

The 33 matches shown in Figure 1 were culled from my mom’s top 52 matches. Since I do know how most of my mom’s top matches are related to her, I took those first 52 matches and subtracted out all children, grandchildren, first cousins, and their descendants, who would match Mom on more than one grandparent. I removed the names of the DNA matches to protect their privacy, but they’re identified by the documentary relationship (if known), as well as by the amount of shared DNA in both cM and number of shared segments. The next ten columns, labelled 1 through 10, are the result of sorting Mom’s match list according to the Leeds Method. In column 1, the blue bars represent matches to whom Mom is related through one of the ancestors of her maternal grandmother, Veronica (née) Grzesiak. The red bars in column 2 represent matches to whom Mom is related through one of the ancestors of her paternal grandmother, Genevieve (née) Klaus. Columns 3 and 4 represent those matches to whom Mom is related through her paternal grandfathers, John Zazycki (purple bars) and Joseph Zielinski (green bars).

This brings us to the first observation I’d like to make. By looking at those four columns, it’s pretty clear that Mom has substantially more DNA matches who are related to her through the families of her grandmothers (Grzesiak and Klaus, blue and red), than she does through the families of her grandfathers (Zazycki and Zielinski, purple and green). She has exactly one match at this level who is related to her through John Zazycki: a 2C1R who is descended from John’s older sister, Marianna (née Zarzycka) Gruberska. Worse, I have to go all the way down to the level of a 4C2R to find a match that’s related to my mom through her grandfather Joseph Zielinski. The common ancestors between Mom and that match are my 6x-great-grandparents, Stanisław and Urszula Swięcicki, who lived back when there was still a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and who had already finished having children by the time of the final partition of Poland in 1795. (The story of that DNA match can be found here.) In other words, Mom has few-to-no “close” matches, depending on how you define “close,” who are related to her through either of her grandfathers.

So, what factors cause this phenomenon? In the case of the Zielinski family, my mother’s grandfather was the only one of the ten children in his family to survive long enough to marry and have children. This means that my mother has no second cousins who are related to her through her Zielinski family, and second cousins are what the Leeds Method hopes to exploit when developing initial groupings. The situation with the Zazycki family may be similar. My mother’s Zazycki grandfather, John, was one of eleven children, six of whom (including John) had children. John was the only one of his siblings to immigrate to the U.S., however, and it seems that not many of his siblings’ descendants opted to immigrate, either. Research is ongoing, but thus far it appears that only John’s eldest sister, Marianna Gruberska, had any children who immigrated. Presumably, the descendants of the other Zazycki (or Zarzycki) siblings remained in Poland. It may be that more of those Zarzycki relatives from Poland will start showing up in my DNA match lists, as DNA testing becomes more affordable and more popular among Poles. Time will tell. And If there are cousins in Poland who might be testing their DNA, it’s more likely that they’ll be showing up in DNA databases from MyHeritage and FamilyTree DNA, since those sites are are more popular than Ancestry DNA in Poland. So, I keep checking all the databases regularly, but thus far the situation has been similar in all of them, with few matches on the Zazycki and Zieliński sides.

Of course, any time one observes a lack of DNA matches to one particular line, there’s always the possibility of a misattributed parentage event, also known as a non-paternity event, or NPE. I’d be more likely to suspect this if Mom had no matches to a particular line, rather than a few distant ones. I’d be even more likely to suspect an NPE if I could find documentary evidence to suggest that a family was large and had plenty of descendants, and she still had no DNA matches. However, the fact that Mom has DNA matches to documented cousins on her Zielinski and Zazycki lines, and that the amount of DNA shared between her and those matches is within the expected range for the documented relationships, suggests that NPEs are not the issue here. (Or at least, it suggests that there are no NPEs that occurred in the generations between Mom and the ancestral couple shared between her and each DNA match.)

Rather than viewing the glass as half empty, it might be better to focus on all those DNA matches to the Grzesiak and Klaus families. Columns 5 through 10 indicate which matches are descendants of particular ancestral couples. In the case of the relatively close DNA matches shown in Figure 1, all but two of the Grzesiak matches are descendants of mom’s great-grandparents, Józef Grzesiak and Marianna Krawczyńska, as indicated by the light blue bars in column 5. The other two matches near the bottom, which are noted with a dark blue bar but not a light blue one, are not in my tree yet, so additional work is needed to make the documentary connection. However, we know they must be related somehow to the Grzesiak family because of all the matches they share in common with documented Grzesiak descendants. The Klaus matches are even more abundant, and can be broken down into descendants of various couples who were ancestors of either Andrzej Klaus, mom’s great-grandfather, or Marianna Łącka, mom’s great-grandmother.

Autoclusters: The Leeds Method on Steroids

Of course, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and gifted software engineers, we can go one better. Figure 2 shows a screenshot of the top portion of Mom’s autoclusters report at MyHeritage.

Figure 2: Autoclusters report from MyHeritage for Mom’s DNA matches. Click figure for larger image. Typically names of testers appear above the columns and to the left of the rows, but they’ve been removed here for privacy purposes.

This utilizes the same principle as the Leeds Method spreadsheet, except it does the heavy lifting for you, automatically clustering your matches into groups which likely share a common ancestor. Each square on the grid represents a comparison of one of Mom’s DNA matches to another, and colored squares represent two people who match each other, in addition to matching my mom. You’ll note that there are some uncolored squares within each cluster; these occur because it’s possible that two members of a cluster will not match each other (even though they both match Mom) due to the random nature of DNA inheritance. So, I can gain insight into Mom’s relationship to all the members in the orange cluster shown in Figure 2, simply by determining her connection to one member of this cluster.

While it’s sometimes possible (e.g. with DNAGedcom) to vary the parameters for inclusion to create tighter or looser groups, that’s not possible with the autocluster tool at MyHeritage. MyHeritage utilizes an algorithm that automatically adjusts that parameters to yield the best clusters for each kit. Note also that not all of a tester’s matches will appear on the grid. MyHeritage provides a ReadMe file with each autocluster analysis which specifies the parameters that were used, the number of kits included in the analysis, and the names of DNA matches who were not included in the analysis as well. In my mom’s case, 109 DNA matches were used to create 26 clusters; 41 matches were excluded because they did not have any shared matches, and another 127 matches were excluded because, although they met the criteria for inclusion in the analysis, they would have ended up in singleton clusters (matching each other and Mom and no one else).

As MyHeritage states in their explanatory ReadMe file, “Everyone in a cluster will be on the same ancestral line, although the most recent common ancestor between any of the matches, and between you and any match, may vary. The generational level of the clusters may vary as well. One may be your paternal grandmother’s branch, and another may be your paternal great-grandfather’s branch.” This can be illustrated using the red cluster shown at the top left in Figure 2. This cluster represents 10 testers who are related to Mom through her grandmother, Weronika Grzesiak. I know how we’re related to eight of them: five of the matches share Weronika’s parents, Józef Grzesiak and Marianna Krawcyńska as the most recent common ancestral couple, and three share Józef Grzesiak’s maternal grandparents, Maciej Dąbrowski and Barbara Słońska, as the most recent common ancestral couple. Descendants of this couple were highlighted in light blue in Figure 1. So, the remaining two mystery matches in that red cluster shown in Figure 2 might be related to to Mom through a bit of DNA inherited from any of the ancestors of Weronika Grzesiak; we can’t really claim to know anything more definitive than that from these data.

The beauty of the autocluster option is that it eliminates the necessity of going through a match list by hand and tagging each match with a colored dot based on shared matches. Although the clusters themselves are extremely informative, it’s also worth noting the DNA matches who were omitted from the cluster analysis. In Mom’s case, one of the matches who was omitted due to lack of any shared matches was a 5th cousin who matches her through her Wilczek line. Since Mom descends from the Wilczeks through her paternal grandfather, it’s disappointing, but unsurprising, that there are no shared matches between Mom and her Wilczek 5th cousin, given the general lack of DNA matches who are related to Mom through either of her grandfathers.

Extrapolating to Other Surname Lines

For want of a better term, I’ll call the relative lack of DNA matches to Mom through either of her paternal grandfathers the “Small Family/International Family Effect.” Unfortunately, it seems to be at work on my Dad’s side of the family as well. I had high hopes that DNA testing might provide some clues regarding the birthplace in Ireland of my great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Walsh. Despite the fact that I’ve identified DNA matches with whom Robert Walsh and his wife, Elizabeth Hodgkinson, are the most recent common ancestors, DNA has not provided any strong leads to Walsh relatives in Ireland as of yet. I’ve even tested my father’s 100-year-old paternal aunt, whose great-grandfather was Robert Walsh. She would be expected to have more numerous and genetically closer DNA matches to this line than I would, since she inherited a greater percentage of Robert Walsh’s DNA. One might have expected that some of her matches would include Walshes from a particular location in Ireland, or even that one region of Ireland might stand out as an area from which a preponderance of DNA matches originated. However, no great leads have turned up yet. Similarly, DNA has not been especially illuminating as of yet with another brick wall ancestor, Maria Magdalena (née Causin/Casin/Couzens/Curzon) Roberts, who also seems to have come from a very small family which left few descendants. Does that mean that my DNA test results can’t help me? No, it just means that there’s nothing obvious to leverage, no low-hanging fruit to harvest.

There is hope, of course. By identifying “autoclusters of interest” that seem to share common ancestors on my brick-wall lines, I can examine their family trees of DNA matches within those clusters, or attempt to build family trees for them if none are available, and search for common surnames and ancestral locations. It should be noted that some sites (e.g. DNAGedcom) even have automated tools for identifying common ancestors based on GEDCOM files (family tree files) that are associated with DNA test kits. Another possible approach is to use research into an ancestor’s social network of friends, associates and neighbors (i.e. his “FAN club”) to identify putative parents for a brick-wall ancestor, trace their descendants forward to the present day, and then do autosomal target testing on individuals who would be predicted to share DNA, based on this hypothesis. Where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.

It can be incredibly rewarding to connect DNA matches to your family tree. Thanks to DNA matches, I’ve been able to discover and connect with distant cousins that I never knew I had, some of whom have even been willing to share old family photos. I’ve been able to track down a number of “lost” siblings of my ancestors who disappeared from the records. And DNA is an especially powerful tool when leveraged for tracking migrations of relatives with popular surnames. However, small families with few descendants can produce “lopsided” DNA match lists, which can be readily visualized using Leeds and Collins-Leeds clustering techniques. While these analytical methods won’t fix “structural defects” in your family tree, they can help you make the most of the matches you do have.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

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.


[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



Party Like It’s 1899, Continued

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

My Maternal Grandmother’s Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Maternal Grandfather’s Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019


Farewell to Texas

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

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

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

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

Yet sometimes I amaze myself with my own stupidity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019




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


Using Cadastral Maps of Galicia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fortunately, a large number of Galician cadastral maps and descriptive property documents have survived, but due to the upheavals of war (and perhaps bureaucracy), the ones you need may be housed in different archives. For example, the cadastral maps for my ancestral village of Kołaczyce belong to the Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie, but the operat for Kołacyzce that are necessary for interpreting these maps are housed in the Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu. You may need to hire a professional researcher to access them for you as only a small fraction of these maps and indexes are online, but the maps themselves are inexpensive–16 zloty (about $4.39 U.S.) each, based on current prices from the Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie. Some cadastral maps may be found online as well, mainly those in possession of the state archives in Przemyśl and in Kraków. Those maps and operaty owned by the archive in Przemyśl are found in collection 56/126/0, Archiwum Geodezyjne. Those maps and operaty owned by the archive in Kraków are found in collection 29/280/0, Kataster galicyjski. Although none of the cadastral holdings of the Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie are online, a list of maps which can be ordered from this archive can be viewed hereGesher Galicia also maintains a searchable inventory of cadastral maps and cadastral records for Galicia which includes voter records, tax records, school records, and Polish magnate documents, in addition to Galician cadastral records. Last, but not least, you can always search Szukajwarchiwach for maps and related documents for your village of interest, whether that village was in Galicia, or was located elsewhere in Poland.

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

Locating an Ancestral Home on a Cadastral Map

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

Figure 1: Cover page of Alphabetisches Verzeichniss for Kołaczyce.

Alphabetisches Verzeichniss der Gemeinde Kolaczyce 1850 cover page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hauser Verzeichniss cover page

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

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

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

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


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

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

2 Ibid., p. 195.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Ibid., scan 59_1313_2848_01+03.

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

11 Ibid., p. 13, house no. 191.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further reading:

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, 2018.

Magdalena Gębczyńska’s Story

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

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

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

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

Józef Sopalski death 1818 marked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

Where Were Your Ancestors in 1857?

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

Maternal grandfather’s line

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

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

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

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

Maternal grandmother’s line

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

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

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

Paternal grandfather’s line

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

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

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

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

Paternal grandmother’s line

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

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

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

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

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

Selected Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1845-1854, 1853, #60, baptismal record for Paulina Zarzycka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń, 1855-1862, 1856, #48, baptismal record for Tomasz Zarzecki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1828, #34, baptismal record for Ignacy Zarzycki.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry, Cath., August, Johnny, Gertrude, and Marianne WagnerS.S. Erbpring Luidrich August, arrived 29 September 1853 in New York,  Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 12; List Number: 1010,  http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

The Dog That Didn’t Bark: New Discoveries in my Klaus Family Research, Part II

Negative evidence can play an important role in genealogical research. In his short story, “Silver Blaze,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, uses negative evidence to solve the case of a racehorse who went missing the same night that his trainer was killed. Holmes refers to “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” When the detective from Scotland Yard points out, “The dog did nothing in the night-time,” Holmes replies, “That was the curious incident.” In this case, it was the fact that the watch dog did not bark that led Holmes to the realization that it was someone familiar — the horse’s trainer himself — who had led the horse out of his stall during the night. Similarly, negative evidence can be used to support or reject various genealogical research hypotheses, and today I’d like to describe some negative evidence I’ve found in my Klaus research that might back up a family story.

Last week, I began to discuss some wonderful new discoveries that proceeded from my recent dicovery of the marriage record for my great-great-grandparents, Andrzej/Andrew Klaus and Marianna/Mary Łącka, in Buffalo, New York. Previously, I’d written about my erroneous assumption that they’d married in Texas, based on the family story (still unproven) that their oldest sons, Joseph and John, were born there. However, I was astonished to discover that Andrew and Mary actually married in Buffalo on 21 January 1891.1 Although this discovery offers indisputable evidence that Andrew and Mary did not immediately proceed to Texas after their respective arrivals in the U.S., it does not eliminate the possibility that they ever lived there. The lingering question remains, where and when were their oldest sons, Joseph and John, born?

Oh, Baby!

Based on existing evidence, the timeline for the Klaus family history in the U.S. is as follows (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Timeline of Łącki-Klaus history in the U.S. from 1884-1895.

Timeline for Klauses

The first birth that has been documented for this family is that of their third child, Anna, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on 26 November 1892.2 If we assume that births are rarely spaced closer than 11 months apart, that suggests that John Klaus could not have been born any more recently than December 1891, and Joseph Klaus could not have been born any more recently than January 1891, assuming the practical minimum of 11 months between births. So there seem to be three possibilities that would fit the timeline:

  1. Joseph and John were twins, both born circa December 1891 after Andrew and Mary’s marriage in January of that year. (This scenario seems least likely, since the 1900 census suggests that Joseph was older.3)
  2. Mary was 9 months pregnant when she married Andrew Klaus and delivered Joseph almost immediately after their marriage.
  3. Joseph was born out of wedlock, circa 1890.

Regarding scenarios 2 and 3, hey, it happens. As the say in genealogy circles, “the first baby can come at any time, after that each pregnancy takes 9 months.”

Deep in the Heart of…. Buffalo?

Now that we’ve reviewed the data and back-calculated to get some idea of when Joseph and John were likely to have been born, we can examine again the issue of where those events might have taken place. This new discovery of Andrew and Mary’s marriage in Buffalo immediately suggested that perhaps the family story about Texas was nothing more than a tall tale. They each entered through the port of New York, and whether or not Andrew ever made it to Plymouth, Pennsylvania, which was the destination he reported on his passenger manifest in 1889,4 they were clearly both in Buffalo by January 1891. So it’s possible that both their oldest sons might also have been born in Buffalo, consistent with all of their documentation.

With this in mind, I decided to start checking baptismal records at ethnic Polish churches in Buffalo, looking for the baptismal records for Joseph and John, starting in December 1891. By 1891, there were only four ethnic Polish Roman Catholic churches in Buffalo:

The only baptisms for children of Andrew and Mary Klaus at St. Stanislaus were the baptisms of the four children born between 1895 and 1900, when the Klaus family returned to Buffalo after their sojourn in St. Louis from 1892-1894.

However, I struck pay dirt almost immediately in the baptisms at St. Adalbert’s from December 1891 — exactly when I predicted I might find a Klaus baptism!  However, it wasn’t a birth record I expected. Instead of finding John Klaus’s birth, or perhaps baptismal records for twins Joseph and John, I found…. Sophia?! (Figure 2):

Figure 2: Baptismal record from St. Adalbert’s parish in Buffalo, New York, for Zofia Klaus, born 3 December 1891.5Sophia Klaus 1891

Sophia, or in Polish, Zofia. Holy cow. She was completely unknown to our family. She must have died in infancy or childhood since she did not appear in the 1900 census. Of course, this raises all kinds of new questions. When and where did she die? Where is she buried?

More importantly, the birth of an additional child really messes up my putative timeline. If Zofia was born in December 1891, that means that John must have been born January 1891, around the same time as his parents’ marriage, or earlier. That, in turn, implies that Joseph must have been born earlier still — circa February 1890. The new timeline looks like this (Figure 3).

Figure 3: New Timeline of Łącki-Klaus history in the U.S. from 1884-1895, based on birth of Sophia Klaus in December 1891.New Klaus timeline

The Plot Thickens

Having one child out of wedlock was no more unusual then than it is now, and I’m not here to judge my ancestors or anyone else. My job is to discover their stories, document their lives, and remember those who came before us. However, it’s probably safe to say that among Polish Roman Catholics of this era, it was less common for the same couple to have more than one child born out of wedlock, which raises possibilities I hadn’t previously considered. Could Mary Łącka have had Joseph with another man prior to her relationship with Andrew, so that Andrew was Joseph’s adoptive father, but not his biological father? Could Mary Łącka have been married previously, and could Joseph be Mary’s son from that marriage?

Unfortunately, no hints are found in Mary and Andrew’s marriage record. In some cases, the priest would use the term “deflorata virgo” in the marriage record of a bride who had had a child out of wedlock or was obviously pregnant when she married. However, this term is not found in the marriage records from St. Stanislaus. It is significantly more likely that the priest would have noted if Mary was a widow, as it was a fairly standard practice throughout the Catholic Church to note any prior marriages for the bride and groom on a marriage record. However, in all of the marriages indexed by Kasia Dane from St. Stan’s for the period from 1873-1913, there was only one, #112 in 1892, that noted that the bride, Rozalia Sierotowska, was a widow. Her previous marriage was mentioned only in the column for the names of her parents, which states, “wdowa której rodzice są nieznani” (widow whose parents are unknown), and the record does not make it clear whether Sierotowska was her married surname or her maiden name. Rather than suggesting that Rozalia was the only widow who remarried at St. Stan’s during all the time, I rather suspect that she was the only widow whose parents’ names were unknown. It seems more probable that other widows and widowers remarried at St. Stan’s between 1873 and 1913, but the priest probably noted previous marriages during the premarital exam, rather than on the actual marriage record itself.  Whether records from the premarital exams were preserved, and whether the church might permit access to them, remains to be determined. However, they might be more informative than these marriage records regarding any prior marriages for Mary Łącka.

Always a Bridesmaid….

So are there any other clues that we can glean from the marriage records themselves that might shed light on Mary Łącka’s history from 1884-1891? You betcha. Kasia Dane’s index is really invaluable in this regard, since it’s simple to search each document for keywords. (For those among you who might be less computer-savvy, you can open a search box for a pdf document by hitting “ctrl-f”.) In the document with marriages from 1874-1888, a search for “Lacka” (no diacritics needed!) informs us that Maria Łącka was a witness to the marriage of Katarzyna Węgrzyn and Jan Lewczyk on 30 June 1886 (#64). Like Mary Łącka, the bride in this record was also from Kołaczyce, so we can be certain that the Mary Łącka mentioned here is indeed my great-great-grandmother, and not merely another person in the parish with the same name. There’s another record from 31 January 1887, the marriage of Stanisław Baran and Katarzyna Strusikowska (#21, at the bottom of the page), which is very faded, but the female witness is arguably Maria Łącka again. Two weeks later, on 14 February 1887, Maria Łącka was again named as a witness to the marriage of Stanisław Skarbek and Maria Michałek (#32). There is no further mention of Maria Łącka or Maria Klaus in any of the marriage records through 1913.

From this, we can conclude the following:

  1. Mary Łącka was in Buffalo as early as 30 June 1886, after her arrival in the U.S. with her father Jakub and brothers Józef and Jan in 1884.
  2. If Mary Łącka was married prior to her marriage with Andrew Klaus, it must have been after 14 February 1887, and that marriage did not take place at St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo.. The fact that her name was recorded as “Maria Łącka” when she witnessed three marriages between 1886 and 1887 argues strongly in favor of the fact that she was still single at that time, and there are no marriage records for Maria Łącka recorded at St. Stan’s other than the record of her marriage to Andrew Klaus. The likelihood that she was married after 14 February 1887, gave birth to her son Joseph circa 1890, was widowed before January 1891, and was recorded under her maiden name on her marriage record, seems pretty slim. So at this point, I’m leaning toward the “two pregnancies outside of marriage” hypothesis. However, a previous marriage between 1887 and 1890 would still fit the timeline and hasn’t yet been ruled out completely.

“The Dogs That Didn’t Bark” in Buffalo and St. Louis

Finding Zofia’s birth record at St. Adalbert’s was quite a surprise, but interestingly, that was the only Klaus baptismal record I found there. I searched all available baptismal records (back to 1889) and did not find birth records for Joseph and John Klaus. Similarly, I searched baptismal records at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish back to 1888 and did not find records for Joseph and John Klaus. The last Polish Catholic parish in Buffalo that they could possibly have been baptized in, St. Casimir, has no records available online. I wrote to them to request a search for these two births, but have not yet received a reply.

On a similar note, I searched death records from St. Adalbert’s for a record for Zofia Klaus, starting from December 1891, when she was born, through December 1892. Her sister Anna was born in St. Louis in November 1892, so the logical possibilities based on existing evidence are:

  1. Zofia died in infancy in another parish in Buffalo.
  2. Zofia died in St. Louis.
  3. Zofia died after her family returned to Buffalo circa 1895. At this point all I know is that she was already deceased by 1900.

To rule out the possibility that Zofia was buried from another parish in Buffalo in infancy, I searched the index to deaths from St. Stanislaus Church, Buffalo, NY (online at Family Search) for her death record. Book 2 contains deaths from 1886-1895, and in the index for this book, there were no listings for Klaus at all. Unfortunately, the collection of records available online for Assumption parish (founded in 1888) contains no death records, and similarly, I can’t check St. Casimir’s records, either. So for the moment, this is as thorough as I can be with the Buffalo records prior to 1892.

To rule out the possibility that Zofia died in St. Louis, I searched death records from St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in St. Louis, Missouri, online at Family Search. I searched from December 1891 through the end of 1895, so if she’d died in St. Louis, I should have picked up her death. Nothing found.

To rule out Possibility #3, that Zofia died after her family returned to Buffalo in 1895, I checked the death index from St. Stan’s (Book 3, deaths from 1895-1927), as well as death records from St. Adalbert’s from 1895-1900 (inclusive), but her death was not found. And again, church records from Assumption parish in Buffalo do not include deaths, so those can’t be checked easily.

So, to recap:

  1. Joseph and John Klaus were both born no later than January 1891, when their parents married. Joseph was probably born circa February 1890.
  2. If they were born in Buffalo, they were not baptized in 3 of the 4 Polish Roman Catholic parishes that existed at that time.
  3. If Sophia Klaus died in Buffalo before 1892 (when her sister was born in St. Louis), her death was not recorded in 2 of the 4 Polish Roman Catholic parishes that existed at that time.
  4. Sophia Klaus’s death was not recorded in the Polish Catholic parish in St. Louis where her sisters were baptized, nor was she buried out of St. Stan’s or St. Adalbert’s between 1895 (when her family returned to Buffalo) and 1900 (when she fails to appear in the 1900 census).

Admittedly, my search is still incomplete since I can’t easily check any parish records for St. Casimir’s and the death records from Assumption parish. But it looks to me like the family story about Joseph and John being born in Texas is still entirely possible. I just need to figure out where the family would have lived, and I have a pretty good idea about how to do that. It’s just a matter of time…. so stay tuned!


Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1873-1917, Marriages, 1891, #26, record for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka, accessed 16 August 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), Church records, 1880-1993, Baptisms, 1880-1923, 1892, #127, record for Anna Klaus, FHL film #1872178, accessed 16 August 2017.

1900 U.S. Federal census (population schedule), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 84, sheet 28A, Andro Klano (sic) household, https://familysearch.org, accessed 16 August 2017.

Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008), http://www.ancestry.com, record for Andrzey Klaus, accessed on 16 August 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Adalbert’s Basilica (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1887-1916, Baptisms, 1891, p. 69, record for Sophia Klaus, accessed 16 August 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017


And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: New Discoveries in my Klaus Family Research, Part I

This morning I feel like a genealogical Joshua at the battle of Jericho, because there are brick walls crumbling all over the place. It’s amazing how one discovery can lead to seven more. So many pieces are falling into place that I’m positively giddy, but each answer leads to another question. Today I’d like to tell you about some new discoveries that came about over the past few days as a direct result of the marriage record I found last week for my great-great-grandparents, Andrzej/Andrew Klaus and Marianna/Mary Łącka, in Buffalo, New York. Previously, I wrote about my erroneous assumption that they’d married in Texas, based on the family story (still unproven) that their oldest sons, Joseph and John, were born there. It turns out that their marriage record is already available online, thanks to a recent efforts to digitize all the microfilms from the Family History Library. So without further ado, here is the record for Andrew and Mary Klaus’s marriage (Figures 1a-b).1

Figure 1a: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka (sic), 21 January 1891, page 1.1Andrzej Klaus and Marya Lacka 1891 left crop

Starting with the information on the left side of the register, the record states that the bride and groom were married on 21 January 1891 by Fr. W. Sułek. The groom’s name was recorded as Andrzej Klaus, and he was reported to be the son of Jakób Klaus and Anna Słowik of “Maniowo, Gal.” The page on the right (Figure 1 b) reports that the bride was Marya Łączka (sic), daughter of Jakób Łączki and Anna Ptaszek of Kołaczyce, Galicia. Witnesses were Ludwik Cebulski and Aniela Kośmider.

Figure 1b: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka (sic), 21 January 1891, page 2.1

Andrzej Klaus and Marya Lacka 1891 right crop

Most of this information is nicely consistent with other evidence for this couple. Although the maiden name of the bride’s mother is more often reported as Ptaszkiewicz in records from Poland, the variant form Ptaszek is a close second, used almost as freqently, so it’s not surprising that Mary Klaus might not have been too particular about which form she reported. In fact, she reported her mother’s maiden name as Ptaszkiewicz, rather than Ptaszek, on her second marriage record when she married Władysław Olszanowicz in 1916 after Andrew Klaus’s death in 1914.2,3 In this case, the civil clerk recorded it with an approximately phonetic spelling as “Taskovich” (Figure 2), just as he or she recorded Mary’s maiden name as “Wauske” rather than Łącka.

Figure 2: Extract from marriage record for Władysław Olsanowic (sic) and Mary Klaus, North Tonawanda, New York, 21 November 1916.Wladyslaw Olszanowicz and Mary Klaus

A minor source of concern for me in discovering the marriage record for Andrew and Mary Klaus was the fact that his mother’s name was recorded as Anna Słowik, rather than Franciszka Liguz. Needless to say, those names aren’t even close. However, I’m still confident that I’m tracking the right Klaus family in Polish records. For one thing, Andrew’s date of birth was reported on his death record as 26 November 1866 (Figure 3), which was an important clue.3

Figure 3: Death certificate for Andro (sic) Klaus, 14 June 1914, with date of birth and father’s name highlighted.3Andrew Klaus death certificate marked

Additionally, I’m confident in my identification of Andrew’s birth location as the village of Maniów that’s presently located in Dąbrowa County, Małopolska.  All the records for his children who were baptized at St. Stanislaus parish mentioned some variant of “Maniów,” and there were only 2 places by that name in Galicia, according to Jan Bigo’s 1918 index,.4 However, there were also places called Maniowy and Maniawa, which could arguably have been intended. When faced with a problem like this, the best way to get around it is to keep digging for documentation that references place of birth. In this case, Fr. Kasprzak at St. Stan’s did me a huge favor by recording a slightly different reference to Andrew’s birthplace on the baptismal record for his son, Edward (Figure 4).5

Figure 4: Extract from baptismal record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Edward Klaus, born 11 September 1899, with father’s place of birth underlined in red.5Edward Klaus birth marked

On this record, Andrzej Klaus is noted to be from Szczeciny, and in context with the previous references to Maniów, this can be understood to be a reference to Szczucin, the parish which served the village of Maniów.

Records for this parish, and other parishes in the Diocese of Tarnów, are indexed at Family Search. Granted, this index is far from perfect; in my experience, it contains many inaccuracies and also seems to miss some records. However, a search for Andrew or Andreas (the Latin form of the name) Klaus, born between 1863 and 1867 — not even specifying the father’s name or the precise place of birth — returns only one result that is not only close, it’s nearly perfect: the birth of the Andrzej Klaus whose baptismal record I referenced in my last post (Figure 5):

Figure 5: Search result for Andreas Klaus in index to Tarnów Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books, 1612-1900 at FamilySearch.

Family Search index for Andrew Klaus

The actual record shows a date of birth of 25 November 1865, with baptism one day later, which is a very close match with the birth date that Mary Klaus reported on Andrew’s death certificate, 26 November 1866. The father’s name, Jacobus or Jakub, also matches. So the only problem is that the mother’s name, Franciszka Liguz, doesn’t match the mother’s name, Anna Słowik, that Andrew reported on his marriage record. This brings me to the first new discovery I made after finding this marriage record.

Discovery #1: The marriage record of Tomasz Klaus and Wiktoria Rak

Our ancestors didn’t migrate alone — typically they followed other family members, friends, or neighbors, who had successfully settled in a new place, in a phenomenon known as chain migration. However, until recently I had not found any evidence of other members of the Klaus family living near Andrew and Mary. Since the discovery of this marriage record, I took a closer look at the marriage records for St. Stan’s in Buffalo and discovered the record for Andrew’s brother, Tomasz Klaus, to Wiktoria Rak (Figures 6a and b):6

Figure 6a: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Tomasz Klaus and Wiktorya Rak, 20 November 1900, page 1.Tomasz Klaus and Wiktoria Rak 1900 marked

In this record, the groom is reported to have been born in “Mielecka Wola,” consistent with his known place of birth in Wola Mielecka in present-day Mielec County, Podkarpackie province.

Figure 6b: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Tomasz Klaus and Wiktorya Rak, 20 November 1900, page 2.Tomasz Klaus and Wiktoria Rak 1900 crop left.jpg

The bride, Wiktoria Rak, was born in Jasło, which is the seat of Jasło County in Podkarpackie province. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jasło is very close to her sister-in-law Mary Klaus’s place of birth in Kołaczyce. Tomasz’s parents were recorded as Jakób Klaus and Franciszka Słowik, which is especially interesting in light of the fact that the same maiden name, Słowik, was recorded on Andrew Klaus’s marriage record in 1891. However, in this case, Tomasz reported her given name as Franciszka, consistent with the actual name of Andrew Klaus’s mother, Franciszka Liguz.

Will the Real Franciszka Klaus Please Stand Up?

So why does the name Słowik keep cropping up? Is it possible that Andrew and Tomasz were step-brothers? What do the records in Poland say about Tomasz’s mother? Well, the answer to that is a little complicated. Wola Mielecka, where Tomasz was born, originally belonged to the parish of Książnice, although a new parish, Divine Providence, was recently founded in Wola Mielecka itself. Records from Wola Mielecka, originally created in Książnice, but which currently belong to the new parish, are indexed in Geneteka under the parish name Książnice-Wola Mielecka. A search of birth records for children of Jakub and Franciszka Klaus produces the birth record for Tomasz Klaus in 1872 — but his mother’s name was reported to be Franciszka Nygus (Figure 7). So now how do we reconcile that surname with the surnames of Liguz and Słowik already discovered?

Figure 7: Geneteka search result for birth records mentioning names Jakub Klaus and Franciszka in Książnice-Wola Mielecka between 1786-1915.Geneteka screenshot

A check of the death records which mention the same couple is very enlightening (Figure 8):

Figure 8: Geneteka search result for death records mentioning names Jakub Klaus and Franciszka in Książnice-Wola Mielecka between 1787-1970.

Geneteka screenshot 2

Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the “Uwagi” (Remarks) column reveals that the Helena Klaus who died on 15 August 1878 was born in 1875, suggesting that this is the same Helena Klaus whose mother was reported to be Franciszka Nygus. We can therefore conclude that it was merely an error on the part of the priest when he recorded Franciszka’s name as “Nygus” rather than “Liguz” on Helena’s birth record. It’s clear that Józef, Helena, Paweł, and Tomasz must all be siblings to Andrew Klaus.

It’s still possible that Anna Słowik was Jakub Klaus’s second wife, and stepmother to the Klaus children, which would explain why both Andrew and Tomasz reported that surname on their marriage records in Buffalo. Marriage and death records from Poland will be very helpful here, but I haven’t had a chance to discover any yet. Available evidence suggests that Jakub and Franciszka probably married in Szczucin, rather than Książnice-Wola Mielecka, and unfortunately, records for Szczucin are not yet indexed in Geneteka. Despite its name, FamilySearch’s index to Tarnów Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books, 1612-1900 seems to contain only baptismal records, rather than any marriages or deaths, so Jakub Klaus’s marriage record(s) cannot be discovered there, either. I recently ordered the microfilms for Maniów/Szczucin, but have not had a chance to view them yet because of the limited summer hours of operation of my local Family History Center. So, this question remains on the back burner for now.

I’m still seeking evidence for Tomasz/Thomas and Wiktoria/Victoria Klaus in U.S. records. A probable match for Thomas is buried at St. Stanislaus Cemetery. His Find-A-Grave memorial lacked his years of birth and death, but a quick phone call to the cemetery informed me that he died on 28 December 1911 at the age of 33 years, 5 months, 23 days, and that he was buried from Corpus Christi Church. His age at death suggests a birth date of 5 July 1878. The 1878 birth is a bit off from the 1872 date of birth for Tomasz Klaus in the Geneteka index, but a widow grieving the loss of her husband at a young age might have remembered him to be even younger still by a few years. Thomas and Victoria also show up in the 1910 census, but one would never find them with too restrictive a search, because Thomas’s reported age (and date of birth calculated from that) is wildly inaccurate (Figure 9):

Figure 9: Extract from 1910 U.S. census showing Thomas and Victoria Klaus in the household of John Skowronski (previous page).Thomas and Victoria Klaus census crop

Thomas and Victoria were reported to be living at or near 49 Beck Street in Buffalo, in the household of John and Stella Skowronski and their children. John was reported to be an immigrant from German Poland, while his wife Stella was a Russian Pole. Living with them were several boarders — Stanley Pietrykowski, Walter Ciesielski, Andrew Lisica, and Anthony Skowronski, and Joseph Wypych — whose relationships to the family are unclear. Although Anthony’s surname suggests a relationship to head-of-household John Skowronski, Anthony is marked as a Russian Pole, suggesting that something is amiss in the recording. Things become even more bizarre on the second page. Thomas and Victoria Klaus are correctly noted to be Austrian Poles, yet they are marked as brother and sister to head of household John Skowronski. It’s possible that some relationship might nonetheless exist (e.g. Victoria and Stella Skowronski might be sisters) but the fact that they’re purportedly from different partitions of Poland is odd. Also living in this household were the family of Albert and Alice Rak and their children. Albert and Alice are also marked as brother and sister to head of household John Skowronski, and again, any actual relationship is unclear. Albert Rak was marked as an Austrian Pole, and from his surname, it’s almost certain that he’s a relative of Victoria (née Rak) Klaus, possibly a brother.

Getting back to the entry for Thomas and Victoria, they were reported to be ages 22 and 18, respectively, yet it was noted that they’d been married for 10 years. The suggested marriage year of 1900 fits with their 1900 marriage record from St. Stan’s, but they were unlikely to have been 12 and 8 at the time of their marriage. At this point, there are so many problems with this census record that one cannot help but wonder if the census taker had been hitting the bars prior to his visit to Beck Street. Thomas was reported to have arrived in 1882. However, he would have been just 10 years old at that time, so if this date is accurate (and there is good reason to doubt that) he would have to have traveled with some family member other than his brother Andrew, who didn’t arrive until 1889. He was naturalized, and working as a laborer at street work. Victoria was reported to have arrived in 1897, and was employed in 1910 as a washerwoman for a private family. There were no children from this marriage.

So, there are quite a few avenues for further research to document Thomas Klaus’s story. However, in my next post, I’ll write about a new discovery that sheds light on Andrew and Mary’s Klaus’s story, and also some negative evidence that offers insight into their family history. Stay tuned!


Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1873-1917, Marriages, 1891, #26, record for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka, accessed 7 August 2017.

2New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936, Wladyslaw Olsanowic and Mary Klaus, 21 Nov 1916; citing county clerk’s office, Niagara, New York, United States; FHL microfilm 897,558. accessed on 7 August 2017.

North Tonawanda, Niagara, New York, city clerk’s office, 1914, #82, death certificate for Andro Klaus, 14 June 1914.

4 Jan Bigo, Najnowszy Skorowidz Wszystkich Miejscowości z Przysiółkami
w Królestwie Galicyi, Wielkiem Księstwie Krakowskiem i Księstwie Bukowińskiem

z uwzględnieniem wszystkich dotąd zaszłych zmian terytoryalnych kraju
z oznaczeniem, (Lwów, 1918), p. 100, http://www.mtg-malopolska.org.pl/, accessed 7 August 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1873-1917, Baptisms, 1899, #396, record for Edward Klaus, accessed 7 August 2017.

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, (images and transcription), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 76, Sheet 3A, citing Thomas and Victoria Klaus in John Skowronski household, FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org, accessed 8 August 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017