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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 1

Opening prayers: As usual.

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

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

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

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

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

Fourth decade: My father’s family

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

Fifth decade: My mother’s family

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

Hail, Holy Queen: For my mother

All Souls’ Day Rosary: Version 2

Opening prayers: As usual.

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

Second decade: My paternal grandfather and his family

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

Third decade: My paternal grandmother and her family

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

Fourth decade: My maternal grandfather and his family

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

Fifth decade: My maternal grandmother and her family

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

Hail, Holy Queen: For my mother

Sources:

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Discovering a Majczyk Cousin

This past week, I’ve been busy with Majczyk research again. A woman named Debbie (whose name I’m using with permission) was seeking information on her grandfather, whose name was John Majczyk. An internet search on the surname led her to this blog post, and she found me on Facebook to see if I could help her learn more about her Majczyk ancestry.

Introducing Jan Majczyk

Debbie explained that her grandfather, Jan/John Majczyk, was a carpenter who came to the U.S. in 1913 on board the SS President Lincoln from “Bromidz, Plock, Poland.” She said that he was born on or about 23 June 1895, that he was the son of Antoni Majczyk and Mary Piankoska, and that he had a sister, Josephine, who moved to Michigan. She told me that John settled first in Northeast Pennsylvania before eventually migrating to Buffalo, New York.

Although I had no match for Jan Majczyk already in my tree, this was a very promising lead. My husband’s great-grandmother, Helena (Majczyk) Skolimowska, was born 23 September 1892 in the village of Rostowa, gmina Gradzanowo, Sierpc County, in the Płock province of the Kingdom of Poland (Russian partition), and she also migrated to Buffalo, New York.1 Helena’s father, Stanisław Majczyk, was born in the village of Bromierz, which is in the phonetic ballpark of “Bromidz.”2 Majczyk is not an exceptionally rare surname, but it’s not overly popular, either; circa 1990, there were only 258 bearers of this surname living in Poland.3 There had to be a connection between my husband’s family and Debbie’s.

I began with a quick search on Ancestry to confirm some of the facts Debbie provided. John’s World War II draft card confirmed his date of birth and residence in Buffalo, New York at that time (Figure 1).4

Figure 1: Front side of World War II draft registration card for John Augustine Majczyk, residing in Buffalo, New York.

His passenger manifest confirmed his arrival date, 22 April 1913 on the SS President Lincoln (Figure 2).5

Figure 2: First page of passenger manifest for Jan Majczik (sic), arriving 22 April 1913. Click to view larger image.

To briefly summarize the data from the manifest, Jan Majczyk (or Majczik, as the name was recorded here) was a 17-year-old single male, and an ethnic Polish citizen of Russia whose last permanent residence was recorded as “Falenczyn.” His nearest relative in the country from whence he came was noted to be his father, Anton Majczik, living in Falenczyn. Anton’s name would be Antoni in Polish, but was probably recorded in German because Jan embarked on his voyage from the port of Hamburg in Germany. He was headed to Wyandotte, Michigan, to a cousin named Franz (Franciszek, in Polish) Barczewski, living at 357 (?) Oak Street in Wyandotte, Michigan. This information appears on the second page of the manifest, not shown here. Jan’s place of birth was also recorded as Falenczyn.

Finding Falenczyn

The father’s name, Anton/Antoni, was consistent with Debbie’s information that Jan was the son of Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Piankoska. The fact that he was headed to Michigan was also not surprising, in light of the family story that a sister, Josephine, lived there. Additionally, the name, arrival date, age, ship’s name, etc. all lined up, allowing me to be certain that the Jan Majczyk described in this manifest was Debbie’s grandfather. The only significant discrepancy was the place of birth: this document stated that Jan was born in “Falenczyn,” while Debbie’s information was that he was born in “Bromidz, Plock, Poland.”

However, this discrepancy was quickly resolved with a look at the map. “Falenczyn” is phonetically similar in Polish to “Falęcin,” which you can hear if you plug both spellings into Google Translate and click the sound icon on the Polish input (left) side. There’s a village called Falęcin that’s located about 14 km/9 miles to the southeast of Bromierz where my husband’s Majczyk family originated (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Google Map showing locations of Bromierz and Falęcin, both located in Płock County. Click image for interactive map.

The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, an index of places located within the Kingdom of Poland (Russian partition), published in 1877, shows an older spelling of Falęcin that is more similar to the spelling found on the manifest (Figure 4).6

Figure 4: Detail from the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego showing places called Falencin that were located within the borders of the Kingdom of Poland circa 1877.

This entry states that the village of Falencin/Falęcin located near Bromierz was formerly located in gmina Staroźreby, powiat Płocki (Płock County), in the Płock gubernia (province). Today the administrative assignments are similar (gmina Staroźreby, Płock County, Mazowieckie province), though it’s entirely possible that the gmina and powiat borders may not be the same now as they were then. Of special significance for locating vital records is the parish to which the village was assigned, Daniszewo. The next stop was the Polish vital records database, Geneteka, to see what indexed records were available for this parish.

The Quest for Jan’s Birth Record

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, Geneteka does not have indexed birth records for Daniszewo for the period necessary to locate Jan Majczyk’s birth record (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Search result from Geneteka for birth records for Jan Majczyk in the parish of Daniszewo.

However, it was still possible that a scan of Jan’s birth record was online somewhere, even if it was not indexed in Geneteka, so I quickly checked a few places to see if that was the case. Metryki has no scans from Daniszewo. FamilySearch has a collection of civil transcripts of Roman Catholic birth records for Daniszewo that are digitized, although access to most of these records is restricted to the local Family History Center or Affiliate Library. However, the relevant collection, “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1900,” only includes birth records (Akta urodzeń) up to 1891.

The Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku (state archive in Płock) has the motherlode of vital records for Daniszewo, including a collection from 1826–1935, which spans the period when Jan Majczyk was born. Some of these registers (1826–1865, 1880–1888) are digitized at Szukajwarchiwach. However, records from 1895 are not digitized, which suggests that Jan’s birth record can only be obtained by writing to the archive. Nonetheless, I checked one final site, GenBaza, just in case they might have some scans from Daniszewo. Alas, they did not.

Digging Deeper in Daniszewo

Although it would have been nice to find Jan Majczyk’s birth record, further research was still possible without it. Debbie stated that Jan’s parents were Antoni Majczyk and Mary Piankoska, and a search of marriage records from Daniszewo for these names produced indexed marriage records for three of their daughters (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Search result from Geneteka for marriage records in Daniszewo with given names Antoni and Marianna and surname Majczyk.

Although the mother’s maiden name was spelled “Pijankowska” in these entries, rather than “Piankoska,” this was a good phonetic match, which also identified three “new” sisters for Jan Majczyk—Helena, Marianna, and Czesława—all of whom were married in Daniszewo between 1909 and 1916. In the two entries for which additional information was provided through the “i” infodot in the “Remarks” column, it stated that the bride was born in Bromierz, bringing us closer to closing the circle and finding the connection between Debbie’s Majczyk family and my husband’s Majczyks.

Marriage records from Daniszewo were indexed in Geneteka from 1754–1916 with only two small gaps from missing records in 1766 and 1820. With no gaps in coverage during the time when Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska were married, and no marriage record produced by the above-mentioned search, it was clear that they must have been married in some other parish. Expanding the search to include all indexed parishes within 15 km of Daniszewo did not help matters. However, a search in all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province, turned up the result shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Search result from Geneteka for a marriage record for given names Antoni and Marianna, and surname Majczyk, in all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province.

The index entry stated that Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska were married in 1884 in the parish of Bielsk. The groom was the son of Jacenty Majczyk and Katarzyna Łukaszewska, while the bride was the daughter of Mikołaj Pijankowski and Agnieszka Wąchowska. The added information from the infodot stated that the bride was from Szewce and that the marriage took place on 30 January 1884. Since the index entry was linked to a scan, I clicked through to the original record, which is shown in Figure 8.7

Figure 8: Marriage record from the parish in Bielsk for Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska, 30 January 1884.

The record is in Russian, which was the official language required as of 1868 in this area, and I read it as follows.

This happened in the posad of Bielsk on the eighteenth/thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred eighty four at four o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Jan Urbański, thirty-three years, and Jan Matusiak, age thirty-nine, both farmers residing in Szewce—on this day a religious marriage was accomplished between Antoni Majczyk, bachelor, son of Jacenty and Katarzyna née Łukaszeska, the spouses Majczyk, born in Bromierz and therein now living with parents, twenty-five years of age; and Marianna Pijankoska, unmarried, daughter of the deceased Mikołaj and his wife, as yet living, Agnieszka née Wąchoska, the spouses Pijankoski; born in Szewce and therein now living, twenty-two years of age. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the thirteenth, twentieth, and twenty-seventh days of January of the current year in the parish churches of Bielsk and Rogotwórsk. Permission for the marriage was given orally by the father of the groom. The newlyweds stated that they made a prenuptial agreement on the thirteenth/twenty-fifth day of January one thousand eight hundred eighty-four, number eighty-five, before Notary Lubowidzki of Płock. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Reverend Jan Trzciński, pastor of Bielsk parish. This Act was read and signed only by Us; those present are unable to write. Keeper of the Civil Registry and Pastor of Bielsk Parish, Jan Trzciński.

Thanks to Monika Deimann-Clemens for her assistance in proofreading this translation.

The full text of the marriage record provides a number of details that were not included in the indexed entry. The groom, Antoni, was born in Bromierz circa 1859, based on his age at the time of his marriage. The bride, Marianna, was born circa 1862 in Szewce. As an amazing stroke of luck, Antoni and Marianna signed a premarital agreement on 25 January 1884 in Płock with the notary Lubowidzki. These premarital agreements can be goldmines of information if the notarial records have survived. It’s always been my dream to find one of these for my own ancestors (see this blog post), but I have thus far been unsuccessful. In this case, however, notarial deeds from 1871–1906 from Antoni Lubowidzki of Płock have survived and are available from the Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku, so a copy of this premarital agreement can be ordered from the archive.

Making the Connection

Having inched one generation further toward a possible connection, the focus turned to Antoni’s father, Jacenty (Hyacinth, in English) Majczyk. He was not in my family tree, either. However, one quick Geneteka search was all that it took to connect the dots (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Search result from Geneteka for a marriage record for Jac* Majczyk in all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province.

I set up the search in marriage records from all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province for “Jac*” Majczyk” (to ensure inclusion of results for both Jacenty and its contemporary form, Jacek). In addition to turning up marriage records for three sisters of Antoni Majczyk—Józefa, Pelagia, and Julia—the search produced the marriage record needed to connect my husband’s family and Debbie’s. The index entry for the marriage of Jacenty Majczyk and Katarzyna Łukasiak (an etymological equivalent to Łukaszewska) from Rogotwórsk revealed that they were married on 15 January 1843, that they were from Bromierz, and that Jacenty Majczyk was the son of Jakub Majczyk and Jadwiga Mędlowska.

Bingo!

Jakub Majczyk and Jadwiga Mędlowska (or Mędlewska) were my husband’s great-great-great-great-grandparents. That makes Debbie a fourth cousin once removed to my husband, and a fourth cousin to my father-in-law, whose Majczyk line runs through Jacenty’s younger brother, Józef Majczyk. To put it another way, my husband’s great-grandmother, Helena (Majczyk) Skolimowska would have been second cousins with her fellow immigrant, Jan Majczyk (Debbie’s grandfather) when both of them settled in Buffalo, New York. Were they aware of their relationship, I wonder? Had they ever met in Poland or in the U.S.?

Jacenty and Katarzyna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 10.8

Figure 10: Marriage record from the parish in Rogotwórsk for Jacenty Mayczyk and Katarzyna Łukasiakówna, 15 January 1843.

The record is in Polish, and my translation is as follows:

“No. 1. Bromierz. This happened in Rogotwórsk on the third/fifteenth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred forty-three at two o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Mikołaj Dłabik, a land-owning farmer, age sixty, and Rafał Drygalski, a mason, having forty-five years of age, both residents of Bromierz—on this day a religious marriage was accomplished between the upright Jacenty Mayczyk, bachelor, son of Jakób and Jadwiga née Mędlowska, the spouses Mayczyk, born in Bromierz on the seventeenth day of August in the year one thousand eight hundred twenty-one, living with his parents in Bromierz; and Miss Katarzyna Łukasiakówna, daughter of the deceased Roch and Konegunda, the spouses Łukasiak, born in Zdziar Wielki, having twenty-four years of age, living in Bromierz as a servant. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the twentieth, twenty-seventh days of December of the year one thousand eight hundred forty-two, and the third day of January of the current year/first, eighth, and fifteenth days of January of the current year on Sundays in the parish of Rogotwórsk, likewise by the oral permission of those present at the Marriage Act, the parents of the groom and the aunt of the bride. There were no impediments to the marriage. The newlyweds declared that they had made no premarital agreement. This document was read to the declarants and witnesses who are unable to write, and was signed by us.”

EDIT: Thanks to Roman Kałużniacki and Anna Kessling for helpful editions and discussion of this translation.

Even though this record is in Polish, and the preceding marriage record is in Russian, you can see how they follow the same formula. This is what makes vital records relatively easy to learn to translate, even without proficiency in Polish or Russian. The unusually awkward recording of dates in this record is due to the convention of double dating; that is, providing dates according to both the Julian calendar, used in Russia, and the Gregorian calendar, used by Poles and western Europe, and used by us today. In the 19th century, there were 12 days between the Julian and Gregorian dates, and the later date is the one we cite. Therefore, we’d say that the marriage took place on 15 January 1843 and the banns were announced on 1 January, 8 January, and 15 January.

Epilogue

When Debbie first contacted me to inquire about her grandfather, the name “John Majczyk” didn’t immediately ring any bells. However, in reviewing my Majczyk research notes, I noticed that I had discovered him previously, and wondered about a possible connection (Figure 11).

Figure 11: Screenshot from my Majczyk research notes showing entry from 21 November 2001, pertaining to John Majczyk.

Who knew that, 20 years later, we’d have an answer to this question? And who knows what progress can be made with our Majczyk research, given another 20 years!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Sources:

1 Roman Catholic Church, Gradzanowo Kościelne (Gradzanowo, Żuromin, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie, 1873–1907,” 1892, Urodzenia [births], no. 98, Helena Majczyk, 23 September 1892; digital image, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 23 February 2022), Zespół 0619/D-, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie, Sygnatura 76/619/0.

2 Roman Catholic Church, Rogotwórsk (Rogotwórsk, Płock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Rogotwórsku, 1826-1917,” 1860, Urodzenia [births], no. 37, Stanisław Majczyk; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://szukajwarchiwach.pl/50/159/0/-/65/skan/full/yD_N2CH4hl_7FF3PNvsoAg : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/159/0/-/65, image 8 of 33.

3 Słownik nazwisk (database), Serwis heraldyczno-genealogiczny (http://herby.com.pl/ : 23 February 2022), Nazwisko [surname] “Majczyk,” Ogólna liczba [total number] 258; citing Kazimierz Rymut, Słownika nazwisk współcześnie w Polsce używanych [Dictionary of Surnames Used in Poland Today]. Data from circa 1990.

4 “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 February 2022), John Augustine Majczyk, serial no. U2637, order no. unspecified, Draft Board 625, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York; citing The National Archives At St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri, World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) For the State of New York; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group no. 147, Box or Roll no. 379.

5 Manifest, SS President Lincoln, arriving 22 April 1913, list 36, line 10, Jan Majczik; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com : 22 February 2022), citing Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.

6 I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p 145, “Falencin,” digital images, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 23 February 2022).

7 Roman Catholic Church, Bielsk parish (Bielsk, Płock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej Bielsk powiat plocki, 1826-1918,” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1884, marriages, no. 5, Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska; digital image, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/137/0/-/113, scan 78 of 142, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku.

8 Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Rogotwórsk, Plock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Rogotwórsku, 1826-1914,” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1843, marriages, no. 1, Jacenty Mayczyk and Katarzyna Lukasiakówna, 15 January 1843; digital image, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/159/0/-/34, scan 20 of 39.

On the Trail of Stanisław Majczyk!

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

The Party of the First Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kondzik in Geneteka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Party of the Second Part

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

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

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

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

The record is in Russian, and states in translation,

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

The Snag

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

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

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

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

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

Geneteka to the Rescue, Again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Full Circle

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

 

 

 

 

More Translation Tips: Resources for Surnames and Place Names

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

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

The Słownik Nazwisk database

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

Geneteka

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

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

Magnificent Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Gazetteers

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

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

Kosiny in SKP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020