The Mysterious Wanda Gruberska: A Genetic Genealogy Success Story

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

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

The ABCs of DNA

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

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

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

The Zarzycki and Gruberski families of Bronisławy and Błędów

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

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

marianna-zarzycka-and-jozef-gruberski-1874

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matchmaker, Matchmaker….

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

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

Figure 4b:  gedmatch-2

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

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

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

The Sad Tale of Wanda Gruberska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

 

 

Godparents: Ideal Candidates for Analysis Via the FAN Principle

Who were your ancestors’ FANS?  Genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills first suggested this handy acronym for Family, Associates, and Neighbors and explained, “To prove identity, origin and parentage, study individuals in the context of their FAN club.”1 When it comes to researching my Catholic ancestors, some of my favorite FANS include the godparents that are named on their children’s baptismal records.

Why Godparents?

According to Catholic Canon Law, godparents must be baptized and confirmed members of the Catholic Church who have received the Eucharist.  They must also be at least 16 years of age, although exceptions can be granted, and they may not be the same as the parents.  Typically there is one godfather and one godmother, although sometimes additional godparents were named, especially for the baptism of a noble child.  Godparents were often relatives of the child, as is still the practice today, although there is no requirement for this, and it’s not uncommon for parents to ask close friends to serve as godparents.  Depending on the family culture, godparents might be a married couple, or one might come from the father’s side of the family and one from the mother’s side.  The role of godparents is to provide spiritual support to the parents as they raise their child in the Catholic faith, and some families have an understanding that the godparents will assume financial responsibility for the child in the event of the parents’ death.  Since this is such an important role, godparents are clearly worthy of some of our attention as genealogists.

Godparents are also especially noteworthy as FANs because at least one of them is always a woman, which can provide clues about women’s married names in the era before women were commonly named as legal witnesses. Let’s examine some of the ways in which godparents can shed some light on questions of identity in genealogical problems.

The Naciążek Family, Revisited

In my last post, I wrote about my great-great-grandmother, Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, the frustrating lack of birth, marriage or death records for her, and why it’s possible that her birth and marriage records might no longer exist, based on where those events were likely to have taken place.  I also examined evidence regarding a contemporary of hers named Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska, who is likely to be a relative based on the rarity of the surname and the geographic proximity of her village of residence to that of Antonina.  However, one piece of evidence I did not examine in that post was the issue of godparents:  If Antonina Zarzycka and Marianna Kowalska were cousins or even sisters, as I suspect, then one would expect each of them to be named as a godmother to a child or children of the other.  So what do the records say?

Unfortunately, there are no baptismal records available for the five known children of Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska.  That leaves the baptismal records for the eleven children of Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, which are summarized in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Summary of Godparents of Children of Ignacy Zarzycki and Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka.figure-1

 

And there we have it — the “smoking gun” is the godmother of Florentyna Zarzycka — Marianna Kowalska.  Kowalski (in combination with the feminine form of the name, Kowalska) is a very popular surname, and if we were to consider only the names of the godparents in absence of other data, it would not be obvious which Marianna Kowalska was meant here.  However, in light of the other evidence that Antonina had a cousin or sister with this name who lived nearby, it seems likely that these Marianna Kowalskas are one and the same.

So who are these other godparents?  There is documentary evidence that Ignacy Zarzycki had just three siblings:  a brother Wincenty, and twin siblings Wojciech and Wiktoria.  Wiktoria’s first husband was Ludwik Karol Pszenicki, and Wojciech’s wife was Aniela Tempińska,. so it’s reasonable to conclude that those four godparents — Aniela Zarzycka, Wojciech Zarzycki, Wincenty Zarzycki, and Wiktoria Pszenicka — were siblings to Ignacy Zarzycki by blood or marriage.

Unfortunately, for the rest of the list, there are no obvious matches to known members of the Zarzycki family, and certainly not to the Naciążek family, about whom we know so little.  At first glance, Marianna Marcinkowska’s name stood out as a possible clue. As discussed in my previous post, Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska was remarried to Stanisław Marcinkowski in Giżyce in 1881. However, it’s obvious that the timing does not work for this to be the same person as Tomasz’s godmother, since he was born in 1856, 25 years earlier.  Given the propensity for families to intermarry in those days, the fact that the Marcinkowski family was associated with the Naciążek family may still be significant. None of the other surnames mentioned were associated with the Naciążek family (0r any variant of that surname) in any of the indexed records in Geneteka, anywhere in Mazowieckie province.

It’s still possible that these other godparents might be related to the Zarzycki/Naciążek family, and that the proof of the relationships lies in records that simply have not yet been indexed, or in records that no longer exist.  However, it’s also possible that some of these godparents were merely good friends of Ignacy and Antonina, which is the clear drawback of godparent analysis.  Some of the godparents’ surnames (e.g. Zieliński) are so common that, in absence of any direct evidence, it will be difficult to tie them to the Zarzycki/Naciążek family with any degree of certainty.  Some of them, like Bugajka, are tantalizingly rare, and it’s fascinating to note that one of the only parishes in which this surname is found in Geneteka is Sochaczew, which is one of the two parishes that seems to be associated with my Naciążek family (Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Geneteka search results for death records with the Bugajka surname in Mazowieckie province.figure-1

Could it be that Antonina Naciążek had a sister named Jadwiga who married a Bugajka, and it is she who was named as godmother to Józef Zarzycki in 1859?  Might she even be a daughter-in-law to one of the widows whose deaths are reported here?  It’s possible, maybe even probable, but at present, there’s not enough evidence to draw any conclusions.  My family should have no reason to wonder why I have insomnia some nights.

Speaking of insomnia-provoking questions, who the heck was Weronika Jaroszewska, and why was she named as godmother to three of Antonina’s children?  Another question for another sleepless night.

To sum up, in this example, we hypothesized that two women were siblings, predicted that they should be named as godmothers to each other’s children if that hypothesis were true, and then examined the evidence, which supported the hypothesis.  In my next post, I’ll offer an example of how this sort of analysis can also be used in reverse, to suggest a mother’s maiden name in absence of direct evidence for that.  In the meantime, happy researching!

Sources:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012, p. 1.

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

3 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 Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1855-1862,” 1859, #15, baptismal record for Józef Zarzycki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1861, #36, baptismal record for Florentyna Zarzecka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1863, # 72, baptismal record for Aniela Zarzecka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1866, #27, baptismal record for Jan Zarzycki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,” 1868, #67, baptismal record for Joanna Walentyna Zarzycka.

10 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1863-1869,”1869, #93, baptismal record for Karol Zarzycki.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1870-1880,” 1872, #15, baptismal record for Roman Aleksander Zarzycki.

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1870-1880,”1876, #87, baptismal record for Leonard Zarzycki.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

 

 

In search of Antonina Naciążek: Mining Geneteka for Clues in Absence of Direct Evidence

The year is drawing to a close. 2017 lies before us, all shiny and new, like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.  Like many of us in the genealogical community, I find New Year’s Eve to be a great time to reflect on the research triumphs and frustrations of the past year, and to make research plans for the coming year. When it comes to genealogical New Year’s resolutions, there are so many ancestors I’d like to learn more about, so many families that I’d like to understand better in their cultural and historical context.  But one of them in particular is at the top of my research to-do list for 2017:  Antonina Naciążek.

Antonina was my great-great-grandmother, notable because she is my only great-great-grandparent about whom I know little more than her name.  My first encounter with her was through the marriage record of her son (my great-grandfather), John Zazycki (Figure 1):

Figure 1:  Marriage record for John Zarzycki and Veronica Grzesiak from Buffalo, New York, 5 August 1901.jan-weronika-zazyki-marriage-1

Subsequent research turned up John’s baptismal record in the parish of Rybno, Sochaczew County, Poland, where her name is spelled “Antoniny z Raciążków” (Antonina née Raciążek, Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Baptismal record for Jan Zarzycki, Rybno parish, 5 March 1866.jan-zarzycki-birth-1866

Anyone who’s been doing genealogy for a while is familiar with the inconsistencies in surname spellings that frequently crop up in records prior to the 20th century, and Polish records are no exception.  Typically, however, the variations that one sees revolve around a common root with different endings, e.g. Grzesiak can become Grzeszak, Grzeszkiewicz, Grześkiewicz, etc.  So I was a little surprised to see Maciążek become Raciążek.  In fact, as further evidence accumulated and additional birth, marriage and death records for Antonina’s children were discovered, the most common variant of Antonina’s surname that emerged was Naciążek.  Naciążek appeared in the documents a total of 9 times, while Raciążek appeared 7 times, and Maciążek appeared just twice.

Unfortunately, I have yet to obtain any documentation that indicates Antonina’s parents’ names.  Based on the birth records for her children, I estimate that Antonina was born circa 1828 and married Ignacy Zarzycki circa 1849.  Her children all seem to have been born in the village of Bronisławy and baptized in St. Bartholomew’s church in Rybno.  However, she herself must have been from another parish, because neither her birth or marriage record, nor her death record, was found in the records of Rybno at either the parish or the local civil records office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, or USC).  A search of Geneteka for Naciążek, Raciążek and Maciążek anywhere in Mazowieckie province failed to produce any birth records for an Antonina born circa 1828.  So where was Antonina from?  Who were her parents?  She was last mentioned as a surviving widow in the marriage record of her youngest son, Leonard Zarzycki, in 1904, so she must have died after that time.  But where?

Geneteka reveals exactly one record that might give us a clue regarding this family’s origins. Figure 3 shows the results of a search of marriage records in Rybno for the Naciążek surname.  Searches for Maciążek and Raciążek produced no results, nor were there any birth or death records for Rybno associated with any of these surnames, apart from records pertaining to known children of Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka.

Figure 3:  Geneteka search results for the Naciążek surname in marriage records for Rybno parish.roch-kowalski-marriage

Of the four records shown, numbers 1, 3 and 4 pertain to known children of Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka.  However, record #2 (boxed in red) is for the marriage of Roch Kowalski to Anastazja Błaszczak.  Further examination of that record (Figure 4) reveals that Roch was “….born and residing in the village of Giżyce, son of the late Aleksander and still-living Marianna née Naciążek, the spouses Kowalski” (text underlined in red), and that he was age 26, suggesting a birth year of about 1877.

Figure 4:  Excerpt of marriage record of Roch Kowalski and Anastazja Błaszczak in Rybno parish, 2 February 1903.  roch-kowalski-marriage-excerpt

Since Roch Kowalski was a contemporary of Antonina Zarzycka’s children, it stands to reason that Roch’s mother was of the same generation as Antonina herself.  Since the parish of Giżyce is located just 8.2 km (about 5 miles) from Bronisławy, and since Naciążek is a relatively rare surname, both in the present-day and historically, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that Antonina and Marianna were related, perhaps even sisters.

Records for the parish in Giżyce are indexed on Geneteka from 1810-1905 with some significant gaps.  One such gap exists from 1826-1890 — during the time when Antonina Naciążek is most likely to have been born (1828-1829).  However, there is a rather tantalizing birth record in 1824 in Giżyce for a Marianna Naciążek, daughter of Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska.  Could this be the same Marianna Naciążek who married Aleksander Kowalski?

Frustratingly, a province-wide search using both the Naciążek and Kowalski surnames does not produce a marriage record for Marianna and Aleksander, which would hopefully reveal Marianna’s parents’ names, nor does it produce Marianna’s death record.  However, it does produce marriage records for four additional children of that couple (Figure 5):

Figure 5:  Geneteka search results for marriage records in Mazowieckie province that contain both the Naciążek and Kowalski surnames.naciazek-kowalski-marriages

Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the column after “Naz. matki” indicates that Józefa Kowalska, Ignacy Kowalski, Ludwik Kowalski, and Stanisław Kowalski were all siblings of Roch Kowalski and children of Marianna Naciążek and Aleksander Kowalski.  Examination of the three records for which scans are available indicates that Józefa and Ignacy were also born in Giżyce.

Note that the search result for Józefa Kowalska’s marriage notes an alternate spelling of her mother’s maiden name, “Naciąszek.” Geneteka’s search algorithms do not automatically recognize Naciąszek and Naciążek as phonetic equivalents, so Naciąszek must be searched separately.  This subsequent search in Geneteka for Naciąszek produces an  especially intriguing result: a marriage record in Giżyce for Stanisław Marcinkowski and Marianna Kowalska in 1881 (Figure 6).

Figure 6:  Geneteka search result for Naciąszek surname in Mazowieckie province.marcinkowski-kowalska-marriage

The marriage record itself verifies that this is indeed “our” Marianna Kowalska, widow of Aleksander (Figure 7):

marcinkowski-kowalski-marriage-1856

The underlined text in Russian and Polish reads, “…Marianna Kowalska née Naciąszek, widow of Aleksander Kowalski [who] died in the village of Giżyce in the year 1878; born in the village of Czerwonka, now in Giżyce… residing, age 44.”

Pay dirt!  Although this record does not tell us the names of Marianna’s parents, it does tell us where and when she was born.  Czerwonka is a village that belongs to the parish in Sochaczew, and her age at the time of her second marriage suggests a birth year of 1837.  Clearly, this Marianna can’t be the same as the Marianna Naciąszek born in 1824 in Giżyce. Figure 8 shows the location of all these villages in relation to each other in Sochaczew County.

Figure 8:  Geographic  locations of Giżyce, Bronisławy, Sochaczew and Czerwonka.map-of-czerwonka

Records for Sochaczew are indexed in Geneteka, but unfortunately, there is no perfect match for a Marianna Naciąszek or Naciążek born in 1837 in Czerwonka.  However, there is a reasonably close match:  the birth of a Florentyna Marianna Naciążek in 1836 in Czerwonka, daughter of…. (dramatic music!)…..Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska, the same couple who were the parents of the other Marianna Naciążek who was born in Giżyce in 1824! If the Marianna who was born in 1824 died prior to 1836, it’s possible that her parents would have honored her by naming a sibling Florentyna Marianna but calling her Marianna.  So maybe she’s our bride of Aleksander Kowalski?  Unfortunately — and frustratingly — there is no marriage record to prove it, nor is there a death record for the Marianna who was born in 1824.

 

Let’s take a moment to recap what we know so far:

  • Only one other Naciążek record exists in Rybno parish, where Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka lived.
  • That record is a marriage record for Roch Kowalski, born in Giżyce, son of Marianna Naciążek and Aleksander Kowalski.
  • Roch Kowalski is the same generation as Antonina Zarzycka’s children, suggesting that Marianna Naciążek is of the same generation as Antonina, perhaps even her sister.
  • Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska’s second marriage record reveals her place of birth as Czerwonka (Sochaczew parish) in 1837 and her place of residence as Giżyce.
  • The closest match for Marianna’s birth in the records of Sochaczew parish is for a Florentyna Marianna Naciążek, born in Czerwonka in 1836, daughter of Mateusz and Petronela (née Trawińska).
  • Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska were parents to another daughter named Marianna Naciążek born in Giżyce in 1824.  Although the Trawiński surname is fairly common, the relative rarity of the Naciążek surname makes it likely that this is the same couple as the one mentioned in the records in Sochaczew.

So, the focus is definitely on Giżyce and Sochaczew for the births and marriages of both Antonina Naciążek and her putative sister, Marianna Naciążek. Marriages for Sochaczew are indexed on Geneteka from 1826-1835,and 1879-1901, leaving a gap when Antonina and Marianna would have married, which would explain why her marriage record does not show up in the Geneteka index. Geneteka’s indexed birth records for Sochaczew cover 1781-1802, 1826-1841, 1849-1864, 1868-1870, and 1874-1884. So Antonina’s birth in 1828-1829 should be there, if she were born in Sochaczew.

But what if Antonina were born in Giżyce, and not Sochaczew?  Geneteka has births indexed for Giżyce for 1810, 1823-1825, and 1891-1905, so there’s a gap for both 1828  when Antonina would have been born, and also for 1849, which is approximately when she would have married. Unfortunately, in reviewing the available ranges of years for available records for both Sochaczew and Giżyce on LDS microfilm and at the Polish State Archives, the hope of identifying Antonina’s and Marianna’s parents definitively seems slim. It appears that Geneteka has indexed all the existing records for these parishes, so the records needed to fill those gaps no longer exist.  One of my goals for the new year is to have a researcher in Poland confirm this for me, and verify that there are no additional records available for either of these parishes at the parishes themselves or in a diocesan archive. Even if those early records are gone, and Antonina’s birth and marriage records are lost forever, it should still be possible to track down her death record after 1904, so that’s on my agenda, too.

If you’re like me, you like wringing every last drop of information from a data set, particularly in cases like this where data are limited.  So what else can Geneteka tell us about the Naciążeks in Giżyce and Sochaczew? Figure 9 shows Naciążek births in indexed records for all of Mazowieckie province.

Figure 9:  Geneteka search result for Naciążek births in Mazowieckie province.naciazek-births-in-mazowieckie

I’ve underlined the ones in red that I believe pertain to the same family.  Notice that the father’s name is sometimes recorded as Mateusz and sometimes recorded as Maciej.  This might be an artifact of the transcription and translation process.  Based on my experience with the records from Sochaczew for this time period, these records are likely to be in Latin, and those names in Latin might be written as Mattheus or Matthias — potentially difficult to differentiate if the handwriting is bad.  It’s also possible that the priest used either spelling indiscriminately, especially since he seems to have been a bit careless with Petronela’s name, which is recorded as Trawińska in most of the records, but as Slawińska in one of them.  Copies of these records are available from the Diocesan Archive in Łowicz, and I plan to order those in the New Year, so hopefully the originals can shed some light on this.

Based on these data, and data from the death records as well, a clearer image of the Naciążek family’s timeline emerges:

  • 1824:  Daughter Marianna born in Giżyce.
  • 1826:  Son Michał born in Sochaczew. (Note that Michał’s birth is recorded twice in the index, as record #134 and record #136.  Information contained in the infodot reveals that #134 is the Latin church record while #136 is the Polish-language civil copy.)
  • 1832:  Son Stanisław Andrzej born in Sochaczew.
  • 1834:  Son Ignacy born in Sochaczew.  (Again, both the Latin church version and the Polish civil copy are available for this record.)
  • 1836:  Daughter Florentyna Marianna born in Sochaczew.
  • 1837:  Son Ignacy dies in Sochaczew.
  • 1840:  Son Jan dies in Sochaczew.  Jan is noted to be 6 days old, and birth records for Sochaczew exist for the time of his birth, so it’s unclear whether his birth record is missing due to an omission by the priest or by the indexer.

If great-great-grandma Antonina does, in fact, belong to this family, her birth would fit into that 6-year-gap between Michał’s birth in 1826 and Stanisław Andrzej’s birth in 1832. Since her birth was not captured in the records for Sochaczew, it’s possible that the family returned to Giżyce for that time period.

One final record worth noting that pertains to the Naciążek family in Sochaczew and Giżyce is the marriage record in 1826 of Franciszek Naciążek and Marianna Kowalska.  (Figure 10).

Figure 10:  Geneteka search results for Naciążek marriages in Mazowieckie province.franciszek-and-marianna-naciazek

Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the “uwagi” column reveals that the groom, Franciszek Naciążek, was from Giżyce although the wedding took place in the bride’s parish in Sochaczew. Franciszek and Marianna could also be potential parents for Antonina Naciążek, although they seem to disappear from the records.  They are not mentioned as parents on any of the indexed birth records in Mazowieckie, and the only other mention of them is in Marianna’s death record in Sochaczew in 1844.

Despite the lack of direct evidence concerning Antonina Naciążek, the indexed records in Geneteka offer a powerful tool for gathering hints about her possible family origins.  While it’s disappointing that Antonina’s birth and marriage records may no longer exist, there’s still some hope of finding her death record, and Sochaczew and Giżyce would be logical places to look for it.  Maybe 2017 will be my lucky year in terms of locating that document, and maybe I’ll get even luckier and it will include her parents’ names, so I can know for certain whether Antonina Naciążek is the daughter of Mateusz and Petronela (née Trawińska) Naciążek. May 2017 be a lucky year for your genealogical research as well. Here’s to finding our dead ancestors!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016

 

 

 

Walter Wed Where? Wow! A Genealogical Breakthrough

The sweetest victories are the ones that took the longest time in coming.  A couple days ago, I happened upon some documents that fundamentally changed my understanding of my Grzesiak family history, documents I’ve been seeking for many years.  So there is some major happy dancing going on in the Szczepankiewicz house today, albeit limited to just one of its residents.

The Grzesiaks of Kowalewo-Opactwo and Buffalo, New York

In a previous post, I wrote a little about the family of my great-grandmother, Veronica (née Grzesiak) Zazycki.  Veronica immigrated from the little village of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County to Buffalo, New York, where she was eventually joined by three of her siblings:  Władysław (“Walter”), Tadeusz/Thaddeus, and Józefa/Josephine.  Regarding Veronica’s oldest brother, Grandma told me that Walter had married an actress in Poland, whose name Grandma remembered as “Wanda,” but she didn’t want to leave her career, so he left her and came to the U.S. without her. There were no children from this marriage.

When I began to look for documentation for these family stories, I realized the situation wasn’t exactly as Grandma had portrayed it.  The 1900 census (Figure 1) shows the Grzesiak family all living on Mills Street in Buffalo, consisting of patriarch Joseph, sons Władysław and Thaddeus, daughter Jozefa, and daughter-in-law Casimira — Walter’s wife of two years.  Clearly, Walter’s wife DID come to Buffalo, rather than staying in Poland while he left without her – but her name was Casimira, not Wanda. The census goes on to state that at that time, she was the mother of 0 children, 0 now living, consistent with family reports.

Figure 1:  Extract from the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, showing the Grzesiak family.1900 United States Federal Census - Kazimira Grzesiak

In the 1905 New York State Census (Figure 2), Walter and Casimira were still living in Buffalo, so the marriage lasted at least 7 years.  Subsequent records (e.g. the 1940 Census) do indeed show Walter as divorced or a widower.

Figure 2:  Extract from 1905 New York State Census showing Walter and Casimira Grzesiak.1905 NY State Census for Walter Grzesiak

Walter’s death certificatereports his ex-wife’s name as “Katarzyna Dutkiewicz (Figure 3), and the informant was his brother, Thaddeus.

Figure 3:  Extract from Walter Grzesiak’s death certifcate.Katarzyna Dutkiewicz

Clearly, Thaddeus made a mistake with the first name, reporting it as Katarzyna (Katherine) instead of Kazimiera/Casimira.   So how much faith should we put in his version of her maiden name, Dutkiewicz?  Death records are often viewed with some circumspection, since someone other than the deceased is providing the information, and that person might be grieving or in shock.  However, it was all there was to go on, and it seemed like it should have been a good start:  Name, Kazimiera Dutkiewicz (or similar), born about 1880 (based on those census records), married to Władysław Grzesiak in Poland circa 1898.

The Hunt Is On!

Since Walter Grzesiak was born in Kowalewo-Opactwo, it seemed logical that he would have married somewhere in that vicinity, although not necessarily in that parish.  Things get a little tricky with the records for Kowalewo-Opactwo in that time period.  Records are not online, or on microfilm from the LDS, so one must write to the Konin Branch of the State Archive in Poznań to request a search.  Moreover, although Walter was baptized in Kowalewo, that parish was temporarily closed from 1891-1910.  Parish operations were transferred to the church in nearby Ląd, but after 1911, the parishes and their records were separated again.   Unfortunately, the archive reported that there was no marriage record in Ląd for Władysław Grzesiak, or for any of his siblings, during this period.

Initially, this finding didn’t concern me too much.  It’s traditional for a couple to marry in the bride’s parish, so this suggested merely that Kazimiera was from some other parish in the area.  So how does one find a marriage in the Poznań region, when one has no idea what parish the couple married in?  The Poznań Marriage Project, of course.   For those who might be unfamiliar with this resource, the Poznań Project is an indexing effort conceived by Łukasz Bielecki, which is intended to include all existing marriage records for the historic Poznań region from 1800-1899.  Currently, the project is estimated to be at least 75% complete, so there was a good chance I’d be able to find Walter and Casimira’s marriage in there. Frustratingly, there were no good matches, so I assumed that their marriage record must be among the 25% of existing records that remain unindexed.  At this point, finding it would be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.  I put this on the back burner and went back to more productive research on other family lines.

Until two days ago.

My Breakthrough

It seemed like a perfectly ordinary Wednesday afternoon.  I paid bills, ran some errands, took the cat to the vet, and sat down to check e-mail.   But if you’re like me, some small part of your brain is always thinking about genealogy, and suddenly it dawned on me:  the family story was that Casimira was an actress.  How could she have been an actress in a small village with a couple dozen farms?  She must have been from a big city — Warsaw!

Immediately, I went to Geneteka, my favorite database for indexed vital records from all over Poland.  Normally, I advise people to use documentation from U.S. sources to determine where their ancestors came from before they start randomly searching records in Geneteka, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and I had a pretty specific idea of what I was looking for.  But would the record be there?  Geneteka is not complete — it’s a brilliant, ambitious idea, and new indexes for different parishes and different time periods are constantly being added, but it still represents only a fraction of the vital records available in the tens of thousands of parishes and civil registries across Poland.  In this case, my hunch paid off, and Geneteka came through for me. I was stunned, absolutely stunned, when I saw what had to be their marriage record (Figure 4):

Figure 4:  Geneteka search results for Grzesiak marriages in Warszawa between 1897 and 1899.

Geneteka

I hit “skan” to get a copy of the record itself (isn’t Geneteka great?!) and here it is, in all its glory:Wladyslaw Grzesiak and Kazimiera Olczyk 1898 crop

The record is in Russian, because Warsaw was in the Russian Empire in 1898 when the event took place, so here’s my translation:

“223. Koło. It happened in Wola parish on the eighteenth/thirtieth day of August in the year one thousand eight hundred ninety-eight at five o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that, in the presence of witnesses Adam Franczak and Wincenty Płocikiewicz, both ecclesiastical servants of Wola, on this day was contracted a religious marriage between Władysław Grzesiak, age thirty-seven, miller of Koło residing, born in Ląd, Słupca district, son of Józef Grzesiak, owner, and his wife Maryanna née Krawczyńska, in the village of Borowo residing, and Kazimiera Marianna Olczak, age eighteen, single, with her mother residing, born in Warsaw, daughter of an unknown father and mother Paulina Olczak, seamstress, in Koło residing.  The marriage was preceded by three readings of the banns on the 2nd/14th, 9th/21st, and 16th/28th days of August of the present year.  The newlyweds stated that they had no prenuptial agreement between them.  Permission was given orally by those present at the ceremony.  The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by the Reverend Jan Kowalski.  This document, after being read aloud, was signed by us and by the groom because the witnesses state that they do not know how to write.”2

Let’s break this down a bit.  First, the double dates are often confusing to those who aren’t familiar with the format of Polish civil records, but they’re a result of the fact that Poland and Western Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar  while Russia and the Eastern Europe continued to use the old Julian calendar.  In order to have these records be clear to everyone, both dates were included on legal documents like this.  The second, later date is the date according to the Gregorian calendar, which we would go by.

Second, Kazimiera’s name isn’t Dutkiewicz, as expected — but we’ll worry about that in a minute.  The date of the marriage (1898) is correct, as is the groom’s name, and parents’ names.  His age is a bit off (he should only be 30, not 37), but it’s not unusual for ages reported in these records to be very much “ballpark estimates.”  Walter was actually born in Kowalewo, not Ląd, but if you recall, the parish functions had been transferred from Kowalewo to Ląd at this time, so perhaps this can be interpretted as a reference to that.

Getting back to Kazimiera, her age (18) matches with what we expected based on U.S. records.  The priest doesn’t mention her budding theatrical career, but perhaps her star had not yet risen very far (if it ever really rose at all).  So this is clearly the right marriage record.  But how did we get from Olczak to Dutkiewicz?

The answer lies again in the indexed records of Geneteka (Figure 5):

Figure 5:  Geneteka search results for marriage records with surnames Olczak and Dutkiewicz between 1880 and 1900:

Olczak

It appears that shortly after Kazimiera’s birth in 1880, her mother Paulina married Tomasz Dutkiewicz.  Whether Tomasz Dutkiewicz ever legally adopted Kazimiera is doubtful, but this certainly explains why she might have at least informally used the name of her step-father as her own.

But Wait, There’s More!

So all this is nice, right?  But why is a marriage record for a great-granduncle really THAT exciting?  As I mentioned, my great-grandmother Veronica emigrated along with three siblings, Walter, Thaddeus and Josephine.  What we didn’t know until I began researching records from Poland, was that there were two additional siblings — Konstancja3 and Pelagia4 — who did not emigrate.  No descendant of the Grzesiak family in the U.S. that I interviewed was aware that these sisters existed.  The Konin Branch of the State Archive in Poznań had no record of marriage for either of them, and I was planning to write again to request a search for their death records, assuming they might have died before reaching a marriageable age.  However, I noticed that there was a marriage record for a Konstancja Grzesiak on the same page of Geneteka search results (Figure 4, result 2) that gave me Walter’s marriage record!  Sure enough, the marriage record5 reveals that Konstancja is the daughter of Józef Grzesiak and his wife, Marianna née Krawczyńska, residing in the village of Ląd.

Unfortunately, I still can’t find a birth record for Pelagia, and it’s still possible that she died before reaching a marriageable age.  But the implications of these new data are tremendous for me.  My great-grandmother arrived in the U.S. in March of 1898,6 and in June and August of that same year, her sister and brother each married in Warsaw, prior to most of her family joining her in Buffalo in 1900, while the one married sister stayed behind in Poland with her family in Warsaw.  Wow!   A little further digging confirmed that Konstancja also had children (Figure 6):

Figure 6:  Geneteka search results for birth records in Warszawa mentioning surnames Cieniewski and Grzesiak:

Cieniewski

So I might have cousins in Poland from this Cieniewski line!  However, it’s interesting that there are only two births.  Birth records for this parish, St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Adalbert, in the Wola district of Warsaw, are indexed from 1886 to 1908 without any gaps.  Therefore one might expect to see more than two children born between their marriage in 1898 and 1908 when the records end.  There is no evidence that they immigrated to Buffalo, no good matches in U.S. census records for this family in Buffalo or anywhere else.  So where did they go?

The Grzesiaks of Kowalewo-Opactwo, Warsaw, Buffalo, and Borowo

One clue, in Walter’s marriage record, might point the way.  It stated that he was the son of “Józef Grzesiak, farmer, and his wife Maryanna née Krawczyńska, in the village of Borowo residing”  Borowo is new to me.  This is the first time this place has been mentioned in connection with my family.  And unfortunately, there are at least 20 places in Poland today by that name.  But if Borowo was where her parents were living at the time of Konstancja’s marriage, maybe that’s where she and her young family eventually went to live.  So which Borowo is correct?

Well, Konstancja’s marriage record, from just two months earlier, states that her parents were residing in Ląd.  That, and the fact that there were no good matches for a place called Borowo that’s very close to Warszawa, suggests that this may be the correct place, Borowo in Konin County, about 22 miles east of the Grzesiak’s previous home in Kowalewo-Opactwo:

map

According to the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, a nice period gazetteer of Russian Poland published in 1877, the village of Borowo belongs to the Roman Catholic parish in Krzymów, so that’s where we can look for records.  Records are online and on microfilm, but only from 1808-1884, which doesn’t help us any with finding additional births to Konstancja and Julian Cieniewski after 1900.  However, the Branch Archive in Konin has birth records up to 1911,  so this is an obvious next step to take.

The Old Mill, Revisited

There’s one other really cool connection I’d like to make before I sum things up.  In my previous post about my Grzesiak family, I mentioned my grandmother’s recollection that her mother Veronica’s family owned a grain mill near the parish church.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find any reference to Veronica’s father being a miller.  However, when I visited Veronica’s birthplace of Kowalewo-Opactwo on a trip to Poland last year, I was amazed to see this old windmill, missing its vanes, in close proximity to the church, exactly as Grandma described.  So I found it fascinating that Walter’s marriage record described him clearly as a miller, even though a more general term (“хозяин,” meaning “owner,” but seemingly used as a non-specific synonym for “farmer” or “peasant”) was again used to describe his father, Józef.  This makes me more convinced that the mill in the photo actually was a place associated with Veronica’s family.  Maybe her father didn’t own the mill, maybe he just worked for the miller — but between the existence of this mill where it should be, based on Grandma’s story, and the fact that her uncle Walter was described as a miller, I think there’s good reason to believe that this was the mill that Grandma’s story referred to.  IMG_4542

That’s a Wrap

So what general research insights can be gained from this?

  1.  Once again, my ancestors were more mobile than I expected them to be — and yours might be, too.

When I began my research, I really thought I’d find “the” ancestral village for each surname line and be able to go back for many generations in that same village.  Time and time again, that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule.  I was so blinded by my expectation that Walter would have met his bride some place near to where he was born, that I overlooked obvious resources, like indexed records for Warsaw on Geneteka, because it seemed too improbable.  Logic requires us to search in the obvious places first — those associated with the family.  But when searching in the obvious places doesn’t pan out, it’s time to think outside the box.

2.  Family stories can sometimes hold the key.

If you are among the oldest generation in your family, it’s not too late to write down everything you remember from older relatives, for the next generation.  But if you still have any older relatives remaining, talk to them!  My third cousin and research collaborator, Valerie Baginski, told me that her grandmother always said that the family came from Warsaw, rather than Poznań, which was my family’s version of the story.  Once we figured out that our Grzesiaks’ ancestral village was Kowalewo-Opactwo, closer to Poznań than Warsaw, we dismissed that mention of Warsaw.  Since Warsaw was a bigger city than Poznań, we chalked up this discrepancy to our ancestors’ tendency to paint their place of origin with a broad brush, referencing the closest big city.  Now we realize that it’s quite possible her great-grandmother mentioned Warsaw because she was one of the younger siblings who may have lived there for a time, while my great-grandmother mentioned Poznań because she was the first one to leave Poland, and may never have gone to Warsaw with the others.

3.  Pay your dues.

This last “insight” is a shameless plug for Geneteka, the database for indexed Polish vital records that enabled me to find my Grzesiaks in Warsaw.  For those of you who might be unfamiliar with it, Geneteka is a project sponsored entirely by volunteers from the Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (PTG, or Polish Genealogical Society), in Poland.  Although all the indexing and photographing of vital records (for Geneteka’s sister site, Metryki, which I wrote about previously) is done by volunteers, funds are still required to pay for servers to host the websites.  If you’ve used Geneteka and found it helpful to you, please consider making a donation to the PTG.  Let’s help them to help us find our ancestors!

Walter’s marriage record was a puzzle piece that’s been missing for a long, long time.  It just goes to show you that you never know when that great idea will hit, or when serendipity will strike, so keep chipping away at those brick walls.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

Sources:

1New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, #2600, Death certificate for Walter Grzesiak, 25 April 1946.

2“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej sw. Stanislawa i Wawrzynca w Warszawie,” Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacji metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1898, Malzenstwa, #223, record for Wladyslaw Grzesiak and Kazimiera Marianna Olczak, accessed on 17 August 2016.

3Roman Catholic Church, Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish (Kowalewo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1879, 1872, births, #5, record for Konstancja Grzesiak.; FHL #1191028 Items 1-4.

4“Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki)”, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach (Szukajwarchiwach.pl), Ksiega urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1869, births, #48, record for Pelagia Grzesiak, accessed on 21 June 2016.

5“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej sw. Stanislawa i Wawrzynca w Warszawie “, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl:  Projekt indeksacji metryk parafialnych (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/), 1898, Malzenstwa, #142, record for Julian Aleksander Cieniewski and Konstancja Grzesiak, accessed on 18 August 2016.

6Ancestry.com, Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 and 1954-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006), http://www.ancestry.com, The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Records of the US Customs Service, RG36; NAI Number: 2655153; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85, record for Veronika Gresiak, accessed on 21 July 2016.

Featured Image:

Wodzinowski, Wincenty. Wesele. Digital image.Http://muzeuminstrumentow.pl/. Muzeum Ludowych Instrumentów Muzycznych W Szydłowcu, 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Aug. 2016.  This painting from 1896 seemed very fitting for my cover photo, since it depicts a wedding celebration very close to the time when Walter and Casimira married.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016

 

On Antibiotics And the Brief Life of Wiktoria Zarzycka

Yesterday I had to see my doctor for a possible Lyme disease rash.  He agreed that it looks suspicious and prescribed a course of prophylactic antibiotics.  And oddly enough, that got me thinking about genealogy.  Lyme disease is one of many diseases known to modern-day physicians that is readily treated with antibiotics, and has an excellent prognosis if it’s caught early.  But life was very different for our ancestors, and I often remind myself of this fact when I start romanticizing those by-gone, simpler times.

As I’m sure is true for many of us, I find some ancestors’ stories to be more compelling than others.  For me, one such compelling ancestor is Wiktoria Zarzecka, one of my great-great-great-great-grandmothers.  I first encountered Wiktoria in this 1826 marriage record for her son,  Józef Zarzycki, and his bride, Joanna Krzemińska1:

Jozef Zarzycki and Joanna Krzyminska marriage 1826

The record describes the groom,  Józef Zarzycki, as a “bachelor, of Szwarocin residing, master of the shoemaking profession, born in the village of Szwarocin of Adam and Wiktoria née Stolarska, the married couple Zarzycki; having twenty-two years of age.”1  Interestingly, this record is the only time we see Wiktoria’s maiden name recorded as Stolarska.  In her own marriage record to Adam Zarzecki in 1802, shown below,2  the priest calls her only, “Victoria, from the voivodeship of Sieradz, the names of whose parents I do not know” and tells us that she was age 23 at the time of her wedding, suggesting a birth year of about 1779.  Bransk

 

The Sieradz Voivodeship (Palatinatus Siradiensis), where Wiktoria was said to have been born, existed at that time as an administrative division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and encompassed 6 counties and close to 200 Roman Catholic parishes.  Without knowing her parents’ names and an exact place of birth, further research on this line will be difficult at best.  Wiktoria was born into tumultuous times for Poland.  The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had already been diminished in size after the first partition of Poland in 1772, and Poland would be partitioned twice more, in 1793 and 1795, until it no longer existed by the time of Wiktoria’s marriage in 1802.  Both her birthplace, and her new hometown in the parish of Rybno, had become part of the Prussian Empire when she married Adam Zarzecki, gave birth to their only son, and died on 19 May 1807.  This political situation was as brief as Wiktoria’s life, however: just two months after her death, the Duchy of Warsaw was created by the Franco-Prussian treaty signed at Tilsit on 9 July 1807, creating a semi-autonomous Polish state that was in personal union with the Kingdom of Saxony.

One wonders why the priest might have recorded Wiktoria’s surname as Stolarska on her son’s marriage record in 1826, when it was unknown in 1802.  Perhaps her name truly was Stolarska, but the priest in 1802 was careless in his premarital examination, forgot to ask this information or failed to remember it, and then recorded later that he simply did not know her parents’ names?  How could she not have known her at least her father’s surname, if not her parents’ given names?  Was she born to an unwed mother, and perhaps she was orphaned at a young age?  How did a young, unmarried woman come to travel a distance of perhaps 90 miles from her home and settle in a distant village?  Did she travel with other family members, perhaps?  Unfortunately, the records of Rybno remain silent in regard to most of these questions.  The surname Stolarski does not appear in the parish records at all during this time period,3  which suggests that no other family members accompanied Wiktoria to Rybno.   The name “Stolarski” itself, like all Polish surnames with the root “Stolar-,” derives from the word, “stolarz,” meaning “joiner, carpenter,” so it’s also possible that the priest in 1826 created this surname for Wiktoria when he recorded her son’s marriage, perhaps based on someone’s recollection that her father was a carpenter.  As one might expect with such an etymology, the surname is not uncommon in Poland today, and is widely distributed geographically.  However, it does display a moderately increased prevalence in present-day Piotrków Trybunalski County, which was contained within the Sieradz Voivodeship.  It’s tempting to speculate that perhaps this surname really was used by Wiktoria’s family from that area, whose descendants still live there today.

Wiktoria’s life was sadly brief.  Following her marriage in 1802, she became the mother of her only child, Józef Zarzycki, who was born some time between August 1803 and March 1804 in Szwarocin.5   One might expect to see births to a married couple every two years, on average, but this was not the case for Wiktoria and Adam Zarzycki.  Unfortunately, fewer births mean fewer records which might mention Wiktoria and provide us with glimpses into her life.  In 1807, she died at the age of 28.6  This close-up of her death record tells us that she died of “petocie,” which is mentioned here as an old Polish form of the Latin word, “Petechiae.”  Victoria Zarzycka death crop.png

Petechiae are small, red or purple spots on the skin, caused by minor bleeding from a broken capillary, and can have a variety of causes ranging from infectious diseases, to trauma, to leukemia, and a variety of autoimmune or otherwise non-infectious causes.  However, an infectious, contagious disease is suggested here, since at least eight other deaths on this page were attributed to the same cause (two are shown here).  Two serious illnesses that cause a rash and were common during this time are scarlet fever and typhus.  Both of these illnesses are presently treated with antibiotics, and these diseases are no longer life-threatening with timely intervention.

As a 21st-century American, I’m very grateful for the easy access to antibiotics which I enjoy, and which is one reason why rashes and fevers no longer terrify us as they did our ancestors.  We’ll never know what Wiktoria’s life might have included had she lived longer.  Probably she would have lived quietly, just another illiterate peasant woman, raising her family, tending to her home and garden, and supporting her husband’s shoemaking business in whatever ways she was capable. She probably never imagined that one day her descendents would live all over the world.  Although her story is short, it’s one that captivates me.  Rest in peace, Wiktoria.

 

Sources:

1Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów 1826-1828,” 1826, #11, marriage record for Józef Zarzycki and Joanna Krzymińska.

2Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów 1790-1802,” 1802, #9, marriage record for Adam Zarzecki and Victoria, parents’ names unknown.

3Justyna Krogulska, Warsaw, Poland to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Zarzycki research notes; privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA.

4Hoffman, William F. Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. (Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society of America, 2012), 729.

Justyna Krogulska, Warsaw, Poland to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Zarzycki research notes; privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA. .”I didn’t find the birth certificate of Józef Zarzycki! There is a gap in the documents in the Aug 1803 – Mar 1804. It follows that Joseph was born at the turn of the year 1803-1804.  In the years 1802-1807 were not born other children of Adam Zarzecki and Wiktoria.”

6Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga zgonów, 1802-1807,”1807, #39, death record for Victoria Zarzecka.

© 2016 Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

 

 

What’s in a name? My Zarzycki family of Buffalo, Rybno and Brańsk

I’ve been very busy with adding new data to my family tree for my Zarzycki family, thanks to my fabulous researcher in Warsaw, Justyna, who visited my ancestral parish in Poland to obtain records that are not available on microfilm, online, or in any archive.   By way of introduction, my maternal grandmother’s father was Jan/John Zażycki, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 18951 and eventually settled in North Tonawanda, New York.  My extended Zazycki family always insisted that the surname was spelled “Zażycki,” rather than the phonetically-equivalent “Zarzycki,” and furthermore, I was told by some that anyone with the surname “Zarzycki” was not likely to be related to us.  It may indeed have been the case that my great-grandfather preferred the spelling without the “r.” As you can see from the signature on his civil marriage record, John clearly spelled his name as “Zażycki”2:  Jan & Weronika Zazycki Marriage 2
John Zazycki’s naturalization papers contain both spellings, but one could argue that the places in which it was spelled with the “r” were the result of carelessness on the part of the clerk, since there is one place on the naturalization certificate where John’s name not only contains the “r,” but also appears as “Jarzycki”3:

Jan Zazycki naturalization certificate 2

Compare this with the Petition for Naturalization1, which John himself signed at the bottom:

Jan Zazycki Petition for Naturalization

However, any experienced family historian can tell you that one needs to be flexible and keep an open mind regarding variant spellings of surnames, and that is true in this case as well.  In records from Poland, I have only rarely seen the surname spelled as Zażycki.  For example, in records in which Jan’s father, Ignacy, is mentioned, the surname is spelled as “Zarzycki” on 17 occasions and as “Zarzecki” on 3 documents. In documents pertaining to Ignacy’s father, Józef, the surname has been spelled as “Zarzycki” 7 times, and as “Zażycki” only once.  In fact, that’s the only time I have ever seen the name spelled as “Zażycki” on a document from Poland.

My Zarzycki family was from the villages of Szwarocin and Bronisławy, which belong to the Roman Catholic parish of St. Bartholomew in Rybno.  All of these villages are presently in Sochaczew County, Mazowieckie province, but were in the Warsaw province of the Russian Empire at the time of my great-grandfather’s birth in 1866.  Literacy rates were quite low in the Russian Empire in those days — one estimate places the overall literacy rate of the Russian Empire at 24% in 1897, while the rural literacy rate which would include small villages like Bronisławy, was as low as 19.7%.4  Despite this, there is evidence that Ignacy Zarzycki was literate:  his signature appears as distinct from that of the priest, on the birth records of two of his children.  Below is the birth record for Ignacy’s son, Leonard Zarzycki, in 1876.5   Ignacy clearly signed his name as “Zarzycki.”  Leonard Zarzycki birth 1876

The same is true on this birth record for his son, Roman Aleksander Zarzycki in 18726:

Roman Aleksander Zarzycki birth 1872

So although it may have been the case that my great-grandfather preferred the spelling “Zażycki,” it appears that that preference may have begun with him, and has no bearing on the spellings that we see on records from Poland for this family.  In fact, not only does the spelling with the “r” predominate, but John’s own father spelled his name that way.

According to the paper trail for this family, Jan Zażycki was the son of Ignacy Zarzycki and Antonina Maciążek,2 and Ignacy was the son of Józef Zarzycki and Joanna Krzemińska.7 Going back one generation further on the paternal line, Józef Zarzycki was the son of Adam Zarzycki and Wiktora Stolarska.8  In records pertaining to Adam, we see a different trend in spelling.  Out of twelve documents found to date in which he is mentioned, six of them give his name as “Zarzecki,” five of them spell it “Zarzycki,” and only one of them (the marriage record for his son, Józef) shows the spelling, “Zażycki.”  Interestingly, the documents that contain the spelling “Zarzecki,” tend to be older (1802-1812) whereas the spelling “Zarzycki” is found on documents dated between 1812-1828.

The record for Adam’s first marriage to his wife, Wiktoria, states that he was a newcomer to the community in Rybno, having moved there from his original place of birth in Brańsk:9

Bransk

If there were any doubt about which place called Brańsk was meant, it would be cleared up by the record for Adam’s second marriage to Agnieszka Kruczewska in 1810, in which Adam is said to be from Podlachia (Podlasie):10

1810 crop

Taken together, these two documents suggest the town of Brańsk, which is currently the seat of gmina Brańsk in Bielsk County, Podlaskie Voivodeship, approximately 143 miles from Rybno:

13246316_10207640187954005_3609992669130168736_o

Adam Zarzycki was born about 1769 to Kazimierz Zarzycki and his wife, Zofia,9 but there are no vital records for the parish in Brańsk available for this time period from the Polish State Archives. The LDS Family History Library does have some vital records for Brańsk on microfilm including death records from 1797-1823, but no birth or marriage records from this or any earlier time periods, which suggests they might have been lost or destroyed.  So although it may not be possible to locate a birth record for Adam Zarzycki, it might be possible to locate death records for his parents, and this is an obvious direction for future research. Some of the existing records are indexed on Geneteka, including marriages from 1885-1896, and a search for “Zarzycki” reveals two marriage records with the spelling “Zarzecki”:

Bransk

Taken together, these data suggest that the original spelling of the surname was “Zarzecki,” and that it evolved to “Zarzycki” after Adam Zarzecki migrated to Rybno.  Analysis of the geographic surname distributions for both variants of the name (based on data from 2002) confirms that, although the “Zarzecki” spelling is generally less popular in Poland, it is significantly more common than “Zarzycki” in Bielsk County (124 bearers for Zarzecki/a vs. fewer than 50 for Zarzycki/a).

As this case demonstrates, surnames can evolve significantly over time and place, and the spelling variants that one sees may follow a particular pattern, rather than occurring at random. Tracking these changes can sometimes lead to a better understanding of a family’s geographic origins.  It will be interesting to see whether I can find additional traces of this family in the microfilmed death records from Brańsk — it’s unclear from Adam’s marriage record whether he was from the Brańsk area generally, or from that parish specifically.  But if I am able to find additional records there, you can be sure that I’ll pay close attention to how the Zarzycki/Zarzecki surname is spelled.


Sources:

1Erie, New York, #1892, Petition for Naturalization for Jan Zazycki, 12 July 1900.; Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin St. Buffalo, NY 14202.

2Buffalo, Erie County, New York, 1901, #202, marriage record for John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak.; Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin St., Buffalo, NY 14202.

3Erie, New York, #1892, Certificate of Naturalization for Jan Zazycki, 8 August 1900.; Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin St. Buffalo, NY 14202.

4“Likbez.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 29, 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Likbez#CITEREFGrenoble.

5Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1870-1880”, 1876, #87, baptismal record for Leonard Zarzycki.

6Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń 1870-1880”, 1872, #15, baptismal record for Roman Aleksander Zarzycki.

7Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Early birth records (before 1831)”, 1828, #34, baptismal record for Ignacy Zarzycki. 

8Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów 1826-1828”, 1826, #11, marriage record for Józef Zażycki and Joanna Krzymińska.

9Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów 1790-1802”, 1802, #9, marriage record for Adamus Zarzecki and Victoria, parents’ names unknown.

10Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga ślubów, 1803-1810”, 1810, #8, marriage record for Adamus Zarzecki and Agnes Kruczewska.

© 2016 Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz