Grandma Helen’s Letter: How Family Stories Measure Up

My mother’s been holding out on me. For many years, she’s maintained that she’s really not interested in family history. And I can accept that. Although it’s difficult for me to empathize, I do understand intellectually that there are some people who just aren’t enthralled at the prospect of digging up documents pertaining to long-gone generations of the family, and Mom is one of those people. However, while helping to sort and reorganize accumulated papers in her desk recently, I discovered a folder, neatly marked “Genealogy Information.” What?! Curiosity piqued, I sifted through the contents of the folder, and  discovered that most of it was merely stuff I’d given to her over the years, hard copies of emails I’d written to my parents as I made new family history discoveries. However, some of it was pure genealogical gold, including a bridal picture of my great-grandaunt, Wanda, an envelope of prayer cards from family funerals, and—best of all—a letter written by my grandmother, Helen Zielinski, in 1977.

The letter was addressed to my parents, my sister, and me. At that time, my family was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, while Grandma and Grandpa still lived in North Tonawanda, New York. The letter was dated 4 December, and the first page is delightfully chatty. Grandma noted that she’d call on Friday, thanked Mom for some photos Mom recently sent, expressed concern that my other Grandma, Marie Roberts, had been in the hospital, and offered to send Christmas cookies in case my mother did not have time to bake. The next pages, however, are even better: Grandma provided brief biographical information about each of her parents and Grandpa’s parents, as well as some other interesting tidbits of family history.

This part of the letter was written in order to help my sister with a family history project she was doing in school. At that time, my sister was in 4th grade and I was in 3rd grade, and she was working on a “Roots” project, which (sadly) I was not also required to do when I got to 4th grade. The project was aimed at helping the students discover their family history, so it was necessary for them to interview their elders and ask about previous generations of the family, as well as any family traditions or ethnic customs that were still practiced. I remember when this project was taking place, and I knew that Grandma had contributed a great deal of information. It made sense that Mom would have saved this letter; however, I’d never actually seen it or read it previously.

It’s clear that Grandma really enjoyed helping with the project, and she wrote about how she spoke with two of her cousins, Carrie Baginski and Arthur Gray, to help her fill in the blanks. It was really fascinating for me to read this information, recorded in Grandma’s own handwriting. It was especially interesting to see how this information measured up against the documentary paper trail that I’ve been gathering over the years since then. Here, then, is Grandma’s original information, recalled and recorded by her at the age of 57, in collaboration with information from some of her cousins, compared with “the rest of the story.”

On Joseph Zielinski (My Great-Grandfather):

Starting off with her father-in-law, Joseph Zielinski, Grandma wrote, “Born in Poland in 1892—lived with his parents on a farm in a village called ‘Sochaczew’ near Warsaw. He arrived in New York City in 1914. He left Poland because he would have had to serve in the Russian Army. Joseph had one brother named Frank who was killed in World War II in America. Joseph died at age 80 in August 1973.”[1]

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 3

Analysis: Grandma was spot-on about Joseph’s birth year in 1892, in spite of census records, a World War II draft registration, and the record from his second marriage, which would all argue that Joseph was born between 1893-1894. Joseph’s birth record confirms that he was born 10 October 1892; however, he was born in the village of Mistrzewice, not in the town of Sochaczew. Mistrzewice is located in Sochaczew County, and the Zieliński family’s deeper roots lie in the parish of Sochaczew itself, since Joseph’s grandfather, Michał Archanioł Zieliński, was born in the village of Bibiampol and baptized in Sochaczew. Therefore it’s actually true, in one sense, that the Zieliński family was “from” Sochaczew, although it would have been more accurate (and would have saved me some time in searching!) if the family history had mentioned Mistrzewice as their more recent place of origin.

It may very well be that Joseph left Poland so he would not have to join the Russian army. Exactly how he managed to avoid the conscription that was mandatory in Russia at that time is unclear, but his World War I draft registration does not indicate any prior service in the Russian army. In contrast, the World War I draft card for Joseph’s brother, Frank, states that he served three years in the Russian infantry. Taken together, these facts seem to confirm the family story that Joseph was able to slip out of the Russian Empire before they could force him into service. It’s also true that Joseph’s brother, Frank, was killed in the war. However, he was killed in World War I, not II. It seems likely that Grandma merely made a recording error when she wrote that Frank was killed in World War II, since the oral family tradition always referenced World War I.

Grandma’s wording does not make it clear if she was aware of other siblings that Joseph and Frank might have had, and one might suspect that she would have identified those siblings by name if she could have. I know now that Joseph and Frank had eight additional siblings—five brothers and three sisters. Five of these siblings (three younger brothers and two younger sisters) were still alive when Joseph left Poland for the U.S., and he arrived in 1912—not 1914. All in all, Grandma was pretty accurate in the information she provided.

On Genevieve Zielinski (My Great-Grandmother):

Next, regarding her mother-in-law, Grandma wrote, “Maiden name—Klaus. Born in 1898 in North Tonawanda, N.Y. Married Joseph Zielinski in 1915. They had five children, John (born Oct. 18, 1916), Frank, Helen, Stanley, and Irene. Genevieve died at age 44 in the year 1942.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 4

Analysis: Grandma was pretty close with Genevieve’s birth year, but Genowefa Klaus was, in fact, born 28 September 1897 in Buffalo, New York, rather than in North Tonawanda. She married Joseph Zielinski on 6 October 1915 at the church of Our Lady of Częstochowa in North Tonawanda, and of course, the names of their children (my grandfather and his siblings) are accurate. She died on 6 May 1942 at the age of 44, so once again, Grandma did pretty well.

On Mary Klaus (My Great-Great-Grandmother):

Things start to get a little bumpy with Grandma’s next report about her husband’s grandmother. Regarding Mary Klaus, Genevieve Zielinski’s mother, Grandma wrote, “Maiden name—Olszanowicz. Arrived in Texas from Poland. She and her husband had eight (in N.T.) children, Anna, Joe, Pauline, Eddy, Genevieve, Walter, Helen and Rudolf. Anna is still alive, living in Chicago. Mary died in N. Tonawanda at age 65.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 5

Analysis: Oh, Grandma. Would that I had never heard that story about Texas. I spent so much time trying to find any possible shred of evidence for our family’s sojourn there. And it wasn’t just you, Grandma. Cousin Julia Ziomek reported that same story, in even greater detail. I wrote about it most recently here, but also here, here, and here. The truth, as near as I can figure, is that the entire story was a fabrication created to avoid embarrassing questions about the circumstances surrounding the births of Mary’s two oldest sons, Joseph and John, who were born out of wedlock in Buffalo, New York, prior to Mary’s marriage to her first husband, Andrew Klaus. Mary’s maiden name was not Olszanowicz, either—it was Łącka. Olszanowicz was the name of her second husband, whom she married after Andrew’s death. That marriage did not last long—only three months, reportedly—which may explain why poor Walter Olszanowicz was so easily forgotten, although his name was still recalled in association with Mary. In total, Mary Klaus had 11 children. In addition to Joseph and John, her children with Andrew included Zofia (who died in infancy), Anna, Pauline, Bolesław (who also died in infancy), Genevieve, Edward, Walter, Rudolf, and Helen. Grandma was right, Anna (née Klaus) Gworek Matysak was still alive in 1977 when this letter was written. However, Mary (née Łącka) Klaus Olszanowicz was quite a bit older than most U.S. records would indicate, and she was actually 75, not 65, when she died in 1942.

On John Zazycki (my great-grandfather):

Grandma wrote the following about her father, John Zazycki: “Born in Warsaw, Poland 1866. Came to the United States and went to Alaska to seek employment. While in Poland he served in the Russian Cavalry and got his apprenticeship as a blacksmith. He died in 1924 at age 58. John’s forefathers were named Zazycki because they lived behind a creek. Za—behind, zekom—creek.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 6

Analysis: As often happened with immigrants, John Zazycki approximated his birthplace to a nearby large city, rather than citing the small village where he was actually born. I now know that John was born 5 March 1866 in the village of Bronisławy, which was located in Sochaczew County in the Warsaw gubernia, or province of the Russian Empire. So in that sense, Grandma’s information that her father was born in Warsaw in 1866 was correct, if not especially precise, since Bronisławy is about 50 miles west of the city of Warsaw. I have not been able to confirm any Russian military service for John, although it’s quite likely that he did serve, since such service was compulsory. Similarly, John died in 1924 at the age of 58, exactly as Grandma reported, and we have documentary evidence that John was apprenticed to a master blacksmith, Józef Gruberski, who was also his brother-in-law. Even Grandma’s Polish surname etymology is approximately correct, although I’ve read that it should be “za rzeka” (“beyond the river”). That leaves the final statement, that John initially went to Alaska to seek employment prior to his arrival in Buffalo, New York.

It turns out that this is a difficult claim to fact-check. John’s naturalization papers state that he arrived in the U.S. on 15 January 1895, and that he resided in the U.S. continuously for 5 years prior to his petition for naturalization in Buffalo on 12 July 1900. Alaska was a U.S. territory, so presumably, John could have traveled to Alaska following his arrival in New York and still count that time toward his 5-year-residency requirement for naturalization. If he did go to Alaska, he was not there for long, and documenting him there, without knowing a specific location, is akin to chasing down my Klaus family in Texas. And we all know how that ended.

On Veronica Zazycki (My Great-Grandmother):

I’ve written previously about some of the interesting statements made by Grandma about her mother, Veronica Zazycki. Grandma wrote, “Maiden name—Grzesiak. Born in the year 1876 in the village ‘Poznan’ near Warsaw. Her parents owned a grain mill. She had a sister Josephine and two brothers—Walter and Thaddeus. They lived near the church and parish house and Veronika’s mother sewed all the vestments for the priest. Veronika’s mother died when Josephine was born so at age 18 she came to America in year 1894. She found employment working in the kitchen of a restaurant. The people could not speak Polish and Veronika could not speak English so they used sign language and called her Mary. She saved her money and sent it to her two brothers so they could come to America. In the meantime, Walter (her brother) married a Polish actress named Wanda and she did not want to leave her career, so he left without her. They say she died of a broken heart.

Veronika married John Zazycki and they had twin boys as their first born, Benjamin and Roman. Wanda was next, then came Leon, Antoinette, Joseph, Angela, and last but not least, their beautiful baby daughter Helen who is sitting here writing ‘Roots.’

Veronika was a seamstress who supported her family after her husband died. She lived to age 62 and was killed in an automobile accident in 1938. Helen’s birthday is Nov. 30th, 1920.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 8

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 9

Analysis: Veronica (née Grzesiak) Zazycki was born 27 December 1876 in the village of Kowalewo-Opactwo. The village is about 50 miles east of Poznań, but “Poznań near Warsaw” doesn’t make a lot of sense since Poznań and Warsaw are nearly 200 miles apart. Nonetheless, the reference to Warsaw is interesting in light of the fact that members of the Grzesiak family were living in Warsaw in the years after Veronica moved to the U.S. Her passenger manifest informs us that Veronica arrived in Baltimore in March 1898, and in June 1898, her sister Konstancja married Julian Cieniewski in Warsaw, while her brother Walter married Kazimiera Olczak in Warsaw two months later. These facts underscore two more points—first, that Walter’s wife was not named Wanda, but rather Kazimiera; and second, that Veronica had additional siblings besides Walter, Thaddeus and Josephine. Polish birth records from Kowalewo-Opactwo revealed two more Grzesiak sisters, Pelagia and Konstancja, whose existence was not known to Grandma.

The part about the grain mill, and the proximity of the family home to the church, was something I wrote about in a previous post, as there may be some evidence for that. The part about Veronica’s mother dying when Josephine was born is utterly false, however, as Veronica’s mother, Marianna (née Krawczyńska) Grzesiak, did not die until 1904, several years after most of her children were settled in America. Grandma was a bit off on the timing of Veronica’s immigration, since Veronica did not immigrate in 1894, at the age of 18, but rather in March of 1898, at the age of 21. I have not been able to document the story about Veronica working in the kitchen of a restaurant and being called Mary. However, it always struck me as a bit strange that they would call her Mary when Veronica is a not a name that is unusual or difficult to pronounce in English.

I have a hunch that this part of the story may have something to do with another Mary whom I discovered through my research, Mary Staszak. When Veronica immigrated, her passenger manifest reported that she was headed to her “brother-in-law” in Buffalo, Michael Staszak. Further research revealed that Michael was not Veronica’s brother-in-law at all. Nonetheless, Michael’s wife, Marianna (née Derda) Staszak, was from the same village as Veronica and they traveled together on the ship, although they were recorded on different pages of the ship’s manifest. Research in records from Poland has not revealed any obvious way in which Veronica Grzesiak and Mary Staszak were related. My guess is that they were merely good friends, or at best, distant cousins. But the association between the name Mary, and this story from Veronica’s early days in the U.S., strikes me as something more than coincidental.

The next part about Walter and his actress wife is probably accurate. Walter and Kazimieria (née Olczak) Grzesiak did meet and marry in Warsaw, and I wrote about their story previously. At this point, I think she probably was an actress when they met. However, she did not die of a broken heart, nor did she remain in Poland while Walter came to the U.S. alone. In fact, she came to the U.S. in 1900, along with Walter’s sister, Josephine, and the Grzesiak patriarch himself, Józef, father of Walter, Veronica, Thaddeus and Josephine. Kazimiera was still in Buffalo and married to Walter in 1905 when the New York State census was conducted, but they were separated by 1910, and subsequent newspaper articles from 1912 indicate that Kazimiera had left Walter for another man.

The final part of the story, in which Grandma recounts her siblings’ names is, of course, accurate. However, Grandma’s mother died in 1940, not 1938, at the age of 63. The last line is also interesting to me. Grandma’s birth date of record was, indeed, 30 November 1920. However, we always “knew” her birthday was November 25th, and that’s the day we celebrated it. The story was that Grandma was born on Thanksgiving Day, so the registry office was closed. The midwife could not get in to report the birth immediately, and there were penalties for delays in reporting. So, when she finally visited the office on the 30th to report Grandma’s birth, she simply told them that the baby had been born that day. A quick check of a 1920 calendar confirms that Thanksgiving fell on 25 November that year, so I believe that this story is accurate, although I have no way of proving it to be so.

The last page of the letter includes some miscellaneous information about the family. Grandma wrote, “Genevieve Zielinski embroidered the picture in 1940 and gave it to Helen and John in 1941 when we got married. Dad thinks that the name Zielinski was given to the people because they came from Green County. Green is ‘Zielone,’ County would be ‘Miasto.’ Don’t know of any living relatives. I am giving you all the information I could gather after 7 phone calls on Friday. Seems like names and dates were not important. I am happy to give my Granddaughters the enclosed pictures. Perhaps you would want to mention the fact that Daddy’s parents plus John, Frank and Helen went for a visit to Poland in 1921 and stayed for 3 months.”

Letter from Grandma Helen 1977 page 10

The picture that Grandma referenced (below) is now a cherished family heirloom, of course, belonging to my mother. When Grandma Genevieve stitched that picture in the year before she died, she was a patient in the sanatorium, suffering from tuberculosis.IMG_5037 (2)

As for the remaining statements, Grandpa’s theory about the origin of the Zieliński surname is pretty much in line with accepted etymology in that the surname derives in some form from the Polish word for “green.” The lack of (close) living relatives from Poland which Grandma mentioned was always a disappointment to me, but ultimately I’ve been able to connect with distant cousins there who were identified through deeper research. The “enclosed pictures” which she mentioned were unfortunately separated from this letter, although I’m certain that my mother still has them, somewhere. And finally, the comment about Grandpa’s family trip back to Poland in 1921 has since been well documented, and I was even able to discover the reason for the trip—the death of the last surviving Zieliński sibling in Poland, Władysław, who died on 23 March 1921, leaving their elderly mother alone to manage the family farm.

So now we’ve come full circle. The family history stories that Grandma recorded in her letter got me started on my path to discover the past, but they are no longer my only source of information. After years of research, I understand which parts of the stories are accurate and which are not, and I even had the opportunity to share with Grandma some of my findings about her family before she passed in 2015. I’m now nearly the age that Grandma was when she wrote that letter, and I’ve taken on her role of story teller, helping a new generation to know a bit about our family’s origins, identifying the patriarchs and matriarchs whose DNA we carry. I only hope that my stories may be as inspirational as hers.

Source:

[1] Helen Zazycki Zielinski, North Tonawanda, New York, to the Roberts family, Cincinnati, Ohio, letter, 4 December 1977, privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

 

Eight Surnames of My Own

Not so recently, genealogy blogger James Scobbie wrote a post which created quite a buzz in the Facebook genealogy world.[1] He proposed that each of us should know or learn the eight surnames of our great-grandparents, and be able to recite them with ease, since this is a manageable amount of family history for anyone to carry around in his or her own head. Moreover, these surnames convey a more complete picture of who we are—insofar as our identity is determined by the people we come from—than does our surname alone, or even our surname plus mother’s maiden name.

I really liked this idea, and I find myself thinking about it still, long after the buzz has died down. I grew up with a surname, Roberts, that created misconceptions about my family’s origins. The surname is typically British, but in fact, my Roberts forebears were German immigrants with the surname Ruppert, who changed the name to Roberts upon settling in Detroit in the 1850s. Back then, German Catholic immigrants were among the groups targeted by the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” party, so I’m sure it made sense for my Ruppert ancestors to keep their heads down and assimilate as quickly as possible.[2] Despite this German heritage, which was repeated on Dad’s maternal side of the family (Meier/Boehringer), I didn’t grow up with any German traditions. I always believed that was because Dad’s family settled in America much earlier than Mom’s did, but as I look at their immigration dates more closely (Figure 1), I don’t think that explanation is entirely satisfactory.

Figure 1: Timeline for immigration to North America in my family.Timeline for Immigration to North America in my family

As evident from the table, my German ancestors Anna Goetz and Wenzeslaus Meier both arrived in the U.S. around the same time that my Polish ancestors Andrew Klaus and Mary Łącka arrived from Galicia, and just a few years before my Polish ancestors John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak arrived from the Russian Empire. Perhaps my German ancestors were simply less sentimental? More likely, anti-German sentiment during World Wars I and II played a role.[3] The result was a loss of German traditions and culture in my family, even despite my mother’s best efforts to give equal time to those traditions by teaching my sister and me to sing “O Tannenbaum” in German along with all the Polish Christmas carols. Even the favorite recipes were lost, for the most part. I have just one of Nana Boehringer’s recipes, for her bread dumplings, but I’ve had to try to recreate her famous fruit kaffee kuchen for myself, based on Dad’s fond recollections.

And so it was mostly the Polish traditions, songs, and foods from Mom’s side of the family that became part of my cultural identity. It could not possibly be Christmas without celebrating Wigilia on Christmas Eve, breaking the opłatek with my family, and feeling the love, peace and contentment that overflowed as we wished each other health, happiness, and all good things. Easter meant Święconka breakfast with ham, kiełbasa, hard-boiled eggs, and Grandma’s placek, with its plump raisins and butter-crumb topping. Spending time at Grandma and Grandpa Zielinski’s house meant visiting with Grandma in the kitchen while hearing Grandpa playing “Góralu, czy ci nie żal,” on the piano in the living room, or listening to the Sunday afternoon polka fest on the radio. The Polish-American traditions were so close to my heart that it felt problematic to have a surname which conveyed no hint of this heritage. Whenever conversations would turn to ethnic traditions and I would enthusiastically mention the Polish customs in my family, people would raise their eyebrows and say, “Roberts? That’s not Polish!”

This dual Polish-German ethnicity comprises the bulk of my eight surnames, but there’s one additional ethnic component that was largely glossed over as I was growing up. I think I was already an adult by the time I realized that my great-grandmother, Katherine Walsh Roberts, was actually born in Canada. I was dimly aware that her ancestry was a mixture of English, Irish and Scottish, but I’d somehow supposed that they were all 19th-century immigrants to Canada. It wasn’t until 2006 that I discovered that Great-Grandma Roberts’ lineage included not only 19th century immigrants to Canada, but also United Empire Loyalists with roots deep in the American colonies. The knowledge of that ancestry seems to have been buried in the family history, perhaps when my great-great-grandfather Henry Walsh decided to move his family back over the Canadian border, to Buffalo, New York.

If little remains of German cultural identity in my family, even less remains of English, Irish or Scottish ethnic identity. Such is the nature of assimilation, I suppose, and the day may come when that Polish ethnic identity which has always been so important to me, is just a distant memory for my descendants, buried as deeply as our ancestral English, Irish and Scottish origins. When my Polish grandparents passed away, the Polish language disappeared from my family as well—an inestimable loss, since shared language is the most fundamental characteristic of a culture. My son Daniel studied the Polish language at the University of Buffalo and even at Jagiellonian University during a summer program in Kraków, so perhaps his efforts will aid in preserving Polish heritage for future generations of my family. Yet I can’t help but wonder what eight surnames will be included in the lists of my great-great-grandchildren, assuming I have any, and what ethnic traditions they’ll celebrate. I won’t be here to meet them, of course. By then, I hope to be “hanging out” in the next life with all those ancestors who are presently my “brick walls” in the family tree, finally getting answers to all my questions.

Here, then, are my Eight Surnames, representing ancestors who may have originated in Poland, Germany, and Canada, but whose descendants are now as thoroughly American as apple pie.

  • Zielinski
  • Klaus
  • Zazycki
  • Grzesiak
  • Roberts
  • Walsh
  • Boehringer
  • Meier

What are your Eight Surnames, and what’s their story?

Sources

[1] James M. Scobbie, “The Theory of Eight Surnames,” Noisybrain (https://noisybrain.wordpress.com : 16 October 2019), posted 28 December 2018.

[2] “Know Nothing,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org : 16 October 2019)

[3] Robert Siegel and Art Silverman, “During World War I, U.S. Government Propaganda Erased German Culture,” All Things Considered, NPR, broadcast 7 April 2017 (https://www.npr.org : 16 October 2019).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

Party Like It’s 1899, Continued

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

My Maternal Grandmother’s Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Maternal Grandfather’s Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

Farewell to Texas

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

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

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

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

Yet sometimes I amaze myself with my own stupidity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

 

 

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

 

Puzzling Through a DNA Match

Although I’m mostly working on my Walsh research these days, there’s some Polish research that’s in the back of my mind that I thought I’d write about today. This research relates to an exciting DNA match I found recently on my Mom’s side. Although I still don’t know exactly how we’re related, I’m sure we’re on the right track.

Like many of you, I regularly check my list of new “close” matches (4th cousins or better) at the sites where I have done DNA testing with various family members. Since I’m fortunate enough to have test data for both my parents, I prefer to check their match lists rather than my own since their matches yield better information about earlier generations of the family. During one of the checks on Mom’s matches, I noticed a 4th-cousin-level match to Ron Wilczek, who gave me permission to use his name in my blog. Ron had a tree linked to his DNA data, and I was immediately intrigued by the fact that his grandfather was reported to be a Polish immigrant to North Tonawanda, New York, named Stanisław Wilczek. Both the surname and the location were significant to me, because my mom’s grandfather was another Polish immigrant to North Tonawanda named Joseph Zielinski, and Joseph’s great-grandmother was Marianna Wilczek.

The Wilczek family of Młodzieszyn Parish

Marianna was born circa 1810, and she married Antoni Kalota in the parish of Młodzieszyn in 1830. The record of their marriage was kindly obtained for me through onsite research at the parish by my friend Justyna Cwynar, and is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Marriage record from Młodzieszyn parish for Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek, 31 January 1830.1Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek 1830 crop

The record is written in Polish, and in translation it states,

“No. 2. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the thirty-first day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred thirty at twelve o’clock noon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Antoni Chaba, land-owning farmer of Młodzieszyn, having forty-eight years of age, and Antoni Wilczek, land-owning farmer of Budy Młodzieszynek, having twenty-seven years of age, brother of the aforementioned Marianna Wilczkówna—on this day was concluded a religious marriage between Antoni Kalota, bachelor, land-owning farmer of Budy Młodzieszynek, age twenty years, son of Grzegorz and Helena, the spouses Kalota, former residents of Młodzieszyn; born in Młodzieszyn; and Miss Marianna Wilczkówna, age nineteen, daughter of Izydor and Katarzyna, the spouses Wilczek, residing as land-owning farmers in Budy Młodzieszynek; born in that same place and living there with her parents. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the tenth, seventeenth, and twenty-fourth days of January of the current year in the parish of Młodzieszyn and likewise by the oral permission of the parents of the bride, present at the marriage act; on the part of the groom, permission was officially declared by the family council before the village mayor of gmina Trojanów on the ninth day of January of the current year. There were no impediments to the marriage. The newlyweds stated that they had made no prenuptial agreements. This document was read to the declarants and witnesses who are unable to write. [signed] Pastor Fr. Fabian Hirschberger.”

Marianna’s name was recorded as Wilczkówna, but this is merely an old-fashioned form indicating an unmarried woman of the Wilczek family. She was noted to be the daughter of Izydor and Katarzyna, whose maiden name was not provided in this document.

The second witness on the marriage record for Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek was Antoni Wilczek, who was also identified as her brother, and whose age suggests a birth circa 1803. The record states that Marianna was born and residing with her parents in “Budy Młodzieszynek,” a place which does not appear in the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Lands). It’s unclear from this record whether the village of Młodzieszynek was intended, or instead the village of Budy Młodzieszyńskie, both of which belonged to the parish in Młodzieszyn. According to the Słownik, Budy Młodzieszyńskie had 44 homes, while Młodzieszynek had 15 homes circa 1827, contemporaneous with the time frame for the marriage of Marianna and Antoni Kalota. 2

The DNA Match

Mom and Ron share a single segment of DNA on Chromosome 17. The matching segment consists of 26.3 cM and 11,008 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), according to the chromosome browser at MyHeritage, where Ron uploaded his raw DNA data from Ancestry. The Shared cM Tool at DNA Painter, which offers statistical probabilities for each relationship that is possible based on a given amount of shared DNA, reports a 55.88% chance that the relationship between Mom and Ron is pretty distant, along the lines of 4th-8th cousins, but encompassing a number of possible relationships within that range (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Most probable relationships predicted by 26.3 cM shared DNA, according to DNA Painter.Shared cM Screenshot for DNA shared between Ron and Mom

26.3 cM is likely to be identical by descent, indicative of shared ancestry, rather than by identical by chance, i.e. a false positive. However, the Wilczek surname is sufficiently common throughout Poland that we cannot assume that this is necessarily how Ron and Mom are related without documentary evidence to prove the relationship (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Approximate geographic distribution of the Wilczek surname throughout Poland, circa 2009, courtesy of Nazwiska Polskie. Numbers in colored circles indicate approximate number of bearers of the surname in that region.Wilczek surname distribution

So what do we know—or what can we discover—about the origins of Ron’s Wilczek ancestors that might help confirm the hypothesis that the connection lies with the Wilczek family of Młodzieszyn parish?

The Wilczek Family of North Tonawanda, New York

According to Ron’s tree, his grandfather, Stanisław, was the son of Izydor and Sophia Wilczek, both of whom also immigrated from Russian Poland to North Tonawanda. Izydor is not an especially common Polish given name, and its appearance in both Ron’s family and my own offers further evidence that our connection lies somewhere within the Wilczek family of Młodzieszyn. The 1910 census shows the Wilczek family living at 36 Eighth Avenue in North Tonawanda (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Extract from the 1910 census showing Izydor Wilczek and his family in North Tonawanda, New York.3Wilczek fam 1910 census

According to the information in the census, Izydor was born circa 1874 in Russian Poland and had been married for 15 years, suggesting a marriage date circa 1895. He was reported to have immigrated in 1903 but was not a naturalized citizen. His wife, Sophie, arrived three years later in 1906. Although there were only four children living with the family in 1910, the census revealed that Sophie was the mother of 8, so we know there were four additional children that we need to identify in order to get a complete picture of the family.

In addition to the 1910 census, Ron’s tree contained one another piece of information that was especially interesting. His tree stated that his grandfather, Stanisław Wilczek, was born in Żyrardów, Poland, a town which is located some 40 km south of Młodzieszyn (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Locations of Żyrardów and Młodzieszyn within the Mazowieckie province of Poland, courtesy of Google Maps.Map of Zyrardow to Mlodzieszyn

If Ron’s Wilczek ancestors were originally from Żyrardów or nearby villages, that would fly in the face of my hypothesis that we descend from common Wilczek ancestors in Młodzieszyn. Could his information be incorrect? Or did his branch of the Wilczek family move south, and if so, how long ago?

Geneteka to the Rescue, Again!

Fortunately, this was an easy thing to check. Records for Żyrardów are indexed in the popular Polish vital records indexing database, Geneteka, for the time period when Stanisław Wilczek and his siblings were born. A quick search for records pertaining to Izydor and Zofia (the Polish version of the name Sophie) Wilczek demonstrated that Ron’s oral family history was accurate: Stanisław Wilczek was born in Żyrardów (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Geneteka search results for birth records pertaining to Izydor and Zofia Wilczek, searching all locations in Mazowieckie province. Geneteka Search Results for Izydor Wilczek

In addition to Stanisław’s birth record, this search also produced birth records for the two Polish-born siblings mentioned in the 1910 census, Feliksa and Antonina. Furthermore, it identified two of the children born to Zofia Wilczek who were reported to be deceased prior to 1910, Zofia Stanisława and Józef. Their death records can be found by clicking over to the “Deaths” tab in the search results. Best of all, the marriage record for Izydor and Zofia was also indexed and linked to a scan, which is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Marriage record from Żyrardów parish for Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk, 24 February 1895.4Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk marriage 1895

The marriage record is written in Russian, and is translated as follows:

“No. 63. Teklinów and Budy Stare. This happened in the town of Żyrardów on the 12th/24th day of February 1895 at 7:00 in the evening. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Antoni Peńsko and Jan Wysocki, both adult laborers residing in Ruda Guzowska—on this day a religious marriage was contracted between Izydor Wilczek, bachelor, reserve solder, farmer, born in Budy Stare in Młodzieszyn parish, and residing in that place with his parents; son of Andrzej and Anna née Kornacka, the spouses Wilczek, age 30; and Zofia Krawczyk, single, seamstress, born in Kuznocin, Sochaczew parish, and residing in Teklinów, daughter of the unmarried Marianna Krawczyk; age 20. The marriage was preceded by three readings of the banns in the local parish church and in the parish of Młodzieszyn on the 10th, 17th, and 24th days of February of this year. No impediments to the marriage were found. The newlyweds stated that they had made no premarital agreements between them. Permission for the marriage of the underage bride was given orally by the stepfather, Jan Skrzyński, present at the marriage act. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Fr. Kazimierz Nowosielski, vicar of the local parish. This document was read aloud to the newlyweds, witnesses, and stepfather, who are illiterate, and was signed by Us. [signed] Acting Civil Registrar, Fr. Jan Ka??? [illegible]”

So Izydor was indeed born in a village belonging to Młodzieszyn parish, and he was still living there at the time he married Zofia. This confirms my hunch about Izydor’s origins and suggests that I’m on the right track. It may be that the common ancestor shared between me and Ron was a Wilczek from Młodzieszyn. The record goes on to identify Izydor’s parents as Andrzej Wilczek and Anna Kornacka, who were unknown to me, so further research in the records of Młodzieszyn is needed to elucidate the relationship between Izydor Wilczek and my great-great-great-grandmother Marianna (née Wilczek) Kalota. However, the record also presents a plot twist: the bride, Zofia Krawczyk, was a native of the village of Kuznocin in Sochaczew parish! This is potentially relevant because I’ve traced my Krzemiński, Bielski, and Świecicki ancestors back to villages belonging to Sochaczew parish, so it muddies the waters quite a bit when it comes to determining the common ancestor from whom Mom and Ron inherited that segment of DNA on Chromosome 17. Moreover, it’s problematic that Zofia’s father is unknown, as our connection might lie with him.

Although an answer to this problem is not immediately apparent, it may be that additional research can present the solution. In the meantime, it’s obvious that we’re on the right track. This is a story that will be continued…. stay tuned!

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, Młodzieszyn parish (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie,” unknown dates, 1830, marriages, no. 2, Antoni Kalota and Marianna Wilczek, 31 January 1830,  Parafia Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny w Młodzieszynie, Chodakowska 1, 96-512 Młodzieszyn, Poland.

2 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 VI, 536, “Młodzieszyn,” DIR—Zasoby Polskie (http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/ : 17 May 2019).

3 “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M5HJ-T4L : 17 May 2019), Izidor Wilczek household, North Tonawanda Ward 3, Niagara, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 126, sheet 20A, family 309, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1049; FHL microfilm 1,375,062.

4 Roman Catholic Church, Żyrardów parish (Żyrardów, Żyrardów, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi metrykalne parafii rz-kat. w Żyrardowie, Księga UMZ 1895 r., marriages, no. 63, Izydor Wilczek and Zofia Krawczyk, 24 February 1895, accessed as digital images, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 17 May 2019). 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

Ancestry’s New ThruLines Utility Needs More Work

Last week, AncestryDNA® unveiled a new utility called ThruLines.™ You can read more about getting and using ThruLines™ from Ancestry’s article, here. Like many of you, I was anxious to play with it and see what, if anything, it did for me. I must say, I’m underwhelmed. Granted, the tool is still in Beta testing, so hopefully improvements will be made to the accuracy of the matching algorithm as time goes by. But as it is now, my concern is that ThruLines™ will only add to the existing confusion and misunderstanding of fledgling genealogists. Let’s walk through this utility to see what it offers and where the problems lie.

This shows my new Ancestry DNA home screen. I can access ThruLines™ on the right, and there’s a link at the bottom to click if I choose to continue using DNA Circles.

ThruLines first screen

The second screen gives me a portal to each of my ancestors to explore.

ThruLines second screen

When I first scrolled down on this screen, before I began to write this article, Ancestry highlighted a Potential Ancestor named Marianna Kozłowska, and informed me that she was my great-great-grandmother. Intrigued, I clicked on this person to examine the evidence for this assertion. On the next screen, Ancestry informed me that Marianna Kozłowska was the mother of my great-grandfather, Joseph Zielinski, and that she was mentioned in the family tree of a particular Ancestry member. If we take the information in the family tree at face value, Marianna Kozłowska was the daughter of Antoni Kozłowski and Tekla Stępkowska, born 1863 in Nowy Garwarz, Mazowieckie, Poland, near Glinojeck. (Antoni and Tekla were also reported to be my potential ancestors.) Marianna was married to Stanisław Zieliński, who was born 1863 in Wkra (also near Glinojeck). That fact is apparently the basis on which Ancestry’s algorithm determined that Marianna Kozłowska was my ancestor. I, too, have a great-great-grandfather named Stanisław Zieliński, who was born in 1863 and was married to a woman named Marianna.

The problem is, I have good documentary and DNA evidence that proves that my great-great-grandfather Stanisław Zieliński was born in Mistrzewice, Mazowieckie, Poland, not Wkra, and was married to Marianna Kalota, not Marianna Kozłowska.1 Moreover, my Marianna Kalota was the daughter of Roch Kalota and Agata Kurowska of Budy Stare, Mazowieckie, she was not the daughter of Antoni Kozłowski and Tekla Stępkowska. Marianna Kalota’s parents’ names and grandparents’ names are stated in my online tree, so it’s not as if there’s anything to suggest to Ancestry’s algorithms that I’m uncertain about the identifies of those ancestors. Closer examination of the tree which mentioned “my” ancestor, Marianna Kozłowska Zielińska revealed that the tree owner really has no good evidence for her claims about Marianna Kozłowska’s place of birth. For example, the passenger manifest that was supposed to document Marianna Kozłowska’s emigration to the U.S. was for a woman whose husband’s and children’s names did not match the data in the tree. Furthermore, the Marianna in the manifest was from Eckardtsfelde, Prussia, which is some 230 km west of Glinojeck.

There’s no shame in being confused about the origins of one’s ancestor, and everyone makes mistakes when they’re starting out in genealogy, so I’m not using this example merely to criticize the research of the woman who posted this tree. But I thought that surely there must have been some other basis for Ancestry’s conclusion that Marianna Kozłowska was my ancestor. Since this tree owner was clearly confused about where her Marianna Kozłowska was born, was it possible that she’s nonetheless a distant cousin of mine who simply made a few wrong turns while tracing her tree?

I checked out the profile of the woman who posted the family tree in question. If you’ve never done this before, you can access the profile of any Ancestry member with an online tree by clicking on the username found at the top left corner of the screen showing their tree. That will bring you to the screen shown below.

Ancestry Member Profile page

If that person is a match to you, or if any of the kits that (s)he manages are a match to you, it will be noted here. Additionally, if you manage other DNA results besides your own, you can use the drop-down menu, “Select DNA Test,” circled here in red, to compare this particular Ancestry user with any of the kits you manage.

To my surprise, she was not a DNA match at all. Not only did she not match me, she did not match my mother, the great-granddaughter of Stanisław and Marianna Zieliński. At this point it was pretty clear that the only basis for the assignment of Marianna Kozłowska Zielińska as my ancestor was her marriage to a man with the same name and year of birth as my great-great-grandfather. Never mind that Zieliński is the 8th-most popular surname in Poland, so there were undoubtedly quite a few Polish men named Stanisław Zieliński who were born in 1863. Sigh.

There is a bright side to this story, however. Ancestry requested feedback on my experience with ThruLines,™ via a little popup window, so I gratefully obliged them and expressed my concerns about their algorithm. Ancestry responded with lightning speed, such that when I returned to the site a few hours later to grab some screen shots for this blog post, there was no longer any mention of Marianna Kozłowska or her parents among my Potential Ancestors. Whew! Kudos to Ancestry for taking such prompt action in response to critical feedback. If nothing else, it underscores their desire to do the right thing by their customers.

Let’s examine another Potential Ancestor and see how that one shapes up. To quickly find these, I sorted my results according to this “Potential Ancestors” option using the drop-down “Filter by” menu at the top left. Once filtered, the results are shown below.

Potential Ancestors

Mary Cebulska intrigued me because there is a Maria Cebulska in my family tree, although she’s on my husband’s side. I also have Cybulskis in my tree since they married into the Zieliński family in Poland. However, examination of the family tree from whence this data came reveals that this is a reference to a fictitious Mary Cebulska who was purportedly married to my great-great-grandfather, Józef Grzesiak. This case was a bit trickier, since there was actual documentary evidence from a U.S. marriage record which stated that Józef’s wife’s name was Mary Cebulski. It turns out to be incorrect, and I wrote about this evidence previously. However, it was at least an honest mistake that any researcher might make if they were to base their case only on U.S. records instead of examining the evidence from Polish records. I won’t fault Ancestry for that one.

Next up, we have Walburga Meinzinger. I was a little surprised to find her in the list of “potential” ancestors because she’s an actual ancestor identified in my family tree on Ancestry. When I click on her name in this list, I arrive at a screen that tells me a little more about the connection.

Thrulines Walburga Meinzinge3r

Ancestry’s proposal of Walburga Meinzinger as my 4x-great-grandmother is based on her appearance in a tree posted by my paternal aunt, with whom I collaborate. Clicking on the “10 DNA Matches” brings me to a screen which may be the best part of the ThruLines™ utility, thanks to the clear graphic depiction of the relationships between me and my DNA matches who are also descendants of my great-great-grandparents, Wenzeslaus Meier and Anna Goetz.

Meinzinger tree

Is this new information for me? No, I had already discovered my connection to these folks by clicking on “shared matches” and either examining their online trees (where available) or writing to them. And the information about number of shared DNA segments and centimorgans of shared DNA is no more useful now than it was previously, in the absence of a chromosome browser which would allow me to paint these shared segments onto my chromosome map. Moreover, it’s misleading for Ancestry to highlight Walburga Meinzinger as the common link between me and all of these matches, since the most recent common ancestral couple isn’t Walburga and her husband, Christoph Meier, but rather Walburga’s grandson, Wenzeslaus Meier and his wife, Anna Goetz. At this point we have no evidence that Walburga is necessarily the ancestor “thru” whom I’m related to these 10 DNA matches, since it’s entirely possible that none of the DNA that we share came from her, but instead came from (for example) the Goetz side.

Finally, let’s take a look at Ancestry’s suggestion of Elisabeth “Lizette” Christina Gross as another one of my potential ancestors. This time, Ancestry informs me that Elisabeth was the mother of my 3x-great-grandfather, Carl Goetz. According to the tree which was supposed to be the source of the information, Elisabeth was born 2 February 1833 in Heilbronn, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. She married Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Goetz, and they were the parents of one Carl Wilhelm Christian Goetz who was born 5 October 1853 in Bavaria (Bayern), Germany and died 19 March 1933 in Buffalo, New York. 

My Carl (or Charles, in English) “coincidentally” also died on 19 March 1933 in Buffalo, New York,2 and equally “coincidentally,” was born on 5 October 1853 in Leuchtenberg, Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bayern, Germany.3 However, he was the son of Ulrich Goetz and Josephine Zenger, as evidenced by his death certificate (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Death certificate of Charles Goetz (Carl Götz), 19 March 1933, with parents’ names underlined in red.2Charles Goetz death 1933 marked

Moreover, there’s no evidence that my Carl ever used the middle names Wilhelm and Christian. While the birth dates quoted by this tree owner for her Carl Wilhelm Christian Goetz are a match for the documented birth and death dates of my Carl Goetz, the parents’ names and place of birth are clearly not a match. So this tree owner is erroneously conflating my Carl Goetz with her Carl, who may or may not have been the son of parents named Elisabeth “Lizette” Christina Gross and Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Goetz. It’s not clear to me precisely how she came to the conclusion that my Carl belonged in her family tree, beyond indiscriminate borrowing from online trees, but it’s very clear that he does not. Once again, I thought perhaps there was DNA evidence linking me to this tree owner through some other line, that might have been the basis for Ancestry’s identification of Elisabeth “Lizette” Christina Gross as my Potential Ancestor. Once again, I was disappointed. This tree owner isn’t a match to me, or to my father (Carl Goetz’s great-great-grandson).

The point here isn’t that there are inaccurate family trees online; we all know that already. But I think Ancestry’s ThruLines™ tool exacerbates the problem. Since ThruLines™ are accessed through the “DNA” tab and not the “Search” tab, it suggests that the highlighted “Potential Ancestors” are proposed on the basis of DNA matching rather than being based solely on the existence of trees containing individuals with the same names as one’s own ancestors. Unfortunately, in all the cases I examined, the DNA matches were too far “downstream” for them to be useful in drawing any conclusions about my potential relationship to more distant ancestors. The fact that I share DNA segments with my mother, my sister, and my four children cannot be used as evidence of our common descent from someone purported to be my great-great-grandmother. So if these “Potential Ancestors” are being identified solely on the basis of online family trees, then it would be more honest to have them suggested under the “Search” tab rather than the “DNA” tab.

If beginning genealogists are going to use these ThruLines,™ they need to understand that the the “Potential Ancestor” designations are no more reliable than the record hints or “shaky leaf” hints which Ancestry provides. While I love Ancestry for the convenience it offers in allowing me to locate and download documents pertaining to my family online, in the comfort of my home, at 2 am, I do wish they would leave well enough alone. I think it would be much better to put the records online, put the family trees online, and put the DNA data online, and then leave it to genealogists to connect the dots between those data sets themselves.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to hope that, in time, the usefulness of tools like ThruLines™ will increase. There seem to be plenty of people who are raving about this tool in the various Facebook genealogy forums, but so far, my personal experience with it has not been positive. As Blaine Bettinger wrote in the “Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques” Facebook group, “As a community, we need to decide whether we want automated tools that will unavoidably perpetuate mistakes, or whether we want NO automation. Those are the only two options.” Call me a Luddite, but I don’t think automation like this is doing us any favors. I look forward to the day when Ancestry proves me wrong.

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, Młodzieszyn parish (Młodzieszyn, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie,” unknown dates, 1885, marriages, #21, record for Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota, 15 November 1885.

2 New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1933, no. 1688, certificate for Charles Goetz, died 19 March 1933.

3 Roman Catholic Church, St. Margaret’s parish (Leuchtenberg, Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bayern, Germany), Band 6, Taufen 1848 – 1869, p. 26, no. 38, birth record for Karl Götz, Bischöfliches Zentralarchiv Regensburg, St.Petersweg 11-13, D-93047 Regensburg, Germany.

4 Blaine Bettinger, “Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques” Facebook group, post on 27 February 2019, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/geneticgenealogytipsandtechniques/permalink/594183891045315/ : 3 March 2019).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz  2019

If Wishes Were Horses: the Premarital Agreements of Marianna and Barbara Kalota

We all have things we wish for, hope for, and dream about. As genealogists, sometimes our dreams might be considered a little unusual, like longing for an extant copy of the 1890 U.S. census for each enumeration district where one had relatives living at that time. But as the old saying goes, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” In some cases, all the wishing in the world will be in vain, because the thing we want may no longer exist—like the 1890 census. Sometimes it’s possible to obtain the same information in some other way—for example, using a state census or city directory to document an ancestor’s residence in a certain location circa 1890. At other times, we just have to resign ourselves to the reality that what we want is truly unavailable, and the information will be difficult or impossible to obtain by any other means.

When it comes to my Polish ancestors, I’ve always dreamed about prenuptial agreements. Continue reading “If Wishes Were Horses: the Premarital Agreements of Marianna and Barbara Kalota”

The Case for the Legitimate Birth of Marianna Panek

In my last post, I introduced my Kalisiak ancestors from the parish of Mikołajew, and shared some of my struggle with conflicting evidence from vital records indexed in Geneteka. Such conflicts are very typical with genealogical research, but it’s important to resolve them if we’re going to have any confidence in our conclusions. As genealogists,  we are compelled to carry out “reasonably exhaustive” research before we can state that a fact is proven definitively, so it frequently happens that we make qualified conclusions which must then be revised as new evidence appears. Of course, the more important a research question is, the harder it is for us to live with uncertainty in our research conclusions. These days, I’ve been losing sleep over the question of the legitimate birth of Marianna Panek.

The Panek Family of Sochaczew

Recently I discovered solid evidence that my great-great-great-grandfather, Michał Zieliński, was born in Bibiampol and was the son of Piotr Zieliński and Marianna Panek. Armed with this new information, I headed over to Geneteka to see what additional records I could find for my ancestors there. Michał Zieliński’s birth record popped up immediately, along with birth records for his siblings, Wincenty, Wiktoria, and Marianna.

Zielinskis of Bibiampol

A search for the marriage record of Piotr Zieliński and Marianna Panek turned up a promising match. The year of marriage, 1824, makes sense given that their first child was born in 1825. The “i” infodot reveals that the bride was from Kuznocin, and that the bride and groom were both 18 years of age, suggesting that they were born circa 1806.  The real payoff was the discovery that Piotr’s parents were Grzegorz and Agnieszka, and Marianna was the daughter of Helena Panek. The record appears in the index twice because the archive holds two original versions — the Latin church record, and the Polish civil record. Note that parents’ names appear to be mentioned only in the civil version of the record, rather than the church version, although this may reflect a difference in the information that each indexer chose to include.

Piotr and Marianna Zielinski marriage

This is where it gets interesting, and maybe a little frustrating. On the surface, the situation seems very straightforward: Marianna was born out of wedlock to an unknown father and Helena Panek, a single mother. However, we cannot confirm that with Marianna’s birth record, since a search for this record in Sochaczew resulted in no matches. A closer inspection of data contained in the indexes for Sochaczew reveals that there’s a gap in the birth records for the period from 1803-1809. Unfortunately, this gap is real, in that it reflects a lack of available records during this time, not just a lag in indexing efforts. Therefore no birth records for either Marianna Panek or Piotr Zieliński are likely to be forthcoming, barring a miraculous discovery of the missing records. (Hey, it could happen — hope dies last.) Marianna Zielińska’s death record, which might also report her parents’ names, is similarly unavailable.

A search for a birth record in Sochaczew or any nearby parishes for Helena Panek, Marianna’s mother, produced no relevant results. Perhaps she married after Marianna was born, however? No such luck — I could find no evidence of a marriage record for Helena Panek. However, when I clicked over to view the results from that search under the “births” tab, there were four records for children of Tomasz Panek and Helena, whose maiden name was reported on two of the records as Swięcicka. Three of the births occurred in Kuznocin, which is the same village that Marianna Panek was reported to be from on her marriage record to Piotr Zieliński.

Panek births

There were two births prior to that gap in the birth records, but then no more births to this couple until 1815, despite the fact that birth records became available again starting in 1810. For kicks, I tried searching for Tomasz Panek, and the situation became more intriguing. Unfortunately, no marriage record is available for Tomasz and Helena, but that’s not surprising, since existing marriage records for Sochaczew don’t begin until 1802, and their first child was born in 1801. Check out these births, however.

Helena and Julianna births

In that gap from 1810-1815, there were two births to Tomasz Panek and his wife, whose maiden name was again reported as Swięcicka, but this time, her given name was reported as Julianna instead of Helena. It seems pretty improbable that there were two men named Tomasz Panek living in Kuznocin concurrently, married to the Swięcicka sisters, Helena and Julianna. Yet the priest mentions Julianna a third time, with the birth of Barbara in 1821. Since the references to Julianna are not chronological, there’s no reason to suspect a situation in which a first wife died and Tomasz then remarried her sister. However, if the priest merely recorded her given name in error, it’s odd that the same error would be repeated three times over a period of 11 years. There’s also a third Swięcicka “sister,” Antonina, who crops up on the birth record for Rozalia in 1825. What’s going on here?

A quick look at death records tells us that the same Andrzej Panek who was born to Tomasz and “Julianna” in 1812, died in 1817 in Kuznocin. This time, his mother was, indeed, reported to be Helena Panek. Tomasz Panek himself died in 1828, and the info dot tells us that he was age 60, and husband of Helena, née Swięcicka.

Panek deaths

Interestingly, the same Rozalia Panek whose mother was reported to be Antonina on her birth record, shows up again in 1896 with the death record of the widow Rozalia Wódka in Mistrzewice. (The infodot next to her surname reveals that her maiden name was Panek, as does the linked scan.) This is the same parish to which my Zieliński family migrated — the Zieliński family that I now know to be descended from Helena Panek. The Wódka surname is also familiar to me, as members of this family were often godparents and witnesses to vital events in my Zieliński family — an observation which makes perfect sense in light of the fact that Rozalia and Marianna were at least half-sisters. Rozalia’s death record states that she died at the age of 76, implying that she was born circa 1820, which is reasonably consistent with Rozalia Panek’s actual date of birth in 1825.

At this point, we have a growing body of evidence that Tomasz Panek was married to Helena (née Swięcicka) Panek from at least 1801 until his death in 1828. We can put to rest any lingering doubts about a prior marriage between Tomasz Panek and Julianna Swięcicka by searching for a death record for Julianna Panek, wife of Tomasz. None exists, although a search for a death record for Julianna Swięcicka reveals that a young woman by this name died at the age of 17 in Kuznocin in 1807.

Julianna Swiecicka

This suggests that Julianna was born circa 1790, so she might potentially be a younger sister to Helena. Perhaps the girls looked alike, causing the priest to mix up their names? It’s all speculation unless Julianna’s parents’ names were noted on her death record, but were simply omitted from the index, since no birth record for Julianna circa 1790 can be found with a search of indexed records from Sochaczew and nearby parishes (below).

Swiecicka births

However, this same search gives us a clue to the parents of my Helena Święcicka. A 1781 birth year is very reasonable for a woman whose first child was born in 1801, so it’s likely that Helena Panek was the daughter of Stanisław and Urszula, who had several other children born between 1781 and 1792. As a final piece of confirmation, a search for Helena Panek’s death record produces just one result, the civil and church versions of the 1831 death record for a 53-year-old widow, Helena Panek, daughter of Stanisław and Urszula. Her age suggests a birth year circa 1778, just a few years before the existing birth records begin in 1781. Note that in the entire period from 1783 through 1888, there is no death record for a Helena Panek who was unmarried, which further suggests that the only Helena Panek who lived in Kuznocin was the wife of Tomasz Panek.

Helena Panek death

What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

Let’s recap the evidence for the Panek family thus far. It appears that Tomasz Panek was married to Helena Święcicka, and only to Helena Święcicka. Helena was born circa 1778 to Stanisław and Urszula, and she married Tomasz circa 1800. Tomasz and Helena had at least 8 children, born between 1801 and 1825.

Helena and Julianna births

They may have had additional children who were born in that gap in the existing birth records from 1803 through 1809. This brings us full-circle, back to my 4x-great-grandmother, Marianna Panek, whose marriage record to Piotr Zieliński stated that she was born circa 1806 to Helena Panek, no father’s name specified. Since neither Marianna’s birth record nor death record is presently available, we cannot rely on the information in those documents to identify Marianna’s father or verify her mother’s marital status. However, after examination of all existing evidence, it appears that the only Helena Panek who was having children in Kuznocin at that time was a married woman, wife of Tomasz. Logically, there are only two possibilities:

(a) Tomasz Panek was Marianna’s father and his name was somehow omitted inadvertently from either her original marriage records or from the marriage index in Geneteka;  or

(b) The omission of the father’s name was deliberate, and Tomasz Panek was not Marianna’s father, although he was married to her mother at the time of her birth. These things happen, obviously, but how would it have been such public knowledge that it shows up in Marianna’s marriage record? The only possibility that comes to mind is that perhaps Tomasz was known to be away from the village at the time of Marianna’s conception, due to military service or some other work obligation.

At this point, I really can’t wait to get those marriage records from the diocesan archive to see what they have to say about Marianna’s parentage. Certainly, this case demonstrates the importance of scratching below the surface if we want to understand the lives and stories of our ancestors. Situations are frequently more complex than they may seem, and it is our job as family historians to dig deep and gather as much evidence as we can, and then and analyze the data thoroughly before attempting to draw firm conclusions. I’ll be sure to post an update to this story when I receive my records from the archive. Until then, happy researching!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

 

Where Were Your Ancestors in 1857?

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

Maternal grandfather’s line

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

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

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

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

Maternal grandmother’s line

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

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

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

Paternal grandfather’s line

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

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

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

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

Paternal grandmother’s line

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

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

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

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

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

Selected Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

Frank Zielinski and the Board of Special Inquiry

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

— Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, 1883.

Despite Lazarus’ idealized portrayal of America’s welcome toward immigrants, there has always been a fair amount of suspicion toward the most recent wave of newcomers, and concern that they would take away jobs from American citizens or require public assistance. Any family historian who has ever studied a passenger manifest from the early 20th century has seen the columns in which immigrants were required to verify that they were in good mental and physical health, that they were not deformed or crippled, that they were not anarchists or polygamists. Immigrants could be sent back home for any number of reasons, and although only about 2% of Ellis Island immigrants were actually turned away, many of our ancestors were subjected to a more detailed physical exam or a special hearing prior to admittance.

Consequently, many of us have discovered evidence in our own family trees of  immigrants who were detained for a hearing with the Board of Special Inquiry. In my family, my great-grandfather’s brother, Franciszek (Frank) Zieliński, was one such example. Franciszek arrived at Ellis Island on 7 April 1907, and his passenger manifest is shown here on the Ellis Island site (free) or via Ancestry, here (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Extract from passenger manifest of Franciszek Zelinski (sic) from the S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907.1Frank Zielinski marked manifest left crop

Franciszek appears on line 11, a single, male farm laborer, age 26, not able to read or write, which was not unusual for men living in Russian Poland at that time. His last permanent residence was noted to be Sochaczew, Russian Poland. Franciszek did not have a ticket to his final destination and he had only one dollar to his name, but he was reported to have paid for his ticket himself. Franciszek and a traveling companion, Aleksander Winnicki, were both going to join the brother-in-law of a third companion, Walenty Jankowski, who reported that he was from the village of Czyste, which is near Sochaczew. Walenty’s brother-in-law, Antoni Bejger (?), was living in Buffalo, New York. Although this manifest page is genealogical gold, it tells only half the story. As evidenced by the “SI” notations and subsequent “Admitted” stamps, all three of these men, along with four others on this page, were flagged for detainment and a hearing with the Board of Special Inquiry (SI).

These Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry appear as separate documents that usually constitute the final pages of the ship’s manifest, or possibly the first few pages of the manifest, as some manifests were microfilmed in reverse order. It’s common for a search on Ancestry to reveal one of the manifest pages for a particular immigrant (the main manifest page or the Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry page), but not both. However, you can always browse manually to find the additional page if there is reason to suspect that it should exist. Figure 2 shows the page from the Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry where Franciszek Zieliński was mentioned.

Figure 2: Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, Franceszek Zelinski (sic), S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907.2

Board of Special Inquiry manifest Frank Zielinski crop

The left-most columns on this manifest confirm the data found in the original manifest entry for Franciszek, indicating “26m” for a 26-year-old male, followed by his name. The next columns report group number and page number on the manifest where he was originally recorded. There is a column for number of persons held, which was only one, in Franciszek’s case. However, other entries note larger traveling parties, such as the group of 8 recorded further down on the page — a mother traveling with 7 children, who was detained as a Likely Public Charge (L.P.C.). The next column reveals the reason for Frank’s detainment, “C.L.” This notation stands for “Contract Labor,” and Franciszek’s traveling companions, Aleksander Winnicki and Walenty Jankowski, were detained for this same reason.

Apparently, Franciszek and the others were suspected of immigrating in violation of the Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885. This law was intended to discourage the practice among American companies of promising jobs to immigrants upon arrival, bringing them in under contract, or prepaying their passage. In addition,

The law aimed at reducing immigration to the country and supplying the workforce with better skilled trained craftsmen. The act prohibited all companies and individuals from bringing immigrants into the United States under contract or through indentured servitude. A less overt purpose of the law was to raise the quality of new immigrants by excluding people who could not pay their own way to reach the United States. Immigrants who could afford to travel to the United States on their own income were most welcome.3

The next columns on the manifest report the name of the immigration inspector, Leonard, and the actions of the Boards of Special Inquiry. In the case of Franciszek and his friends, the hearings took place on that same day, 7 April (reported in the “Date” column), and a transcript of the proceedings was recorded by the secretary “Lov” on page 10 of the stenographer’s notebook. One such transcript can be found here, although the transcript from Franciszek’s hearing would not have been preserved because he was ultimately admitted to the United States. The only records that were not destroyed were for cases in which the BSI judged in favor of exclusion an immigrant, and the immigrant appealed the decision. The documents surrounding those appeals are housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and additional information about obtaining them can be found here.

The final columns on the far right side of the page are also interesting, in that they provide a tally for the number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners the detained person or party received while in detainment. The cost of these meals was billed to the steamship company. Unfortunately, the top corner of the original page was torn prior to microfilming, so this information is not available in Frank’s case.

Ultimately, Frank was admitted to the U.S., possibly because he was able to persuade the BSI that he did, in fact, pay for his own ticket as he reported on the manifest. Nevertheless, these Records of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry provide fascinating details to add to our understanding of our immigrant ancestors’ stories. So the next time you see an “admitted” stamp on a manifest next to the name of an immigrant ancestor, be sure to dig a little deeper in the manifest to uncover the rest of the story.

 

For further reading:

Grounds for Exclusion noted on BSI lists:  http://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/manifests/bsi/causes.html, and

http://www.dvhh.org/dta/usa/general-research/alien_detentions.htm

Interesting story about an immigrant whose admittance was denied by the BSI, but who gained entry upon appeal:

http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/Manifests/bsi/

Sources:

1 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image), Ancestry.com, (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003), Record for Franciszek Zelinski, S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907, list 10, line 11, accessed 8 October 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image), Ancestry.com, (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003), Franceszek Zelinski (sic) in Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, S.S. Breslau, 7 April 1907, page 121, accessed 8 October 2017.

Bell, Keith J. “Alien Contract Labor Law of 1885,”  Immigration to the United States, http://immigrationtounitedstates.org, accessed 8 October 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017