Discovering a Majczyk Cousin

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

Introducing Jan Majczyk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Falenczyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quest for Jan’s Birth Record

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

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

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

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

Digging Deeper in Daniszewo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making the Connection

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

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

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

Bingo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

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

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researching Marianna Drajem

I’ve been writing a lot about my Hodgkinson research lately, but today I’m going to shift gears and write about some new discoveries on my husband’s Drajem line.

Recently, I was contacted by Debbie, a fellow family historian who’s researching her granddaughter’s ancestry. That granddaughter is my husband’s fourth cousin once removed, and their most recent common ancestors were Józef and Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem. Prior to Debbie’s phone call, I knew nothing of earlier generations of the Drajem family; Józef and Marianna were the end of the line, and I knew only the outlines of their lives. However, after talking with her, I was inspired to dig a little deeper, and learn more about Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem’s story.

Marya Drajem

I was first introduced to Marianna back in November 2001, thanks to information contained in a life insurance application filed by her son, Wojciech Drajem. This was not an heirloom document, handed down in my husband’s family. Rather, this piece of genealogical gold was mined from the database, “Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA} Insurance Claim File Index,” where I discovered that a death claim packet was available for Wojciech Drajem. This database is maintained by the Polish Genealogical Society of America, which will provide copies of death claim packets for a very nominal fee. When my packet arrived, I was thrilled to discover that it contained Wojciech’s original life insurance application, medical examiner’s certificate, beneficiary certificate, death certificate, insurance claim, and letter of payment. Wojciech’s application, dated 6 February 1915, provided information about his parents and family of origin (Figure 1).1

Figure 1: Application for life insurance from the PRCUA for Wojciech Drajem, 6 February 1915.

This document identifies Wojciech’s mother as Marya (__) Drajem, and tells us that she died at the age of 83 of senility. Her husband was Józef Drajem, who died at the age of 50 of unknown causes. Wojciech stated that he had no brothers who were deceased, but one 44-year-old brother who was alive at that time and in good health. He had two living sisters, aged 51–60 years, and one sister who died in childbirth (the certificate states, “in labor”) at the age of 28.

Maryanna Drajem of Buffalo, New York

Back in 2001, as a baby genealogist, I assumed that Marya Drajem died in Poland. It wasn’t until I started researching the family of her daughter, Apolonia (Drajem) Samulski, that I discovered that Marya also immigrated to Buffalo, New York (Figure 2).2

Figure 2: Detail from 1900 census showing Maryanna Drajem in the household of Ignatz Samulski. Click to view larger image.

In 1900, Maryanna Drajem was living at 33 Loepere Street with her son-in-law, Ignatz Samulski, daughter Apolonia, and their two children, Pelagia (“Pearl”) and Stanislaus (“Stanley”). She was recorded as a 78-year-old widow, born in February 1822 in “Poland Ger.,” which implies the Prussian partition of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (For a brief summary of Poland’s changing borders, see here.) Her immigration year was not recorded, but her son-in-law arrived in the U.S. in 1880, so it’s likely that she traveled with him and her daughter, or perhaps arrived a few years after they had settled in the U.S. A passenger record has not been found for her to date. Interestingly, this record states that Marianna was the mother of eleven children, seven of whom were still living at the time of the census, which is a bit different from the total of five children reported by Wojciech Drajem in his life insurance application.

Marie (Kaszyńska) Draheim of Buffalo, New York, and Mielno, Posen, Prussia

The first glimpse of Marianna in records from Poland came in this entry from the Poznań Project, which is a database of marriages that took place between 1800–1899 in the Prussian province of Posen and surrounding districts (Figure 3). (A complete list of covered parishes and civil registry offices is found here.)

Figure 3: Search result from the Poznań Project showing the marriage of August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik in Kucharki in 1890.

If you’re new to the variations in surname spelling that are part and parcel of genealogical research, you may be alarmed by the degree to which “Drajem” differs from “Draheim.” Usually, the variants bear some phonetic resemblance to each other, so one way to check whether or not you’re on the right track is to hear the surnames pronounced in Polish using Google Translate. If you click on the “sound” icon in the Polish “input” box on the left, you’ll hear the surname pronounced by a Polish speaker. Similarly, it’s important not to be thrown off by the variety of given names we might find in the records pertaining to the same ancestor. In this case, Mary, Marya, Maria, Marie, Maryanna, and Marianna are all equivalent.

August Drajem was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and was the brother of Wojciech, whose insurance application was discussed previously. This index entry from the Poznań Project is helpful because it confirms their parents’ names as Józef and Marianna, and further identifies Marianna Drajem’s maiden name as Kaszyńska, in addition to the other information it provides. It also tells us that the original record came from the civil registry office in Kucharki, Wielkopolski, Poland, and fortunately, those records can be found online at Szukajwarchiwach, the online catalog for the Polish state archives. August and Agnes’s marriage record (which was also shared in a previous post) is shown below. (Figures 4a and b).3

Figure 4a: First page of the civil marriage record from Kucharki for Augustyn Draheim and Agnieszka Jamrozik, 1 February 1890.
Figure 4b: Second page of the civil marriage record from Kucharki for August Draheim and Agnieszka Jamrozik, 1 February 1890.

The record is in German, and Johann Kargl provided the following translation in the now-defunct Facebook group “Genealogy Translations,” whose successor is the Genealogical Translations group.4

“Kucharki 1st February 1890
1. Before the undersigned registrar appeared the farm servant August Draheim, personally known, Catholic, born on 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno, living in Kucharki, son of the deceased master tailor Josef Draheim and his wife Marianne, nee Kaszynska, living in America
2. the unmarried maiden Agnes Jamrozik, personally known, Catholic, born on 9 January 1865 in Kucharki, county Kleschen, living in Kucharki, daughter of the innkeeper Johann Jamrozik and his wife Rosalie, nee Juszczak, living in Kucharki.
As witnesses appeared:
3. The innkeeper Jakob Tomalak, personally known, 60 yers old, living in Kucharki
4. the innkeeper Adalbert (Wojciech) Szlachetka, personally known, 48 years old, living in Kucharki

read, approved and signed
August Draheim Agnieszka Draheim, nee Jamrozik
Jakob Tomalak
Wojciech Szlachetka
The registrar
signed Grzegorzewski

Kucharki, 8 February 1890
(signature)”

This document goes well beyond the information in the index entry from the Poznań Project, providing August Drajem’s exact date and place of birth as 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno. The marriage record also tells us that Marianna Drajem was already a widow by the time of August’s marriage in 1890 and living in “Amerika.” Although the Meyers Gazetteer indicates a number of places called “Amerika” that were located within the German Empire, we already have evidence from the census that Marianna had children living in Buffalo as early as 1880. Therefore, it’s quite plausible that the obvious “Amerika”—the United States of America—is really the one that was intended here.

In contrast, the obvious choice was not the correct one when it came to identifying the Mielno where the Drajem family was living when August was born. Although Mapa Szukacz identifies 17 places within the borders of Poland today that are called Mielno, the marriage record specifies that August was born in Mielno in Mogilno County. The Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego has a number of entries for places called Mielno, but the only one described as being in Mogilno County (“pow. mogilnicki”) was the one belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. Kartenmeister similarly offers 23 search results for places called Mielno, but only three entries mention Mogilno County. The three entries correspond to variant place names (Mielno, Moelno, Mölno) for the same village, belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. However, August’s birth record was not found in church records from Pakość in July 1866, nor was it recorded in this parish anywhere within the period from 1864–1867. This suggests that the Mielno located just north of Pakość is not the right place, after all, although other interpretations (i.e. August was born outside the range of years checked, or baptized as a Protestant who subsequently converted to Catholicism) are also possible.

Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłoska Draheim of Buffalo, New York and Mielno, Posen, Prussia

Despite this setback, the Poznań Project came through again with the marriage record for Józef Drajem/Draheim and Marianna Kaszyńska, which offered further insight (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Search result from the Poznań Project showing the marriage of Joseph Drahem and Marianna Radłoska nee Kaszyńska in Niestronno in 1850.

This index entry was the only result in the database for a groom with the given name of Joseph/Józef/Josef and a surname phonetically similar to Draheim, and a bride named Marianna Kaszyńska, and her age is exactly what we would expect, given our previous evidence that points to a birth year circa 1822. The index entry informs us that Marianna and Józef married in Niestronno, that Marianna had been married previously to a man with the surname Radłoski, that her father was deceased, and that her mother’s name was Rosalia Kaszyńska.

Records from the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno are also online, this time at FamilySearch, which permits at-home access to these images (as opposed to viewing only at a Family History Center or Affiliate Library) after logging into a free FamilySearch account. Józef and Marianna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 6.5

Figure 6: Marriage record from the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno for Józef Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850. Click to view larger image.

Due to the faded ink, the bleed-through from the reverse pages, the cramped handwriting, and my rudimentary ability to read Latin, this one took some time to decipher, and I ran into a bit of trouble in some spots. So, I ran it past my friend, Marcel Elias, for corrections and insights, and with thanks to Marcel, the transcription is as follows:

“[Numerus] 8

[Annus Dies et Mensis Copulationis] 1850. 7 Julii

[Nomen sacerdotis benedicicensis matrimonium] Bartholem. Cieśliński, Commen’us (“commendarius”) ac Decanus

[Nomen et cognomen Copulatorum, denominatio, domicili, status artis vel Conditionis vitae, et atrum in Ecclesia art privato loco consecrati sunt] Joseph Drahim, ferrifeber, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonisca. Uterque ex Mielno. Copulati in Ecclesia.

[Num copulati vel una pars eorum vinculo matrimonii obstricti vel obstricta fuit. Num sub potestate parentum vel faterum existunt] Juvenis sub potestale parentium. Vidua

[Aetas sponsi]28 [sponsae] 28

[Religio sponsi] Cath. [sponsae] Cath.

[Nomen et cognomen parentum: Sponsi] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Sponsae] Pater mortuus, mater Rosalie Kaszyńska

[Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii… atetaris matrimonium contractum sit] Sponsus cum consenca parentum Sponsa Judi ???? 14 Juni 1850 II 4633

[Dies promulgati onum] 16, 23 et 30 Juni

[Nomen et cognomen, Ors et Conditio vitae adstantium testiam] Adalb. Kaszyński agran (?), Joan Berunt agran., Adalb. Kraczo (?) agran (?)

[Annotatio] Mielno.”

Translated, this states,

[Number] 8

[Year, Day, and Month of Marriage] 7 July 1850

[Name of the priest who blessed the marriage] Bartłomiej Cieśliński, pastor and dean

[Given and surname of those married, denomination, domicile, state or condition of life, and whether the marriage took place in church or in a private location] Joseph Drahim, blacksmith, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonist, both of Mielno. Married in church.

[Whether one of them was bound by matrimony. Whether they are under parental control, or in control of their own fates] Young man under parental control. Widow.

[Age of the groom] 28 [of the bride] 28

[Religion of the groom] Cath. [of the bride] Cath. (Catholic)       

[Given name and surname of the parents: Groom] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Bride] father deceased, mother Rosalie Kaszyńska

[Whether the marriage was contracted with parental consent, or with judicial (?) permission] The groom with parental consent, the bride, with permission from 14 June 1850, II 4633 (?)

[Dates on which the banns were published] 16, 23 and 30 June

[Given name and surname, origin and condition of life of present witnesses] Adalbert Kaszyński, farmer, Jan Berunt, farmer, Adalbert Kraczo?

[Remarks] Mielno.”

This record is packed with both information and mysteries. Consistent with the index entry from the Poznań Project, the record states that 28-year-old Joseph Drahim, a blacksmith, married 28-year-old widow, Marianna Radłoska on 7 July 1850 in the Roman Catholic church in Niestronno. (I would argue that Joseph’s surname is spelled Drahim, rather than Drahem, in the two places in which it was recorded in this document, but that’s a minor point.) Marianna has a curious notation after her name, “/: Liebener :/,” and the way that it’s written seems to suggest that Liebener was her maiden name, rather than Kaszyńska. Her parents’ names don’t shed much light on the situation, since her father’s name was not provided, and her mother’s name was recorded as Rosalie Kaszyńska, which could be interpreted as a maiden name. However, the other entries on this page do not provide mother’s maiden names; mothers were referred to by their married names, as was the case with Joseph’s parents, Adalbert and Anna Drahim. Moreover, the priest had a pattern of not recording names of deceased parents of the brides and grooms, from which we might infer that any parents whose names were recorded were still alive at the time of the wedding. So, the evidence does seem to favor Kaszyńska as Marianna’s maiden name, and it suggests that her mother, Rozalia (__) Kaszyńska, was still alive in 1850. For now, the “Liebener” notation remains a mystery, and its significance will depend on further research.

The record indicates that Marianna needed some sort of judicial permission in order to remarry, but it’s not entirely clear whether this was from a religious or civil authority. Marcel noted that the phrasing, “Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii…” could suggest that in some cases, the parish was the legal guardian of a person, if the father or both parents of a minor groom/bride were deceased, since luterum is a medieval Latin term for a baptismal font. It may be that the document referenced as granting permission for the remarriage, “14 Juni 1850 II 4633,” can be found in the parish archive.

In addition to providing an introduction to three “new” ancestors for my husband and children—Adalbert and Anna Draheim and Rozalia (__) Kaszyska—this marriage record states that both the bride and groom were from Mielno, which helps us to identify the specific Mielno where August Drajem was born. The village of Mielno that belongs to the parish in Niestronno is, in fact, located in present-day Mogilno County, gmina Mogilno, and I’m still baffled as to why it was not showing up in either of the two gazetteers I checked. These locations are shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7: Map showing locations of Mielno, where Marianna Drajem was living when her son August was born; Niestronno, where she married Józef Drajem, and Kucharki, where her son August was married, courtesy of Google Maps. Click to view larger map.

Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłowska of Popielewo, Mielno, and Buffalo

Although the record of Marianna Kaszyńska’s marriage to Józef Draheim made no mention of her father’s name, it seemed possible that this information was included in the record of her first marriage to (__) Radłoski. I searched the Poznań Project again for brides named Marianna Kaszyńska and grooms with the surnames that were at least 60% phonetically similar to Radłoski. There were no good matches. However, when I repeated the search, leaving off the groom’s surname entirely, a probable match was obtained (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Search result from the Poznań Project showing the marriage of Stephanus Racławski and Marianna Kaszyńska in Trzemeszno in 1838.

The bride’s age suggests a birth in 1820, which would be a couple years off from prior evidence that she was born in 1822; however, this is still within a reasonable ballpark. Records for the Roman Catholic parish in Trzemeszno are online at FamilySearch, so the original image was retrieved and is shown in Figure 9.6

Figure 9: Marriage record from the Roman Catholic parish in Trzemeszno for Stephan Radłowski and Maria Kaszyńska, 11 November 1838. Click to view larger image.

Although this record, too, was a bit disappointing in that it omitted the names of the couple’s parents, it is almost certainly the correct marriage record for our Marianna Kaszyńska. If you look closely, it’s clear that the groom’s name was actually Stephan Radłowski, and was mistranscribed as Racławski. A death record for Stephan dated prior to 1850 would provide further evidence that this interpretation is correct. The record identifies Popielewo as the village where the marriage took place, and since it was traditional to hold the wedding in the bride’s parish, this suggests that Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem was living in Popielewo in 1838 (Figure 10).

Figure 10: Map showing locations of Popielewo, where Marianna Kaszyńska was living when she married Stephan Radłowski; Trzemeszno, where that marriage was recorded; Niestronno, where she married Józef Drajem, and Mielno, where Marianna Drajem was living at the time of her second marriage. Google Maps. Click to view larger map.

The existence of a previous marriage for Marianna, and the likelihood that she had children with her first husband in those years prior to her marriage to Józef Drajem, may also help to reconcile the discrepancy between Wojciech’s statement that he had one brother and three sisters, with Marianna’s statement in the 1900 census that she was the mother of 11 children. Perhaps Wojciech was considering only his full siblings, neglecting to mention his six half-siblings from his mother’s previous marriage? Further research is required to find the answer.

While this research is far from finished, we have at least opened the door to further discovery in records from Poland. At the outset, we knew little more than Mary Drajem’s name. Now we have evidence that Marianna Kaszyńska was born circa 1820–1822 to a mother named Rozalia (__) and an unknown Kaszyński father, who was deceased by 1850. Marianna was married in Popielewo, Posen, Prussia (Trzemeszno parish) to Stephen Radłowski on 11 November 1838. There is some evidence to suggest that she might have had six children with Stephen Radłowski, and a focus of further research will be the identification of all of her children.

At some point, she moved from Popielewo to Mielno, where she was living when she married Józef Drajem in 1850, following the death of her first husband. She had four children with Józef who have been identified thus far, in research not discussed here: Antonina (b. 1851), Apolonia (b. May 1859), Augustyn (b. 25 July 1866), and Wojciech (b. 12 April 1867). We can infer that Józef died circa 1872, since his marriage record suggests a date of birth circa 1822, and Wojciech’s life insurance application stated that his father died at the age of 50. At some point between 1880 and 1890, Marianna Drajem migrated to Buffalo, New York, where she was living with her daughter, Apolonia Samulska, in 1900. Since Wojciech Drajem reported that his mother died at the age of 83, we can infer that she died circa 1905, and seek death and burial records for confirmation.

In my next post, I hope to discuss some further discoveries I’ve made for the Drajem family. Stay tuned.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Selected Sources:

1 Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Applicant’s Certificate (Zeznania Kandydata) for Wojciech Drajem, 6 February 1915, claim no. 22169, certificate no. 112904.

2 1900 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 14, Enumeration District 110, sheet 29B, house no. 33, family no. 533, lines 59-63, Ignatz Samulski household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 23 January 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, no roll specified.

3 “Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki, 1874 – 1935,” Akta malzenstw 1874-1909, 1890, no. 13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/ : 23 January 2022), Sygnatura 11/711/0/2/50, scans 29-30 of 75.

4 Johann Kargl, reply to post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, Genealogy Translations (Facebook group), 27 March 2016.

5 Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta małżeństw 1815-1865, 1850, no. 8, Joseph Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/: 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 3/DGS no. 8120936, image 593 of 1037.

6 Roman Catholic Church, Trzemeszno parish (Trzemeszno, Gniezno, Wielkopolskie, Poland), “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1874,” Copulatorum, 1837 – 1842, 1838, no. 22, Stephen Radłowski and Maria Kaszyńska, 11 November 1838; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2004406, item 20/DGS no.8020665, image 847 of 873.

Using the PRADZIAD Database

Update (June 1, 2020): Shortly after this post was written, the Polish state archives announced that the current version of PRADZIAD will only be available through the new version of Szukajwarchiwach. I was disappointed by this development, because I preferred the old PRADZIAD format for displaying search results. However, life is all about change, so adapt we must. A tutorial for using the new Szukajwarchiwach site can be found here.

One of the most frequently-asked questions in Polish genealogy groups on Facebook is, “Where can I find vital records—whether church books or civil registrations—for X parish or registry office?” There are really only four answers to this question: vital records might be at the parish, the diocesan archive, the regional state archive, or the local civil records office (urząd stanu cywilnego, or USC). The devil is in the details, however. Sometimes it’s difficult to ascertain precisely which books are held by a given repository, without a phone call or email to the repository. At other times, it’s much simpler, and one of the tools that makes life simple is the PRADZIAD database.

What is PRADZIAD?

PRADZIAD’s official name is Baza danych Program Rejestracji Akt Metrykalnych i Stanu Cywilnego, or The Program for the Registration of Records from Parish and Civil Registration Offices. The name is also something of a play on words, since “pradziad” is the Polish word for “great-grandfather,” and this database pertains specifically to metrical books and civil registers, which are the source of vital records. Although the database originally (prior to 2011) excluded information from some of the state archives (Lublin, Poznań), it presently contains information on the vital records holdings of all the Polish state archives, plus some additional archives:

  • the Roman Catholic diocesan or archdiocesan archives in Łódź, Poznań, Płock, Szczecin, Warszawa-Praga, Włocławek, and Wrocław;
  • the Książnicy Pomorskiej im. Stanisława Staszica w Szczecinie (the Stanisław Staszic Pomeranian Library in Szczecin);
  • the records for the diocese of Pińsk held by the Archiwum Diecezjalnym w Drohiczynie (Roman Catholic diocesan archive in Drohiczyn);
  • the Fundacji Kultury i Dziedzictwa Ormian Polskich (the Foundation of Culture and Heritage of Polish Armenians); and
  • the “Zabużańskie archive,” which holds record books of the Jewish and Roman Catholic denominations that were formerly located in the Kresy (territories of Poland that became part of the USSR after 1944). The Zabużańskie books are currently stored at the Urząd Stanu Cywilnego m.st. Warszawy (Registry Office of the Capital City of Warsaw) but are gradually being transferred to the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych (Central Archive of Historical Records).

How Do I Search PRADZIAD?

The database can be searched quickly, easily, and with an English search interface, here. This same search screen is shown in Figure 1:

Figure 1: PRADZIAD search screen.PRADZIAD search screen

Although it’s pretty straightforward, there are a few things that are helpful to know in setting up a search.

  1. Diacritics are not required, so searching for “Lodz” will produce results for Łódź.
  2. The search term must be the name of the parish or registry office that served a village, not just the village name. If my ancestors were from Wola Koszucka, a village belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Kowalewo Opactwo, powiat słupecki (Słupca County), I must search for Kowalewo, not Wola Koszucka. Not sure how to find the parish? Use a gazetteer. A number of them are listed here.
  3. All other input boxes except for the place name are optional. I usually skip the box where it says, “enter the name of the commune on the territory of which the town searched for is located or the county on the territory of which it was located before the war” because it’s easier to refine the search in other ways. However, when searching for a common place name (e.g. Dąbrowa), it’s useful to utilize the drop-down menu in the next option, where it states, “select the name of the province within the 1975-1998 or 1918-1939 borders.” This will help narrow the search results. If the province in which the parish was located under the old administrative structure is not known, there’s a handy tool offered by the PTG (Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne) that can help. The PTG are the same folks who bring us Geneteka and Metryki and a whole host of other genealogical gems, and this particular tool is called the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych (Catalog of Metrical Resources). The search page is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Search interface for the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych.Katalog

Diacritics are not required here, either, so I can search for “Dabrowa,” and find a list of all the parishes in Poland with “Dąbrowa” as part of the name (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Search results from the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych for “Dabrowa.” Only the top 16 search results out of 42 are shown.Katalog results for Dabrowa

The column boxed in red, “stare,” indicates the former województwo (province) to which the parish was assigned during the period from 1975-1998. From this chart, it is apparent that the parish of Dąbrowa which is located in the present-day Mazowieckie province, was formerly within the Ciechanów province. When this information is added to the search screen in PRADZIAD, the search hits are reduced from 111 down to 12.

4. Additional options for limiting search results include specifying the religion, and specifying the type of document (birth, marriage, death, etc.) While I rarely use the latter option, there are definitely times when specifying the religion can be useful.

The Fine Print

As you will have guessed by now, this database does not offer any information on individuals. It’s not a nominal index like Geneteka where the name of an ancestor can be searched. This database will only provide information on the vital-records holdings of the state archives (and a few additional archives, as noted above) for a particular location. A lack of results in PRADZIAD, does not imply that all the vital records for that location were destroyed, as vital records may still be found in the diocesan archive, the parish itself, or the USC (which would typically have the most recent 100 years of civil registrations, which are protected by Polish privacy laws). PRADZIAD offers no information on collections other than metrical books—such as census records, population registers, business records, town records, maps, photographs, notarial records, court records, etc.—which might be available for a given town. These can be discovered through a search at Szukajwarchiwach instead, where results will include all the holdings of the state archives related to a particular search term, including metrical books, where applicable. (For more information on using Szukajwarchiwach, a tutorial is available here.) Finally, search results displayed at PRADZIAD will not offer any indication of which collections might be found online and which can only be obtained by other means. It’s up to the researcher to perform his own due diligence before writing to the archive to request a search. (Examples of sites which offer online scans of vital records from Polish parishes include Szukajwarchiwach, Genealogia w Archiwach, Metryki, GenBaza, FamilySearch, etc.)

So what’s the point in searching only in PRADZIAD, if Szukajwarchiwach offers more comprehensive search results? It may be nothing more than a matter of personal preference, but for a researcher who is focused on finding vital records, the search format may be a little easier, and the results may be a little less to wade through, when using PRADZIAD. More information about writing to archives in Poland and examples of using PRADZIAD can be found here.  Happy researching!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

 

A Perfect Storm

Many of us who engage in genealogical research are motivated in part by the intellectual thrill of the research process itself. While it can be satisfying to help people with any research question, I find it especially enjoyable to help people make the leap from the U.S. to Poland by finding documentary evidence in Polish records for their immigrant ancestors for whom they only have evidence from U.S. records. Many Polish vital records are now available online, so if an immigrant’s place of origin is known, it may just be a matter of identifying the parish or registry office that served that village, and then checking the appropriate databases to locate a vital record. If all the steps are followed logically, the hunt is successful. Yet every now and then, something goes awry, and things don’t fall into place the way they should. Such setbacks can be great learning experiences, however, so I want to share one of those stories here today, since it illustrates so nicely some of the pitfalls that can be encountered with Polish genealogy, even when those logical steps are followed.

This particular story unfolded in the Poland & Genealogy group on Facebook, where I currently volunteer as administrator, and group member Josh Wilberger gave me his permission to share the details. Josh came to the group, eager to begin research in Polish records on his great-grandfather, Jan Pudło, but unsure of where to start. Josh had already done significant research in U.S. records, so he was well-prepared for the jump across the ocean. Most importantly, he knew his great-grandfather’s date and place of birth and parents’ names, which are the critical pieces of information required for definitive identification of one’s ancestor in foreign documents. From Jan’s petition for naturalization, Josh knew that Jan/John Pudło was born 17 April 1891 in “Stara Wies, Lublin, Russia.” Similarly, the record of Jan’s marriage to Anna Gil in Perry, New York, in 1912, stated that Jan was the son of Paul (Paweł in Polish) Pudło and Agnes (Agnieszka) Ciesliak.

From this point on, one might expect the process of finding Jan Pudło’s birth record to be pretty straightforward. Knowing the birthplace, it’s necessary to determine the parish that served that village. Knowing the parish, it’s just a matter of checking various repositories to see if records from that parish are readily available from a state or diocesan archive, or if onsite research is required to find the baptismal record. Since the research target, Jan Pudło, was born in the Lublin region, it should be even easier to track down the birth record since this area is so thoroughly indexed in the Lubgens database, and many scans are online (e.g. at FamilySearch, Szukajwarchiwach, etc.). Piece of cake, right?

Which Old Village is Which?

The situation was complicated somewhat by the fact that “Stara Wieś, ” which means “Old Village,” is a very popular place name found throughout Poland today, as well as in territories that were historically Polish. Just how popular is it? Mapa.szukacz (“Map Searcher”) identifies 639 places called Stara Wieś that are within the borders of Poland today. It’s one of those place names like “Wola” (848 places by that name) and “Dąbrowa” (420 places) that makes even experienced researchers cringe, knowing how many parishes might have to be checked before the right location is finally determined. The fact that the particular Stara Wieś in question was known to be in the Lublin region helped to narrow the field somewhat. However, there were still seven unique places called Stara Wieś located in the Lublin gubernia (province) of the Russian Empire, according to the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego (Index of the Kingdom of Poland, fondly abbreviated by me as the SKP), published in 1877.[1]

As the name suggests, this two-volume gazetteer provides an index to places that were located within the former Kingdom of Poland, also known informally as Congress Poland or Russian Poland. My decision to consult this gazetteer was part of my modus operandi for tackling research questions like this. Whenever I’m faced with the task of identifying a village in Poland with a very common name, I usually begin by selecting a gazetteer that focuses on the particular partition of Poland (Prussian, Russian, or Austrian) in which the village was located circa 1900. (This assumes, of course, that the documents which provided the place name are from that era.) For Russian Poland, the SKP is my top choice, although the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, which identifies places in the second Polish Republic (interwar Poland) is also useful for eastern borderlands locations that were in the Russian Empire in the 19th century, but were not located within the Kingdom of Poland. For the Prussian partition, I like Kartenmeister, which is currently down due to server problems, but will be back up soon, according to site owner Uwe-Karsten Krickhahn. For the Austrian partition, Brian J. Lenius’s Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia is a great resource, although it’s not online, while several editions of Jan Bigo’s Galicia gazetteer (e.g. this one from 1904) can be found in the holdings of one or more Polish digital libraries. All of these gazetteers require the correct spelling of the location. Additional gazetteers, as well as phonetic gazetteers that can be used for place names that were misspelled in U.S. documents, can be found here.

Getting back to Stara Wieś and the search for Jan Pudło, Figure 1 shows the seven options (boxed in red) for places called Stara Wieś that were located in the Lublin gubernia.

Figure 1: Entries for Stara Wieś in the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego. Places within the Lublin province are boxed in red. Each entry provides the administrative assignments for that place; column headings (left to right) are place name, followed by the gubernia (province), powiat (county), gmina (community or township), and Roman Catholic parish to which each village belonged. Where two parishes are indicated, the place designated as “r.l.” was the location of the Roman Catholic parish, while “r.g.” was the location of the Greek Catholic parish.Stara Wies in the SKP

Although two of the villages in that list were noted to have Greek Catholic residents as well as Roman Catholic, Josh knew that his family was Roman Catholic, so the focus was on the Roman Catholic parishes. That meant seven unique parishes to check for the birth of Josh’s great-grandfather, circa 17 April 1891.

I say, “circa,” because it’s not at all uncommon to discover that a Polish immigrant was actually born on a different day than the one reported as his date of birth on U.S. records. People often believe that their ancestors lied about their dates of birth, but I think it’s dangerous to ascribe motives to people who lived in another time, place and culture. Moreover, it’s not necessary to assume an intent to deceive if we merely wish to reconcile a discrepancy in the dates of birth reported on two different documents. It seems more generous—and equally plausible—to attribute the discrepancy to something more innocuous, such as the fact that many immigrants did not know their birth dates precisely. They might know that they were born during the potato harvest, for example, or near the feast of Corpus Christi, but that’s it. Errors in reporting may also result from the Polish preference for celebrating imieniny, the feast day of one’s baptismal patron saint, rather than celebrating birthdays. In some cases, a child might be named after the saint on whose feast day he or she was born, but adherence to this practice was not always strict.

The net effect of these cultural differences is that I tend to take 19th-century birth dates reported by Polish immigrants on U.S. records with a grain of salt. In my research experience, both the date and the year of birth may be off by as much as 5–6 years, but if all the other evidence is consistent (place of birth, parents’ names, known siblings’ names and approximate dates of birth) then the birth record can safely be considered a match. It was from this perspective that I approached the search for Jan Pudło’s birth record. Sure, the petition for naturalization might state that Jan was born 17 April 1891, but I was very open to the possibility—or likelihood, even—that a birth record might be found which indicated that he was born on some other date in that ballpark.

The search for a birth record was greatly facilitated by the fact that Lublin-area vital records are so thoroughly indexed in the Lubgens database. A broad search for Jan Pudło’s birth between 1885 and 1897 in all indexed parishes produced 15 hits (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Results of search in Lubgens database for birth records for Jan Pudło, born between 1885 and 1897.Jan Pudlo birth results in Lubge3ns

The parish in which each of these births was recorded is stated in the “Parafia” column. Since we know that Josh’s great-grandfather was born in the village of Stara Wieś, and we know from the gazetteer that the seven Lublin-area villages called Stara Wieś belonged to the parishes of Łęczna, Końskowola, Frampol, Surhów, Targowisko, Puchaczew, and Nabróż, we can quickly scan this list for those parish names and eliminate any search hits that were not from one of these parishes. The result? There was exactly one birth for a Jan Pudło who was baptized in Targowisko, one of those seven parishes, and it just so happens that he was born precisely in 1891! Time for a Genealogical Happy Dance? Not so fast. The matching birth record is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Birth record for Jan Pudło from the parish of Targowisko.[2]Wrong Jan Pudlo birth

The record is in Russian, as expected, but the underlined text was not expected. The text underlined in blue in the margin is the village in which the birth occurred, and it reads “Тарнавка” (Tarnawka), rather than mentioning the expected village of Stara Wieś. I took a look at the map, which shows two villages called Tarnawka—Tarnawka Pierwsza and Tarnawka Druga—that are adjacent to each other and just north of the parish of Targowisko. The villages of Stara Wieś Pierwsza and Stara Wieś Druga (“Old Village One” and “Old Village Two”) can be seen just north of the pair of Tarnawkas (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Position of the village(s) of Tarnawka relative to the parish of Targowisko and the target village(s) of Stara Wieś.Targowisko map

The text underlined in blue in the record itself (Figure 3) goes on to state (in translation) that the child “was born in Tarnawka on the 9th/21st day of May.” The second date, 21 May, is the date of birth according to the Gregorian calendar that we use, and it’s certainly not problematic, given how close it is to the expected date of 17 April 1891. It’s entirely reasonable to think that a Polish immigrant of this era might report his date of birth as 17 April 1891 if in fact he was born 21 May 1891. But more problematic is the fact that the father’s name was recorded as Piotr Pudło, while the mother’s name was recorded as Marianna Milanoska. Based on our evidence from Jan’s marriage record, the parents’ names ought to be Paweł Pudło and Agnieszka Cieślak or Cieslak (the two most probable surnames suggested by “Ciesliak”—a surname which exists in Polish records in that form, but is very rare).

So, what’s going on here? Could this still be the right birth record for Josh’s great-grandfather? In cases like this, it can be difficult to be certain, since there’s such a limited amount of data. As improbable as it may seem, I’ve seen cases where a Polish immigrant reported his own mother’s name incorrectly on documents in the U.S. (see here). Could it be that Jan Pudło did not know his own mother’s name, and the priest happened to record his father’s name incorrectly as well? Maybe, but the odds of both names being in error, as well as the village name being different from expected, made this scenario seem highly implausible, despite the fact that the date of birth was approximately correct. But if this record was not the birth record for Josh’s great-grandfather, Jan Pudło, then where was that birth record?

Back to the Drawing Board

Searching for scraps of information that might help explain this situation, I noticed that on the map shown in Figure 4, the villages of Stara Wieś Pierwsza and Stara Wieś Druga are approximately equidistant between Targowisko to the south and another village, Bychawa, to the north. Bychawa was also mentioned in the search results in Figure 2. Moreover, I noticed that the Lubgens database includes indexed vital records from a parish called Stara Wieś in gmina Bychawa that was not mentioned in the SKP (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Information on the parish of St. Stanisław, Bishop and Martyr, found in the Lubgens database.Stara Wies parish page on Lubgens

The fact that the earliest records indexed in the database are from 1930 explains why this parish was not mentioned in the SKP—it didn’t exist in 1877. A quick internet search revealed that the parish of Stara Wieś was erected in 1932 and included villages that formerly belonged to the parishes of Bychawa and Boże Wola.[3]

Right Church, Wrong Pew

At this point, it dawned on me: the information in the SKP must be incorrect. Much as I love gazetteers and rely on them to be guideposts in my genealogical journey, pointing the way to the correct parish for each village, it’s important to remember that no gazetteer is 100% accurate—or at least, I have yet to find one that is. When things don’t add up, it’s advisable to check a second gazetteer, so in this case, I checked the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, published circa 1933.[4] Lo, and behold, the parish for the Stara Wieś that was located in Krasnystaw county and gmina Zakrzew—the same Stara Wieś that was noted in the SKP as belonging to Targowisko parish—was noted in this gazetteer to be in Bychawa (Figure 6)!

Figure 6: Entry for Stara Wieś in gmina Zakrzew, Krasnystaw county from the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej.Stara Wies in Second Polish Republic Gazetteer

If further confirmation is desired from a gazetteer more contemporaneous with the birth of Jan Pudło, the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries) can be checked. This gazetteer, published between 1880 and 1902, contains five pages of entries for villages named Stara Wieś that were located in all three of the Polish partitions (Russian, Prussian and Austrian). Although entries are organized in a logical fashion (explained on pages 5-6 of Volume 1), it can still be a lot to wade through, which is why I didn’t check this gazetteer immediately. Nonetheless, our Stara Wieś is cataloged in entry 27 on page 226 of Volume 11, which clearly states that this village belonged to the parish in Bychawa (Figure 7).[5]

Figure 7: Beginning of entry for Stara Wieś in gmina Zakrzew, Krasnystaw county, in the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, underlined in red.Stara Wies from SGKP

Once the correct parish was firmly established, it was a simple matter of using the links in the Lubgens database (Figure 2) to check the scans from the parish in Bychawa and find the correct birth record. As luck would have it, my concerns about potential inaccuracy in Jan’s reporting of his date of birth were completely unfounded, as the record indicates that he was born on 29 April 1891, pretty darn close to when he thought he was born. The correct birth record is shown in Figure 8.[6]

Figure 8: Birth record for Jan Pudło, born 29 April 1891 in Stara Wieś.Jan Pudlo 1891

In translation, the record states,

“No. 121, Stara Wieś. This happened in the suburb of Bychawa on the 17th/29th day of April in the year 1891 at 5:00 in the afternoon. Paweł Pudło appeared, a peasant residing in the village of Stara Wieś, age 52, in the presence of Tomasz Makowski of Stara Wieś, age 37, and Józef Janczarek of Bychawa, age 27, peasants; and showed us a child of the male sex, stating that it was born in Stara Wieś on the 17th/29th day of April of the current year at 3:00 in the morning of his wife, Agnieszka née Cieśla, age 35. At Holy Baptism, performed today, the name Jan was given, and his godparents were Tomasz Makowski and Antonina Josikowa. This document was read to the declarant and witnesses, and because of their illiteracy it was signed only by Us. [signed] Fr. Wojciech Makara, Acting Civil Registrar”

That’s a Wrap

The matching parents’ names, place of birth, and date of birth confirm that this, at last, is the correct birth record for Josh’s great-grandfather. The irony in this situation is that the process of “doing it right” created obstacles to the research because the information in the SKP was incorrect. If no attempt had been made to identify the parish for the village of Stara Wieś, this birth record might have been discovered more quickly by using the “brute force” method of reading through all the search hits in the Lubgens database one by one. Even despite the broad search range (1885-1897), which was employed based on previous research experience, there were only 15 birth records to check, and if only the births from 1891 were considered, there were only three records to check. The correct birth record would have been found in any case, but as it played out, this was a perfect storm, a Murphy’s Law scenario in which everything converged to create research havoc. Really, what were the chances that the SKP would misidentify the parish, but that there just happened to be another Jan Pudło born in that incorrect parish in the same year as the target Jan Pudło?

I’m also amused by the multiplication of villages called Stara Wieś in the area where Jan Pudło was born. All the gazetteers mentioned only one Stara Wieś that belonged to the parish in Bychawa, yet the modern map indicates four such villages: Stara Wieś, Stara Wieś Pierwsza, Stara Wieś Druga, and Stara Wieś Trzecia—Old Village, Old Village One, Old Village Two and Old Village Three (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Four Old Villages, courtesy of Google Maps.Four Old Villages

In fact, an advanced search of Mapa.szukacz reveals 103 places called Stara Wieś that are within the borders of the Lublin province today. This is a considerable increase from the seven villages called Stara Wieś that existed in the Lublin gubernia in 1877 according to the SKP, an increase which is surprising even despite the fact that the current Lublin province covers a larger area than the former Lublin gubernia (9712 square miles vs. 6499 square miles).[7] Couldn’t they make the lives of genealogists a little easier by coming up with more creative names for the villages, at least?

So what take-home lessons can be gained from all of this?

  1. Despite occasional inaccuracies, gazetteers are still an invaluable asset for your research. In absence of any gazetteers or indexed records to fall back on, one would have to approach this project by locating an old map of the Lublin gubernia with sufficient scale to show tiny villages, looking for every village called Stara Wieś, and then investigating all the surrounding villages to see which ones had Catholic parishes that were in existence in the time period in question. After that, one would have to check the records from each of those parishes for the target baptismal record. Who has time for that?
  2. You may need to check more than one gazetteer before proceeding with the research. In this case, indexed records with linked scans made the research simple. But if records were not available online and it was necessary to hire an onsite researcher to visit the parish in person to obtain records, I would definitely check two or three gazetteers before proceeding with the research.
  3. Evaluate each new piece of evidence in light of the total. Historical research is messy at times, and names and dates might be recorded somewhat differently in different records. But if you have to work really hard to argue that the individual described in a given record is a match for someone in your family tree, consider the possibility that you may be wrong, and keep looking for the right record.

All’s well that ends well. Jan Pudło has been successfully identified in Polish records, and Josh’s research can proceed apace. But it certainly was an interesting journey back to Stara Wieś through a perfect storm.

Sources:

[1] Zinberg, I. Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego. T. 2, p. 174, “Stara wieś,” Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/dlibra : 24 October 2019).

[2] “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Targowisku, 1876-1917,” 1891, Akta urodzeń, małżeństw, zgonów, births, no. 70, record for Jan Pudło, Szukajwarchiwach (https://szukajwarchiwach.pl : 28 October 2019), image 17 out of 67.

[3]Parafia św. Stanisława w Starej Wsi,” Wikipedia PL (https://pl.wikipedia.org : 28 October 2019).

[4] Tadeusz Bystrzycki, Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z oznaczeniem terytorjalnie im właściwych władz i urzędów oraz urządzeń komunikacyjnych [Index of place names of the Republic of Poland with corresponding govermental agencies and offices, including communication facilities] (Przemyśl, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Książnicy Naukowej, circa 1933), 1607, “Stara Wieś,” Wielkopolska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (http://www.wbc.poznan.pl : 28 October 2019).

[5] 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 XI, 226, “Stara Wieś,” DIR—Zasoby Polskie (http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/ : 28 October 2019).

[6] “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Bychawie, 1826-1916,” 1891, Księga urodzeń, małżeństw i zgonów, births, no. 121, record for Jan Pudło, Szukajwarchiwach (https://szukajwarchiwach.pl : 28 October 2019), image 20 out of 75.

[7]Lublin Voivodeship,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org : 28 October 2019); and    “Gubernia lubelska,” (https://pl.wikipedia.org/ : 28 October 2019).

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

Szukajwarchiwach Version 2.0: Better Than the Original!

On 8 June 2019, the Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe launched a new and improved version of Szukajwarchiwach, the popular search portal for the holdings of the Polish state archives. The new site is accessed at https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/, while the old site, https://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/, will remain active for the time being to allow users time to transition to the new site. Although the new site still seems to have a few bugs, it offers some wonderful improvements, and it’s well worth taking the time to become familiar with it.

What Does Szukajwarchiwach Do For Me?

SzwA is an incredibly powerful tool that allows one to search the holdings of 111 (at present) different archives whose collections are relevant to Polish research. While the vast majority of these are in Poland, this new version of SzwA includes materials from four archives in the U.S. (the Polish-American Liturgical Center in Orchard Lake, Michigan; the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America in New York; the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and the Polish Music Center in Los Angeles), in addition to material from other archives outside of Poland. The complete list of contributing archives can be explored by browsing the map that’s found at the bottom of the new home page. Alternatively, the list of contributing archives from Poland can be viewed here. In addition to offering a searchable database for archival materials, SzwA presently offers over 37 million scans, free of charge. There’s absolutely no fee for accessing any of this information, or for downloading scans, although a new feature of the site is the ability to order high quality prints for a fee. Although most English-speakers tend to use SzwA for locating vital records, it can also be used to locate maps, business records, municipal records, census records, notarial records, and more. The new search interface allows one to simultaneously search not only the former SzwA site, but also the former Zbiory NAC On-line site, which houses historic photos and audiovisual files within the holdings of the state archives. What’s not to love?

What Szukajwarchiwach May Not Do For You

Szukajwarchiwach is not a database of vital records indexed by name. That is, you should not expect to type the name of your ancestor in the search box and obtain results, unless your ancestor happened to a person of prominence, such as a noble, historical figure, or notary. Instead, you need to determine where your ancestors lived, and based on that you can identify the parish or registry office which would have created the records that documented their births, deaths and marriages. Archival fonds are organized based on the institution, individual, or governmental entity which created them, so searches can be made using any key word which might be found in the title of a collection, or in a tag added to the item by the archives. One can therefore search for items pertaining to a place (Rzeszów), a document type (księgi ludności), a topic (sztuka ludowa), etc.

SzwA does not include the vital records holdings (akta metrykalne) of the various diocesan archives, nor does this site catalog the holdings of any local parish archives. That said, in some cases, search results will include results from diocesan archives, but this is the exception, not the rule. In such cases I suspect the state archive has microfilmed copies of the records for which the originals are at the diocesan archive, or perhaps they’re partnering with the diocesan archive in some way, and that’s why these results are included. However, I have yet to discover an example in which scans are available on SzwA for collections reported to be held by a diocesan archive. In such cases, researchers should always check the FamilySearch catalog because I often find that scans are available there for the same ranges of years reported at SzwA.

In any case, hope is not lost if there are no vital records available at SzwA for a particular parish or registry office, as those records may still exist, only in another location. Moreover, the catalog is apparently incomplete, as anecdotal evidence abounds of sought-after records that were not mentioned in SzwA, but were nonetheless obtainable through personal visit or letter to the archive. Ultimately it’s best to inquire directly with the regional archive for one’s village or parish of interest, if something particular is needed. Despite these caveats, SzwA is still a great starting point when determining what records are available that might be relevant to one’s research.

Using the New Site

Although the instructions at the site are very good, the English interface has a few quirks, so let’s begin at the beginning. Figure 1 shows the new SzwA homepage.

Figure 1: Home page of the new Szukajwarchiwach site.SzwA home page

English-speakers may want to begin by switching the language to English using the drop-down language menu located to the right of the “Zaloguj się” (login) button. The login button itself is another new feature. SzwA now offers the ability to create an account (free of charge), to personalize one’s SzwA experience. When logged in, it’s possible to save searches, create collections of favorite materials and add to those collections, order materials in better quality, and make appointments if one wishes to visit one of the archives in person. Once the language is changed to English and I’m logged in, the screen appears as in Figure 2.

Figure 2: English version of the new Szukajwarchiwach site.SzwA in English

A quick search tutorial is available in the lower right corner, boxed in red. That explains the site very nicely, so an additional lengthy tutorial here really isn’t necessary. Ultimately, we can hope that the site will perform pretty much as advertised in that tutorial. However, as I mentioned, there are presently a few bugs, which I discovered when I took the site for a test-drive. I wanted to see how the search results were different with the new site vs. the old site, for several of my ancestral parishes, so I started with Młodzieszyn.

As soon as the cursor is placed in the search box, a drop-down menu appears which offers options for refining the search (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Options for refining a search. Document types include “Acts,” “Posters, Leaflets, Placards,” “Technical projects,” “Maps,” “Photographs,” “Sound records,” “Civil,” “Volatile,” and “Museums.”SzwA search options

While most of these options are self-explanatory, a couple don’t translate well; namely, “volatile” and “civil.” “Volatile” is the funky English translation of “pergaminowe,” which really refers to old documents written on parchment. Selecting this option returns results from the 17th and 18th centuries (and possibly earlier). “Civil” is how the site translates Akta metrykalne (metrical acts, i.e. vital records), as opposed to unmodified Akta which refers to other files of local government records, court records, etc. I should also point out that, while the old SzwA search engine would return the same results with or without diacritics, this search engine is sensitive to diacritics. For example, a search for “Mlodzieszyn” returns only one result, a topographical map from 1942 which was originally written in German, since it was created during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Since the German language lacks Polish diacritics, the only search result returned is this one in which the village name was written without diacritics when the document was created. However, a search for “Młodzieszyn” with diacritics returns 45 files, 2 technical projects, 5 maps, and 9 “record files,” for a total of 61 collections. On this page of search results, the site translates Akta metrykalne as “Record files” rather than “civil” (go figure), so these are the vital records that should be the first stop in researching one’s family tree. Figure 4 shows the search results with the “Civil”/”Record files”/Aka metrykalne search filter applied. 

Figure 4: Search results for metrical acts from Młodzieszyn.Figure 3

When the same search is performed in the old version of SzwA, with the box checked for “Vital records and civil registers,” the result is the same—nine collections of vital records from three parishes (Młodzieszyn, Mistrzewice and Kamion) located within gmina Młodzieszyn, which is what we would expect. From past experience, I know that the first collection shown in Figure 3 should be birth records from Młodzieszyn from 1859–1898. Clicking on the title of the collection ought to direct one to a page with further information about these records, and it does do that, in a way.  Unfortunately, it leads to the page shown in Figure 5, which seems to be a list of all the 36,213 parishes and registry offices in the Pradziad vital records database.

Figure 5: Screen which results from clicking on “Młodzieszyn” (1859–1898) in Figure 4.Pradziad

The trouble seems to be that this is such a long list that it’s very slow to load and the site tends to hang up for long periods. After many minutes, I was finally able to search the page (Ctrl-F) for Młodzieszyn (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Result of using page-search function to identify search results for Młodzieszyn parish from list of available parishes and registry offices in Pradziad database. Mlodzieszyn search result

Clicking on “rozwiń” (“expand”) gives more information about each collection. However, at this point, there’s no indication of what type of vital records are contained in each collection. For example, I know from experience (and can verify by repeating the search in the old version of SzwA) that the records from 1889-1925 are death records. But this is not indicated in the display format at the new version of the site (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Expanded data on vital records collections from Młodzieszyn.More data on Młodzieszyn

Although the entry identifies these as Roman Catholic records, which is important, the lack of information about the type of vital event is a significant omission. Hopefully this issue will be addressed in the near future. After additional tinkering with this new version of SzwA and testing multiple parishes, I discovered that the screen with the long list of contents of the Pradziad database only results if there are no scans online for that particular parish. If scans are available, they will be accessible as shown in the example below. As always, if scans are not available at this site, then it’s advisable to check other digital archives like Metryki, FamilySearch, GenBaza, the Archiwum Głowne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie (AGAD), Genealogiawarchiwach, etc. to see if scans are available there, before concluding that the scans must be ordered from the archive.

In a second test of the site, I tried searching for records for another ancestral parish, Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County, Wielkopolska. A search for “Kowalewo” returned results for Kowalewo Pomorskie and other unrelated places, suggesting that the search engine is very specific, as was noted earlier with its sensitivity to diacritics. Although the very first result (boxed in red) was a collection of vital records from this parish, the search result paradoxically indicates no record files/akta metrykalne (boxed in green, Figure 8). This is probably a bug that will be fixed eventually.

Figure 8: Search results for Kowalewo Opactwo. Kowalewo Opactwo

Clicking on the collection of vital records boxed in red in Figure 8 results in the screen shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Detail regarding available civil records for the Roman Catholic parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca county.Kowalewo Opactwo detailed entry

Clicking on “Scans,” boxed in red, allows direct access to the scans in chronological order, in contrast to the old version of SzwA, which required progressive navigation to the scans by first clicking through the series and units. Figure 9 also highlights the limitations of the English interface. While the notes on the history of the creator are often very interesting and helpful in understanding the historical context in which the records were created, they do not translate automatically even when using the English version of the site. However, a simple cut-and-paste into Google Translate will usually provide the gist of the text, if not the nuances.

Although direct access to the scans is now possible with this new interface, navigating through the scans in chronological order may not be desirable if, for example, scans start in 1808 and you’re looking for an event that took place in 1866. In that case, click “List of Units,” boxed in red in Figure 10, and then navigate through the pages to find the scans from 1866, underlined in green.

Figure 10: List of scanned units for Kowalewo Opactwo showing number of scans available in each.Scanned units

Since Kowalewo Opactwo was a parish in Russian Poland, our first step in locating a vital record from 1866 would be to find the internal index, typically created by the priest at the end of each year. This index will allow us to identify records pertaining to our ancestors. Index pages can be spotted from the thumbnails on the basis of their appearance, as shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11: Index page, boxed in red, for birth records from 1866.1866 index page

It’s evident that this page contains a list of names, rather than the paragraph-style entries observed in the other images. Clicking that image brings us to the next screen, where we have the familiar array of options for zooming in and out, rotating the image, and changing brightness (Figure 12). Note also in Figure 11 that there is now an option to select all 40 scans from 1866 and download them, or add them to one’s personal collection. (This option only exists when one is logged into one’s account.) My colleague Roman Kałużniacki tested this feature and reported that the entire book will arrive in a zip file, containing all the selected pages. He added, “In the past, I had to download each page separately—I could do about 80-100 per hour but it was somewhat tedious. Here, I selected all, ‘Wszystkie,’ and got 240 pages, about 500 MB of data, in just a minute or so. Of course, many people don’t do full books but if you are in the indexing business or have a favorite home village then that feature is a great time saver.”

Figure 12: Screen with photo-enhancing tools and other options for saving and using scans.Index image

There are several nice new features offered here. One of these is the blue “Add Orders” button located at the bottom of the screen. Clicking this will put the scan into your “shopping cart.” When research is complete, the shopping cart appears next to your name in the login area of the screen. Clicking on the cart will initiate the checkout process, as shown in Figure 13.

Figure 13: Checkout screen for ordering prints from the archive.Cart for ordering scans

Several options are available for paper size, ranging from “13×18″ (units not indicated, perhaps centimeters?) up to A1 (23.4″ x 33.1”). There is also a choice of 300 dpi resolution, or 600 dpi. In this example, the lower-resolution print was 8 PLN (about $2.12) and the higher resolution print was 30 PLN (about $7.97) regardless of paper size, and results are presumably suitable for framing. The menu on the right in Figure 12 also offers options for cropping, downloading, bookmarking, and sharing the image on social media, in addition to providing the direct link to the image.

Going back to that index page, we can zoom in by clicking the plus magnification icon until the image becomes readable (Figure 13).

Figure 13: Detail of birth index from 1866 for Kowalewo Opactwo parish.Index image closeup

In this particular index, the Akt number (record number) is written to the left of the name, while the page number is written to the right. So the birth record for Józef Dogoda will be found on the scan containing the first page of the book, and it will be the second birth recorded on that page.

Whenever a new website like this debuts, there’s always a considerable amount of discussion in the genealogical community on Facebook. In a discussion about this new site in the Galicia Family History Group, Jeanne Kogut Wardrop asked if there is “an easier way to make the record pages larger and easier to read without having to press the plus magnification icon 20 times each time you want to see a record.” Images do tend to enlarge by very small increments with this version of the site, but you may be able to get around that by clicking on “link” in the menu to the right of the image and copying and pasting the resulting link into a new browser window. This brings up an image of the scan that is readable with only one additional click of the magnifying glass. In another discussion, Jody Tzucker pointed out the lack of a specific filter for locating vital records for a particular denomination. 

While it’s true that the layout of the old site was a bit more intuitive when it came to locating records for a specific religious denomination, it’s still possible to do this at the new site, using the Advanced Search feature. Figure 14 shows the Advanced Search screen, which can be accessed immediately below the search box on the main search screen.

Figure 14: Advanced Search screen.Advanced Search

Jewish records for the town of Zagórów in Wielkopolska can be located by searching for the term “Zagórów” in combination with the term “mójżeszowe” which is the term employed by the archives for records from the Jewish (Mosaic) faith. The result is four collections—births, marriages, deaths, and alegata (birth records and other documents typically provided to the registrar at the time of marriage)—identical to the collections of Jewish records produced by a search at the original SzwA site (Figure 15).

Figure 15: Results of Advanced search for Mosaic (Jewish, mójżeszowe) records for Zagórów. Zagorow Jewish records search results

Figure 15 also shows the option for saving search results. If this option is selected, the user is prompted to name the search, and results can be accessed through the user’s profile when logged into the system.

From the perspective of English-speakers using the site, there’s an obvious disadvantage to the layout of the new site, which requires the user to type in the name of a religious denomination in order to filter results that way. The old SzwA site offered a drop-down menu from which one could select the appropriate denomination, which was easier if, for example, one did not know that Protestant church records are generally referred to as “ewangelickie” and not “luterański” or  “protestancki.” The original version of SzwA offered a total of 31 options for religious denomination and it was helpful to be able to choose from that list, rather than having to guess at the standard term used by the archive to describe one’s ancestors’ religion. Researchers whose ancestors belonged to a church other than the Roman Catholic Church might therefore want to visit the original SzwA site before it is discontinued, to make a note of the specific term used by the archives to describe that faith. Of course, we can hope that the new interface may continue to be tweaked so that it eventually includes a standardized religious denomination search filter, but it’s best to be prepared for the possibility that this change is not forthcoming.

Since this new SzwA site combines the databases from the old SzwA with the old Zbiory NAC On-line, I wondered if perhaps this was the dawn of a new era in Polish genealogy, when all of the digital archives of each state archive would be accessible through one search interface, instead of requiring users to search the sites for the individual archives like Przemyśl and AGAD separately. In the past, I’ve noticed that a portion of the scans from these archives could be accessed from either SzwA or their own site, but each archive also maintained a unique collection of scans which could only be accessed from their own site. So I checked a couple random parishes for which scans are available at these sites  (Rybotycze, Greek Catholic records, from the archive in Przemyśl; Baworów, Roman Catholic records, from AGAD) and unfortunately, scans continue to be unavailable from SzwA. I also checked records for the Roman Catholic parish in Rogowo (Rypin county) for which scans from the Archiwum Państwowe w Toruniu Oddział we Włocławku are available at Genealogiawarchiwach, and these continue to be unavailable from SzwA also. Well, one can’t have everything.

One final point that was made in the discussions on Facebook and in the comments below was that not all of the scans that were previously accessible at the original SzwA site are currently accessible at the new SzwA site. Researcher C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon commented on this fact in a discussion in the Galicia Family History Group, as he compared search results between the old and new sites for his ancestral parish of Pacanów: “If I limited myself to just searching on “Pacanów” [at the new SzwA site] I found 544 records across all Categories…. I searched long enough that the site started returning 594 records across all categories. Good thing I snapped a picture of 1st result or I might have thought my memory deficient. So they must still be loading card catalog meta data (probably hash tag indexes).” Michael’s experience suggests that patience is in order when missing scans are discovered. Fortunately the old site is still active and it’s likely it won’t be discontinued until the new site is fully functional.

Despite the existence of a few bugs, I think the Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe has done a great job with this updated version of Szukajwarchiwach. Whether you’re a new user of the site or a veteran, I think you’ll agree that the site opens up some wonderful pathways into the past as we discover our Polish heritage through the documents, maps, and photographs which recorded our ancestors’ stories. Jump in, click around, and let me know what you think. If you discover any new tricks for improving the search experience, please add them to the comments. Happy researching!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019