A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Geneteka, Part III

Recently, I posted the first installment of an updated, more comprehensive tutorial for using the popular Polish vital records database, Geneteka. In that post, I provided an introduction to Geneteka, a walk through the search interface, and some information about how Geneteka’s search algorithms work. The second installment, posted two days ago, included information on searching with two surnames, using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, searching within a specified parish, using the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, and using the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para.” In today’s final installment, I’ll discuss the last two search options, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” Then we’ll get into the various options for finding scans, based on the repository to which the “skan” button is linked.

Using “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach”

As we’ve already observed, Geneteka’s default search algorithm will return results in which the target search names appear in any field. In many cases, such a broad search is undesirable. For example, if I want to find a death record for my great-great-grandmother, Antonina Zarzycka, some time after 1904, but I have no idea where she died, I’m not interested in all the results that crop up that mention Antonina as the mother of the deceased, or the mother’s maiden name of the deceased, as shown below.

Antonina Zarzycka

Maybe I don’t know her mother’s maiden name, so I can’t narrow the search that way. However, I can still eliminate a lot of the extraneous results by selecting, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach.” When I repeat the search that way, the results include only birth and death records for women named Antonina Zarzycka, and marriage records for brides with that name. Shown below are the results for death records which were returned using these search parameters.

Antonina Zarzycka deaths

Note that this is an example of one of those situations alluded to previously, where an infodot is found next to a name. In this case, it alerts us to the fact that Antonina Zarzycka was known by another name (her maiden name), Marczewska.

Using “Exact Search”

As mentioned earlier, Geneteka’s search algorithms are flexible and powerful, allowing for a fair degree of phonetic latitude with the results that are returned for a target surname. Since the search engine is so flexible, you might think that results will include pretty much every surname that contains the same etymological root as the target name. For example, there are quite a few patronymic surnames which derive from the given name “Grzegorz,” including my great-grandmother’s maiden name, Grzesiak. But although a search for “Grzesiak” turns up variants such as Grzesiek, Grzesik, Grzeszyk, Grzech, and Grusiak, there are still variants under which I’ve found records for my family which did not turn up in a basic search. Such variants include Grześczak, Grzesczak, Grzeszczak, and even Grześkiewicz. (Those old priests got really creative sometimes!)

Grzesiak

This is where Geneteka’s wildcard search feature comes in handy. If I do a search for “Grze*,” the results include all surnames that begin with “Grze” exactly — again, without taking diacritics into consideration. Therefore results include surnames that start with Grze- as well as surnames that start with Grzę-. (Theoretically, at least, results would also include surnames that start with Grże- or Grźe-.) Obviously, this approach will generate a large number of search hits, so it’s best to narrow the search in other ways (e.g. specifying a range of years, a given name, etc.) if you’re going to use the wildcard option.

In my own research, this wildcard search proved to be especially effective when I was searching for records for my Ciećwierz family. Antonina Ciećwierz and Michał Zieliński were my great-great-great-grandparents. Antonina’s 1897 death record reported her parents’ names as Jan and Katarzyna Ciećwierz, and I began to accumulate evidence that the family was originally from the nearby village of Mikołajew, before they moved to Mistrzewice. Unfortunately, a marriage record for Jan and Katarzyna was elusive. I searched within a 15-km radius of Mikołajew for paired names (1) Jan Ciećwierz, and (2) Katarzyna, no maiden name specified, and obtained the following result:

Ciecwierz search

The search produced marriage records for several of Jan and Katarzyna’s children: Józefa in 1871, Antonina in 1873, Stanisław in 1878, and Joanna in 1879. Moreover, the results suggested that Katarzyna’s maiden name was Grzelak. Yet there was no marriage record for Jan and Katarzyna themselves. So how can we tease it out of the database? This is where the exact search comes in handy.  When the search was repeated using “Cie*” instead of “Ciećwierz,” their marriage record was discovered.

Jan and Katarzyna

In addition to simple wildcard searches like this one, Geneteka also permits wildcard searches for both surname fields. For example, I recently assisted someone who was seeking the marriage of Piotr Wąszewski and Marianna Pacewicz in Drozdowo parish. The record was a bit elusive, and the year of the event was uncertain. I finally discovered it by using wildcards in both fields.

Drozdowo

The marriage in 1862 for Piotr “Wąswski” and Maryanna Pancier may, in fact, be the correct record, as the year is in the right ballpark, and Pancier is not too far a stretch from Pancewicz. Obviously, further research is needed, but the indexed records in Geneteka have certainly helped get this research off to a good start. Notice also that I did not check the box for “exact search.” This may be a recent change in the search engine, but I was surprised to note that the results were the same whether or not that box was checked. It may be that the presence of an asterisk in the surname field works the same way as checking the box. There is also the possibility of performing a wildcard search in both the surname and given name fields. So for example, if I want to find all birth records for children with surnames similar to Wąsewski and first initial J, the search result looks like this:

J Waszkiewicz

For kicks, I even tested it with wildcards in all four fields. It still worked, as in the example shown below which shows a search in all of Mazowieckie province for couples (“searching as a pair”) in which one partner was named “J. Was*” and the other had initials “T. N.” In practice, I don’t know that there would be too many circumstances where you would need to search for people only by their initials, but it’s impressive that Geneteka offers this as an option.

Searching by initials

You may have guessed by now that even though this is called an “exact” search, diacritics still don’t matter, so a search for “Was*” is the same as a search for “Wąs*”.  Notice that the exact search can also be used to make your results gender-specific, should you wish to do so, in the case of surnames which exhibit gender, . For example, a search for “Zielinski” with the “exact search” box checked will return results for the masculine version of the surname only.

Masculine surnames

Of course, as soon as you enter a given name, you will make the results gender-specific, as well. Finally, the Exact search can also be used to eliminate all the phonetic variants that are included in a standard search, which could be helpful with a surname like Zieliński if you’re fairly certain it was not likely to have been recorded in some other way.

Locating Scans in Geneteka

Let’s move on now and discuss the process of obtaining scans when this option is available. At first, it seems like it should be pretty straightforward: click the button, and it takes you to the scan, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. There are a number of repositories for scans that are currently linked to indexes in Geneteka, depending on the geographic area. Some of the less common repositories I’ve discovered have been indexed records from Ukraine that are linked to scans in AGAD (the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych in Warsaw), and indexed records from Wielkopolskie province that are linked to pdf files a from Polish digital library (in this case, the Biblioteka Cyfrowa Regionalia Ziemi Łódzkiej), but you may find examples of other less common repositories. In most cases, however, indexes are linked to scans found in one of three places: Metryki, Szukajwarchiwach, and FamilySearch.

Finding scans linked to FamilySearch

With all of these examples, your mileage may vary. Sometimes, the scan button takes you right to the page with the proper image. Other times, you may have to work a bit harder. Here’s an example of an indexed entry in Geneteka that has a Skan button linked to a collection of digital images in FamilySearch.

Jozef Nowak Boby

When we click “Skan,” it takes us to FamilySearch’s collection entitled Lublin, Roman Catholic Church Books, 1784-1964. Moreover, we can see from the heading that we’re looking at records from Boby parish, and specifically, the book, Births (Akta urodzeń) 1844-1866.

Boby records

So far, so good. If we go back to the indexed entry in Geneteka, we can see that the birth record for Józef Nowak was from 1854, record #7. So what we have to do at this point is scroll through the images until we find the right record. Less than 5 minutes later, I’m looking at this:

Jozef Nowak birth

Although it’s not circled in this image, you can see the download button (between “print” and “tools”) near the top right corner of the screen. Obviously, I didn’t have to go through 110 pages of images individually in order to find this. The little tool bar on the side (circled in red on the image below) is invaluable here — especially that icon of the rows of dots, which allows you to zoom out and view a gallery of thumbnail images.

Jozef Nowak birth

Here’s the zoomed view:

Thumbnails

It’s fairly quick work to click on an image, read the date to see what year we’re in, and then repeat that process until we get to the records from 1854. One word of caution is that records from this part of Poland will be in Polish (we’re researching Polish ancestors, after all!) so the dates will all be spelled out in writing rather than in numerals. There are a lot of great online resources to help you find your way, however, including all the Polish translation aids in this document. (Polish numbers can be found here.)

Finding Scans Linked to Metryki

Let’s say I want to find the scan for this record, the marriage of Zygmunt Zarzycki and Henryka Kurkiewicz which took place in Warsaw in 1929. Once again, we’re going to hit the “skan” button, but this time, it takes us to a collection of digital images found in Geneteka’s sister site, Metryki.

Scan again

Metryki is another effort sponsored by volunteers from the PTG, and I discussed previously how to use it directly, without going through Geneteka. (It’s always a good idea to check there for your parishes, because sometimes it happens that there are collections of scans found in Metryki for which there are no indexes in Geneteka, or the range of years covered differs between the two sites.) In this case, however, we’re just following the link from Geneteka, so what we see is this:

Metryki page

Even if you’re not comfortable with Polish, resist the temptation to click that American/British flag icon at the top, because clicking that will take you back to Metryki’s home page, and you don’t want that. Instead, realize that you don’t need much Polish to figure out what’s going on here. The bit highlighted in red at the top tells you what it is you’re looking at: Metrical books of the Roman Catholic parish of All Saints in Warsaw. You can copy and paste that line into Google Translate if you want to. The next line tells us that we’re looking at the book of marriages from 1929 for this parish. All the numbers you see in blue in rows beneath that heading are the file numbers for images from this book. Since the entry in Geneteka told us that Zygmunt and Henryka’s marriage was record number 525, we want to find the file that contains that number, which is underlined in red in the image above. When we click that link, we’re on the page with the marriage record.

Download button

The groom’s name is underlined here in red. Again, you don’t need much Polish to navigate the page, but it helps to know that “Powiększ” is the “zoom-in” button to enlarge the text, and “Pomniejsz” is the “zoom-out” button to shrink the page. The “floppy disk” icon, circled in red, will allow you to download a copy of the image.

Finding scans linked to Szukajwarchiwach

For our final example, we’ll take a look at how to find scans in the Polish State Archives database, Szukajwarchiwach. We’ll start with this indexed entry from Geneteka for the marriage of Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbro(w)ska.

Stanislaw and Jadwiga

When we click “skan,” we find ourselves on this page from Szukajwarchiwach:

Kowalewo 1832

The first thing we want to do is to get oriented to the page. The top section, boxed in red, identifies the collection we’re looking at: Civil records from the Roman Catholic parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County, which is where we want to be. Note that we’re not just looking at a book of births, as we were in the previous FamilySearch example. We’re looking at “Akta urodzonych, małżeństw i zgonów,” which means we’ve got birth, marriage and death records, all in the same book. The “dates” section, further down the page, notes that we’re in the year 1832, which confirms that the link from Geneteka took us to the right place. The indexed entry in Geneteka noted that Stanisław and Jadwiga were married in 1832, but in this case, the record number is not noted. That means we have to first find the marriage index for 1832, then find the record number, then find the record itself. Let’s jump in!

Immediately to the right of that large, red arrow in the image above (the one with all the numbers on it), it says, “Digital copies [27].” That’s what we need to click to get started. That brings us to this page of thumbnail images. The very first thing I usually do is switch the number of scans per page from the default 15 up to 100 to save time.

number of scans

However, that’s less important in this case because it’s a small parish and the entire book from 1832 only covers 27 digital images. The parish of Kowalewo was in Russian Poland, and books from that part of Poland are usually laid out with births in chronological order, then an alphabetical birth index, created by the priest at the end of the year. This was followed by marriage records, in chronological order, and a marriage index, and finally by death records and a death index. Normally, when looking for a marriage record, we need to skip past the births and the birth index, and then it’s easy to spot the marriage records just from the thumbnails, since these records are typically twice as long as the births or deaths. In this particular example, it’s a small parish and a short book, so there is no marriage index — we just need to skim through each record until we spot the names we’re looking for. We can see from the thumbnails that marriage records start on image 10. When we click the image, we see this:

Marriage records, Kowalewo

The button marked in red will allow you to expand the image so it’s readable. When you do that, you come to this page, where you have some tools to adjust brightness, contrast, and magnification. You can navigate through the images using the “previous” and “next” links. To move around the page, click and drag the gray box marked with the red arrow in the image below. SwA navigation

After flipping through a few images, we arrive at image 15, which contains the marriage record for Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbroska. To download a copy, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, where the download link appears.

Grzesiak Dabrowska marriage

That’s pretty much all there is to finding digital images in Geneteka. While it does take a bit of patience and perseverance, and some scans are definitely easier to access than others, it’s still a great finding aid, especially for researchers who might be unaware of the existence of scans for their parish of interest.

That brings us to the end of this tutorial series. I hope it’s helped to give you a better understanding of how Geneteka works so that you’re able to use it more effectively for your research in Polish records. Geneteka is truly a phenomenal resource that’s revolutionized the field of Polish genealogy. Thanks to its tremendous power and the wonderfully flexible search interface, we can find Polish vital records more quickly and easily than ever before, even for those ancestors who were especially mobile. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. Even better, if you find you use Geneteka, and you’re able to make a donation to help keep this project going, please click here. Thank you!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

 

 

 

End of an Era

Many of you know me from the Polish Genealogy group on Facebook, where I’ve been an administrator since the summer of 2013. Back then, the group was growing quickly, approaching 1,000 members, and the group’s founder and sole admin, Michael Mulholland, was looking to bring in some new admins to help with managing the group’s day-to-day activities. I was a fairly active participant at the time, so he asked me and a few others to help out as admins. The group has now grown to over 15,000 members, blossoming into a community that I was proud to be a part of. With a core group of experienced, knowledgeable group members who were passionate, dedicated researchers, willing to share their expertise, there was an exciting dynamic. It was not an uncommon experience to have a newcomer present a research problem on which the group would work collaboratively in real time, ultimately producing a document or documents, such as the birth record from Poland for the target immigrant.

Besides being a place to learn about genealogy, I loved the Polish Genealogy group because of all the colleagues-turned-friends that I met there. I learned so much from them, and it was truly an honor and a privilege to serve in that community as admin for the past 5 years. I especially loved the atmosphere that we created, which was warm, friendly, welcoming, helpful, and knowledgeable — a community in which we could all learn from one another in an atmosphere of respect and encouragement.

As much as I have loved this community and the work that is accomplished there, all good things must come to an end. After much reflection, I feel that the time has come for me to turn over the reins to others who have a new vision with which to guide the group. For this reason, two days ago, I stepped down as admin in Polish Genealogy. I wish my friends on the admin team the very best as they lead the group into the future.

 

The Many Wives of Józef Grzesiak

Veritatem Temporis filiam esse dixit.” (Truth is the daughter of time.) — Aulus Gellius

Conflicts in documentary evidence happen all the time. The logical resolution of such conflicts is one of the hallmarks of sound genealogical research that separates the professionals and experienced family history researchers from the novices. A perfect illustration of this is the story of my great-great-grandfather, Józef Grzesiak, and his many (?) wives.

Growing up, I used to ask my maternal grandmother to tell me about her mother’s family in Poland, and my desire to document those stories inspired my early family history efforts. Grandma’s mother was Veronica (née Grzesiak) Zazycki, but Grandma never knew the names of her grandparents, because “people didn’t talk about those things back then,” as she told me time and again. Nevertheless, Grandma knew a few details, such as the fact that her mother’s parents owned the grain mill that I wrote about previously. She told the story of how “Veronica’s mother died when Josephine was born, so at age 18, Veronica came to America. She found employment working in the kitchen of a restaurant.  She spoke no English, so her employers called her Mary and they communicated through signs and gestures.  She saved her money and sent it to her two brothers, Władysław (“Walter”) and Tadeusz, (Thaddeus), and her sister Józefa (Josephine), so they could come to America.”1 Grandma also told the story, shared previously, of how Walter married an actress in Poland who didn’t want to leave her career, which ultimately ended their marriage.

When I started my research, I didn’t know whether or not I’d ever be able to document some of these details, but I figured that it should be easy to answer the question, “Who were Veronica Grzesiak’s parents?” And in fact, it was pretty easy. On her marriage record to John Zazycki in 1901, Veronica reported her parents’ names as Joseph Grzesiak and Marianna Krawczynska (Figure 1).2

Figure 1: Marriage record for John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak, 5 August 1901.2Jan & Weronika Zazyki Marriage 1 marked

This document also told me which partition of Poland Grandma’s parents were from (Russian), and Veronica’s age reported here, 22, allowed me to estimate that she was born circa 1879. So far, so good.  However, when Veronica’s brother Thaddeus was married to Mary Gorski, he reported his parents’ names as Joseph Grzesiak and Mary Cebulska (Figure 2).3

Figure 2: Extract from marriage record for Thaddeus Grzesiak and Mayme (Mary) Gorski, 20 April 1910.3

Tadeusz Gresiak & Marya Gorska marriage record 1 marked

Now this was interesting, and it seemed like just the kind of detail that those family stories were likely to gloss over, since “people never talked about these things back then.” Okay, I concluded, no big deal, apparently Veronica and Thaddeus were half-siblings, sharing a father, but different mothers.

However, their sister Josephine named yet a different mother on her marriage record. When she married Joseph Cymerman in 1902, she stated that her parents were Joseph Grzesiak and Anna Nowacka (Figure 3).4

Figure 3: Extract from marriage record for Joseph Cymerman and Josepha Grzesiak, 5 August 1902.4

Jozefa Grzesiak & Jozef Cymermann marriage record 1 marked

Well, okay, maybe Joseph Grzesiak was very unlucky and lost two of his wives, so he married for a third time. It happened. But then there is yet another wife’s name reported on the death record for the oldest Grzesiak sibling, Walter (Figure 4).5

Figure 4: Extract from death record for Walter Grzesiak.5

Walter_Grzesiak_-_death

On this document, Walter was reported to be the son of Joseph Grzesiak and Maryanna Szafron. Now, most genealogists consider death records to be less accurate sources for information about an individual than some other types of records (e.g. marriage records) since the informant is probably grieving, possibly in shock, and may not be well-informed about the early life of the decedent, including parents’ names.  However, in this case, the informant was none other than Thaddeus (signing himself here as Theodore) Grzesiak — Walter’s brother.

So what do we make of this?  We have four siblings, all children of Joseph Grzesiak, but four different mother’s names reported on four different documents by three of the siblings.  Were they all half-siblings, each with the same father but a different mother?  I ran this theory past Grandma while she was still alive, and she didn’t buy it.  She had never heard of Walter, Thaddeus and Josephine being half-siblings to her mother, but she had no explanation for the discrepancies on the documents.  The maiden names reported for the mothers — Marianna Krawczyńska, Marianna Szafron, Marya Cebulska, and Anna Nowacka — weren’t even phonetically similar, apart from the fact that the siblings more or less agreed on a first name of Marianna. And was it grief that caused Thaddeus to change his story, reporting on his own marriage record that his mother was Maria Cebulska but then deciding 36 years later that her name was Marianna Szafron? Was it possible that the Grzesiak siblings did not even know their own mother’s name?  Perhaps there was an explanation:  Grandma said that Veronica’s mother had died (shortly?) after the birth of the youngest sibling, Josephine. Since Thaddeus and Veronica were only 7 and 5 when Josephine was born, maybe none of the children knew her well?

The only way to answer this question was to examine evidence from Polish records. The birth records for Walter, Veronica, Thaddeus and Josephine should tell us who their mothers were. If Joseph had several wives who died in succession, there would be death records for those wives and marriage records to tell the tale.

Polish Records to the Rescue

A very robust paper trail consisting of naturalization records (Figure 5),6 passenger manifests,7,8 and draft registrations,9 in addition to a personal recollection shared with me by Tadeusz Grzesiak’s son, Arthur Gray,10 all pointed to the Grzesiaks’ place of origin as the village of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County, which was at that time located in the Kalisz gubernia (province) of Russian Poland.

Figure 5: Władysław Grzesiak’s petition for naturalization, 23 January 1917, showing place of birth “Kowalewo, Poland, Russia” on 17 September 1867.Walter Grzesiak Petition

In the church records of Kowalewo, birth records were discovered for each of the immigrant Grzesiak children. Władysław Grzesiak was born 20 September 1867, fairly consistent with the birth date he reported for himself on his naturalization petition (Figure 6).11 

Figure 6: Polish-language birth record for Władysław Grzesiak, born 20 September 1867, with names of parents and child underlined in red.11OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In this document, Władysław’s parents are reported to be Józef Grzesiak, age 26, a farmhand (parobek) residing in Kowalewo, and his wife, Maryanna née Krawczyńska, age 20. Similarly, the birth record for Tadeusz Grzesiak was discovered, and his parents, too, were reported to be Józef Grzesiak and Marianna née Krawczyńska (Figure 7).12

Figure 7: Russian-language Birth record for Tadeusz Grzesiak, born 27 March 1874, with names of parents and child underlined in red.12Tadeusz Grzesiak birth record marked

It’s evident that there’s a language change between these two records. Władysław’s birth record was written in Polish, while Tadeusz’s birth record was written in Russian. This was one of the punitive measures imposed by the Russian Government on Polish territories as a result of the failure of the January Uprising of 1863. Prior to 1867, the use of the Polish language was permitted in official record-keeping, but starting in 1868 (earlier in some areas) official records and even church records were required to be kept only in Russian. Tadeusz’s birth date, 27 March 1874, is a few years off from his date of birth as he reported it on his World War II draft registration — 24 March 1878. However, it was not unusual for people to report their dates of birth inaccurately in an era when there was no reason to know this information precisely, as there is today. In this document, Józef Grzesiak was reported to be a 33-year-old “master of the house” (хозяин), while his wife, Marianna, was age 31. The age difference between Józef and Marianna, which was 6 years in the first record, has magically diminished to 2 years, but again, such discrepancies are very common in these records.

Next, we have the birth record for my great-grandmother, Weronika Grzesiak, who was born 27 December 1876 (Figure 8).13 

Figure 8: Russian-language birth record for Weronika Grzesiak, born 27 December 1876, with names of parents and child underlined in red.13Weronika Grzesiak birth marked

Once again, parents were recorded as Józef Grzesiak, “master of the house,” of Kowalewo, age 37, and his wife, Maryanna née Krawczyńska, age 33.

Finally, the birth record of Józefa Grzesiak was discovered.14 Józefa was born 6 March 1881, and yes, her parents were none other than Józef Grzesiak and Marianna née Krawczyńska (Figure 9).

Figure 9: Russian-language birth record for Józefa Grzesiak, born 6 March 1881, with names of parents and child underlined in red.14Jozefa Grzesiak birth record

This time, Józef Grzesiak was recorded as “master of the house,” age 40, while his wife, Marianna, was age 37. Ultimately, Józef’s and Marianna’s dates of birth can only be known accurately when their birth records are discovered — and I discovered those a long time ago, but that’s another story for another day.

As if this weren’t sufficient evidence to put to rest the notion that the immigrant Grzesiak siblings were half-siblings, the icing on the cake was the search in marriage records and death records for any marriages for Józef Grzesiak or death records for previous wives. The only marriage record discovered was his marriage in Kowalewo in 1865 to Marianna Kawczyńska (sic) (Figure 10).15

Figure 10: Polish-language marriage record from Kowalewo for Józef Grzesiak and Maryanna Kawczyńska (sic), 31 October 1865 with names of the groom and bride underlined in red.15Jozef Grzesiak and Marianna Krawczynska marriage

The fact that this is the only marriage record found for Józef Grzesiak in Kowalewo is unsurprising, given that all of his children’s birth records name the same mother, Marianna Krawczyńska. The date of the record makes sense — they were married about 2 years before Władysław’s birth in 1867, not an unusually long period of time to be married prior to the birth of an eldest child. Józef was described as a 25-year-old bachelor, born in Cienin Zaborny but residing in Kowalewo with his parents, Stanisław and Jadwiga, at the time of his marriage. Marianna was noted to be age 22, born in Zagórów and residing in Kowalewo, daughter of Antoni and Wiktoria.

So at the end of the day, there is absolutely no evidence in Polish records for any wives of Józef Grzesiak other than Marianna Krawczyńska, whom he married in 1865 and with whom he had 6 children: the four immigrant Grzesiak siblings, as well as two daughters, Konstancja and Pelagia, who remained in Poland, and whose story I touched on a bit previously. There was no Maria Cebulska, no Anna Nowacka, no Marianna Szafron. They didn’t exist. Grandma Veronica was the only one of her siblings who accurately reported her mother’s name on a document in the U.S. So where did Tadeusz and Józefa come up with those names? Maybe Grandma was right all along — “people just didn’t talk about those things back then.” Maybe Tadeusz and Józefa really had no idea what their mother’s name was. One thing is certain, though: Marianna Grzesiak did not die when Józefa was born, or even shortly thereafter. No, Marianna Grzesiak died in Russian Poland in 1904, when her youngest daughter Józefa was 23 years old and married.16 So isn’t it a little odd that at least two of her children didn’t appear to know her name, and that the story was handed down that she died before Veronica and her siblings left Poland for America? I have some speculations about that, but it’s another story for another day.

Genealogists usually find that the best strategy for handling conflicting evidence is to keep gathering data until the truth emerges. Sometimes some analytical skill is required to interpret the data, but at other times, it’s just a question of perseverance to find the right records to settle the question. In this case, one could look at the data from U.S. records and conclude that Józef Grzesiak had three or four wives, or one could dig deeper, find the Grzesiak children’s birth records and Józef and Marianna’s marriage record from Poland, and know the truth.

Sources

1 Helen Zielinski, interviews by Julie Szczepankiewicz, circa 1986-1998; Notes from interviews privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 2018.

2 City of Buffalo, Bureau of Vital Statistics, marriage record for John Zazycki and Veronica Grzesiak, 5 August 1901, certificate no. 202, Buffalo, Erie, New York, Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York.

3 New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, marriage record for Thaddeus Grzesiak and Mayme (Mary) Gorski, 20 April 1910, certificate no. 9051, Buffalo, Erie, New York, Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York.

City of Buffalo, Bureau of Vital Statistics, marriage record for Joseph Cymerman and Josephine Grzesiak, 5 August 1902, certificate no.198, Buffalo, Erie, New York, Erie County Clerk’s Office, 92 Franklin Street, Buffalo, New York.

New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, death certificate for Walter Grzesiak, 25 April 1946, no. 2600, Buffalo, Erie, New York.

Wladyslaw Grzesiak, Petition for Naturalization, No. 4950, 23 January 1917, Supreme Court of New York, Buffalo, Erie, New York.

7 Maryland, Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 (image), Veronika Grzesiak, S.S. Willehad, April 1898, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 25 February 2018.

Maryland, Baltimore Passenger Lists, 1820-1948 (image), Jozef, Kazimira and Jozefa Grzesiak, S.S. Rhein, May 1900, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 25 February 2018.

World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for New York State, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 2555973; record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147, record for Tadeusz George Grzesiak, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 25 February 2018.

10Arthur Gray, interview by Julie Szczepankiewicz, circa 1998; Notes from interview privately held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 2018.

11 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1867, births, #39, record for Władysław Grzesiak, accessed in person at the archive by Zbigniew Krawczyński, Archiwum Państwowe w Poznaniu. Oddział w Koninie, 3 Maja 78 Konin, Poland.

12 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1874, births, #17, record for Tadeusz Grzesiak, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl, accessed on 25 February 2018.

13Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki),  Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1876, births # 72, record for Weronika Grzesiak, accessed on 25 February 2018.

14 Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki) (Kowalewo-Opactwo, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1881, births, #15, record for Józefa Grzesiak, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl, accessed on 25 February 2018.

15Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. slupecki), Księga urodzeń, małżeństw, i zgonów, 1865, marriages, #10, record for Józef Grzesiak and Maryanna Kawczynska, 31 October 1865, Narodowego Archiwum Cyfrowego, Naczelnej Dyrekcji Archiwów Panstwowych, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl , image 20.jpg, accessed on 25 February 2018.

16 Roman Catholic church, Zagórów parish (Zagórów, Słupca, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1947, Akta zgonów 1891-1906, 1904, #52, death record for Marianna Grzesiak, DGS 8018016, Image 383, accessed on 25 February 2018.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

The Devil is in the Details: Finding the Right Adam Krupski

Happy New Year! This past weekend, I spent a delightful New Year’s Eve at a family party, talking with with my niece, Tina, who is newly engaged to her fiancé, Luke. Tina and Luke were interested in discovering Luke’s family history, so we began researching Luke’s ancestry together, starting with information from a preliminary family tree recorded in Luke’s baby book by his mom. The process was really satisfying for me, because it gave me a chance to demonstrate proper methodology, source citations, and critical analysis, so Tina can avoid making some of the sloppy rookie mistakes that I made when I started. Moreover, the research project offered an opportunity to demonstrate the necessity of resolving conflicting information as we sought to distinguish between two men with the same name and approximately the same birth year, living in the same metropolitan area, a problem frequently encountered in genealogy.

Meet William Krupski

Our starting point for the project was Luke’s great-grandfather, William L. Krupski. Luke knew that he died 25 June 1995 and lived in Elma, New York, and that was all he knew. A match for William L. Krupski from Elma, New York with this date of death in the Social Security Death Index, quickly provided William’s date of birth, 7 January 1919. Even better, an entry in Ancestry’s Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, provided his full name, William Leonard Krupski, confirmed his date and place of birth as 7 January 1919 and place of birth as Buffalo, New York, confirmed his date of death, and revealed that his parents were Adam Krupski and Maryann Houchol.

This information led to the 1930 census, in which we discovered the family of Adam and Mary Krupski, living in Elma, New York, with son William Krupski, born 1919, as well as daughters Eva, Genevieve, and Jennie. Oddly, William was marked as “relative,” rather than “son,” and at this point, we didn’t know whether this was merely an error on the part of the census taker, or whether William Krupski might have been an adopted son, rather than Adam and Mary’s biological child. However, at this early stage of the game, this was not something we needed to lose sleep over. As my old undergraduate research mentor used to tell me, “keep gathering data and truth will emerge.” The census revealed that William’s father, Adam, was born circa 1880 in Poland, immigrated in 1907, was a naturalized citizen, and that he was 22 years old at the time of his first marriage. This suggests a marriage year circa 1902, and since the data for his wife Mary suggest the same year of marriage, we have no reason to suspect that either of them was married previously. Their oldest daughter, Eva, was also born in Poland. Strangely, the census-taker chose to record her under her married name, Dubel, but in her father’s household, rather than with her husband and daughter, who appear on the next page. This may have resulted from a miscommunication, which supports the notion that William Krupski’s identification as “relative” rather than “son” may have been another miscommunication.

In the 1920 census, the family was still living in Elma, New York, and was recorded under the name Krupska, rather than Krupski, possibly suggesting that Mary was the informant, since this is the feminine form of the surname in Polish. Adam’s age once again suggests a birth year circa 1880, and his immigration year, 1908, is fairly consistent with the date he reported previously. So far, so good. William Krupski was recorded as “Bolsłew” which is clearly a misspelling of the Polish name Bolesław. It was unfortunately indexed as “Boktev” by both Family Search and Ancestry. This illustrates nicely why it’s a good idea to search for family groups, rather than trying to focus on just one individual, since a researcher focused solely on “William Krupski” is unlikely to pay much attention to a result for “Boktev Krupska.” It’s actually fairly common for Polish men named Bolesław to use the name William in American records. This is because the traditional diminutive for Bolesław is Bolek. From Bolek, they’d go to “Bill,” and then from “Bill,” they’d go to “William.” In this census, Bolesław/William was recorded as “son” rather than “relative.”

At this point, we had two records confirming that Adam Krupski of Elma, New York, was born circa 1880. We still didn’t know his date of death, but the Social Security Death Index reveals that one Adam Krupski, born 4 December 1880, from Erie County, New York, died in May 1970. Seems perfectly plausible, right? That zip code for his last residence, 14218, corresponds to Lackawanna, New York, rather than Elma, but that’s only about 15 miles away. He could have moved, right? Find-A-Grave informed us that Adam Krupski died 3 May 1970 and is buried in Cheektowaga, New York, which also seemed reasonable.

The Plot Thickens

So now we know that William Krupski’s father, Adam Krupski, was born 4 December 1880 in Poland, and died on 3 May 1970.

Or do we?

A little more digging in census records revealed that there was an Adam “Krupsk” in the 1930 census, living in Buffalo, New York, who was born circa 1880, with wife Josephine and children Joseph, Alice, and Henrietta. This Adam immigrated circa 1903, and his two daughters were born in Pennsylvania circa 1913 and 1917, respectively. This same guy showed up in the 1940 census as Adam Krupski, still living in Buffalo, with calculated birth year 1880, wife Josephine, son Aloysius, and daughter Henrietta. From this, we understood that there were two different Adam Krupskis, born circa 1880, living within 15 miles of each other. This told us that we needed to be very careful in evaluating documents so as not to confuse the two Adams.

So which Adam died 3 May 1970 and is buried in Cheektowaga? An easy way to answer this question was to check Find-A-Grave again and search for other Krupskis buried in the same cemetery as Adam. Sure enough, other burials include Henrietta, Aloysius, Joseph, and Josephine, along with a Jane and a Violet (née Smith) Krupski — probably the wife of Aloysius or Joseph. This family may still be related in some way to Luke’s Krupski family, but there’s no guarantee of that, especially since the Krupski surname is sufficiently common that several unrelated Krupski families might have immigrated to Buffalo from Poland independently.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for genealogy rookies to get confuddled when presented with data like this, and it can lead one to the wrong conclusions entirely. We discovered at least one family tree online in which a researcher conflated Adam Krupski 1 (married to Mary) with Adam Krupski 2 (married to Josephine). Ancestry’s database, Pennsylvania, Federal Naturalization Records, 1795-1931, includes a Declaration of Intention dated 26 October 1908 for one Adam Krupski, born 4 December 1881, who arrived in the U.S. on 25 June 1903. His date of birth, exactly one year off from the date of birth for Adam Krupski 2, combined with his arrival date in 1903, and the fact that he naturalized in Pennsylvania, are all consistent with this man being the same as Adam Krupski 2 who was married to Josephine and had two daughters born in Pennsylvania in 1913-1917. Unfortunately, the other Krupski researcher whose family tree we examined, concluded that this was the Declaration of Intention for Adam Krupski 1. Since this document stated that Adam Krupski was from Grodno, Russia, the researcher will be chasing the wrong family if she seeks Adam Krupski 1 in records from Grodno.

So where was the birthplace of Adam Krupski 1, the father of William Krupski, husband of Mary Houchol? That’s easy. He was born in Pobroszyn, Opatów County, in the Radom province of Russian Poland, nowhere near Grodno. How do I know this?

Rather than engaging in an exhaustive analysis of each document discovered let me hit the highlights. The 1940 census suggested a birth year circa 1873 — significantly earlier than the date of 1880 discovered previously. This could have been an error, or it could indicate that Adam really wasn’t sure of his exact date of birth, which was fairly common in those days since knowing this information wasn’t as important as it is today. Unfortunately, none of these census records (1920, 1930 or 1940) indicated the partition of Poland that Adam was from, which was important to discover, since Poland did not exist as an independent nation at the time of Adam’s birth, marriage, or emigration (see here for a crash course in Polish history). It’s very helpful to determine the partition that an immigrant was from because there are so many Polish place names that are not unique. Fortunately, further digging produced Jane Krupski’s birth record, which revealed that her father Adam Krupski and mother Marie Hochol were born in Russia circa 1877 and 1879, respectively. We can be sure that this is the right Jane/Jennie Krupski, because the mother’s maiden name matches the name reported by William Krupski on his Social Security application, and the 1930 census reported that  Adam and Mary’s daughter Jane was born in Indiana.

Putting it all together, I now knew that Adam and Marianna/Mary were from Russian Poland, where they married circa 1902. Adam immigrated circa 1907-1908, while Marianna stayed behind in Poland. Their oldest daugher, Ewa/Eve, was born circa 1907, and Marianna and Ewa came to the U.S. to join Adam circa 1913. Adam’s passenger manifest was the key to unlock the place of origin for the family. According to this document, Adam Krupski (line 27) was a 32-year-old ethnic Pole living in Russia, who arrived in New York on 9 July 1907. He was married, and his age suggests a birth year of 1875. His last permanent residence was Ujazd, Russia, he was headed to New York, and his contact in the Old Country was his wife, Marianna Krupska, living in Ujazd.

There were two places in Russian Poland called Ujazd, according to the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego published in 1877. One was in the Kalisz province (presently in the Łódź province) and belonged to the parish in Tur. The other was in the Radom province (presently in the Świętokrzyskie province) and belonged to the parish in Iwaniska. Both these parishes are indexed in Geneteka for the time period needed to locate the family, and Iwaniska turned out to be the correct parish. Lo, and behold, Ewa Krópska’s birth record was discovered in 1907 and the facts fit perfectly. She was born in Ujazd to Adam Krópski and Marianna Chochoł. Although both of the surnames are spelled a bit differently than they appeared in U.S. records, the U.S. spellings make sense as phonetic transliterations of the Polish versions.

Although there’s no link to it in the Geneteka index, Ewa’s birth record can be found online in the Metryki database.  Adam and Marianna’s marriage record was also discovered in Geneteka in the parish of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski, about 20 miles north of Ujazd. The record, which appears below, can be found online in the GenBaza database. (To access this database, you need to create a free account, and once your account is active and you are logged in, the link to the marriage record will work.)

Adam Krupski and Marianna Chochoł 1899 marriage crop

Here’s the translation from Russian, as I read it:

“#31. Ostrowiec. Adam Krupski and Marianna Chochoł. This happened in the town of Ostrowiec on the 30th day of May/11th day of June 1899 at 7:00 in the morning. They appeared, Roman Domański, blacksmith, age 40, and Artur Gregor, ???, age 22, residents of Ostrowiec. On this day was contracted a religious marriage between Adam Krópski, bachelor, age 27, son of parents Kazimierz and the late Joanna née Kocznur, born in the village of Pobroszyn, parish Opatów, and now in Ostrowiec residing in the local parish, and Marianna Chochoł, peasant, age 26, daughter of Roch and the late Julianna née Mucha, born in the village of Pęchów, parish Goźlice, Sandomierz district, and now in Ostrowiec residing in this parish. The marriage was preceded by three announcements in Ostrowiec parish church, to wit: on the 14th, 21st and 28th days of May of the current year. The newlyweds stated that they had no prenuptial agreement between them. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Fr. Feliks Latalski. This Act was read aloud to the illiterate witnesses and was signed only by Us. [signed] Administrator of the Parish of Ostrowiec, Fr. F. Latalski”

So there you have it. I think we made pretty good use of our New Year’s Eve, successfully tracing the family of Luke’s great-grandfather, William Krupski, through U.S. records, determining his parents’ place of origin in Poland, and discovering and translating William’s parents’ marriage record and his sister Ewa’s birth record, all before the ball dropped in Times Square at midnight. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the research that can be done for the Krupski family in both the U.S. and Poland, but Warsaw wasn’t built in a day. The moral of the story is, if you carefully follow the paper trail — not ignoring conflicting evidence, but seeking the truth — you won’t go astray. Here’s to a New Year filled with great genealogical discoveries, for all of us!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

 

Frequency Analysis of Given Names in My Family Tree, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed the frequency of given names on my side of the family tree that I tabulated because I’m interested in that sort of thing. Today I’ll report on the frequency analysis of given names on my husband’s side of the family.

The first thing I realized when I sat down to review my data is that I’ve really been slacking off on research into my husband’s family in recent years, a fact which I hope to remedy in 2018. Moreover, I never finished updating my tree with some research sent to me by a couple of his cousins. However, this close to Christmas, that seems like a better project for January than for tonight, so I’m just going to use the data that I currently have in my spreadsheet.

My husband Bruce’s family is 100% Polish, by which I mean that all of his immigrant ancestors reported their ethnicity as Polish, and all of them were born within the borders of Poland today, as far back as I’ve traced. Consequently, we don’t need to develop any particular rules for dealing with German given names, or given names from any language other than Polish, for that matter. So the rules of the game are pretty similar to last time:

  1. Equivalent versions of the same name in different languages (e.g. John, Jan, and Joannes) were counted in the same category.
  2. In Polish culture dating from the mid 20th-century and earlier, the name “Maria” was revered as the name of the Mother of God, and it was considered inappropriate for parents to aspire to use this name for their daughter. Consequently, the name  Marianna, meaning, “like Mary,” was used instead. For the purpose of this analysis, Mary, Marie, Maria, and Marianna were all treated as equivalents and counted together.
  3. Polish immigrants with names that were foreign to American ears often chose to use different names in the U.S. in their efforts to assimilate into American culture. Often they used the English version of the name of their baptismal patron saint, and for that reason, Polish men named Wojciech often became Albert or Adalbert in the U.S. However, some traditional Slavic names such as Stanisław, Czesław, Władysław, etc. do not have a precise English translation. While many men named Stanisław chose to use the name “Stanley” in the U.S., there was no requirement to do so, and some men chose very different names. In the case of Bruce’s family, his 2x-great-grandfather, Stanisław Lewandowski, chose to use the name “Edward” in the U.S. For the purpose of this analysis, I counted him under his baptismal name, Stanisław, rather than his adoptive name.
  4. Only direct ancestors were counted.

The Results

The data included 48 men and 48 women born between about 1732 and the 1940s. In the category of male names, there was a marked deviation from the expected result, in that Albert/Adalbert/Wojciech was the most popular name in Bruce’s family, rather than John/Jan. In fact, John/Jan was only in third place, where it was tied in popularity with the name Stanisław. The name Joseph/Józef took second place. The names Anthony/Antoni and Stephen/Szczepan were tied for fourth place, and there was a four-way tie for fifth place between the names Andrew/Andrzej, Jacob/Jakub, Martin/Marcin, Michael/Michał.

Frequency Distribution Male Names Bruce's Side

Additional male names which each appeared once in the family tree were Augustine/Augustyn, Denis/Dionizy, Francis/Franciszek, Gary, Henry, Lawrence/Wawrzyniec, Louis/Ludwik, Matthew/Mateusz, Matthias/Maciej, Peter/Piotr, Simon/Szymon, Thaddeus/Tadeusz, Valentine/Waleny, and Vincent/Wincenty.

For female names, Marianna/Mary was the winner by a huge margin over second-place Catherine/Katherine/Katarzyna. Third place was a three-way tie between the names Agnes/Agnieszka (which didn’t even make the top 10 in my family), Anna, and Elizabeth/Elżbieta. Finally, the names Angeline/Aniela, Apolonia, Christine/Krystyna, Frances/Franciszka, and Joanna, came in with two votes each, creating a five-way tie for fourth place.

Frequency Distribution Female Names Bruce's Side

Additional names which appeared once each among Bruce’s female ancestors were Antonina, Dorothy/Dorota, Hedwig/Jadwiga, Helen/Helena, Josephine/Józefa, Justine/Justyna, Caroline/Karolina, Magdalena, Margaret/Małgorzata, Petronella, Thecla/Tekla, Theresa/Teresa, Rosalie/Rozalia, and Veronica/Weronika.

Putting the data together, I came up with this comparison of the top names in each family (those that appeared more than once). Names that appear in color are tied for the frequency with which they appeared; in other words, in my family, there were equal numbers of Andrews and Josephs.

Top 10 Given Names for Boys

Seven of the top names were the same in both families: John/Jan/Johann, Joseph/Józef, Michael/Michał, Jacob/Jakub, Andrew/Andrzej, Stanisław, and Wojciech. Robert, Henry, George/Georg and Frank/Franciszek made it into my list, whereas Anthony/Antoni, Stephen/Szczepan, and Martin/Marcin were more popular in Bruce’s family.

For the women, the names Marianna/Mary, Catherine/Katherine/Katarzyna, Anna, Elizabeth/Elżbieta, and Christina/Christiana/Krystyna/Christine made the list for both families, and beyond that, there were quite a few names that were more popular on one side of the family or the other.

Top 10 Given Names for Girls

What does all this mean? Not much, really, although it might shoot down my theory about the relative popularity of the name “Catherine” in my own family, versus the general population, since that name was the second-most popular in both families. However, whereas in my family, there were 19 women named Marianna/Mary and 16 named Catherine/Katarzyna, in Bruce’s family there were 11 women named Marianna/Mary, and only 4 named Catherine/Katarzyna, so it still seems to be relatively more popular in my family. Although it’s not possible to draw too many conclusions based on such a small sample, it’s certainly interesting to take a look at the names that our ancestors chose for their children. I can imagine all the new mothers in my family and Bruce’s, raising their children in small villages or larger towns in what is now Poland, Germany, France, Canada, or the U.S., cradling their newborns in their arms and bestowing on those children the most beautiful, noble, saintly, or strong names they could think of, and dreaming of the men and women these little ones would become.

And if nothing else, I will be well-prepared for that casual inquiry about popular given names in our family tree, the next time someone in the family is having a baby!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

What’s in a Name?: Frequency Analyis of Ancestral Given Names in My Family Tree

Many years ago, when she was pregnant and thinking about baby names, my sister-in-law Ainslie asked me for a list of given names of ancestors on the Szczepankiewicz side of the family. Little did she know how well this simple question would play into my lifelong fascination with given names. Given my obsession with genealogy, I wasn’t about to jot down ancestral given names for a few generations and call it a day. Nope, I decided to develop a spreadsheet that included given names on both sides of the family, and the frequency with which each name appeared. As my research has progressed over the years, I’ve continued to add to this spreadsheet, each time a new generation of ancestors is discovered. Today I’ll discuss the data from my own family, and another day I’ll delve into the data from my husband’s side.

Determining the frequency with which given names appear in the family tree isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Relatively few of my ancestors’ given names are in English, since most of my ancestry is Polish or German. And German ancestry opens the door to the question of how to count German double names like Johann Heinrich or Maria Magdalena. According to German custom, the second name is the rufname, or call name, by which the person is known. So it’s not uncommon to see an entire family of boys with the first name Johann and different middle names. Common first names for girls are Maria or Anna, again used in combination with different rufnamen. However, the waters are muddied because Johannes can be used as a call name, usually for an oldest son.

The Rules of the Game

With all this in mind, here are the ground rules I developed for assessing the popularity of  given names in my family tree:

  1. Equivalent versions of the same name in different languages (e.g. John, Jan and Johann) were all counted in the same category.
  2. In Polish culture dating from the mid 20th-century and earlier, the name “Maria” was revered as the name of the Mother of God, and it was considered inappropriate for parents to aspire to use this name for their daughter. Consequently, the name  Marianna, meaning, “like Mary,” was used instead. For the purpose of this analysis, Mary, Marie, Maria, and Marianna were all treated as equivalents and counted together.
  3. If existing data suggest that a German man with the first name “Johann” used a different call name, he is recorded under that call name. If there is no known call name, I assumed he used the name Johann (or some diminutive thereof) in daily life.
  4. In cases where a woman seemed to use two names equally (e.g. Margaretha Elisabeth) or was equally likely to be recorded under her first name or her middle name (e.g. Maria Magdalena, who was sometimes recorded as Mary and sometimes as Magdalena) I used her first name for the popularity ranking.
  5. The names Maciej/Matthias and Mateusz/Matthew were counted separately, even though they have the same ancient etymological orgin, because the distinction between these names dates back to the New Testament.
  6. Similarly, although the name Harry is a traditional diminutive of Henry, it was not used that way in my family, so I counted those names separately.
  7. German immigrants named Walburga often chose to use the name Barbara in America. However, in the single instance in my family where this was the case, I counted her under her baptismal name, Walburga, since St. Walburga and St. Barbara are two different patron saints.
  8. Christina and Christiana were counted together (same etymological origin).
  9. Only direct ancestors were counted.

The Results

The data covered 96 women and 95 men who were born between about 1670 and the 1940s. Some of the results were as expected. Just as John and Mary were the most popular given names in the U.S. throughout the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, they were the most popular names in my family tree as well. However, those same data from the U.S. indicate that William was a close second to John throughout this time period, even overtaking it in some time periods, and this name does not appear at all among my male ancestors.

Male name frequency

Additional names which appeared in the family twice each are Anthony/Antoni, Casimir/Kazimierz, Christoph/Krzysztof, Harry, Matthias/Maciej, Peter/Piotr, Thomas/Tomasz, and Lawrence/Wawrzyniec. Names which appears once each in the family are Carl, Fidel, Gregory/Grzegorz, Ignatius/Ignacy, Lucas/Łukasz, Martin/Marcin, Matthew/Mateusz, Nicholas/Niklaus, Paul/Paweł, Phillip/Philipp, Roch, Sebastian, Simon, Ulrich, and Wenceslaus/Wenzeslaus.

My family’s Catholic roots are very evident in the large number of saints’ names in the list, especially saints popular in central Europe, (unlike poor St. William). Among male names, the top three names (John, Francis, Michael) comprised about 33% of the total, whereas the top three female names (Mary, Catherine, Anna) comprised nearly half the total (47%). Interestingly, there were exactly 34 “different” names (as defined in the Rules of the Game, above) in each data set (male and female), indicating less overall variability among female names. Additional female names that appeared once each in the family tree are Agatha/Agata, Cecilia/Cecylia, Dorothy/Dorota, Elaine, Felicia, Frances/Franciszka, Genevieve/Genowefa, Joanna, Josephine, Julia, Clara/Klara, Constance/Konstancja, Leonora, Martha, Regina, Salomea, Sarah, Ursula/Urszula, Veronica/Weronika, and Victoria/Wiktoria.

Female Given Names

Among female names, I was unsurprised by the popularity of Mary and its variants, but I was somewhat surprised by the popularity within my family of the name Catherine, since its ranking is relatively higher than one might expect based on a comparison with U.S. data. The name was consistently found in the top 10 U.S. girls’ names here, but was never as high as #2, and the U.S. Social Security Administration’s list of the top names over the last 100 years ranks Catherine at #43. However, this list treats the names “Catherine” and “Katherine” separately, and “Katherine” came in at #41. Obviously if the two names were taken together, they would appear much higher on the list.

I admit, I was intrigued by this for personal reasons. I’ve loved the name Catherine since I was a little girl. I named almost all my dolls Catherine Elizabeth or Catherine Marie. When my husband and I were dating and beginning to talk about marriage, I told him that if ever we had a daughter, she had to be named Catherine, and that fact was pretty much non-negotiable. (He married me despite the ultimatum.)  To me, the name is elegant, musical and lovely, and apparently, many of my ancestors agreed with me. It almost makes me wonder if there’s some weird genetic predisposition for name preferences, just as there’s a gene that makes cilantro taste like soap for some people, or a gene that makes some people find broccoli to be bitter. Whether or not that’s the case, it was nice to compile the data and demonstrate to my daughter Catherine that she’s in good company. I think I simultaneously demonstrated to her that her mother is a huge geek, but I think she knew that already.

So how about you? What are the most popular given names for your ancestors? Which names were the most fascinating to discover, or most unusual? Did you name your children after any particular ancestors? Let me know in the comments! Happy researching!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

Hoffman and Shea’s German Genealogical Translation Guide is Here At Last!

Christmas came early this year! While I was at the biennial conference of the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast last weekend, I had the opportunity to purchase one of the very first copies of In Their Words: A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents: Volume IV:  German by William F. Hoffman and Jonthan D. Shea. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the publication of this book for several years now, because I found Volumes I, II, and III (for Polish, Russian, and Latin translations, respectively) to be absolutely indispensable research aids. My family is all too familiar with these books, because they’re the ones that never seem to make it back to the bookshelf. Instead, they’re usually found lying on the kitchen table or coffee table, next to my laptop, because I refer to them so often for a quick look-up of an unfamiliar word or review of grammatical case endings.

So why are these books so great?

I’ve always been one to do genealogy on shoestring budget. Raising four kids meant that I couldn’t afford to pay for professional translations of each and every genealogy document I found. Although we have Facebook groups nowadays that offer translation assistance, such groups didn’t exist when I made my first foray into Polish records. Moreover, I’ve discovered a profound satisfaction in learning to read records about my ancestors in the original language, and having someone else translate the record for me just isn’t as much fun. So, I realized early on that this was sink or swim. If I wanted to make progess in genealogy, it was up to me to learn to read documents in Polish, Russian, Latin, and German.

It’s very true that learning to translate foreign-language records can be intimidating. As genealogists, we often have to contend with grainy or fuzzy microfilms of original records that may have been faded, smeared, torn, taped, or exhibit bleed-through from the other side of the page. We’ve all seen plenty of examples of the illegible chicken-scratch that passes for handwriting on certain documents pertaining to our ancestors. Throw a foreign language in there — or worse, a foreign language written in a different alphabet, like Cyrillic — and it’s enough to make us want to give in to frustration and take up a different hobby. But in reality, learning to read foreign-language records is very doable. Most vital records tend to be pretty formulaic, so it’s not necessary to be fluent in a language in order to read genealogical records written in that language. It’s necessary to have the right tools, however, and that’s where the translation guides by Hoffman and Shea come in.

These books were game-changers for me, allowing me to gain confidence and develop proficiency with translations in Polish, Russian and Latin. They provide numerous examples of an impressive variety of genealogical documents with transcriptions, translations, and discussions of the grammar and vocabulary used in each. They offer historical insight into obscure and archaic words that you’ll never find in a modern dictionary, and they provide multiple examples of the forms that each letter of the alphabet can take in print and cursive. One could even argue that their books have driven the course of my research. Like many of us, I often choose the path of least resistence when it comes to my genealogy research. Since Polish, Russian and Latin records are pretty comfortable for me at this point, I’ve developed a preference for research using documents written in those languages, and I’ve been putting off research that involves German-language records, for both my own family, and for my husband’s ancestors from Prussian Poland.  But no more! Now that their German guide has made its way into my eager hands, I have no more excuses. Onward and upward!

So my next post will include my very first German translation, but I admit, I’m on a sharp learning curve right now. The old German cursive (Kurrentschrift) in this 1857 marriage record that I’ve chosen is making my head spin, but hey, practice makes perfect. Stay tuned. And if you’re interested in reading more about Hoffman and Shea’s German translation guide, or you’d like to purchase a copy, you can do so at the authors’ website. I should mention that I have no commercial interest in the sale of their books. I recommend them because I happen to think they’re wonderful resources. However, in the interest of full disclosure, Jonathan was kind enough to give me a “speaker’s discount” and sell me a copy of the book at $9 off the cover price.

Time to get back to work on that record. It’s not going to translate itself. 😉

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz

 

 

Missing the Forest for the Trees: Discovering the Marriage Place of Andrzej Klaus and Marianna Łącka

Yesterday was one of those days when I couldn’t decide whether I should kick myself for being stupid, or rejoice at finding the answer to a question that’s been bothering me for years. I finally figured out where my great-great-grandparents, Marianna/Mary Łącka and Andrzej/Andrew Klaus, were married, and it wasn’t where I expected.  I don’t think I’ve blogged about them previously, so let me introduce you, and explain the problem.

The Łącki family of Kołaczyce

My great-great-grandmother was Marianna Łącka, who was born on 21 April 1866 in the village of Kołaczyce, which was at that time located in the Galicia region of the Austrian Empire and is now in the Podkarpackie province of Poland (Figure 1).1  She was the third child, and only daughter, of Jakub Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz. Jakub and Anna’s second-born son, Jan, died in infancy2,3, but another son Jan was born in 1872,4 in addition to oldest son Józef, who was born in 1863.5

Figure 1: Baptismal record of Marianna Łącka, born 21 April 1866 in Kołaczyce.1Marianna Lacki birth cropped

Marianna Łącka’s baptismal record tells us that her father, Jakub/Jacob, was a shoemaker, and that her mother, Anna Ptaszkiewicz, was the daughter of Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz and Salomea Sasakiewicz, who was the daughter of Franciszek Sasakiewicz. Anna (née Ptaszkiewicz) Łącka died in 1879 at the relatively young age of 45,and perhaps her death was a factor in the family’s decision to emigrate. In 1884, the remaining members of the Łącki family left Kołaczyce, and traveled from Hamburg to the port of New York on board the Moravia, arriving on May 6th (Figure 3).7,8

Figure 3:  Hamburg Emigration List showing Jakob Lacki, age 50, Marie Lacki, age 17, Joh. (Jan) Lacki, age 9, and Jos. Lacki, age 24, with previous residence noted as Kołaczyce.7

Closeup of Hamburg Emigration record for Lacki family

The Klaus Family of Maniów and Wola Mielecka

Meanwhile, Marianna Łącka’s future husband, Andrzej/Andrew Klaus, migrated to America independently, in 1889.9 Andrzej was born on 25 November 1865 in Maniów, Galicia, Austrian Poland,10 son of Jakub Klaus and Franciszka Liguz. At that time, the village of Maniów belonged to the parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Szczucin, which is where Andrzej was baptized.

Figure 4:  Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Szczucin, Malopolska, Poland, July 2015.IMG_3611

However, in 1981, a new parish was founded in Borki, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and the Rosary, and the village of Maniów was reassigned to this parish. All the old records for Maniów were transferred to this new parish, so it was in Borki that I was able to see Andrzej Klaus’s baptismal record10 with my own eyes, when I visited the parish in 2015 (Figure 5). (Note that these records are also available on microfilm until 1 September 2017 from the Family History Library.)

Figure 5: Baptismal record for Andreas Klaus, born 25 November 1865 in Maniów, Dąbrowa County, Galicia, Austria. Godfather’s place of residence, Wola Mielecka, is underlined in red.Andrzej Klaus baptismal record marked

Although Andrzej was born in Maniów, the Klaus family was originally from Wola Mielecka, about 15 miles away, where Andrzej’s father, Jakub, was born, and where his uncle and godfather, Mattheus (Maciej) Klaus was still living at the time of Andrzej’s baptism.11 Andrzej himself also lived in Wola Mielecka just prior to his emigration, as evident from his passenger manifest (Figure 6).12

Figure 6:  Hamburg emigration manifest for Andrzey (sic) Klaus, departing 26 March 1889.12Andrzej Klaus manifest marked

This manifest seems like a good match for “my” Andrzej Klaus — he was reported to be 24 years of age in 1889, suggesting a birth year of 1865, which is consistent with data from other sources, and his year of immigration is consistent with the time frame (1888-1890) which he reported in later census records. The place of residence fits, and although his destination — Plymouth, Pennsylvania — was previously unknown to our family, it’s not unreasonable to believe he might have gone there to work for a while before moving on. However, the problem has been that both Andrzej Klaus and the Łącki family drop out of the records for a time after their respective arrivals in the U.S. Until yesterday, I hadn’t been able to find any trace of Andrzej and Marianna until 1892, when their third child was born. Jakub and Józef Łącki seem to disappear completely, and I don’t find Jan Łącki in a record that I’m certain pertains to him until 1903, when he was naturalized in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

But yesterday, I finally discovered Andrzej and Marianna’s 1891 marriage record, in Buffalo, New York — a place where it was completely unexpected, and yet, makes perfect sense, since the family did eventually settle in Western New York. So why on earth did it take so long for me to find it there? I guess sometimes what we see depends on what we look for, and where we look. I was so focused on documenting the family story of where they were supposed to be, that I didn’t think to check someplace that, in hindsight, seems pretty obvious. Here’s the story.

The Klaus and Łącki families of….Texas? (And St. Louis, and Buffalo, and North Tonawanda)

Back in 1992, I interviewed my grandfather’s cousin, Julia Ziomek, to see what information she could provide about the Klaus family history. Cousin Jul had clearly been the kind of child who sat at the knee of her grandmother, Mary (née Łącka) Klaus, listening to family stories, and I’ve spent the past 25 years trying to document everything she told me. In some cases, she was absolutely accurate. In other cases, she was partially correct — for example, remembering that a particular name was associated with the family, but incorrectly recalling the exact relationship. In still other instances, she was just plain wrong. So it’s difficult to know how much stock to put in her story of the Klaus family origins, but as she told it, Mary Łącka and Andrew Klaus married back in Poland, and lived in Texas when they first arrived in the U.S. It was during this time in Texas that their oldest sons, Joseph and John, were born, but by 1892, the family had moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where their oldest two daughters Anna and Apolonia/Pauline, were born in 1892 and 1894, respectively. Circa 1895, the family moved again to Buffalo, New York, where my great-grandmother, Genowefa/Genevieve, was born in 1897. Two more sons, Edward and Władysław/Walter, were born in Buffalo, before the family finally settled in North Tonawanda, New York, where their youngest children, Rudolf and Helen, were born.

Unfortunately, the timeline is problematic. Even before I found this marriage record in Buffalo, there was pretty good evidence that Cousin Jul was wrong about her grandparents’ place of marriage. Andrew and Mary could not have married in Galicia, since their passenger manifests make it clear that they emigrated separately. Could those be the wrong manifests, after all? It seems unlikely. I spent years looking for a manifest that supported the scenario of Andrzej and Marianna Klaus migrating into a southern port such as Galveston or New Orleans, that would be consistent with a first home in Texas, but never found one, nor have I found any evidence for Marianna Klaus traveling under her married name through any port, nor is there a marriage record for them in her home parish of Kołaczyce. In contrast, both the manifest for Andrzej Klaus and the manifest for the family of Jakub Łącki match existing evidence very nicely.

In hindsight, the fact that both Andrew and Mary entered the U.S. through the port of New York should have been more of a clue to look for their marriage record somewhere in New York — for example, in Buffalo, where they were known to have lived later in life. However, a search in city directories for Buffalo between 1889 and 1892 revealed no trace of Andrew Klaus, so until yesterday, I didn’t see much point in checking Buffalo church records for their marriage. Moreover, if I were going to suspect that they’d married somewhere other than Texas, where their first two children were purportedly born, existing evidence would point to Pennsylvania, rather than Buffalo, since Andrew’s manifest mentioned a destination of Plymouth, Pennsylvania, and since Mary’s brother John was naturalized in Pittsburgh in 1903. However, rather than trying to guess where they might have married in Pennsylvania circa 1890, I assumed that Cousin Jul was correct about the family’s general migration pattern from Texas to St. Louis to Buffalo to North Tonawanda, and I reasoned that Andrew and Mary most likely married in Texas prior to Joseph’s birth circa 1890.

Although she was mistaken about Andrew and Mary’s place of marriage, Cousin Jul was spot-on about the Klaus family’s residence in St. Louis. Anna Klaus’s baptismal record from St. Stanislaus Kostka parish in St. Louis (Figure 7) is unmistakeably correct, as is that of her sister, Apolonia/Pauline.13,14 Since Jul correctly identified which Klaus children were born in St. Louis, Buffalo, and North Tonawanda, I had reason to believe her claim that Joseph and John were born in Texas, and it seemed more logical to predict that Andrew and Mary would have married there as well, rather than marrying in Buffalo, and then moving to Texas and St. Louis before returning to Buffalo.

Figure 7: Baptismal record for Anna Klaus from St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, St. Louis, Missouri.13Anna Klaus baptismal record

Don’t Mess with Texas, or Mary Klaus

Another reason why I’ve been inclined to believe Cousin Jul’s claim that the family lived in Texas, despite the difficulties in the timeline, is that she recalled one very specific event from their time there. Jul told me that Texas was a pretty rough place back in the early 1890s, and the locals weren’t always delighted to have Polish immigrant neighbors. A day came when someone was trying to break into the Klaus family’s home by climbing in through a window. Mary Klaus grabbed an axe and cut off the man’s hands. (You go, Grandma Klaus!) It may have been this incident that precipitated the family’s move to St. Louis. I’ve often pondered this story over these many years, because on the one hand, it seems pretty far-fetched. And yet, if ever such a story would be true, it seems more plausible in the Wild West than in any of the other places associated with this family.

Part of the difficulty with tracing my Klaus family in Texas is the fact that there were more than a dozen Polish parishes that existed there by the early 1890s. Rather than searching through the records for all of them, I hoped to find some clue first as to where in Texas they might have lived. Theoretically, this should have been easy, since both Joseph and John were (supposedly!) born there, and one might expect their places of birth to be recorded on their marriage and death records. But as we all know, theory doesn’t always line up with reality.

Evidence for Joseph Klaus

Joseph Klaus (or Claus, a spelling he seemed to prefer) married Mary Brzuszkiewicz (Brooks) in St. Hedwig’s Church in Dunkirk, New York on 16 August 1910.15 According to their marriage record, Joseph was born in Buffalo, New York, circa 1887. His World War I draft registration states that he was born 19 February 1886.16 The 1915 New York State Census (in which his name appears as “Cloos”) also suggests a birth year of 1887, and only states that he was born in the U.S. 17 The 1910 census suggests that he was born circa 1885 in New York.18 In the 1905 New York state census, he was not listed with his family, and it’s unclear whether he was living independently at that point, or if he was merely omitted from the census due to error or miscommunication.19 Joseph Klaus died of influenza on 7 October 1918, and his death certificate states that he was born 25 February 1886 in Buffalo, New York (Figure 8).20

Figure 8: Death certificate for Joseph Claus (sic), indicating birth on 25 February 1886 in Buffalo, New York.20Joseph Klaus death certificate

In all these documents, the details such as address, occupation, and parents’ names confirm that they relate to the same individual, despite the misspellings or variant spellings of the surname. Moreover, all these documents point to a date of birth betwen 1885-1887, probably in February of that year, and they all consistently claim that he was born in New York State, probably Buffalo. In light of the new evidence that his parents were married in Buffalo after all, maybe I should finally believe all this documentation and look for his baptismal record in Buffalo?  I’m definitely more inclined to do that now, but I’m still not 100% convinced that the Texas story is completely false. For one thing, these dates of birth are clearly impossible, given that his father didn’t arrive in the U.S. until 1889, so who’s to say that Joseph was not similarly ill-informed about his place of birth? And what about John Klaus? What do the records tell us about his place of birth?

Evidence for John Klaus

John Klaus’s story was even briefer than his brother’s. My grandfather was not even aware of his existence — it was Cousin Jul who first mentioned him, and I’ve since been able to verify his existence. (Score another point for Jul.) Like Joseph, he is not mentioned in the 1905 census with the rest of the family.19 John’s life was documented in only three records that I have discovered to date: his death record, dated 18 June 1905; a newspaper article from the North Tonawanda Evening News, dated 27 January 1905 (Figure 9); and the 1900 census.

Figure 9: North Tonawanda Evening News article mentioning John Klaus.21

John Klaus coal theft

Although this article does not mention his parents’ names, my Klauses were the only family by that name living in North Tonawanda at the time. John Klaus was reported to be 15 years of age in January 1905, suggesting a birth year of 1889-1890. This is consistent with his death certificate, which reports his age as 15 years, 8 months, 3 days when he died on 18 June 1905, from which we can calculate a date of birth of 15 October 1889.22 The death certificate further states that he was employed as a “meter carrier,” that he was born in New York, and was the son of Andrew Klaus and Mary Lenke (sic), both Austrian-born. John died of tubercular meningitis.

Again, we have a problem with the timeline. How is it possible for John Klaus to have been born in New York in 1889? Do we believe the body of evidence gathered for Joseph and John, or do we believe those passenger manifests?

1900 Census to the Rescue!

For me, the 1900 census goes a long way toward resolving this conflict (Figure 10).23

Figure 10: Extract from the 1900 census for Buffalo, New York, showing the family of Andro (sic) Klaus.1900 United States Federal Census - Andrzej Klaus

Even though both Ancestry and FamilySearch indexed the family as “Klano,” rather than Klaus, there’s no doubt that this is the correct family. In 1900, the family was living at 43 Clark Street in Buffalo, New York. Andrew reported his date of birth as November 1863, reasonably close to his actual birthdate of November 1865. Similarly, his year of immigration (1888) and place of birth (“Poland-Aus”) were pretty consistent with other evidence. Mary reported that she was born August 1864 in Austrian Poland — a little bit off from her actual date of birth of April 1866, but we can live with it. She reported that she arrived 1887, which is also a little off from her actual arrival date of 1884, but is at least consistent insofar as she confirmed that she arrived in the U.S. before her husband. Andrew and Mary reported that they’d been married for 10 years, suggesting a marriage year of 1890, which fits nicely with the date on the marriage record I just discovered for them, in January 1891 (more on that in a minute).

Turning now to the children’s places of birth, we note with some dismay that all of them were reported to have been born in New York — no reference to Texas here. However, the fact that all the children were reported to have been born in New York — including the two for whom there is documented evidence of birth in St. Louis, Missouri — implies that it’s still quite possible that the oldest two might have been born somewhere other than New York — Texas, for example. All evidence suggests that the Klaus family was anything but affluent — barely making ends meet, even stealing coal to heat their home in January. Perhaps the effort of putting food on the table was sufficiently overwhelming that an accurate accounting of the children’s places of birth was simply not important to them. Who cares where the children were born? Let’s just say they were all born in New York.

Andrew and Mary were equally imprecise when reporting their children’s dates of birth. In this document, we see that 9-year-old Joseph was reported to have been born in March 1891, 7-year-old John was reported to have been born in June 1892, and 4-year-old Annie was reported to have been born in July 1896. Andrew and Mary’s system for estimating their children’s ages seems to have broken down completely by the time they reached Apolonia, since her reported date of birth was August 1896, implying that she was exactly one month younger than her sister Anna. They did somewhat better with the younger children: Genowefa’s date of birth was reported as June 1897, whereas she was actually born 28 September 1897,24 and Edward’s date of birth was reported as October 1899, while his actual date of birth was 11 September 1899.25

Clearly, these dates are off:  We know that Anna was born November 1892, and we know now that Andrew and Mary were married in January 1891. If we assume that children aren’t typically spaced closer than 11 months, that would suggest that John Klaus was born no later than December 1891. This, in turn, suggests that Joseph was either conceived out of wedlock prior to his parents’ marriage in January 1891, or that he and John were twins.  Although twins were common in both the Klaus and Łącki families (Mary’s father, Jacob, was a twin, and Andrew had two younger brothers who were twins), it seems unlikely that such was the case here, since one might expect Andrew and Mary to report on census records that the boys were the same age, even if they couldn’t remember exactly how old they were.

In any case, it’s unlikely that Joseph Klaus was born as early as 1885-1887, as he reported in documents later in life, because there’s a big difference between a child of 9, and a teenager of 13-15. Even if the parents couldn’t remember his exact date of birth, they’d be unlikely to be so far off in reporting his age. On the other hand, according to the proposed timeline, Joseph would have been born in 1890, and John would have been born in 1891, which seems pretty plausible, given their ages reported here.

So what about that marriage record for Andrew and Mary Klaus, and where does this leave us with knowing where Joseph and John might have been born, as well as finding their birth records?

The Rest of the Story

I discovered Andrew and Mary’s marriage record in a wonderful online index to church records from St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo, created by Kasia Dane. Her index isn’t new, it’s been online for some time now, and I use it frequently. In fact, it’s such a great resource that my Polish friend, Waldemar Chorążewicz, recently reformatted it and added it to the Polish vital records database Geneteka (under “Pozostałe,” at the bottom of the list of provinces on the main search page) to aid Poles seeking their family members who might have immigrated to Buffalo. However, I just hadn’t thought to search for the Klauses in that index until yesterday, for all the reasons mentioned here. It was only in the spirit of leaving no stone unturned that I decided to check the index, never really expecting them to be there. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they actually were.

Figure 10: Entry for the marriage of Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka (sic) from Kasia Dane’s index of marriages from St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo, New York, 1889-1894:

Klaus entry.png

I’m looking forward to getting a copy of the original record on my next trip to Buffalo. (St. Stan’s church records are available on microfilm at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.) I’ll also analyze the marriage record more fully in my next blog post, because this one record has prompted some interesting further discoveries. For now, I’ll just conclude by mentioning that I did, of course, check Kasia’s index to baptismal records at St. Stan’s for the baptisms of Joseph and John, and they were not there. In fact, the only Klaus children that were mentioned there were children of Andrew and Mary, all of whom I had documented previously — Genowefa/Genevieve, Edward, Władysław/Walter, and a son, Bolesław, who was born in 1895 and died in infancy.26 This doesn’t necessarily imply that Joseph and John Klaus weren’t born in Buffalo, it only means that they weren’t baptized at St. Stanislaus. Other Polish parishes that were in existence in Buffalo circa 1890-1891 were St. Adalbert’s, founded in 1886, and Assumption in Black Rock, founded in 1888. Records from both these parishes are on microfilm from at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, so I’ll be excited to check them out on my next trip to the library.

All in all, I’m thrilled to have finally found Andrew and Mary’s marriage record, even if’s slightly humiliating that it was under my nose all this time. One more piece in the family history jigsaw puzzle has now fallen into place, and my understanding of my ancestors’ journey is a little bit clearer. Whether their migration path took them through Texas for a brief window of two years, or whether that was all a bizarre tall tale, remains to be seen. I’m looking forward to discovering the truth!

Sources:

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

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1866, #20, baptismal record for Marianna Łącka.

Maciej Orzechowski, “Kolaczyce Births”, Baptismal record for Joannes Łącki, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1864, #36; report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Zgony, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1864, #55, record for Joannes Łącki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1872, #25, Record for Joannes Łącki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1863, #3, record for Josephus Łącki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Zgony, 1826-1889”, Stare Kopie, 1879, #45, record for Anna Łącka.

Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008), http://www.ancestry.com, Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: K_1731, record for Jakob Lacki, accessed on 3 August 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), http://www.ancestry.com, Year: 1884; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 475; Line: 46; List Number: 506, record for Jacob Lacki, accessed on 3 August 2017.

Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008), http://www.ancestry.com, record for Andrzey Klaus, accessed on 3 August 2017.

10 Roman Catholic Church, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and the Rosary (Borki, Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolska, Poland), “Ksiąg Metrykalnych,” 1865, births, #37, record for Andreas Klaus.

11Roman Catholic Church, St. John the Baptist Parish (Książnice, Mielec, Podkparpackie, Poland), Księgi metrykalne, 1615-1919, 1830, #16, baptismal record for Jakub Klaus, FHL film #939982.

12 Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008), http://www.ancestry.com, record for Andrzey Klaus, accessed on 3 August 2017.

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

14 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), Church records, 1880-1993, Baptisms, 1880-1923, 1894, #2, record for Apolonia Klaus, FHL film #1872178.

15 New York, Chautauqua, Dunkirk, Office of the City Clerk, Marriage Certificates, 1910, #431, marriage certificate for Joseph Klaus and Mary Brzuszkiewicz, 16 August 1910.

16 U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005), www.ancestry.com, Chautauqua, New York, Roll: 1712292; Draft Board: 1, record for Joseph J. Claus, accessed 4 August 2017.

17 New York, State Census, 1915 (population schedule), Dunkirk, Chautauqua, New York, Election District 03, Assembly District 02, page 38, Joseph Cloos household, https://www.ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 4 August 2017.

18 1910 U.S. Federal census (population schedule), Dunkirk, Chautauqua, New York, E.D. 115, sheet 14B, Joseph Cloos in Elizabeth Couhig household, https://familysearch.org, accessed 4 August 2017.

 

19 New York, State Census, 1905 (population schedule), North Tonawanda, Niagara, New York, Election District 01, page 60, Anderes Kraus (sic) household, https://www.ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 4 August 2017.

20 New York, Chautauqua, Dunkirk, Office of the City Clerk, Death Certificates, 1918, #130, death certificate for Joseph Claus, 7 October 1918.

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

22 New York, Niagara, City of North Tonawanda, Office of the City Clerk, Death Certificates, 1905, #2016, death certificate for John Klaus, 18 June 1905.

23 1900 U.S. Federal census (population schedule), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 84, sheet 28A, Andro Klano (sic) household, https://familysearch.org, accessed 4 August 2017.

24 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Baptisms, 1874-1903, 1897, #620, baptismal record for Genowefa Klaus.

25Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Baptisms, 1874-1903, 1899, #396, baptismal record for Edward Klaus.

26 Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Baptisms, 1874-1903, 1895, #757, record for Bolesław Klaus.

 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

The Walsh family of St. Catharines in the Parish Census

Recently, I wrote about census records in Poland, and the kinds of census records one might find. One type of census record that I mentioned is called the status animarum in Latin, and it’s a parish census that the pastor would conduct annually as he took stock of his parishioners’ spiritual well-being. These types of censuses were conducted throughout the Catholic Church, not just in Poland. Some of them happen to be available online — namely, parish census records from the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria in St. Catharines, Ontario, which was the home parish of my Walsh ancestors.

Meet the Walshes

The featured photo is a copy of an old tintype photo of four generations of the Walsh family, circa 1905. On the far left is Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh (1818-1907), my great-great-great-grandmother, and on the far right is her son (my great-great-grandfather), Henry Walsh (1847-1907). Next to Henry is his oldest daughter, Marion (née Walsh) Frank (1878-1954), and next to her is her daughter, Alice Marion Frank. The image was cleaned up a bit courtesy of Jordan Sakal in the Genealogists’ Photo Restoration Group on Facebook.

The Walshes were an interesting bunch. My great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Walsh (1808-1881), was a Roman Catholic immigrant from Ireland to Canada who arrived some time before 1840 and worked as a tailor. Around 1840, he married Elizabeth Hodgkinson (1818-1907), an Anglican native of Ontario, and a granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Loyalists. Census records show that Robert and Elizabeth had 9 children: B. Maria, James George (later known as George James), Henry, Mary Ann, Robert, Elizabeth, Ellen (also known as Nellie), Thomas J. (baptized as John), and Joseph P. (baptized as Peter Joseph). Unfortunately, baptismal records have only been discovered for three of these: Elizabeth, Thomas J., and Joseph P., all of whom were baptized in the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria. It’s likely that their parents were married there as well. The parish was certainly in existence circa 1840 when the Walshes were married, but unfortunately, early records were destroyed when an arsonist burned down the original wooden church in 1842.1 No one seems to know what became of the records created after the fire, between 1842 and 1851. The earliest records that have survived date back to 1852 (baptisms and marriages only). Apparently, duplicate copies of the parish registers were never made, and neither the parish itself, nor the archives for the dioceses of Toronto (to which the parish belonged before 1958) or St. Catharines (to which the parish belonged after 1958) is in possession of any records from before 1852.2,3,4

As is evident from the list of their children’s names, the Walsh family had a propensity for switching first and middle names, and they also used variations of their surname indifferently, appearing as Walsh, Welsh, and Welch. One example of this can be seen in Figures 1 and 2, which show the grave marker that Elizabeth Walsh shares with her husband and youngest son (Joseph P), in comparison with her newspaper death notice.

Figure 1:  Walsh monument in Victoria Lawn Cemetery for Robert, Elizabeth, and youngest son Joseph P. Walsh. The inscription for Elizabeth reads, “Elizabeth/Wife of/Robert Walsh/Died/Jan. 1, 1907/Aged 89 Years/Rest in Peace.” Photo courtesy of Carol Roberts Fischer.

elizabeth-walsh-grave-inscription

Although the name appears as “Walsh” on the family monument, both her newspaper death notice5 and her death certificate6 report her name as Elizabeth Welch (Figure 3):

Figure 2:  Death notice from the Buffalo Evening News for Elizabeth Welch, 3 January 1907.5

elizabeth-welch-obit-buffalo-evening-news-wed-2-jan-1907-crop

With so much variation in spellings of names, and with a surname that is so common to start with, particularly in St. Catharines, which was home to a large Irish immigrant population, one must proceed with caution when examining any records that might potentially pertain to this family. Canadian census records, city directories, and church records all show a number of different Walsh, Welsh and Welch families which may or may not be related to my own. This parish census collection was no exception.

Identifying the Walsh Family in the Parish Census

Once I started searching the parish census, it didn’t take long to find this record (Figure 4):

Figure 4:  Walsh family in the 1885-1886 Status Animarum for St. Catherine of Alexandria parish, St. Catharines, Ontario.walsh-family-status-animarum-cropped-marked

This shows a Mrs. Walsh with sons Thomas and Robert. Not a lot of information to go on, but I’m sure these are mine, for several reasons. First, Mr. Walsh is not mentioned, consistent with the fact that the census is from 1885-1886 and “my” Robert Walsh died in 1881. Second, the entries on this page all seem to be families living on Lake Street, which is where my Walshes were listed on several city directories as having residence (Figure 5):7

Figure 5:  “Welch” entries in St. Catharines City Directory, 1877-78.7dir-of-st-cath-1877-78-thorold-merriton-port-dalhousie

The above entries for “Welch” include Robert, a merchant tailor, and his sons, Henry, a teamster, and Robert, Jr., who was co-owner of the “Rogers and Welch” livery service, all living at 34 Lake Street. This is consistent with the parish census, which indicates that the mother, “Mrs. Walsh,” is (or was) a tailor. The fact that the word “tailor” is crossed out may suggest a correction made by the priest, due to the fact that her late husband was a tailor but she herself was living as a dependent of her sons at that point. Thomas was originally recorded as being occupied in the livery business, but this, too, is crossed out, and corrected to “tailor.” The second son, Robert, is recorded as being employed in the livery business, consistent with the information from the city directory.

The family’s religious observance is recorded in the next column with Elizabeth being described as “careless” in her Mass attendance, while her sons were apparently not practicing. Perhaps by way of explanation, the priest noted in the final column that she was “a convert” and added, “three mixed marriages:  James — Main Street/Henry Lake Street/Mrs. Divine at Henry’s.” This notation points to the other ecumenical marriages in the family at that time:  Elizabeth’s son, James George married Jane Lawder, a Protestant; her son Henry married Martha Agnes Dodds, also Protestant, and daughter Ellen (“Nellie”) married Charles DeVere (recorded here as “Divine”). On the preceding page in the book, we find the family of Henry Walsh (Figure 6):

Figure 6:  Henry Walsh family in the 1885-1886 Status Animarum for St. Catherine of Alexandria parish, St. Catharines, Ontario.henry-walsh-family-1885-parish-census-cropped-marked

Henry Walsh is listed as a carter here, consistent with other sources which stated his occupation as teamster. His wife’s name is not stated here, but his wife, Martha Agnes Dodds, was Protestant. The child living with them, “Maud,” is noted to be 8 years old and attending day school. This suggests that “Maud” is their oldest daughter, Marion, who was born in 1878. It’s unclear why none of their other children are mentioned, since Henry and Martha’s daughters Clara and Katherine were born in 1880 and 1883, respectively. The other couple living with them, “Chas. Divine and Mrs. Divine,” are undoubtedly Henry’s sister, Ellen “Nellie” and her husband, Charles DeVere, also known as Charles Dolphin or Charles Dolfin. Although this is another fine example of variant surname spellings run amuck, their civil marriage record (Figure 7) shows that the groom was Protestant and the bride was Catholic, consistent with the notation about a “mixed marriage” on the parish census record.

Figure 7:  Civil marriage record for Nellie Welch and Charles Dolphinnellie-welch-and-charles-dolphin-1883-civil-marriage-marked

Although the original parish census entry for “Mrs. Walsh” mentioned the family of James Walsh, living on Main Street, there is no corresponding entry for this family in the parish census book, nor was Main Street listed as an address for any families in the census book.  It’s possible that these addresses would have belonged to another parish in St. Catharines since there were several Catholic parishes in St. Catharines by the mid-1880s.

Parish census records are unlikely to provide any earth-shattering new data in areas in which other census records survive. Nonetheless, they may offer some useful insights to add to our understanding of our families within their local communities. If you have Catholic ancestors from St. Catharines, be sure to check out this collection to see what you might find!

Sources

“Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Catharines.” Wikipedia. Accessed October 21, 2016. https://www.wikipedia.org/.

Price, Rev. Brian. Archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kingston. E-mail message to author. July 7, 2016.

Sweetapple, Lori. Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.  E-mail message to author, July 11, 2016.

Wilson-Zorzetto, Liz. Archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines.  E-mail message to the author, July 14, 2016.

Death notice for Elizabeth Welch, January 3, 1907, http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html, Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, New York, online images.

Buffalo, Erie, New York, Death Certificates, 1907, #198, record for Elizabeth Welch.

Leavenworth, E.S., ed. “Welch” in Directory of St. Catharines, Thorold, Merriton, and Port Dalhousie, for 1877-78. St. Catharines: Leavenworth, 1877. 79.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016

On Research Distractions and Why a Good Archivist Can Be Your Best Friend

I’ve never been one of those family historians who likes to stick to researching just one family line until it’s “complete” and then start another line.  For one thing, in our hobby, each answer (i.e. a person’s name) leads to two more questions (his or her parents’ names).  Sometimes a new bit of data can turn up unexpectedly, which prompts me to drop the research I’d been working on and follow the new trail for a while to see where it leads.  This tendency toward distraction is sometimes referred to as “genealogical ADD,” and there are plenty of internet memes which suggest that this is a good way to waste a lot of time with little to show for it in the end.  However, I often find that taking a break from a line and coming back to it later helps me to see the research with fresh eyes, allowing me to make new connections in the data that I’d missed previously.

I’ve discovered that the secret to making progress while jumping around in my research is to keep good research notes.  I use Family Tree Maker, which currently offers options for both “person notes” and “research notes.”  I use this section to keep a research journal, where I analyze my data, brainstorm hypotheses, plan my next steps, and keep track of phone calls and correspondence with archives, collaborators, churches, cemetery offices, etc.  Sometimes it takes time before a reply is received, so rather than sitting by the phone with bated breath, I move on to other research tasks.

The other day, something prompted me to take a look at where I’d left things with my Dodds line from St. Catharines, Ontario.  Robert Dodds was one of my great-great-great-grandfathers on my Dad’s side of the family, born in England on 28 January 1817, according to the 1901 Census of Canada.  He died on 16 August 1906, according to his civil death certificate, and is buried in St. Catharines in Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Section G.  Unfortunately, this civil death certificate does not reveal Robert’s parents’ names, which I need to know in order to further my research.  His marriage record might also mention his parents’ names, but unfortunately, that’s been difficult to locate as well.

Robert married Catherine, whose maiden name has been variously reported as Irving1 or Grant.2  Most sources agree that Catherine was born in Ontario of Scottish parents, rather than having herself been born in Scotland, as suggested by the death record of her daughter (my great-great-grandmother), Martha Agnes (née Dodds) Walsh.1  Robert and Catherine probably married circa 1839-1840, since their oldest daughter, Hannah Dodds, was born 20 January 1841. However, early records for Upper Canada/Canada West are very spotty, as many did not survive, and it’s not clear exactly where Robert and Catherine married, or even in what faith.

Robert Dodds reported his faith as Methodist in 1861, Church of England in 1871,  Methodist in 1881, and Church of England again in 1891 and 1901.  Catherine Dodds reported her faith as Methodist in 1861, Presbyterian in 1871, and she died in 1872.  Rather conveniently, the Methodist and most of the Presbyterian churches in Canada merged with some other Protestant faiths in 1925 to become the United Church of Canada, so their archive is an obvious place to check for the marriage record.  About 30% of the Presbyterian churches in Canada chose not to participate in this merger, and these non-concurring or continuing Presbyterian churches became the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  Again, their archive is another obvious place to check.  However, many congregations have retained their own records instead of sending them to the archives, so it’s important to know where the marriage took place.

This brings me to the second problem, determining where they married.  It’s common to use census records to track the movement of families and individuals, but unfortunately, the first time we see Robert and Catherine in the census is in 1861, when they are living in Grantham and are already the parents of seven children.  As mentioned previously, it’s likely that Robert and Catherine were married circa 1840, so the 1842 Census for Canada West would be an obvious place to search for the young family to see if they were already in Grantham at that point, or if they were elsewhere in the province.  Unfortunately, most of the returns for this census did not survive, including those for Lincoln, Elgin, and Glengarry Counties, which are the three counties associated with this family based on other records. The situation is not much better with the 1851 Census. As luck would have it, and despite the fact that many returns for the Lincoln District did survive, the returns for the Township of Grantham and the City of St. Catharines did not.

By 1871, the family had moved to Yarmouth Township in Elgin County, where Catherine died in 1872 and is buried in Union Cemetery.  Her grave transcription reads, “DODDS /  In Memory of /  Catharine /  wife of /  Robert DODDS /  died /  June 12, 1872 /  aged 54 yrs. 1 month & 22 days.  /  My children dear assemble here  /  A mother’s grave to see  /  Not long age I dwell with you  /  But soon you’l dwell with me.”  (I find that transcription especially compelling in a morbid sort of way.)  Catherine’s death certificate states that she was born in “Martin Town,” that she was Presbyterian, and that she died at the age of 53, which would suggest a birth year of 1819.  Her grave marker suggests a birth date of 20 April 1818.  “Martin Town” points clearly to Martintown, Glengarry County, Ontario, a place settled by immigrants from the Scottish Highlands, which is consistent with what we know of Catherine’s Scottish parentage.

The original Presbyterian Church that served Martintown was St. Andrew’s in Williamstown.  Marriage records for this church are indexed here for the time period from 1779 to 1914 “with a couple of gaps.”3  However, closer inspection reveals that there are no marriage records past 1815.  In fact, this index seems to correspond to the collection of St. Andrew’s church records available on microfilm from the LDS, which exhibits the same gap from 1818 until 1855.  And as luck would have it, that gap neatly encompasses both Catherine’s birth record, circa 1818, as well as the record of her marriage, if it took place in this parish, circa 1840.  So at this point, we can’t say whether the negative result is because the record no longer exists, or because Robert and Catherine Dodds did not marry in this parish.  For kicks, I checked all the indexed births, marriages and deaths for the surnames Grant and Irving, even though the particular range of years I need is not available.   Interestingly, I discovered that the surname Irving does not exist anywhere in these indexed records, although the surname Grant is quite common in the parish.

So where does that leave us?  Well, at this point, I still don’t know where Catherine and Robert might have met and married.  It might have been at St. Andrew’s in Williamstown, but if that’s the case, then the record may no longer exist.  I still don’t know Catherine’s parents’ names, although the data seem to point toward Grant as a more likely candidate for her maiden name than Irving.  But even in the absence of birth and marriage records, it occurred to me that I could still try to find church burial records for both Catherine and Robert, and perhaps by some miracle, these might contain their parents’ names, even though the civil death records did not.

I struck out fast with Catherine’s death record.  I contacted Union United Church, which is the descendant of the original Union Wesleyan Methodist Church which operates the cemetery in which Catherine was buried, to inquire about burial records.  Unfortunately, I was told that they, “have no records that date that far back any longer either.”4  Robert’s church death record seemed a bit more promising, as there were a number of Anglican churches in St. Catherines by the time of his death in 1906.  To help me determine which one might have his death record, I telephoned Victoria Lawn Cemetery, where he is buried.  The secretary was very helpful.  She informed me that Robert Dodds’ interment was handled by MacIntyre Funeral Home, and “Rev. R. Kerr” was the pastor who performed the services.  A quick Google search shows that Rev. Robert Kerr (or Ker) was the rector of St. George Anglican Church in St. Catharines.  A bit more digging revealed that burial records from St. George have been microfilmed and are available from the archive at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  I contacted them immediately to inquire about obtaining a look-up.

And that was when “real life” and other research pulled me away, and I put my Dodds line on the back burner again.  I wrote that e-mail to the archivists at McMaster University back on 4 September 2014, almost two years ago.  Almost immediately, I received one of those standard, “thank you for your inquiry, one of our archivists will be in touch with you shortly,” e-mails, and then nothing further.  I didn’t think about it again (obviously!) until just recently.  Flash forward to earlier this week, when something made me look back at my Dodds research.  In reviewing my notes, I realized that I’d never received a reply from the archivist at McMaster.  So I wrote to them again, mentioning my previous e-mail from September of 2014.

Lo, and behold!  I received a reply from a library assistant, informing me that one of the archivists, Bridget Whittle, had replied to me back in 2014, but the e-mail was sent accidentally to the Research Help department. She forwarded Bridget’s old e-mail to me:

“Your email was forwarded to us here in the Archives. Thank you for your inquiry. I’ve had a look at St. George’s Church in St. Catharine’s and there was no burial record for Robert Dodds in 1905 or the surrounding years. Is it possible it was a different church in St. Catharine’s?”5

How about that?  She’d actually taken the time to review the microfilm for me, no charge!

I wrote back to her to explain the conversation with the cemetery office at Victoria Lawn, and wondered if perhaps Rev. Robert Kerr ministered at more than one parish in St. Catharines, which might account for the lack of burial record at St. George.  Bridget replied,

“Given the information you received from Victoria Lawn Cemetery, it really does sound like it should be St. George’s to me. I checked again, just to be certain that I hadn’t missed it somehow, but he’s definitely not there.

I checked all the other churches in St. Catharines that had burial records for that time and didn’t see Robert Dodds in any of them (or records suggesting that Robert Kerr was performing services there). I’m not certain whether this means that for some reason the entry was never made or if there is some other place it might be. I have checked the vestry records for the time as well as a miscellaneous file in the hopes that there would be something, but again, came up short.

While all this is unfortunate, I’m afraid that for the names of his parents, you wouldn’t be likely to get it from the burial record anyway. I know you said you were having a hard time tracking down his marriage record, but that would be more likely to have the information.

Do you know if he was married in St. Catharines? Around 1840 is pretty sparse record wise, but I would be happy to have a look if you know the city he was married in.5

Wow!  It just makes my day to encounter someone so wonderfully helpful.  Of course I replied with more information regarding my search for their marriage record.  Bridget’s response was both thoughtful and on-point:

Thanks for going through all of those details. I can see why you’re running out of options. Based on your information I checked a few of the other churches (namely the one in Grantham and a few that are now part of St. Catharines, but were not at the time). Frustratingly, I’ve still come up with nothing new. I was hoping I might catch a baptismal record for Hannah, at least so that we knew we were on the right track, but still nothing.

I have put a call into the Archivist for the Niagara Diocese, Archdeacon Rathbone, to see if we can figure out how it is that all of that information about Robert Dodds can be recorded at the cemetery and then not show up in the burial register. He’s away today, but I’ll let you know what I come up with.

The records we have here don’t go as far east as Yarmouth, East Elgin. That falls under the Diocese of Huron. If you haven’t been in touch with them already, you can reach them here:  http://diohuron.org/what/HR/archives.php

You probably know this already, but the Methodist church in Canada merged with a few others to become the United Church. If you go hunting for the Dodds’ under the Methodist connections, you’ll want to get in touch with them:  http://www.united-church.ca/leadership/church-administration/united-church-canada-archives

And good grief! I see what you mean about that 1901 census. I’m inclined to agree that it’s Jany [the month of Robert Dodds’ birth], but it’s a shame that it is so difficult to read (and that the UK census doesn’t go back that far).  I will let you know what the Archdeacon has to say. Hopefully he’ll have some other lead.5

 

So what are the take-home messages in all of this?

 1. Keep good research notes.

You never know when life is going to intervene and you might have to put down your research for a while.  As long as you have good notes, it should be easy to pick up again when you’re ready.

2. Follow up with all your leads (even if it’s two years later).

E-mails do get lost sometimes.  If you don’t hear from someone for a while, don’t assume he or she was ignoring you.

3.  Be sure to reach out to the librarians and archivists in the geographic areas in which you’re searching.

They are a fantastic resource — typically knowledgeable about the history of the area in addition to knowing what records, maps, finding aids, and reference works are available, and where to look for them.  Nothing beats local knowledge.  The search may continue for my elusive Robert and Catherine Dodds, but at least it’s nice to know that I’ve got some allies in my quest.

Sources:

  1.  New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1935, #4549, Death Certificate for Martha Dodds Walsh.
  2. Death record for Hannah Dodds Carty, eldest daughter of Robert and Catherine Dodds (click link for details and image).
  3. Per information at the parent website (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onglenga/), this index was created from, “‘St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church,’ (aka the Rev. John Bethune records); Williamstown, Charlottenburgh Twp., Glengarry, Ontario. Transcript by Dr. K. A. Taylor Registers of births, marriages and burials: 1779-1914 (original and typescript versions). MS 107 Reel 1.  File contains transcriptions from 1779 up to 1839 with a couple of gaps.”
  4. Whitehead, Karen.  “RE:  [Cemetery] Availability of Church Records.” Message to the author from unioncemetery.uucc@gmail.com.  4 Sept. 2014.  Email.
  5.  Whittle, Bridget.  “RE:  Question submitted through Ask a Librarian chat.”  Message to the author from archives@mcmaster.ca. 3 Aug. 2016.  Email.
  6.  Featured image:  Gordon, Bruce. Photo of St. Andrews United Church Cemetery. Digital image.Find A Grave. Find A Grave, Inc., 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.

 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016