Last week, I wrote about my attempts to nail down a place of birth for my husband’s great-great-great-grandfather, Antoni Nowicki, whose marriage record from Gradzanowo Kościelne stated that he was born in the village of Kroczewo. There’s only one village in Poland today called Kroczewo, but Antoni Nowicki was definitely not born there. So, I identified a couple alternative locations that were phonetically similar to Kroczewo, including a constellation of villages whose names start with Kraszewo (Figure 1).
All of these “Kraszewos” belong to the parish in Raciąż, and although birth records from the time of Antoni’s birth are digitized at FamilySearch, access is restricted, so I figured the research would have to wait until my next opportunity to visit my local Family History Center (FHC).
After writing that post, I took a look at my calendar, and realized that it might be a while before I had a chance to make it to the FHC. So, I opted for a quick remote research request from the Family History Library, in the hopes that they could at least give me a “yes” or “no” about whether Antoni Nowicki was baptized in Raciąż. This past Wednesday, that answer turned out to be “yes,” and they replied with a copy of Antoni’s birth record (Figure 2).1
The record is in Polish, and is transcribed as follows:
Działo się w mieście Raciążu dnia czternastego/dwudziestego szóstego Lipca, Tysiąc ośmset czterdziestego czwartego roku o godzinie dziesiątej przed południem. Stawił się Maciej Nowicki, Rolnik, zamieszkały w Kroczewie, lat dwadzieścia cztery mający, w obecności Albina Krolewskiego, lat dwadzieścia dwa, Pawła Bułakowskiego, lat czterdzieści mających, na Budach Kraszewskich zamieszkałych, rolników, i okazał Nam dziecię płci męskiej urodzone w Kroczewie dnia siedemnastego/dwudziestego trzeciego Lipca roku bieżącego o godzinie trzeciej rano z jego małżonki Joanny z Ługowskich, lat dwadzieścia mającej. Dziecięciu temu na Chrzcie Świętym odbytym w dniu dzisiejszym nadane zostało imię Antoni, a rodzicami jego Chrzestnymi byli Albin Królewski i Jadwiga Ostrowska (?). Akt ten przeczytany stawającemu i świadkom przez Nas podpisany został. Stawający i świadkowie pisać nie umieją. [Signed] X. Strzałkowski, proboszcz Raciążki”
In English, this translates as,
This happened in the town of Raciąż on the fourteenth/twenty-sixth day of July, in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, at ten o’clock in the morning. Maciej Nowicki appeared, a farmer, residing in Kroczewo, having twenty-four years of age, in the presence of Albin Krolewski, aged twenty-two, Pawel Bułakowski, aged forty, residents in Budy Kraszewskie, farmers, and presented to us a male child born in Kroczewo on the seventeenth/twenty-third day of July of the current year at three o’clock in the morning from his spouse Joanna, née Ługowska, aged twenty. At Holy Baptism, performed today, the child was given the name Antoni, and his godparents were Albin Królewski and Jadwiga Ostrowska (?). This document was read to the declarant and to the witnesses and was signed by Us. The declarant and the witnesses are unable to write. [Signed] Fr. Strzałkowski, pastor of Raciąż.”
This document adds to the growing body of evidence for the Nowicki family by providing a precise birth date for Antoni, who was born 23 July 1844. His parents’ ages suggest birth years circa 1820 for Maciej, and 1824 for Joanna, which makes Joanna a bit older, potentially, than what was supposed previously. Only one other document has thus far been discovered which offers evidence for her year of birth, and that document—the birth record for her son, Franciszek— suggested that she was born circa 1826. Most importantly, this document resolves the practical question of where to look for additional records for this family: Raciąż.
What it does not resolve is the question about where Antoni’s birthplace was located. He was definitely born in Kroczewo; the spelling is identical to the spelling of his birthplace as it was recorded in his marriage record, apart from the fact that this priest had an interesting habit of using the Polish ż in words where a z is typically used, e.g. cżternastego. So although Antoni’s place of birth was recorded as Krocżewo, I think we can safely interpret that as a simple Kroczewo. But where the heck was it? Other records on that same page refer to Kraszewo Gaczułty and Kraszewo Falki, yet the priest distinguished this place name from those in his spelling, which suggests that this was not merely another name for one of the assorted Kraszewos identified thus far. The Słownik Geograficzne Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, which typically mentions alternate spellings for place names when they were known to exist, does not mention any places called Kroczewo other than the one in Płońsk County, which is the wrong Kroczewo (not the one in Raciąż parish). Neither do the entries for the assorted Kraszewo villages mention any alternate spellings that might identify the precise location of “Kroczewo.”
It might be possible to locate a map which includes Kroczewo, assuming a map could be found for the correct time period, and at a sufficient scale to include very small villages. This 1:200,000-scale map from 1913 shows Kraszewo, and “Kraszewo Budy,” which appears to be the village known as Budy Kraszewskie today, given its position relative to “Pulka-Raciążska” which is Pólka-Raciąż today, but no Kroczewo (Figure 3).2
I tried again with a map from the David Rumsey collection, originally published in 1856 (Figure 4).3 Unfortunately, at only 1:370,000 scale, the map only shows the larger villages. Raciąż is called Racionz on this map, but it’s unclear to me whether the “Radzanowo” mentioned here is actually Gradzanowo Kościelne, or if it refers instead to the village of Radzanów, located a little over 5 km north of Gradzanowo.
Next up was a map by Juliusz Kolberg, published in 1827 at a map scale ranging from 1:477,000 to about 1:525,000 (Figure 5).4
This map clearly differentiates between Radzanowo and Gradzanowo, and shows three of the Kraszewo villages—Kraszewo Czubaki, Kraszewo Podborze [sic] and Kraszewo Gaczołki [sic]—to the northwest of Raciąż. Note that Kraszewo Podborze is called Kraszewo Podborne today, and Kraszewo Gaczołki is Kraszewo Gaczułty. Scanning all the other place names on the map within a reasonable distance of the parish in Raciąż, I don’t see any places called Kroczewo.
I finally pulled out the big guns and located a Russian-language 1931 map published at a 1:25,000 scale from the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny (Military Geographic Institute). This map scale is such that an entire map quadrant is dedicated to the town of Raciąż and its environs (Figure 6).
This map shows the Raciąż area in incredible detail, and permits identification of not only the six Kraszewos shown in Google Maps, but Kraszewo Dezerta, which was mentioned in the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego published in 1877. Additionally, there’s a “Ф. Крашево” located south of -Podborne. Maybe that Ф stands for Фольварк, the Russian transliteration of folwark, which is a Polish word for a manor or estate? That’s my current hypothesis, at least.
As interesting as all of this may be, it’s unfortunately not getting me any closer to identifying Kroczewo, since Kroczewo [Крочево] does not appear to be anywhere on this map. At this point, I’m inclined to throw in the towel, and declare this village to be lost to the mists of time, an odd historical artifact preserved in the church books of Raciąż. Maybe Fr. Franciszek Strzałkowski had a clear idea of where this place was when he recorded the birth of Antoni Nowicki way back in 1844, but I sure wish he would have let the cartographers in on the secret.
1 Roman Catholic Church (Raciaz, Plonsk, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego, 1808-1865,” 1844, Akta urodzeń, no. 95, Antoni Nowicki, born 23 July 1844; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 23 March 2022), Family History Library film no. 730110/DGS no. 8024747, image 28 of 785.
2 Offiz. A. Spaczek, Offiz. K. Ginzkey, “Mława,” 1913, 1:200,000 scale topographic map from 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary; digital image, Térképtudományi és Geoinformatikai Intézet (Institute of Cartography and Geoinformatics)(http://lazarus.elte.hu/hun/digkonyv/topo/3felmeres.htm : 28 March 2022), map 38-53.
3 Carl Ferdinand Weiland, Karte von den Konigl: Preussischen Provinzen Preussen und Posen, nebst dem Kaiserlich Russischen Konigreiche Polen. (with) Umgebung von Warshau. (with) Umgebung von Konigsberg. (with) Umgebung von Danzig. Entworfen und gezeichnet von C.F. Weiland. Gestochen von J. Madel III [Map of the Royal Prussian Provinces of Prussia and Posen, together with the Imperial Russian Kingdom of Poland. (with) Surroundings of Warshau. (with) Surroundings of Konigsberg. (with) Surroundings of Danzig. Designed and drawn by C.F. Weiland. Engraved by J. Madel III], (Weimar: Geographisches Institut Weimar, 1856); digital image, David Rumsey Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/f89w04 : 28 March 2022).
As genealogists, we’re taught to follow the paper trail, gathering evidence from historical documents that tell the story of our ancestors’ lives. Even when our ancestors moved around, we can often find clues in the historical records that point to their previous place of residence. So, don’t you just hate it when you find a document that clearly states a person’s place of origin, but it’s not the right place?
Born in Kroczewo? Not So Fast….
I ran into this problem recently while researching my husband’s Nowicki ancestors. His great-grandmother, Helen (Majczyk) Skolimowski, was the daughter of Stanisław and Aniela (Nowicka) Majczyk. Aniela Nowicka was the daughter of Antoni and Jadwiga (Krogulska) Nowicki, so this story begins with Antoni and Jadwiga’s marriage record, which I recently obtained from the Archiwum Diecezjalne w Płocku (diocesan archive in Płock). (I’d like to add that the archive is really a pleasure to work with, and requests can be made quite simply by filling out this form on their website.) A copy of the marriage record is shown in Figure 1.1
The full text of the marriage record is transcribed and translated in the footnotes, for those who are interested, but the portion relevant to this discussion is the passage shown in Figure 2, which describes the groom.
The marriage record describes Antoni as a young man, urodzonym w Kroczewie (born in Kroczewo), son of Maciej and Joanna née Ługowska, the spouses Nowicki, residing with his parents in Bojanowo, age 20. This suggests a birth circa 1845 in Kroczewo, a village with its own church. Both Bojanowo and Kroczewo were located in the Płock gubernia, but the villages are 67 km apart (Figure 3).
So far, so good, right? However, births for Kroczewo are indexed in Geneteka for the entire period from 1817 to 1903 with no gaps, and there is no birth record for Antoni Nowicki. Moreover, Kroczewo is not especially close to Gradzanowo, and generally, when a marriage or death record references a birthplace that was not nearby, the priest made an effort to mention the parish, county, or country in which the birthplace was located. Conversely, a lack of further identifying information suggests that the place in question must be sufficiently nearby that the priest felt no further description was necessary.
This suggests two possibilities: one, that Antoni Nowicki was baptized in Kroczewo, but his birth was recorded or indexed in such a way that I did not locate it in my initial search, and two, that he was baptized elsewhere. A broader search in Geneteka might address both possibilities, so I expanded the parameters to include all indexed birth records in the Mazowieckie province. The result? No promising hits. I played around with search parameters still further, using his parents’ names and the “Wyszukaj jako para/Relationship Search” option, to see if I could find records for any of Antoni’s siblings, and used wildcards under the assumption that their names might have been misrecorded, or that his mother’s maiden name might have been omitted from the record. Even that search, for birth records to surname Nowicki, given names M* and J*, between 1840 and 1850, anywhere in Mazowieckie province, produced no clues, nor did it help to use a wildcard in the surname and search for Now*. As of this writing, he’s just not in Geneteka.
So, what other place might “Kroczewo” be? Antoni married in Gradzanowo Kościelne, and he was living in Bojanowo at the time of his marriage, so I pulled out the map to see what villages are located nearby that resemble “Kroczewo” phonetically. I found a village called Kocewo near Bieżuń, 20 km from Gradzanowo. There’s also a geographic cluster of six “Kraszewo” villages, Kraszewo-Czubaki, Kraszewo Podborne, Kraszewo Rory, Kraszewo-Falki, Kraszewo-Sławęcin, and Kraszewo Gaczułty, all located within 20 km of Gradzanowo. While other candidates exist that are a bit further away, these are my top candidates at the moment.
Down a Rabbit Hole In Search of Kocewo
The next question is, to what parishes did those villages belong? Kocewo’s proximity to Bieżuń suggests that this would be the parish to which it was assigned. However, I was unable to confirm that, using the Skorowidz Królewstwa Polskiego (a gazetteer published in 1877 which includes locations in the Królestwo Polskie, or Kingdom of Poland). In fact, the Skorowidz does not even mention the village of Kocewo (Figure 4); the closest option is Kocewia, which is not the same place.2
Undaunted, I checked the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, published in 1933. Still no Kocewo; the closest entries were Kocewe and Kocewko, but again, neither refers to the same place. What the heck? Mapa.szukacz.pl confirmed my findings from Google Maps: the village of Kocewo is located in gmina Bieżuń, Żuromiń County, Mazowieckie, and has a population of 46. Wikipedia repeats that information, so the village is clearly found in modern sources. However, the only mention of Kocewo in the Słownik Geograficzne Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich was a reference to mudflats (błota) of the river Pełta. The Pełta river runs roughly north-south, but well to the east of the Gradzanowo area. Kocewo was proving to be surprisingly elusive in historical sources.
A search of the Polish version of Wikipedia gave me the clue I needed: “dawn. Myślin-Kocewo,” where “dawn.” is an abbreviation for dawniej, formerly. Apparently, Kocewo is so small even today that it was formerly united with the nearby village of Myślin, which likely accounts for its absence from historical sources. Repeating my gazetteer searches in the M’s rather than the K’s permitted identification of the parish for Myślin-Kocewo as Chamsk circa 1877 and Bieżuń circa 1933 (Figure 2).3
A search for the parish of Chamsk in Geneteka reveals a gap in indexed birth records from 1842 until 1889. Since Antoni Nowicki was born circa 1845, this could explain the absence of his birth record in Geneteka. (On the other hand, the fact that the village of Kocewo did not exists as an independent municipality at the time of Antoni’s marriage, casts doubt on the hypothesis that the priest would have mentioned it as Antoni’s place of birth.) Records for Chamsk from 1826–1911 are online at Metryki, which means I’ll be able to find an answer to the question of whether or not Antoni Nowicki was baptized there. However, a quick peek revealed that no end-of-year index was created in the book that contains the births from 1845, so all 115 of them will have to be browsed individually to find Antoni’s birth, if in fact he was baptized in this parish. It’s research for another day.
Thankfully, identification of the parishes for the assorted Kraszewos (if that’s a word) was more straightforward. Figure 6 shows the Kraszewo entries in the Skorowidz.4
The first Kraszewo, in Ciechanów County, is 53 km from Bojanowo, so I excluded it from the first round of candidates to consider. The last Kraszewo, Kraszewo Czarne, was not even in the Płock province, so it, too, seems less likely. The remaining eight Kraszewos include the six found on the contemporary map, as well as two additional places, Kraszewo Dezerta and Kraszewo Budy, which may have been absorbed by one of the other villages. Kraszewo Bory may have been an older name for Kraszewo Rory, found on the modern map, but from the perspective of finding vital records, it’s irrelevant whether they were two distinct villages or one village under two names, since all the Kraszewos in this cluster belonged to the parish in Raciąż.
Although birth records from Raciąz are indexed in Geneteka, there’s a gap from 1808 through 1875, which might also explain why Antoni Nowicki’s birth is not found. Neither are scans of birth records from Raciąż for the appropriate time period available online at Szukajwarchiwach or another convenient source. They are digitized at FamilySearch, but access is restricted, so this research will have to wait for another day when my local Family History Center is open.
Additional clues regarding the Nowicki family’s migrations can be found in Geneteka. My search for children of Maciej Nowicki and Joanna Ługowska produced a birth record for Antoni Nowicki’s brother, Franciszek Nowicki, who was born in Gołuszyn (Radzanów parish) in 1858 (Figure 7).
Clicking over to the scan reveals that Franciszek was born 22 September 1858, and that his father, Maciej, was a 38-year-old farmer and resident of Gołuszyn, while his mother was 32 years old.5 Similarly, a search of the marriage records produced a marriage record for another son of Maciej and Joanna, Andrzej Nowicki, who married Józefa Maciejewska in Dąbrowa in 1875 (Figure 8).
According to that marriage record, Andrzej Nowicki was twenty-four years old and born in Gołuszyn.6
From this information, a timeline begins to emerge for Maciej and Joanna. Maciej was born circa 1820, and Joanna was born circa 1826, but we don’t know where either of them was born. We don’t know where they married, either; all that searching in Geneteka did not turn up their marriage record. Based on Joanna’s age, we can guess that they were married circa 1844, so Antoni was likely their oldest child. Accurate identification of Antoni’s birthplace may be the key to finding their marriage record as well. By 1851, they were living in Gołuszyn, where Andrzej was born, and they were still living there in 1858 when Franciszek was born. Andrzej’s marriage record also stated that his father, Maciej, was already deceased while his mother, Joanna, was still living, which helps narrow down the time frame for searching for death records for Maciej and Joanna. Joanna’s death record might state her place of of birth, if it was known, and that, too, could point to her place of marriage and birth.
Although this research has gone off the road for the moment, at least the records still offer a compass! Stay tuned!
1 Roman Catholic Church (Gradzanowo, Żuromin, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie,” 1865, Małżeństwa, no. 14, Antoni Nowicki and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, 13 February 1865, privately held by Archiwum Diecezjalne w Płocku, 09-400 Płock, Poland. Proofreading and editing of the following transcription and translation were kindly provided by Dr. Roman Kałużniacki.
“No. 14 Chomąc.
Działo się w Gradzanowie dnia trzynastego Lutego, tysiąc ośmset sześćdziesiątego piątego roku o godzinie trzeciej po południu. Wiadomo czynimy, iż w przytomności świadków Damazego Uzdowskiego, właściciela częściowego z Bojanowa, i Leona Kocięda, gospodarza z Chomącu po lat trzydzieści ośm mających—na dniu dzisiejszym zawarte zostało religijne małżeństwo między Antonim Nowickim, młodzianem, urodzonym w Kroczewie, synem Macieja i Joanny z Ługowskich małżonków Nowickich, w Bojanowie przy rodzicach zamieszkałym, lat dwadzieścia mającym, a Jadwigą Agnieszką Krogulską panną, urodzoną w Łaczewie, córką Marcina i Katarzyny z Pawełkiewiczów, małżonków Krogulskich, w Chomącu przy rodzicach zamieszkałą, lat dziewiętnaście mającą. Małżeństwo to poprzedziły trzy zapowiedzie w dniach dwudziestym drugim, dwudziestym dziewiątym Stycznia i piątym Lutego roku bieżącego w Kościele Parafialnym Gradzanowskim ogłoszone. Małżonkowie nowi oświadczają, iż umowy przedślubnej nie zawarli. Zezwolenie rodziców obojga nowozaślubionych, obecnych Aktowi małżeństwa ustnie oświadczone było. Obrząd ten religijny dopełwiony został przez miejscowego Kommendarza. Akt ten po odczytaniu przez nas został podpisany, Nowożeńcy i świadkowie pisać nie umieją. Xiądz Piotr Pawłowski Komm. Gradzanowski Utrzymający Akta Metryczne-Cywilne.”
14. Chomęc. It happened in Gradzanowo on the thirteenth day of February, in the year one thousand eighteen hundred and sixty-five, at three o’clock in the afternoon. We hereby declare that in the presence of witnesses Damazy Uzdowski, a part land owner from Bojanowo, and Leon Kocięda, a farmer from Chomęc, both thirty-eight years old, on this day was celebrated a religious wedding between Antoni Nowicki, a young man born in Kroczewo, son of Maciej and Joanna, nee Ługowska, the spouses Nowicki, residing in Bojanówo with his parents, aged twenty years, and Jadwiga Agnieszka Krogulska, single, born in Łaczewo, daughter of Marcin and Katarzyna, nee Pawełkiewicz, the spouses Krogulski, residing in Chomęc with her parents, aged nineteen years. This marriage was preceded by three announcements made at the Gradzanowo parish church on the twenty-second and twenty-ninth days of January and the fifth day of February of this year. The new spouses declare that they have not entered into any prenuptial agreement. The consent of the parents of both newlyweds who were present at the ceremony was verbally declared. This religious rite was performed by the local magistrate. This document having been read was signed by us, since the Newlyweds and the witnesses, do not know how to write.
Rev. Piotr Pawłowski Komm. Gradzanowo Keeping Civil Metrical Files.
2I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p. 272; digital image, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 19 March 2022).
3 Ibid., p. 405, “Myślin-Kocewo.”
4 Ibid., p. 299, “Kraszewo.”
5Roman Catholic Church (Radzanów, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Radzanowie, 1826-1909,” Akta Urodzonych w roku 1858, no. 100, Franciszek Nowicki; digital image, Metryki.GenBaza (https://metryki.genbaza.pl : 20 March 2022), image _M_1967.jpg, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie.
6Roman Catholic Church (Dabrowa, Mlawa, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymsko-katolickiej Dabrowa k. Mlawy, 1826-1912,” 1875, marriages, no. 9, Andrzej Nowicki and Józef Maciejewska; digital image, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 20 March 2022), Zespól: 0632/D- , image 008-009.jpg.
When researching, I sometimes stumble across records that are out of place or badly indexed. I’m usually struck with a feeling of empathy for some poor researcher out there, looking for a particular historical record and being unable to find it, due to this error.
Lost to Posterity
I’ve been researching my husband’s Lewandowski ancestors lately, and was searching in Ancestry’s database, “New York, U.S., Death Index, 1852-1956,” for a death record for yesterday. Anyone researching this popular Polish surname in U.S. records is probably familiar with the plethora of phonetic variants that were adopted by immigrant Lewandowskis. I’ve found that wildcard searching is an effective strategy for locating all possible variants, such as Levanduski, Levindoski, Lavandeski, Levinduskee, etc. All of these variants follow the pattern, L?v?nd?sk*, where ? replaces one character, and * replaces one or more characters. You can even go one step further, and search for L*nd*sk*, in consideration of the fact that some versions of the surname might have retained the original w instead of the English phonetic equivalent, v. This will return results which include the original spelling, Lewandowski, as well as variants such as Lanvondoski, Lawndowski, Lewandorsky, etc. Due to the popularity of this surname, it should go without saying that you’ll want to confine your search to a particular place and time period, to avoid an overwhelming number of search results.
But what about that first letter, L? Frequently, in old documents, the cursive upper case L was mistaken for an S. If the indexer could not read the handwriting on the original document, then Lewandowski and related phonetic variants could be indexed under Sewandowski. In fact, a search in Ancestry’s Passenger Lists database for the exact surname Sewandowski, produces 86 results. And while this number may not seem huge, it might be significant if your ancestor is among those 86 passengers.
Could Sewandowski be an authentic surname? Not likely. A search of nearly 44 million records in Geneszukacz—the search portal for all the databases of the Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Polish Genealogical Society)—produces exactly one result for Sewandowski, which includes Lewandowski as an alternate transcription of the surname, provided by the indexer. If the “Sewandowski” surname does not exist in Polish records, chances are good that all of those 86 passengers should have been indexed as Lewandowski.
This brings me back to my search for a Lewandowski death record. Bearing in mind this L-to-S transcription issue, I repeated my search in the New York Death Index, this time for *nd?sk*. Behold, search results included this one for Fanny Sewandoska, shown in Figure 1.
The entry appears with other S entries, so it’s evident that the mistake was made when the original, handwritten index was created from the death certificates. Since Ancestry permits the addition of alternate information to database entries, I added “Levandoska” as an alternate surname for Fanny. I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to the original Polish given name for “Fanny.” However, the fact that her surname was recorded in its feminine form, Levandoska, rather than Levandoski, suggests that she was probably an immigrant from Poland, since feminine surname endings were typically abandoned within a generation or two after immigration.
Conversely, we sometimes encounter “bonus records,” tucked into record books for one reason or another, that become found treasures. Back in 2014, while perusing microfilmed records from Transfiguration parish in Buffalo, New York, I stumbled across this baptismal certificate, shown in Figure 2.
The certificate was included as proof of baptism for a bride, Stella Kapela, who was married at Transfiguration church in 1911. The date on the certificate, 1943, was curious, since it was so much later than the records in the place where this certificate was tucked into the book. Perhaps Stella remarried in the parish in 1943? Her name, and her parents’ names, Jacob Kapela and Frances Kraczyk, meant nothing to me, but I did a double-take when I noticed that her godparents were Edward Levenduski and Veronica Lepkoski. Edward was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and Veronica was the sister of Edward’s wife, Mary (Woźniak) Levanduski. St. Stephen’s church in Middleport is the parish in which my mother-in-law’s paternal grandparents married, and it’s a good 40 miles from Transfiguration. Seriously, what were the chances that I’d be reading through the baptisms in one parish, for an unrelated family, and find names I recognized from a parish 40 miles away?!
Although my first thought was that Stella must be a relative, a little digging suggested that she is not. Rather, I think it’s likely that her family was connected to my husband’s family simply because they were all Poles from the Prussian partition, and specifically from the Posen province. Maybe if I dig back a few more generations, something more concrete will emerge, but for now, I think it’s time to lay this aside and move onto other things.
This past week, I’ve been busy with Majczyk research again. A woman named Debbie (whose name I’m using with permission) was seeking information on her grandfather, whose name was John Majczyk. An internet search on the surname led her to this blog post, and she found me on Facebook to see if I could help her learn more about her Majczyk ancestry.
Introducing Jan Majczyk
Debbie explained that her grandfather, Jan/John Majczyk, was a carpenter who came to the U.S. in 1913 on board the SS President Lincoln from “Bromidz, Plock, Poland.” She said that he was born on or about 23 June 1895, that he was the son of Antoni Majczyk and Mary Piankoska, and that he had a sister, Josephine, who moved to Michigan. She told me that John settled first in Northeast Pennsylvania before eventually migrating to Buffalo, New York.
Although I had no match for Jan Majczyk already in my tree, this was a very promising lead. My husband’s great-grandmother, Helena (Majczyk) Skolimowska, was born 23 September 1892 in the village of Rostowa, gmina Gradzanowo, Sierpc County, in the Płock province of the Kingdom of Poland (Russian partition), and she also migrated to Buffalo, New York.1 Helena’s father, Stanisław Majczyk, was born in the village of Bromierz, which is in the phonetic ballpark of “Bromidz.”2 Majczyk is not an exceptionally rare surname, but it’s not overly popular, either; circa 1990, there were only 258 bearers of this surname living in Poland.3 There had to be a connection between my husband’s family and Debbie’s.
I began with a quick search on Ancestry to confirm some of the facts Debbie provided. John’s World War II draft card confirmed his date of birth and residence in Buffalo, New York at that time (Figure 1).4
His passenger manifest confirmed his arrival date, 22 April 1913 on the SS President Lincoln (Figure 2).5
To briefly summarize the data from the manifest, Jan Majczyk (or Majczik, as the name was recorded here) was a 17-year-old single male, and an ethnic Polish citizen of Russia whose last permanent residence was recorded as “Falenczyn.” His nearest relative in the country from whence he came was noted to be his father, Anton Majczik, living in Falenczyn. Anton’s name would be Antoni in Polish, but was probably recorded in German because Jan embarked on his voyage from the port of Hamburg in Germany. He was headed to Wyandotte, Michigan, to a cousin named Franz (Franciszek, in Polish) Barczewski, living at 357 (?) Oak Street in Wyandotte, Michigan. This information appears on the second page of the manifest, not shown here. Jan’s place of birth was also recorded as Falenczyn.
The father’s name, Anton/Antoni, was consistent with Debbie’s information that Jan was the son of Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Piankoska. The fact that he was headed to Michigan was also not surprising, in light of the family story that a sister, Josephine, lived there. Additionally, the name, arrival date, age, ship’s name, etc. all lined up, allowing me to be certain that the Jan Majczyk described in this manifest was Debbie’s grandfather. The only significant discrepancy was the place of birth: this document stated that Jan was born in “Falenczyn,” while Debbie’s information was that he was born in “Bromidz, Plock, Poland.”
However, this discrepancy was quickly resolved with a look at the map. “Falenczyn” is phonetically similar in Polish to “Falęcin,” which you can hear if you plug both spellings into Google Translate and click the sound icon on the Polish input (left) side. There’s a village called Falęcin that’s located about 14 km/9 miles to the southeast of Bromierz where my husband’s Majczyk family originated (Figure 3).
The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, an index of places located within the Kingdom of Poland (Russian partition), published in 1877, shows an older spelling of Falęcin that is more similar to the spelling found on the manifest (Figure 4).6
This entry states that the village of Falencin/Falęcin located near Bromierz was formerly located in gmina Staroźreby, powiat Płocki (Płock County), in the Płock gubernia (province). Today the administrative assignments are similar (gmina Staroźreby, Płock County, Mazowieckie province), though it’s entirely possible that the gmina and powiat borders may not be the same now as they were then. Of special significance for locating vital records is the parish to which the village was assigned, Daniszewo. The next stop was the Polish vital records database, Geneteka, to see what indexed records were available for this parish.
The Quest for Jan’s Birth Record
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, Geneteka does not have indexed birth records for Daniszewo for the period necessary to locate Jan Majczyk’s birth record (Figure 5).
However, it was still possible that a scan of Jan’s birth record was online somewhere, even if it was not indexed in Geneteka, so I quickly checked a few places to see if that was the case. Metryki has no scans from Daniszewo. FamilySearch has a collection of civil transcripts of Roman Catholic birth records for Daniszewo that are digitized, although access to most of these records is restricted to the local Family History Center or Affiliate Library. However, the relevant collection, “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1900,” only includes birth records (Akta urodzeń) up to 1891.
The Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku (state archive in Płock) has the motherlode of vital records for Daniszewo, including a collection from 1826–1935, which spans the period when Jan Majczyk was born. Some of these registers (1826–1865, 1880–1888) are digitized at Szukajwarchiwach. However, records from 1895 are not digitized, which suggests that Jan’s birth record can only be obtained by writing to the archive. Nonetheless, I checked one final site, GenBaza, just in case they might have some scans from Daniszewo. Alas, they did not.
Digging Deeper in Daniszewo
Although it would have been nice to find Jan Majczyk’s birth record, further research was still possible without it. Debbie stated that Jan’s parents were Antoni Majczyk and Mary Piankoska, and a search of marriage records from Daniszewo for these names produced indexed marriage records for three of their daughters (Figure 6).
Although the mother’s maiden name was spelled “Pijankowska” in these entries, rather than “Piankoska,” this was a good phonetic match, which also identified three “new” sisters for Jan Majczyk—Helena, Marianna, and Czesława—all of whom were married in Daniszewo between 1909 and 1916. In the two entries for which additional information was provided through the “i” infodot in the “Remarks” column, it stated that the bride was born in Bromierz, bringing us closer to closing the circle and finding the connection between Debbie’s Majczyk family and my husband’s Majczyks.
Marriage records from Daniszewo were indexed in Geneteka from 1754–1916 with only two small gaps from missing records in 1766 and 1820. With no gaps in coverage during the time when Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska were married, and no marriage record produced by the above-mentioned search, it was clear that they must have been married in some other parish. Expanding the search to include all indexed parishes within 15 km of Daniszewo did not help matters. However, a search in all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province, turned up the result shown in Figure 7.
The index entry stated that Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska were married in 1884 in the parish of Bielsk. The groom was the son of Jacenty Majczyk and Katarzyna Łukaszewska, while the bride was the daughter of Mikołaj Pijankowski and Agnieszka Wąchowska. The added information from the infodot stated that the bride was from Szewce and that the marriage took place on 30 January 1884. Since the index entry was linked to a scan, I clicked through to the original record, which is shown in Figure 8.7
The record is in Russian, which was the official language required as of 1868 in this area, and I read it as follows.
This happened in the posad of Bielsk on the eighteenth/thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred eighty four at four o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Jan Urbański, thirty-three years, and Jan Matusiak, age thirty-nine, both farmers residing in Szewce—on this day a religious marriage was accomplished between Antoni Majczyk, bachelor, son of Jacenty and Katarzyna née Łukaszeska, the spouses Majczyk, born in Bromierz and therein now living with parents, twenty-five years of age; and Marianna Pijankoska, unmarried, daughter of the deceased Mikołaj and his wife, as yet living, Agnieszka née Wąchoska, the spouses Pijankoski; born in Szewce and therein now living, twenty-two years of age. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the thirteenth, twentieth, and twenty-seventh days of January of the current year in the parish churches of Bielsk and Rogotwórsk. Permission for the marriage was given orally by the father of the groom. The newlyweds stated that they made a prenuptial agreement on the thirteenth/twenty-fifth day of January one thousand eight hundred eighty-four, number eighty-five, before Notary Lubowidzki of Płock. The religious ceremony of marriage was performed by Reverend Jan Trzciński, pastor of Bielsk parish. This Act was read and signed only by Us; those present are unable to write. Keeper of the Civil Registry and Pastor of Bielsk Parish, Jan Trzciński.
Thanks to Monika Deimann-Clemens for her assistance in proofreading this translation.
The full text of the marriage record provides a number of details that were not included in the indexed entry. The groom, Antoni, was born in Bromierz circa 1859, based on his age at the time of his marriage. The bride, Marianna, was born circa 1862 in Szewce. As an amazing stroke of luck, Antoni and Marianna signed a premarital agreement on 25 January 1884 in Płock with the notary Lubowidzki. These premarital agreements can be goldmines of information if the notarial records have survived. It’s always been my dream to find one of these for my own ancestors (see this blog post), but I have thus far been unsuccessful. In this case, however, notarial deeds from 1871–1906 from Antoni Lubowidzki of Płock have survived and are available from the Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku, so a copy of this premarital agreement can be ordered from the archive.
Making the Connection
Having inched one generation further toward a possible connection, the focus turned to Antoni’s father, Jacenty (Hyacinth, in English) Majczyk. He was not in my family tree, either. However, one quick Geneteka search was all that it took to connect the dots (Figure 9).
I set up the search in marriage records from all indexed parishes in the Mazowieckie province for “Jac*” Majczyk” (to ensure inclusion of results for both Jacenty and its contemporary form, Jacek). In addition to turning up marriage records for three sisters of Antoni Majczyk—Józefa, Pelagia, and Julia—the search produced the marriage record needed to connect my husband’s family and Debbie’s. The index entry for the marriage of Jacenty Majczyk and Katarzyna Łukasiak (an etymological equivalent to Łukaszewska) from Rogotwórsk revealed that they were married on 15 January 1843, that they were from Bromierz, and that Jacenty Majczyk was the son of Jakub Majczyk and Jadwiga Mędlowska.
Jakub Majczyk and Jadwiga Mędlowska (or Mędlewska) were my husband’s great-great-great-great-grandparents. That makes Debbie a fourth cousin once removed to my husband, and a fourth cousin to my father-in-law, whose Majczyk line runs through Jacenty’s younger brother, Józef Majczyk. To put it another way, my husband’s great-grandmother, Helena (Majczyk) Skolimowska would have been second cousins with her fellow immigrant, Jan Majczyk (Debbie’s grandfather) when both of them settled in Buffalo, New York. Were they aware of their relationship, I wonder? Had they ever met in Poland or in the U.S.?
Jacenty and Katarzyna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 10.8
The record is in Polish, and my translation is as follows:
“No. 1. Bromierz. This happened in Rogotwórsk on the third/fifteenth day of January in the year one thousand eight hundred forty-three at two o’clock in the afternoon. We declare that—in the presence of witnesses, Mikołaj Dłabik, a land-owning farmer, age sixty, and Rafał Drygalski, a mason, having forty-five years of age, both residents of Bromierz—on this day a religious marriage was accomplished between the upright Jacenty Mayczyk, bachelor, son of Jakób and Jadwiga née Mędlowska, the spouses Mayczyk, born in Bromierz on the seventeenth day of August in the year one thousand eight hundred twenty-one, living with his parents in Bromierz; and Miss Katarzyna Łukasiakówna, daughter of the deceased Roch and Konegunda, the spouses Łukasiak, born in Zdziar Wielki, having twenty-four years of age, living in Bromierz as a servant. The marriage was preceded by three announcements on the twentieth, twenty-seventh days of December of the year one thousand eight hundred forty-two, and the third day of January of the current year/first, eighth, and fifteenth days of January of the current year on Sundays in the parish of Rogotwórsk, likewise by the oral permission of those present at the Marriage Act, the parents of the groom and the aunt of the bride. There were no impediments to the marriage. The newlyweds declared that they had made no premarital agreement. This document was read to the declarants and witnesses who are unable to write, and was signed by us.”
EDIT: Thanks to Roman Kałużniacki and Anna Kessling for helpful editions and discussion of this translation.
Even though this record is in Polish, and the preceding marriage record is in Russian, you can see how they follow the same formula. This is what makes vital records relatively easy to learn to translate, even without proficiency in Polish or Russian. The unusually awkward recording of dates in this record is due to the convention of double dating; that is, providing dates according to both the Julian calendar, used in Russia, and the Gregorian calendar, used by Poles and western Europe, and used by us today. In the 19th century, there were 12 days between the Julian and Gregorian dates, and the later date is the one we cite. Therefore, we’d say that the marriage took place on 15 January 1843 and the banns were announced on 1 January, 8 January, and 15 January.
When Debbie first contacted me to inquire about her grandfather, the name “John Majczyk” didn’t immediately ring any bells. However, in reviewing my Majczyk research notes, I noticed that I had discovered him previously, and wondered about a possible connection (Figure 11).
Who knew that, 20 years later, we’d have an answer to this question? And who knows what progress can be made with our Majczyk research, given another 20 years!
1Roman Catholic Church, Gradzanowo Kościelne (Gradzanowo, Żuromin, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Gradzanowie, 1873–1907,” 1892, Urodzenia [births], no. 98, Helena Majczyk, 23 September 1892; digital image, Metryki.genealodzy.pl (https://metryki.genealodzy.pl/ : 23 February 2022), Zespół 0619/D-, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Warszawie Oddział w Mławie, Sygnatura 76/619/0.
2Roman Catholic Church, Rogotwórsk (Rogotwórsk, Płock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Rogotwórsku, 1826-1917,” 1860, Urodzenia [births], no. 37, Stanisław Majczyk; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://szukajwarchiwach.pl/50/159/0/-/65/skan/full/yD_N2CH4hl_7FF3PNvsoAg : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/159/0/-/65, image 8 of 33.
3 Słownik nazwisk (database), Serwis heraldyczno-genealogiczny (http://herby.com.pl/ : 23 February 2022), Nazwisko [surname] “Majczyk,” Ogólna liczba [total number] 258; citing Kazimierz Rymut, Słownika nazwisk współcześnie w Polsce używanych [Dictionary of Surnames Used in Poland Today]. Data from circa 1990.
4 “U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 February 2022), John Augustine Majczyk, serial no. U2637, order no. unspecified, Draft Board 625, Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York; citing The National Archives At St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri, World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) For the State of New York; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group no. 147, Box or Roll no. 379.
5Manifest, SS President Lincoln, arriving 22 April 1913, list 36, line 10, Jan Majczik; imaged as “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com : 22 February 2022), citing Microfilm Publication T715, 8892 rolls. NAI: 300346. Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; National Archives at Washington, D.C.
6I. Zinberg, Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego, Tom 1 (Warsaw: W. Drukarni, I.J. Ałapina 1877), p 145, “Falencin,” digital images, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa (https://www.sbc.org.pl/ : 23 February 2022).
7Roman Catholic Church, Bielsk parish (Bielsk, Płock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej Bielsk powiat plocki, 1826-1918,” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1884, marriages, no. 5, Antoni Majczyk and Marianna Pijankowska; digital image, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/137/0/-/113, scan 78 of 142, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Płocku.
8Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Rogotwórsk, Plock, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej w Rogotwórsku, 1826-1914,” Akta urodzen, malzenstw i zgonów, 1843, marriages, no. 1, Jacenty Mayczyk and Katarzyna Lukasiakówna, 15 January 1843; digital image, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl : 23 February 2022), Sygnatura 50/159/0/-/34, scan 20 of 39.
Let’s take a quick detour from Drajem research today to talk about Lewandowskis.
Stanisław “Edward” Lewandowski/Levanduski and Marianna/Mary Woźniak/Wisnock were some of my husband’s great-great-grandparents. I wrote a little about them previously, and I recently obtained their marriage record, for which a transcription and translation were kindly provided by Marcel Elias. The record is shown in Figures 1a and 1b.1
Marcel’s transcription is as follows:
Rogowo am neunten September tausend acht hundert achzig und zwei
Vor dem unterzeichneten Standesbeamten erschienen heute zum Zweck der Eheschließung:
1. der Knecht Stanislaus Lewandowski, der persönlichkeit nach bekannt, katholischer Religion, geboren den neun und zwanzigsten October des Jahres tausend acht hundert neun und fünfzig zu Szetejewo/Szelejewo, wohnhaft zu Wola rzewajewska (???), Sohn des in Szelejewo verstorbenen Knecht Michael Lewandowski und dessen Ehefrau Elisabeth, welche in Putfelde (???) verstorben wohnhaft zu ……
2. die unverehelichte Knechtstochter Marianna Wozniak der Persönlichkeit nach bekannt, katholischer Religion, geboren den sechs und zwanzigsten Juni des Jahres tausend acht hundert drei und sechszig zu Brudzyn, wohnhaft zu Wola rzewaj. Tochter der Knecht Jacob und Marianna geborene Sobczak, Wozniak’schen Eheleute wohnhaft zu Wola rzewujewska.
Als Zeugen waren zugezogen und erschienen:
3. d Gastwirth Joseph Statkiewicz, der Persönlichkeit nach bekannt, zwei und dreißig Jahre alt, wohnhaft zu Rogowo
4. der Knecht Michael Rajkowski, der Persönlichkeit nach durch den Stadtdiener Franz Lukowski von hier anerkannt, fünf und vierzig Jahre alt, wohnhaft zu Johannisgrün
In Gegenwart der Zeugen richtete der Standesbeamte an die Verlobvten einzeln und nach einander die Frage:
ob sie erklären, daß sie die Ehe mit einander eingehen wollen. Die Verlobten beaantworteten diese Frage bejahend und erfolgte hierauf der Ausspruch des Standesbeamten, daß er sie nunmehr kraft des Gesetzes für rechtmäßig verbundene Eheleute erkläre.
Vorgelesen, genehmigt und Schreibensunkunde von Stanislaus Lewandowski und Michael Rajkowski mit ihrem handzeichen versehen, von den anderen Erschienenen unterschrieben
Marcel also provided the following translation:
Rogowo on the ninth September thousand eight hundred eighty and two
Today appeared in front of the undersigned registrar for the purpose of marriage:
1. the servant Stanislaus Lewandowski, of known identity, Catholic religion, born the twenty-ninth day of October of the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty nine in Szelejewo, living in Wola rzewajewska (???), son of the servant who died in Szelejewo, Michael Lewandowski, and his wife Elisabeth, who died in Putfelde (???)
2. the unmarried servant’s daughter Marianna Wozniak, whose identity is known, of Catholic religion, born on the twentieth day of June in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three in Brudzyń, residing in Wola rzewaj. Daughter of the farmhand Jacob and Marianna née Sobczak, Wozniak’ married couple living in Wola rzewujewska.
The following witnesses appeared:
3. Inn-keeper Joseph Statkiewicz, whose personality is known, thirty-two years old, living in Rogowo 4. the servant Michael Rajkowski, whose personality was recognized by the town clerk Franz Lukowski from here, forty-five years old, living in Johannisgrün.
In the presence of the witnesses, the registrar put the question to the engaged couple one by one: whether they declare that they want to marry each other. The engaged couple answered this question in the affirmative and the registrar then declared them legally married couples by virtue of the law.
Read aloud, approved and provided with signature signs by Stanislaus Lewandowski and Michael Rajkowski, signed by the others who appeared. [signed] XXX [Stanislaus Lewandowski’s mark], Maryjanna Lewandowska, J. Statkiewicz, XXX [Michael Rajkowski’s mark].
This record is packed with wonderful genealogical information, including Stanisław’s date of birth (29 October 1859) and place of birth (Szelejewo), the names of his parents (Michael and Elisabeth) and their places of death (Szelejewo and “Putfelde”). Similarly, the record informs us that Marianna was born 20 June 1863 in Brudzyń to Jacob Woźniak and Marianna Sobczak, who were still living at the time of the marriage in “Wola rzewajewska,” or “rzewujewska.” Marcel’s notes made it clear that the handwriting was a bit difficult to make out on some of these place names, but he was confident that I could figure it out.
Figuring it out was, indeed, straightforward in most cases. There are a number of good gazetteers for this area which are useful in identifying locations and determining administrative assignments, including the county in which the village was located, the local parish and registry office, etc., and I’ve discussed some of them previously. A quick check in Kartenmeister, for example, identified Szelejewo as a village in Znin County, Posen province, belonging to the Catholic parish in Gonsawa (German)/Gąsawa (Polish). The civil registry office was also located in Gąsawa; however, civil vital registration did not begin in Prussia until 1874, so the only record of Stanisław’s birth would be the church record. Kartenmeister made short work of identifying Brudzyń and Johannisgrün as well, revealing the former as a village belonging to the Catholic parish in Janowiec Wielkopolski, and the latter as the village known as Łaziska in Polish, located just to the northeast of Rogowo. There were no matches in Kartenmeister for “Putfelde,” but reading that first letter as a “G” turned it into “Gutfelde,” which suggests the present-day village of Złotniki, about 6 km from Rogowo.
However, “Wola Rzewajewska” had me stumped. There were no good matches in Kartenmeister for a village with this name. If at first you don’t succeed…try another gazetteer. I checked the Meyers Gazetteer; still no luck. I tried reversing the names, as I’ve noticed that sometimes the word order is inverted in place names mentioned in old documents relative to modern conventions, so “Wola Rzewajewska” might be called “Rzewajewska Wola” today. Nope.
By this point, it seemed clear that the place name was misspelled, so I decided to check the JewishGen Gazetteer, and even played around with some of the different phonetic search algorithms offered at that site. Nada. Well, perhaps the actual village name was sufficiently different, phonetically, that the search engines were missing it? The search algorithms should pick up an equivalent phonetic version, such as Żewajewska, since “ż” is phonetically equivalent in Polish to “rz.” But would they pick up something like Przewajewska? Still no luck.
At that point, I decided to put myself in the shoes of the registrar, and think about this in context. “Wola” is such a popular place name that an advanced search of Mapa.Szukacz brings up 31 places that are within the present-day Kujawsko-Pomorskie province alone. The Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, which is a mammoth gazetteer of places located within the former Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic countries, devotes 46 pages to descriptions of all the various places called Wola. It’s the kind of place name that strikes fear into the hearts of even seasoned researchers, right up there with Nowa Wieś (which means “New Village”). However, the registrar did not go to great lengths to specify a county or parish, much less a different partition of Poland, so the place in question must be sufficiently close to Rogowo that further clarification seemed unnecessary. I mapped out the places mentioned in this document (Figure 2).
That’s when it hit me. If you look carefully at that map, almost due north of Rogowo is the village of Czewujewo. And if you zoom in on the map, you see a village called Wola that’s just to the northwest (Figure 3).
Looking at the marriage record more closely, it’s clear that the place name was intended to be “Wola Czewujewska.” In order to clearly identify the Wola in question, the registrar tacked on the name of a nearby town in adjectival form, to indicate, “the Wola that’s near Czewujewo.”
Having been thus identified, I was able to locate a description of the village in the Słownik Geograficzny which actually included the adjective “Czewujewska” as part of the name, as well as the Meyers Gazetteer, which only referred to it as “Wola.” Both gazetteers agreed that the village belonged to the Catholic parish in Izdebno (Ottensund, in German), and to the registry office in Rogowo, of course, since that was where the marriage record was found in the first place.
In hindsight, I probably would have found the right village had I explored the map first, rather than jumping right to the gazetteers, but I guess I’m a creature of habit, and I’m very fond of gazetteers. In any case, as with most problems in genealogy, persistence won the day. Onward and upward!
1“Urząd Stanu Cywilnego Rogowo-Wieś, 1874-1913,” (Rogowo, Żnin, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), Akta małżeństw, 1882, no. 38, Stanislaus Lewandowski and Marianna Wozniak, 9 September 1882; digital image, Genealogiawarchiwach (https://www.genealogiawarchiwach.pl/ : 02 February 2022), images 39 and 40 of 68, citing Archiwum Państwowe w Bydgoszczy Oddział w Inowrocławiu, Sygnatura 7/540/0/2.2/26.
In my last post, I shared some recent discoveries I’ve made regarding my husband’s Drajem/Draheim ancestors, focusing on his great-great-great-grandmother, Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem. Her son, Augustyn Drajem, was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and his marriage certificate reported that he was born 25 July 1866 in Mielno, Mogilno county, located in the part of Poland that was under Prussian rule at the time.1 In the course of my research, I determined that the village of Mielno where August was born was probably the one that belonged to the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno, since his parents’ marriage was recorded in that parish, and both of them were noted to be residents of Mielno.2
However, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and until an actual birth record is found, one can’t make any definitive claims. So, I sought a birth record for Augustyn Drajem circa 25 July 1866 in the records from Niestronno.
I was half-successful.
Baptismal records from Niestronno for 1866–1913 are online at FamilySearch, starting here. Unfortunately, the first few pages of the register are missing (Figure 1).3
Nonetheless, if you look closely at the image in Figure 1, you’ll see that there is a Drajem/Drahaim baptism recorded on that page (Figure 2).4
This half of a baptismal record tells us that Josephus/Józef Drahaim [sic], a blacksmith, and Marianna Kaszyńska were the parents of a child baptized in 1866, with godparents Michael Kaszyński, who was a farmer, and Carolina Kaszyńska, who was a day laborer (“mercenaria;” the word is cut off in this image). Michael and Carolina are almost certainly relatives of Marianna, and further research can hopefully elucidate their precise relationships.
The record book was set up so that each entry extends across two facing pages. Since this book is missing the left side of the page, we’re missing the record number; the date, time, and place of birth; the date of baptism, the child’s name and sex, whether the child was legitimate or not, and the name of the priest who baptized the child, for each entry. The next page in the book shows what a complete baptismal entry should look like, but it contains only three baptisms from December 1866, and then the records from 1867 begin (Figure 3).5
Civil registration did not begin in Prussia until 1874,5 so these church records are the primary source for direct evidence of births that took place in Niestronno, and the villages belonging to this parish, prior to 1874. Thus, this may be the only birth record that exists for Augustyn Drajem. But is it really his? I think it’s likely, although further research in these records is necessary before we can state that with more confidence. Although the possibility exists that Augustyn was born before 1866, and that this baptismal record is for another, unidentified sibling, there’s only a remote possibility that Augustyn was born after 1866. Given existing evidence that Marianna was born between 1820–1822, she would have been 44–46 years old in 1866—pretty much at the end of her childbearing years.
Wojciech Drajem’s Baptismal Record
That said, I also discovered the baptismal record for Augustyn’s brother, Wojciech—in 1862, not 1867, which was the date of birth he reported in his life insurance application (Figure 4).7
Since this record is in Latin, Wojciech was recorded under the name Adalbert, which was commonly used as a Latin equivalent. Although you will almost never see it used in historical records, Voitecus is a more accurate Latin equivalent of the name Polish name Wojciech, which translates as “joyful warrior,” or “he who is happy in battle.”8 However, the Polish name Wojciech became conflated with the German name Adalbert centuries ago, when Saint Vojtěch of Prague took the name of his tutor, St. Adalbert of Magdeburg, at Confirmation, circa 970 AD.9 Interestingly, the German name Adalbert has nothing to do with the name Wojciech etymologically; it means “noble bright.”10
Getting back to the baptismal record, this tells us that Wojciech/Adalbert Drajem was born on 10 April 1862 in Mielno. (We can be sure that April, and not March, is meant because the column heading specifies year and month, rather than month and year). As expected, he was the legitimate son of Joseph Drajem, a blacksmith, and his wife, Marianna (Kaszyńska), both Catholic. Wojciech was baptized on 13 April, and his godparents were Joannes (Jan/Johann/John) Kaszyński, a farmer, and Elisabeth Siwa, a blacksmith’s wife. There’s another word after “agricola,” the godfather’s occuapation, that looks like “folius,” but that can’t be correct, so I’m moving on for now. [EDIT: After reading this article, my distant cousin, genealogical collaborator, and founder of the Genealogical Translations group on Facebook, Valerie Baginski, suggested that the word “filius” might be what’s intended here. That would mean that Jan Kaszyński was a farmer’s son, which seems very reasonable to me!] It’s becoming clear that the Kaszyńskis were a large family, since that surname is popping up so frequently among the godparents of the Drajem children.
You’ll notice that Wojciech/Adalbert Drajem was one of three boys named Adalbert in that image, all of whom were born at the end of March or in April. This is not a coincidence. Poles celebrate name days (imieniny), which are the feast days in the Catholic Church of baptismal patron saints for whom one is named. Sometimes, the liturgical calendar would influence the name that was chosen for a child, in that a child would be named after the saint on whose feast day the child was born, or whose feast day was close to the child’s date of birth. Since St. Wojciech’s feast day is April 23, it makes sense that boys born near this date would be named after him. This is the roundabout reason why some men named Wojciech opted to use the name George after immigration to the U.S.—April 23 is also the feast day of St. George, Święty Jerzy in Polish. So, even though the names Wojciech and Jerzy have nothing in common etymologically, they are linked through a common name day. A handy calendar of name days is here; it’s in Polish, but you can always use machine translation to get your bearings with navigating the website. Once you’ve figured out the basics, it’s best to view the site in Polish, to avoid potential problems with machine translation of Polish names.
At this point, my Drajem research is moving along nicely, and a small group of Drajem descendants and research collaborators has gathered to share photos and research discoveries via email. If you have a connection to this family and would like to participate, please send me a note through the “Contact” form at the top of this page.
1“Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki, 1874 – 1935,” Akta małżeństw 1874-1909, 1890, no. 13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/ : 28 January 2022), Sygnatura 11/711/0/2/50, scans 29-30 of 75.
2Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta małżeństw 1815-1865, 1850, no. 8, Joseph Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/: 28 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 3/DGS no. 8120936, image 593 of 1037.
3 Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Ksiegi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta urodzeń 1810-1865, 1866; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 28 January 2022), FHL film no. 2151453, item 2/DGS no. 8120936, image 831 of 1037.
4 Ibid., 4th entry on the page, partial baptismal record for unnamed child of Josephus Drahaim and Marianna Kaszynska.
7Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Ksiegi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta urodzeń 1810-1865, 1862, no. 9, Adalbertus Drajem, born 10 March 1862; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 28 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 2/DGS no. 8120936, image 511 of 1037.
I’ve been writing a lot about my Hodgkinson research lately, but today I’m going to shift gears and write about some new discoveries on my husband’s Drajem line.
Recently, I was contacted by Debbie, a fellow family historian who’s researching her granddaughter’s ancestry. That granddaughter is my husband’s fourth cousin once removed, and their most recent common ancestors were Józef and Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem. Prior to Debbie’s phone call, I knew nothing of earlier generations of the Drajem family; Józef and Marianna were the end of the line, and I knew only the outlines of their lives. However, after talking with her, I was inspired to dig a little deeper, and learn more about Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem’s story.
I was first introduced to Marianna back in November 2001, thanks to information contained in a life insurance application filed by her son, Wojciech Drajem. This was not an heirloom document, handed down in my husband’s family. Rather, this piece of genealogical gold was mined from the database, “Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA} Insurance Claim File Index,” where I discovered that a death claim packet was available for Wojciech Drajem. This database is maintained by the Polish Genealogical Society of America, which will provide copies of death claim packets for a very nominal fee. When my packet arrived, I was thrilled to discover that it contained Wojciech’s original life insurance application, medical examiner’s certificate, beneficiary certificate, death certificate, insurance claim, and letter of payment. Wojciech’s application, dated 6 February 1915, provided information about his parents and family of origin (Figure 1).1
This document identifies Wojciech’s mother as Marya (__) Drajem, and tells us that she died at the age of 83 of senility. Her husband was Józef Drajem, who died at the age of 50 of unknown causes. Wojciech stated that he had no brothers who were deceased, but one 44-year-old brother who was alive at that time and in good health. He had two living sisters, aged 51–60 years, and one sister who died in childbirth (the certificate states, “in labor”) at the age of 28.
Maryanna Drajem of Buffalo, New York
Back in 2001, as a baby genealogist, I assumed that Marya Drajem died in Poland. It wasn’t until I started researching the family of her daughter, Apolonia (Drajem) Samulski, that I discovered that Marya also immigrated to Buffalo, New York (Figure 2).2
In 1900, Maryanna Drajem was living at 33 Loepere Street with her son-in-law, Ignatz Samulski, daughter Apolonia, and their two children, Pelagia (“Pearl”) and Stanislaus (“Stanley”). She was recorded as a 78-year-old widow, born in February 1822 in “Poland Ger.,” which implies the Prussian partition of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (For a brief summary of Poland’s changing borders, see here.) Her immigration year was not recorded, but her son-in-law arrived in the U.S. in 1880, so it’s likely that she traveled with him and her daughter, or perhaps arrived a few years after they had settled in the U.S. A passenger record has not been found for her to date. Interestingly, this record states that Marianna was the mother of eleven children, seven of whom were still living at the time of the census, which is a bit different from the total of five children reported by Wojciech Drajem in his life insurance application.
Marie (Kaszyńska) Draheim of Buffalo, New York, and Mielno, Posen, Prussia
The first glimpse of Marianna in records from Poland came in this entry from the Poznań Project, which is a database of marriages that took place between 1800–1899 in the Prussian province of Posen and surrounding districts (Figure 3). (A complete list of covered parishes and civil registry offices is found here.)
If you’re new to the variations in surname spelling that are part and parcel of genealogical research, you may be alarmed by the degree to which “Drajem” differs from “Draheim.” Usually, the variants bear some phonetic resemblance to each other, so one way to check whether or not you’re on the right track is to hear the surnames pronounced in Polish using Google Translate. If you click on the “sound” icon in the Polish “input” box on the left, you’ll hear the surname pronounced by a Polish speaker. Similarly, it’s important not to be thrown off by the variety of given names we might find in the records pertaining to the same ancestor. In this case, Mary, Marya, Maria, Marie, Maryanna, and Marianna are all equivalent.
August Drajem was my husband’s great-great-grandfather, and was the brother of Wojciech, whose insurance application was discussed previously. This index entry from the Poznań Project is helpful because it confirms their parents’ names as Józef and Marianna, and further identifies Marianna Drajem’s maiden name as Kaszyńska, in addition to the other information it provides. It also tells us that the original record came from the civil registry office in Kucharki, Wielkopolski, Poland, and fortunately, those records can be found online at Szukajwarchiwach, the online catalog for the Polish state archives. August and Agnes’s marriage record (which was also shared in a previous post) is shown below. (Figures 4a and b).3
“Kucharki 1st February 1890 1. Before the undersigned registrar appeared the farm servant August Draheim, personally known, Catholic, born on 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno, living in Kucharki, son of the deceased master tailor Josef Draheim and his wife Marianne, nee Kaszynska, living in America 2. the unmarried maiden Agnes Jamrozik, personally known, Catholic, born on 9 January 1865 in Kucharki, county Kleschen, living in Kucharki, daughter of the innkeeper Johann Jamrozik and his wife Rosalie, nee Juszczak, living in Kucharki. As witnesses appeared: 3. The innkeeper Jakob Tomalak, personally known, 60 yers old, living in Kucharki 4. the innkeeper Adalbert (Wojciech) Szlachetka, personally known, 48 years old, living in Kucharki … read, approved and signed August Draheim Agnieszka Draheim, nee Jamrozik Jakob Tomalak Wojciech Szlachetka The registrar signed Grzegorzewski
Kucharki, 8 February 1890 (signature)”
This document goes well beyond the information in the index entry from the Poznań Project, providing August Drajem’s exact date and place of birth as 25 July 1866 in Mielno, county Mogilno. The marriage record also tells us that Marianna Drajem was already a widow by the time of August’s marriage in 1890 and living in “Amerika.” Although the Meyers Gazetteer indicates a number of places called “Amerika” that were located within the German Empire, we already have evidence from the census that Marianna had children living in Buffalo as early as 1880. Therefore, it’s quite plausible that the obvious “Amerika”—the United States of America—is really the one that was intended here.
In contrast, the obvious choice was not the correct one when it came to identifying the Mielno where the Drajem family was living when August was born. Although Mapa Szukacz identifies 17 places within the borders of Poland today that are called Mielno, the marriage record specifies that August was born in Mielno in Mogilno County. The Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego has a number of entries for places called Mielno, but the only one described as being in Mogilno County (“pow. mogilnicki”) was the one belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. Kartenmeister similarly offers 23 search results for places called Mielno, but only three entries mention Mogilno County. The three entries correspond to variant place names (Mielno, Moelno, Mölno) for the same village, belonging to the Roman Catholic parish in Pakość. However, August’s birth record was not found in church records from Pakość in July 1866, nor was it recorded in this parish anywhere within the period from 1864–1867. This suggests that the Mielno located just north of Pakość is not the right place, after all, although other interpretations (i.e. August was born outside the range of years checked, or baptized as a Protestant who subsequently converted to Catholicism) are also possible.
Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłoska Draheim of Buffalo, New York and Mielno, Posen, Prussia
Despite this setback, the Poznań Project came through again with the marriage record for Józef Drajem/Draheim and Marianna Kaszyńska, which offered further insight (Figure 5).
This index entry was the only result in the database for a groom with the given name of Joseph/Józef/Josef and a surname phonetically similar to Draheim, and a bride named Marianna Kaszyńska, and her age is exactly what we would expect, given our previous evidence that points to a birth year circa 1822. The index entry informs us that Marianna and Józef married in Niestronno, that Marianna had been married previously to a man with the surname Radłoski, that her father was deceased, and that her mother’s name was Rosalia Kaszyńska.
Records from the Roman Catholic parish in Niestronno are also online, this time at FamilySearch, which permits at-home access to these images (as opposed to viewing only at a Family History Center or Affiliate Library) after logging into a free FamilySearch account. Józef and Marianna’s marriage record is shown in Figure 6.5
Due to the faded ink, the bleed-through from the reverse pages, the cramped handwriting, and my rudimentary ability to read Latin, this one took some time to decipher, and I ran into a bit of trouble in some spots. So, I ran it past my friend, Marcel Elias, for corrections and insights, and with thanks to Marcel, the transcription is as follows:
[Annus Dies et Mensis Copulationis]1850. 7 Julii
[Nomen sacerdotis benedicicensis matrimonium] Bartholem. Cieśliński, Commen’us (“commendarius”) ac Decanus
[Nomen et cognomen Copulatorum, denominatio, domicili, status artis vel Conditionis vitae, et atrum in Ecclesia art privato loco consecrati sunt] Joseph Drahim, ferrifeber, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonisca. Uterque ex Mielno. Copulati in Ecclesia.
[Num copulati vel una pars eorum vinculo matrimonii obstricti vel obstricta fuit. Num sub potestate parentum vel faterum existunt] Juvenis sub potestale parentium. Vidua
[Aetas sponsi]28 [sponsae] 28
[Religio sponsi] Cath. [sponsae] Cath.
[Nomen et cognomen parentum: Sponsi] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Sponsae] Pater mortuus, mater Rosalie Kaszyńska
[Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii… atetaris matrimonium contractum sit] Sponsus cum consenca parentum Sponsa Judi ???? 14 Juni 1850 II 4633
[Dies promulgati onum] 16, 23 et 30 Juni
[Nomen et cognomen, Ors et Conditio vitae adstantium testiam] Adalb. Kaszyński agran (?), Joan Berunt agran., Adalb. Kraczo (?) agran (?)
Translated, this states,
[Year, Day, and Month of Marriage] 7 July 1850
[Name of the priest who blessed the marriage] Bartłomiej Cieśliński, pastor and dean
[Given and surname of those married, denomination, domicile, state or condition of life, and whether the marriage took place in church or in a private location] Joseph Drahim, blacksmith, Marianna Radłoska /: Liebener :/, Colonist, both of Mielno. Married in church.
[Whether one of them was bound by matrimony. Whether they are under parental control, or in control of their own fates] Young man under parental control. Widow.
[Age of the groom] 28 [of the bride] 28
[Religion of the groom] Cath. [of the bride] Cath. (Catholic)
[Given name and surname of the parents: Groom] Adalbert, Anna Drahim [Bride] father deceased, mother Rosalie Kaszyńska
[Whether the marriage was contracted with parental consent, or with judicial (?) permission] The groom with parental consent, the bride, with permission from 14 June 1850, II 4633 (?)
[Dates on which the banns were published] 16, 23 and 30 June
[Given name and surname, origin and condition of life of present witnesses] Adalbert Kaszyński, farmer, Jan Berunt, farmer, Adalbert Kraczo?
This record is packed with both information and mysteries. Consistent with the index entry from the Poznań Project, the record states that 28-year-old Joseph Drahim, a blacksmith, married 28-year-old widow, Marianna Radłoska on 7 July 1850 in the Roman Catholic church in Niestronno. (I would argue that Joseph’s surname is spelled Drahim, rather than Drahem, in the two places in which it was recorded in this document, but that’s a minor point.) Marianna has a curious notation after her name, “/: Liebener :/,” and the way that it’s written seems to suggest that Liebener was her maiden name, rather than Kaszyńska. Her parents’ names don’t shed much light on the situation, since her father’s name was not provided, and her mother’s name was recorded as Rosalie Kaszyńska, which could be interpreted as a maiden name. However, the other entries on this page do not provide mother’s maiden names; mothers were referred to by their married names, as was the case with Joseph’s parents, Adalbert and Anna Drahim. Moreover, the priest had a pattern of not recording names of deceased parents of the brides and grooms, from which we might infer that any parents whose names were recorded were still alive at the time of the wedding. So, the evidence does seem to favor Kaszyńska as Marianna’s maiden name, and it suggests that her mother, Rozalia (__) Kaszyńska, was still alive in 1850. For now, the “Liebener” notation remains a mystery, and its significance will depend on further research.
The record indicates that Marianna needed some sort of judicial permission in order to remarry, but it’s not entirely clear whether this was from a religious or civil authority. Marcel noted that the phrasing, “Num cum Consensu parentum vel luterum Judicii…” could suggest that in some cases, the parish was the legal guardian of a person, if the father or both parents of a minor groom/bride were deceased, since luterum is a medieval Latin term for a baptismal font. It may be that the document referenced as granting permission for the remarriage, “14 Juni 1850 II 4633,” can be found in the parish archive.
In addition to providing an introduction to three “new” ancestors for my husband and children—Adalbert and Anna Draheim and Rozalia (__) Kaszyska—this marriage record states that both the bride and groom were from Mielno, which helps us to identify the specific Mielno where August Drajem was born. The village of Mielno that belongs to the parish in Niestronno is, in fact, located in present-day Mogilno County, gmina Mogilno, and I’m still baffled as to why it was not showing up in either of the two gazetteers I checked. These locations are shown in Figure 7.
Marianna (Kaszyńska) Radłowska of Popielewo, Mielno, and Buffalo
Although the record of Marianna Kaszyńska’s marriage to Józef Draheim made no mention of her father’s name, it seemed possible that this information was included in the record of her first marriage to (__) Radłoski. I searched the Poznań Project again for brides named Marianna Kaszyńska and grooms with the surnames that were at least 60% phonetically similar to Radłoski. There were no good matches. However, when I repeated the search, leaving off the groom’s surname entirely, a probable match was obtained (Figure 8).
The bride’s age suggests a birth in 1820, which would be a couple years off from prior evidence that she was born in 1822; however, this is still within a reasonable ballpark. Records for the Roman Catholic parish in Trzemeszno are online at FamilySearch, so the original image was retrieved and is shown in Figure 9.6
Although this record, too, was a bit disappointing in that it omitted the names of the couple’s parents, it is almost certainly the correct marriage record for our Marianna Kaszyńska. If you look closely, it’s clear that the groom’s name was actually Stephan Radłowski, and was mistranscribed as Racławski. A death record for Stephan dated prior to 1850 would provide further evidence that this interpretation is correct. The record identifies Popielewo as the village where the marriage took place, and since it was traditional to hold the wedding in the bride’s parish, this suggests that Marianna (Kaszyńska) Drajem was living in Popielewo in 1838 (Figure 10).
The existence of a previous marriage for Marianna, and the likelihood that she had children with her first husband in those years prior to her marriage to Józef Drajem, may also help to reconcile the discrepancy between Wojciech’s statement that he had one brother and three sisters, with Marianna’s statement in the 1900 census that she was the mother of 11 children. Perhaps Wojciech was considering only his full siblings, neglecting to mention his six half-siblings from his mother’s previous marriage? Further research is required to find the answer.
While this research is far from finished, we have at least opened the door to further discovery in records from Poland. At the outset, we knew little more than Mary Drajem’s name. Now we have evidence that Marianna Kaszyńska was born circa 1820–1822 to a mother named Rozalia (__) and an unknown Kaszyński father, who was deceased by 1850. Marianna was married in Popielewo, Posen, Prussia (Trzemeszno parish) to Stephen Radłowski on 11 November 1838. There is some evidence to suggest that she might have had six children with Stephen Radłowski, and a focus of further research will be the identification of all of her children.
At some point, she moved from Popielewo to Mielno, where she was living when she married Józef Drajem in 1850, following the death of her first husband. She had four children with Józef who have been identified thus far, in research not discussed here: Antonina (b. 1851), Apolonia (b. May 1859), Augustyn (b. 25 July 1866), and Wojciech (b. 12 April 1867). We can infer that Józef died circa 1872, since his marriage record suggests a date of birth circa 1822, and Wojciech’s life insurance application stated that his father died at the age of 50. At some point between 1880 and 1890, Marianna Drajem migrated to Buffalo, New York, where she was living with her daughter, Apolonia Samulska, in 1900. Since Wojciech Drajem reported that his mother died at the age of 83, we can infer that she died circa 1905, and seek death and burial records for confirmation.
In my next post, I hope to discuss some further discoveries I’ve made for the Drajem family. Stay tuned.
1 Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, Applicant’s Certificate (Zeznania Kandydata) for Wojciech Drajem, 6 February 1915, claim no. 22169, certificate no. 112904.
2 1900 United States Federal Census, Erie County, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 14, Enumeration District 110, sheet 29B, house no. 33, family no. 533, lines 59-63, Ignatz Samulski household; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 23 January 2022), citing National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, no roll specified.
3“Urzad Stanu Cywilnego Kucharki, 1874 – 1935,” Akta malzenstw 1874-1909, 1890, no. 13, marriage record for August Draheim and Agnes Jamrozik; digital images, Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/ : 23 January 2022), Sygnatura 11/711/0/2/50, scans 29-30 of 75.
4 Johann Kargl, reply to post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, Genealogy Translations (Facebook group), 27 March 2016.
5Roman Catholic Church (Niestronno, Mogilno, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland), “Księgi metrykalne, 1722-1952,” Akta małżeństw 1815-1865, 1850, no. 8, Joseph Drahim and Marianna Radłoska, 7 July 1850; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/: 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2151453, Item 3/DGS no. 8120936, image 593 of 1037.
6Roman Catholic Church, Trzemeszno parish (Trzemeszno, Gniezno, Wielkopolskie, Poland), “Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1874,” Copulatorum, 1837 – 1842, 1838, no. 22, Stephen Radłowski and Maria Kaszyńska, 11 November 1838; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 23 January 2022), Family History Library film no. 2004406, item 20/DGS no.8020665, image 847 of 873.
I am positively giddy with excitement over here, after a huge breakthrough with my Hodgkinson research! Over the past several months, I’ve been researching and blogging about the family of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Hodgkinson (c. 1750–1832), a United Empire Loyalist who served with Butler’s Rangers and settled in Grantham Township, Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). I summarized known data on his family here, and discovered a baptismal record for Ellender Hodgkinson, a daughter whom I’ve not seen mentioned in any online Hodgkinson trees to date. I discussed some theories about the family’s origins here, and warmed up to the hypothesis that John, William, and Mary Hodgkinson might all be children of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, although further evidence is needed in order to be confident in that assertion. I began searching for records relating to Ellender’s godmother, Mary Hodgkinson, and discovered evidence that she was married in New York in 1772 to Ralph Miller/Meller, a Loyalist who served in Jessup’s Rangers, and settled with him in Dunham, Quebec. I suspected that Mary was a sister to John and William Hodgkinson, but had no evidence to prove that.
I’ve been doing further searches in indexed databases on Ancestry to turn up additional records for Mary (Hodgkinson) Miller/Meller. The other day, a search result came up that left me speechless (which is hard to do). It’s shown in Figure 1.
Mary Miller—Mary HodgkinsonMiller—was named as the daughter of John Hodgkinson in a probate file from Vermont, with John and William Hodgkinson both named as sons, and Samuel Hodgkinson named as a grandson?! No. Freaking. Way. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!
I, and many other Hodgkinson researchers, have been looking for traces of this family in historical records for decades. How could this document have remained hidden until now? Clicking over to the “Source” tab indicates that this database was copyrighted by Ancestry relatively recently, in 2015. Nonetheless, for more than six years, despite all my countless searches for John Hodgkinson and William Hodgkinson, employing every search technique in the book, this document failed to turn up. Prior to 2015, one would have had to search those probate records the old-fashioned way, browsing through microfilm from the Family History Library, and I can certainly excuse previous generations of researchers for not guessing that the Hodgkinsons were originally from Vermont! Who knew, or who would have suspected, especially in light of the red-herring evidence that caused many to believe they were from Burlington, New Jersey? Maybe we’re all victims of tunnel vision. As I’ve said before, what we see depends on where we look.
At the end of the day, it was only by searching for Mary Miller that the curtain parted and the document was exposed. Mary Miller—a name which you’d think would be so much more common, that it would produce all kinds of irrelevant search hits and very few relevant ones. I’m still scratching my head to know how the search algorithms could’ve missed this one. “Hodgkinson” isn’t even misspelled here! How did this record not turn up before now?
In any case, here it is, so let’s dig in!
Clicking the document shown in the Ancestry search result takes you to a page in the middle of the will (where Mary Miller was mentioned), so I had to scroll back a few pages in order to begin at the beginning. The whole thing consists of four images, chock-full of rich genealogical detail. These pages must have been recopied at some point, because the dates in the various records appear out of sequence relative to the original page numbers. That’s a shame, because having original signatures would have been the icing on the cake, but I’ll take what I can get, and I’ll discuss the pages in chronological order.
The will itself starts on pages 191–192, shown in Figure 2a, and continues on pages 193–194 (Figure 2b).1
The transcription is as follows, retaining original capitalization, spelling, and punctuation, but converting all the instances of the old “long s’” into standard modern forms.
“In the Name of God Amen. I, John Hogkinson of Pownall and State of Vermont, Yeoman, being very weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory, Thanks be given to God, calling to mind the Mortality of my Body, and knowing that is appointed to all Men once to Die: Do make and ordain this, my last Will and Testament; That is to say,
Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my Soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it, and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in a decent, Christian Burial, at the discretion of my Executors herein after mentioned, nothing doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty Power of God. And as touching such worldly Estate wherewith it hath Pleased God to Bless me with in this world. I give, demise, and dispose of the same in the following manner and form.
First, I give and Bequeath unto Mary, my dearly and well beloved Wife the Houseroom in my dwelling House with a Sufficient Garden Spot to raise necessary Garden Fruit for her:
Also, seven pounds, ten shillings Lawful Money to be raised out of my Estate and paid to her Yearly in Grain or such other necessaries as she may stand in need of for her natural subsistence. Also the keeping of a Cow, Winter and Summer (if she has one to keep): Also her firewood to be drawn to her door, all which shall be done out of my Estate during the time she remains my Widow: Also I give to my well beloved Wife, one certain Grey Mare that is called here Mare, and all the Household Goods she brought with her when she came to me to dispose of at her own Will and Pleasure, all which I give to my said Wife in lieu of her Right of Dower.
Also I give to my well beloved Son, John Hodgkison Junior, that part of my Homestead Farm lying in Pownall aforesaid that lies west of the Brook that Runs thro. The Farm (if he can be at Liberty to come and Freely enjoy the same) and if the circumstances of my s. [said?] son John Hodgkisson should be such that he can never enjoy the same by any means whatsoever, then I give it to my well beloved GrandSon Samuel Hodgkisson.
Also I give unto my Well beloved Son William Hodgkisson all that part of my said Homestead lying Eastwardly of the S. Brook (if he can come and freely enjoy the same himself). But if neither of my two Sons abovesaid can come and enjoy The Lands or Estate above given or bequeathed to them, or either of them, and the other Son above dis???? [?] cannot come to enjoy his part: then I give the whole of my Homestead Farm to that Son that can enjoy the same: My true intent and meaning is, that ^if either of my two sons cannot enjoy The Farm as aforesaid or otherwise they Choose not to Live upon it, that it be sold, and each one of them or either of them so ??? [choosing?] not to live upon it to have his equal part of what it shall sell for: And that part of the Farm lying westward of the Brook be made equal as to the improvement with the East Side of The Farm.
And if either of my two Sons or both of them can never enjoy my said Homestead Farm as hath been before described by any circumstances whatever, by Death or otherwise; then I give the same to my well beloved Grand-Son Samuel Hodgkisson to be delivered to him when he arrives to the full age of Twenty One Years, and the Profits arising from the Rents and Profits of my said Homestead Farm to be equally divided between all my Grand-Children both Male and Female.
Also I give to my well beloved Daughter, Dorothy Deal, three pounds fifteen shillings Lawful Money, to be raised out of my personal Estate, and paid to her by my said Executors herein after Mentioned.
Also I give to my well beloved Daughter, Ann McKenna, seven pounds, ten shillings L[awful] Money to be raised out of my Personal Estate, and to be paid to her by my said Executors.
Also I give to my well beloved Grand Son Thomas Miller three pounds, ten shillings Lawful Money to be raised out of my Personal Estate and paid to him, or his Lawful Guardian, by my said Executors.
Also I give to my aforesaid GrandSon, Samuel Hodkgisson, that certain Lot or Farm of Land Lying in Bennington containing Fifty Acres of Land that I purchased of Col. Samuel Robinson to be delivered to him by my said Executors or their Successors in Administratorship, when he arrives to the age of Twenty one Years; and the Profits arising from T. Farm, until that time is expired, after paying the Legacy to my said Wife and other Necessary Charges, to be equally divided between my said Grand Children.
Also I give unto my beloved Wife, one certain two year old Heifer, and to her Daughter Ann, GrandDaughter Gardner, a certain Yearling Heifer and keeping for it, on my said Farm until it becomes a Cow (if it Lives).
Also I give to my aforesaid Sons, John and William Hodgkinson, the use of all my moveable effects that hath not herein before been disposed of, after my just Debts and Funeral Charges be paid, until my aforesaid GrandSon Samuel Hodgkisson comes to the age of Twenty one Years with their paying unto my well beloved Daughters, Mary Miller and Martha Pember, five shillings each, and when the term aforesaid is expired, to pay the value of these moveables to be divided equally amongst all my Grand Children.
Likewise, I make, Ordain and Constitute David Goff and Basteyon [sic] Deal, both of Pownall aforesaid the Sole Executors jointly and severally of this my last Will and Testament, and I do hereby utterly disavow, revoke, and disannul all every other former Testament, Legacies, Bequests, and Executors by me in any wise named Willed and bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament.
In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this nineteenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty Two. [signed] John Hodgkinson
Signed, Sealed, Published, Pronounced, and declared by the said John Hodgkinson as his Last Will and Testament In presence of us, who in his presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto Subscribed our names
[signed] Paul Gardner
John Hodgkinson of Pownall, Vermont
There’s no doubt in my mind that the Hodgkinson family described in this will is the same family as the Loyalist Hodgkinsons. This will offers evidence that the father, John Hodgkinson Sr., also immigrated, and this fact alone is significant, because I’ve never seen it asserted or referenced in any other Hodgkinson resource. Moreover, the fact that the father’s name was John is consistent with the hypothesis that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons were children of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield. We have no idea how long John Sr. lived in Vermont, and this document alone offers no indication that John was born in Colonial America. So, this piece of evidence does not necessarily contradict the existing hypothesis that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons were born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.
According to this document, we have John Hodgkinson, Sr., making his last will and testament in Pownal, in the State of Vermont, on 19 August 1782, during the final year of the American Revolutionary War, which would end with the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783. Pownal is a small town situated about 27 miles southeast of Schaghticoke, where Samuel and Ellender Hodgkinson were baptized in 1776 and 1778, respectively (Figure 3). The “State of Vermont” mentioned in the will is not a U.S. state, but rather a reference to the Vermont Republic, which was an independent state that existed from 1777–1791.2 Prior to that, between 1764 and 1777, “Vermont” did not exist: the land west of the Connecticut River was declared by King George III to belong to New York, while New Hampshire lay to the east of that river.3 So, if John settled in Pownal prior to 1777, and his children were living in the vicinity of Albany, then they all would have been residents of the Province of New York.
While I know nothing about John (Sr.)’s personal politics, all of his children discovered to date were Loyalists, so John Sr. may have been one as well. Were they all living in Schaghticoke originally, and then John Sr. moved to the independent State of Vermont after the British lost at Saratoga, while his sons continued to serve with Butler’s Rangers until they disbanded in 1784? Certainly it would not have been possible for him to continue living in New York State as a known Loyalist after the New York Act of Attainder, or Confiscation Act, was passed on 22 October 1779.4 This Act identified 59 prominent Loyalists by name, confiscated their land and personal property, banished them from the state, and gave them death sentences, without benefit of clergy, should they ever be found within the State of New York. It made further provisions for indicting additional Loyalists—such as the Hodgkinsons—besides those 59 named individually. John Sr.’s death in 1784 came seven years before Vermont was admitted to the union as the fourteenth of the United States, yet perhaps it was uncertainty over Vermont’s future that led John to word his bequest of his land to his sons so carefully, declaring that each son would inherit his portion of the farm, “ifhe can be at Liberty to come and Freely enjoy the same.“
His Dearly Beloved Wife, Mary
John’s wife was named as Mary in this document, not Sarah, but she appears to have been a second wife. This hypothesis is supported by the statement, “I give unto my beloved Wife, one certain two year old Heifer, and to her [emphasis mine] Daughter Ann Gardner, a certain Yearling Heifer…” This suggests that Ann Gardner was Mary’s daughter by a previous spouse. It’s unclear whether Gardner was Ann’s maiden name, or her married surname. If the former, then it would also have been Mary’s surname from her first husband. I’ll have to look for a death record for Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson in records from Vermont or Mansfield (England), as well as a marriage record for John and Mary in Vermont. One of the witnesses to the will, Paul Gardner, is likely to be another relative, and research into this family is also on my to-do list.
The current value of the money that John bequeathed to Mary—seven pounds, ten shillings, paid annually—is estimated at £645.78 using the currency calculator here, but the estimate ranges from £898.60 to £87,520.00 using the more nuanced currency value calculators at MeasuringWorth. This was not all that he left her, however, since there was also the matter of the houseroom, the garden, the “keeping of a Cow, Winter and Summer (if she has one to keep),” the firewood brought to her door, and the gray mare “that is called here Mare.” (My ancestors were perhaps not the most creative folk in naming their livestock, but I find this phrasing charming nonetheless!) Later in the will, he also bequeathed to her a two-year-old heifer—so she clearly does have a cow—and all the household goods that she brought with her into their marriage.
His Sons, John Jr. and William, and Grandson Samuel
John Hodgkinson bequeathed his farm to his sons, John Jr. and William, with John getting the western half of the farm and William receiving the eastern half, based on the location of a brook that divided the farm. The phrasing in the will suggests that John Sr. truly hoped that one or the other of his sons might be able to use and enjoy the farm, which was undoubtedly the fruit of much of John Sr.’s labor. On reading this, my first thought was that I need to find land records to locate this farm in Pownal and view the title history, to see who eventually owned it. Both John Jr. and William ended up in Grantham Township on the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, as did John Jr.’s son, Samuel, so it may be that all the heirs to the farm elected to sell it. Samuel Hodgkinson would have been six years old at the time his grandfather wrote his will in 1782, and when he turned twenty-one, he was to receive an additional 50 acres of land in Bennington.
His Daughters, Mary, Martha, Dorothy, and Ann
Although the bequests and descriptions of John’s assets are fascinating, what’s really jaw-dropping about this document is the list of previously-unknown daughters. The will names his daughters as Dorothy Deal, Ann McKenna, Mary Miller, and Martha Pember, and identifies Thomas Miller as another grandson. This information provides further confirmation that the Hodgkinson family described in this document is the same as the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham. The records of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake show that, on 14 May 1815, a number of children of William and Mary (Jones) Hodgkinson were baptized, including “William, Thomas, Dorothy, John Pember, Rockaway, Martha, Eleazer Alexr [sic], and George.”5 It seems obvious now that William’s daughters, Dorothy and Martha, were named after his sisters, Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal and Martha (Hodgkinson) Pember, and that his son John Pember’s middle name was inspired by Martha’s married surname. All of this is fertile ground for growing the Hodgkinson family tree. The executors, David Goff and Basteyon Deal, are also worthy research subjects, as are Abraham Bowdish and Joseph Briggs, who were the other witnesses to the will in addition to Paul Gardner. In particular, “Basteyon” (Sebastian?) Deal is most probably a relative by marriage of Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal.
The Plot Thickens
Immediately following the last page of the will (page 194), there is a pair of entries on page 195 in the court records, shown in Figure 3.6
These decisions and orders by Judge Jonas Fay, Judge of Probate Court, are transcribed as follows:
At the Probate Court holden in in Bennington in the Probate District of Bennington on the 7th day of April AD. 1783 by Virtue of a Legal Citatation [sic], Personally appeared the within named Mary Hodgkinson, and alledged [sic] that the within Will does not make such Provision for her, as the Law in such Cases Allows, and therefore pray, the Court to disapprove the same, the several persons named in the Citation being present and having nothing to offer (in the opinion of the Court) sufficient to approve the Will, the Court does therefore disapprove thereof, that Administration to be taken out, and that the same be Recorded. [Signed] Jonas Fay Judge Probt.
At a Probate Court holden at Bennington in the Probate District of Bennington on the 24th day of March AD. 1785 Mary Hodgkinson Widow of the within Testator being personally present, and relinquishing her former objection to Probating the within Will, and John Hodgkinson one of the Legatees named in said Will being Likewise present in behalf of himself, and Peter McKenna, Adam Deal, Ralph Miller, William Hodgkinson and Philip Pember as appears by writing under their ^names and Seals, and Registered in this office, and praying in their several capacities that the within Will may be Probated, the same is hereby approved and allowed. By Jonas Fay, Judg. Probt.”
So, John wrote his will on 17 August 1782, and on 7 April 1783, while her husband was still alive, Mary Hodgkinson petitioned the court to disapprove of the will. But then, after John was deceased, she turned around and relinquished her objection to probating the will on 24 March 1785. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of that situation, and determine the implications. I might be able to gain some insight through deeper investigation of these probate records, as there are other entries in this same probate book that are relevant (i.e. page 190). However, I won’t make a long blog post even longer by discussing them today.
What’s exciting about these two decisions and orders by Judge Fay, though, is that John Hodgkinson’s sons-in-law are identified by name. Now we know that Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal was married to Adam Deal, Ann (Hodgkinson) McKenna was married to Peter McKenna, and Martha (Hodgkinson) Pember was married to Phillip Pember—information which will facilitate research into these families.
Coming full circle now, back to Mary (Hodgkinson) Miller, one final question occurred to me. If she was married to Ralph Miller in 1772, and this same Mary was godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson in 1778, then she should have been recorded in the baptismal record as Mary Miller, not Mary Hodgkinson. So might the godmother have been the other Mary Hodgkinson, John Sr.’s second wife. and Ellender’s stepgrandmother? Maybe so. Nonetheless, a precedent exists for referring to Mary Miller by her maiden name after her marriage, in that she was recorded as “Mary Hotchkisson, widow of the late Ralph Miller of Dunham” in her death record.7 So, it’s still possible that the intended Mary Hodgkinson was Ellender’s aunt, and the truth of the matter may be lost in the mists of time. However, when it comes to knowing the truth about the origins of the Loyalist Hodgkinson family, the mists of time were just blown away by the discovery of John Hodgkinson’s will.
1“Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), John Hodgkinson, Last Will and Testament, 19 Aug 1782, probated 15 June 1784, Bennington, Vermont; citing Vermont Probate Court (Bennington District), Probate Records, Vol 1-5, 1778-1812, Vol. 1, pp 191-194. The featured image for this blog post is a detail from p 191.
5 Ontario Genealogical Society Niagara Peninsula Branch, Paul Hutchinson, editor, St. Marks’ Anglican Church Baptisms, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1792–1856 (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998), p 22, “14 May 1815, All (the following) were baptized at the 12-mile creek on the same day…William HODGKINSON, Thomas/Dorothy/John Pember/Rockaway/Martha/Eleazer Alexr/George }of William and Mary”.
6Vermont Probate Court (Bennington District), Vol. 1, 1778–1792, p 195, Decision and Order of Judge Jonas Fay, 7 April 1783; Decision and Order of Judge Jonas Fay, 24 March 1785, imaged in “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), path: Bennington > Probate Records, Vol 1-5, 1778-1812 > image 107 of 909.
7 “Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), burial record for Mary Hotchkisson, died 15 June 1832; citing records of the Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, in Frelighsburg from Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.
Recently, I wrote about some new discoveries into the history of my Hodgkinson ancestors—Loyalists who settled in Grantham Township, Upper Canada, after the American Revolutionary War. Both John Hodgkinson and his brother, William, were privates in Butler’s Rangers, and there is ample evidence for both of them in historical records from Upper Canada (what is now Ontario). However, the Hodgkinson brothers are commonly reported to have a sister, Mary, based on baptismal records from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, who is absent from the narrative in Upper Canada. Some believe that Mary never emigrated, pointing to a marriage record for Mary Hodgkinson to Samuel Holehouse in Mansfield in 1774.1 However, this marriage record does not include parents’ names, so further evidence is needed before concluding that this is the same Mary Hodgkinson who was the sister of the Loyalist Hodgkinsons.
Even if Mary never emigrated, that mystery godmother remains, Mary “Huskinson,” godmother to Ellender “Huskinson,” daughter of John “Huskinson” and Mary “More.”2 If you believe, as I do, that the family described here is likely to be the family of John Hodgkinson of Grantham, then we have evidence of some female relative named Mary who was named as godmother in 1778. Does her role as godmother necessitate her physical presence at the baptism in Schaghticoke, New York? That’s unclear. While it’s possible in some faiths and circumstances to have proxy godparents, who stand in when the godparents are unable to be present at the baptism, I have no idea what rules might apply to an 18th-century Dutch Reformed baptism of the child of an Anglican father and a mother whose religious faith is unknown. But if we admit the possibility that Mary Hodgkinson was present at the baptism of Ellender Hodgkinson, and if we agree that she was almost certainly a relative and quite probably a sister, then it begs the question: what happened to Mary Hodgkinson, and why did she not end up in Grantham with her brothers?
The Search for Mary Begins
If Mary Hodgkinson was personally present at the baptism of Ellender in 1778, then there should be some evidence of her existence in historical documents from New York. A quick search of indexed records at Ancestry produced a marriage record from the “New York, Marriage Index, 1600–1784,” for Mary “Hodkisson” and Ralph Mellor on 29 January 1772 (Figure 1).3
Clicking over from the “Detail” to the “Source” page provides additional information about the original records from the New York State Archives from which the index information was taken, and includes a caveat that they “are limited in availability and additional informational value” due to the New York State Capitol fire of 1911 (Figure 2).
Hope dies last, so I emailed the New York State Archives anyway, just to see if there was any chance for more information. Their reply stated,
“Thank you for contacting the New York State Archives with your inquiry. I’ve checked A1893, marriage bonds executed by persons obtaining marriage licenses, and the corresponding book regarding these documents, New York Marriage Bonds (947.7 S427n) but neither the name Mary Hodkisson or Ralph Mellor were found. Both this series and the book are about those documents that did survive the 1911 Albany fire, but it appears this marriage record did not. I would suggest you check the local newspaper at the time or a local church for an announcement of this marriage. This may be the only record you will find now.” 4
Finding a newspaper announcement of the marriage is a long shot, given the extremely limited number of newspapers that were in publication in New York in January 1772. A church record might be found in time; although this record does not state precisely where in New York the couple was married, we can perhaps assume that it was in the vicinity of Schaghticoke, since that’s where Ellender Hodgkinson was baptized in 1778. (A marriage record for Ralph and Mary is not found in that same collection of Dutch Reformed Church records which contained Ellender’s baptismal record, because that would be too easy.) Even in the absence of any detailed information, this marriage record is still an important discovery, because it offers further evidence for the existence of a Mary Hodkisson/Hodgkinson/Huskinson living in Colonial New York, and it provides her married name.
“Mary Hotchkisson, widow of the late Ralph Miller of Dunham, deceased in the eighty fourth year of her age, died on the fifteenth day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, and was buried on the seventeenth day of the same, in the presence of the subscribing witnesses by, James Reid, Min’r [Minister], [Witnesses] Robert Aitken, John Pickering.”
Mary’s age at the time of her death—84 years—suggests a birth year of 1748. For reference, Mary Hodgkinson, daughter of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was baptized on 6 April 1755. Now, it could be that her age at the time of death was reported inaccurately, and it’s also possible that the Hodgkinsons were a bit lax in baptizing their children promptly. In fact, this discrepancy between Mary’s suggested year of birth and her documented date of baptism fits the pattern I noted previously with John and William Hodgkinson, since existing data for John indicate that he was born in 1750 but baptized in 1753, and that William was born in 1751, but baptized in 1759. If you think it’s also possible that I’m way off base, and these aren’t necessarily the same family at all, I don’t blame you, because I’m not convinced yet, either.
But wait, there’s more.
A search at Find A Grave produced memorials for both Ralph Miller/Mellor/Meller and Mary (Hotchkisson/Hodkisson/Hodgkinson) Meller. They were laid to rest in Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery in Frelighsburg, Quebec. Ralph’s memorial indicates that he died 8 March 1822 at the age of 81 years, suggesting a birth circa 1741.6 Mary’s memorial states that she died 12 June 1832 at the age of 83 years, which is sufficiently consistent with the death record from Holy Trinity Anglican Church as to leave no doubt that these records pertain to the same person.7 What’s interesting is that, in that same cemetery, one John Pickering was also laid to rest.8 You may recall that name because John Pickering was a witness to the death of Mary Hodgkinson Miller—he was a member of the Hodgkinsons’ FAN club (Friends, Associates and Neighbors). The memorial states that John was born 29 March 1797 and that he died on 6 May 1844, which makes this John Pickering of an appropriate age to be the same John Pickering mentioned in that burial record. Moreover, the memorial includes a photo of his grave marker, which states specifically that John Pickering was born in Collingham, Nottinghamshire, England, and that he died in Dunham—the same village in Quebec mentioned in the death record as the home of the Miller family. The village of Collingham is only 25 miles from the town of Mansfield, where the Hodgkinsons were said to originate, lending credence to the hypothesis that Mary Hodgkinson Miller was also from Nottinghamshire.
Ralph Miller, Loyalist
So who was Mary Hodgkinson’s husband, Ralph Miller? A little digging into historical records suggests that he, too, was a Loyalist, which tracks well with the the Hodgkinson family tradition. A search in the database, “Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764–1841,” turned up land petition no. 346, “Alex. Taylor and many other Loyalists, praying for land,” which was filed about 1783 (Figure 4).9
The petition includes a list of claimants’ names, their present place of abode, the Loyalist corps in which they served, and their time of residence (i.e. date of arrival) in Canada. Ralph Miller is included in this list (Figure 5).10
Circa 1783, when the petition was filed, Ralph Miller was noted to be living in “Caldwells M.,” which is a reference to Caldwell Manor, an early Loyalist settlement located in present-day Noyan, Quebec.11 The notation regarding his immigration to Canada states that he arrived in 1780, and was “now in Canada.” The document also states that he served “in Jessop’s Corps S. R.” It’s unclear to me what the “S.R.” stands for, but Edward Jessup’s Rangers were a Loyalist militia unit that functioned from 12 November 1781 until 24 December 1783.12 The corps was created from the remnants of smaller military formations, including the King’s Loyal Americans—a militia group led by Edward and his brother, Ebenezer, which took part in the battles of Saratoga in 1777.
I think at this point, we have some idea of what became of Mary Hodgkinson, godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson in 1778. She was married to Ralph Miller/Meller in New York, probably in the vicinity of Schaghticoke, in 1772, and was likely still living in that area at the start of the Revolutionary War. Her husband may have joined Edward Jessup as early as 1777, and been one of the participants in the Battles of Saratoga, but by 1780, the Mellers were living in Quebec. Ralph and Mary lived in Dunham, where he died in 1822, and she passed ten years later, in 1832. Both are buried in Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery in Frelighsburg, Quebec.
Additional research can still be done to discover more about their family. A quick search for other Meller graves in the same cemetery reveals a grave for a probable son, also named Ralph Meller, who died in 1871 at the age of 84 years, as well as a grave for his wife, Sarah (VanAntwerp) Meller.13 Broadening the search to Meller graves in the Monteregie Region of Quebec, where Frelighsburg is located, produces additional graves of probable relatives, and census records, vital records, and other genealogical documents can be used to help sort out the relationships. However, further evidence is still needed before we can be comfortable with the assertion that Mary Hodgkinson Meller was the sister of John Hodgkinson, U.E., and William Hodgkinson, U.E.
That said, I think I’m onto something, here. Stay tuned!
1“England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 07 January 2022), Mary Hodgkinson and Samuel Holehouse, 14 February 1774, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.
2 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 07 January 2022), Ellender Huskinson, baptized 23 November 1778; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11. This document is the source of the featured image for this blog post.
3“New York, U.S., Marriage Index, 1600-1784,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 January 2022), Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor, 29 Jan 1772, citing New York State Archives, Names of Persons for whom Marriage Licenses were Issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York, Previous to 1784. State of New York, 1860, Record Number: M. B., Volume: XVIII, OSPage: 23.
4 New York State Archives Researcher Services, Albany, New York, to Julie Szczepankiewicz, e-mail dated 28 October 2021, “RE: Marriage record for Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor.”
5“Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 January 2022), burial record for Mary Hotchkisson, died 15 June 1832; citing records of the Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, in Frelighsburg from Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.
6Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258423/ralph-meller : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for Ralph Meller (unknown-8 Mar 1822), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258423, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702).
7Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258431/mary-meller : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for Mary Meller (unknown-12 Jun 1832), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258431, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702).
8Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119277256/john-pickering : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for John Pickering (29 Mar 1797–6 May 1844), Find a Grave Memorial ID 119277256, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Stephen Payne (contributor 47327291) .
9 “Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764-1841,” no. 346, Alex. Taylor & many other Loyalists praying for Land, p. 91105; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng : 07 January 2022), item no. 61500, image 10 of 36, citing Lower Canada Land Papers, RG 1 L3L, Vol. 190, pp 90996-91013, Taylor, Alex – Taylor, James.
10Ibid., p. 91106, line 8, Ralph Miller, image 11 of 36.
13 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258440/ralph-meller : 07 January 2022), memorial page for Ralph Meller (unknown–16 Aug 1871), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258440, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702); and
Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258452/sarah-meller : 07 January 2022), memorial page for Sarah VanAntwerp Meller (unknown–7 Nov 1882), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258452, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702) .
14 1825 census of Canada, Bedford County, Lower Canada, population return, Dunham Sub-District, Vol. 2, page no. 843, Ralph Millar household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://bac-lac.gc.ca/ : 07 January 2022), Item no. 11282, image no. 004569586_00477, citing Reference MG 31 C1, Lower Canada/Canada East census returns, Microfilm C-717.
2021 is on its way out, and we’re about to get a fresh start with 2022. It’s traditional to reflect on the past year and consider our accomplishments, as well as our goals and resolutions for the new year, and this practice seems to be no less relevant to genealogical research. With that in mind, I’ve been taking stock of my genealogical triumphs and tribulations from 2021, and creating some research resolutions for the new year.
Connecting the Dodds
In 2021, I furthered my understanding of the history of my Dodds family. As of 2020, I had traced the family of Robert and Catherine (Grant) Dodds to 1871, when they were living in Yarmouth township in East Elgin, Ontario. I knew the fates of the parents, Robert and Catherine, after 1871, as well as the fates of their oldest three daughters, Hannah, Isabella, and Margaret. I also knew what became of their youngest two children, Martha Agnes (my great-great-grandmother), and Warner Howard. However, three of their sons—Alexander, John H., and Gilbert M.—disappeared from Canadian records after 1871. Thanks to clues gained from DNA matches, I was able to discover a second marriage which produced two children for Alexander Dodds, prior to his death in Buffalo in 1899. I was also able to discover the record for Gilbert’s death in Buffalo in 1898. Furthermore, DNA was instrumental once again in determining that John H. Dodds migrated to Pennsylvania, where he and Gilbert were working as day laborers in 1880. Although Gilbert eventually moved on to Buffalo, where other family members were also living, John remained in Pennsylvania, married Lena Frazier in 1892, and settled in Pike Township (Potter County) to raise a family.
Archival Acquisitions and Album Assembly
In the spring and early summer, researching my roots gave way to other demands on my time as I dealt with the task of cleaning out my parents’ home in preparation for sale. I’ve been slowly working my way through that pile of boxes in my basement, finding new homes for all their books and furnishings with sentimental value. However, I have yet to start scanning all the family photos and documents which I acquired. Similarly, I’m still chipping away at the process of filling my daughter’s baby album—never mind that she graduated from high school in June. I took a break when I realized that, having waited this long, it makes more sense to do the job right by organizing all the materials first, rather than grabbing the first box of photos from the time of her birth and hoping that additional photos from that era don’t turn up in other boxes. I think if I can get all the family photos and documents scanned and organized, with physical copies stored in archival boxes or albums, and digital images edited to include meta data, I will be satisfied. It may take the rest of my life to accomplish that, but it would mean that my kids could inherit a manageable, accessible family history collection.
Autosomal DNA testing has been a consistent theme in my genealogy research in 2021. DNA Painter has allowed me to coordinate my research across test companies through ongoing development of my ancestral chromosome map. Over the summer, I was able to connect for the first time to living descendants of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Wojciech Słoński and Marianna Duras. I was thrilled to be able to add them as a new ancestral couple to my chromosome map, bringing the total to 16 ancestral couples from whom I can now verify my genetic descent. Of course, there are still some ancestral lines where DNA has not yet shed any light, due to a small number of “close” (3rd-5th cousin level) DNA matches. This is often because the families were small, with few living descendants, or because those descendants live in countries such as Poland, where DNA testing is relatively uncommon. Lack of available data on living individuals in Poland—for example, from newspaper obituaries, or public records databases such as we have in the U.S.—makes it difficult to identify living individuals for target testing, but perhaps this can be a focus of my research in 2022.
Honing in on the Hodgkinsons
In October, I spent some time researching my Hodgkinson ancestors, a well-researched family of Canadian Loyalists. I was especially excited to discover a baptismal record for Ellender “Huskinson,” whom I believe to be a previously-unknown daughter of John Hodgkinson and his first wife, Mary Moore. I examined a number of hypotheses regarding the origins of the Hodgkinson family, based on assertions made by family trees online, and discovered that these hypotheses ranged from “possibly true,” to “patently false.” I also started some research into the history of Mary Hodgkinson, who was named as godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson, and who was (I believe) a sister to John. I hope to write about this in another blog post early in 2022.
Caus(in) for Celebration
Of course, the biggest discovery of the year for me was the identification of the parents of my great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts, and their place of origin in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. This discovery was made through identification of the family’s FANs—specifically, a godmother named Anna Maria Hensy, who was mentioned in the baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ—combined with evidence from family trees of DNA matches who descend from that same godmother, Mary Ann/Anna Maria (Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze) Schneider. Even though my process was not perfect, this breakthrough has had a profound impact on my research. Although I haven’t blogged about all the individuals I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result, I can now state definitively that Mary Magdalene (Causin/Cossin) Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York on 14 August 1832 to Joseph Antoine Cossin (“Gosÿ”) and Marie Agathe Hentzÿ, who were married in the village of Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, on 8 September 1829. Marie Agathe was the daughter of Dionisÿ Hensÿ and Agnes Antony, while Joseph Antoine was the son of Jakob Cossin and Barbara Maker from the nearby village of Seppois-le-Bas (or Niedersept, in German). Figure 1 summarizes the ancestors in my direct line that I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result of this breakthrough.
Rounding out the year, I was able to locate some ancestral signatures in Detroit probate records for my Roberts ancestors, Michael Roberts and Frank M. Roberts. I wrote about the Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek as a source for vital records, particularly for those with ancestors from the Warmia historical region. Finally, I analyzed Ancestry’s newest ethnicity estimates for a family group (mine!) consisting of four children, their parents, and both sets of grandparents. All in all, 2021 presented ample opportunities for me to do what I love to do: research my family tree using all the tools, technologies, and resources I can muster, discover the stories of my ancestors as told in historical documents, and share my findings.
A Look Ahead
As I think about what I’d like to accomplish in the new year, a few research projects stand out, listed below, in no particular order:
I’d like to continue my research into the Hodgkinson family, both in North America and in England, to see if I can convince myself that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham, Upper Canada were really born in Mansfield, England.
I’d love to be able to leverage DNA and FAN research to identify the parents of Catherine (Grant) Dodds and their place of origin, in the same way that I was able to answer those questions in the case of Mary Magdalene Causin.
I hope to further my research into the Causin/Cossin and Hentzy/Hensy families in records from Haut-Rhin, Alsace.
On my mom’s side, I’d like to resume the search for the elusive Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycka, my great-great-grandmother, in the hope of being able to find a birth, marriage or death record for her that would reveal her parents’ names. Failing that, I would like to explore alternative historical sources for evidence of her origins, such as Księgi Ludności Stałej (permanent population registers).
I’d love to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.
I’d like to invest more time in learning to decipher German handwriting, and gain proficiency in translating German records, so that I can independently research my German and Alsatian ancestors, as well as my husband’s ancestors who were Poles from the Prussian partition.
This is just a modest sample of my research aspirations. If I ever did manage to succeed in accomplishing each of these goals, I could try to discover the origins in Ireland for my Walsh ancestors, identify the maiden name of Christina Hodgkinson, and plan another trip to Poland for onsite research in the ancestral parish of my Zieliński ancestors. The supply of research questions is endless, as is the fascination that accompanies the search for answers, and the satisfaction when victory is attained. Nonetheless, these six items seem like a good place to start, and I’m itching to get started. So, how about you? What are your genealogical goals, hopes, and dreams for the new year? Whatever they may be, I wish you success, prosperity, and joy in the journey.