And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: New Discoveries in my Klaus Family Research, Part I

This morning I feel like a genealogical Joshua at the battle of Jericho, because there are brick walls crumbling all over the place. It’s amazing how one discovery can lead to seven more. So many pieces are falling into place that I’m positively giddy, but each answer leads to another question. Today I’d like to tell you about some new discoveries that came about over the past few days as a direct result of the marriage record I found last week for my great-great-grandparents, Andrzej/Andrew Klaus and Marianna/Mary Łącka, in Buffalo, New York. Previously, I wrote about my erroneous assumption that they’d married in Texas, based on the family story (still unproven) that their oldest sons, Joseph and John, were born there. It turns out that their marriage record is already available online, thanks to a recent efforts to digitize all the microfilms from the Family History Library. So without further ado, here is the record for Andrew and Mary Klaus’s marriage (Figures 1a-b).1

Figure 1a: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka (sic), 21 January 1891, page 1.1Andrzej Klaus and Marya Lacka 1891 left crop

Starting with the information on the left side of the register, the record states that the bride and groom were married on 21 January 1891 by Fr. W. Sułek. The groom’s name was recorded as Andrzej Klaus, and he was reported to be the son of Jakób Klaus and Anna Słowik of “Maniowo, Gal.” The page on the right (Figure 1 b) reports that the bride was Marya Łączka (sic), daughter of Jakób Łączki and Anna Ptaszek of Kołaczyce, Galicia. Witnesses were Ludwik Cebulski and Aniela Kośmider.

Figure 1b: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka (sic), 21 January 1891, page 2.1

Andrzej Klaus and Marya Lacka 1891 right crop

Most of this information is nicely consistent with other evidence for this couple. Although the maiden name of the bride’s mother is more often reported as Ptaszkiewicz in records from Poland, the variant form Ptaszek is a close second, used almost as freqently, so it’s not surprising that Mary Klaus might not have been too particular about which form she reported. In fact, she reported her mother’s maiden name as Ptaszkiewicz, rather than Ptaszek, on her second marriage record when she married Władysław Olszanowicz in 1916 after Andrew Klaus’s death in 1914.2,3 In this case, the civil clerk recorded it with an approximately phonetic spelling as “Taskovich” (Figure 2), just as he or she recorded Mary’s maiden name as “Wauske” rather than Łącka.

Figure 2: Extract from marriage record for Władysław Olsanowic (sic) and Mary Klaus, North Tonawanda, New York, 21 November 1916.Wladyslaw Olszanowicz and Mary Klaus

A minor source of concern for me in discovering the marriage record for Andrew and Mary Klaus was the fact that his mother’s name was recorded as Anna Słowik, rather than Franciszka Liguz. Needless to say, those names aren’t even close. However, I’m still confident that I’m tracking the right Klaus family in Polish records. For one thing, Andrew’s date of birth was reported on his death record as 26 November 1866 (Figure 3), which was an important clue.3

Figure 3: Death certificate for Andro (sic) Klaus, 14 June 1914, with date of birth and father’s name highlighted.3Andrew Klaus death certificate marked

Additionally, I’m confident in my identification of Andrew’s birth location as the village of Maniów that’s presently located in Dąbrowa County, Małopolska.  All the records for his children who were baptized at St. Stanislaus parish mentioned some variant of “Maniów,” and there were only 2 places by that name in Galicia, according to Jan Bigo’s 1918 index,.4 However, there were also places called Maniowy and Maniawa, which could arguably have been intended. When faced with a problem like this, the best way to get around it is to keep digging for documentation that references place of birth. In this case, Fr. Kasprzak at St. Stan’s did me a huge favor by recording a slightly different reference to Andrew’s birthplace on the baptismal record for his son, Edward (Figure 4).5

Figure 4: Extract from baptismal record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Edward Klaus, born 11 September 1899, with father’s place of birth underlined in red.5Edward Klaus birth marked

On this record, Andrzej Klaus is noted to be from Szczeciny, and in context with the previous references to Maniów, this can be understood to be a reference to Szczucin, the parish which served the village of Maniów.

Records for this parish, and other parishes in the Diocese of Tarnów, are indexed at Family Search. Granted, this index is far from perfect; in my experience, it contains many inaccuracies and also seems to miss some records. However, a search for Andrew or Andreas (the Latin form of the name) Klaus, born between 1863 and 1867 — not even specifying the father’s name or the precise place of birth — returns only one result that is not only close, it’s nearly perfect: the birth of the Andrzej Klaus whose baptismal record I referenced in my last post (Figure 5):

Figure 5: Search result for Andreas Klaus in index to Tarnów Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books, 1612-1900 at FamilySearch.

Family Search index for Andrew Klaus

The actual record shows a date of birth of 25 November 1865, with baptism one day later, which is a very close match with the birth date that Mary Klaus reported on Andrew’s death certificate, 26 November 1866. The father’s name, Jacobus or Jakub, also matches. So the only problem is that the mother’s name, Franciszka Liguz, doesn’t match the mother’s name, Anna Słowik, that Andrew reported on his marriage record. This brings me to the first new discovery I made after finding this marriage record.

Discovery #1: The marriage record of Tomasz Klaus and Wiktoria Rak

Our ancestors didn’t migrate alone — typically they followed other family members, friends, or neighbors, who had successfully settled in a new place, in a phenomenon known as chain migration. However, until recently I had not found any evidence of other members of the Klaus family living near Andrew and Mary. Since the discovery of this marriage record, I took a closer look at the marriage records for St. Stan’s in Buffalo and discovered the record for Andrew’s brother, Tomasz Klaus, to Wiktoria Rak (Figures 6a and b):6

Figure 6a: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Tomasz Klaus and Wiktorya Rak, 20 November 1900, page 1.Tomasz Klaus and Wiktoria Rak 1900 marked

In this record, the groom is reported to have been born in “Mielecka Wola,” consistent with his known place of birth in Wola Mielecka in present-day Mielec County, Podkarpackie province.

Figure 6b: Marriage record from St. Stanislaus parish, Buffalo, New York, for Tomasz Klaus and Wiktorya Rak, 20 November 1900, page 2.Tomasz Klaus and Wiktoria Rak 1900 crop left.jpg

The bride, Wiktoria Rak, was born in Jasło, which is the seat of Jasło County in Podkarpackie province. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jasło is very close to her sister-in-law Mary Klaus’s place of birth in Kołaczyce. Tomasz’s parents were recorded as Jakób Klaus and Franciszka Słowik, which is especially interesting in light of the fact that the same maiden name, Słowik, was recorded on Andrew Klaus’s marriage record in 1891. However, in this case, Tomasz reported her given name as Franciszka, consistent with the actual name of Andrew Klaus’s mother, Franciszka Liguz.

Will the Real Franciszka Klaus Please Stand Up?

So why does the name Słowik keep cropping up? Is it possible that Andrew and Tomasz were step-brothers? What do the records in Poland say about Tomasz’s mother? Well, the answer to that is a little complicated. Wola Mielecka, where Tomasz was born, originally belonged to the parish of Książnice, although a new parish, Divine Providence, was recently founded in Wola Mielecka itself. Records from Wola Mielecka, originally created in Książnice, but which currently belong to the new parish, are indexed in Geneteka under the parish name Książnice-Wola Mielecka. A search of birth records for children of Jakub and Franciszka Klaus produces the birth record for Tomasz Klaus in 1872 — but his mother’s name was reported to be Franciszka Nygus (Figure 7). So now how do we reconcile that surname with the surnames of Liguz and Słowik already discovered?

Figure 7: Geneteka search result for birth records mentioning names Jakub Klaus and Franciszka in Książnice-Wola Mielecka between 1786-1915.Geneteka screenshot

A check of the death records which mention the same couple is very enlightening (Figure 8):

Figure 8: Geneteka search result for death records mentioning names Jakub Klaus and Franciszka in Książnice-Wola Mielecka between 1787-1970.

Geneteka screenshot 2

Hovering the cursor over the “i” in the “Uwagi” (Remarks) column reveals that the Helena Klaus who died on 15 August 1878 was born in 1875, suggesting that this is the same Helena Klaus whose mother was reported to be Franciszka Nygus. We can therefore conclude that it was merely an error on the part of the priest when he recorded Franciszka’s name as “Nygus” rather than “Liguz” on Helena’s birth record. It’s clear that Józef, Helena, Paweł, and Tomasz must all be siblings to Andrew Klaus.

It’s still possible that Anna Słowik was Jakub Klaus’s second wife, and stepmother to the Klaus children, which would explain why both Andrew and Tomasz reported that surname on their marriage records in Buffalo. Marriage and death records from Poland will be very helpful here, but I haven’t had a chance to discover any yet. Available evidence suggests that Jakub and Franciszka probably married in Szczucin, rather than Książnice-Wola Mielecka, and unfortunately, records for Szczucin are not yet indexed in Geneteka. Despite its name, FamilySearch’s index to Tarnów Roman Catholic Diocese Church Books, 1612-1900 seems to contain only baptismal records, rather than any marriages or deaths, so Jakub Klaus’s marriage record(s) cannot be discovered there, either. I recently ordered the microfilms for Maniów/Szczucin, but have not had a chance to view them yet because of the limited summer hours of operation of my local Family History Center. So, this question remains on the back burner for now.

I’m still seeking evidence for Tomasz/Thomas and Wiktoria/Victoria Klaus in U.S. records. A probable match for Thomas is buried at St. Stanislaus Cemetery. His Find-A-Grave memorial lacked his years of birth and death, but a quick phone call to the cemetery informed me that he died on 28 December 1911 at the age of 33 years, 5 months, 23 days, and that he was buried from Corpus Christi Church. His age at death suggests a birth date of 5 July 1878. The 1878 birth is a bit off from the 1872 date of birth for Tomasz Klaus in the Geneteka index, but a widow grieving the loss of her husband at a young age might have remembered him to be even younger still by a few years. Thomas and Victoria also show up in the 1910 census, but one would never find them with too restrictive a search, because Thomas’s reported age (and date of birth calculated from that) is wildly inaccurate (Figure 9):

Figure 9: Extract from 1910 U.S. census showing Thomas and Victoria Klaus in the household of John Skowronski (previous page).Thomas and Victoria Klaus census crop

Thomas and Victoria were reported to be living at or near 49 Beck Street in Buffalo, in the household of John and Stella Skowronski and their children. John was reported to be an immigrant from German Poland, while his wife Stella was a Russian Pole. Living with them were several boarders — Stanley Pietrykowski, Walter Ciesielski, Andrew Lisica, and Anthony Skowronski, and Joseph Wypych — whose relationships to the family are unclear. Although Anthony’s surname suggests a relationship to head-of-household John Skowronski, Anthony is marked as a Russian Pole, suggesting that something is amiss in the recording. Things become even more bizarre on the second page. Thomas and Victoria Klaus are correctly noted to be Austrian Poles, yet they are marked as brother and sister to head of household John Skowronski. It’s possible that some relationship might nonetheless exist (e.g. Victoria and Stella Skowronski might be sisters) but the fact that they’re purportedly from different partitions of Poland is odd. Also living in this household were the family of Albert and Alice Rak and their children. Albert and Alice are also marked as brother and sister to head of household John Skowronski, and again, any actual relationship is unclear. Albert Rak was marked as an Austrian Pole, and from his surname, it’s almost certain that he’s a relative of Victoria (née Rak) Klaus, possibly a brother.

Getting back to the entry for Thomas and Victoria, they were reported to be ages 22 and 18, respectively, yet it was noted that they’d been married for 10 years. The suggested marriage year of 1900 fits with their 1900 marriage record from St. Stan’s, but they were unlikely to have been 12 and 8 at the time of their marriage. At this point, there are so many problems with this census record that one cannot help but wonder if the census taker had been hitting the bars prior to his visit to Beck Street. Thomas was reported to have arrived in 1882. However, he would have been just 10 years old at that time, so if this date is accurate (and there is good reason to doubt that) he would have to have traveled with some family member other than his brother Andrew, who didn’t arrive until 1889. He was naturalized, and working as a laborer at street work. Victoria was reported to have arrived in 1897, and was employed in 1910 as a washerwoman for a private family. There were no children from this marriage.

So, there are quite a few avenues for further research to document Thomas Klaus’s story. However, in my next post, I’ll write about a new discovery that sheds light on Andrew and Mary’s Klaus’s story, and also some negative evidence that offers insight into their family history. Stay tuned!

Sources:

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1873-1917, Marriages, 1891, #26, record for Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łączka, accessed 7 August 2017.

2New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936, Wladyslaw Olsanowic and Mary Klaus, 21 Nov 1916; citing county clerk’s office, Niagara, New York, United States; FHL microfilm 897,558. accessed on 7 August 2017.

North Tonawanda, Niagara, New York, city clerk’s office, 1914, #82, death certificate for Andro Klaus, 14 June 1914.

4 Jan Bigo, Najnowszy Skorowidz Wszystkich Miejscowości z Przysiółkami
w Królestwie Galicyi, Wielkiem Księstwie Krakowskiem i Księstwie Bukowińskiem

z uwzględnieniem wszystkich dotąd zaszłych zmian terytoryalnych kraju
z oznaczeniem, (Lwów, 1918), p. 100, http://www.mtg-malopolska.org.pl/, accessed 7 August 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Church records, 1873-1917, Baptisms, 1899, #396, record for Edward Klaus, accessed 7 August 2017.

1910 U.S. census, population schedule, (images and transcription), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 76, Sheet 3A, citing Thomas and Victoria Klaus in John Skowronski household, FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org, accessed 8 August 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

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

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

The Łącki family of Kołaczyce

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

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

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

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

Closeup of Hamburg Emigration record for Lacki family

The Klaus Family of Maniów and Wola Mielecka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Mess with Texas, or Mary Klaus

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

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

Evidence for Joseph Klaus

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

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

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

Evidence for John Klaus

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

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

John Klaus coal theft

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

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

1900 Census to the Rescue!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of the Story

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

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

Klaus entry.png

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

Robert Spencer and the Theft of the “Katy”

Have you ever heard of the sloop Katy?  I hadn’t, either. Unless you’re something of a military history fan, or particularly knowledgeable about the American Revolution, you might not have. So this is a cautionary tale, if you will, a reminder about the need for careful evaluation of historical evidence as we search for our ancestors.

As mentioned previously, one of my 6x-great-grandfathers was Robert Spencer, United Empire Loyalist. I’ve been having a grand old time lately, digging up documents for him from the website of the Library and Archives Canada, since they have so many great collections for those of us with Loyalist ancestors. Land petitions? Check. Haldimand Papers? Check. So I came to this database, Carlton Papers: Loyalists and British Soldiers, 1772-1784, and did a search for “Spencer” to see if they had anything for Robert Spencer. Sure enough, they did!

Figure 1: Search result for Robert Spencer in Carlton Papers database.Robert Spencer in index

I knew that Robert Spencer had served with Butler’s Rangers, a British military regiment best known for their participation in battles in central New York and Pennsylvania. Since the document referenced here was created in New York and was dated 1783, prior to the disbandment of the Rangers in 1784, it seemed likely to pertain to my ancestor. Intrigued, I requested a copy from the archive, which is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Letter from Wm. (?) Thomas Buchanan, Compiler, to Major Upham, regarding the theft of the sloop Katty (sic) and of naval stores from Eagle.1

robert-spencer-katy-theft.jpg

The transcription of the text is as follows:

“Wm. (?) Thomas Buchanan, Compiler, to Major Upham, and agreeable to his request, sends him the names of those persons, who carried off on the night of the 3rd March, from along side the ship Eagle then laying ashore upon the Battery Rocks, the sloop Katty having on board 115 puncheons & 5 small casks Jamaican Rum, also the Sails, Guns, Water Casks, and other materials belonging to the Eagle, which were by them landed at Elizabeth Town in New Jersey.

New York 22 September 1783

William Crain

Thomas Quigby

William Williamson

Meline Miller

Moses Hetfield

Robert Spencer

Samuel Heryman

John Hanyon”1

Since this document was indexed in a database of Loyalists and British soldiers, my initial interpretation was that the these must have been British soldiers who captured an American ship. I began to search the internet, as any good historian does in the 21st century, to see what I could find that might help me understand this. The first reference to the sloop Katy that I found seemed to confirm this suspicion:  she was a sloop in the Continental Navy, originally chartered by the Rhode Island general assembly.  But wait, what’s this about being “destroyed by her own crew in 1779”? That doesn’t fit with a capture by Robert Spencer et al. in 1783.

Further internet searching produced more interesting results. In the book, Elizabeth: First Capital of New Jersey, by Jean-Rae Turner and Richard T. Koles, the incident with the Katy is mentioned:

“On March 3, 1783, Major William Crane, later a general, captured the armed ship Eagle and the sloop Katy within pistol shot of the Battery in New York City. The Eagle had to be left because she was grounded. The Katy was brought to Elizabethtown where the cargo and vessel were sold at auction. Crane was elevated to brigadier general for this action.” 2

The book Cyclopedia of New Jersey Biography, Memorial and Biographical further clarifies the parties on each side in this conflict. General Crane is described as a “Patriot Soldier, Useful Citizen”3 and the events of 3 March 1783 are also described:

“General William Crane was born in 1748 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey….He had been advanced to the rank of major, and in 1783, led an enterprise of which he left the following report:

‘I have the pleasure to inform you of the capture of the sloop, Katy, of twelve double-fortified twelve-pounders, containing one hundred and seventeen puncheons of Jamaica spirits, lying at the time of capture within pistol shot of the grand battery of New York and alongside of the ship Eagle of twenty-four guns, which we also took but were obliged to leave, as she lay aground. The captains and crews of both the vessels were brought up to us in the sloop to this place, where we have them secure. This was performed on the night of the third of March by six townsmen under the command of Captain Quigley and myself, without the firing of a musket by any of our party.'” 4

This makes it clear that the sloop Katy and the Eagle were both British ships, having been captured by a party of Americans, including one Robert Spencer, who was clearly not my ancestor. A little more digging finished the job: both the Katy and the Eagle are named in a list of Loyalist ships, and and there is evidence for the New Jersey Robert Spencer in Ancestry’s database, New Jersey, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1643-1890, living in Trenton township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey in 1741.5

So why was this Robert Spencer named in a Canadian database of Loyalists and Britsh soldiers? In defense of the Library and Archives of Canada site, they did specify in their description of the records,

“The series includes a variety of documents about loyalist soldiers and civilian refugees (both white and black people) but also about people who were on Manhattan Island or the adjacent mainland dominated by the British during the American Revolution, as well as many British and German soldiers who settled in Canada later and also some rebels (emphasis mine).”

What amazes me about this particular story is not that there were two Robert Spencers — I’ve come to expect that — but that there were also two sloops called Katy, one American and one British. It nicely illustrates the importance of digging deeper to understand documents in their proper historical context, and not be lured into the trap of seeing only what we expect to find.

Sources

“Carlton Papers — Loyalists and British Soldiers, 1772-1784”, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx), New York, 1783, citing Robert Spencer, document page number 9183, MG 23 B1, Microfilm M-365, item number 206.

Turner, Jean-Rae, and Richard T. Koles. Elizabeth: First Capital of New Jersey, Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2003, p. 47. Google Books, https://books.google.com, accessed 29 June 2017.

Cyclopedia of New Jersey Biography, Memorial and Biographical: With the Assistance of the Following Advisory Committee : Joseph Fulford Folsom, Chairman ; Hiram Edmund Deats ; Charles Tiebout Cowenhoven ; Alfred M. Heston ; David Demarest Zabriskie ; John Stillwell Applegate ; Frank John Urquhart ; John Albert Blair ; George Mason La Monte ; Carlton P. Hoagland, Volume 1. New York: American Historical Society, Inc., 1921, p. 116. Google Books, https://books.google.com,  accessed 29 June 2017.

4 Ibid.

Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1643-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999, citing Robert Spencer in New Jersey Early Census Index, Trenton, Hunterdon, New Jersey, 1741, p. 50, accessed 29 June 2017.

Featured Image:  Continental Sloop Providence (1775-1779), (originally the sloop Katy before she was renamed), U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Painting in oils by W. Nowland Van Powell, licensed under CC0 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

The Robert Spencers of Canajoharie and Stamford, Upper Canada

Happy May!  The past few weeks have been really busy, and it seems like forever since I’ve had a chance to sit down and write. However, I’m seizing the day, and taking this opportunity to share a little bit more about my Canadian Loyalist ancestor, Robert Spencer (Sr.). Robert Spencer is a reasonably prominent individual in early Canadian history, being a Loyalist and all, and he has quite a number of proud descendants. So in sharing these records, I don’t mean to suggest that any of these discoveries are new — just that I find old documents like this to be especially cool.

As noted previously, Robert’s grandson, Adam Spencer, wrote his memoirs concerning his grandfather, and these recollections provide some wonderfully fertile ground for record-seeking. Adam recalled that his grandparents “settled on a farm of 200 acres at Schoharie beside the Mohawk,”and that

 “….grandfather joined the British standard, as a member of a volunteer corps, which company were noted for their daring bravery. Robert’s action in joining the British incensed his neighbors, many of whom were in sympathy with the Rebels (as they were called), that in his absence the family was robbed, and sadly dispoiled of their goods….his farm at Schoharie was confiscated to the state….” 1

This particular bit of the story can be documented with a manuscript recently digitized by the New York Public Library, entitled, List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, 1783 which was first compiled in 1802.2 This manuscript contains two references to Robert Spencer (Figure 1)

Robert Spencer indictment & judgment closeup page marked
Figure 1:  Entries for Robert Spencer in the List of Loyalists against whom judgements were given under the Confiscation Act, 1783.2

In both entries, Robert Spencer is reported to be from Canajohary (sic) in Tryon County. In the first entry at the top, he is reported to be a farmer, whereas in the second entry, he is recorded as a yeoman. The date of indictment, located in the next column, is recorded as “10th October 6th Indepen,” which is a reference to the 6th year of American independence, i.e. 1780. The judgement was signed on 15 July 1783 (Figure 2).2

judgement
Figure 2: Excerpt from manuscript showing indictment and judgement dates for Robert Spencer, farmer (line 1).2

The second entry for Robert Spencer, yeoman, indicates a different date of indictment, “14 June 5th Indepen” but with the same date of judgement, 15 July 1783 (Figure 3).2

Judgement 2
Figure 3:  Excerpt from manuscript showing indictment and judgement dates for Robert Spencer, yeoman (blocked out in red).2

How do we interpret these two different entries? That’s a good question. Robert Spencer was known to have a son, also named Robert Spencer, whose birth circa 1772 was recorded in the Dutch Reformed Church in Fonda, New York (Figure 3).3

Robert Spencer Jr birth 1772
Figure 3:  Birth record for Robert Spencer, son of Robert Spenser (sic) and Catrina Sternberg, born 10 August 1772 baptized 30 August 1772.3

The reason I say “circa” with reference to Robert’s birth is that the original record book seems to have been falling apart, so the original pages were apparently taped into a new notebook (shown above), but also recopied into yet another notebook (Figure 4), such that Ancestry offers three different “original” sources — with different dates —  for the same event (Figures 4 and 5).4,5

Robert Spencer Jr birth 2
Figure 4: Birth record for Robert Spenser (sic) son of Robert Spenser and Catrina Sternberg, born 10 August 1770, baptized 30 August 1772.4
Robert Spencer Jr birth 3
Figure 5:  Birth record for Robert Spenser (sic), son of Robert Spencer and Catrina Sternberg, born 10 August 1773, baptized 30 August 1773.5

In fact, if you’ll notice, Figures 5 and 3 are both clearly images of the same original, although the image in Figure 3 is a little nicer and more legible. However, Figure 3 was from “The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Reformed Church of Fonda, Baptisms, Marriages, Members, Consistory Minutes, 1758-1839,” whereas Figure 5 was from a collection with a slightly different title, “The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fonda Church, Baptisms, Marriages, 1797-1872,” all of which just goes to show you how important it is to understand the original source and its history as much as possible.

In any case, these “different” sources make it clear that Robert Spencer, Jr., was born circa 1772, which would have made him about 8 years old in 1780 at the time of the first indictment, or 7 years old in 1779 at the time of the second indictment. Could it be, then, that Robert Spencer, farmer, and Robert Spencer, yeoman, are father and son? Might a boy have had property in his name, and thus be subject to having the property confiscated due to his family’s Loyalist sentiments? Might the two indictments be referring to two different parcels of land, both owned by the same Robert Spencer, presumably the father? Could this be evidence of two different adult Robert Spencers, both Loyalists and both living in Canajoharie? Evidence from later Canadian sources does not seem to favor this last theory, but clearly, I’m going to have to dig deeper into the social and legal history of that time and place in order to understand this document.

The next part of Robert Spencer Sr.’s land story, as told to us by his grandson Adam, is that,

“….at the close of the war, the British government gave to the sufferers land in Canada in lieu of their losses as well as a reward for their services. When Robert got his discharge from the army, he went direct to Niagara and wrote this family to join him there…. In a short time he drew 200 acres of land, situated at the summit of the Whirlpool, where the united family settled, and soon succeeded in making a comfortable home.” 6

Loyalist Land Petitions are available online via the Library and Archives of Canada site. There are several databases in which these records might be found, based on date and location. Robert Spencer’s land petition was found in the database, “Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865),” which can be searched here. Robert’s petition (Figure 6) supports many of Adam’s recollections about his grandfather.

Robert Spencer Land Petition page 3 cropped
Figure 6: First page of Robert Spencer, Sr.’s petition for land, dated 1797.7

As the document states, the petitioner, Robert Spencer Sr.,

“Respectfully Shews —

That your petitioner served His Majesty last War in Colonel Butler’s late Corps of Rangers, and as only received 100 acres of land, which he has cultivated and improved — That your Petitioner brought in his family from the States in the Year 1785, which then consisted of a Wife and Six Children — That your Petitioner lost his wife four years ago, but hopes your Honor will be pleased to consider him as having served His Majesty during the late War, and having a large family to provide for will be pleased to grant him his residue as a reduced soldier, and such further grant for himself his family, as your Honor may think proper, and your petitioner will as in duty bound ever pray —  Robert [his mark, X] Spencer

Niagara, 27th Jany ’97”

This wonderful document verifies Robert’s service in Butler’s Rangers, which was the “volunteer corps” alluded to by Adam Spencer. It also verifies the year of the family’s arrival in Upper Canada, the number of his children, the date of his wife Catherine’s death, and their place of residence in the Niagara district.

The file also contains evidence that Robert’s petition was successful.  A second page states that,

“The Petition of Robert Spencer — 143 [was] rec’d 27th Jany 1797 [at the Executive Council Office] Read [in Council] on 11 Mar 1797. Ordered 200 acres to complete his Military Lands and 350 acres family lands if not granted before.” 7

Robert Spencer Land Petition page 2 crop
Figure 7:  Second page of Robert Spencer, Sr.’s petition for land, dated 1797.7

Although a period map showing Robert Spencer’s land grants is not available online, the Niagara Settlers site offers a database in which one can search for settlers’ names on early maps. According to their database, Robert Spencer’s land grants are shown on two maps:

On an undated map of Township No. 2—Stamford (Mount Dorchester) in the Surveyor General’s Office, probably drawn in the mid to late 1780’s, Robert Spencer was named on Lots 16 and 17 Concession 2 from the Niagara River a short distance north of Niagara Falls. The lot was later renumbered.

On a map of the Township of Stamford by Surveyor Thos. Ridout, dated December 22, 1813, Robert Spencer was named on Lots 74 and 119 Stamford Twp.”

The site offers links to versions of these two maps, which were redrawn in 1983 by Maggie Parnall from her publication, The Mini Atlas of Early Settlers in the District of Niagara, which is currently out of print. The undated Stamford map is found here, and the 1813 map is found here.

As you can see from those maps, the location of Robert Spencer’s land is consistent with Adam Spencer’s recollection that his grandfather’s lands were “situated at the summit of the Whirlpool.”  Note that these particular maps are oriented “upside down” with South at the top of the compass rose, but it’s clear that Robert’s lands were pretty much opposite the bend in the river where the whirlpool is located. If you examine the modern map at that location, you can see that this land is more or less where the Whirlpool Golf Course is located now (Figure 8).

Whirlpool golf course
Figure 8: Whirlpool Golf Course, Niagara Falls, Ontario, courtesy of Google Maps.

Someday I look forward to tracing the property records more thoroughly so I can understand how the lands granted to my ancestor from the British Crown became a golf course, but that’s another research project for another day.

 

Sources:

Spencer, Adam.  “OId Time Experiences In the Bush and On the Farm”.  Canadian Friends Historical Association 19 (March 1977):  p. 5-6, transcribed from “At Rest:  Adam Spencer Called Home,” Norwich Gazette, 29 August 1889, p. 3, col. 5.

2 List of loyalists against whom judgments were given under the Confiscation Act, 1783, compiled 1802; Image 25, entries for Robert Spencer, farmer, of Canajohary, Tryon County, and Robert Spencer, yeoman, of Canajohary, Tryon County, accessed on 10 May 2017; Thomas Addis Emmet collection; Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, New York, NY.

Ancestry.com, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Reformed Church of Fonda, Baptisms, Marriages, Members, Consistory Minutes, 1758-1839, record for Robert Spenser, accessed on 10 May 2017.

Ancestry.com, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fonda Church, Baptisms, Marriages, 1797-1872. Record for Robert Spenser, accessed on 10 May 2017.

Ancestry.com, U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, The Archives of the Reformed Church in America; New Brunswick, New Jersey; Fonda Church, Baptisms, Marriages, 1797-1872. Record for Robert Spencer, accessed on 10 May 2017.

Spencer, Adam, “OId Time Experiences In the Bush and On the Farm,”  Canadian Friends Historical Association 19 (March 1977):  p. 6, transcribed from “At Rest:  Adam Spencer Called Home,” Norwich Gazette, 29 August 1889, p. 3, col. 5.

7“Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865)”, Government of Canada, Library and Archives of Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx), Niagara, 1797, Land Petition for Robert Spencer, Volume 449, Bundle S-2, Petition 143, Reference RG 1 L3, Microfilm C-2806, digital images 994- 997.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

The Sad Tale of the Zieliński Family of Mistrzewice

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Stanisław Zieliński was born on 6 April 1863, the third child and oldest son of the known children of Michał Zieliński and Antonina Ciećwierz. He married Marianna Kalota, daughter of Roch Kalota and Agata Kurowska, circa 1885, probably in Marianna’s home parish of Młodzieszyn. Unfortunately, most vital records for Młodzieszyn were destroyed, including all marriage records prior to 1889, which likely explains why their marriage record has not been found.  The Zieliński family were ethnic Poles living in historically Polish lands that were at that time part of the Russian Empire. Like his father, Michał, Stanisław Zieliński was a gospodarz, which Shea and Hoffman define as a “farmer (one fairly well off, owning his own land), landlord.”Stanisław and Marianna made their home in Mistrzewice, where his parents were living, rather than in the nearby village of Budy Stare, where Marianna was born.

On 16 September 1886, Stanisław and Marianna welcomed their first child:  a son, Franciszek.  A second son, Antoni, was born on 6 May 1889. However, he only lived for 5 months before passing away on 5 October 1890.  Families were all too accustomed to high infant mortality in those days, so perhaps it was some consolation to Marianna and Stanisław that she was already pregnant with their third child as they buried little Antoni.  Their third son, Piotr, was born on 4 May 1891, but his death was recorded in the parish books of Mistrzewice only one week later.

Little Franciszek had already turned six years old when his brother Józef was born on 10 October 1892. Two years later, on Christmas Eve, another brother, Szczepan, joined the family. Stanisław and Marianna welcomed two more sons, Władysław and Jan, on 20 March 1897 and 20 March 1899, respectively, and then three daughters were born:  Władysława, on 25 June 1901, Marianna, on 14 September 1903, and Zofia, on 25 November 1907.  Sadly, little Marianna lived for just two and a half months2 before she joined her brothers Antoni and Piotr in the parish cemetery.

In March of 1907, Franciszek decided to head out into the world and seek employment opportunities in America.  A young man, 21 years of age, he had already completed three years of compulsory military service in the Russian infantry, which was a distasteful obligation for most Poles. It’s not clear what factors influenced him in his decision to leave his homeland, but at the end of March in 1907, Franciszek departed from the Port of Bremen, arriving at Ellis Island on 7 April 1907. He was bound for Buffalo, New York.

There is some evidence to suggest that Frank’s younger brother, Joseph, joined him in the U.S. circa 1909 and then returned to Poland prior to his “official” arrival in the U.S. in 1912. The best match for Frank Zielinski in the 1910 U.S. census was to a man who was boarding with Anthony and Mary Lapinski in Buffalo, New York, along with another boarder, Joseph “Rzolek,” — and one Joseph Zielinski, all immigrants from Russian Poland. In this document, Frank and Joseph Zielinski are reported to be ages 26 and 20, respectively, suggesting birth years of 1884 and 1890, making them both exactly two years older than expected for my relatives. Frank reported arriving in the U.S. in 1906, while Joseph reported arriving in 1909. (No good match for his passenger manifest circa 1909 has been located as of yet.) Both men were working in a foundry (possibly Lackawanna Steel Company), Frank as a molder and Joseph as a core maker.  These occupations are interesting in light of the fact that Joseph reported his occupation as molder on the record of his 1915 marriage to Genevieve Klaus. Nonetheless, Zielinski is a very common Polish surname — so much so that the 1925 New York State Census shows a 35-year-old boarder named Joseph Zielinski living with the family of my great-grandparents Joseph and Genevieve Zielinski in North Tonawanda. When I asked my grandfather, John Zielinski, about that boarder, he remembered the man and insisted he was not a relative, it was just a crazy coincidence.

There is no evidence to suggest that Frank returned to Poland after his arrival in the U.S. in 1907. However, if the Joseph in the 1910 census is my great-grandfather, then he must have gone back to Poland some time after April 27, 1910 and then returned to the U.S. on 3 September 1912 on the S.S. Grosser Kurfürst, which is the date which corresponds to his arrival per his naturalization papers. The passenger described on this manifest is an incontrovertible match to my great-grandfather. On line 3, “Josef Zelinski” is reported to be a 20-year-old Pole from Russia whose last residence was “Mestanice,” and whose father, Stanisław Zelinski, was living in “Mistrzewice, Warsaw.” Joseph was headed to North Tonawanda, New York, and the second page reveals that he was specifically headed to his brother, Franciszek Zielinski at 7 Sawyer Avenue. His place of birth was recorded as something vaguely akin to “Mistrzewice.” Interestingly, Joseph’s answers to the questions about any previous travel to the U.S, support the idea that he was not in the U.S. previously, and it’s difficult to state with certainty that the Joseph Zielinski in the 1910 census is indeed the same man.

By 1915, Frank was boarding with the family of Joseph and Mary Brodowski at 65 7th Avenue in North Tonawanda and working as a laborer in the steel mill.  His brother Joseph was similarly working in the steel mill while boarding down the street with the family of Peter and Bronisława Kwiatkowski at 44 7th Avenue in North Tonawanda — but not for long.  On 5 October of that year, Joseph married 18-year-old Genowefa (Genevieve) Klaus.

Figure 1:  Józef Zieliński and Genowefa Klaus, 5 October 1915, North Tonawanda, New York.Genowefa Klaus and Jozef Zielinski wedding.jpg

Joseph’s brother, Frank, seated on the bride’s left, was his best man (Figure 2).

Figure 2:  Wedding party of Józef Zieliński and Genowefa Klaus, 5 October 1915. Genevieve Klaus & Joseph Zielinski wedding party

Genevieve was born in North Tonawanda to Andrzej and Marianna (née Łącka) Klaus, Polish immigrants from the Galicia region of the Austrian Empire. As Józek and Genia (Joe and Jenny, as they were called in English) settled into married life, however, his family in Poland was experiencing dark days. World War I was raging in Europe, and Mistrzewice, situated in the path of the advancing German army on its way to Warsaw, found itself in the midst of battle. The period from December 1914 through July 1915 witnessed the harshest devastation at the hands of both the Germans and the Russians.  German soldiers stripped homes and farms in Mistrzewice, Młodzieszyn, and the surrounding villages of whatever materials they could repurpose for the building of fortifications and trenches. As the Germany army advanced, many Polish peasants became refugees, fleeing eastward in the hope of survival.  However, as the Russian army retreated, they were ordered to “expel the ‘enemy’ nations within,” killing Poles, Jews, and other ethnic groups in keeping with the Tsarist policy of ethnic homogenization. It is estimated that 70,000 soldiers were killed on both sides during this battle of the Rawka-Bzura, some of whom were buried in the cemeteries in Mistrzewice and Młodzieszyn, and there are no good estimates for the number of civilian peasants from this area who were casualities of the war.

It was on August 13 of that year that Frank and Joseph’s youngest sister, 7-year-old Zofia, died. Her death certificate does not reveal her cause of death. Did she die of some childhood illness like her siblings?  Was her death a direct cause of the war — being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a victim of a stray bullet? Or did her family try to flee the village, and she perished as a result of the typhus, choleratyphoid, malaria, or dysentery that were prevalent among both soldiers and refugees? What is clear from her death record is that her death was not reported until 31 December 1915 because of the war (Figure 3).

Figure 3:  Death record from Młodzieszyn for Zofia Zielińska, 1915.Zofia Zielinska death 1915 cropIn translation, this document states,

“#102. Mistrzewice. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the thirty-first day of December in the year one thousand nine hundred fifteen at five o’clock in the afternoon. They appeared, Piotr Szewczyk, age fifty, and Ludwik Grzegorek, age sixty-eight, farmers residing in the village of Mistrzewice, and stated that, on the thirteenth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred fifteen, at six o’clock in the afternoon, died in the village of Mistrzewice, Zofia Zielińska, a girl having seven years of age, daughter of Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna nee Kalota, the spouses Zieliński, land-owning farmers residing in the village of Mistrzewice; born and residing with her parents in the village of Mistrzewice. The delay in the registration of this act happened due to the war. After confirmation of the death of Zofia Zielińska, this document was read aloud to the witnesses but was signed only by Us. [Signed] Fr. K. Kopański, administrator of Młodzieszyn parish performing the duties of civil registrar.”

Just four months after Zofia’s death and two months after his son Joseph’s wedding in North Tonawanda, Stanisław Zieliński passed away on 23 December 1915.3  At the time of his death, his sons Szczepan, Władysław and Jan were 21, 18 and 16, respectively, and daughter Władysława was 14 years old. It’s not clear how, or if, the boys managed to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. Szczepan’s death record in June of 1916 mentions only that he was born in the village of Mistrzewice and was residing there with his mother (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  Death record from Młodzieszyn for Szczepan Zieliński, 1916.4Szczepan Zielinski death 1916 cropTranslation:

“#78. Mistrzewice. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the sixteenth day of June in the year one thousand nine hundred sixteen at six o’clock in the morning. They appeared, Piotr Szewczyk, age sixty, and Ludwik Grzegorek, age sixty-two, farmers residing in the village of Mistrzewice, and stated that, on the fourteenth day of June in the current year, at six o’clock in the morning, died in the village of Mistrzewice, Szczepan Zieliński, bachelor, aged twenty, son of Stanisław and Maryanna nee Kalota, the spouses Zieliński, landowning farmers; born in the village of Mistrzewice and residing there with his mother. After eyewitness confirmation of the death of Szczepan Zieliński, this document was read to the illiterate witnesses and was signed only by us.[signed] Administrator of the parish of Młodzieszyn acting as civil registrar, Fr. Kaj. Kopański.”

Although no mention is made of military service, it is nonetheless possible that the Szczepan was fighting in the war.  A genealogist friend in Poland explained that death records would sometimes state that the deceased was a soldier, and indicate what country he was killed in, but that it depended on the priest.  Many priests were afraid to disclose such information. In the parish of Baranowo, he explained, a priest was killed by a Russian officer for singing the song, “Boże, coś Polskę” Many people lived in fear.

Meanwhile, in North Tonawanda, Joe and Jenny welcomed their first child, John Frank Zielinski (my grandfather), on 18 October 1916 (Figure 5).

Figure 5:  John Frank Zielinski, circa early 1917.John Zielinski circa 1916

But while the family in North Tonawanda thrived and grew, the family in Mistrzewice continued to suffer, and on 13 April 1917, Joe Zielinski’s brother Jan died at the age of 18 (Figure 6).5 

Figure 6:  Death record from Młodzieszyn for Jan Zieliński, 1917.Jan Zielinski death 1917 crop

Again, no mention was made of the cause of death, and whether it was a direct or indirect result of the war. The record only states that he was born in the village of Mistrzewice in the local parish and was living there with his mother.

On 6 April 1917, the U.S. declared war on the German Empire, and in June of that year, Joseph and Frank were required to register for the draft. As resident aliens, they were supposed to be placed in Draft Class V:  Exempt and Ineligible. However, local draft boards had the authority to assign draft classes on a case-by-case basis, and Frank Zielinski’s status as a single man with prior military experience and no dependents made him a desirable candidate for the draft, regardless of the fact that he was a Russian citizen. The particulars of Frank’s military story are an interesting tale in themselves (and a topic on which I’ve lectured previously), and deserve to be told in depth at another time. But as his service record indicates, Frank was inducted on 24 February 1918, and sent overseas on 7 April 1918 as a member of the 307th Infantry Regiment, Company C. Frank Zielinski was killed in action on 25 October 1918, shot through the head by a sniper’s bullet.6 The oldest son of Stanisław and Marianna Zieliński is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France, although available evidence suggests that he was never naturalized, and there is no evidence to suggest that he ever wished to be an American citizen (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Gravesite of Frank Zielinski.MA-Zielinski, Frank, C-14-10

Joe and Jenny Zielinski’s second child, Frank Walter, was born  on 2 September 1918, named after his uncle who was serving in the war.  The following spring, Joseph Zielinski filed his Declaration of Intent to Naturalize on 18 March 1919. 7 His family in North Tonawanda was growing, and he must have felt that life in the U.S. was good.  As further evidence of Joe’s intentions to remain in the U.S., correspondence with the U.S. Quartermaster General’s office, dated 13 March 1919, indicates that Joe wished to have his brother’s remains returned home for burial in North Tonawanda (Figures 8a and 8b), although he was concerned about the expense of shipping the body.8 

Figure 8a:  First page of letter from Joseph Zielinski to the Quartermaster General’s Office, dated 13 March 1919.Page 23 March 13 1919 Letter from Joseph Zielinski cropped

Figure 8b:  Second page of letter from Joseph Zielinski to Quartermaster General’s Office.Page 24 Letter from Joseph Zielinski p 2

As the family flourished in the U.S., it continued to diminish in Poland. That autumn, on 30 September 1919, Joe’s 17-year-old sister, Władysława, died in Mistrzewice.7 Her death left only 22-year-old Władysław to manage the family farm and care for his aging mother, Marianna. However, eighteen months later, tragedy struck the Zieliński family in Poland once more, as Władysław Zieliński died on 23 March 1921, a few days after his 24th birthday.10  It’s difficult to imagine what a great loss this must have been for Marianna.  She had borne 10 children, and 9 of them preceded her in death, including 8 children who died before the age of 30. Her only surviving son was living in the U.S., leaving her alone in Poland to manage the farm as a 64-year-old widow.

Władysław’s death was almost certainly the impetus for Joe Zielinski’s decision to move his family back to Poland. Although his uncle’s death was not mentioned by my grandfather, Grandpa clearly remembered traveling to Poland as a young boy, and living there for a period of time that he remembered as about 6 months. Their exact departure date is not known, but they were definitely gone by 28 April 1921.  Additional correspondence from Frank Zielinski’s burial records file indicates that a letter sent to Joe Zielinski was returned on that date, marked “undelieverable” by the Post Office in North Tonawanda with the additional note, “Old Country” (Figure 9):

Figure 9:  Copy of envelope returned to the Quartermaster General’s Office by the North Tonawanda, New York post office.Page 31 Apr 28 1921 Envelope to Jos Zielinski marked undeliverable.jpg

When they departed for Poland in the spring of 1921, Joe and Jenny’s family included 4 1/2 year old John, almost-3-year-old Frank, and baby Helen, born 2 August 1920.  Jenny was also newly pregnant with their fourth child, Stanley Joseph (named after his paternal grandfather Stanisław and his father), who would be born on 11 November 1921. The family traveled on board the R.M.S. Olympic — sister ship to the Titanic (Figures 10a and 10b).

Figure 10a: Original postcard from the Zielinskis’ voyage to Poland, showing the Olympic.R.M.S. Olympic postcard

Figure 10b:  Reverse of the postcard.Reverse of postcard from RMS Olympic

Although he was very young, my Grandpa vividly remembered certain experiences from the trip:  tasting bananas for the first time on board the ship, chasing oranges that the sailors would roll across the ship’s deck for the children, and staring at all the soldiers’ helmets still lying in the creek behind his grandmother’s farm, a grim reminder of the recent war. He recalled riding in a horse-drawn wagon to the markets in Sochaczew and Warsaw. And he remembered his grandmother, Marianna, as a rather unkind woman.  This impression was confirmed by Grandpa’s maternal cousin Julia Ziomek, who was three years older than he, and who shared with me her memories of conversations with her Aunt Jenny about that trip to Poland.  Julia’s stories suggest that Joe and Jenny may have considered this as a permanent relocation.  She recalled that Aunt Jenny had shipped packages of household supplies to Poland in advance of their journey, with the expectation that her mother-in-law would keep these things and have them ready for Jenny to set up housekeeping upon their arrival.  Instead, Marianna deemed the items unnecessary, and donated them to the parish priest, which caused some consternation upon Jenny and Joe’s arrival. Cousin Julia also recalled Jenny’s comments about the unkindness of her mother-in-law to her children, scolding them harshly and calling them “dim-witted.” After only a few months, Jenny was ready to go back home to North Tonawanda, and apparently, Joe was persuaded. On 10 August 1921, my American-born grandfather entered Ellis Island with his family to resume the life they’d left behind.

Marianna Zielińska’s remembered harshness seems much more understandable in light of these new death records that tell the whole story of her suffering and loss.  One can easily forgive a lack of patience with the children, given that she had just buried her ninth child when my grandfather and his family arrived in Poland.  Perhaps she was embittered by so much loss and heartbreak, leaving her fearful of becoming emotionally close to her grandchildren. Perhaps Joe and Jenny tried to persuade her to sell the farm and return with them to North Tonawanda, and Marianna’s ill-temper arose from the stress of having to choose between her surviving son and her homeland.  Although those details are lost, it is known that Marianna remained in Poland, moving in with her sister in Budy Stare. She died on 4 April 1936 (Figure 11).11 

Figure 11:  Death record from Młodzieszyn for Marianna Zielińska, 1936.Marianna Zielinska death 1936Translation:

“No. 16, Budy Stare. It happened in Młodzieszyn on 4th April 1936 at 8:00 in the morning. They appeared, Stanisław Wilanowski, age 40, farmer of Mistrzewice, and Kazimierz Tomczak, farmer of Juliopol, age 26, and stated that, on this day today, at 5:00 in the morning, in Budy Stare, died Marianna née Kalota Zielińska, widow, age 79, born and residing with her sister in Budy Stare, daughter of the late Roch and Agata née Kurowska, farmers. After eyewitness testimony to the death of Marianna Zielińska, this document was read aloud to the witnesses but signed only by us. Pastor of the Parish of Młodzieszyn acting as Civil Registrar.”

Rest in peace now, Marianna.  Your story has been told.

Sources:

Where possible, sources are linked directly within the text. Citations for sources not available online appear below.

1 Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman, In Their Words:  A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin and Russian Documents:  Volume I:  Polish, (New Britain, CT: Language & Lineage Press, 2000), p. 305.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1903, #102, death record for Marianna Zielińska.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1915, #101, death record for Stanisław Zieliński.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1916, #78, death record for Szczepan Zieliński.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1917, #20, death record for Jan Zieliński.

Report from Private Henry Davies regarding Frank Zielinski’s cause of death, Records of the Quartermaster General’s Office, 1915-1939, Burial Case File for Private Frank Zerlintski, serial number 1680271, Record Group 92, National Archives Identifier 595318, National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

Niagara, New York, Naturalization Records, Declarations of Intent to Naturalize, #4244, record for Joseph Zielinski, 18 March 1919.

8 Letter from Joseph Zielinski to the Quartermaster General’s office regarding disposition of remains of Private Frank Zielinski, dated 13 March 1919, Records of the Quartermaster General’s Office, 1915-1939, Burial Case File for Private Frank Zerlintski, serial number 1680271, Record Group 92, National Archives Identifier 595318, National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1919, #75, death record for Władysława Zielińska.

10 Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1921, #24, death record for Władysław Zieliński.

11 Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1936, #16, death record for Marianna Zielińska.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

The Case of the Zombie Bride: Epilogue

In my last post, I mentioned a recent batch of records gifted to me by a friend in Poland, which finally gave me insight into the reason why I have no remaining cousins left in Mistrzewice, which was the ancestral home of my great-grandfather, Józef Zieliński. To briefly recap, I’d been holding out hope that there might be some Zieliński cousins in the village of Bęczkowice, since a marginal note on the baptismal record for my great-grandfather’s sister, Władysława, stated that she married Józef Żak in that parish in 1923. However, I discovered the death record of this same Władysława Zielińska in 1919, suggesting that one of these records was incorrect:  either the priest recorded the wrong name on the death record, or he recorded the marriage notation incorrectly. I had hoped it was the latter — on my first pass through that recent batch of records for Młodzieszyn, I did not see any marriage or death record for my great-grandfather’s sister, Marianna Zielińska. I hoped that perhaps the priest meant to record her marriage in 1923 and recorded it on her sister’s baptismal record by mistake. The only way to know for certain was to call the parish in Bęczkowice or the civil registry office in Łęki Szlacheckie, and request a copy of the marriage record.

This past week, I received my answer, and it was not an outcome I’d anticipated. It was, indeed, Władysława Zielińska from the parish in Młodzieszyn who married Józef Żak in Bęczkowice in 1923. However, it was a different Władysława Zielińska. As you can see from a search of birth records in Geneteka for this parish, there were two girls named Władysława Zielińska who were close in age (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Search result for births in Młodzieszyn of girls named Władysława Zielińska.Geneteka search for Wladyslawa

My great-grandaunt was the one born in 1901, daughter of Stanisław and Marianna Kalota. The marriage record from Bęczkowice specified that the bride’s parents were Władysław and Weronika Nowicka. So the priest recorded the marriage notation on the wrong baptismal record, and Bęczkowice is a dead end for me — there is no hope of finding Zieliński cousins there.

What, then, became of Władysława’s sister, Marianna Zielińska?  A second, more thorough pass through the records produced her death record in 1903.1 What of the other siblings, Szczepan, Władysław, Jan, and Zofia?  I’d like to tell their story in more detail, within the context of the family history, in another post.  So until next time, happy researching.

Sources:

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1903, #102, death record for Marianna Zielińska

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

The Case of the Zombie Bride

Genealogy friends are pretty great to have.  Some of them are even so awesome that they remember your parishes of interest and surprise you with a gift of records from that parish, just because they know you’ll be thrilled.  I’m lucky enough to have a friend like that. He happened to have access to some civil registers from my ancestral parish of Młodzieszyn, where my Zieliński and Kalota ancestors were from, and gifted me with some key records for my family.  Since these marriage and death records are more than 80 years old, they’re open to the public.  However, my friend’s generosity saved me from a lengthy wait for the civil registrar to reply to my letter, or from the necessity of hiring a researcher to obtain these documents from the local registry office on my behalf.

The records answered a question that’s been plaguing me for several years now:  why don’t I have any living Zieliński relatives in Mistrzewice?  I rather expected that I would. I’ve been able to connect with cousins in Poland who were still living in another village, Bronisławy, which my great-grandfather Jan Zarzycki left in 1895.  Based on this experience, I expected to find some trace of my Zieliński family in Mistrzewice, the village in which my great-grandfather Józef (Joseph) Zieliński was born, and where he lived as recently as 1921, when he returned to Poland with his American-born wife, Genowefa (Genevieve), and three children, including my grandfather. From what I can gather from family stories, his intention was to stay in Poland and take care of the family farm, after having made some money in the U.S. However, family stories suggest that his wife Genevieve did not get along well with her mother-in-law.  After about six months, Joseph, Genevieve and their children returned to the U.S., and Joseph finally obtained U.S. citizenship.  Although I had little hope that any present-day residents of the village would recall Joseph and Genevieve’s six-month sojourn in their village, I had another reason to suspect that my family might still be remembered in Mistrzewice. During the course of my research, I discovered that Joseph had six younger siblings, who were previously unknown to our family. Surely some of them must have stayed in Mistrzewice, married, and had children there?

However, in 2013, a professional researcher who visited the village and interviewed residents there was unable to locate any Zielińskis who were related to me in a way that could be easily determined.  When I visited the village in 2015, I confirmed his finding.  There are residents of the village with the surname Zieliński who are probably related to me more distantly, but there were no descendants of any of Joseph’s younger siblings. Perhaps it seems obvious that that my Zieliński family is no longer in Mistrzewice because the family either moved away, or died out.  As a genealogist, however, I’d like to know which one it is.  With that in mind, let’s begin by examining the evidence that existed for my Zieliński family prior to this new gift of records from my friend in Poland.

The Zieliński Family of Mistrzewice and Młodzieszyn

My great-grandfather, Józef Zieliński, was the fourth child of Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna née Kalota from Mistrzewice, in Sochaczew County.  Originally, Mistrzewice had its own parish church. However, in 1898 the parish was closed and the village was assigned to the nearby parish in Młodzieszyn, so records for this family are found in Mistrzewice until 1898 but in Młodzieszyn after that. Their family included:

No marriage or death records for any of the youngest six children were found in the scans online for Mistrzewice or Młodzieszyn at Metryki. However, scans only go up to 1898 for marriages and 1901 for deaths, so all I really knew was that Szczepan, Władysław, Jan, Władysława, Marianna, and Zofia did not die before 1901.

A lucky marginal note on the baptismal record for one of the daughters, Władysława, gave me an additional clue about her fate (Figure 1):

Figure 1: Polish marginal note on 1901 Russian baptismal record for Władysława Zielińska.116-119

The marginal note states that Władysława Zielińska entered into marriage with Józef Żak on 22 April 1923 in the parish church in Bęczkowice.  There’s only one place in Poland called Bęczkowice, and it’s about 100 miles south of Mistrzewice (Figure 2):

Figure 2:  Geographic relationship between Mistrzewice and Bęczkowice, courtesy of Google Maps.Mistrzewice map

From this we know that at least one of Joseph’s younger siblings survived to a marriageable age, we know her married surname, and we know she had no descendants left in Mistrzewice because she moved to Bęczkowice.  So did the whole family leave the village, then, or just Władysława?

A partial answer to this was found in the death record for the family matriarch, Marianna (née Kalota) Zielińska, which I requested from the local civil records office in Młodzieszyn several years ago (Figure 3):

Figure 3:  Death record from Młodzieszyn for Marianna Zielińska, 1936.1Marianna Zielinska death

The death record describes the deceased as, “….Marianna (née Kalota) Zielińska, widow, age seventy-nine, born and residing with her sister in Budy Stare, daughter of the late Roch and Agata née Kurowska, farmers.”  So Marianna, at least, died while residing in a village within the parish of Młodzieszyn, suggesting that the entire family didn’t move to Bęczkowice together. Moreover, the fact that she was living with her sister in Budy Stare, rather than with one of her children on the family farm in Mistrzewice, lends further support to the idea that the other children had also moved out of the village or were already deceased at the time of Marianna’s death.

The Zombie Bride

This was the point to which my research had progressed until this week, when my friend gave me the records I needed to finally understand what happened to each of my great-grandfather’s youngest six siblings.  I’ll have to tell most of this story another time, but suffice it to say that there is evidence in the marriage or death records for all but one of them. However, this evidence wasn’t completely unambiguous.  Among the records I found was this 1919 death record for none other than Władysława Zielińska — the same Władysława whose baptismal record contains the marginal note about her marriage in 1923 (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  Death record from Młodzieszyn for Władysława Zielińska, 1919.Wladyslawa Zielinska death 1919 crop

In translation, the record states,

“#75, Mistrzewice. This happened in the village of Młodzieszyn on the second day of October in the year one thousand nine hundred nineteen at ten o’clock in the morning.  They appeared, Piotr Szewczyk, age sixty, and Stefan Kęski, age twenty-eight, land-owning farmers in the village of Mistrzewice, and stated that, on the thirtieth day of September of the current year, at one o’clock at night, died in the village of Mistrzewice, Władysława Zielińska, single, age seventeen, daughter of Stanisław, no longer living, and Marianna née Kalota, the spouses Zieliński, land-owning farmers; born in the village of Mistrzewice in the local parish, living with her mother in the village of Mistrzewice. After visual confirmation of the death of Władysława Zielińska, this document was read to the witnesses, who are not able to write, and was signed by us. [Signed] Administrator of the parish of Młodzieszyn acting as Civil Registrar, Fr. K. Kopański.”

The parents’ names indicated here, Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota, are exactly the same as those on the 1901 birth record for Władysława Zielińska.  The age of the deceased, 17 years, is approximately consistent with what we’d expect for a young woman born in 1901. Technically, she should have been reported to be age 18, but this amount of variation is within the norm for Polish records from this time period. There was definitely only one Zieliński couple living in Mistrzewice with the names Stanisław and Marianna, so it’s not possible that the priest simply recorded the wrong maiden name for the mother of the deceased.  So either we have a zombie bride who died in 1919 and then married in 1923, or there’s some other explanation.

My current hypothesis is that the death record for Władysława Zielińska is correct — she really did die in 1919 — but that the priest recorded the marginal notation about the marriage on the wrong baptismal record.  The only sibling not accounted for in the records given to me by my friend is Marianna Zielińska, born 14 September 1903.  So I think that the priest meant to write that Marianna Zielińska married Józef Żak on 22 April 1923 in the parish church in Bęczkowice. It seems more likely that he would incorrectly record a marriage that took place in a distant parish, rather than the death of a young woman buried from his own parish church, whose funeral he probably conducted personally. Of course, the only way to know for certain is to obtain the marriage record for Józef Żak and his Zielińska bride — whichever sister she was — from the civil registry office in Łęki Szlacheckie, which serves the village of Bęczkowice. Fortunately, Polish privacy laws have relaxed a bit in recent years, and it’s now possible to obtain death and marriage records after only 80 years instead of 100, which was the required interval when I first discovered that marriage notation for “Władysława” Zielińska. (That’s the reason why I didn’t just request a copy of that marriage record right away — they wouldn’t have given it to me because the marriage took place less than 100 years ago.)

Hopefully, the marriage record from Łęki Szlacheckie will tell me everything I need to know. Stay tuned for an update!  In the meantime, I’m going to kick back tonight and raise a glass to my friend in Poland, in gratitude for the gift of family history that he’s given me.  Dziękuję, i na zdrowie!

Sources:

Sources not available online are cited below. Click links in blog post for documents available online.

1 Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1936, deaths, #16, record for Marjanna z Kalotów Zielińska.

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie, 1919, deaths, #75, record for Władysława Zielińska.

 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017