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!


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,, 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,, 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!


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, Operations Inc, 2008),, 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, Operations, Inc., 2010),, 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, Operations Inc, 2008),, 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, Operations Inc, 2008),, 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: Operations Inc, 2005),, 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,, 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,, 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,, 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,, 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,, 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

Playing “Telephone” Across Generations: Documenting Family Stories

Family stories are always the starting point for genealogy research. Beginners are typically instructed to start with themselves and work backwards, interviewing older family members or generational peers to discover what they remember, or remember hearing, about past generations. Often it feels like a game of “telephone” played out over many decades. You may remember “telephone” as that game in which a number of players stand in a circle, and a complicated phrase is whispered from one person to the next. Repetition is not allowed, so although each person does his best to listen carefully, the phrase becomes distorted, often comically, as it is passed around. Finally the result is whispered to the person who began the game, who announces what the original phrase actually was, and everyone gets a good laugh. As family historians, our job is to sift out the wheat from the chaff, using our ancestors’ paper trail to document what we can from the family stories, but keeping in mind that not everything we were told is going to be verifiable.

I became interested in my family history soon after I was married in 1991. My husband and I were incredibly fortunate to have six living grandparents at that time, as well as plenty of their siblings still living. As I’ve tried to document all the many bits of information I gathered from them, one truth in particular has emerged:  if an older relative remembers a specific name, it’s safe to say that the person is connected to the family in some way, even if it’s not in the way that he or she remembers. Remembered names aren’t just pulled out of thin air.

As one example of this, I interviewed Uncle Mike Stevenson (Szczepankiewicz) about the Szczepankiewicz family history. Uncle Mike was the youngest brother of my husband’s grandfather, Stephen Szczepankiewicz. Although he knew a great deal about his father from his mother’s stories, Uncle Mike had never met him: he died on 14 February 1926,1 and Uncle Mike was born 3 months later, on 23 May 1926.Nonetheless, Uncle Mike proved to be a reliable source. He told me that his father, Michael Szczepankiewicz, had never naturalized. This assertion is validated by the 1925 New York State census, in which Michael Szczepankiewicz is listed as an alien (Figure 1):3

Figure 1:  Extract of 1925 New York State census showing Michael Szczepankiewicz and family.3michael-szczepankiewicz-family-1925

This extract shows that 49-year-old Michael Szczepankiewicz was born in Poland, had been living in the U.S. for 20 years, was an alien (“al”) at the time of the census, and was employed in “building labor.” Since Michael died in 1926, and the naturalization process took longer than a year, it would not have been possible for him to naturalize prior to his death. Uncle Mike also mentioned that his father was a stone mason who helped to build Transfiguration Church in Buffalo. Although I have yet to document this directly (maybe payroll records exist in the archive of the diocese of Buffalo dating back to the construction of Transfiguration Church?), the fact that Michael was a construction laborer is consistent with that claim.

When I asked Uncle Mike about the family of his mother, Agnes (née Wolińska) Szczepankiewicz, he told me that Agnes’s mother was named Apolonia Bogacka. Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out. Records showed that Agnes’s mother’s name was Tekla, as shown by the 1892 census for New York State (Figure 2): 4

Figure 2:  Extract from 1892 census of New York State showing the family of Joseph Wolinski, including wife “Teckla” (sic).4wolinski-family-1892

So where did the name “Apolonia Bogacka” come from? The answer was found in the 1900 census (Figure 3).5  Living with Joseph Wolinski’s family is his mother-in-law, “Paline” Bogacka.  The name “Pauline” was commonly used by women named Apolonia in the U.S. as a more American-sounding equivalent.

Figure 3:  Extract from the 1900 U.S. Federal census showing the family of Joseph Wolinski, including mother-in-law “Paline” (sic) Bogacka.5joseph-wolinski-family-1900-census

So it turns out that Uncle Mike’s great-grandmother had also emigrated, and he was confusing her name with the name of his grandmother!

As another example, my grandfather’s first cousin, Jul Ziomek, told me in a 1992 interview that the mother of her grandmother, Mary (née Łącka) Klaus, was named Janina Unicka. Jul was a very reliable source in other matters, but in this case, her memory did not serve her well. The civil record for Mary Klaus’s second marriage, to Władysław Olszanowicz, tells us that her mother’s name was (phonetically) Anna “Taskavich” (Figure 4).6

Figure 4:  Civil marriage record from North Tonawanda, New York, for Mary Klaus and Władysław Olsanowic (sic).6mary-klaus-second-marriage

The correct spelling of Mary’s mother’s name in Polish is found on Mary’s baptismal record from her home village of Kołaczyce — she was Anna Ptaszkiewicz (Figure 5).7

Figure 5:  Baptismal record from Kołaczyce, Austrian Poland for Marianna Łącka.7marianna-lacka-birth

The section of the record in the red box pertains to the mother of the child and reads, “Anna filia Francisci Ptaszkiewicz ac Salomea nata Francisco Sasakiewicz.” For those who might be unfamiliar with Latin, this translates as “Anna, daughter of Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz and Salomea, daughter of Franciszek Sasakiewicz.”

Believe it or not, it’s quite reasonable, based on Polish phonetics, that an English speaker might come up with a spelling of “Taskevich”for “Ptaszkiewicz.”  But no matter how you slice it, this is pretty far off from “Janina Unicka.”  So where did Jul come up with that name? The 1910 census gives us a clue (Figure 6):8

Figure 6:  Andrew Klaus family in the 1910 U.S. Federal census.8andrew-klaus-fam-1910

Living with the family of Mary Klaus, there is a boarder named John Unicki.  At this point I have traced Mary Klaus’s family back in Poland for another 3-4 generations, which is as far back as existing vital records go, and I’ve seen no evidence of the Unicki surname anywhere in the extended family tree.  I’ve concluded that cousin Jul’s memory was inaccurate on this point. It must have been dim memories of this boarder, Jan Unicki, living with her grandparents that caused her to associate the name “Janina Unicka” with her grandmother’s family.

As one final example, my husband’s grandfather, Stephen Szczepankiewicz, told me that his father, Michael Szczepankiewicz, immigrated from Russian Poland to Buffalo, New York, along with four brothers and no sisters. He recalled the names of his father’s brothers as Bernard, Felix, Alexander and Joseph. It turns out that he was partially correct.  Further research indicates that his father did indeed have brothers who also emigrated from Poland to Buffalo who were named Bernard (Anglicized from Bronisław), Alexander, and Joseph.  What Grandpa didn’t know was that there were two more brothers who emigrated, Adam and Walter (also known as “Wadsworth” — both names are Anglicized versions of his Polish name, Władysław), as well as a sister, Marcjanna, who emigrated to Buffalo along with Bronisław and then disappears from records there (Figure 7):9

Figure 7:  Passenger manifest for Marcyanna and Bronisław Szczepankiewicz, arriving in the port of New York on 3 May 1902.9marcjanna-manifest-cropped


Try as I might, I could not document a brother named Felix/Feliks Szczepankiewicz, or find one with a name that was even close to that.  Why would Grandpa remember an Uncle Felix if there never was one? Well, it turns out that there was an Uncle Felix, but it was on his mother’s side, not his father’s side. Grandpa Steve’s mother was Agnes/Agnieszka Wolińska.  If we take a closer look at that 1892 census for the Woliński family shown in Figure 2 and the 1900 census shown in Figure 3, the oldest child in the family is Feliks.  So it seems likely that Grandpa was just mixing up which side of the family Uncle Feliks was from.

As is evident from these examples, family stories work best when used as a starting point for genealogy research, but we can’t let our research end there. Time can play tricks with people’s memories, so it’s important to attempt to document everything we’ve been told.  If conflicts exist between the story and the evidence, consider how these might be reconciled.  As you document each story, you’ll begin to get a sense of the reliabilty of each relative’s memory. If you have any particularly wild stories that you’ve been able to document, please let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear about them!


Buffalo, Erie, New York, Death Certificates,1926, certificate #1029, record for Michael Sczepankiewicz (sic).

“United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch( : 20 May 2014), Michael A Stevenson, 28 Apr 2011; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing), accessed on 8 November 2016., New York, State Census, 1925 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2012),, Record for Stepahn Szczepankiewicz, accessed on 8 November 2016., New York, State Census, 1892 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2012),, Record for Joseph Wolinski household, accessed on 8 November 2016., 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc, 2004),, Year: 1900; Census Place: Buffalo Ward 9, Erie, New York; Roll: T623_1026; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 69, record for Joseph Wolinski household, accessed on 8 November 2016.

6 “New York, County Marriages, 1847-1848; 1908-1936″, database, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Family Search, (, Wladyslaw Olsanowic and Mary Klaus, 21 Nov 1916; citing county clerk’s office, , New York, United States; FHL microfilm 897,558. accessed on 8 November 2016.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889”, Stare Kopie, 1866, #20, Record for Marianna Łącka., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc, 2006),, Year: 1910; Census Place: North Tonawanda Ward 3, Niagara, New York; Roll: T624_1049; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0126; FHL microfilm: 1375062, record for Andrew Klaus, accessed on 8 November 2016., New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010),, Year: 1902; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0272; Line: 5; Page Number: 132, record for Marcyanna Sczezyoankiemg, accessed on 8 November 2016.

Fun With Genetic Genealogy, Revisited

Back in July, I wrote about a recent DNA match whose great-grandmother, Catherine (née Ptaszkiewicz)  Grzebińska of Buffalo, New York, seemed likely to be the double first cousin of my great-great-grandmother, Marianna (née Łącka) Klaus.  Marianna had a known double first cousin named Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz whose birth record I had obtained from the parish records of their home village in Kołaczyce in what is now the Podkarpackie province of Poland. The DNA evidence was consistent with the relationship I hypothesized, and the birthdate of “my” Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz was fairly close to the estimated birth date of Catherine (née Ptaszkiewicz)  Grzebińska.  However, my newfound cousin did not have a marriage or death record for his Great-Grandmother Grzebińska, so we had no documents indicating her parents’ names or her place of birth.  The year of immigration reported on the 1900, 1920, and 1930 censuses was the same for both John and Catherine Grzebiński, suggesting that they might have married in Poland and emigrated together.  With this in mind, I requested a search of the records of Kołaczyce from the ever-reliable Lucjan Cichocki, whom I frequently work with when I need records from that part of Poland.  He was unable to find a marriage record for Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz, suggesting that the marriage might have taken place in Buffalo.

This past weekend, I was in Buffalo giving a talk for the Polish Genealogical Society of New York State, and I planned an extra day into my trip for some research at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  The Library has a fine collection of Buffalo church records on microfilm, and it was there that I hoped to find the marriage record for John and Catherine Grzebiński.  Sure enough, there it was, in the collection of marriage records from St. Stanislaus Parish (Figure 1):

Figure 1:  Record of marriage of Jan Grzebiński and Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz on 24 July 1884 at St. Stanislaus Church in Buffalo, New York.1jan-grzebinski-and-katarzyna-ptaszkiewicz-1884-closeup

The record states that Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz was the daughter of “Franc. P.” (i.e. Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz) and Anna Łącka, and that she was born in Kołaczyce, exactly as the earlier evidence predicted.  What a nice, tidy way to wrap up a little genetic genealogy puzzle!

As I thought about this, I wondered if my great-great-grandmother Mary Klaus was close with the family of her cousin.  Surely she would have known that her first cousin (double first cousin, no less!) was also living in Buffalo.  But did the families socialize together much?  Amazingly, I found the answer to my question in those very same records from St. Stanislaus Church.  While searching baptismal records for children of Katarzyna and Jan Grzebiński, I stumbled across a baptismal record I’d somehow missed before. Apparently, my great-great-grandparents Andrzej and Marianna Klaus had a child that must have died young, a child unknown to subsequent generations of the family, until now.  In 1895, there was a baptismal record for a Bolesław Klaus, son of Andrzej Klaus and Marianna Łącka (Figure 2)!2

Figure 2:  Baptismal record for Bolesław Klaus, born 24 October 1895 in Buffalo, New York.boleslaw-klaus-1895-crop

The godfather’s name, underlined in red, is a bit hard to make out in that version of the record, but this expanded version (Figure 2a) reveals that he was none other than Jan Grzebiński.

Figure 2a:  Close-up of baptismal record for Bolesław Klaus, showing godfather’s name as “Grzebiński Jan.”jan-grzebinski

The fact that Marianna Klaus asked her cousin’s husband to be godfather to her child suggests that the two families were on good terms.

This record was also an interesting find for me because it helps me to date the arrival of my Klaus ancestors in Buffalo.  Prior to this, I knew only that they were in Buffalo by September 1897 when my great-grandmother Genevieve (Genowefa in Polish) was born there.3  Before that time, the family was living in St. Louis, Missouri, where their daughters  Anna and Pauline were born in 18924 and 1894,5 respectively.  So until now, I knew only that they arrived in Buffalo some time after January 1894 and before September 1897. This baptismal record for Bolesław demonstrates that they were already in Buffalo by October 1895.  All in all, it was a very successful research trip to Buffalo.  It’s such a thrill when all the puzzle pieces fall into place!

Seeing as how I’m stoked about the wonderful discoveries that can be made via genetic genealogy, I’d love to win a copy of Blaine Bettinger’s new book, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy.  Geneabloggers is giving away a free copy, and if you check out this link, you can enter the giveaway, too.  Good luck, and happy researching!


1Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, New York), Marriages, 1874-1917, 1884, #42, record for Jan Grzebiński and Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz.

2Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Baptisms, 1874-1903, 1895, #757, record for Bolesław Klaus.

3Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Baptisms, 1874-1903, 1897, #620, baptismal record for Genowefa Klaus.

4Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), “Church records, 1880-1993,” Baptisms, 1880-1923, 1892, #127, record for Anna Klaus.; 1872178.

5Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish (St. Louis, Missouri, USA), “Church records, 1880-1993,” Baptisms, 1880-1923, 1894, #2,  record for Apolonia Klaus.; 1872178

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016


Fun with Genetic Genealogy

A couple days ago, I checked my autosomal DNA matches at Ancestry and discovered a new DNA match with a familiar surname, Ptaszkiewicz, in his family tree.  I wrote to him immediately, and to my pleasant surprise, he wrote back, expressing an interest in collaborating to determine definitively how we’re related.  At this point, I suspect that my new cousin, M. Snyder (name used with permission), and I are double fourth-cousins once removed.  So what does that mean?

One of my great-great-great-grandmothers was Anna Ptaszkiewicz, born 29 April 1834 in Kołaczyce,1 in what is now the Podkarpackie province of Poland, but was the Austrian Empire at that time.  She was the youngest of five children born to Franciszek Wojciech Ptaszkiewicz and Salomea Sasakiewicz.  Anna had an older brother, Franciszek, who was born 23 March 18272 and here’s where the plot thickens:  Franciszek and Anna married twin siblings.  Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz married Anna Łącka on 15 November 1852and Anna Ptaszkiewicz married Jakub Łącki on 26 November 1861.4  Anna and Jakub Łącki were the oldest children of Franciszek Łącki and his second wife, Magdalena Gębczyńska, born 24 July 1835:5

Figure 1: Baptismal record for Jakub and Anna Łącki5Jacobus and Anna lacki birth crop


Franciszek and Anna (née Łącka) Ptaszkiewicz had eight children, including a daughter, Katarzyna, who was born 10 October 1864.6  It is this daughter, Katarzyna, whom I believe might be the same as “Cousin M’s” great-grandmother, Katherine/Catherine (née Ptaszkiewicz) Grzebińska.

Catherine (née Ptaszkiewicz) Grzebińska, was born in November 1866, in Austrian Poland, according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census7, shown in Figure 2.  Experienced researchers know that our ancestors weren’t always as precise when reporting their birth dates as we are today, so the birth dates for these two Catherines, October 1864 and November 1866, are well within the ballpark range for them to be the same person.

Figure 2:  1900 United States Federal Census for Kate Grzebinski [sic]71900 census Grzebinski


Moreover, “Kate” settled in Buffalo, New York, as did her putative double first cousin, Marianna (née Łącka) Klaus, who was my great-great-grandmother.

Although all of this looks promising, there’s still no “smoking gun” yet — no definitive evidence that would confirm that “Cousin M” and I are related through this particular surname line.  It would be nice to find a marriage record in Kołaczyce or Buffalo for Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz and Jan Grzebiński.  It would also be nice to find a passenger manifest or church records for “Cousin M’s” Catherine Ptaszkiewicz, indicating that she was from Kołaczyce.  And there’s a good chance that we’ll be able to find those church records.  A search of the records in Kołaczyce for marriages of the children of Franciszek Ptaszkiewicz and Anna Łącka was already on my to-do list.  And it should be easy to determine if Catherine Ptaszkiewicz Grzebińska was from Kołaczyce, since her oldest children were probably baptized at St. Stanislaus Church in Buffalo.  Not only are records from St. Stan’s easily searched on microfilm, but they also reliably indicate the place of birth of the parents of the baptized child, as shown here in this baptismal record8 for my great-grandmother Genowefa Klaus, daughter of Marianna (née Łącka) Klaus (and granddaughter of Anna Ptaszkiewicz).

Figure 3:  Baptismal record for Genowefa Klaus indicating father as Andrzej Klaus from Maniów, Galicia and mother as Marya Łącka from Kołaczyce, Galicia.8Genevieve Klaus baptismal record crop


So we know what we need to find in terms of documentation, and we have a plan to get it. But right now, what we have is DNA evidence.  Both “Cousin M” and I have uploaded our raw DNA data to GEDmatch, which is a free site offering tools for analyzing and understanding one’s autosomal DNA results.  Among the useful tools at GEDmatch is a chromosome browser, which provides a graphic depiction of our match, including the number of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) included in it.  As is shown in Figure 4, “Cousin M” and I share a 29.3 centimorgan stretch along Chromosome 9:

Figure 4:  Graphic depiction of match from  Red lines indicate base pairs with no match, yellow lines indicate base pairs with half match, green lines indicate base pairs with full match, blue bar indicates a matching segment greater than 7 centimorgans.Chromosome 9


GEDmatch estimates 4.5 generations to our most recent common ancestor (MRCA).  That’s just about right.  It’s actually 5 generations to the MRCA for “Cousin M” and my Mom, as shown in Figure 5. (Since I’m one generation removed from my Mom, I fall on the second page of this chart, not shown here.)

Figure 5:  Relationship Chart for me and Cousin M through Łącki ancestors.Relationship 1 (through Łącki)


And it’s the same relationship through our Ptaszkiewicz ancestors, as shown in Figure 6.  Since Marianna Łącka and Katarzyna Ptaszkiewicz are double first cousins, meaning they share all four of their grandparents in common, they share about as much DNA as half siblings.  If that’s as clear as mud, you might find this explanation to be helpful.

Figure 6:  Relationship Chart for me and Cousin M through Łącki ancestors.Relationship 2 (through Ptaszkiewicz)


So I’m pretty excited about all of this!  This is a beautiful example of how genetic genealogy can complement, extend, and confirm results obtained through traditional documents-based research.  I can’t wait to dive into the records in Kołaczyce and Buffalo to find the documentation that will allow us to stamp this case as “solved.”  In the meantime, please feel free to share your latest DNA mysteries or success stories in the comments.  I’d love to hear how DNA results are helping you with your own research.


1Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889”, Stare Kopie, 1834, April 29,  record for Anna Ptaszkiewicz. [date of birth] 29.04.1834, [date of baptism] 29.04.1834, [house number] 56, [child’s name] Anna, [father’s name] Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz sutor, [mother’s name] Salomea Patre Francisco Sasakiewicz nata, [godparents] Nicolaus Sękowski Hava Francisci Wiejoski uxor Civis.

2Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), “Księga urodzeń, 1784 – 2015”, 1827, baptismal record for Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz. [Date of birth] Martius 23, 1827, [Date of baptism] Martius 25, 1827, [House number] 53, [Child’s name] Franciscus, Catholica, Puer, Legitimi, [Father] Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz sutor civis, [Mother] Salomea patre Francisco Sasakiewicz nata, [Godparents] Paulus Wiejoski, Francisca Mathai Kowalski uxor, cives.

3Maciej Orzechowski, “Kołaczyce Marriages,” Marriage record for Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz and Anna Łącka, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), Śluby, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, record #6 on the spreadsheet. [Number] 20, [Date] 15.11.1852, [House number] — , [sponsus (groom)] Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz sutor filius Francisci Ptaszkiewicz ac Salomea nata Francisco Sasakiewicz oppidariorum, [Aetas (age)] 25, [Viduus] — [House number] — , [sponsa (bride)] Anna Łącka filia def. Francisci Łącki ac Magdalenna nata Joanne Gębczyński ooppidari, [Aetas (age)] 18, [vidua] — , [Testes] Josephus Dutkiewicz pellio Antonius Kołeczek textor.; report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA, 9 January 2015; Excel Spreadsheet held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA.

4Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Śluby, 1826-1889,” Stare Kopie, 1861, #11, marriage record for Jacobus Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz. [Record number ]11, [Marriage date] 26.11.1861, [House number] 308, [Groom] Jacobus Łącki filius def. Francisci Łącki ac Magdalenna nata Joanne Gębczyński oppidari, [age] 27, [house number] 77, [Bride] Anna Ptaszkiewicz filia Francisci Ptaszkiewicz ac Salomea nata Francisco Sassakiewicz oppidario, [age] 26, [witnesses] Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz oppidarius Laurentius Kowalski sutor.

5Roman Catholic Church, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), “Urodzenia, 1826-1889”, Stare Kopie, 1835, Record for Jacobus Łącki and Anna Łącka. [date of birth] 24.07.1835, [date of baptism], 25.07.1835, [house number] 191, [babies’ names] Jacobus et Anna Gemelli, [father’s name] Franciscus Łącki figulus, [mother’s name] Magdalena patre Michaele Gębczyński nata, [godparents] Constantinus Niedzielski Magdalena Michaelis Gałkiewicz uxor Michael Gałkiewicz Catharina Constantini Niedzielski uxor Civis.

6Maciej Orzechowski, “Kolaczyce Births”, Baptismal record for Catharina Ptaszkiewicz, transcribed from the collection, “Roman Catholic Church records, St. Anna’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Małopolskie, Poland), ‘Urodzenia, 1826-1889,’ Stare Kopie.”, record number 66 on the spreadsheet. [Record number] 53, [Date of birth] 10.10.1864, [Date of baptism] 11.10.1864, [House number] 308, [Child’s name] Catharina, [Father] Franciscus Ptaszkiewicz sutor, [Mother] Anna filia Francisci Łącki et Magdalenna nata Gębczyńska, [Godparents] Josephus Forys ruricola in Bukowa Catharina uxor Leonhardi Kolbusz ruricola in Bukowa; report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Original report made on 9 January 2015; most recent update on 2 April 2015, all on the same spreadsheet; Original held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts., 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc, 2004),, Year: 1900; Census Place: Buffalo Ward 11, Erie, New York; Roll: 1027; Page: 37A; Enumeration District: 0083; FHL microfilm: 1241027. Record for Kate Grzebinski, accessed on 2 July 2016.

8Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA), Baptisms, 1874-1903, 1897, #620, baptismal record for Genowefa Klaus.; 371 vol. 1.

© 2016 Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz