After researching my family genealogy off and on — really in spurts and stops — for a few years, I think I finally have some reliable, solid, and great data. For me, it’s been somewhat difficult because I had sketchy data about my father. I knew about his military service and I did grow up to know his sister and sister-in-law and several cousins on my father’s side. Unfortunately, I never bothered to really sit down with him and talk about his history before he died.
My mother’s side of the family is something else! I’ve learned she had a very large family, with some marriages that really surprised me — one sister had married her sister’s widower, there also were a few intermarriages between the families! But starting out, I had sketchy about her family. She did tell my sisters and me about her mother and father and she knew her grandparents’ names as we were growing up. Of course, we got the lines about how she had to live through the Great Depression and how awful it would be to be wasteful. As a kid, I’d roll my eyes and tune out the discussion but overtime I realized the wisdom of her words and tried to understand the experience. I’m not sure if I ever can fully understand.
I had few photographs to work from. The photographs I was able to locate were primarily of my father’s time in the Army Air Corps and he never talked much about his time in the military — although he loved airplanes and would read history books about the Air Force and different types of aircraft hours on end when he wasn’t reading true crime stories. Additionally, he loved building airplane models in the basement. Never knew what would happen if you walked in on him because the smell of airplane glue rapidly took effect until you reminded him to open a window.
I did not have many photos of my mother save a few of her with my father during their dating, engagement, and early years of marriage. They made quite the attractive and happy couple!
Still, I did not grow up knowing my grandparents as they had passed away before I was born. My mom and dad I suppose were so busy raising a family and working that we never really talked much about how they lived, how their families got here, and who they really were. Truthfully, I don’t think I thought much of it either until my children were grown and had asked me questions for school assignments — my youngest once asked me (she’s the psychologist of the family) about any known mental illnesses or alcoholism in the family as part of her professional studies. I wanted to laugh. Instead, I jokingly reminded her that she’s of Polish and Irish extraction (on her dad’s side) and Catholic. How did that add up? (Yes, we can be a sarcastic bunch.)
So my search was probably different than most — I had to really dig, and digging I still am. While mom’s still alive, I decided to get her involved in some short informal conversation while we would be out having lunch or grocery shopping. Every little snippet of information I could glean, I would squirrel away. Mom tires easily these days but does love to chit chat about family and what she can remember.
Using these snippets, and some original photos and documentation I had gathered from my dad’s mementos, I was able to come up with just enough intelligence — addresses, correct spellings of names, parishes family and friends belonged to — in order to start a search.
While this may sound rather macabre, the single biggest help to me in this search was a series of online, scanned documents for Ohio Deaths, the Toledo Diocese Death, Baptisms, and Marriages, and Calvary Cemetery records. Imagine reading death certificates as part of your historically-inclined hobbies. Honestly, it did make for some fascinating reading and brought much light and background to me about how many Polish immigrants in the Toledo region lived in the late 1800s through the 1950s. The LDS church sponsors this collection free of charge at http://pilot.familysearch.org/recordsearch/start.html#start. It is a pilot program, many of the records are just images with no index. But the information available here can be worthwhile, particularly to any researcher with Polish family in the Toledo area.
I have not yet gone “off shore” yet with my research. However, I found the lives of my family so fascinating in Toledo that I felt I had to stop and write about them while I am doing research. Hopefully some day, I will be able to research and locate records from Poland, perhaps even travel there some day.
I’m researching these families: Mierzejewski, Plenzler, Przybylski, Dauer, and Rochowiak. I have confusing information regarding the Mierzejewski family and working to straighten that out. There is some basic information about my grandfather, Wladyslaw (Walter) and his family. I’ve found what I assumed were two brothers to Walter (Jan and Konstanty); however, we all know what assumptions are made of and I may find that assumption is wrong as I’ve just heard a confirmation of a rumor I’d heard as a child and something my mom recently told me: that my paternal grandmother also was a Mierzejewski and it seems that family was quite large. So…it’s off to digging and asking more before I can really assume anything. I’ll update the bios as I learn and confirm.
I have some very good information on the Plenzler and Przybylski families in Toledo and am following up with leads and contacts with cousins I’ve recently “re-found!” My mother’s father was John Plenzler and her mother was Anastasia Przybylski.
I am also working towards locating the Dauer and Rochowiak families. My maternal great-grandparents were Eva Dauer and Joseph Plenzler and Andrew Przybylski and Frances Rochowiak.
But for now, it’s March madness and basketball is interrupting me. (Go UK!) I will be posting bios of family members as I can complete them. So remember this is a work in progress and if anything is inaccurate, please please let me know.