October 2011


Today’s theme over at Geneabloggers is Funny Friday. I mentioned earlier how my father answered the phone a few times when I was a teenager and boys would call for dates.

“County morgue. You stab ‘em, we slab ‘em.”

Yes, my dad was wickedly funny and I’m certain he did this because he just got tired of the phone ringing–after all the poor guy had three daughters and the phone was in constant use. I don’t know how many possible dates my dad scared off, but I’m too old to care any longer. Of course, I didn’t like it too much then but he thought it funny when the other person hung up without explanation. (If it were anyone who knew my dad, of course they already knew better and would carry on a conversation with him.)

Another story my sister related to me was when my dad was younger. He and his cousin Mackie would spend hours building model airplanes together and fly them off them of a viaduct over Brown Avenue–of course the planes crashed, probably onto cars below. One other story I remember my aunt telling me was my dad was a bit of a mischief maker in elementary school. He got caught smoking a few times and always had those old-fashioned matches in his pocket, the type you could strike anywhere to get a flame. He was in a bit of trouble with one of nuns, and as the nun stood there correcting him, dad was fiddling in his pocket. Well, needless to say, he rubbed the matches together and burned a hole in his pants. I wish I knew what the nun did after that!

Here’s a picture of my dad in his younger days, being completely silly with his pal, Dukie. My dad is to the right.

Dad in a light hearted moment

Dad in a light hearted moment

Dad was a character. There are probably hundreds more stories like these as well. The family was a hoot and I so miss the laughter sometimes!

Just a quick post today because I’m going batty with the latest exercise to attempt to build a database of the Mierzejewskis that I can locate through ship manifests to locate and track my family’s movements, I’ve compiled quite a list of the different variations of how the name has been spelled. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

  1. Mierzejewski
  2. Mizejewski
  3. Mirzejewski
  4. Nierzejewski
  5. Nierzejewsky (I think this and #4 are probably transcription errors on ancestry.com and ellisisland.org)
  6. Mierzyewski (This may too be a transcription error)
  7. Mierzijewski
  8. Miezjewski
  9. Mezejewski
  10. Mierzeski
  11. Mierezyewska
  12. Meitzejewski
  13. Mieszyjewska

Thirteen permutations to date! Arghgh!! Now I know why I can’t find ‘em! Memo to self: create a table of all possible permutations. Am working on a lookup for all of the Mskis I can locate via ship manifests. Will post when I have an update available.

Another mystery wedding photograph. This is a wedding photograph for my first cousin, John Mierzejewski through my grand uncle, Ignacy Mierzejewski (my grandfather’s branch of the Mierzejewski family). Confusing isn’t it?

I’ve posted this photo previously, but it bears repeating because I’d like to identify the others in the photo eventually. That would provide me with possible Mierzejewski links and give a further indication of the family’s movements west from the east coast/New England areas into Ohio and possibly Michigan.

John Mierzejewski and Anna Mizlinska wedding photo

John Mierzejewski and Anna Mizlinska wedding photo

John married Anna Mizlinksa before 1919 (I do not have an exact date). The marriage likely took place in Connecticut as their first daughter, Josephine was recorded as having been born there per the 1930 census. By 1930, the family was living in Toledo, Ohio. Since the Mierzejewskis are rather scattered and a rather large clan, I do not know who may be in this photo other than John and Anna and have no knowledge (yet!) of other Mierzejewskis who may have been living in Connecticut about 1919. Many in the family seemed to have lived on the east coast or New England areas and then migrated west into Ohio and Michigan. If anyone has any insight or knowledge, please leave a comment here or email me.

John and Anna eventually divorced. John then married Jennie Bojarska-Weclawska and Anna then married Albin Obarski. John died in Toledo in 1970; Anna died in Toledo in 1992.

After posting about the gravestone I’d found for a Maryanna Aumiller, I went through all of the photos I have from Calvary.  Sure enough, I found I’d taken one of Maryanna’s husband, Adelbert “George” Aumiller. I hope eventually to establish some connection with the Aumillers to the Plenzers and hopefully in the future locate any possible Dauer relatives through my great-grandmother, Eva Dauer Plenzler.

Here is the photo for Adelbert “George” Aumiller:

Adelbert "George" Aumiller grave Calvary Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio

Adelbert "George" Aumiller grave Calvary Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio

The grave location in Calvary is: Grave: 921, Range or lot: 6, Section: 3

Earlier I had written a few posts about John Przybylski, son of Andrew and Frances Rochowiak. See here and here.

What fascinates me about this man is why did he change his name? Family lore has it he was involved in running liquor from Canada. I do not know whether this is true. However, Ken Burns’ series on PBS this week, “Prohibition,” certainly got me thinking. The Detroit “Purple Gang” was quite active in Toledo. While we have no connection for John to the Purple Gang, his name change and exit from Toledo coincides with the organized crime and violence that stemmed from Prohibition.

A couple of good reads to introduce us to what and who composed the “Purple Gang” is Detroit’s Infamous Purple Gang by Paul R. Kavieff and  Unholy Toledo by Harry R. Illman.

When Prohibition was in effect, it was pretty easy for bootleggers to use the narrow waterways of the Detroit River, St. Clair Shores, and also Lake Erie to transport liquor from Canada. One theory existed that it was quite easy to do so as a recreational fisherman or during winter when one could cross the frozen Detroit River into Windsor with little problem. Usually, the booze went to Chicago where Al Capone sold it under the “Log Cabin” label but market demand was strong too in Toledo. The Purple Gang seemed to be in direct competition with Capone–in essence, trying to tell Capone to keep his hands off of the eastern Michigan market. Toledo seemed to be strategically located as a stopover and hideout for gangsters.

A United Press article located in The Southeast Missourian on March 24, 1936 summarizes the situation:

I don’t think we’ll ever find a documented reason for John’s movements and name change. I don’t know if he were ever involved in bootlegging. But history does provides some interesting insight and this situation certainly does give credence to the family lore. My guess would be John Przybylski was not a violent person and the name change was due in part to avoid the violence and from being sought out. Rather because liquor was a commonly consumed without shame or guilt in Polish Catholic families (it is not a “sin” according to the Catholic Church and vodka is a cultural drink for Poles), a theory could be that John likely was seeking sources for personal consumption or possibly playing the role of transport for a while. He certainly was living in Detroit at the time, the 1920 census places him there. But by 1927, we find evidence of him living in Miami.

Prohibition was in effect in the US for 13 years–1920 to 1933. It produced an empire built on crime and violence and created unique and colorful characters in our history such as Carrie Nation. (An interesting observation: A slogan used during Carrie Nation’s tirades was: “All nations welcomed except Carrie.”)

A basis used to justify Prohibition was “immorality”–to combat drunkness and poverty. Instead, it created a monster composed of violence and crime. Reading about the Purple Gang certainly opened my mind–these gangs at first were primarily composed of immigrants who were combating severe poverty and discrimination.

can be as exciting as reading the owner’s manual of your latest technology purchase. Shame on me for poking fun at the source of my paycheck, but I do understand–I only read those manuals myself if and only if something isn’t working. I prefer a good mystery or biography. But I entertained myself by reading more burial records this weekend with the latest bluster of fall weather we’ve had–cold, rain, and dreary. After all, isn’t genealogy both a bit of a mystery and part of the process of writing one’s family’s biography?

I had reason to eyeball those old records again while trying to conjure up any data about Stanley Mizejewski and Konstancja Mierzejewska. I’ve had a bit of luck as far as Konstacja goes. I did locate her burial record by reviewing burials from 1913 onward. Here is what I’ve located in the 1913 burial log:

No.15016
Name of Deceased: Constantia Mezejewska
Place of Nativity
Late Residence: 3250 Maple
Age: 20
Color: W
Sex: F
Disease: Nephritis
Date of Decease: Dec. 18 (1913)
Date of Interment: Dec. 20
Married, Single or Widowed: S
Place of Death: Toledo
No. of Grave: 1600
No. of Lot: 11
No. of Section: 3
Name of Physician: O. W. Kimbell
Name of Undertaker: J. W. Paulowski
Name of Parents or Kindred:
Remarks

I do believe the record keeper misspelled the last name and this location is where I took the photo–Section 3 of the cemetery.

Constantia’s address is given as a residence on Maple Street, which would place her within a block or so of St. Adalbert’s parish in the Lagrinka neighborhood.  I had hoped this clue would give me a hint about her, but it didn’t. Sometimes the parish records noted the survivors or nearest relatives; however, not so in the case. Here is the record of Constantia’s burial through St. Adalbert:

Date of Death/Burial: Dec. 20/Dec. 23
Name of Person Interred: Constantia Mierzejewski
Place of Birth: R. Poland
Age: 20 yr.
Disease:
Priest: J. P. Wachowiak
Cemetery: Calvary
Remarks: Pen. and Ext. Unct.

The remarks indicate that she received the sacraments of penance and extreme unction (last rites) prior to passing away. This indicates to me she did not die alone and someone would have had to call the priest for this function. This is the very earliest Mierzejewski death I’ve located so far in Toledo. Her age, 20, indicates she was born during the time span my grandfather, grandmother, and their siblings were born–1883. So my guess is that she would not have immigrated alone to the US–it was highly unusual for women at this time to come alone while traveling from Europe. (I’ve only noted this twice and each time I cannot ascertain for sure the women traveled alone.) It appears as if there were Mierzejewskis settling in Toledo as early as sometime after 1910. This point may become more important later as more of my grandparent’s and their siblings’ movements are discovered–remember my grandfather and his brother, Marzel, were located in Massachusetts and Cleveland around 1909. So someone had to tip Wladyslaw off about how great life was on the great north coast. A possible theory would be that Constantia is a relative of my grandmother, Helena. It was Helena’s brother, Jan, with whom Wladyslaw and Helena would live at 1763 Buckingham when they arrived in Toledo in 1923. And Buckingham is perhaps only 4 miles or so from the Maple Street address.

Marzel is a brother to my grandfather, Wladyslaw Mierzejewski. I’ve been trying to track the siblings of my grandparents, Helena and Wladyslaw Mierzejewski. As far as I know, Wladyslaw had these siblings:

Wladyslaw’s siblings (through his mother Anna Budziszewska–his father, Jan, was married three times):

  • Franciszek, born about 1868
  • Franciczeka, born about 1868 (twins?)
  • Ludwik, born about 1871
  • Jozef, born about 1874
  • Marzel, born about 1881

Wladyslaw was the  youngest of the children born to Jan and Anna, born in 1883 per his death certificate. (Side note: Again, it’s becoming a theme in my family–the birth date on his gravestone is different. His gravestone says 1877 was the year of birth. However, I am certain that this is the correct gravesite–we visited it as children with my parents each Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day and I’ve verified the burial.)

Jan also married Anna’s elder sister and that marriage produced one son:

  • Ignacy

I cannot yet ascertain the order of the marriages to the Budziszewska sisters . So the best guess for Ignacy’s date of birth is likely between 1861 and 1868 OR after 1881, as Jan’s first marriage was to Eleanor Guszkowska and this marriage produced a daughter:

  • Konstancja, born about 1861

I’ve been running into the usual brick walls attempting to locate these siblings. We do know that several of the siblings came to the US only to return to Poland. I have found evidence of Marzel’s residence in the US, however.

A 1907 manifest from the Hamburg Passenger Lines indicates that Marzel is a passenger on a ship that landed in New York in January 1907. Careful inspection of this record indicates several Mierzejewskis were on this ship (note the name is spelled using a derivative spelling: Mizejewski):

  • Stanislaw Mizejewski, age 19 (residence, Guczin)
  • Stefan Mizejewski, age 17 (residence, Danisiewo)
  • Marzel Mizejewski, age 25 (residence, Jarnuti)

Danisiewo is just north of Tomasze and Jarnuti and Gucin is just south of Tomasze and Jarnuti–perhaps there is a connection to Marzel with Stanislaw and Stefan. Remember, there is a Stanislaw Mizejewski buried in Toledo’s Calvary Cemetery. He was born per the gravestone about 1891. My grandfather’s place of birth was Tomasze, so it’s likely that he had relatives who had settled in nearby villages. See this map.

There are no clues where Marzel or the other two men would have been after their 1907 arrival. It’s clear though that Marzel returned to Poland for a short while because there is another manifest, this time from Ellis Island dated November 1909 that clearly indicates he was traveling to the United States with Wladyslaw and it is clear the two are brothers. The contact information for the near relative from the country they came from is noted as Helena Mierzejewski. Helena is noted as Wladyslaw’s wife and as Marzel’s sister-in-law.

Now this raises not only one eyebrow for me, but both. The final destination for Wladyslaw was noted as New Bedford, Massachusetts. For Marzel, it is noted as Pittsfield, Massachussets. This in and of itself isn’t too surprising. But the 1910 census data places Marzel in Cleveland, Ohio!

Marzel is a boarder of the Gorgon family and it specifically states that his year of immigration was 1907. He is employed as a laborer in a car shop. Where is Wladyslaw?! I haven’t yet located him on a census for this period. It’s possible he returned to Poland, but this is a relatively short period of time (arrival was November 1909 and census taken in April 1910)–likely he’s in the US somewhere!

Marzel eventually returned to Poland, where he died in 1965. He was married to a woman named Czeslawa and three children:

  • Jadwiga
  • Thadeusz
  • Henryka

If anyone has any additional information, please contact me. Leave a comment here or drop me an email and I’ll follow up.

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