I thought I’d post something sappy or funny about Thanksgiving. NOT! I came across something much more interesting even than Puritan pilgrims, turkey and sweet potatoes. And this is something I am thankful for finding! How about finding your “pilgrim” great-grandparent’s citizenship papers from 1880?

My post yesterday regarding the Toledo Lucas County Public Library was a teaser. I was in Toledo — last minute, spur-of-the-moment idea. (What adults can do with vacation time and the kids are grown!)

Because the weather wasn’t camera friendly (downpours), I decided I’d dig through some microfilm at the library. And I found what I believe to be my great-grandfather’s (Andrew Przybylski) citizenship records from the Lucas County Probate Court. See below. (Click images to obtain full size scans.)

Andrew Przybylski -- Certificate of intention to become a citizen

Andrew Przybylski -- Certificate of intention to become a citizen

Andrew Przybylski -- Declaration of Intention, Lucas County, Ohio Probate Court

Andrew Przybylski -- Declaration of Intention, Lucas County, Ohio Probate Court

I was at a point where I didn’t believe I would find much more on Andrew or his wife, Frances. I set out to see if I could locate naturalization or citizenship information on my Mierzejewski relatives. Alas, I came up empty handed with that effort except for one (and that will be the subject of another post at another time). But I went to the library with a list of names (Mierzejewski, Plenzler, and Przybylski) that I wanted to look for, at least through a list of voter registrations. The Toledo Lucas County main branch library has lists of registered voters that go back to at least the 1850s through the 1920s or so. I thought it would be a good stab in the dark to see if I could trace any relatives through those lists. And while I came home with little new Mierzejewski information, I feel I’ve hit a gold mine with this find and some records for the Plenzler family as well (and those too will be a subject for another time).

Another thing to notice on these documents, and it may be valuable to follow up with this in the future, is that Andrew’s surname was recorded incorrectly on the documents! The surname was spelled as PRZIBLSKI by the clerk. However, if you investigate the signature, Andrew had spelled his last name as PRZYBYLSKI.

While I cannot be 100% certain that this is indeed my great-grandfather, there is evidence that it is possible using a process of elimination:

  • Andrew’s first children born to Frances were born in Poznan (Marianna in 1875, Frank in 1876, John in 1878, and Rose in 1880).
  • I cannot definitely state that Andrew had come once to the US and remained permanently. I had searched so far in vain for any corresponding manifests that locate him in the 1880s–the only one I have been able to find so far has been through Castle Garden showing that he arrived here in February 1882. This would coincide possibly with him arriving here with his family–daughter Victoria was born in December of that year and there is a baptismal record via St. Anthony’s parish proving her birth in the US.
  • This was extracted using the voter registration lists from the 14th Ward for the period of around 1890. Vance Street, where the Przybylski family resided, was in the 14th Ward.
  • And…(baited breath…drum roll)… I had also located what appears to be son Frank’s Certificate of Naturalization, marked as “Minor’s Papers.” The dates on this document line up perfectly. Frank was born in 1876 and would have been 19 or 20 years of age at the time this legal document was executed. Per the librarian I spoke to, children were naturalized through their fathers (as were wives through their husband) during this period. However, a certificate of naturalization was an instrument for males particularly becoming of age in order to vote, marry, and join the military during this period. Additionally, From 1824 to 1906, minor aliens who had lived in the United States 5 years before their 23rd birthday could file both their declarations and petitions at the same time.

See Frank’s certificate of naturalization (“minor’s papers”) below.

Frank Przybylski Certificate of Naturalization

Frank Przybylski Certificate of Naturalization

With this, I must say I am grateful for libraries that keep all kinds of wonderful information, even if that information rarely sees the light of day. I had a wonderful librarian in the history section who knew exactly where to look for such arcane information — it was she who knew about the existence of the old voter registration lists from the late 1800s and informed me that if indeed one was registered to vote, there would likely be a copy of that person’s naturalization papers somewhere. Now, I have not found Andrew’s “final” papers–those that had declared his citizenship. But we know he must have obtained it if he were able to vote prior to his death in 1894!

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