My father’s family has proven itself difficult to research. They originated from a region of Poland that was controlled by Russia and torn by upheavals, wars (World War I and II and the Russian Civil War/Polish-Soviet War), and invasions. This region, surrounding Czerwin, Gerwaty, Goworowo, Tomasze, and Borowce, finally has a number of online records for the region at the Polish Genealogical Society’s metrics website. Of course, my difficult search has been only more frustrating since both of my grandparents had the surname of Mierzejewski and let’s face it–despite the fact that name may appear unusual to anyone without a clue in Polish ancestry–it’s one of those names. There are many of us, and it has come to my conclusion that it’s the Polish equivalent to the surnames of Jones, Smith, and Johnson. (Those of you with deep Polish roots can understand if you’re from a family named Mierzejewski, Przybylski, or Kowalski. There are just too many of us!)

Until I can get to Poland, digital and social connections and the use of whatever knowledge I have that my relatives have shared will have to do.

So, I’ve been scouring the metrics website this weekend. I believe I’ve come up with a direct connection to my father’s family. I knew that my grandfather’s (Wladyslaw or Walter) father was Jan and that he married three times: to Anna Budziszewska, to Anna’s elder sister (name yet to be determined), and Eleonora Guzskowska. Sometime ago, Garret Mierzejewski kindly shared with me Jan’s marriage record to Anna. The marriage occurred in 1864. This led me to confirm that Jan and Anna had a son name Ignacy although I have not confirmed his date of birth.

Ignacy was married to a woman named Marianna Dabkowska. This I had learned by researching his son, John (b. 1894), who had immigrated to the US and resided in Toledo. Many in this branch of my family seem to have either remained in Poland or have traveled to the US and returned to Poland to remain. I’ve heard a few stories about this branch that have told me some just didn’t care to live in the United States and returned home. So far, I have not found any records for Ignacy to have traveled to the US. Along the way, I had discovered that John had a brother named Edward (b. 1903) through the 1930 census, where he is listed a boarder living with John and his wife, Anna, on Hamilton St. in Toledo.

Through the PGS’s metrics website, I was able to locate a birth record for Edward, written in Russian. I have queries out to have it translated. However, for me, this was a pretty wonderful thing. I finally got a record, from Poland, on my own for my father’s family. I never thought that would happen due to the issues of distance, history and language. (I can’t even begin to understand Russian and the history, both of Poland and of my family, are working against me!)

The record is below. Click image to obtain the full resolution, full size image. The record for Edward is #67, top left.

Birth record for Edward Mierzejewski, b. 1903 to Ignacy Mierzejewski and Marianna Dabkowska, from Catholic parish in Czerwin.

Birth record for Edward Mierzejewski, b. 1903 to Ignacy Mierzejewski and Marianna Dabkowska, from Catholic parish in Czerwin.

Updated 04.19.2015 to correct a misstatement. See strikeout red text below.

I had been seeking connections to my great-grandfather, Andrew Przybylski, for quite awhile. The only clue I had to finding any connection to others in his family that may have arrived in Toledo, Ohio was John Przybylski, who married Tecla Mruk, daughter of Michał Mruk and Margaretha Plenzler (sibling of another great-grandfather, Joseph Plenzler). My gut told me there had to be a connection between them; and yet, I came up empty-handed for years.

Then, as it sometimes does, fate intervened. I had been corresponding with a distant cousin in Florida every now and again who was a descendant of a Michael Przybylski, who resided in Holland, Ohio. I could not provide him any information other than to confirm that this Michael was the son of Tecla and Michał John, and tell him perhaps there was no connection between John and Andrew. Przybylski is a rather common Polish surname. We knew that John’s parents were Michael and Rosalia per the marriage record from St. Anthony’s for Tecla and John and John’s death certificate.

What I hadn’t done in all that time, and what my cousin did think to do, was to search the Poznan Project for a marriage record for a Michael Przybylski and Rosalia. That opened the door. The marriage record was located. And it made a number of connections as well as reinforced the idea that it is so important to keep a keen eye out for names and their variants.

The Poznan Project provided a marriage record for a Michael Przybł and a Rosalia Bocian, 30 August 1868 and took place in Znin, Kujawsko-Pomorskie. It had never dawned on me to search on alternative forms to the name, Przybylski (Przybył, Przybyła)! The marriage record for Michael and Rosalia is here and here (two pages to the record). What a surprise! Michael was the son of Valentine and Josepha Kurczminska. With those two names, it is possible to establish a very high likelihood that this Michael is a brother to my great-grandfather, Andrew. This means that Andrew was John’s uncle. Andrew’s marriage record to Franciszka Rochowiak only indicates that his parents are Valentine and Josepha. However, the dates do line up: Andrew was born in 1843 given the age provided on the marriage record to Franciszka (age 30 in 1873) and Josepha and Valentine were married in 1835. Michael was born in 1839 per the age of 29 stated on his marriage record to Rosalia.

Taking it one step further, I then wrote to the Poznan Project to obtain the marriage record for Valentine and Josepha. And it existed! The marriage took place 23 February 1835 in Juncewo, Kujawsko-Pomorskie. The marriage was recorded for Valentine using the form of the surname as Przybył. The record also confirms a hunch I had that Valentine was widowed at the time of his marriage to Josepha.

What is funny, sad, and true is that some of this evidence had been sitting under my nose for quite a while. A long time ago, I had been researching the Mruk line. I knew full well that one of Tecla’s and John’s sons, Jacob (also known as John) had married Hattie Karamol. I had Hattie’s death information: her parents were given as Frank Karamol and Antonina Przybylski. Guess who Antonina’s parents were? Michael Przybylski and Rose Bocian. I never once followed up on that clue.

It sometimes takes another person to wake me up. I think I got too numb to the clues sitting in front of my nose! It reinforces something I’ve always believed in–there is a Buddhist saying that goes something like this: “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I think my teacher was the cousin in Florida, whom I’ve never met in person. It was time for me to learn to look at existing data with new eyes.

I have found no evidence that Michael and Rosalia ever came to the US nor I have I obtained any data beyond the marriage record. But my very strong hunch is: Michael and Andrew were brothers. John and Antonina were Andrew’s nephew and niece.

Late last summer, I had the pleasure of corresponding with a descendant of one of my father’s crewmates on Mission 234 with a target of Memmingen, Germany. They had flown together in a plane named “The Flying Latrine.” This contact was kind enough to share information with me as well as a picture of one of the other men who had flown with my father, Sgt. George Lawson Ratje. Sgt. Ratje was a tail gunner on Mission 234. My father was a ball turret gunner.

The Flying Latrine

Crews did not always fly the same plane nor did the men fly with the same crew each time. However, I was kindly provided with a list of missions my father and members of the 2nd Bomb Squad flew as well as a list of each of my father’s missions. (These files are in Excel format.)

George Lawson Ratje survived World War II to return home. However, he had died 30 July 1950 in California.

George Lawson Ratje

All who were on Mission 234 over Memmingham, Germany were:

  • John F. Rice, Pilot
  • Grant W. Ramsey, Co-Pilot
  • Granville C. Egleson, Navigator
  • Charles T. Wright, Bomb/Togglier
  • Herman T. Butko, Engineer/Top Turret
  • Harold S. Barth, Radio Operator
  • Edward B. Mierzejewski, Ball Turret
  • J. J. Casey, Waist Gunner
  • R. L. Reynolds, Waist Gunner
  • George L. Ratje, Tail Gunner

I have news to pass along. Alexander Drabik, a Toledo-area World War II hero will be inducted posthumously into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame for Valor on April 24, 2015. The induction will occur at the State House Atrium in Columbus.

Sgt. Alexander Drabik

Sgt. Alexander Drabik

Alexander was of Polish descent. His parents were John Drabik and Frances Lewandowska.

Per the information I  have been given from the Holland Springfield Spencer Historical Society:

“Sgt. Alexander Drabik was born December 28, 1910 in a log cabin on Wolfinger Road to John Drabik and Florence V. Lewandowski. He attended Dorr Street School, in Springfield Township, and lived most of his live in Holland, Ohio on Dorr Street. He married Margaret Feeney, May 14, 1954 in Angola, Indiana. They had one daughter, Rita.

Sgt. Drabik entered the US Army in 1942, and was sent to Germany where he would make the decision that would propel him into the spotlight, something he was not used to. He was a tall, lanky, quiet, simple, shy man. In charge of a nine man unit, Co. A 27th Armored Infantry Batallion, 9th Armored Division, Sgt. Drabik at age 35  years old, was the first soldier to cross the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge, crossing the Rhine River on March 7, 1945. With no thought to his own life, he turned to his men and shouted: ‘OK, who is going with me? I’m crossing the bridge!’ Under heavy fire, they ran for their lives to the other side of the bridge, which was to be blown up in ten minutes.”

Sgt. Drabik was nominated to be inducted to the Ohio Military Hall of Fame by the Holland Springfield Spencer Historical Society for his valor. Crossing the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge, he led10 riflemen across the bridge, surprising Germans that they forgot to blow up the bridge. For this, he received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism.

As the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Gen. Eisenhower said the capture of the bridge shortened the war by six months and possibly saved as many as 50,000 Allied lives. When Eisenhower became president, he invited Drabik and the 10 riflemen to the White House and told them he was forming the Society of the Remagen Bridgehead.

Drabik received a tribute in the Congressional Record in 1993 and was a commander of the now defunct Turanski-Van Glahn VFW Post 7372. There is now an Ohio Historical Marker located on Wolfinger Road where he was born. The marker was installed in 2011.

Drabik died 23 September 1993 and is buried in Resurrection Cemetery.

A while back, I had been researching my Plenzler family further to seek out some new connections for my great-grandmother’s (Eva Dauer) family. I knew for sometime her father was Andreas Dauer and her mother was Maria Aumiller. I’ve been frustrated at not being able to locate any Aumiller data. I’ve known the name of my great-great grandmother, Maria Aumiller, for sometime. Her name was located on Eva’s and Joseph’s marriage record and I was able to locate her marriage records to Andreas Dauer through the Poznan Project. The trail for the Aumillers has gone cold for me at that point; however, the search for my great-grandmother’s lineage really hasn’t gone totally dead.

Through more pouring over the Poznan Project and the Basia database, I’ve learned a bit more about Eva’s father, Andreas, and have uncovered a sister to Eva, her name was Katharina and a half-sister whose name was Margaretha.

Andreas’ lifestory seems to be fairly typical of others in my mom’s line–in fact, I’ve come to expect multiple marriages for many ancestors from this period. They are widowed and move on to remarry and are likely to have additional children. Additionally, they seemed to have likely married into families they had known for a considerable time and from the same village. This was the same story for Andreas. He married three times, was widowed twice, and the marriages were witnessed by those with names that keep re-appearing in my family tree! A few years ago, while in the midst of a very busy email conversation with several cousins and the Sobieskis, it was discovered that Andreas was first married to Marianna Hirsch.  This marriage occurred 14 January 1839 in the parish in Czapury. The record states that this was a first marriage for both and that Andreas was 27 and Marianna was 25. It is interesting to note that two of the witnesses were Georgius Aumiller and Joannes Aumiller. It’s quite possible these were relatives of Andreas’ third wife (and my great-great grandmother), Maria. No children were located for this marriage; however, Marianna Hirsch likely died within a few years of the marriage because Andreas has married Marianna Reimlein on August 15, 1841. The marriage record for Andreas and Marianna Hirsch is located here: Page 1 and Page 2 (two pages to the record).

The marriage of Andreas and Marianna Reimlein was witnessed by a Georgius Plenzler and a Josephus Aumiller. (Fancy that!) The marriage again occurred in Czapury and states that Andreas was a widower, age 30. The marriage record for Andreas and Marianna Reimlein is here: Page 1 and Page 2 (two pages to the record). Andreas and Marianna Reimlein had at least one child that I was able to locate: Margaretha Dauer whose birth would have occurred about 1842. I was able to locate Margaretha through the Basia database when seeking more data on Andreas.

A query on Andreas produced a marriage record from the Wiry Registry Office for a Margaretha Dauer Torz to Valentine Olejniczak. This record states that Margaretha Torz geb (maiden name) Dauer was the daughter of Andreas Dauer and Maria Reimlein and that Margaretha was widowed. The marriage occurred in 1880. I have not yet found the first name of Margaretha’s first husband nor whether there were any children of this marriage. Margaretha would have about age 38 at the time of this marriage and Valentine was about age 23. Valentine was the son of Johann Olejniczak and Francisca Jankowiak.

The marriage of Andreas and Marianna Reimlein ended with her death on 19 December 1844. This record is an LDS scan from the parish in Czapury I had received via the Sobieskis. It is difficult to read but does state that Marianna was the daughter of Joseph Reimlein and that Andreas Dauer reported the death. The record is here: Page 1 and Page 2 (#132, near the bottom of the scanned page).

Now we finally get to the marriage of Andreas Dauer and Maria Aumiller. Maria was actually wife number three to Andreas. I had known earlier that Andreas was a widower–see Andreas Dauer and Maria Aumiller marriage record (a downloadable version of the record is located here as well with the translation). However, at that time I had no idea that there were two previous wives and a child from a prior marriage. Another surprise came when I located another child to Andreas and Maria Aumiller, Katharina. I never had any indication that my great-grandmother, Eva, had any siblings. As with her half-sister, Margaretha, Katharina appeared after a query for Andreas on the Basia database. A record for her marriage to Casimir Borowicz was in the search results.

The marriage of Katharina Dauer to Casimir Borowicz occurred in Gluszyna in 1884 and a record of it is held in the Piotrowo Registry Office of the Poznan State Records. A copy is located here: Page 1 and Page 2. Casimir was the son of Joseph Borowicz and Katharina Matelska, born in Dopiewiec. Katharina Dauer is stated as the daughter of Andreas Dauer and Maria Aumiller.

I have located a Katharina and Casimir Borowicz having immigrated to Erie, Pennsylvania and a residence record in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1917. I have not pursued this information further to verify.

At this point, the trail for Andreas Dauer and Maria Aumiller went cold for me. No death dates or possible immigration data for either–but I’ve certainly learned more than I’d hoped to about my great-great grandfather and discovered two new additional great-grand aunts!


Happy New Year!

I did spend my holiday weekend binge-reading and researching to learn more about Mary Lisiecka’s possible remarriage and I have since come to the conclusion that she hadn’t remarried. Almost three years ago, there were long, involved email conversations with several individuals and had obtained more than a handful of LDS film scans through the Sobieskis.

In one of these conversations, we were discussing the death of Joseph Plenzler, my great-great grandfather (born 1823 in Wiorek and died in 1873 in Wiorek). I had started working back in 2012 or early 2013 to read all of that documentation sent and “connect some of the dots” and I had dropped the issue and never updated my tree. I realized that I hadn’t updated Joseph’s death date and started to work some more on his life this weekend when I realized there was a record of Mary’s death in the same email. Mary, who was born in Wiorek in 1825, died in Wiorek in 1875.

Records for Joseph’s death are here and here (two pages to document).

Records for Mary’s death are here and here (two pages to document).

Mary’s record is quite clear in identifying who she is–the daughter of Aldabertus Lisiecki and Barbara Nachengast. So, there goes my theory Mary was re-married after Joseph’s death but not for naught. From reviewing this marriage record of a Mary to Joannes Olejniczak, I realized that this Mary is the daughter of Joseph and Anna Maria Bajerlein, who would be my 3rd-great-grandparents (the record does state this); however, her age is given as 45 years old and the marriage occurred in 1884, placing her birth as 1839. The eldest sibling that I can locate of the family is Martin, born 1815. This marriage was witnessed by Bartholomeus Plenzler and Martin Lisiecki. So this does give some implied knowledge: Joseph Plenzler (father of Joseph Plenzler born in 1832) and his wife, Anna Maria Bajerlein, were alive through at least 1839. I have had difficulty locating data on my 3rd great-grandparents so far beyond dates and names.  There are two pages to this record: here and here. (I neglected to include both pages on the previous post.)

Regarding Martin Lisiecki, with that email exchange that I had reviewed more in-depth this weekend, he is a brother to Mary. There was a marriage record of Martin to an Antonia Melingier contained in that discussion that indicates he is the son of Adalbertus and Barbara. That record is here and here (two pages).

As a follow up to the mention I had made in the last post regarding Bartholomeus Plenzler (brother to the Joseph born in Wiorek in 1823), here’s the data that I’ve found. He was originally discovered while research my great-great grandmother, Mary Lisiecka. See these posts from July 12, 2012 and September 30, 2012.

Bartholomeus was an interesting character to trace because like Martin Lisiecki, I had come across references to him earlier as witnesses to events such as marriages or deaths. I knew that Bartholomeus had married a Barbara Hirsch in 1850, but I had not located any children from this marriage until I started mining the Basia database. Barbara and Bartholomeus had two children that I have been able to locate: Kunegunda, born in 1853 and died in 1883. I located this child through her death record. Interestingly, she married a man named Felix Lesiecki. Also note that this record indicates that the death was reported by an Adam Plenzler. I have not identified who Adam is yet.

(Note: I have noticed Lesiecki surname spelled as Lisiecki in many documents, many sources. I’m not sure if this is due to transcription issues, whether there are two separate surnames, or other matters that I don’t understand or know yet. I realized that I have used both versions. I do not have any connection of Felix to my great-grandmother’s (Mary) family. It’s possible but I have not found one yet. I also have never standardized on the spelling of the surname as I have with my Plenzler family’s surname.)

The second child I’ve located from the marriage of Bartholomeus and Barbara Hirsch was Eva, born in 1862. I’ve identified Eva via a marriage record to Johann Teszner. Record is located here and here (two pages to document).

I was completely stunned to see that he as well married a Lisiecki family member: Cunegunda, who was also a daughter of Adalbertus Lisiecki and Barbara Nachengast. She was a sister to my great-great grandmother, Mary Lisiecki. I have not located the marriage record yet for Bartholomeus and Cunegunda, but have found a birth record for a daughter from the marriage, Barbara, who was born 9 September 1878. Cunegunda died 5 June 1882.

Bartholomeus married a third time, to Antonie Kolinska in 1882. The marriage record is here and here (again, two pages to the document).

I realize I haven’t been posting for quite some time. Life has just been incredibly busy. Genealogical events have happened: a marriage in the family, graduations, and an engagement. My family continues to evolve, change, and progress and provide infinite sources of contentment as well as challenges. A huge career change happened for me as well the past few months and I’ve never denied my workaholic tendencies. (I get “lost” in what I am involved in–it’s a trait many introverts have–I just get involved in what I am doing and lose track of time and it’s the reason my genealogy is worked on in spurts. I seem to lack the ability to work steadily an hour here, and hour there on anything. I HAVE to do ALL that I can NOW! I often wonder what ancestor of mine was like that.) I guess this blog will need to suffer whenever I lack the time or ability to pay attention to it.

During the past several months, I did manage to get some research done as well as prowl both Calvary and Mount Carmel cemeteries. Nothing exciting came out of my cemetery prowls (yet, I haven’t worked on all of the photos) but I’ve found a database that I completely fell in love with: Basia. This database is an effort to transcribe and digitize the vital and civil records in the Polish National Archives based on an effort called the Asia project which is making these archived documents accessible. You can search either the Basia or Asia — but it is the Basia website that will provide you with scanned documents. (To use Asia, which will at least provide you with a list of all documents that reference the name or terms you are using, go here: All documents and records available through Basia or Asia are from the Poznan area (I can’t tell if the effort will expand beyond Poznan). More historical documentation, from before the early 1900s is available in Basia it seems.

Basia can be read in English if you use the Chrome browser. I’ve tried it also with Firefox and IE–it works fine with any browser, but Chrome has an add-in that will translate non-English text on the fly. Asia, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to translate for me in Chrome. I am not sure why that is–the text does not seem to be coming via graphics but from the database. So if you are unable to read Polish, it would be handy to have Google translate open in another browser window. I love both of these websites, and because Basia has provided me very easily with a number of key documents I can’t sing its praises enough!

A while back, I had a theory that my 2nd great-grandmother, Mary Lesiecka, had remarried. I had found a reference to a marriage of Mary Lesiecka to a Joannes Olejniczak on the Poznan Project database but had never written to obtain the record. So upon discovering the Basia database, I had thought to check if my theory was true: that Mary had indeed remarried. That would have given me a timeframe for when my 2nd great-grandfather, Jozef Plenzler, had died. I hit the genealogical jackpot–I was probably more excited with what I had found than when I had won $200 in Las Vegas. The marriage occurred in 1884 in Głuszyna and both Mary and Joannes were indicated as being widowed. The original record is held in the Piotrowo Registry Office, Poznan State Archives. It is too large of a record to show but it does specifically state that Marie (Mary) is a widow of Jozef Plenzler of Wiorek who was the son of Anna Maria Bajerlein. A copy of the record is here.

Searching further for any Lesieckis, I hit more jackpots. I had Mary’s birth record thanks to an exchange I had with the Sobeckis a few years ago (Mary was born 11 September 1825, the parish record from Wiorek is here if you would like it — LDS film #1191623). And because of this exchange, I had known her parents were Adalbertus Lesiecki and Barbara Nachengast (this surname seems to have some debate, whether it is Nachengast or Norhengast, but I am tending to Nachengast with how it has been indexed with Basia–I have not been able to transcribe the name well through Mary’s birth/baptismal record).

Because of this information, I was able to locate two siblings for Mary: Johann and Cunegunda, as well as have found strong evidence for a third sibling, Martin.

Johann was located through his death record which mentions his parents, Adalbertus and Barbara. He died 8 October 1883 in Wiorek. And here’s another kicker: his wife was a Marie Plenzler. I have not yet identified who this Marie Plenzler is. Going out on a limb, I’m going to throw out a theory that it’s very possible she is a sister to my 2nd g-grandfather, Jozef. Johann’s death was reported by a Marcin or Martin Lesiecki. Because Martin was the person who has reported the deaths of Barbara, and Johann, I am theorizing that he indeed is a brother to Mary. Johann’s death record is located here. Martin is someone that will need to be researched later. (The research never fails to provide more puzzles to solve!)

Cunegunda was a complete surprise. She also married a Plenzler. Cunegunda was married to a Bartholomeus Plenzler, whom I had previously identified as a brother to my 2nd great-grandfather. It seems as Batholomeus was married a total of three times! (He actually warrants another separate post on this.) I was able to identify through the Basia database that Cunegunda and Bartholomeus had at least one child together, Barbara. Barbara’s civil birth record is here. Cunegunda’s death record is here.

Finally, I was able to locate a death record for Barbara Nachengast Lesiecki. Barbara died 8 January 1879. The record is located here.

It seems that, while very slowly, Polish genealogical records are becoming more available for the cost of an internet connection. Add the Basia and Asia websites to your bookmarks if you’ve identified relatives from the Poznan region of Poland. I have located much more than what I’ve indicated here with just the Lesieckis–I was able to find more information on my Plenzler family, so maybe if I find more free time, I’ll be able to post on it. (Well, New Year is coming up and I don’t care to go out for New Year’s Eve…)

I hope you all have had a peaceful and beautiful Christmas and wish you a wonderful New Year!


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