Late last week, I had the pleasure of hearing from Fr. John Extejt. His family history relates back to Kuschantz and he very kindly shared a historic photo of Nicholas J. Walinski, Sr. (1889 – 1948), who residents may remember, was the father of the famed Polish-American legal family. Nicholas, Sr.  was born in Berea, Ohio and after obtaining his law degree at the Cleveland Law School, moved to Toledo in 1908. He spoke Polish when he set up his law practice. Nicholas had two sons: Thaddeus (Ted) who became vice mayor of Toledo (serving under John Potter) and became a Toledo Municipal Court judge and Nicholas, Jr. who became an assistant Toledo city law director and a judge in the Toledo Municipal Court, Lucas County Common Pleas Court, and US District Court.

Nicholas, Sr. was given a dinner in his honor on 5 January 1939. Fr. Extejt shared the photo below.

walinski.jpg

Dinner in honor of Nicholas J. Walinski, Assistant Attorney General, January 5, 1939

The dinner was given by the Junction Civic Club, and took place above the J&K Drug Store at the corner of Junction and Nebraska Avenues. The club likely was made up of neighborhood Republicans. Fr. Extejt’s mother, Gertrude Rejent Extet, recorded the names of the attendees:

Seated, from left to right: Phil Malikowski, Ed Wawrzyniak, unknown, John Sabin (Sabiniewicz), Ollie Orzchechowski, Charlie Czolgosz, Leo Czarnecki, Nick Walinski Sr., Dr. John Pietrykowski Sr., C.S. Rejent, Siegried Putz, Frank Czolgosz, and Ignatius (Jim) Regent.

Standing, from left to right: Bob Slomowicz, ? Kazczmarek, John Osmialowski, Anthony Prybyla, Steve Putz, Dr. Leo Rejent, Dr. ? Jagdozinski, Frank Klap, Dr. A. J. Rejent, Louis Czajkowski, Leo Figmaka, John Davis, Robert Konwin, Dr. ? Beasecker.

The photo was taking by Zygila Studios. This photography studio was well-known in Toledo during the 1930s and had two locations: one in Kuschwantz on Nebraska Ave. and another in Lagrinka on Lagrange Ave. The business and operated by Katherine (Perzynski) and Edward Zygila and was in demand for portraits and large group shots.

Roch Rochowiak was the eldest child of Alexi Rochowiak and Marianna Brzykca, born 17 August 1788 in Gorzyce, Kujawsko-Pomorskie. Because I’ve never located a marriage record yet for Alexi and Marianna, this gives at least a clue that they were likely married sometime during 1887.

Roch had married Catherina Piastunowicz 2 February 1817. Of the this marriage, three children can be found:

No other information has been found on these children yet.

Roch died 26 April 1832.

Records are from from the Archdiocese of Gniezno, Catholic Parish in Gorzyce. LDS film #5478GS2, Project #POL2-009.

This past summer, I was the recipient of a genealogical act of kindness. This wasn’t just a small act–this was a mother lode of genealogical data. Through a distant Rochowiak relative (I still haven’t figured out if we are related or not), I received a number of scanned document images from Gora Znin and Gorzyce with many Rochowiak records contained within them. Imagine my surprise, joy, and glee.

Because of this kindness, I was able to learn quite a bit more about my great-grandmother’s family, the Rochowiaks. My great-grandmother, Frances Rochowiak Przybylski, was the daughter of Adalbertus Rochowiak and Marianna Mazana. I had known for some time that Adalbertus was the son of Alexi Rochowiak and Marianna Brzykca (yes, the k is before the c). But the trail was pretty cold until I had received these scans. I was able to locate siblings for Adalbertus thanks to these scans.

So…Adalbertus Rochowiak had eight siblings that I can verify and was the fifth-born child of the nine total children born to Alexi and Marianna. Here is the list of all children born to Alexi Rochowiak and Marianna Bryzkca with their birthdates and birth records. All children were born in Gorzyce, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland, and each of these records were loacated in This is the Baptismal Record Archdiocese of Gniezno, Poland, Catholic Parish in Gorzyce, LDS Film Unit #547GS2, Project #POL 2-009, Roll #13.

Additionally, I did get some details on Adalbertus and some of his siblings. I will follow up in the next few weeks with this information. Enjoy–I do know there are a good handful of Rochowiak researchers out there!

 

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.