After many years of guesswork and frustration, I am happy to say I finally have an exact date of birth for my great-grandmother, Franciszka Rochowiak. She was born 1 September, 1852 in Zydowo, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland. The document, a birth/baptismal record from the Catholic parish in Chomętowo, is below. The record is the very first in the document.

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Franciszka Rochowiak birth record, Archdiocese of Gniezno, Chomętowo Parish, LDS Project #POL GNI-1, Roll #210, Film Unit Serial #657

This was a challenge to find–because her father, Adalbert, was married three times, I had to establish his dates of marriage as well as find as many of his children as possible. This effort was a patchwork of obtaining marriage records from the Poznan Project, some actual film scans for the parishes in Chometowo, as well as scanning through Family Search — believe it or not there are actually some scanned records that can be viewed on line. Be aware, currently it is only a handful of records that can be accessed online. The others you will need to obtain the microfilm and view them at the LDS genealogy center. (You will need to determine the parish and the village your ancestors came from!)

Adalbert married Marianna Mazana in Góra Żnin on 27 October 1851. Franciszka was born the following September. Another child, Marianna, was born to the marriage on 29 June 1855 in Zydowo. Marianna died 12 November 1856. (This record can be obtained from the same set of records indicated in the caption for Franciszka’s birth.)

As a bonus, I was able to determine Marianna Mazana’s and Adalbert’s death records. Marianna died 13 December 1856 in Zydowo. (This record can be located through the Archive Archdiocese of Gniezno, Chometowo Parish, LDS Project #POL GNI-1, Roll #211, Mortuorum.)

Adalbert died 29 March 1865 in Zydowo. There was a mention in his son, Martin’s marriage record (1877) that he died in Zydowo prior to the marriage. (This record can be located through the same set of records as indicated for Marianna Mazana’s death.)

Locating my great-grandmother’s birth record was frustrating to say the least! It appears that Adalbert had moved around a bit: he was born in Gorzyce. His first marriage to Eva Malak occurred in Gorzyce and his first three children with Eva were born in Gorzyce. He then seemed to move on to Chomętowo after Eva’s death. Here, he married Marianna Chleboewski. He had seven children with Marianna Chlebowska, all of whom were been born in Gorzyce. After Marianna Chlebowska’s death, he married Marianna Mazana in Góra Żnin. His two daughters with Marianna Chlebowska, Franciszka and Marianna, were born in Zydowo.

Adalbert’s family is, using modern parlance, “complicated.” I am finally piecing together his life — three marriages, all ending in the death of his wife, a total of 12 children (3 with first wife, 7 with second wife, and 2 with the last wife).

My great-grandmother was orphaned at a young age, she was five when her mother died and 14 when her father died. With this background, it’s likely she had to live with an older sibling. My guesses would be either brothers Lawrence or Martin. Lawrence did not arrive in the United States until 1875 (a marriage record was located for him in Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church in 1875 and his first child was born in Toledo in 1876). Martin married in 1877 and settled in Zydowo for a time. Several of Franciszka’s older siblings died in childhood and several I have not yet been able to trace beyond birth and a marriage for a few of them.
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Happy Holidays! I’ve spent part of my holiday season searching for my Mierzejewski ancestors.

Finding Mierzejewskis is easy. What’s not so easy is finding those in my family tree. Been difficult proving relationships. But a minor breakthrough over the weekend.

My dad and his siblings had a father named Wladyslaw and a maternal uncle named Wladyslaw. I had known for sometime that my grandmother’s family had come through the western Pennsylvania and had settled there for sometime. A few cousins were born in the Altoona region or Blair County and I had found some hints that some had lived in or near Cambria or Berks Counties.

One such cousin, Sophia Mierzejewski Owczarak, left some very good clues in her passport application in 1924. In that passport, she stated that her step-mother took her to Poland, so I assumed her mother at the point had died. So at that point, I had searched for any records for her father’s marriage to Bernice. It took awhile but I did come up back then with an Application for a Marriage license in 1912. That was rather hard to find because of the name misspellings, but that marriage license application actually provided the date of death for Wladyslaw’s first wife as September 12, 1910.

Some digging into newspapers.com and Pennsylvania Death Certificates brought me a few more answers.

Ancestry.com does have a collection for Pennsylvania death certificates, but none are indexed. So I took an evening (from say 6 pm until the wee hours of the morning) and poked through a large group for 1912 (there is no real order to these certificates on Ancestry; they seem to be grouped by the serial number, not by county or date). Several hours later, I did indeed find the death certificate. And with some additional luck, I was able to locate an obituary from the Altoona Tribune, dated September 13, 1910.

While the death certificate and obituary provide Apolonia’s first name differently (the obituary states her first name was Cathalina and the death certificate states her first name was Mary), all of the other data lines up–addresses I had and her husband’s name. Sophia was only an infant when her mother had died.

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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Death Certificate for Apolonia (Mary) Mierzejewski, 12 September 1910

The death certificate is exciting for me because it does provide a birth date for Apolonia (February 15, 1890) and her parents’ names: Alonzo Waldislawski and Mary Kerzniski. I’m going to not rely on these names literally because Alonzo is not a Polish name but will search for some similar names in the future (Aloysius comes to mind). I also am unsure of the surname spellings, but it is a start. Daughter, Sophia, was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, I have evidence that Wladyslaw was in the US as early as 1907 per the 1920 census so perhaps I can dig into more Pennsylvania records such as marriage licenses to see if he and Apolonia married in the US and if so, verify her parents’ names.

The obituary is interesting in that it is probably the very earliest obituary I have found in my family (seriously–I haven’t found obituaries in my family before about 1920ish) and the fact it gave a physical description of Apolonia (Cathalina). She is described as an “exceptionally beautiful” woman.

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Apolonia (Cathalina) Mierzejewski Obituary from the Altoona Tribune 13 September 1910.

I’ve transcribed the obituary below because the scan is rather poor quality.

Mrs. Cathalina Mierzejewski

Mrs. Cathalina Mierzejewski After an illness of three weeks duration, Mrs. Cathalina Mierzejewski, wife of Waldys Mierzejewski, a Polish resident of the Fifth ward, died at the Altoona hospital yesterday morning at 4:05 o’clock of typhoid fever. The deceased, who was admitted to the hospital on August 23, was 20 years of age and was exceptionally beautiful. She was a member of St. Mary’s German Roman Catholic Church and resided at 1812 Twelfth avenue with her husband and infant child who survive. The funeral will take place tomorrow morning at 8:30 o’clock. Interment will be made in St. Mary’s cemetery.

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.

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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.