July 2010

Slightly off-topic, and yet, highly relevant today considering the hotly debated Arizona immigration laws.

I spend a fair amount of time traveling. This past week, I hopped a Southwest flight to Orlando. The problem with flying to me is I can’t stand to be bored, and flights are boredom. Admittedly, being on a flight full of families bound for Disney World for summer vacation via Southwest is somewhat less boring than a red-eyed Delta full of IT execs (at least the pilots and flight attendants are cheery and entertaining), but still…I have to sit still and the only thing entertaining me is the hope that the person next to me doesn’t elbow me while I sip a cup of coffee. Yup. I prefer roadtrips, but don’t tell my employer that. (I spent a year one month on a roadtrip to New Jersey for work.)

While in-flight, I read the July 2010 issue of Spirit, Southwest’s magazine. There were two highly relevant and appropriate articles for anyone wanting to understand more about citizenship, immigration, and the push-pull reasons for immigration. (To  me, immigration is a blade with two sharp and equally important sides for those to decide to leave their homeland. The first side is what I refer to as the “push”–what drives an immigrant away from his homeland. The second side is what I refer to as the “pull”–what attracts the immigrant to the country of his choice.)

The first article, “The New Americans” profiled newly naturalized American citizens and their backgrounds and reasons for immigrating to the States. While my family research focuses mainly on immigrants of Polish and German ancestry from the Prussian and Russian partitions of Poland, many of these profiles struck a chord with me. Many Catholics from the German-dominated Prussia of the 1870s and 1880s left in droves, sometimes nearly entire villages at a time, because Bismark began deporting Jesuit priests from the country and arrested those in the pulpits or within lay religious communities who discussed political topics or dared remark against the current political climate. Poles from the Russian partitions of Poland often came and left the US a number of times before settling permanently in the US. The economy of Russian-dominated Poland was harsh and extreme during the early 1900s through the cold war, and many farmlands were confiscated by the government and men were forcibly conscripted into the Russian army. In order to provide for their families, many Polish men during this period would come to the states and work manual labor or menial jobs. During this period, the work available to these men was usually extremely dangerous (I’ve found quite a bit of evidence of industrial accidents in my research–a great-uncle died at 29 due to an accidental amputation) or physically demanding (coal-mining). The men would then bring their families to the States or return to Poland for a time before settling in the States permanently and becoming naturalized citizen. Families were often split once a group of siblings decided to permanently settle in the US, so that may be a reason men would travel back and forth between America and Europe.

While the ethnic backgrounds in the profiles provided in The New Americans were very different than my ancestors, many commonalities still ring true for immigrants from any country.

Kassegn Befekadu immigrated here from Ethiopia in 2006. Born deaf in Addis Ababa, Kassegn faced large challenges in his life in Ethiopia. Through a sign interpreter, Kassegan told the reporter that “There are no rights there for people like me. Life was very, very hard.” After his immigration, he told the reporter, that he found the US provided much tolerance and the support he needed. “I have so many opportunities here. I can get an education. I can drive and work.”

Narek Bznouni is a teenager living in California. His family is of Armenian ethnicity and they emigrated here when Narek was a year old. His parents fled Armenia in 1992, leaving behind oppressive living conditions but also professional careers. Narek’s father was the CEO of a business. After arriving in the US, his parents delivered newspapers and then took jobs in local casinos. Narek mentioned that this fall from white-collar to blue-collar status was always in the back of his father’s mind, but that he made peace with it. The entire Bznouni family sans Narek’s father was naturalized this past May. Narek’s father passed away in 2003.  They celebrated with an American-style barbecue.

Roya Dur Mohammad was born in Afghanistan and grew up in Islamabad, Pakistan. As a child, she recalled her life as good, “when my father was with us.” But in 2000, Roya and her mother, brother, and sister were granted refugee status in the States and settled in Las Vegas. What drove them here was the fact her father left the family. When he left, the family was very poor. Roya enrolled in school in the US and found adjustment difficult: language barriers while completing high school and driving. Women don’t drive in Pakistan. When asked what she loved about American life, she stated it was her Honda Civic and her liberty. “After 5 o’clock [in Pakistan], you cannot go outside because it’s dangerous. Here, 24/7, I go when I want to go.”

Do these push-pull reasons for immigration really change over time? Political climates change, economic climates change, and places that people leave change and the places they immigrate to change. (The US isn’t the only country many immigrants decide to settle!) Have you found anything in common with today’s immigrants to the US with your ancestors who immigrated here? Has that weighed in on your views regarding the Arizona immigration laws? Has that made you consider different aspects to the “Constitutionality” of this law?

I’ll keep my thoughts on the Arizona law to myself. However, immigration has occurred throughout the history of civilization. Immigration changes the face, flavor, and culture of every nation. Culture is fluid, it is never static. To me, the basic push for immigration is personal freedom, the right for self-expression, and the fundamental need for human beings to remove or leave behind physical, economic, and intellectual restraints. The pull in an immigrant’s mind is the country he decides to move to shows  a lack of physical, economic, and intellectual restraints and the immigrant has a desire for personal growth and well being. Does the Arizona law aim to restrict the pull that the United States has for immigrants or does it ignore the push that drives immigrants here?

Spirit also publisihed an article entitled “Citizenship in Five Parts” that discusses the hardest part of being a citizen in a democracy–the fact we have to share the democracy. More on that later…

One of the reasons I’d gotten started on researching my family a few years ago was my mom wondered what had happened to her sister, Florence. Since I’ve started this journey, I’m realizing more and more families have one or more members who seem to disappear without much of a trace. Florence is one such person in my family.

Florence was born to John Plenzler and Anastasia Przybylski on October 1, 1915. She was the second of three children: Raymond was the eldest, born in 1914 and my mother was the youngest, born in 1926.

New Years Day 1953

Mom, Dad, Karen, and Davey Plenzler on New Years Day 1953

The information I have on Florence is scarce. My mom lost touch with her many years ago, probably sometime in the 1960s.

Florence had a son, David (“Davey”), who was born in 1941. Florence was 25 when Davey was born, and the family was in some turmoil. Anastasia was widowed at this point, and had suffered with breast cancer as well as other health problems. Most likely, Anastasia was indigent. Florence was single at the time, and my mother would have been just 14 years old when Davey was born on April 22, 1941.

Anastasia passed away in 1946. By this time, my mother was 18 years old. Gradually, by the time my parents married in 1948, mom had full-time care of Davey and had raised him for a number of years.

Davey was living with my mother, father, and sister in 1953. I have a photo of the family together dated New Years Day, 1953 as well as Davey’s First Holy Communion record through St. Hyacinth. Davey would have been 12 at the time of the picture, and would have been just past his 10th birthday at the time he made his First Holy Communion on May 13, 1951.

Ultimately, Davey was placed in a home because he required much more care than normal children–he was mentally handicapped and did not do well in normal schools of that period. Mom maintained her relationship with Davey all of those years, treated him much like her son. While Davey was growing up, mom and Davey lost touch with Florence. Contact between Florence and my mother was infrequent although mom did have an address for her in Detroit, Michigan and knew she had married when she moved to Detroit. Mom has also told me that Florence did have another child, a son, who was killed in an auto accident.

However, as time passed, the two sisters lost touch. Davey passed away in 1994 after developing a fairly independent life for himself. There was no contact information for Florence at this time and I’ve since learned that Florence passed away in 1999 by finding a Social Security death index record for her. That led me to search land ownership and deed transfer records in Wayne County, Michigan, where I located a quit claim that indeed placed Florence in Detroit and identified her husband as John. I then located John’s death through the Social Security death index and found an abstract of his Michigan death certificate.

I have no pictures of Florence, nor do I know if she had other children. I cannot verify whether she had another son or whether that son died.

Florence is one of the mysteries in our branch of the Plenzler family. Mom had wondered about her many times through the years. I have not been able to locate any records for her yet that provide any indication of what happened to her, or what her life was like, or any other children she may have had. I hope to find more about her story. If anyone has any information about Florence Plenzler Soborowski please let me know.

Helena was my grandmother. She was born in Borowcze, Poland about 1889. All I know about Helena is her life here in the States and that her maiden name was Mierzejewska, although she was most likely unrelated to her husband, Wladyslaw.

Helena was the third child of the four known children of Stanislaw Mierzejewski and Anna Keijewska. Her siblings were:

Helena immigrated here with her husband, Wladyslaw (Walter) and two children: Wlaclaw (Walter, Jr.) and Czeslawa (Celia) in 1923. A third child, my father, Edward, was born in Toledo after their immigration.

Wladyslaw and Helena traveled back to Poland in 1927 in order to visit one of their parents in Kaczyny, Poland. This is a fact to be followed up in the future to see if it relates to a date of death or other event in the family. Unfortunately, I do not know yet whose father they went to visit. However, they were in Poland for quite sometime. The manifest indicates that the ship sailed from Havre, France September 14, 1927 and arrived in New York on September 21, 1927. Looking closely at the manifest, it indicates that Wladyslaw’s immigration visa #NQ311 was issued at Warsaw on July 6, 1927 but Helena’s (her name is noted at Bronislawa–the Polish name) immigration visa #NQ726 was issued at Warsaw on August 23, 1927. So, there was about eight weeks between the time they each obtained their visas to return to the US and this doesn’t consider when they arrived in Poland. Oddly, the children did not travel with them to Poland.

I have very little knowledge of my grandmother’s life other than this. She passed away on May 7, 1959, about two months after her son, Walter, Jr. passed away. I have not located an obituary for Helena yet. I do have her burial record from St. Hyacinth Parish and Calvary Cemetery.  If you read the entire St. Hyacinth document, you’ll note that record #2 is her son, Walter. This branch of the family shortened their name to Myers.

The burial record from St. Hyacinth is transcribed below:

Name: Mierzejewski, Helen
Cemetery: Calvary
Died: 5-7-59
Buried 5-11-59
Officiatingi Priest: W. A. Czajkowski
Age: 69 Sacraments: All
Nearest kin: Cecelia Starzynski
Adm.: Z. Pitula

The Calvary Cemetery record is transcribed below:

No.: 60321
Name: Helen Mierzejewski
Residence: St. Vincent’s Hosp.
Age: 70
Cause of death: Cerebral hemorrhage
Date of interment: 5/11
Grave: 210
Range or Lot: 17
Section: 41
Funeral Director: Sujkowski & Son
Remarks: 1771

Celia Mierzejewski Starzynski

Celia Mierzejewski Starzynski

Celia was my father’s sister, the second child born to Wladyslaw and Helena Mierzejewski. Her mother, Helena was an unrelated Mierzejewska when she married Wladyslaw (Walter). Celia was born December 13, 1913 in Gerwaty, Poland.  

Celia immigrated to the US with her parents in 1923, at the age of 9, on the S. S. Frederick VIII sailing from Copehagen on February 8 and arriving in New York on February 20. The manifest notes that Wladyslaw (Walter) and Helena are traveling to Toledo to meet a brother, Jan. Jan is a brother to Helena.The address noted is on Boeckingham; however, this is a misspelling or mistranslation. The street is Buckingham, as there are other documents such as my father’s birth certificate that note this address.  

The 1930 census shows Celia living with her parents and siblings at 622 Woodstock. She and Joe married sometime after 1930.  

Joe was born March 13, 1910 and was baptized the same day in St. Hedwig’s parish as Adam Joseph Starzynski. Joe’s baptismal record is transcribed below: 

No. 50
Name of Person Baptized: Adam Joseph Starzynski
Date and Place of Birth: March 13, 1910
Date of Baptism: March 13, 1910
Father’s Name, Mother’s Maiden Name: Marianus Starzynski, Maria Lewandowski
Sponsors: Ignatius Kiszal, Stanislava Gorska
Priest: L. A. Kuzius (sp?)

His parents were Marion (Maryjan) Starzynski and Mary Lewandowski. Joe was the second of four sons born to Marion and Mary. Somewhere along the way as a child, Joe’s name changed from Adam to Joseph. I always simply knew him as Uncle Joe. The Starzynski family lived on Pearl Street as indicated in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 census records.  

Joe and Celia’s marriage produced one child, a daughter named Marcia. They lived at 813 Evesham. My sisters and I knew Celia as “Ciocia.” (Polish for “aunt” or “auntie.”) 

Celia worked at Champion Spark Plugs, as did my father, for many years. Joe worked at Kaiser Jeep, the predecessor to Chrysler Jeep. 

Celia died suddenly at home on December 21, 1978. Her obituary was published in the Toledo Blade on December 23, 1978 and is transcribed below:  

Celia Starzynski  

Mrs. Celia Starzynski, 65, of 813 Evesham Ave., died Thursday in her home. She was an employee of the Champion Spark Plug Co., 35 years, retiring in 1970. Surviving are her husband, Joseph, daughter, Mrs. Marcia Zielinski, and brother Edward Mierzejewski Services will be at 1 p.m. today in St. Hyacinth Church (link takes you to the St. Hyacinth death register record). She was buried in Calvary Cemetery. Her burial record is transcribed below:  

No. 83452
Name: Celia Starzynski
Address: 813 Evesham
Age: 65
Cause of Death: Bureau Vital Statistics
Date of Interment: 12/23/1978
Grave E-Pt
Range or Lot 130
Section 33
Funeral Director: Sujkowski
Remarks: Police Sta.  

(Note: The Police Station remark is made because Celia died just as the Christmas holidays were occurring. The night she passed away, Thursday December 21st, meant there was a difficult decision to be made–either hold the funeral and bury her on the 23rd of December or wait until after the holidays. While her death was due to natural causes, the report of death was held at the local police station until the death certificate could be issued at the Bureau of Vital Statistics. I wanted to make that clear lest anyone think something criminal happened–if you look closely at the burial records, there are a number of burials listed that way. It was simply due to the timing and government bureaucracy closing down for the holidays.) 

Joe passed away April 15, 1989.  His obituary was published in the Toledo Blade on April 17, 1989 and is transcribed below: 

Joe Starzynski

Joe Starzynski

Joseph A. Starzynski 

Joseph A. Starzynski, 79, formerly of Evesham Avenue, died Saturday in Oaks Care Center, Lima, O., where he was a patient four days. He worked 40 years in the trim shop at the former Jeep Corp, retiring in 1969. He was the widower of Celia Starzynski. Surviving are his daughter, Mrs. Marcia Zielinski and three grandchildren. Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in St. Hyacinth Church. The body will be in the Sujkowski Mortuary, Airport Highway, after 2 today, with recitation of the Rosary at 8:30 tonight. 

Joe was buried through St. Hyacinth Parish. (Link takes you to the death record of the parish.) Burial was at Calvary Cemetery and the burial record is transcribed below: 

No. 93224
Name: Joseph A. Starzynski
Residence: Form. 813 Evesham
Age: 79
Cause of death: Prov. Death Cert.
Date of interment: 4/18
Grave: E Pt.
Range or Lot: 130
Section: 33
Funeral director: Sujkowski PP

Leo was the last child of Eva Dauer and Joseph Plenzler. He was born March 14, 1899 and baptized in St. Anthony’s Parish on March 19, 1899. Leo’s baptismal record is transcribed below:

Ego infrascriptus baptizavi Leonem
Natum 14 Martii
ex Josepho Plencler et Eva Dauer
Patrini fuerunt Adalbertus Toda, Josepha Majchrzak
F.S. Motulewski

I located Leo on the 1920 census, living with his siblings Robert, Mary, and Frank at the family home at 1451 Avondale. What is particularly interesting about this census is that there is also a family listed at the same address of Sophia and Steve Szymanowski. Where there two Sophia Szymanowskis? Did Sophia Plenzler marry a Szymanowski? Frank married Sophia Szymanowski. Did Sophia Szymanowski have a sibling named Steve? More investigation in the near future! (I do believe this is the case, but have not plowed through the census records yet.)

Leo’s World War I draft registration provided is occupation as a presshand at the Toledo Metal Wheel company (you’ll need to scroll down the page a bit to find the article on Toledo Metal Wheel).  Here is also an interesting blog post about the Toledo Metal Wheel company.

I have no details about Leo’s marriage; however, he married a woman named Harriet. This marriage produced two sons: Leon and Phillip.

Leo passed away April 27, 1963 at the age of 65. His obituary was published in the Toledo Blade April 28, 1963 and is transcribed below.

Leo J. Plenzler, 64, of 520 Detroit Ave., died yesterday in Toledo Hospital of a heart ailment.

A lifelong Toledo resident, Mr. Plenzler was a set-up man 35 years at the DeVilbiss Co.

Surviving are his wife, Harriet; sons, Leo, Jr. and Phillip J., sisters, Mary and Mrs. Sophie Szymanowski, and brothers, Robert and Frank, all of Toledo.

The body is in the Sujkowski Mortuary. Services will be Wednesday at 9 a.m. in St. Stanislaus Church, with burial in Calvary Cemetery.

Leo was buried through St. Stanislaus Parish. The church burial record is transcribed below.

Number 8
Name: Family; Baptismal: Leo Plenzler
Address: 520 Detroit
Age: 64
Parents or Spouse: Harriet
Sacraments-Minister: A. Sobczak
Date of Death: 4/27/63
Cemetery Date of Burial: Calvary, 5/1/63

Leo’s burial record from Calvary Cemetery is transcribed below:

No. 64971
Name: Leo J. Plenzler
Residence: Toledo Hosp.
Age: 64
Cause of Death: Congestive Heart Failure
Date of Interment: May 1
Grave: E11′, W28, S6′
Range or Lot: 60
Section: 19
Funeral Director: W.K. Sujkowski
Remarks: 1787

Harriet passed away November 20, 1983. Her obituary was published in the Toledo Blade on November 21, 1983 and is transcribed below:

Mrs. Harriet S. Plenzler, 79, of Rosemar Drive, died Sunday in her home. She was the widow of Leo Plenzler. Surviving are her sons, Leon and Philip, and sisters, Mrs. Marie Cichy, Mrs. Martha Klatt, and Agnes Konczal, and brother, William Lamarr. Services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Stanislaus Church. The Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Sujkowski Mortuary, where the body will be after 6:30 tonight.

Harriet’s death record through St. Stanislaus Parish is transcribed below:

Name: Family; Baptismal: Plenzler, Harriet
Address: 2216 Rosemar, Toledo, Ohio
Age: 79
Parents or Spouse: Son – Leon
Date of Date: 11/20/83
Cemetery, Date of Burial: Calvary, 11-20-83
Celebrant at Funeral: Gerald Robinson

Harriet’s burial record from Calvary Cemetery is transcribed below:

No. 88335
Name: Harriet S. Plenzler
Residence: 2216 Rosemar
Age: 79
Cause of Death: Prov. death cert.
Date of Interment: 11-23-83
Grave: E11′,W20′, S9′
Range or lot: 60
Section 19
Funeral Director: Sujkowski
Remarks: 420

Off to enjoy a summer weekend on Lake Erie!

Presque Isle, Erie, Pennsylvania

Presque Isle, Erie, Pennsylvania lighthouse

Sophia was the 9th child of Eva Dauer and Joseph Plenzler. I have located Sophia on the 1900 and 1910 census records for the family and have also located her baptismal certificate. It seems Sophia disappears into history!

Sophia was born April 25, 1897 and baptized May 2, 1897 in St. Anthony’s parish. Her baptismal record is transcribed below:

Ego infrastriptus baptizavi: Sophiam Plencner
Natam: 25 Aprilis
ex Joseph Plencler et Eva Dauer
Patrini fuerunt: Joannes Przybylski, Josepha Jawkowiak
F.S. Motulewski

I am researching this further, but I cannot locate a death record or marriage record yet for her.

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