November 2011

Today’s theme over at GeneaBloggers is Wedding Wednesday. Today’s photo is provided by John Plenzler, who graciously sent me a number of photos quite a while ago. It is a mystery photo. Per information that was provided with the photo:

Unknown wedding, may be descendants of Joseph and Eva Dauer. May be Sophie Plenzler and Steve Szymanowski, not sure need verification.  Bride resembles Barbara Szymanowski.  May also be Frank Plenzler and Sophie Szymanowski, Sophie was Steve’s sister. Click the photo to see a larger high-res scan.

Unknown wedding photo

Unknown wedding photo

I have no other clues. If any one can help identify these two, leave a comment here or drop me an email.

I love looking at old wedding photos. This bride has such a sweet face. Doesn’t the groom look ahem a bit as if he is wondering what he’d just gotten into? If you zoom in on the wedding dress, check out the detail. It appears as if there is an apron embroidered with hundreds of delicate stones–beautiful! If you zoom in on the bride’s stockings, they’re lovely and embroidered also.

While scanning the voter registration and naturalization microfilm at the Toledo Lucas County Library this week, I also located Martin Plenzler’s Certificate of Naturalization. Click the image below to see a full-sized high-res scan of the document.

Martin K. Plenzler Certificate of Naturalization

Martin K. Plenzler Certificate of Naturalization

Like Andrew Przybylski’s son, Frank, Martin Plenzler was naturalized under his father’s effort for citizenship. I did not find his father’s (Joseph Plenzler) naturalization documentation, but it is clearly stated here that Joeseph Plenzler was naturalized on 19 October 1891. We know that Joseph arrived prior to 1884, when Eva and her first two children, Martin and Joseph, sailed from Hamburg. Son John was born the following year in 1885.

Martin, because of his foreign birth, required naturalization papers in order to vote. We can determine the date that he filed and declared citizenship in order to vote via the instrument called “minor’s papers” or “father’s papers” at that time by looking at the ages on the document. It states that Martin was 32 and his wife Minnie was 27 at the time the document was executed. Minnie was born in 1886. Looking at the bottom of the document, where it indicates that Martin had registered to vote, it states he had resided in Toledo on Avondale for 25 years. So that aligns perfectly. He was a two-year-old child at the time of immigration. This means the document was executed sometime in 1913 since he lists his children, and daughter Florence was age five months. Florence was born in 1913. There is a small curiosity with the children however. The daughter named Edwina used the name of Edna. (Edna and her sister, Florence, actually merit their own post sometime in the future.)

A bit more library goodness to be posted in the near future.

As we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, I have spent the majority of my downtime eating or working on genealogy. And this is in spite of the fact I live in Columbus, Ohio where a hotly held football rivalry is held annually (good job this year, Michigan <snicker>) and that everyone else is out shopping. It is times like these, when I can let go of the housework and put aside other distractions, that I can make some real connections and really absorb what the overwhelming amount of data that is collected means.

This weekend, I’ve come to appreciate the results from researching collateral relatives–those that are not linearly related to us such as grandparents and great-grandparents–and truly understand the value of those aunts, uncles, cousins, and in-laws can bring. In my family, that means much work and effort–my mother’s side of the family probably could populate a mid-sized city. But it was through the Plenzler and Przybylski families that I came to understand more fully my great-grandparents’ lives. Eva Dauer and Joseph Plenzer as well as Frances Rochowiak and Andrew Przybylski were relatively obscure to me until I started putting the dots together with their children. For instance, I never would have fully understood that Andrew had been a naturalized citizen of the United States unless I had pursued all of his children’s births nor would I have even been able to pinpoint a time frame for his immigration without knowing his children’s births. It was his daughter Rose who was the last child to have been born in Poznan in June 1880 and his daughter Victoria who was born in Toledo in December 1882. My mom would not have known her Aunt Rose as Rose passed away in 1916. Mom did have a vague memory of Victoria — mom was born in 1926 and Victoria died in 1936 — mom would not have recalled much other than her relationship to Victoria.

Because of Rose’s and Victoria’s birth, I was able to pinpoint that their father would have come to the US sometime in 1880 and without this knowledge, I would not have been able to locate any other documentation for Andrew for his brief life in the US. I was thrilled to realize that he would have been able to vote in the US before his death.

Through my grandmother, Anastasia Przybylski Plenzler, I learned of cholera and typhoid outbreaks in urban regions of the US during the early 1900s. It was her first husband, Stanley Lawecki, who died of typhoid in 1910 and her first child, Daniel, who died of cholera a few months later.

There is great value in researching those collateral family members. Don’t stick to a linear branch of your family tree, especially if you are stuck. Dig into those children, nieces, nephews, aunts, grand uncles, and in-laws. You can find valuable information and understand your common grandparents or great-grandparents so much more if you do. My thinking is that the value of genealogy is not the pedigree you are building–if we all dig far enough or hard enough or long enough, we’ll probably find someone at least semi-famous or of some nobility. What does that really mean if you do not understand the full history behind what occurred in your family and bought you to where you are now and made you who you are?

I may be in a minority: I still haven’t located anyone remotely famous or even remotely connected to nobility or royalty in my family tree. When I hear someone claim they’re related to Robert E. Lee or have a story of a connection to the Windsors, I listen politely and move on and wonder if he or she has missed the richness of the history that surrounds them and fully understands the sacrifice, love, and labor that brought them to where they are now. I don’t dismiss anyone’s research, and a connection to Robert E. Lee is certainly an important and interesting connection to history. But I urge anyone to avoid becoming entrapped in attempting to prove or finding a “proper” or “important” pedigree via proxy. That eagerness may cloud your judgement–if you are indeed something like a fifth or sixth cousin to Robert E. Lee, look deeper. How did that influence your family’s role in history and how has that help mold who you are today? Do not live vicariously through the shadows of long-gone ancestors–you’re missing the richness of who you are and what your family gave you.

Rather, dig deeper and learn your family’s role in history and how it created who you are and how you came to be! Your parents may have been paupers, but there was not a linear chain of events that brought them to their station in life, but rather a three-dimensional web that created the world in which they both struggled and flourished as well. Learn that story!

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!

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has a number of historic photos on its website. To get a glimpse of what life was like for the Plenzler, Przybylski, and Mierzejewski ancestors, visit the site. It is located here: Particularly interesting are the collection of photos for the industries for which Toledo was famous: Willy-Overland (now Chrysler Jeep), Champion Spark Plug, Auto Lite, and others as well as some photos of the strikes that occurred as well as photos of neighborhoods and churches. As a teaser, I’ve linked to a photo of the interior of St. Anthony’s church, about 1900, of a service in progress.

St. Anthony's Catholic Church (Toledo, Ohio)

St. Anthony's Catholic Church (Toledo, Ohio) (Courtesy of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, obtained from http:///

I promised myself today that I would not sit behind my computer all day doing genealogy. Promises were made to be broken. I intended only to write about the Zielinski family and a make a quick post about gleaning as much information from Google News Archives as possible before we lost that valuable and free resource.

Well because it was a dreary, grey, dismal Sunday here, I hunkered down instead to poke through more of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo’s baptismal records, in an effort to see if I could locate Amelia Zielinski and a few others there to establish a date of birth.

Needless to say, poking through those records is relatively dangerous for an adult fueled on coffee. I was scanning through the collection from St. Stanislaus’s parish and a name popped up that I had never seen before, but really feel compelled to research soon.

This surprise came to me via the baptism for a Paulina Klimczak. A copy of the record is located here, and I’ve transcribed it below:

Nomen Infantis et Residentia: Paulina
Dies Mensis Annus
Nativitatis: Mar. 31
Baptismi: Apr. 7
Nomen Parentum: Stephanus Baranski, Stana. Klimczak
Locus Nativitatis: Toledo
Nomen Patrinorum: Wenceslaus Mierzejewski, Sophia Poniatowska
Nomen Ministri: A. Pietrykowski

Now, I have more strong evidence that there were Mierzejewskis residing in Toledo prior to my grandparents’ arrival in 1923.  However more research will be needed as I do not know who this Wenceslaus may be.  To the best of my knowledge, neither of my grandparents had a sibling whose name was Wenceslaus. Earlier, I had found a Constantia Mierzejewska just by strolling through Calvary Cemetery and photographing graves. It seems as if a number of Mierzejewskis had arrived in Toledo prior to my grandparents.

I had to make a quick post about this because this is a very intriguing discovery for me. I’ve often wondered why in the world my grandparents would have settled in Toledo, Ohio–face it, the only thing Toledo had going for it back then was the many, many industrial jobs connected to the auto industry in Detroit. It had no better weather than the east coast–Lake Erie winters are no picnic, the job market was not exactly kind (Toledo and Detroit were the epicenter of violent strikes in the 1920s through the 1940s, and there were a number of industrial accidents), and the area was riddled with quite a bit of crime during the heydays of Prohibition. The only things Toledo had going for it is that it was a fairly inexpensive place to live and that it had a need for much backbreaking unskilled labor.  So my curiosity is aroused once more. If anyone knows of a Wenceslaus Mierzejewski, please drop me a line her or an email and I’ll follow up. As I can find further information, I will post it as well.

As a follow up to my previous post, I had to share an experience that led me to encourage someone who may be at wits’ end trying to knit together information on a family — you can’t determine relationships or perhaps you have a birthdate and unless a person is truly Methusala, you cannot ascertain a death date.

This happened to me recently. I was researching the Mruk branch of my maternal Plenzler family. I had known that my great-grand-aunt, Margaretha Plenzler Mruk, had a daughter named Mary. I knew Mary had married a gentleman named John Zielinski. However, I could not put my finger on all of Mary’s and John’s children. Like my maiden name, Zielinski  is a fairly common Polish name. There are many Zielinskis in the Toledo region. Not all are related. And given the fact that these individuals were named Mary and John, I was beginning to think I was never going to find their progeny.

I slowly chipped away at it and found their eldest son, Gabriel, through the 1900 census. Gabriel was a six month old child at the time of the census and he passed away in 1977. One by one, I managed to find the rest of their children using the 1910, 1920, and 1930 census data:

I was able to locate an obituary for each of the siblings except for Ralph and Ameley/Emilia. This proved invaluable to locate or discover who Emilia or Ameley was. It also shows clearly to me how we need to question the data that is provided by the census taker on census materials as well as our own assumptions. Clearly, transcriptions can be inaccurate, but I’ve also come across many instances where the census taker’s information was incorrect or inaccurate.

None of this seems remarkable other than I could find no traces of an “Ameley” or an “Emilia” Zielinski after about 1930. My hunches were that she had passed away, moved away, or married outside of the state or that on the 1920 census data, the name was  entered as “Emilia” and on the 1930 census the name was entered as “Ameley.” (Was Hooked on Phonics was popular in the 1920s or 30s?) So I went with searching for “Emilia”  and its diminutive version, “Emily.”

I had scoured the baptismal registries for both St. Stanislaus and St. Anthony’s parishes to no avail–all of her older siblings were baptized in St. Anthony’s parish. St. Stan’s was in the neighborhood and a new parish at the time, so I thought, ok… it’s possible she were baptized there as well. (Although I do plan to go back through those baptismal records and give them the once-over again.)

No marriages cropped up for Emilia, Ameley, or Emily. But that’s not unusual. I did have several female family members who never married.

I let the situation rest a while as I went on to the mind numbing exercise of locating all of the Mierzejewskis I could possibly find in immigration manifests. So this weekend after putting the Mierzejewski exercise aside, I decided to backfill some of the Zielinski family story with obituaries and thought I’d check to see what could arise from that effort. Since Ralph and Martha were the most recently deceased in 2002, it was a piece of cake to find Martha’s obituary which gave me the needed information to locate Amelia. Here is her obituary published in the Toledo Blade on August 30, 2002, transcribed below:

RYWALSKI, Martha R. (Zielinski)

Martha R. Rywalski, age 90, of Sylvania, Ohio, died peacefully after suffering from a massive stroke on Thursday, August 29, 2002, in her home. She was born on December 14, 1911, to John and Mary (Mruk) Zielinski in Toledo, Ohio. Martha had worked as a clerk for the former Valley Fruit House. She was a member of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church where she was baptized and married. She was a member of the St. Francis Guild and enjoyed bunco.

Martha was preceded in death by her loving Husband, John, in 1969; brothers, Gabriel (Helen), Edward (Helen), and Bernard Zielinski; sisters, Isabel (Walter) Urbanowski, Regina (John) Burzynski, Mary (Andrew) Sieja, and Amelia Zielinsk; son, Donald Rywalski; son-in-law, Gerald Hagen, and great-grandson, Scott Wambold.

She will be deeply missed by her loving daughter, Barbara (Rywalski) Hagen, daughter-in-law, Lois (Donald) Rywalski, grandchildren, Dr. Suzanne (Bob) Wambold, Gary (Sally) Hagen, Gail Rywalski, David (Amy) Rywalski; great-grandchildren, Melissa and Abigail Hagen, Kelli and Katie Wambold, and Morgan Rywalski, and by brother, Ralph (Phyllis) Zielinski.

Family and friends may visit at the W.K. Sujkowski & Son Funeral Home, 3838 Airport Hwy., on Friday from 2-9 pm. Funeral Services will be held on Saturday, August 31, 2002, at 10 am followed by Mass of Christian Burial at St. Stanislaus Church at 10:30 am. A wake service will be held on Friday evening at 7 pm in the mortuary.

When I read that, I began to wonder why I hadn’t thought of “Amelia” as a possibility for her name! Now I knew that Amelia had passed away and I was able to sort through the rest of the obituaries. Not all mentioned the siblings who had passed away previously, however, it was obvious the Amelia was not mentioned as a survivor. Since the earliest date of death I had found for any of the siblings was for Regina and Edward in 1958, I was able to safely assume that Amelia had passed away sometime between the time of the 1930 census and 1958. That narrowed it down to about 28 years.

Then using, I was able to pinpoint Amelia’s date of death by locating her death certificate. Amelia passed away at the age of 20 on June 11, 1935.  She did not have what we would consider a obituary by today’s standards; however, it was common practice in the 1930s and 1940s for undertakers to include a classified ad in the local newspapers called a death notice. I located Amelia’s death notice published in the Toledo News-Bee on June 12, 1935, transcribed below:

ZIELINSKI, AMELIA–Age 20. Tues. Beloved daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John, sister of Mrs. R. Burzynski, Mrs. I. Urbanowski, Mrs. M. Seija, Mrs. M. Rywalski, Gabriel, Edward, Ralph, and Bernard. Funeral Sat. 8:30 a.m. from the residence, 1737 Buckingham and 9 o’clock at St. Stanislaus Church. Interment family lot, Calvary. Young Ladies Sodality, please attend. Sujkowski & Son.

One of today’s themes over at GeneaBloggers is Sunday’s obituaries. I’ve been fortunate in that many of my ancestors have been concentrated near and in the northwest corner of Ohio, most in Toledo. There is a wealth of free, genealogical data available via internet for the region through both and other venues. But I wanted to make special mention today regarding the Google News Archives.

Not long ago, Google announced it would no longer expand the service and has indeed made it more difficult to locate the archives. However, they are still available here: There are many archived newspapers that you can browse and research for obituaries and newsclippings. This has been an invaluable source and when I get too tired of recording the uncountable number of Mierzejewski immigration records, I go here to see if I can backfill my genealogical data with obituaries or newsclips regarding my ancestors.

The Toledo area has three newspapers that are archived here:

  • The Toledo Blade. While the list states there are editions available from about 1869, there are huge holes in this collection. The collection is probably most valuable from about 1935ish forward. Many, many obituaries available for the 1940s forward.
  • The Toledo News-Bee.  This is a good resource for news and some obituaries from about the 1910s through the 1930s.
  • The Toledo Sunday News-Bee. This is a “sister” publication to the News-Bee. There are huge holes in this series, but is starts at about 1901 and may contains obituaries for the Toledo region.

There are plenty of screen capture/snipping tools out there that can be used to grab what you need from these images.  Google screen capture software if you need to obtain something to do this. (Of course, if all else fails, there’s always the ol’ PrintScreen and Paint trick, but a screen capture tool will make the job a bit easier.) Because I don’t want to make this a post about software or technology, I won’t go into any specific tools here. If you want a recommendation for a decent tool, drop me a message. There are free ones available that do a great job.

I’ve made some interesting discoveries and was able to ascertain some relationships by digging into these archives for obituaries and news bits. Hopefully, you too can before Google decides to fully retire this service. My thinking is that eventually it will go away, although I have not seen any statement yet to verify my thoughts.

I’ve been quietly working on gathering the immigration data for Mierzejewskis, using as many permutations of the name as I could. This has kept me extremely busy. I’ve gathered what I believe is fairly reliable data for all of the Mierzejewskis as I possibly could locate through Ellis Island only and have posted here in an Excel spreadsheet (2003)–set so that the data could be filtered. It’s probably best to filter the data by date so that you can locate groups who had traveled together.

I have also located some Mierzejewskis who have emigrated through Boston and possibly other ports; however, I have not recorded the data yet. As time goes on, I’ll add that data to this collection.

Two things have struck me while doing this exercise: 1) I previously assumed that women generally did not travel alone from Europe during the period. I was wrong! I found a number of women who were quite young and traveled alone or with small children without companionship. 2) I did not think any Mierzejewskis had emigrated to the US prior to about 1905-1910. Wrong again. Already, I’ve located a few who emigrated in the 1890s. I do not know if these persons had stayed or if they followed a pattern I detected in my family that they came and went a few times before deciding to remain here or in Poland.

I haven’t analyzed this information much besides these two observations. But it will be an interesting exercise I believe to see how my family (if I can sift through them from this already substantial set of data!) moved from Poland to the US and through New England westward.

A word about this data: Where possible, I have corrected given names and geographic places. (That is, if I could transcribe the name.) The exception to this is the LAST name is provided as it was entered into the database from Ellis or the service used (such as the National Archives). The reason I did NOT correct the names is there are various ways of spelling the surname and if you wish to pursue obtaining the record, you would need that particular transcription. I haven’t submitted any suggested edits or changes to Ellis Island or the National Archives (that in itself may be an overwhelming task AND there are likely other records that use many of the different versions of the name.)

The spreadsheet is located here if you want to download it.

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. In honor of my father the veteran, I have a scanned a handwritten document my father created during his World War II experiences. This is a list of his missions from July 13 through November 11, 1944. It will be 67 years ago tomorrow that the he had completed these missions with the rest of his Bomb Squad. What brave men! Click an image to enlarge it or download it. Give a vet some love tomorrow while you’re at it.

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

49th Bomb Squad Missions

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