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!

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 FamilySearch.org 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: http://news.google.com/newspapers. 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.

Ok, I’ll admit. I went into stealth mode. Been quiet, but working on gathering all of the Mierzejewski immigration records I could find. Many permutations and I’m up to over 100 distinct and different Mierzejewski Ellis island manifest records. Slow going to query, transcribe, and record each.

Along the way (and I’m still not done), I came across an interesting discovery.

I found nothing that knocked my socks off until this afternoon–well, at least no one that I could immediately recognize outside my grandparents’ records. Earlier, I had noted that my grandmother’s brother, Kalixty, had emigrated to the US in 1911 per the 1920 census. But I came across an earlier immigration record for my grandmother’s brother, Kalixty. I located a manifest from Ellis that indicated he emigrated into the US on November 12, 1908 and was meeting his brother, Wladyslaw (Wladimir or Walter) in Branford, Conecticut. It clearly is Helena’s brother. Kalxity’s name is hard to interpret on this manifest–the Ellis Island transcribers had transcribed the name as Halikstin. However, upon careful inspection of the document, it is noted that he was born in Borowce, and his contact his his mother, Anna Mirzejewski in Borowce. The age fits perfectly. We have his birthdate documented as December 12, 1886 per his death certificate. His age on the manifest is listed as 22. Kalixty would have been 22 in 1908. Note that the surname is spelled MIRZEJEWSKI.

I have not yet located a manifest that indicates that Kalixty may have returned to Poland and returned to the US in 1911. But it’s still entirely possible–am still working through all the name permutations.

We can now trace that my grandmother’s family was in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. I think I have a lot of work ahead of me!

Today’s theme over at Geneabloggers is Funny Friday. I mentioned earlier how my father answered the phone a few times when I was a teenager and boys would call for dates.

“County morgue. You stab ’em, we slab ’em.”

Yes, my dad was wickedly funny and I’m certain he did this because he just got tired of the phone ringing–after all the poor guy had three daughters and the phone was in constant use. I don’t know how many possible dates my dad scared off, but I’m too old to care any longer. Of course, I didn’t like it too much then but he thought it funny when the other person hung up without explanation. (If it were anyone who knew my dad, of course they already knew better and would carry on a conversation with him.)

Another story my sister related to me was when my dad was younger. He and his cousin Mackie would spend hours building model airplanes together and fly them off them of a viaduct over Brown Avenue–of course the planes crashed, probably onto cars below. One other story I remember my aunt telling me was my dad was a bit of a mischief maker in elementary school. He got caught smoking a few times and always had those old-fashioned matches in his pocket, the type you could strike anywhere to get a flame. He was in a bit of trouble with one of nuns, and as the nun stood there correcting him, dad was fiddling in his pocket. Well, needless to say, he rubbed the matches together and burned a hole in his pants. I wish I knew what the nun did after that!

Here’s a picture of my dad in his younger days, being completely silly with his pal, Dukie. My dad is to the right.

Dad in a light hearted moment

Dad in a light hearted moment

Dad was a character. There are probably hundreds more stories like these as well. The family was a hoot and I so miss the laughter sometimes!

I just read an excellent article on archives.com. (Just click the link to read the article.) This article validated my reasoning for using social networking and blogging in an attempt to research my family.  By collaboration and sharing via social networking these good things happen:

  • I can validate my research through others–and there have been many times I’ve been wrong. I want to be accurate as possible and many times, learning from others has helped me establish new connections in my family.
  • By sharing, I get greater access to knowledge and insight.
  • I’ve learned to let go of a lot of misconceptions and hope to help foster a greater learning experience for all involved.
  • I’ve gotten in touch with cousins and others who may have known my family that otherwise I may not have had the chance to know–it’s been a rewarding experience so far.

Enjoy the article. If there’s anything I can do to improve this blog or the data I share, drop me a line. (Note that I’ve tightened the security on this blog a bit, so even if you’ve posted here before, I’ll probably need to approve the comment. Sorry, but I’ve been getting spammed hard again. A minor inconvenience with all of the good stuff one can do via internet when collaborating over distance. I can’t say that internet genealogy is without pitfalls.)

Recently, I found a record for a Plenzler marriage from Poznan sitting on my computer. I forgot how I got it or where it came from, not having written to the Poznan project to obtain it. So I asked a likely source, Judy, what it was. She forwarded to me awhile back and I promptly forgot about it. Can anyone really not get overloaded getting their ancestor’s historical information? It seemed possible to me not too long ago. But Judy informed me that she sent it on to me because of the Plenzler connection. On this marriage register, there are two important records: one for a Niemier (one of Joseph Plenzler’s sisters, Catherine, had married Jacob Niemier) and one for a Martinus Plenzler.

I took a stab at transcribing these marriage records. The language used for each was basically the same. (See records 18 and 20 here.) I’ll place the transcription for #20 (Martinus and Catharine Jaskulanka) below. What this indicates is a record of Martinus Plenzler’s first marriage. (See the post regarding a record located in 1851 for a second marriage here.)

The marriage for Martinus and Catherine Jaskunlanka is transcribed below with a very rough translation included:


Martinus Plenzler, juvenis cum
Martin Plenzler, an unmarried young man with

Catharina Janskunlanka, virgine
Catharina Janskunlanka, an unmarried maiden

Ambo de Pietrowo
Each from the town of Pietrowo

Interrogavi en ecclesia mutu.o
Come to the church to exchange vows

Et elaro consensu ab?? ii recepto per ven?? Vet?
And join together in the commitment of marriage

De presenti juata ratificata
And before those present ratify

Cum consensu parentum
With the consensus of their parents

Age of the groom: 26, age of the bride: 22.

Banns: published 17, 24, and 31 October

Witnesses: Szymanowski, Simon; Szymanowski, Michael, ??? Pankoski (?); Michael Jako~la.

I cannot determine an exact date of marriage from this scanned record. However, since banns (the intent of marriage announcement) were published as late as the 31st of October, it’s reasonable to assume that the marriage took place the first week or two of November, 1841.

Given that this marriage took place in 1841 and Joseph Plenzler (my grandfather) was born in 1855, it is also reasonable to ponder a few possibilities:

  • That Joseph and Martinus were not brothers. The age difference is too great. While it is theoretically possible, it’s unlikely the two are brothers.
  • That Martinus is likely an uncle to Joseph. (Joseph’s father was also named Joseph).

I was searching for a way to share the grave photos I had been taking for Calvary cemetery in Toledo  in order to disseminate the genealogical information I have been gathering a bit wider. This does two things in my mind: it brings further awareness of our Polish immigrant ancestry in Ohio and possibly someone searching for their Polish ancestor in Ohio may stumble upon a grave photo and have more information about that person that they may wish to share.

In that light, I found two possibilities for sharing the photos: Find A Grave and the Ohio Gen Web Gravestone Photo Project.

I originally chose Find A Grave and test drove it. Not any problems. The site gets a lot of traffic, but it seems much of that traffic is generated by those submitting graves. It also has a lot of administrative overhead–no cost, but some bureaucracy. Many who post there seem to enjoy the hobby called “graving”–photographing cemeteries and then uploading photos of all of the graves. Those who do this often have no knowledge of the person whose grave they photographed.  I had found a few “digital graves” of family members there, uploaded by others. One did have a connection, the others did not. And I had learned one of those submitters had passed away. I was unable to link to or update her information. While I felt the traffic generated there was high and could lead me to potential new contacts in the effort to research family, I’m not quite convinced that this is the right site to use for my efforts in researching my family and the general history of the Kuschwantz. Find A Grave disappointed me in that persons who submit data there do not necessarily have to provide any detailed information on the burial–all they need is a photo or an obit. While I’m certain there is a lot of value behind Find A Grave, it at least provides an entry point to those seeking basic genealogical information, the data there can be scant, wrong, or held by someone without an interest or who may no longer be active there.

Another site that I found seems more promising for Ohio based efforts. Very little traffic is coming its way in terms of volume but the information provided seems as valuable, if not more valuable, to real genealogical purposes (my opinion only). Unfortunately, it’s scope is limited only to Ohio. This is the Ohio Gen Web Gravestone Photo Project. I made a few submissions for Andrew Przybylski and for Eva and Joe Plenzler, just to see how it worked. I then made an inquiry to the state administrator of the site because it seemed as if Lucas County and Calvary in particular had few records. That led to an email conversation which in turn led to me becoming the administrator for Lucas County cemeteries.

That said, I hope you visit the Ohio Gravestone Photo Project. URL is http://ohiogravestones.org/. You will need a free login to use the site. If you have any Ohio-based grave photos, I hope you’ll consider sharing and documenting them here. Many cemeteries are aging and have been struck by vandals, have been neglected, stones are lost or broken, etc. You’d be sharing genealogical data with future generations.

While I have uploaded a handful of submissions to Find A Grave, I likely will not be making many more contributions there — probably if and when I obtain grave photos that cannot go to the Ohio project–and then may seek out another venue. Because the preservation and documentation of history are relevant to me, I prefer to remain with the Ohio Gravestone Photo Project for Ohio-based graves. Of course, I will continue to publish relevant photos here as well! You retain copyright and ownership of any data submitted to both the Ohio Gravestone Photo Project and Find A Grave website.

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