Here is a photo found in some old belongings of my mother. There is no clue to who these four people are. I can’t even say if they are part of my mom’s family or my dad’s family. I do not recognize any of these people. No idea of the date the photo was taken. If anyone may recognize a face here, please let me know.
June 30, 2014
June 23, 2014
Recently, I had come across a burial for Waclaw Gawronski and ended up doing a bit of research on him. He was an interesting character, whose history included a stint as president and editor-in-chief of the Ameryka Echo in Toledo.
As a child, I vaguely remembered a newspaper called the “Ameryka Echo” which was written for and by Poles. However, I don’t remember reading it myself (I never did learn Polish other than a handful of words and knowing how to use my handy dandy well-worn Polish-English dictionary.) In fact, I don’t remember if my parents had ever read it. I suspect they may have, but I don’t think I remember seeing it in the home. I do remember seeing it for sale occasionally in news shops in downtown Toledo as a kid. The newspaper suspended publication in 1971. At that time, I would have been more interested in the funny pages rather than any actual news or editorial pieces.
The Ameryka Echo had an interesting history. Started in Toledo by A.A. Paryski in 1889, it was a cultural newspaper that was often pro-labor. Paryski had used his publishing corporation to also publish books and other materials on a wide range of subjects from religion and anti-Catholicism to home economics to pulp fiction. He had his admirers and detractors, detractors who believed he was making profit off of illiterate or uneducated immigrants. But his diversified subject matter and the low cost of these publications is precisely what drew his audiences. For a small sum and with language and matter geared toward the Polish immigrant, he was able to sell what he believed was valuable editorial and educational information. The Ameryka Echo was published in Toledo and Chicago, reaching a wide immigrant audience. With this audience, letters to the editor were written (often in Polish) and published.
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities has a short history and inventory of publications of A.A. Paryski and the Ameryka Echo here.
Late last year, Lexington Books had published Letters from Readers in the Polish American Press, 1902 – 1969: A Corner for Everyone, written by Anna D. Jaroszynska-Kirchman and Theodore L. Zawistowski. A preview of the book can be obtained through Google Books. The letters are often utterly fascinating to read: there are debates on Polish-American views on labor movements and strikes, the Cold War, political events in Poland, the Roman Catholic Church, and US government. These letters reflect what I felt was an astoundingly well-informed audience who were well able to express their views, hardly the “illiterate” or “uneducated” that Paryski’s detractors called them.
Issues of the Ameryka Echo are on microfilm, held at Bowling Green State University.
Getting back to Waclaw Gawronski, it seemed as if we may have had a man of some importance within the Toledo Polish community. Not only was he president and editor of the Ameryka Echo, he was Consul of the Republic of Poland in France and Consul General in Berlin and Chicago before he lived in Toledo. Mr. Gawronski lived in Toledo from about 1939 to 1961, moving back to Chicago. During his time in Toledo, he was also founder of the Toledo Polish Arts Club. He died 27 March 1979 in Chicago. His obit is below.
Ameryka-Echo Editor, Former Polish Consul
Waclaw M. Gawronski, 86, of Chicago, formerly of the 2700 block of Collingwood Boulevard, retired Polish language journalist and former Polish consul, died Tuesday in a Chicago hospital.
Mr. Gawronski was president and editor-in-chief of the Ameryka-Echo in Toledo in the late 1950s.
He moved to Chicago in 1961 after the newspaper, then considered one of the foremost foreign-language publication in America, ceased publication here.
He was also a writer for Polish-language newspapers in Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, and was founder of the Polish Arts Club of Toledo.
He held a doctor of law degree from the King John Casimer University, Lwow, Poland.
Mr. Gawronski was consul of the Republic of Poland in France and consul general in Berlin and Chicago before moving to Toledo in 1939.
His wife, Halina, survives.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Stanislaus Church, Toledo.
There will be no visitation.
The family requests that any tributes be in the form of contributions to the Heart Association.
Mr. Gawronski is buried in Calvary Cemetery, alongside his first wife, Zofia.
April 17, 2014
I was recently working on the backlog of Calvary Cemetery photos that I snapped last summer and fall. Sometimes while at the cemetery, I get so intent on making sure I get a decent shot (is the sun too high and casting shadows? are my batteries dying? how can I get the best contrast?) that I sometimes do not recognize that I’ve found someone I am related to. I then go through the photos weeks and months later after downloading them from my cameras and say to myself “holy Toledo–I think I’m related.”
So, here are my latest discoveries. I found a “new” child of Michał Mruk and Margaretha Plenzler as well as a daughter of Joseph Erdman and Marianna Przybylski. Margaretha was a a sibling to my great-grandfather, Joseph Plenzler. She and Michał had emigrated to the US 1884. Marianna was a daughter of my great-grandparents, Andrezj and Francziska Rochowiak, and I had located her daughter Eleanor Jaroszewski.
When I did the original research on the Mruk family, I had located a manifest for the ship Rhaetia sailing from Hamburg that listed the Mruk family: Michał and Margaretha and children Tekla, Stanislaus, Kazmierz, Marianne, and a name written as Kath.a. I was unsure who this last child listed on the manifest was. I searched for a Katarzyna, Katherina, and other variants of the name Catherine or Katarzyna but had no luck. In the back of my mind, I thought the child died during or after the voyage as the 1900 census that enumerates the Mruk family indicates that of the marriage, 16 children were born and 9 were surviving. Below are the manifest and the 1900 census. (Click to open in a new browser window and enlarge.)
Looking at the scanned manifest, it appears as if “Kath.a.” is struck off the manifest but it’s difficult to tell if it was a deliberate edit or damage due to folding and age of the sheet. While that first indicated to me the possibility that the child did not survive the voyage, the data on the 1900 census really did not provide me with confirmation either way–if the child survived or died. She was not listed in the 1900 census for the Mruk family and I was unable to locate her in any census data that I reviewed within the Toledo area. “Kath.a.” is indicated as having been born about 1880, so she was four years old at the time of the voyage per the manifest. In 1900, she was about 20 years old and of age to marry or perhaps obtain work as a domestic somewhere else.
The eldest Mruk child that I can verify is Tekla, born in 1873. Her parents were married in November 1866, so there is a span of about seven years without children. More on Tekla is here. But the 1900 census data is interesting to note that Margaretha reported that she had a total of 16 children with 9 surviving. This means that several children were born to the Mruks died in Poland prior to the Mruk family’s emigration. I have been able to verify that two children, Joseph and Michael had died prior to the 1900 census. Michael had been born in Wiorek on 30 September 1881, baptized 02 October 1881. We also have a death date for him, note that the baptismal record from Wiorek has a cross in front of the record, this is a common indication used by priests that the child had died. Go to the second page of the record and notice that there is a note that says “obit. 12/7/82.” So Michael died at about the age of 3 months. Joseph was born in Toledo on 3 March 1896 and died on 13 September 1896.
I had little else to work with for “Kath.a.” until I had come across the gravestones for a Kathryn and George Staniszewski.
I looked at the dates of death on the stones and knew it would be a bit troublesome to verify the exact date of death because Ohio death certificates are only available from about 1903 through 1953 and past experience had told me that locating data within the Social Security death index has been spotty during the 1950s decade–often due to the fact that many elderly who died during that period likely had not obtained a Social Security Number. Additionally, I’ve noticed quite a few transcription errors with the Ohio death index on familysearch.org. So, I got lucky and found birth and marriage records for a Stanley Staniszewski whose parents were George Staniszewski and Kate Mruk. I thought immediately “Voila!” Stanley was born in 1903. I then located another child whose parents were George Staniszewski and Kate Mruk–this child was named John and he was born in 1902. So, digging into George a bit further, I learned via the 1910 census that he did not emigrate to the US until 1900. I suspect it would have been in the second half of the year 1900 because the census for 1900 was taken in June of that year and I was unable to locate a 1900 census that mentioned George.
I have not yet found a marriage record of George and Kate, but logic tells us that they would have married sometime between late 1900 to about early 1902.
Further investigation (all of about 10 minutes!) led me to Kate (Kathryn’s) obituary and it confirms she was indeed a child of Michał and Margaretha as it provides names of her surviving brothers (Martin and Jack, also known as John Jacob) and sister (Praxeda, also known as Priscilla) Gurzynski. See the obituary below, published 12 October 1965.
Obituary transcription below:
Mrs. Kathryn Staniszewski, 86, of 2626 Midwood Ave., died yesterday in her home.
Born in Poland, Mrs. Staniszewski lived in Toledo most of her life. She was a member of the Polish National Alliance.
Surviving are a daughter, Mrs. Charlotte Clark; sons, John and Stanley, all of Toledo, and Walter, of Clackamas, Ore.; sister, Mrs. Priscilla Gurzynski, and brothers, Martin and Jack Mruk, all of Toledo, and one granddaughter.
Services will be Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in Gesu Church, with burial in Calvary Cemetery. The Rosary will be recited at 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Sujkowski Mortuary.
The second discovery I made within my photo backlog was for Eleanor Erdman Jaroszewski. I knew she had married Conrad Jaroszewski but I did not realize I had found their grave until going through my photos. Conrad had been married prior to Eleanor, to a woman named Helen Sabiniewicz. Conrad and Helen had a son named Thadeus. The photo of the family grave plot is below.
Helen’s parents, Jozef and Josephine, are on the opposite side of the stone. See below.
March 26, 2014
Leave a Comment
So…at work, they’ve been going on and on about women’s history month. Since I worked for a defense contractor, it’s been interesting learning about women who’ve climbed the ranks through the military and have become four star generals, like Ann Dunwoody. With that in mind, I started wondering “how to tie that theme into genealogy?” I really have no famous relatives, my ancestors were farmers and carpenters from Poland. My ancestral kinswomen fit the stereotype that 1970s feminists railed against: they stayed home and had a lot of babies and took care of the house and family. Yet, these women were intelligent, strong, and capable. I viewed them in the context into which they were born.
The more I pondered that situation, the more I came to realize that women like my mother, my grandmothers, and my great-grandmothers really were women to admire and to see them from positions of strength and strong character rather than women who were held back or demeaned because of their traditional ways of life or religious beliefs.
Both of my maternal great-grandmothers traveled here to the United States with small children in tow. They came here to follow their husbands and to practice their religious faith in freedom. That’s not a small accomplishment considering their context: late 1870s or early 1880s Germany (Poland). 1871, Bismark launches his Kulturkampf. This alienates many Catholics, of whom were my great-grandparents. Their priests were imprisoned or exiled. Jesuits were being expelled. This kerfuffle dies down a bit in 1878 when Leo XIII becomes pope–Pope Leo negotiates with Bismark to rid Germany of the most anti-Catholic laws; but at the same time, there was a great worldwide depression occurring. A lot of political fingerpointing happens. Under Bismark, “Germanification” starts to occur about the same time as the depression happens. Bismark then begins hostile policies against Poles–he compares the the Polish population to animals that must be shot and he privately confesses that he would like to exterminate them.
So, there’s the reasons my great-grandparents came here. However, from what I am able to discern, it seems as if at least Eva Plenzler came here by herself with her first two sons, Martin and Joseph. Her husband, Joseph likely was here already. The manifest I located for Eva to sail from Hamburg provides only her name and her sons’ names. Imagine a young woman of possibly 25 to 28 years of age with two small children, sailing to an unknown country, not knowing English, and hoping to meet her husband at some unknown port. Joseph needed work to support his family. Eva supports his travel to the United States and follows. To me, that most certainly indicates a leap of faith and a strong woman to be able to cross an ocean alone with small children!
And then I thought of my paternal grandmother, Helena. She married a man, Wladyslaw, who comes and goes between Poland and the United States a few times. They have a small farm that supports them, they mill wheat and have a few animals to provide milk. Wladyslaw is working in the United States, sending home money and helping to get others into the United States in the period between the two World Wars. Helena experiences some frightening occurrences: before or about 1922, the farm is burned by an invading White Russian army. Helena flees the farm to the home of an elderly relative. This relative dies while Helena is there with her children and she must tend to the burial. I am unsure of where Wladyslaw is at this point–if he is still in the United States or in Poland. (A big question I have–would he have been able to travel during the period of the Russian Revolution? Oral history has also told us that that the White Army was trying to force men from the region into their Army, so possibly my grandfather was attempting to evade them.)
However, Helena manages to take care of the burial and await her husband. They embark on a ship to the United States from Cophenhagen–I have a manifest that enumerates her, Wladyslaw, and my aunt and uncle. Imagine the courage and stamina of a young mother to have to cope with the fear of an invasion and burning of her home, travel to a relative’s home (likely by foot or horse) for shelter, tend to that dying relative, and await a husband to make the decision to travel from near Tomasze to Copenhagen. Again, oral history here, but I have been told part of the journey from Poland to Copenhagen was on foot. This during a period of famine and great upheaval. Poland had just become a sovereign nation, again, in 1918. Political culture in Poland was difficult–censorship, intrigue, and the need to merge together the three former partitions: German, Austrian, and Russian. So there were many external forces driving my grandparents out of Poland. For my grandmother to have successfully come here after awaiting her husband and a difficult journey to Copenhagen is difficult for me to comprehend.
Here’s to the women who have come before us, enduring journeys and great uncertainties. While it’s wonderful to know what publicly powerful women like Ann Dunwoody have taught us and to honor their great example, we shouldn’t neglect or forget those with humbler roots. Those women, without whom we would not be here and who taught us great faith through their experiences and journeys.
March 9, 2014
A newsclipping I found while researching Toledo Blade Obituaries. Article was published Saturday October 19, 1957. Nearly 60 years ago, it seems as if the Toledo inner city Catholic parishes began their decline and losing population to the suburbs.
St. Anthony’s Catholic Church to Mark 75th Anniversary
Bishop Rehring Will Have Part In Thanksgiving Mass Tomorrow
The 75th anniversary celebration of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, famous for its 265-foot spire, one of the tallest on the city’s horizon, will open with a Mass of thanksgiving tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Bishop George J. Rehring will take part in the ceremony.
Msgr. Francis S. Legowski, pastor for more than 35 years, will preach. A banquet will follow at the Wroblewski American Legion hall, 1274 Nebraska Ave. Steve Czolgosz is head of the jubilee celebration.
The celebration will conclude with an additional special Mass Nov. 10.
The parish was founded in 1881, with the first building opened for worship on Nov. 12, 1882.
The parish is the home church of nine priests, including the Rev. Anthony S. Pietrykowski, pastor of St. Hedwig’s parish. Original members of the parish consisted mostly of Polish immigrants who came to America during the decade preceding establishment of the church.
Once the largest in the diocese with 7,500 parishioners, the parish has dwindled numerically because of the establishment of nearby Catholic churches, and the trend among younger families toward suburban living. The latest diocesan year book lists 2,895 members.
February 16, 2014
I am beginning to think that some links to connecting some of my Mierzejewski are in central Pennsylvania. My grandmother’s (Helena Mierzejewska) family seems to have come through central Pennsylvania. I have found them in Altoona, Reading, and in Cambria, Beria, and Blair Counties. I suspect they were there for a few reasons: coal mining was easy work to get and the land there likely drew them because they were farmers.
For sometime, I knew a few of my cousins were born in or around Reading or Altoona. But this weekend, I had zeroed in on a cousin named Zofia. Her father, Wladymir or Wladyslaw (my grand-uncle) had settled in Blair County for a time. I had Zofia’s passport application and I studied it for clues.
Zofia was born April 10, 1909 in Beria County. Her birth certificate was attached to the passport application. It indicates that her mother’s name was Apolonia.
In 1912, Wladmir or Wladyslaw married woman named Bronislawa (Bernice) Mierzejewska. Again, this is a case of a Mierzejewski marrying a Mierzejewska. So I have to assume Apolonia has passed away. The passport application mentions that Zofia is traveling with her step-mother from Warsaw, wishing to return to the United States, to her father’s home in Toledo, Ohio–to 1763 Buckingham. This is the address where my father was born.
What is interesting about this is this passport application is so that Zofia can travel from Poland back to the United States. She had been in Poland since 1921–about three years. At the time of the passport application, Zofia was about 15 years old, so she had left about the age of 12. The correspondence was in order to verify her US birth and provides documentation, so now we know where she was baptized: Our St. Mary of Czestechowa Church in Gallitzen, Pennsylvania. We also know now her birth was recorded in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Her father must have moved from Pennsylvania to Toledo during the time she was in Poland.
I have a passenger list for March 1924 that lists Wladimir with the address of 1763 Buckingham, Toledo, Ohio stating he is a brother of John. It is noted that Wladimir did not sail. He probably did not sail because Zofia did not have a passport yet to return to the United States. We even have a poor, many times reproduced, photo of Zofia as well as her signature.
December 31, 2013
Leave a Comment
I’d never met any of my grandparents, I was born well after all four had died. I have a faint, out of focus, and oddly-angled picture of my dad’s parents, and some lovely photos of my mom’s mother. So I had an idea of how they looked. But for everywhere I’ve looked and asked, no picture ever seemed to exist of my mom’s father, John Plenzler. I imagined he looked like his mother or father, and I have my great-grandparents’ wedding photo. But you can never be too sure if one does favor one parent or the other. I have a daughter who does not look like me or her sisters, she favors her father’s side of the family greatly. She definitely resembles her father’s sister in a striking manner in my eyes. On first look, she does not seem to be my daughter. But she is (and she inherited much of my personality). Sometimes, genes mix in unique ways to present a new version within the family.
I had always been curious about John’s appearance, so imagine my surprise when I received, thanks to the efforts of a cousin and his son, John Plenzler’s “Descriptive Book” that records elements of his enlistment in the Marines. I was mildly surprised and also began to see that it was possible that my mother resembled him much more than her mother.
According to a description based upon a physical examination of John dated August 4, 1909, he was described as having a ruddy complexion, dark brown hair, light brown eyes, about 5′ 7″ tall, and it seemed slender–he was described as having a mean circumference of 35″, with a 3″ expansion and a weight of only 139 pounds. I suspect he may have been a fairly muscular man–he was a street paver prior to enlisting in the Marines, that would have meant hours of physical labor. Based on this, he may have resembled his father–who in his wedding picture seemed to have met these descriptions as well. My mother was not a tall person, perhaps 5′-2″. I would not have described her complexion as ruddy, but fair and she had dark hair. But she had blue eyes. So I’m going to guess my grandmother Anastasia had blue eyes.
John also had some minor physical marks or distinctions noted on his record–a deformed small toe on his left foot, a scar on his hand, and a few moles. He also had 20/20 vision.
Seems as if I got few Plenzler genes reading this! I have poor vision (have had since I was a small child), light hair, blue eyes, and about as tall as my grandfather. I know in reality, I have half Plenzler and half Mierzjewski genes. But it just looks as if the Mierzejewski genes are dominant. Still, I wanted to find a way to “connect” with my grandfather, and this was an interesting document to read to do so–he died when my mom was quite young, so she didn’t have many memories of him and didn’t seem to have any photos of him when asked.
I think what I did find more interesting about John was his history in the Marines. There was no bravado, no battles he participated in that I know of, but within his history of good conduct one incident stood out. He was court marshaled for being AWOL for a day after liberty and returning to duty drunk. By virtue of a plea, he was sentenced to loss of 18 days’ pay and to perform extra police duties for the period of a month. The loss of pay equaled $10.62. I haven’t calculated what that would be worth 100 years later, but I suspect it to be considerable.
John was discharged with a notation of “very good” character and had made up the loss of one day to AWOL status. Upon his discharge, his commanding officer noted “character very good instead of excellent because of two trials by court marshal and not recommended for good conduct medal.”
The document is scanned and posted here if anyone is interested in reviewing it.
Happy New Year! May your year be blessed, peaceful, and filled with contentment.