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.

apolonia_mierzejewski_death_cert_09121910

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.

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.

Late last summer, I had the pleasure of corresponding with a descendant of one of my father’s crewmates on Mission 234 with a target of Memmingen, Germany. They had flown together in a plane named “The Flying Latrine.” This contact was kind enough to share information with me as well as a picture of one of the other men who had flown with my father, Sgt. George Lawson Ratje. Sgt. Ratje was a tail gunner on Mission 234. My father was a ball turret gunner.

The Flying Latrine

Crews did not always fly the same plane nor did the men fly with the same crew each time. However, I was kindly provided with a list of missions my father and members of the 2nd Bomb Squad flew as well as a list of each of my father’s missions. (These files are in Excel format.)

George Lawson Ratje survived World War II to return home. However, he had died 30 July 1950 in California.

George Lawson Ratje

All who were on Mission 234 over Memmingham, Germany were:

  • John F. Rice, Pilot
  • Grant W. Ramsey, Co-Pilot
  • Granville C. Egleson, Navigator
  • Charles T. Wright, Bomb/Togglier
  • Herman T. Butko, Engineer/Top Turret
  • Harold S. Barth, Radio Operator
  • Edward B. Mierzejewski, Ball Turret
  • J. J. Casey, Waist Gunner
  • R. L. Reynolds, Waist Gunner
  • George L. Ratje, Tail Gunner

Yesterday’s mystery seems to have been halfway cleared up. The wonders of social networking! A cousin through my dad’s family contacted me and her mom looked at the photo. Verdict was the two on the left were my paternal grandparents, Walter and Helena. I studied them against a photo of them taken in the backyard of the house they owned on Evesham, and I’m convinced it is them. Yesterday’s photo I would think was probably taken before Walter and Helena lived on Evesham. The house on Evesham was bought sometimes in the 1930s as the 1930 census shows them living a few blocks away in the first home they purchased at 622 Woodstock.

Walter and Helena Mierzejewski, Evesham

Walter and Helena Mierzejewski, Evesham

Now, the other half of yesterday’s mystery is who are the man and woman on the right? I am wondering whether it a sibling and spouse? A hunch I have, and it’s a long shot, is if it is Walter’s brother, Marcin or Marzel. Some oral history and some documented fact: Marcin did come to the US a few times with Walter. I had been able to document a few of his moves through manifests. The manifest below (see lines 11 and 12) is particularly intriguing to me as they are each heading to Masschusetts first–Wladyslaw to New Bedford and Marcin to Pittsfield. This is particularly interesting as there is quite a few Mierzejewskis in that region and many Mierzejewskis traveled westward through New England to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan.

http://dmcmanus.biz/family/marzel_mierzejewski_11251909.pdf

Wladyslaw is stating that his contact in Poland is his wife, Helena, who lives in Borowiec, Lomza. Marcin is stating that his contact is his sister-in-law.

There are other miscellaneous manifests, from 1903 and 1907 from Hamburg that also show Walter and Marcel traveling to the US. Unfortunately, I have not yet located the manifests that indicate their arrival at a US port yet. So, I am fairly certain Walter and Marcin traveled together and separately for work in the US for a while prior to Walter and Helena permanently settling in Ohio in 1923.

The oral part of this story is that Marcin did not like living in the US and he eventually returned to Poland to remain permanently where he married a woman named Czeszlawa, in 1914. He died in Tomasz in 1965. I do know of a story that he did come to the US to visit Helena and Walter at least once. Walter died in 1946, so the visit would have had to occur prior to 1946. If I study both of these pictures, it’s clear to me that the two men are related in some fashion. While one has a prominent moustache, their facial features are very much alike: very round faces, downward slopes of the nose, and similar mouth and jaw features. Hopefully, by putting this out “there” someone can identify and maybe confirm that the two persons to the right are Marcin and his wife Czeszlawa.

 

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.

unknown_4

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.

Birth certificate, Zofia Mierzejewski

Birth certificate, Zofia Mierzejewski

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.

Passport Letter of Inquiry Zofia Mierzejewski

Passport Letter of Inquiry Zofia Mierzejewski

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.

Zofia Mierzejewski, Passport Documentation

Zofia Mierzejewski, Passport Documentation

For quite sometime, we had been waiting for my parents’ gravestones to be placed. For quite some time, my father never had a gravestone–his original military stone had been broken and removed and when mom passed, we had planned to put matching stones on their graves. Well, time passed and the family had ordered the stones and we had never followed up with the cemetery. The stones had been delayed being placed, bad weather, warehouse mix ups, and a few other things occurred. So, this summer, when I had gone up to Toledo for a quick visit, I thought I would stop and check whether the stones had been placed and they had. I had taken photos but somehow neglected placing the photos here. Communication with a possible Mierzejewski contact this afternoon had reminded me that I had never placed the photos here.

Here are the photos of the stones. For me, it’s a sense of peace knowing my parents have a small reminder of their presence in this world.

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Edward B. Mierzejewski

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Virginia Plenzler Mierzejewski