Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

Finding my Maciejewski Family’s Ancestral Origins

I was recently contacted by someone researching Maciejewski ancestors who had the same first names as mine did. Although we did not appear to be related (Maciejewski is not a rare Polish name), I was able to commiserate about how difficult it can be to find places in the old country where our families originated, and demonstrate how, over years, I found and confirmed my Maciejewski family who came from West Prussia in 1883.

My great grandfather Jan Maciejewski‘s church death record said he was born in Tylice, and there are four places with that name in Poland. I picked one, and I guessed wrong. I wrote about it, though…

I researched Jan and Weronika Maciejewski‘s children’s baptism records in the United States…

And saw that the parents were from Nieżywięć and Tylice in West Prussia…

I finally found Jan and Weronika‘s marriage record…

But their son, my grandfather Antoni Maciejewski, was not born/baptized in Nieżywięć! I searched civil records from the Torun archives and found my grandfather’s birth record in 1883 in Zgniłobłoty

Which helped me recognize the family’s arrival record at Castle Garden in New York City later that year…

And identify other children of this family who were born and died in West Prussia…

I recommend checking all the records, including siblings, cousins, and other relatives and friends. This is sometimes called “cluster genealogy.” When you seem to be stuck, genealogy author Elizabeth Shown Mills recommends checking the “FAN club”  of your ancestor’s friends, associates, and neighbors. Even for ancestors who were married in America, I have found that couples often knew of each other’s families in the old country.

I wrote about how my grandparents grew up and were married in the US, but their parents’ places of origin were only twenty miles apart half a world away…

That’s how chain migration works…

Because of the interrelationships of our ancestors, I helped some DNA cousins find their grandparents’ places of origin…  and

I often share information about other families I find along the way. Others have helped me. It is always rewarding to help others find primary or contemporaneous sources, and I like to hear from researchers of related families.

Happy ancestor hunting!


Maciejewski Family Resilience

As I learn more about our ancestors, I am amazed and inspired by their resilience. I knew that my great-grandmother, Weronika Lewandowska Maciejewska, went on to raise their six children–Antoni, Konstanty, Wiktorya, Marya, Anna, and Ludwik–in Buffalo, New York, after the death of her husband Jan Maciejewski in 1896. My father, born in 1928, remembered her before her death in 1943 at age 95. He told me that his grandmother was a very kind woman. I previously chronicled some of the events in her life. But there was much I did not know about her.

Jan and Weronika were married in Nieżywięć, West Prussia, in 1869 and immigrated to the United States with their infant son in 1883. I had wondered what had happened in the fourteen intervening years, and what may have motivated them to emigrate when they did.

I found at least part of the answer in the 1882 church records of Kościół pw. św. Jakuba, Parish Church of Saint James the Apostle in Bobrau (Bobrowo). It was in the Kries (district) of Strasburg (Polish Brodnica), in the Regierungsbezirk (administrative region) Marienwerder of Westpreußen (West Prussia). Today it is Bobrowo, Brodnica, Kujawsko-Pomorskie in Poland.

Deutsch-Eylau_27 Maciejewski

Excerpt, “Deutsch Eylau – 27,” old German Map (

I found the Maciejewski family in the records of three of the Roman Catholic churches in the area. [1]

  • Kościół Świętego Jana Chrzciciela (St. John the Baptist) in Niezywienc, where they were married  in 1869 and their first son was baptized in 1870,
  • Kościół Świętego Mikołaja Biskupa (St. Nicholas, Bishop) in Groß Kruschin, where they lived for a time, and where another son was baptized in 1872, and
  • Kościół Świętego Jakuba Apostoła Starszego, (Saint James the Apostle the Elder) in Bobrau, the parish church for the small village of Zgniłobłoty, where they lived from 1875 to Antoni Maciejewski’s birth in 1883.

Here are Jan and Weronika‘s children who were born and died in the old country, and whose records I was able to find:

  • Władysław (Ladislaus) (1870-1870)
  • Franciszek (Franz) (1872-1882)
  • Franciszka (Francisca) (1875-1875)
  • Jan (Johann) (1876-1878)
  • Marian (1878-1882)
  • Tomasz (Thomas) Julian (1880-1882)
1870 Ladislaus birth marked

Ladislaus Maciejewski birth/baptism record, Kościół pw. św. Jana Chrzciciela, Nieżywięć (Niezywienc)

  • Their first son, Władysław, was born 8 Oct 1870 in Dombrowken (Dąbrówka) and was baptized at Kościół Świętego Jana Chrzciciela (St. John the Baptist) in Niezywienc (Nieżywięć). Sadly, he died 14 Nov 1870, when he was only a month old. His name was recorded as Ladislaus in the church records.
1872 Franz Maciejewski birth marked

Franz Maciejewski birth/baptism record, Kościół pw. św. Mikołaja Biskupa, Kruszyny (Groß Kruschin)

  • Franciszek (Franz) was born 4 Jul 1872 and baptized at Kościół Świętego Mikołaja Biskupa (St. Nicholas) in Groß Kruschin (Kruszyny). His place of birth was listed as “Forstamt,” which is German for Forestry Office.
1875 Franciszka Maciejewski birth marked

Francisca Maciejewska birth/baptism record, Kościół pw. św. Jakuba, Bobrowo (Bobrau)

  • Franciszka (Francisca) was born 3 Apr 1875 in Zgnilloblott (Königsmoor/Zgniłobłoty) and baptized at Kościół pw. św. Jakuba (Saint James the Apostle) in Bobrau (Bobrowo). She died 30 Apr 1875, twenty seven days later.
1876 Jan Maciejewski birth marked

Johann Maciejewski birth/baptism record, Kościół pw. św. Jakuba, Bobrowo (Bobrau)

  • Jan (Johann) was born 16 Feb 1876 in Zgnilloblott (Königsmoor/Zgniłobłoty) and baptized at Kościół pw. św. Jakuba (Saint James the Apostle) in Bobrau (Bobrowo). He lived only two years, and died 7 Feb 1878.
1878 Marian Maciejewski birth marked

Marian Maciejewski birth/baptism record, Kościół pw. św. Jakuba, Bobrowo (Bobrau)

  • Marian was born in Zgnilloblott (Königsmoor/Zgniłobłoty) and baptized 18 Aug 1878 at Kościół pw. św. Jakuba (Saint James the Apostle) in Bobrau (Bobrowo).
1880 Julian Maciejewski birth

Julian Maciejewski birth/baptism record, Kościół pw. św. Jakuba, Bobrowo (Bobrau)

  • Julian was born 14 Dec 1880 in Zgnilloblott (Königsmoor/Zgniłobłoty) and baptized 26 Dec 1880 at Kościół pw. św. Jakuba (Saint James the Apostle) in Bobrau (Bobrowo). In his baptism record the baby is listed as Julian and and his civil birth record lists him as Thomas. His grandfather was named Tomasz Maciejewski.
1880 Thomas Maciejewski 69_1246_0_2_1_1019

Thomas Maciejewski civil birth record, Torun Archives

Of the six babies born, only three boys were alive in Zgniłobłoty in early 1882: Franciszek was nine, Marian was three, and Tomasz Julian was one year old.

1882 Maciejewski deaths marked

Death Records, Kościół Św Jakuba Apostoła, Bobrau, Strasburg, West Prussia

The May of 1882 was very hard for Jan and Weronika, as they lost all three of their children.

1882 Maciejewski deaths

Maciejewski Children Death Records, Kościół Św Jakuba, Bobrowo, (Bobrau)

Franz died May 16th, Thomas Julian on May 19th, and Marian on May 29th of 1882. Since the same cause was listed for all three deaths, I thought it must have been an infection. I asked several people for help deciphering it, and a researcher online identified “Bräune.” In English, it was known as quinsy, a peritonsillar abscess, a known complication of tonsillitis.

1882 cause of death

1882 Cause of Death for Maciejewski Children

I did not see it, but she referred me to  the German Glossary of Causes of Death and other Archaic Medical Terms, from Rudy’s List of Archaic Medical Terms at


Bräune Example

It listed an example from a church record from Mecklenburg, Germany, and I could see the similarity.

The children’s  deaths were recorded with the German authorities, and were listed in the Torin Archives.

Still Jan and Weronika persevered. She became pregnant again, and nine months later, in February of 1883, they had my grandfather Antoni. Later that same year they immigrated to America, where they added five more children to their family, who all grew to adulthood.

1900 Veronica Maciejewski census

1900 Census, Veronica Maciejewski, Buffalo, New York

Although in the 1900 census, Weronika reported that she had given birth to fourteen children, I was only able to find records for twelve. So, at a minimum, Weronika had a baby approximately every 2.2 years–from her first, Władysław, in 1870, to her last, Ludwik, in 1894.

Maciejewski children

Here is a summary of the known Maciejewski children.Jan Weronika kids[1]  Kościół Świętego Andrzeja Apostoła  (St. Andrew the Apostle) in Groß Brudzaw (Brudzawy), although dating from the 14th century, was identified as a branch of Groß Kruschin.


Władysław birth, LDS Family History Library, “Nieżywiȩć (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed June 2018), Ladislaus Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Niezywienc – Church records.

Władysław death, LDS Family History Library, “Nieżywiȩć (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed June 2018), Ladislaus Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Niezywienc – Church records.

Franciszek birth, LDS Family History Library, “Kruszyny (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed June 2018), Franz Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Groß Kruschin (Kr. Strasburg) – Church records.

Franciszka birth, LDS Family History Library, “Bobrowo (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed February 2018), Franciszka Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Bobrau – Church records.

Franciszka death, LDS Family History Library, “Bobrowo (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed February 2018), Franciszka Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Bobrau – Church records.

Johann birth, LDS Family History Library, “Bobrowo (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed February 2018), Johann Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Bobrau – Church records.

Johann death, LDS Family History Library, “Bobrowo (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed February 2018), Johann Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Bobrau – Church records.

“Archiwum Państwowe w Toruniu,” database, Genealogia w Archiwach ( accessed January 2018), Johann Maciejewski; citing Urząd Stanu Cywilnego.

Marian birth, LDS Family History Library, “Bobrowo (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed February 2018), Marian Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Bobrau – Church records.

“Archiwum Państwowe w Toruniu,” database, Genealogia w Archiwach ( accessed January 2018), Thomas Maciejewski; citing Urząd Stanu Cywilnego.

Julian birth, LDS Family History Library, “Bobrowo (Brodnica),” database, Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja, Family Search ( accessed February 2018), Julian Maciejewski; citing Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Bobrau – Church records.

“Archiwum Państwowe w Toruniu,” database, Genealogia w Archiwach ( accessed January 2018), Franz, Julius, and Marian Maciejewski deaths; citing Urząd Stanu Cywilnego.

1900 Federal Census, United States, population schedule, Buffalo (city), New York, enumeration district (ED) 70, Veronica Maciejewski; digital images, HeritageQuest Online ( : accessed December 2014).

Kalinowska from Szembruk, West Prussia: Looking for Common Ancestors

Before finding my great grandparents’ ancestral village of Szembruczek, and confused by variations of Szombrug, Szömbrug, Szenbruk, Szenburg, Szönbruk, Szymbruczek, etc., in the baptism records of the children of my great grandparents Marcin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska, I saw that two sisters who were my fourth cousin estimated DNA matches on and GEDmatch also had an ancestor whose birth name was Kalinowska.

I exchanged messages with one of the sisters, and she said that according to American records, their great-great-grandmother was born Ludwika Kalinowska about 1844 and died in Chicago in 1926. Ludwika’s death certificate listed her place of birth only as Poland and her father’s name as Walter. She had been married twice. Ludwika’s first husband, the sisters’ great-great-grandfather, was Ludwik Kierznowski and her second husband was Franciszek Konracki. They thought Ludwika was a widow by the time she settled in Chicago with her three daughters. Another clue was that the sisters’ great-grandmother Katarzyna Kiersznowska Niewirowska spoke both German and Polish, an indication that she had come from Prussia, the German occupied part of Poland in the nineteenth century.

After Ludwika immigrated with her daughters to Chicago, her daughter Katarzyna Kiersznowska married Franciszek Niewirowski at St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church in Chicago, Illinois, on 27 November 1885. The church records, filmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints, are available online at FamilySearch, and the marriage record was very informative.

1885 marriage record Niewirowski Kiersznowski.jpg

1885 Marriage Record, St. Stanislaus Kostka RC Church, Chicago, Illinois

Franciszek Niewirowski, young man (Polish młodzian), 22 years old, has been in Chicago 1.5 years, and lives Blackhawk Street No. 78. He is the son (Polish syn) of Józef and Maryanna Brzozowska. He was born (Polish urodzony) at what reads like Szennato. (Czytać is the Polish verb “to read.”)

Katarzyna Kierznowska, young woman (Polish panna), 19 years old, has been in Chicago (illegible) No. 199. She is the daughter (Polish córka) of Ludwik and Ludwika. Her place of birth is listed as duży Szömbrug.

Katarzyna Kierznowska came from duży Szömbrug, also known as Groß Schönbrück or Szembruk in Polish, the same place as my great grandparents Marcin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska!

In the scanned records from the LDS Church Family History Center on FamilySearch for  Sw. Bartłomieja (St. Bartholomew) parish in Szembruk, West Prussia, we were able to find:

  • Katarzyna Kierznowska‘s birth record 26 Nov 1864
1864 Kalinowski Kierznowska births

1864 Baptism Record, Katarzyna Kierznowska, Szembruk, West Prussia

  • her sister Marianna Kierznowska‘s birth record Jan 1868
1868 Kierznowska birth

1868 Baptism Record, Marianna Kierznowska, Szembruk, West Prussia

  • their father Ludwik Kierznowski‘s death record 17 Feb 1869
1869 Kierznowski death

1869 Death Record, Ludwik Kierznowski, Szembruk, West Prussia

  • Ludwika Kalinowska Kierznowska‘s marriage to Franciszek Konracki 9 Jan 1876
1876 marriage Konracki

1876 Marriage Record, Franz Konracki and Ludwika Kierznowska, Szembruk, West Prussia

  • the birth record for Rozalia Konracka 29 Sep 1876
1876 Rozalia Konracki birth

1876 Baptism Record, Rozalia Konracka, Szembruk, West Prussia

Unfortunately, we were not able to find birth records or the marriage record for Ludwik Kierznowski and Ludwika Kalinowska in earlier years, or any records for anyone named Władysław or Wacław Kalinowski.

My great-grandmother Anna Kalinowska was born in 1858 to Jan Kalinowski (b. 1824) and Marianna Nowakowska (b. 1835)

1858 Anna Kalinowska birth cropped

1858 Baptism Record, Anna Kalinowska, Szembruk, West Prussia

Jan Kalinowski and Marianna Nowakowska were married 31 Oct 1853. It was his second marriage, and he was 30 years old.

1853 Kalinowski Nowakowska marriage

1853 Kalinowski-Nowakowska Marriage Record, Szembruk, West Prussia

Going back thirty years, Jan Kalinowski‘s parents were Wojciech (Adalbert) Kalinowski and Anna Szynkowska

1819-1824 Kalinowski births

1819-1824 Children of Adalbert Kalinowski and Anna Szynkowska, Szembruk, West Prussia

The early register appears to be a catching up. Jan‘s sisters Marianna and Katarzyna are recorded on the same page.

In going through the Szembruk records, I found other members of this family either in birth, death, or marriage records. Although not complete or proven yet, here is what I have found of this family so far:

1-Wojciech KALINOWSKI (ca 1796-1 Oct 1852)
. . . . 2-Ewa KALINOWSKA (abt 1816-7 Sep 1826)
. . . . 2-Marianna KALINOWSKA (15 Aug 1819-2 Feb 1850)
. . . . +Frederick WERTHER (1817-)
. . . . . . . . 3-Agata WERTHER (abt 1840-5 Oct 1848)
. . . . . . . . 3-Eva WERTHER (Nov 1841-21 Nov 1841)
. . . . . . . . 3-Jan WERTHER (1847-15 Oct 1849)
. . . . 2-Justyna KALINOWSKA (1823-22 Feb 1833)
. . . . 2-Katarzyna KALINOWSKA (20 Dec 1823-)
. . . . +Józef KLUGIEWICZ (1821-)
. . . . 2-Jan KALINOWSKI (6 Jan 1824-)
. . . . +first wife  (-bef 1853)
. . . . +Marianna NOWAKOWSKA (21 Jan 1835-)
. . . . . . . . 3-Jan KALINOWSKI (11 Jan 1855-)
. . . . . . . . 3-Anna KALINOWSKA (27 Mar 1858-10 Sep 1938)
. . . . . . . . 3-Fabian KALINOWSKI (7 Dec 1862-)
. . . . . . . . 3-Marcin KALINOWSKI (9 Nov 1864-)
. . . . . . . . 3-Fabian KALINOWSKI (7 Dec 1867-)
. . . . . . . . 3-Józef KALINOWSKI (-20 Sep 1871)
. . . . 2-Dorota KALINOWSKA (1826-10 Feb 1853)
. . . . +MANIEWICZ (abt 1820-)
. . . . 2-Franciszek KALINOWSKI (abt Dec 1836-2 Apr 1837)
. . . . 2-Marcin KALINOWSKI (18 Oct 1838-10 Apr 1841)

To recap: We have DNA in common. We have ancestors that came from Szembruk, West Prussia. We have the same name in our family trees. It is possible, if unlikely, that Władysław or Wacław was a child of Wojciech and Anna. It is also possible that the name of her father on Ludwika‘s death certificate was incorrect, or that our mutual ancestor was even further back, or not a result of a documented union. Although the Kalinowski surname is suggestive of a connection, some of the 31 centimorgans shared across 2 DNA segments or 20.8 centimorgans shared across 1 DNA segment that we have in common could be shared from earlier as yet unknown ancestors in the Kierznowski, Niewirowski, or Brzozowski lines.


St. Stanislaus Kostka RC Church, Chicago, Illinois, Franciszek NIEWIEROWSKI and Katarzyna KIERZNOWSKA (Marriage),

Szembruk, Poland, Katarzyna KIERZNOWSKA (Birth)

Szembruk, Poland, Marianna KIERZNOWSKA (Birth)

Szembruk, Poland, Ludwik KIERZNOWSKI (Death)

Szembruk, Poland, Franciszek KONRACKI and Ludwika KALINOWSKA (Marriage)

Szembruk, Poland, Rozalia KONRACKI (Birth),

Szembruk, Poland, Anna KALINOWSKA (Birth),

Szembruk, Poland, Jan KALINOWSKI and Marianna NOWAKOWSKA (Marriage)

Szembruk, Poland, Jan KALINOWSKI (Birth)

1947 Letter from Family in Poland

I have wondered about the circumstances in which my great-grandmother Maryanna Kasprzyk Skrok Kwiatek and her family left Buffalo and returned to Poland in 1920. Was it the Second Polish Republic, as after World War I the country of Poland was legally recreated? Was it the opportunity to move to formerly Prussian lands as ethnic Germans departed? How did the baby Zofia fit into the situation?

Not only did the Kwiateks leave for Silesia, so did Maryanna’s children, Jan Skrok and Stanisława Skrok Kiec and their families. Although the Kiec, Skrok, and Rzepka families returned to the United States with their American and Polish born children, the Kwiateks apparently did not.

Among my grandmother’s papers, my mother found a letter written in 1947 by her aunt Aniela Kwiatek Jankowska, asking at Corpus Christi Parish in Buffalo, New York, about family members in Buffalo after my grandfather Jan Skrok‘s death in 1936 and his sister Stanisława Skrok Kiec‘s death in 1938. This translation was kindly provided by Dolores Ferguson of the Polish Genealogical Society of New York State.

Corpus Christi Parish

in Buffalo NY


I the below signed Aniela Jankowska of Kwiatkow once belonged to this Parish and attended the school under the guardianship of the honourable Franciscan Sisters am returning to kindly request fulfillment of my below request.

So in the year 1939 I received the last letter from my niece Helen Gon of Kiecow who lived at that time on Howard Street (#210) in Buffalo NY and after the war I wish to communicate.  I have already sent 3 letters which were returned from NY.  I wrote to the Police Station #8 in Buffalo from which I have not had any response to date.  Because of this I am coming to you the Revered Franciscans if you could be so kind to comply with my request for this matter if it can be done to announce in church possibly from the pulpit please request in the name of the Parish Priest St. Stanislaus because I cannot affirm to which Parish they belong.

I am very sorry for my boldness in coming to you with this matter which I know is not your responsibility but only to your kindness, but in God I put my trust and hope for results.  I also have another family Skrokow – their names are Czeslaw, Tadeusz, Helena and Agnieszka.  Home address I do not have but they have lived in Buffalo NY since the year 1923 and the Family Kiecow – names are Adam, Jan, Stanislaw, Waclaw, Helena Gon and Stefania.  Again, if possible, please locate them and provide me their addresses finding hopefully at least one member of the family to send to me.

In addition, I cordially ask for a photograph of the church so I can keep it close to my heart as a remembrance as 25 years have past since I left my beloved Parish with a broken heart.  I end this now and send kindest memories as well as send well wishes to the venerable Father and Priests, as well as the Sisters.  Praise be Jesus Christ.

Aniela Jankowska, daughter of Mary & Andrzej Kwiatek

Belonged to Parish 1921 and last lived at 895 William Street

Bedzin 1947

Aniela Jankowska

ul Folwarczna 4


woj St Dabrow


At the bottom of the letter is written “Agnieszka Skrok 209 Stanton” my grandmother’s name and address. I do not know if the families were able to re-establish a connection. I know that 1947 was a hard year for my grandmother. In 1943, she had married Adam Kiec, and after a difficult marriage, he died 22 May 1947. Although their older children were grown and back from the war, his youngest, Eugene Kiec, and her youngest, my mother, Stella Skrok, were still teenagers.

Several of their children were married.

Kiec Skrok marriages

Marriages of Kiec and Skrok children before 1947

Several of their children had enlisted in the military during World War II.

WWII enlistments

Skrok and Kiec WWII enlistments

Jan Rzepka’s Wife and Children Returned to America in 1925

Jan Rzepka, son of Ignacy Rzepka and Małgorzata Skrok, was born 14 Jul 1890 in Kaliszany and baptized at Kościół św. Wojciecha Biskupa i Męczennika (St. Adalbert, in English) in Wojciechowice, Opatów, Radom, in Russian Poland. It is currently in the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) voivodeship of Poland.

He arrived at Ellis Island at the Port of New York 29 August 1910. He had sailed from Antwerp, Belgium on the SS Vaderland. He is listed as 20, male, single, citizen of Russia, Polish race, last residence Russia Kaliszany.

He married Salomea Zielińska, daughter of Marcin and Petronela Zieliński, in Buffalo, New York, on 31 Jan 1912. Salomea had been born 9 Jun 1883 in Prussia, and had immigrated with her parents, arriving at the Port of New York 30 Jul 1884.

In the 1920 census, the family, now including Helen, Julia, Salomea, and John, was living at 32 Cochrane Street in Buffalo, in the same house as her parents. Jan’s brother Władysław (Walter) Rzepka had been wounded in the Great War (World War I), and was living with them as well. Walter had become a naturalized American citizen in 1919 after his Unites States Army service.

1920 Jan Rzepka family census cropped

1920 United States census, Buffalo, New York

The family had another American born baby, Leona, on 22 Mar 1921, after which Jan Rzepka and his family traveled to Poland.

Jan Rzepka returned to Buffalo on the ship President Adams sailing from London on October 31st, 1923. His last permanent address was listed as Szczepanowo, Poland, and he left behind his wife, Salomea Rzepka, in Szczepanowo, Dąbrowa.

1923 Jan Rzepka Ellis Island cropped

1923 S.S. President Adams manifest to Port of New York

His wife and children traveled back from Poland on the ship America sailing from Bremen August 5th, 1925, arriving at the Port of New York August 15th, 1925. The children were American citizens, going to their father, John Rzepka, at 152 Townsend Street, Buffalo, New York.

1925 Jan Rzepka children ship manifest cropped

1925 S.S. America manifest to Port of New York

They were traveling with their Polish born mother, Salomeja Rzepka.

1925 Salomeja Rzepka ship manifest cropped

1925 S.S. America manifest to Port of New York

Salomeja‘s last permanent address was listed as Szczepanowo, Mogilno, Poland, and the person she was leaving behind was her mother-in-law, Magdalena (sic) Rzepka. This is interesting because prior to World War I, Szczepanowo, a village in the Dąbrowa area of Mogilno, had been part of Posen, Prussia. It became part of Poland when the Second Republic of Poland was formed after the war. Szczepanowo is currently in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship in north-central Poland.

The area near Opatów where the Rzepkas and Skroks were born had been heavily damaged in the World War. When Jan Rzepka‘s first cousins Jan Skrok and Stanisława Skrok Kiec and their mother Marianna Kasprzyk Skrok Kwiatek returned to Poland with their families after the war, they lived in Sosnowiec. That is where several Skrok and Kiec children were born before the families returned to the United States. Prior to World War I, Sosnowiec had been part of Schlesien, Prussia. In Polish this area was known as Śląsk. In English it is called Silesia.

Update April 2018: Szczepanowo is approximately 20 miles from Liszkowo, a village in the administrative district of Gmina Rojewo, within Inowrocław County. It is possible, but not proven, that the Zieliński family was originally from that area. Perhaps Magdalena was another relative, not Salomeja‘s mother-in-law.


The Battery Conservancy

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation (SOLEIF)

Imelda Maciejewska married Edward Lewandowski in 1934

My Aunt Imelda was a source for much of the family history I learned growing up. She was interested in people, and lived in her mother’s old house on Strauss Street in Buffalo. For a time when I was little, she ran my grandmother’s old store that served the neighborhood. I still remember the meat slicer I was not allowed to touch. Even more vividly I remember she had a candy counter with penny candy and a freezer of little ice cream cups.

Imelda Teresa Maciejewska was born 28 Jun 1915 in Buffalo, New York to Antoni Maciejewski and Marya Szczepańska, and was baptized at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church. She was named by her godmother, Marya Maciejewska, and given the name of a nun. She said that because her name was unusual, she was called Emily, although close friends called her Imelda. Her father’s mother had been born Weronika Lewandowska on 2 Apr 1848 in Niezywienc, Strasburg, Marienwerder, Westpreußen, Preußen, now Nieżywięć, Bobrowo, Brodnica, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland.

Lewandowski is a common Polish name. Wikipedia claims

It is the seventh most common surname in Poland (93,404 people in 2009).

It is derived from the place name Lewandów, itself derived from the Old Polish word lewanda – ‘lavender‘ (lawenda in modern Polish). It is most frequent in mid-northern Poland, making up as much as 1,1% of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship‘s population (the record of Poland). The surname was recorded for the first time in 1673, although Lavendowski, which is probably its variant, is known since 1608.

On 26 Jun 1934, Imelda Maciejewska married Edward J. Lewandowski at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York.

Edward Józef Lewandowski was born in Buffalo 7 Dec 1909, the son of  Wojciech (Adalbert) Lewandowski and Konstancya Kaczanowska. He was baptized at St. Casimir Roman Catholic Church 12 Dec 1909, and his marriage was recorded with the baptism record.

1909 Edward Lewandowski birth record

1909 baptism record, St. Casimir Church, Buffalo, New York

His parents came from Inowrocław and Kościelec in Posen (Poznań in Polish). Today both places are in Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland, about 50 miles from Nieżywięć.

Inowroclaw map

Inowrocław was called Hohensalza in German. It is an industrial city located about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Bydgoszcz. It had several churches, and finding more about Wojciech Lewandowski‘s birth will require more research.

Kościelec was called Rabenburg in German. It is a small village in the administrative district of Gmina Pakość, in Inowrocław County, approximately 4 miles west of Inowrocław.


Kościelec Church of Saint Margaret, originally built in the late 12th century.

The catholic church in Kościelec, named Kościół św. Małgorzaty, after Saint Margaret, had a baptism record for Konstancya Anastazja Kaczanowska. 

1885 Kaczanowska baptisms

1885 Baptism record, Kościół św. Małgorzaty, Kościelec

She was born in Leszczyce on January 8, and baptized on January 9, 1885. Her father, Jan Kaczanowski, was identified as ovilio, Latin for shepherd. Her mother was Franciszka Matuszak. I had originally thought there may have been twins, but only “1” is listed in the column for legitimae puellae, Latin for female child.

I listed people here with their original names, the names their Polish speaking parents gave them. Prussian church records often included Latin or German versions of first names. American records sometimes had Americanized versions of the names. For example, the website “Behind the Name” explains that the name Wojciech is “derived from the Slavic elements voji “soldier” and tekha “solace, comfort, joy”. Saint Wojciech (also known by the Czech form of his name Vojtěch or his adopted name Adalbert) was a Bohemian missionary to Hungary, Poland and Prussia, where he was martyred.” In America, Wojciech Lewandowski often used the name Albert.


By Andrzej Wójtowicz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Finding New Cousins With DNA Evidence

I have always had a fondness for facts. I was baffled in 2006 when a new doctor first told me about “evidence based” medicine; I had previously assumed that all medical practice would be based on evidence. One of the graduate courses I took while studying information security computer science was in “Formal Methods” using mathematics and logic to evaluate the reliability and robustness of a design and form conclusions. I like facts.

In the past, and through most of the entries in this blog, family history decisions were based on the multidisciplinary benchmark of a “preponderance of evidence.” If multiple reports support a cogent narrative, then they are worth repeating. If there are discrepancies, they are worth investigating. Often, by examining different sources, things can make sense. [1]

DNA results are but one tool in the family researcher’s toolkit, but it is undoubtedly evidence based!

In early 2018, I know almost two dozen people with whom I match with AncestryDNA, all descendants of my ancestors who immigrated to the United States either from

Poland ancestral areas

Poland marked with author’s ancestral locations

  • Marienwerder, West Prussia, now Kujawsko-Pomorskie in north-central Poland, where my father’s grandparents and father were born, or
  • Radom, specifically the Sandomierz area of Świętokrzyskie, historically part of the Małopolska (Lesser Poland) region, where my mother’s parents and grandparents were born.

Most of my known DNA matches are close family, first cousins, second cousins, or third cousins, sometimes removed by a generation or two. Since the estimate of relationships is based on the identified amount of DNA we share, a handful of matches are listed by Ancestry as fourth cousins, even though we are second or third cousins in our genealogical trees.

Since DNA can occasionally reveal links that were unsuspected, it has also brought up some surprises.

For example, I knew my grandfather Antoni Maciejewski had two brothers, Konstanty and Ludwik. I knew that their children, my father’s cousins, had grown out of touch. I had heard stories about the rest of the family. I was delighted when I found a family tree online, and even more so in 2016 when my previously unknown second cousin coordinated a mini family reunion in Buffalo, New York, with several of Ludwik Maciejewski/Louis Warner‘s descendants. Some of us confirmed our genetic connection with DNA evidence.

I was contacted by a gentleman from Ontario when we matched on FamilyTreeDNA. Although we both had Szczepański/Szczepanowski names in our family trees, we found that our Szczepański forebears came from different areas. However, we could trace several of our lines to Świętokrzyskie. His experience encouraged me to continue researching Polish records. Although we never identified a most recent common ancestor (MRCA), we were able to ascertain that we both had Zybała, Bokwa, and Sad(owa) ancestors from Koprzywnica and the villages surrounding it.

Another genetic connection was made with a Canadian woman after we had connections on AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, and GEDmatch. She knew she had been adopted, and her birth parentage had become a concern when one of her children was born with a genetic heart condition. She knew the names of her birth parents, and began cold-calling from a phone book people with her birth mother’s last name until she found a family with similar stories. With additional information, her daughter was successfully treated, and her son’s risk was confirmed for proper treatment. Although we never discovered a most recent common ancestor (MRCA), we were able to ascertain that her father’s parents, named Drach and Wieczorek, were from the villages of Świniary and Suchowola near Koprzywnica.

I heard from a DNA cousin with a Kasprzyk ancestor who had immigrated through Canada to Detroit and then to Buffalo from “Poland Oporto (sic) Russia.” We exchanged newspaper clippings and he shared his findings of a researcher in Poland of his ancestors near Opatów in Świętokrzyskie.

Several second cousins and I were contacted by an AncestryDNA match who had been adopted as a baby. She knew her mother had been Polish, and asked her DNA matches if we could help in her search for her birth parents. I was able to share information about our likely ancestors from West Prussia, and their descendants who had immigrated to America, even if I could not give her specific information about her birth circumstances. They were clues, she said, and helped her pursue her search.

Another genetic match had posted a family tree with entirely different people living in the same town as several of my relatives. There is probably a story there.

I had more in common with one match on FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch than just our DNA. Although we were born elsewhere in different decades, we are both Cornell University graduates currently living in Rhode Island. We both have ancestors who lived in Prussia in the 1800s, although some of his Jablonowski ancestors moved to Höntrop, near Bochum, Germany, before immigrating to the United States.

Because two Polish siblings that I matched on FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch were also matches for one of my first cousins one generation removed, I had originally thought we were connected through my father’s family. However, they were from the Świętokrzyskie area, where my mother’s family had lived! It baffled me, until I realized that our genetic connection may be through both his parents, with his father my first cousin on my father’s side, and his mother a distant relation of my mother’s family. That also explains some other anomalies in our results. Even though his mother does not appear to be a DNA match to me, some of her matches are also matches to me, possibly through a long ago ancestor.

Chicago was a common destination for immigrants from Polish lands, so I have found some DNA (estimated) 4th cousins whose ancestors landed in Chicago. They identified their ancestors as Kalinowski or Kaniecki, from Prussia. Although it has been difficult to identify specifically our most recent common ancestors (MRCA), in several instances we were able to identify our common ancestral villages and actually find their ancestors’ baptism and marriage records in Szembruk and nearby places in West Prussia.

I am intrigued with two recent AncestryDNA matches from Long Island with ties back to Buffalo, New York. There is definitely a link, and I am looking forward to learning more about how to evaluate it when I attend the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh’s course in Practical Genetic Genealogy with Blaine Bettinger at Daemen College in Amherst, New York, this summer.

DNA can confirm genetic relationships you’ve identified through research, find new connections, or cast doubt on identified ancestry. This has all happened in my experience with DNA testing. I have reached out to many DNA matches, and although not all have responded, I am curious about our common heritage. My grandson says we are all related some way. It’s interesting to try to discover how, at least for our closer relations.

[1] Not all evidence is created equal. Professional genealogists apply five criteria in their “Genealogical Proof Standard:”

  • a reasonably exhaustive search
  • complete and accurate source citations
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion