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Language Challenges in Family History Research

I never had an ear for languages. Polish was my parents’ first language, so they regularly spoke Polish to each other while I was growing up. I could make out some of what they were saying about me and my sisters, but I never learned to speak it. As a child, I thought that all parents had a language that only adults used. They spoke English with us when they wanted us to understand.

I studied Latin in high school. Since no one living spoke Latin, I was able to approach it as a coding problem, with noun declensions and verb conjugations. I took several semesters of French in high school and college, and I studied some German in college. As an adult, I took extension courses in Polish before taking a tour of the country in 2004. I never became fluent in any of them.

Although I did not appreciate it at the time, this language exposure has helped a lot with my family history research. My ancestors were Roman Catholic, so many church records are in Latin. They spoke Polish, so knowing about declensions and cases has been very helpful in deciphering names of people and places.

My father’s ancestors were from the West Prussian part of Poland that was occupied by the Germans in the 1800s, so many official records were written in Latin, German, and Polish. Not only were they written in different languages, they were often written in different languages at the same time! The equivalent of the English name John could be written as Jan (Polish), Johann (German), Joannes or Johannes (Latin) in different places on the same page. Column headings and forms were often in the Fraktur font.

My mother’s family were from the Russian occupied area of Poland near Sandomierz. The nineteenth century records there were in the wordy Napoleonic format. Some records were written entirely in Polish, while others were in Russian (Cyrillic), often with the names repeated with Roman letters.

Since all the records were handwritten, there were variations in the legibility and even the quality of the ink that was used.

One day my grandson sat with me as I was perusing old records, and he asked me how I could read them. I was taken aback, until I realized that his is a generation of devices. While he learned his letters in preschool and he learned to print in kindergarten, his reading is often on a screen and his writing is mostly on a keypad. Cursive writing was only a small part of his third grade curriculum. While he can make out the words in script, it does not come naturally to him. While it has never been easy, deciphering old records may be becoming more of an arcane art.


Researching Świętokrzyskie Ancestors

Our maternal grandmother, Agnieszka Kapuscinska Skrok Kiec, was the only grandparent my younger sisters and I ever knew. Our grandfathers Jan Skrok and Antoni Maciejewski had both died in 1936, when our parents were only five and eight years old. Our father’s mother Marya Szczepańska Maciejewska died in 1951, four years before I was born.

Gnieszowice, Koprzywnica, Sandomierz, Świętokrzyskie, Poland

I was curious about my grandmother’s origins, and the land of my ancestors. In 2004, I joined a group tour of Poland, then rented a car to visit Gnieszowice, the small village near Koprzywnica, Sandomierz, where documents indicated my maternal grandmother had been born in 1895. Although I was able to verify my grandmother’s birth in the former synagogue that had become the Archives in Sandomierz, I did not think I would be able to do much research in the Polish records.

That changed in March 2015, when I attended the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts presentation by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz at the Chicopee Public Library on Locating Vital Records in Poland Using Online Resources, or, I Found My Village! Now What? She answered questions I did not know I had, and her detailed examples clearly illustrated her points. I was inspired.

Following her example, I used the Geneteka database of the Polish Genealogical Society (in Poland!) to find the birth records of my mother’s parents, their siblings, and their parents’ marriage records, indexed with their parents’ names. I learned how I was related to people I knew were cousins, but I was not sure how. Our ancestors came to Buffalo in the early part of the twentieth century from an area near Sandomierz, in the Russian occupied area of Poland, in what is now the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) province. To the family names I knew from western New York–Kapuściński, Kasprzyk, Kiec, Kwiatek, Rzepka, Skrok, Szczepański, and Witoń–I was able to add my great-great grandparents and the names Kołek, Bartkiewicz, Zybała, and Kaczmarz to my family tree. Needless to say, I was pleased to make a donation to contribute to the volunteer site.

When I learned that Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz was to give a presentation on Polish Genealogy Research to the Polish Genealogical Society of New York State at their April 2016 meeting in Buffalo, I encouraged PGSNYS members to attend. I also reached out to several of my DNA matches in western New York and nearby Canada.

Although one of my DNA matches from southern Ontario was unable to attend the presentation, we exchanged information. She had been adopted, but she knew the names of her birth parents. coin that Grandma Drach sewed to her hemHer birth father had even given her a tangible piece of her heritage, one of the coins that had been sewn into the interior hem of her ancestor’s dress when she left the country telling her that it was ‘not allowed’ to take monies out and that they ‘escaped’. 

My DNA match had found the ship manifests from her father’s parents’ arrivals in Canada, but she was not sure from where they had come. But I did! I had been down this road and I knew some of the signposts. And we’re family!

Suchowola, Osiek, and Świniary, Łoniów, near Gnieszowice, Koprzywnica; Google map

Her grandfather Józef Drach‘s ship record said he was born in Świniary, Sandomierz. There are 2 very small villages named Stare Świniary and Nowe Świniary approximately 3 kilometers south of Łoniów. In Polish, Stare means old, Nowe means new. Both villages are in the administrative district of Gmina Łoniów, within Sandomierz County, Świętokrzyskie, about seven kilometers from Gnieszowice, where my grandmother Agnieszka was born.

Józef Drach, ship Lituania from Danzig to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1930

Józef‘s parents were identified as Jan and Katarzyna Drach. Jan is the Polish version of the English name John. Katarzyna is the Polish name for Katherine.

Geneteka had an indexed record that indicated that Jan Drach and Katarzyna Borycka married in  Łoniów in 1895 (entry #23), as well as listing the baptism of Józef Drach in Łoniów in 1905 (entry #27). The church in Łoniów is Kościół św. Mikołaja, St. Nicholas. While the record indices have been posted online, I did not find the original records.

My DNA match’s grandmother was Aniela Wieczorek. Her ship record said she was born in Suchowola, and her sister Katarzyna lived in Suchowola, Sandomierz. Today, Suchowola is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Osiek, within Staszów County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship. It is not far from Sandomierz.

The nearest church is Kościół św. Stanisława Biskupa i Męczennika, St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr, in Osiek. Since ship and Canadian records said that Aniela Wieczorek was born in 1900 or 1901, the most likely record is in 1900, entry 143.

1900 Aniela Wieczorek birth
Aniela Wieczorek birth record, 1900, Osiek, Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, Św. Stanisława

Aniela‘s nearest relative was listed as her sister Katarzyna Janoś (sp?).

Aniela Wieczorek, ship Melita from Warsaw, Poland, to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1924

 Katarzyna Wieczorek was a popular name, with baptisms of girls with that name occurring regularly in Osiek.

  • 1891  35
  • 1893  134
  • 1895  71
  • 1896  78
  • 1897  100
  • 1901  83

Although these records were available online, they were written in the Napoleonic format in Cyrillic, because this area was occupied by Russia in the 19th and early 20th century. I was not able to read the records myself, but my DNA match was able to use this information to extend her family tree to Michał Wieczorek and Franciszka Czech and beyond.

GEDmatch estimated the number of generations to our most recent common ancestor (MRCA) is 4.8, since we share a 19.1 centiMorgan DNA segment on chromosome 3. While we have not found our common ancestors, we found the common location where our ancestors lived.

Zamek Krzyżtopór, Baranów Sandomierski, and Sandomierz, Świętokrzyskie, Poland, Google map

When traveling in Poland, I stayed at the hotel at Baranów Sandomierski Castle, across the Wisła (Vistula) River from our grandparents’ birth places. I also visited the towns of Sandomierz and Opatów, and Krzyżtopór Castle in Ujazd,  Iwaniska, Opatów, about 22 kilometers from Łoniów. I had read about these places in James Michener’s novel, Poland, and I was glad to make the connection to our family history in what is now Świętokrzyskie province.


Wikipedia contributors, “Gnieszowice,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed December 18, 2018).

“Ancestry,” database, Ancestry ( accessed 12 December 2018), Jozef Drach; citing Passenger Lists. Jozef Drach, Male, 25, abt 1905, Poland, Departure Port: Danzig, Poland, Arrival date: 8 Apr 1930, Arrival Port: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Vessel: Lituania; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Series: RG 76-C; Roll: T-14825; Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Library and Archives Canada, n.d. RG 76-C. Department of Employment and Immigration fonds. Library and Archives Canada Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, “Geneteka, Metryki,” database, Polish Genealogical Society, Genealodzy ( accessed 2016), Józef Drach; citing church records or Urząd Stanu Cywilnego (Civil Registry Office). 1905 27 Józef Drach Łoniów Łoniów [Indeks dodał: Wojciech_Liśkiewicz] .

Genealogiczne, Genealodzy, Jan Drach, Katarzyna Borycka. 1895 23 Jan Drach Katarzyna Borycka Łoniów [ Miejscowość: Łoniów] [Indeks dodał: Wojciech_Liśkiewicz] .

“Ancestry,” database, Ancestry, Aniela Wieczorek, Female, abt 1900, Birth Place: Suchowola, Age: 24, Date of Arrival: 12 Apr 1924, Port of Arrival: Saint John, New Brunswick, Port of Departure: Warsaw, Poland, Ship Name: Melita, Library and Archives Canada; Form 30A Ocean Arrivals (Individual Manifests), 1919-1924; Rolls: T-14939 – T-15248; Canada, Ocean Arrivals (Form 30A), 1919-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Library and Archives Canada. Form 30A, 1919-1924 (Ocean Arrivals). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, n.d.. RG 76. Department of Employment and Immigration .

Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski, Birth, Aniela Wieczorek; digital images, Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski ( : accessed December 2018). 1900 143 Aniela Wieczorek Osiek Osiek [Indeks dodał: Jabłoński_Edward]

Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski, Marriage, Jan Czosnek, Franciszka Cech; digital images, Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski ( : accessed December 2018). 1880 3 Jan Czosnek Franciszka Cech Osiek [ Miejscowość: Osiek] [Indeks dodał: Jabłoński_Edward]

Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski, Marriage, 1890 4, Michał Wieczorek Franciszka Czosnek; digital images, Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski ( : accessed December 2018). 1890 4 Michał Wieczorek, Franciszka Czosnek Osiek [ Miejscowość: Osiek] [Indeks dodał: Jabłoński_Edward]

Michener, James A. Poland. Random House, 1983

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!

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 were both Cornell University graduates 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

Chain Migration

Since my grandparents had been married in the United States, I had thought that they had met here and that their families had not known one another back in Poland. Instead, as I discovered more about my specific ancestors, I learned that often descendants of families who had been known to each other in the old country would later marry and continue on family traditions in the new country. Their story of immigration and allied families is a tradition that continues today.

Family history researchers refer to this tendency of people from a place to travel together and to bring their families with them as chain migration.

My father’s grandparents had immigrated to Buffalo in the 1880s, when my grandfather Antoni Maciejewski was just a baby. My grandmother Marya Szczepańska was born in Buffalo. I was surprised to learn that their parents had been born half a world away in Nieżywięć and Szembruczek, small villages in West Prussia that were just twenty miles apart. Although I thought I had solved a puzzle when I learned that my great-grandfather Marcin Szczepański‘s mother was born to the Kaniecki family, I subsequently learned that Jan Kaniecki‘s mother had been born Kalinowska, and he was probably first cousin to my great-grandmother, Anna Kalinowska Szczepanska. My father and his siblings called him “Uncle.” There are undoubtedly other family ties that have been lost in the intervening years.

My mother’s parents, Agnieszka Kapuscińska and Jan Skrok, moved to the United States in the 1910s with their siblings, cousins, and other relations.  They married in Buffalo, returned to Poland about 1920, and then came back to America later that decade. Although her grandmother had lived in Buffalo for almost ten years, my mother never met her or other family members who later remained in Poland. Because my aunt and uncle had been born in the United States, they were “anchor babies” who allowed my Polish-born grandmother to travel back to America with an United States passport that included an infant who had been born in Poland. My grandparents subsequently had several more children in America, including my mother.

Many genealogists have used chain migration to identify their family members, but The Legal Genealogist Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, expresses our family situation best in her blog post “For the record…What “chain migration” looks like”.

Yet though these immigrants personally may not ever have fully assimilated in the United States, they most assuredly contributed directly and personally to this country.

In many cases, they married here in America.

They worked long and hard here in America.

They paid taxes here in America.

They sent their children to school here in America.

They — and their children — and grandchildren — and great grandchildren — are my family.

And their children — and grandchildren — and great grandchildren — most assuredly are fully assimilated and contribute directly and personally to this country.

We have served this nation in the United States Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.

In the civilian service of the United States and of several states.

In the ranks of the medical profession. The legal profession. As educators. As scientists.

As parents.

And even as grandparents.

This is what my family looks like.

We are precisely what “chain migration” really looks like.

And we’re damned proud of it.

Ancestral First Names: From Abigail to Zebedee

With a new grandchild on the way, I was inspired by “What’s in a Name?: Frequency Analysis of Ancestral Given Names in My Family Tree” by Polish family researcher Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz on her blog From Shepherds and Shoemakers to analyze the first names in both my daughter’s and her husband’s family.

The new baby will have a mix of European heritages and nationalities. While my family history is Polish, both from the German and the Russian partitions, my daughters also have a mix of English (both Yankee and Canadian), and Irish from their father’s side. As far as I can tell, their ancestors fought on both sides in the American Revolutionary War, on the Union side in the Civil War, and were either Catholic or Protestant to an alarming degree of green and orange.  My son-in-law’s identified ancestors are French-Canadian, English-Canadian, and Swedish, and not so contentiously Catholic and Protestant.

Many of the oldest names were found years ago from old published genealogies, and they have not been properly sourced. With that caveat, the names of identified ancestors are listed below.

Mary and John and their variations were most popular through the ages. They, like the other top ten names, were found in trees of various ethnicity. For example, Małgorzata in Polish and Marguerite in French are analogues of the English name Margaret.

The names Jadwiga, Kazimierz, Stanisław, Stanisława, and Wojciech are clearly Polish in origin. Mikołaj is the Polish version of Nicholaus. Adelard, Basile, Célina, Cyrille, Hercule, and Nasaire are French, and Sigfrid is Swedish.

Thankful, Mercy, Patience, Plain, and Prudence were all first names from New England in Colonial times. Baptist minister William Wickenden was in Providence in 1640 and was a close friend of Roger Williams. His second daughter Plain married Samuel Wilkinson. The last names of their descendants and their spouses read like a glossary of Rhode Island street names: Angell, Arnold, Chapman, Comstock, Hopkins, Rogers, Rounds, Slater, Thayer, Waterman, Wickenden, and Williams, but that’s a blog topic for another day.

Here are their known ancestral first names:

Marianna/Mary/Marya/Maryanna 28
Jan/John 27
William 15
Elizabeth 12
Thomas/Tomasz 11
Alce/Alcy/Alice 9
Catherine/Katarzyna/Katherine 9
Ann/Anna/Anne 8
Joseph/Józef 8
Małgorzata/Margaret/Marguerite 8
Sarah 7
James 6
Martha 5
Susanna/Susannah 5
Agnes/Agnieszka 3
Benjamin 3
Daniel 3
Eleanor/Eleonor 3
George 3
Joanna/Johanna/Johannah 3
Maurice 3
Phebe/Phoebe 3
Reuben 3
Wincenty 3
Amos 2
Basil/Basile 2
Caleb 2
Charles 2
Clement 2
David 2
Edmond/Edmund 2
Emily 2
Esther 2
Franciszka 2
Henry 2
Jeremiah 2
Kacper 2
Louis 2
Lucian/Lukasz 2
Mathilde/Matilda 2
Obadiah/Obediah 2
Rebecca 2
Regina 2
Samuel 2
Simeon 2
Stephen 2
Sylvanus 2
Walentin/Walenty 2
Zachariah 2
Abigail 1
Adelaide 1
Adelard 1
Andrzej 1
Annis 1
Antoni 1
Célina 1
Chad 1
Christian 1
Christopher 1
Coles 1
Constant 1
Cyrille 1
Della 1
Douglas 1
Ebenezer 1
Elethea 1
Emeline 1
Enoch 1
Ephrem 1
Flora 1
Florian 1
Forrest 1
Frank 1
Fredora 1
Gertruda 1
Hannah 1
Hercule 1
Jadwiga 1
Jane 1
Jarvis 1
Jemima 1
Joan 1
Kazimierz 1
Lawrance 1
Leah 1
Leslie 1
Lina 1
Lucyna 1
Mae 1
Mahala 1
Marcin 1
Mercy 1
Michal 1
Mikołaj 1
Mildred 1
Nancy 1
Nasaire 1
Neilan 1
Ozina 1
Patience 1
Patrick 1
Peleg 1
Philip 1
Pierre 1
Plain 1
Prudence 1
Quentin 1
Ralph 1
Rhoda 1
Richard 1
Robert 1
Robietta 1
Rubina 1
Ruth 1
Sandra 1
Shubael 1
Sigfrid 1
Smith 1
Sophie 1
Stanisław 1
Stanisława 1
Teresa 1
Tertullus 1
Thaddeus 1
Thankful 1
Virginia 1
Weller 1
Weronika 1
Wojciech 1
Zebedee 1

The Other Szczepański Children

When I first started documenting family history, I asked my parents, aunts, and uncles what they could tell me, and what they remembered. My mother had a collection of funeral prayer cards, wedding invitations, and birth announcements, and these gave me a good start documenting family relationships, dates, and places.

The stories were even more interesting, as different people remembered different things, even sometimes about the same people and events. It made for interesting discussions. People told me what they knew and what they had heard. For example, everyone agreed that Martin and Anna Szczepański had six children.

They had been married in Szembruk, West Prussia, in November 1878, and they had immigrated to Buffalo, New York, in 1881. Their oldest son, Franciszek, was born in Buffalo in September 1884. I began to think that something was missing from this story, and I was right.

In going through the 1880 church registers from Szembruk, I found an entry for the birth and baptism of their first son, Józef, on 2 März 1880. [1]

1880 Joseph Szczepanski birth cropped

1880 church baptism register, Szembruk, Prussia

Sadly, the last page of the available Szembruk records also had an entry for his death on 5 März 1880.

1880 Joseph Szczepanski death cropped

1880 church death register, Szembruk, Prussia

I did not find any other Szczepański children’s entries in the Szembruk records, but in the 1900 Bennington, New York census, Anna reported that she was the mother of nine children, and that five of them were still living.

1900 Szczepanski census cropped

1900 Federal Census, Bennington, New York

Agnes would be born in Bennington, New York, on 2 August 1902.

Who were the three other children?

We know that after the death of their first child in March 1880, Marcin and Anna immigrated to the United States. Although I have not yet found record of their passage, Martin filed his first citizenship papers in Buffalo, New York, on 24 October 1881.

Since their other children were baptized at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic parish in Buffalo, I re-examined the baptism records. They are now online at FamilySearch, and the Church has an index. There were several listings for Szczepański infants, and three of them were other children of Marcin and Anna.

Maria Szczepańska was born 17 June 1881 and baptized 19 June 1881.

On 2 October 1882, Marcin and Anna had Jan Szczepański, who was baptized 8 October 1882. I would have been surprised about the place listed as the parents’ place of birth, had I not known that Grudziądz is the county name and the name of the city near Szembruczek.

After the births of Franciszek (1884) and Marya (1887), Helena Szczepańska was born 16 Oct 1889 and baptized at St. Stanislaus in Buffalo 20 Oct 1889.

However, in the 1892 New York State census, only Frank and Mary were listed with their parents.

1892 Szepanski Buffalo NYS Census cropped

1892 New York State census, Buffalo, New York

What happened to the other three little ones?

Sadly, St. Stanislaus Church also had records of their deaths and burial at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, New York.

Maria died 12 Jul 1881, after living just 25 days. Jan was 11 months old when he died 4 Sep 1883, and Helena was 1 year 5 months 15 days old when she died 31 Mar 1891.

Here is a timeline of the children of this family:

Martin & Anna children
[1] Józef, pronounced YOO-zef, would have been his name in Polish, the language spoken by his parents. Because the Prussian government required even church records to be kept in German, his baptism record had the German/Latin name Joseph, pronounced YO-zef.


St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr RC Church, Buffalo, New York, Helena SZCZEPAŃSKI (Baptism),

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr RC Church, Buffalo, New York, Helena SZCZEPAŃSKI (Burial),

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr RC Church, Buffalo, New York, Jan SZCZEPAŃSKI (Baptism),

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr RC Church, Buffalo, New York, Jan SZCZEPAŃSKI (Burial),

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr RC Church, Buffalo, New York, Maria SZCZEPAŃSKA (Baptism),

St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr RC Church, Buffalo, New York, Maria SZCZEPAŃSKA (Burial),