Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

Archive for the ‘Szczepanski’ Category

Szczepański, Maciejewski, Klein, Sczepanski, and Graff Cousins

The primary reason I started recording family history was to document what my parents knew. Several of their older siblings and cousins had died, and I knew that much family knowledge was in danger of being lost.

I also wanted to make sense of who was who! My dad had six living brothers and sisters, and some of their children were his age, and had offspring who were the same ages as my sisters and myself. My mother’s family had first and second cousins of various ages. As children, we called all the adults aunt and uncle. It was not until I was older that I realized that not all of them were my parents’ siblings. How were we related?

In 1991, I tried to make sense of family relationships with a program called Brother’s Keeper on a personal computer. My parents and aunts told me about their aunts, uncles, and cousins. There were a lot of cousins! I began calling and writing, and found that each branch of the Szczepański family had someone who was interested in their family’s history and was willing to share the information with me. Corresponding back and forth filled in many blanks in the family tree.

My father was one of the thirty five grandchildren of Marcin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska.  He died in 1995, and in going through his papers, I was astonished to find his grandfather’s original naturalization certificate from 1887. What were the odds that over a hundred years later, the certificate would come into the hands of the great-grandchild (of 106) most interested in family history? In 1997, I included a copy of Martin Szczepanski’s naturalization certificate in the book I wrote about the Descendants of Martin and Anna Szczepański. Because I had been blessed to learn so much, I felt an obligation to honor my father and our immigrant ancestors and to share the story of their descendants in America.

Born between 1907 and 1939, here is a timeline of the grandchildren of Marcin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska.Szczepanski cousins


Szennato, Szynnato? Szynwałd, Groß Schönwalde! Deciphering Polish/Prussian Place Names

Church records were very helpful in researching the ancestors of two of my fourth cousin DNA matches from Their great-grandmother, Katarzyna Kiersznowska Niewirowska was born in Groß Schönbrück/ Szembruk, the same place that my great grandparents Marcin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska were from!

It took awhile longer to find the records for their great-grandfather Franciszek Niewirowski mostly because there is no place called Szennato.

The St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church marriage record for Katarzyna Kiersznowska and Franciszek Niewirowski in Chicago, Illinois, on 27 November 1885 was listed on FamilySearch.

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.

Aware of chain migration, I was looking for information about Franciszek Niewirowski while researching Katarzyna Kierznowska and her mother Ludwika Kalinowska in the Szembruk church records.

In the Szembruk records, I found an 1875 entry for the death of Elżbieta Trever, a daughter of Franz and Marianna Niewirowski, which indicated there were Niewirowski family in the area. Elżbieta is Polish for Elizabeth. She died in Garnseedorf, which had a Lutheran, but no Catholic Church. (It was across the nearby border, which remained German after WWI, according to Wikipedia.) I researched, and saw that the Polish name was listed as Szlemno, which might have been very loosely recorded as Szennato. I also saw the associated Catholic parish was Groß Schönwalde in Kreis Graudenz. The border is visible in the old and new maps below.

Deutsch-Eylau_27 cropped

Part of Deutsch Eylau – 27 old German Map (

Szombruk Szynwald map

Contemporary Polish map (

In Polish, Groß Schönwalde is called Szynwałd. In a straight line, it is about four miles from Szembruk. The Szynwałd church is Kościół Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny (Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

The Szynwałd records were filmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints and are posted online at FamilySearch at Germany, Preußen, Westpreußen, Groß Schönwalde (Kr. Graudenz) – Church records / Poland, Bydgoszcz, Szynwałd (Grudziądz) – Church records.[1]  I found Franciszek Niewirowski‘s baptism record for 26 Nov 1862.

1862 Niewirowski birth

1862 Birth Record, Franz Niewirowski, Szynwałd, West Prussia

However, while looking through the pages, I saw several entries that looked like Szynnato, so I thought that there might be a village with that spelling nearby.

After looking in vain for a nearby village called Szynnato, I went back to the original record and saw that what I was reading as Szynnato was actually “nw,” not “nn,” (the W sounds like a V) the letter “ł” (L with a line across it, pronounced like a W sound), not “t,” and “d” with the squiggle over the letter going back to make a line over the “l”, not “o.” In short, it’s Szynwałd in cursive.

Going back to the Chicago marriage record, I could now read Szenwałd. It is not exactly Szynwałd, but it is close.

1885 Szennato



[1] When the church records were filmed in 1954, Szynwałd (Grudziądz) was in the Bydgoszcz province of Poland. During the German Occupation of the 19th century, it was Provinz Westpreußen (West Prussia), or Prusy Zachodnie in Polish. After Poland was reunited in 1920, it was in the Pomeranian Province, and between 1975 and 1998, it was in the Toruń Province. Currently, Szynwałd is in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, or in Polish, województwo kujawsko-pomorskie.


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

Szynwałd, Poland, Franciszek NIEWIEROWSKI (Birth),

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)

Martin and Anna Szczepański left Germany 1 March 1881

Martin Szczepański‘s naturalization application and certificate, and Martin and Anna‘s census records and other documents consistently said they had come to the United States in 1881. Looking at a Hamburg passenger manifest for Martin and Anna Szczepański from that time, I found another example of chain migration, in which people living in a place tended to move away together.

1881 Szczepanski Hamburg Passenger


The Dampfschiff (steamship) Dresden took passengers on route to Amerika via Glasgow with Captain Reay under an English flag. The port of arrival was Leith, Scotland, and the departure date was 1 Mrz 1881 (1 Mar 1881) from the port of Hamburg, Germany. The destination was listed in the index as New York, but I have not yet found any arrival documents.

Although their name is spelled as Szepanowski, name misspellings and variations are not uncommon in ship manifests. Martin is 27 and Anna is 23, which matches their known ages in 1881. In the ship manifest, Martin’s present status or occupation (Bisheriger Stand oder Beruf) is listed as as Landmann or Landsarbiter, a farm worker. While Martin and Anna list their previous residence (Bisheriger Wohnort) as Marienwerder, Westpreußen, further down the page,  Michael Schnitzki and Nicolaus and Rosalie Doblonski and their children Theophil and Eva more specifically list the small village of Kl. Schönbrück as their previous residence.

Marienwerder was both a government region (Regierungsbezirk) of the province of Westpreußen from 1815 until 1945, as well as the German name for the town of Kwidzyn.

Klein Schönbrück (in Polish Szembruczek) was in Graudenz Landkreis in the Marienwerder Regierungsbezirk, as is illustrated in this graphic of the older German history of Klein Schönbrück,  from the German Genealogical GenWiki website.

Klein Schombruck

For a modern analogy, I live in the town of North Kingstown, in Washington County, state of Rhode Island (officially, the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations), in the United States of America. Although not on official maps, the southern half of the state is referred to as “South County.” The region is called “New England,” and I am likely to reply with any of these names when I am asked where I am from.

Assuming that these are our ancestors, did Martin and Anna actually live in the town Marienwerder/Kwidzen before they boarded the ship or were they referencing the region from which they had come? I will keep looking for any records of the ship’s arrival in New York or any other references to Martin and Anna Szczepański.

Update Apr 2018:  TheShipsList®™ – ( S. Swiggum) identifies the ship Dresden, built in 1865, was 807 tons and part of the fleet of the Leith, Hull & Hamburg Steam Packet Co., in service until 1916, when it was “sunk by U.Boat off Nab Light Vessel.” It appears that this ship took passengers bound for America to Scotland. This may be why I could not find a record of the ship’s arrival in North America.


Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2008.
Original data: Staatsarchiv Hamburg, Bestand: 373-7 I, VIII (Auswanderungsamt I). Mikrofilmrollen K 1701 – K 2008, S 17363 – S 17383, 13116 – 13183.

TheShipsList®™ – ( S. Swiggum),

Toruń Gingerbread

When I visited Poland in 2004, I toured Copernicus House in Toruń. It was where Nicolaus Copernicus, the famous 16th century astronomer, had lived, and it is now a museum. I remember we visited on a rainy day, because we were asked to put booties over our shoes before walking on the old wooden floors. The Old Town felt medieval, and there were still Gothic buildings and Teutonic walls. The city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I did not know at the time that our father John Maciejewski‘s grandparents (and perhaps his father) had been born in that area. Nieżywięć, where Jan Maciejewski and Weronika Lewandowska were married in 1869, is fewer than thirty miles from Toruń. Szembruczek, the village of Marcin Szczepanski and Anna Kalinowska, is about twenty miles from Nieżywięć.

near Torun

Torun in Poland


Toruń is famous for its Gingerbread, called piernik, and it was sold in almost every souvenir shop and bakery. I brought some home to share. This Christmas I made gingerbread, and shared some that was purchased with my family in the spirit of John Maciejewski’s ancestors.


Wikipedia has an article about Toruń Gingerbread. One section is

Toruń Gingerbread in Polish Culture

Pierniki Toruńskie, as they are known in Polish, are an icon of Poland’s national cuisine. They have traditionally been presented as a gift by the city of Toruń to Polish leaders, artists and others who have distinguished themselves in Polish society, and to Polish kings. Baking molds survive with likenesses of king Sigismund III of Poland, king Władysław IV Vasa and Queen Cecilia Renata as well as the royal seal with the Polish eagle and crests of several provinces. Other notables who have received gift gingerbread from the city include Marie Casimire Louise (French princess and widow of King John III Sobieski), Napoléon Bonaparte (during whose visit the whole city was illuminated and bells were rung all over the city), Zygmunt Krasiński (one of Poland’s Three Bards), painter Jan Matejko, actress Helena Modjeska, Marshal Józef Piłsudski, pianist Artur Rubinstein, poet Czesław MiłoszLech Wałęsa and Pope John Paul II.

Since at least the Middle Ages, pierniki have been connected with Toruń in Polish proverbs and legends. One legend claims that gingerbread was a gift from the Queen of the Bees to the apprentice Bogumił. A 17th‑century epigram by poet Fryderyk Hoffman speaks of the four best things in Poland: “The vodka of Gdańsk, Toruń gingerbread, the ladies of Kraków, and the Warsaw shoes”.

…When the precocious 15-year-old composer Frédéric Chopin visited Szafarnia, a small village near the river Drwęca, he stopped over in Toruń, where he was a guest of his godfather, the penologist Fryderyk Florian Skarbek. Chopin sampled the city’s famous confection and grew so fond of it that he wrote a letter about it to his friends and colleagues. He even sent some to Warsaw. In honor of this, Poland’s largest producer of Toruń gingerbread, the Kopernik Confectionery Company, has created a special heart-shaped gingerbread called Scherzo, bearing Chopin’s likeness on the wrapper.

Toruń holds an annual celebration of gingerbread called Święto Piernika (the Gingerbread Festival).

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),

Finding Szembruczek

I started researching family history more than twenty years ago. My father’s mother Marya Szczepańska had been born in Buffalo in 1887. Her parents, Martin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska, had immigrated to Buffalo in 1881 and the family grew. By 1997, I was able to identify over three hundred Descendants of Martin and Anna Szczepański, and self-published a book about them. However, I was not sure where in Germany-Poland Martin and Anna had come from.

From American records, we knew a bit about them. Martin and Anna lived in Buffalo until about 1900, when they bought land in Bennington, New York, and began dairy farming. Martin Szczepański was fluent in both German and Polish, and his 1931 obituary in the Attica News said he had come from Germany. It may be the obituary was a misspelling of his name as Martsin, the English phonetic spelling of the Polish name Marcin. Anna‘s obituary in the Attica News in 1938 said she had been born in Poland. Other records said that he was born in 1854 and she was born in 1858.

1938 Anna Szczepanski obit


We knew they were married in 1878, because they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1928, and the occasion was published in the Attica News on November 15, 1928.

1928 Bennington Szczepanski golden wedding

This picture must have been from about that time:

Martin and Anna_0001

Martin and Anna had six children. Five of them—Franciszek (1884), Marya (1887), Bernard (1892), Marta (1895), and Leon (1898)—were baptized at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo, New York. Their children’s baptism records listed the parents’ place of birth as Szombrug, Szömbrug, Szenbruk, Szenburg, Szönbruk, Szymbruczek or a variation.

Szczepanski parents StStan

Borussia is the Latin name for Prussia. Since umlauts are not used in Polish or Latin, it looked like these were versions of a German name, so in German it probably started with SCH and in Polish SZ. In 1997, I thought their place of birth was Schomberg, Prussia, which would have been something like Szomberg in Polish, but that was not correct. More recently, I suspected the German version of the names in Prussia would be Schomberg, Schömberg, or Schoenberg. There were many places with those names, and I wrote about them in a blog post called “Which Szomberg?

In 2017, after talking to some researchers at a conference of the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast in New Britain, Connecticut about patterns of Polish migration, I investigated places that had been in West Prussia, especially those that were Schönberg in German and Szymbark in Polish.

When I did not find their records there, I searched for variations of Szymbruczek and Szymbruk, the names from the children’s birth registers that seemed most Polish, and finally found Szembruczek and Szembruk, in what used to be West Prussia.

The village of Szembruczek is quite small. In German it was called Klein Schönbrück. The nearby larger village was called Groß Schönbrück. In German, Klein means little, and Groß, also written as Gross, means large. In Polish, Małe and Mały mean little. The Polish suffix -ek indicates a diminutive, something little or cute. Marya’s baptism entry actually listed what I now can see was Szembruk Mały, or Little Szembruk.

The database at the website has four entries for Szembruczek:

Kartenmeister Szembruczek

Wikipedia identified:Szembruczek

Szembruczek [ʂɛmˈbrut͡ʂɛk] (German: Klein Schönbrück) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Rogóźno, within Grudziądz County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-central Poland. It lies approximately 6 kilometres (4 mi) east of Rogóźno, 17 km (11 mi) north-east of Grudziądz, and 63 km (39 mi) north-east of Toruń. The village has a population of 230.

The Polish name Szembruk is an assimilation of the name Schönbrück , derived from the German words “schöne Brücke” (“beautiful bridge”). says Groß Schönbrück was also called Duzy Zembnik [1] and Wielkie Szembruck. Not surprisingly, Duży is the Polish word for big, and Wielkie means great.

Kartenmeister Szembruk

Most importantly, Groß Schönbrück/Szembruk has a Catholic church, Sw. Bartłomieja (St. Bartholomew). The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) filmed the early Parish registers of births, marriages, and deaths for “Groß Schönbruck (Kr. Graudenz), Westpreußen, Germany; now Szembruk (Grudziądz), Bydgoszcz, Poland. Text in Latin, Polish and German.” [2] No longer available on microfilm loan, the records have been digitized, and some are available at the Family Search website.

It had been a puzzle for more than twenty years, but in 2017, I found Martin Szczepański‘s baptism record online!

1854 Martin Szczepanski birth pg11854 Martin Szczepanski birth pg2

He was born 7 November, leg. (legitimate), in Kl. Schoenbruck, and baptized 12 November 1854. Because the records are German, his name is listed as Martin, and not the Polish Marcin.

The second page (here listed below the entry from the first page) shows Martin’s father’s name was Jan Szczepanski. His mother’s name was Franciszka Kaniecka. This information solved an ongoing mystery. In the 1990s, I had asked my father’s older sisters Cele and Imelda, who was called Emily, about their grandparents. Emily thought her grandmother’s maiden name had been Kaniecki, because when Martin and Anna moved to their farm in Bennington, their daughter Marya stayed behind in Buffalo with the Kaniecki family. Emily told me that her mother said that Jan Kaniecki was her only uncle from that side of the family. Cele knew that her grandmother’s maiden name had been Kalinowski, because it rhymed with her married name, Malinowski. But she did not know how the Kaniecki and Szczepański families were related. I wrote about the Kaniecki family in Buffalo on pages 156-157 of the Szczepański book.

1858 Szembruk birth records1858 Anna Kalinowska birth cropped

Anna Kalinowska was born 27 März, and baptized 5 April 1858. Unfortunately, the ink is somewhat faded and her parents’ names are indistinct, but her father’s name is Johannes (German for Jan) Kalynowski and her mother’s name is Marianna Nowakowska. (Marianna’s family name is clearer with her other children.)

1878 Szembrek marriage records1878 Szczepanski-Kalinowska marriage pg1

Martin Szczepanski and Anna Kalynowska were married 12 November 1878. I think he is identified as Jüngling (young unmarried man) 24 years old, and she is Mädfrau, young unmarried woman, of 21. The second page of the record ends with the dates that banns were announced and that the ceremony was performed in Gr. Schoenbruck.


[1] Zębnik is the Polish word for pinion, a round gear.

[2] When the church records were filmed in 1954, Szembruk (Grudziądz) was in the Bydgoszcz province of Poland. During the German Occupation of the 19th century, it was Provinz Westpreußen (West Prussia), or Prusy Zachodnie in Polish. After Poland was reunited in 1920, it was in the Pomeranian Province, and between 1975 and 1998, it was in the Toruń Province. Currently, Szembruk is in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, or in Polish, województwo kujawsko-pomorskie.


  1. Martsin Szczepanski, Attica News, Attica, New York, 29 October 1931.
  2. Mrs. Martin Szczepanski, Attica News, Attica, New York, 13 September 1938.
  4. GOLDEN WEDDING, Attica News, Attica, New York, 15 November 1928.
  5. St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr RC Church (Buffalo, New York), Baptism Register, FHL microfilm . Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  8. Szembruczek. (2017, March 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from
  9. Kościół rzymsko-katolicki. Parafja Szembruk (Grudziądz) (Main Author), Księgi metrykalne, 1795-1917, Manuscript/Manuscript on Film, Salt Lake City, Utah : Mikrofilmowało The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1954, 1988.