Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Getting to Know Anusia
It wasn't until I had met my Polish cousin, thanks to an online genealogy forum, that I learned the woman I had discovered in my great-grandparents' Brooklyn apartment was known, across the ocean, as Anusia.
Of course, if I hadn't discovered Annie Gramlewicz in the 1915 New York State census and seen her relationship listed as niece, I probably would have been oblivious to the existence of the entire Gramlewicz family connection. Each discovery after that one opened the door to further revelations about this Gramlewicz family—but each new fact emerged only gradually, over a span of years.
In addition, each revelation came courtesy of the help of others. First, it was with the help of the Polish cousin who tracked me down online and was willing to take up an email correspondence that spanned nearly a decade. After that, with the help of other genealogical researchers who realized they and I were searching for the same ancestors. But even before all that, it was thanks to the power of online outlets that I was able to reach out and meet others—and have others reach out and connect with me. It's that receptivity to community effort which has made such "serendipity" we experience in our research possible—something we need to never forget.
While I eventually learned, thanks to the hundred year old documents which sprung me on my path of discovery, that Anna Gramlewicz married Vincent Jablonski in Brooklyn and had two children, it was what I couldn't learn without the input from others that helped bring her story to life.
Take, for instance, Anna's nickname. Remember, Anna was the older sister of the man who became my Polish cousin's grandfather. While Anna returned to New York after going back to Poland with her family, the rest of her siblings remained somewhere in Poland. Because Anna and her older sister Helen were nearest in age of all the surviving siblings, of course they were close and kept in touch. Over the years, despite what was happening around them as the world's tragic history unfolded, Helen and Anna exchanged letters across the ocean.
What was interesting to learn from this Polish cousin is that Anna was not remembered by the family as Anna, or even Annie. Her sister Helen called her Anusia—and that was the only name the younger members of the family remembered ever hearing.
What the family in Poland did know about Anusia was that she was married and had children. She apparently wrote letters to not just Helen, but also to her baby brother's wife—this Polish cousin's grandmother—throughout her life. Although this cousin thinks Anusia never came to Poland—which I subsequently discovered was not so—she was aware of the letter exchange, which continued "with somebody from USA" until "the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s" but "we never asked about it."
Considering this Polish cousin and her siblings would have been very young, that is not a surprise to learn. Unfortunately, the one who last sent the replies back from Poland was this cousin's grandmother, who died in 1994, so even if the current generation wanted to, they no longer can ask any questions. The last remaining relative from that generation is now gone.
Somewhere in her father's home is a photograph of his grandparents and their family—Mieczyslaw, Jozefa and their children—made in Brooklyn before the Gramlewiczes returned to Poland. I can't tell you how I wish I had a copy of that photograph! I am sure, however, that that is not the only copy of that family portrait. Somewhere, back in New York, there are other members of Anusia's family—the branch of the Gramlewicz family which chose to remain in the United States—and I happened to get in touch with a distant relative of theirs who is also researching that family line.
Just as I mentioned earlier that genealogy is often a crowdsourced exercise, it turned out that researching this unusual surname has been the same. A little corroboration via email confirmed the details I had discovered, thanks to online documentation, and allowed me to make another—albeit distant—family connection once again.
Above: "En villégiature" (At the Resort), oil on canvas by Évariste Carpentier circa 1890; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.