Saturday, August 13, 2016
Retracing Those Tentative Research Steps
Sometimes, researching one's ancestry over the years can bring an avalanche of information. It is easy to forget, toward the end of the search, what had been discovered at the beginning. At first, hints seem to dribble out, one by one, and the going seems glacially slow. That, however, can be deceptive; those clues add up—enough to bury the first ones in an avalanche of eventual resources.
So it is with my quest to find the roots of my Laskowski family and the related line with that easily-identifiable surname Gramlewicz. In puzzling over the possible home town for the Gramlewicz family, back in Poland, it's true I've been poking through several surname distribution maps in hopes of finding a golden key to open this research door—but it seems I've encountered conflicting information.
Maybe learning a bit more about the region may help. I've already discovered that there was a grand-scale redrawing of the map in 1998, so the provinces and counties have taken shape in ways that likely differ from the time, back in the 1890s, when my family left town—wherever it was.
Another difficulty is that much more has taken place since that time period when the Gramlewicz and Laskowski families immigrated to America. For one thing, there have been two world wars. Ideological changes and governmental impact. But even before that era, Poland had seen itself change hands geopolitically from Prussians to Germans. Regions and cities were sometimes known by one name, then by another. It's hard to keep up.
Still, I have to remember what I've already found. In addition to what seems to be conflicting information on those surname mappers, I can reach far back in my slush pile of research notes to confirm one thing: Żerków is looking better, each time I review the findings.
Whether you've been following along at A Family Tapestry from the beginning or not, you may recall my discovery, a few years ago, of the census enumerator's error in which the land from which my Laskowski great grandparents emigrated from was listed not as the country of origin (which the instructions required), but the actual region they once called home. It was listed as Posen—the German name for the region and city now known as Poznań.
One helpful timeline of how the designation of Poznań has changed over the centuries brings us from the fourteenth century up to the time of this most recent redesignation in 1998, when it was incorporated into the larger Wielkopolska Province. You will probably not be surprised to discover that, at least in this century, this newer province includes not only the city of Poznań, but the tiny village of Żerków, as well.
Not only had I found that my great grandparents once hailed from Poznań, however, but I had already found a confirmation that the town of Żerków should be on my radar. Remember my grandmother's brother—the man who had married into that other rare surname (Aktabowski) I'm trying to trace right now? When I finally found John Laskowski's naturalization papers, that was the very location he pinpointed for the place where he was born: Żerków. It said so, right on his Declaration of Intention.
With all this, can I presume that the reference to Posen in the early twentieth century can correspond to the same plot of land that encompasses that village where my ancestors once lived? Sounds reasonable to me, of course. But let's take another stop, next week, to revisit what my Polish cousin remembered of her own family history, which started from the point at which our Gramlewicz family left New York to return to Poland, just before the first World War. For, you see, in addition to all the Gramlewicz children who returned with their parents to Poland, there was one more child added to the family after their arrival back home. That new baby became the ancestor of my Polish cousin, a grandfather she never met.
Above: "The Favorite," 1890 painting by Georgios Jakobides; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.