Thursday, August 18, 2016
Someone Else's Aunt Anna
Perhaps it is owing to the commonness of the given name Anna that so many people can say they have an Aunt Anna. I do. My Polish cousin's father obviously did, for even though Anna Gramlewicz Jablonski was far removed from her family in Poland, she regularly sent letters back home and kept up on the family news.
It was thanks to a genealogy forum almost ten years ago that I discovered yet another person who could call this same Anna her Aunt Anna. Unlike my Polish cousin, this woman was descended from the little brother of Vincent Jablonski, Anna's husband. Anna was actually her mother's aunt; her mother grew up in the same apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, in which Anna had lived after Vincent died in 1943.
I got the first note from this Jablonski relative after she had seen my forum post on what was then genealogy.com. Of course, I was ecstatic to connect with someone who said Anna Gramlewicz was her own mother's Aunt Anna. Although the forum concept is so helpful, it was not often that a legitimate response materialized from one of my forays on these online sites.
Because this woman's mother grew up in the same housing complex as her cousins—the children of Vincent and Anna Jablonski—she likely was quite close to those relatives. Subsequent emails came well stocked with details on Anna's children and grandchildren. There was even a little bit on the great-grandchildren of one branch in Anna's tree. She provided me with current addresses of those who were still living, so I had up to date locations of where Anna's descendants had settled, as recently as seven years ago.
This other researcher, as it turns out, had also begun putting her records in a family tree online at Ancestry.com, so I've been able to see details as she adds them. And most recently, she mentioned considering doing DNA testing, although because we do not descend from the same common ancestor, it wouldn't reveal any helpful information for Anna's side of the family.
She even shared an old photograph of her side of the Jablonski family, which I loved seeing, even though it didn't include any members of my side of the family. It was still fun seeing how handsome Vincent was, and wondering if that was where his daughter Irene got her own classic facial features that were so photogenic in her engagement announcement, back in 1940.
With every little bit of detail added by these fellow researchers who found me online, the story of our immigrant ancestors grows clearer. I'm certainly thankful for everyone who has been willing to share their part of the family saga.
There was one more member of this Gramlewicz family who didn't share that immigrant part of the story: Anna's baby brother Hieronym. Born somewhere in Poland after his parents decided to leave New York City for good in 1912, his was the part of the family story which eventually provided the connection with my Polish cousin whose initial email to me in 2005 got this whole research project started in the first place.
Above: Undated photograph of the Jablonski family. Standing in the top row, from left to right, are Sigmond, Vincent (Anna's future husband), their mother, Marianne, and Mae; seated in the front row are Bertha, Viola, their father Alexander, Stephen and Lottie. Photograph courtesy Beth Galyon from the family's private collection; used by permission.