Sunday, September 4, 2016
When encountering immigrants' surnames which sound so foreign to the American ear, it is tempting to assume we have found the only one when searching for a name like Olejniczak—or even Janczak.
When I found what I thought might be the Polish sister of my great grandmother, Marianna Jankowska, married and living near Buffalo, New York, I tried as best I could to verify everything possible on her family. Of course, as I mentioned yesterday, even with what seem to be unusual surnames, the path to convincing verification can have its twists and turns.
For one thing, despite finding what I think was Marianna's sister by virtue of their mother's unusual maiden name—Olejniczak—there is the possibility that, even in a town as small as Żerków, there might be another mother by the exact same name.
Assuming, for the moment, that Marianna and Stanisława Jankowska were sisters, that would mean that my great grandmother's brother in law was Franz Janczak. Of course, that was still pressing it to assume that the Frank and Stanisława Janczak in Buffalo were one and the same as Franz and Stanisława in Żerków—though Frank's Social Security application managed to reveal almost exactly the same spelling for both parents as I had found on his marriage record in Poland.
However, that didn't guarantee that there was only one Frank Janczak in Buffalo. Having gone round and round, flipping from one city directory to another, my head is in a dizzy state of doubtfulness. Granted, city directories don't give ages—and in some cases, don't list the name of a spouse—but with the several addresses for the same name, I wonder if they all belong to just one person.
It does appear that, after losing his wife Stanisława, our Frank may have married again. If this 1930 census record leads me to the right Frank, his second wife—apparently a widow, herself—was named Agnes. Though the Find a Grave entry doesn't include a photograph of the headstone, it looks like our Frank died in 1956—if this is the entry for the right Frank. I have to remember the possibility that there may be more than one, especially in a Polish magnet like the city of Buffalo.
Still, it was encouraging to find what seemed to be the one constant in any of those later records of Frank Janczak—the possibility of his daughter, eventually married and with at least one child. The 1940 census showed a "father-in-law" entry for a man named Frank Janczak in the home of Edward Dux of Buffalo. Along with this Janczak father-in-law was the entry for Edward's wife and son, Eugene. Edward's wife's name was Frances—the very name of the youngest child in our Frank's family. According to the 1940 census, she was born about 1912, close enough to the 1910 reported in the 1915 state census to be within reason.
And with that one son, Eugene Dux, it turns out his mother Frances became the grandmother of at least three. It looks like I just might have some Polish cousins in this country, after all.
Above: "The Girl at the Piano," 1907 painting by Polish artist Konrad Krzyżanowski; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.