Friday, September 2, 2016
No: The One Answer I Hate to Get
Fresh with the hope that, in building out the family trees of my Polish ancestors' in-laws I might just find some current-day volunteers for my DNA testing quest, I tried finding my grandmother Sophie Laskowska's cousins via New York City records and newspapers.
This was not easy going. New York has had a way of extracting every last dollar possible from those researchers desperate to find their immigrant ancestors at the point of their arrival in the New World. There are work-arounds, though, and I tried every one I was aware of, in my attempt to trace the Giernatowski family—my grandmother Sophie's paternal aunt Agnes and her husband Ignatz.
Although I was certain that if I actually managed to find the Giernatowskis I would have located the right ones, the trick was to discern exactly which way to put the spelling of that surname. With a spelling as likely to be mangled as theirs was, it was no wonder I had had no success locating Agnes and Ignatz in the 1910 census, although I had tracked them down by 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. It was their one daughter by three names—or was it their three daughters with roughly the same birthday?—whom I wanted to pursue further, but by the 1925 state census, she had disappeared.
I tried finding her in the death index provided in one of my longtime favorite websites, the Italian Genealogical Group. There, I tried finding not only Blanch—or Pauline or Pleshia, or whatever her name really was—but her parents, as well. Could I find them? Answer: no. Not in the death index from the New York Municipal Archives. Not in the birth records. Not even in the marriage records.
Thanks to some judicious placement of wildcard symbols, I did find a death record for an Agnes Giernatowski. It was tempting to think that it was our Agnes—but the age wasn't quite right for the April 23, 1926, record. However, I'll tuck that tidbit away for further inquiry. After all, those Reclaim the Records conquests may someday provide access to the New York City death records, just as it has done for their marriage records.
I also managed to find yet another spelling variation to add to the collection, thanks to the hard working wildcard symbols at IGG: Gernatouski. As if I didn't have enough variations to juggle already.
After that, it was on to the newspaper accounts to try my hand at finding a wedding announcement. Or at least an obituary.
At NewspaperArchive.com? Nope.
How about GenealogyBank.com? Nada.
Maybe one of the free archives might not have lost their touch. I ambled over to the New York Public Library's Brooklyn Newsstand. Zilch.
Oh please, oh please Old Fulton New York with a Postcard on top? Not even there.
It was as if the entire Giernatowski family had simply disappeared after that last showing in the 1925 census. Not a trace of them could I find after that point. It made me wonder if, like Sophie's cousins the Gramlewiczes, they had decided to pack up and move back to Poland.
Not to be undone with all those negative search results on the Giernatowskis, I remembered I had yet another branch of this Polish family which had surfaced in American census records. Maybe this time, I'd find some descendants remaining here until the twenty first century.
Above: "The Resting Place," 1894 painting by Polish artist, Kazimierz Alchimowicz; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.