Thursday, September 8, 2016
When the Ask Has to Wait for The Answer
Hurry up and wait is the hardest position for an impatient genealogist to be in. I want to be able to ask—ask for information from close family members, especially to pop the question about willingness to participate in a DNA test—but all those questions will do no good until I receive an answer to an all-encompassing question.
The question? Is the Walter Janczak who died in Buffalo, New York, in 1972, the same one who was born Władysław Janczak in Poland around 1903?
I'd really like to meet some of Walter's descendants. If they descend from the right people—particularly, Władysław's mother Stanisława Jankowska—that would mean I've just managed to find some cousins I never knew I had.
The link is fairly straightforward: Stanisława was sister to Marianna, my paternal grandmother's mother. Though she never mentioned his family—at least, that I'm aware—that would mean my grandmother Sophie was cousin to this "Walter," as he came to be known in Buffalo. Walter's children and my parents' generation would have been second cousins. His grandchildren would be my third cousins.
Wherever those grandchildren might be...
I just know they've got to be out there. Granted, that's a thought buoyed up by a lot of faith—and not much else. But I do have the 1940 census to go by. Though it throws me that curve of his birthplace being listed as New Jersey—not the Poland it was supposed to be—it does reveal two daughters born just before 1930, and a much younger son who just might have been the Walter I found in some of the more recent newspaper articles I found while searching archives online. Surely, at least one of these children of Walter and his wife Celia would give them the grandchildren they'd want to brighten up their golden years.
On one hand, I would love to find them. On the other hand, that would mean the time has come for the ask—that big question about willingness to participate in a DNA test.
That can be an awfully personal question, I've come to find out. Some genealogy enthusiasts can't imagine anyone being hesitant to jump right in and participate. I'm so glad my brother sprang at the opportunity when I asked him; not everyone does. I have a third cousin by marriage—whom I met only by virtue of our mutual fascination with our family history—who had presumed the same thing when she asked one of her relatives to test. He, on the other hand, didn't see quite eye to eye with her enthusiasm.
Everybody has their own reasons for jumping right in and testing, thanks to this new way of verifying our ancestry. Likewise, there are apparently many reasons why others hesitate—or adamantly refuse. I've since discussed this surprising mindset with several people. It's a point of view we researchers need to respect, as frustrating as we may find it.
So, I find myself playing the waiting game, impatient to find a way to make connections with total strangers, chomping at the bit to blurt out, "Hey, guess what—we're family!" And yet, at the same time, envisioning all the ways the scene can unfold in unexpected ways. Some of them not the happily anticipated outcome I'd hoped for. Getting to "the ask" can be fraught with so many jagged imaginations.
Above: "Rozmowa" (Conversation), 1894 painting by Polish artist