Sunday, April 12, 2015

Snippets of Life—And Death

As anyone who has done so can tell you, researching those ancestors who once lived in the greater New York City area can be challenging. It is not only so in life that one can get lost in that veritable sea of humanity—even something as simple as an obituary can get swallowed up in the flood of daily print media.

Despite the exclusion of many folks from the annals of papers like The New York Times, there are many other area newspapers in which a New York City ancestor can be found. In my family’s case, the readily accessible Brooklyn Daily Eagle archive has been a great research help. But not everything that happened in the five boroughs of New York City was printed in that Brooklyn newspaper.

That’s when I head for my other free go-to resource for New York area newspapers: the website once known as Old Fulton New York Postcards. Home to over twenty eight million digitized pages of news reporting, the seven hundred newspapers featured at cover not only New York—city and state—but other eastern states, as well as Canadian papers, too.

Right now, I’m still on a mission to find everything I can—actually, anything I can—on my Laskowski ancestors. Though I’ve found a smattering of wedding information on one previously-unknown-to-me cousin of my father, I haven’t made much headway—other than to ascertain, yesterday, that the groom’s father was, indeed, the Michael Lasko who was my grandmother’s brother.

Granted, that was a valuable discovery. But what else is out there, still waiting for me to find it?

Not much, judging from what I’ve uncovered, thanks to the Fulton History site. Well, of course there’s the local color feature that tells me,

Mrs. Jeremiah Best of Newbridge road, Bellmore, left Friday in company with Mrs. Michael Lasko and Wilbur Lasko of Ridgewood, for a ten-day motor trip through the south.

That was my momentous discovery, thanks to The Nassau Daily Review-Star on Monday, May 8, 1939. But how does that help me learn more about Michael Lasko’s wife and son, Wilbur? And who is Mrs. Jeremiah Best, anyhow? I’d like to know something more substantive than such a trivial space filler as that.

There is, however, not much more that can be found. I keep searching through the files at Fulton History, though, and finally hit something. It’s an obituary for someone named John Laskowski. If you remember, John was Sophie’s oldest brother—the one from whose naturalization papers I gleaned enough data to locate the family’s passenger files at

An obituary would be just the thing to help with naming other family members, so I hurriedly click through to read the entry, published in the Queens Borough edition of The Daily Star on Saturday evening, August 9, 1930.

The date was just about the right time to assure me that this would not be a case of someone else with the same name but wrong family. That was an encouraging sign.

However, when I came across the listing, it was more than disappointing. Not only did it include the wrong name for his wife—and yes, I am certain this is the right John Laskowski—but it left out any of the names I’d hoped to glean from an obituary.

LASKOWSKI—John, on August 6, 1930, beloved husband of Elizabeth and father of Elizabeth, Vera, Rita, Blanche, Mrs. Frances Hanlon and Walter. He also leaves his parents, a brother and a sister. Funeral at 10 a.m. Monday, August 11, 1930, from his home, 54-42 Eighty-second street, Elmhurst, thence to St. Adelbert’s R. C. Church. Interment in St. John’s Cemetery, directed by Alexander Blizinski.

For the record, Mrs. Laskowski’s name actually should have read “Blanche”—the Americanized version of her given name at birth, Bronislawa Aktabowska.

As for the rest of the entry, did it have to be so silent about names? “Leaves his parents.” Really? “A brother and a sister.” Couldn’t their names have been included?

These are the frustrations of a researcher, living outside the area—actually, far beyond the New York borders—whose wearied trawling through multiple digital repositories has yielded (up to this point) next to nothing.

There is one item, however, this obituary did remind me of: the fact that one of John Laskowski’s daughters had already married. That provided enough of a prompt to see if this daughter’s own marriage had received a more thorough coverage than her father’s last report.   


  1. Yeah, I feel your pain. How many obits were written "Mr. John X is survived by Mrs. X"?

    1. I'm afraid it is the common cry among us researchers, as I'm sure you know, Wendy. Hopefully, with all these less well known newspapers being added to the digital collections of accessible archives, we'll get a more complete mosaic of our families' histories.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, you're right, Far Side. I'm loving finding all these additional newspaper articles--for free, too!

  3. Bellmore is located adjacent to Merrick. I wonder where Catherine Best and fellow travelers went in their 10 day motor trip to the south?

    1. That's just what's so frustrating about little snippets like that news report: it says next to nothing of substantive detail. I can just imagine the two women taking the back seat and letting young Wilbur serve as chauffeur.


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