Saturday, September 3, 2016
If One Side Doesn't Work,
Try the Other Side
Puzzled by the apparent disappearance of the Giernatowskis from any records after the 1925 New York State census, I decided to switch tracks. After all, some progress is better than none. I always like to keep moving. Besides, I've learned that, in genealogy, patience is often rewarded; those surnames presenting an impenetrable front today may greet me with arms wide open sometime in the future. It's just a matter of someone eventually uploading digitized documents in a place where the general public may find them.
I mentioned yesterday that I discovered another possible immigrant in my grandmother Sophie's extended family from Poland. This was the perfect time, I thought, to try my hand at finding anything out about another branch of the family.
To check out this immigrant's place in the family constellation, we have to take a step back in time to the preceding generation. Instead of searching for someone on Sophie's father's side of the family—her father Anton Laskowski's sister Agnes and her husband Ignatz Giernatowski—this time, we'll be looking at Anton's in-laws on his wife's side of the family.
Anton married Marianna Jankowska in Żerków, part of the old Province of Poznań, as we've already seen. Thanks to the volunteer transcription work at the Poznań Project, we can see from their civil registry that Marianna's parents were Franz Jankowski and Franziska Olejniczak. (This was new information for me, since the only other record I had been able to obtain on Marianna's parents included what was provided by her husband on her death certificate in New York; that record included a mistaken report on the maiden name of her mother.)
From that point, it was a simple matter of putting the search engine at the Poznań Project through its paces once again—this time, in search of any other couples whose parents names were Franz Jankowski and Franziska Olejniczak.
There was one other record—for an apparent sister of Marianna named Stanisława. In 1894, both a Catholic parish record and a civil registry indicated that Stanisława was married to someone named Franz Janczak.
Figuring I had nothing to lose, I entered that surname in the search engine at Ancestry.com and discovered there was indeed a couple by that name in America—in fact, showing in the 1910 census. They weren't, however, in Brooklyn where Sophie's other aunts and uncles had settled, but much farther north, near Buffalo. And not only had Franz and Stanisława emigrated from Poland, but they brought their two young sons—Leon and Władysław—with them as well.
The census indicated that the family had arrived in New York in 1907. While Sophie's family and other relatives had landed in New York City early enough to have their passenger records processed through Castle Garden, with Ellis Island operational by 1892, the Janczaks' arrival in 1907 would have put them squarely within the domain of Ellis Island.
And yet—you knew this would be the case—when I went looking for their passenger records among the Ellis Island holdings, I couldn't find any possibilities. Any possibilities other than that of a gross spelling error keeping their identity well concealed, that is.
Undeterred, I figured I could keep looking where I had managed to find them once: up near Buffalo in a town in Erie County called Cheektowaga. Yet, just as had happened when I tried to trace the Giernatowski family through time, I could only locate the Janczaks through the 1915 New York State census.
Not long after that, a marker at the Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Cemetery told the story on a simple stone written in Polish. Stanisława Janczak had died on January 26, 1919, at the age of forty seven.
As for the rest of the family, some changes from the 1915 census provided clues. Franz had Americanized his name to the predictable Frank—and by 1938 had filled out an application for his Social Security benefits, revealing his parents' names to be exactly the same as those found in his marriage record back in Żerków.
Leon had either followed suit, just like his dad, changing his name to Leo in that 1915 census—or had been a victim of sloppy enumeration efforts. It was, however, not at all on account of record-keeping mistakes that Władysław chose to report his name as Walter—wouldn't you, if you were a fifteen year old high school freshman in a new country?
But there was one other detail I spied in the 1915 census: the Janczaks had added another member to their immediate family tree: a daughter had arrived in 1911, whom they named Frances.
It turns out Frances was the only one of the three children I was able to trace through to the next generation—if, that is, I have my assumptions correct.
The above record transcription is courtesy of the Poznań Project.