Friday, July 5, 2019

Dropping the -ski

Sometimes, those frustrating family history attempts at breaking through impenetrable brick walls result in getting lost in the minutiae. In this case, making little to no progress on the story of my paternal grandfather has led to musing about the many ways an immigrant can drop the last portion of his surname. After all, that's what my paternal grandmother's brother did. Could that have held true for her husband's side of the family, as well?

I already know my grandmother's maiden name was Laskowski. Though the family kept that as hidden as possible during the years when my father and aunt were growing up—remember, that's the grandmother who willingly went along with her husband's decision to switch his name from Theodore J. Puchalski to John T. McCann—my Laskowski great-grandparents only briefly attempted to report their surname as Lasko (in the 1900 census).

Just knowing that fact, however, tells me the family was willing to, let's say, look a little less Polish. Could that have been a more widespread temptation among their immigrant relatives, both close and more distant?

I'm entertaining such a question lately, owing to the discovery of several DNA matches who seem to connect specifically with my paternal grandfather's side of the family. The trouble is, they all seem to connect with each other through a surname I don't have in my family history: Michalski. However, since most of these connections are from at least a distance of third cousin, the nexus between all these Michalskis and my grandfather's line could be through one or more of the women in each generation.

And there's where I hit the snag that prompts me to wonder about those Polish -ski names. Could there have been someone else who also decided to drop the -ski?

In one particular Michalski tree, I encountered this pedigree assumption:

Keep in mind, not all of this line is documented on this match's tree, so I will have to contact the researcher and ask about the paper trail leading to this conclusion. However, I'm doubly interested in this pedigree chart. Of course, the obvious reason is that the other DNA matches' trees also have a Michalski married to a Czechorska (or Czechowska). But while the other trees name two people different than the ones in this line—and this line seems equally unaware of the relationship in those other lines—this particular tree pushed the generational diagram back one more step, showing the names of the Michalski wife's parents.

Note that Veronica Czechorska's parents were listed as Andreas Czechowski and Pauline Zegarska.

Now enters the instigation for my question: what do you suppose might be the chances that another Zegarska—say, one who landed in New York instead of Wisconsin—might have chosen to drop that pesky -ska for a more streamlined American-sounding surname? Could my Anna Zegars, mother of the inexplicable "Aunt Rose" and possible relative of my own grandfather, have been a relative of the Pauline Zegarska in the Wisconsin Michalski family?

It's a stretch, I know. But genealogy is often about formulating hypotheses and then examining the evidence. One thing is sure: somehow, I and several Michalski descendants have the same runs of genetic material in our DNA. We've got to connect somehow. 


  1. I would need a big poster board to keep track of these names!

    1. I've learned to screencap the pedigree charts of my DNA matches, Miss Merry. That way, I have a visual of the names and connections. Somehow, those similar names seem to jump out at me, after I've been looking at several family trees in a row.

  2. Your intuitive hunches grow out of many years of experience. I'm betting that you are on to something that could turn out to be true.


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