Thursday, October 10, 2019
A Maybe for a Mother
It is handy to find a fellow researcher willing to share notes. In the process of pondering over the six DNA matches who seemed to be linked to my mystery grandfather, I ran across such a person. She is not a match to me, herself, but serves as an administrator for someone else whose DNA test does match me in only one possible way: through my paternal grandfather, the enigma who refused to tell his descendants much at all about his roots.
This researcher—light years ahead of me in tracking down this Michalski family of my DNA matches—had divulged the tidbit that the entire family emigrated from a tiny village in Poland called Czarnylas. That, last summer, prompted me to do some background reading on that tiny village, leading to this Wikipedia entry which made me cry to realize that it was, after all, the very place Aunt Rose had mentioned as her homeland in a census enumeration nearly one hundred years ago. Finding that, I knew this researcher was on the right track.
Still, a diligent researcher needs to start from the here and now, and work her way backwards in time, step by step, so I started out with those Michalski families in Wisconsin, and pieced together their immigrant stories. By the time I encountered their many baptismal records, I had found those two wives' maiden names of Czechowska—names affixed to women who were born in Poland.
Jumping from those familiar online resources we use for American research, I headed to a website with the tongue-twisting name of Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, or PTG for short. (Translated, it simply is the Pomeranian Genealogical Association.) The PTG focuses on transcriptions of vital records from the region in Poland called Pomerania.
Once at the PTG website, I entered the sisters' maiden name in the search engine for Pomeranian marriage records, and found that, indeed, Piotr and Józef Michalski had married women by that maiden name. Our Peter and Veronica were married in Czarnylas, Poland, in 1878, and Józef and Walerya followed suit in 1886.
Since I couldn't just leave the exploration at that, I then moved to the PTG record set for baptisms to find the approximate birth dates for both Veronica and Valeria. It was there that I realized they were sisters, for each of their entries showed parents' names of Pauline and Andreas Czechowski. More importantly, the entries each showed, for Veronica and Valeria, the maiden name of their mother: Zegarska.
From that point, I couldn't stop myself, and I was at it again, looking this time for any other information I could find on all Michalskis, all Czechowskis, and, now, all Zegarskis. It was that Zegarska surname which fascinated me most of all for one very wobbly reason: it was so similar to another surname in my own tree.
Early in my attempt to learn more about my paternal grandfather, back in the days of snail-mail research, I had sent away for my grandfather's death certificate. To be sure, much of the information provided on that piece of paper was surely a fabrication. He had been, after all, going by an alias for a long time by the point of his death, and the rest of the family had had plenty of practice in aiding and abetting his ruse, including giving a falsified name for that of his own father.
With that in mind, what would be the chances that the report about his mother's maiden name would be correct? Yet, I duly noted it in my records, once I received the death certificate in the mail. The report never, ever seemed to be of much help, as I couldn't match it up to any family connections any time since that point. And yet, knowing how important it was for my grandfather to conceal his ethnic roots, could it be possible that, in the kernel of truth revealed in that one line on a death certificate, even that was bent to fit his preferred narrative?
Could his mother's maiden name, given as Anna Zegar, really have been a more Polish Zegarska? Could he have dropped that telltale Polish -ski? Is this the direction that DNA test is pointing us?