Monday, October 14, 2019

Tracing an Immigrant Family

Up, up the family-tree-in-the-clouds I've climbed this past week, seeking the telltale Most Recent Common Ancestor to connect my mystery grandfather with the six DNA matches whose ancestry leads us back to Poland. Much as an adoptee might have done, building "quick and dirty" trees in finding a birth parent, I have been piecing together the family trees of two Czechowska sisters who married Michalski men who all immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My hypothesis is that their joint ancestor—a woman named Paulina Zegarska—could be related to the Anna Zegar (among many other surnames claimed) who was supposedly mother of the woman my dad and his sister knew as Aunt Rose.

The next step—at least for this researcher, wanting to find her way out of that jungle in the clouds—is to see if any of the other people connected to that Zegarski family in Czarnylas, Poland, also migrated to the United States, whether along with the Michalskis to Milwaukee, or to another location closer to New York City, where my paternal grandfather settled.

So, there I was, last week, feverishly constructing possible family trees for all the descendants of Paulina Zegarska's parents—Johann and Marianna Wojtaƛ Zegarski, if I have that information right. Some of the names I found, through searches at the Pomeranian Genealogical Association's website, seemed to lead nowhere—a factor of lack of American resources which access Polish records, I suspect—but a few others did lead me to American shores.

It was interesting to follow those trails and pick up the path, once the family landed in North America. I say "North America" for a reason: it wasn't always in the United States where these immigrant families landed. One family, for instance, I discovered in a catalog of Canadian passenger records landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia—not surprisingly as, after all, they were headed to a city accessible by the Great Lakes, making the route a feasible guess.

What was interesting in tracing the routes of these maybe/maybe-not relatives was to see what other records could be found for their immigration saga. In tracing one particular family, I found not only their records from that Canadian passenger listing, but also from their point of departure in Germany—and, years later, verification through their eldest daughter's own naturalization application. The details in those documents, as we'll explore beginning tomorrow, help corroborate the extended family's story of immigration to Milwaukee—and hopefully shed some light on connections with my own family, as well.

For now, though, it is too early to tell whether the end result will benefit my own search for my grandfather's true identity. By using a "quick and dirty" process, I can speed through someone else's immigration saga until I can get to the point where details may shed light on clues which hit closer to home. Tomorrow, then, we'll begin the immigration saga of the family of Tomasz Gracz—alias Gratz—and his wife, the former Anna Zegarska.

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