Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Sometimes, it takes DNA to deconstruct a family history brick wall. That is what I'm hoping six matches which appeared this past summer will do for my father's ancestors. As much as my original attention was diverted to one specific surname held in common in the family trees of those six matches—the name Michalski—once I delved deeper into each match's pedigree chart, I noticed something interesting: that Michalski connection pointed to not one, but two different men. How those two Michalski men related to each other, I have yet to figure out, but there was one thing about them: each of them married a woman named Czechowska.
The older of the two Czechowska women was listed as Weronika in the 1900 census. By that time, she had been married for nineteen years to Piotr Michalski, and had given birth to either nine or seven children—depending on how you interpreted the write-over—seven of whom were then living with her in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Not long after that census, Piotr apparently passed away, for the 1910 census showed Weronika—by then Americanized to Veronica—listed as a widow and living with her five youngest children, including newest arrival, eight year old Frances.
Also living in Milwaukee at the time was another Czechowska woman by the name of Walerya. Fortunately for us, Walerya's eleven Michalski children left a paper trail of baptism records which, transcribed, gave an approximation of how her maiden name might have been spelled, along with multiple variations on her given name.
In the end, the choices for her new American self are a toss up between Valentina and Valeria. But Czechowska—or that surname's many alternates—became my next wayfinder in the journey to locate a connection between these six DNA matches and my paternal grandfather's family. They led me to record transcriptions in Poland showing their relationship to each other as sisters, sure, but their records, back in Poland, intrigued me for one very weak reason: the two sisters' mother had a maiden name which was not exactly the same, but similar to the supposed birth name of my own mystery grandfather's mother.