Thursday, October 17, 2019

What About Anna?

In muddling through the family trees of strangers who show up as DNA matches to the mystery paternal side of my family, it may be helpful to build out those trees to find any connections, but there comes a time when a researcher has to return to building on her own tree. That's what I want to try my hand at, today.

Granted, I'm stuck with my own grandfather. He's the one whom the family knew by one name, but now that we have access to some very old records, we discover he once went by another name. A radically different name—as in, Polish, not Irish. However, along comes six DNA matches (after a wait of six years), and they all point to a village of Czarnylas, and a mother's maiden name of Zegarska.

Only problem: my possible great-grandmother's name was Anna Zegar. Close, but not quite a match.

A few bonus points get awarded for the fact that her daughter (whom my father knew as "Aunt Rose") declared for one document that she was from "Schwartzwald," which place name turned out to be a secondary identity—at least, thanks to the Germans who occupied the area—for the village now known as Czarnylas. But can we really accept that Anna Zegar—the woman who possibly could be my grandfather's mother—was really born a Zegarski?

I've checked those DNA matches' trees—four of them, so far, quite thoroughly—and they point to that surname and that village. And they somehow connect to me. The only line they could match me on would be that of my paternal grandfather—either through his father or his mother. Yet the trees of my DNA matches don't reveal any further clues. It's trailblazing from here on out.

What I've already found, thanks to the transcriptions of marriage and baptism records at the Pomeranian Genealogical Association's website, is that there was a sister of Pauline—mother of the two Czechowska sisters who married the Michalski men who immigrated to Milwaukee—who had a name which could, possibly, have been converted in America to a nickname of Anna.

Granted, Pauline also had a sister who was given that exact name—Anna—but we've already followed her line and realized she married a man named Gracz. That Anna, we've already learned, moved to Milwaukee, while my Anna was in New York City, so it doesn't seem possible that that would be the identity of my grandfather's mother.

There was, among the Zegarska sisters, another daughter named Anastasia. This sister was baptized in Czarnylas in 1848. The transcription of her baptismal record gave the names of her parents as Johann Zegarski and Marianna Woitaś, just as we've seen for Pauline and the rest of that family. Following the paper trail on Anastasia, the transcription of marriage records show her 1868 marriage, in Czarnylas, to a man listed as Thomas Puchała.

There, the trail loses me—partly, I suspect, because I am not yet facile with the alphabetization requirements in the Polish language for letters with diacritical marks, but also, likely, because priests who kept the church records seemed to arbitrarily vary spellings, perhaps based on the original ethnicity of the priest, himself. Some spellings seemed very Latin, others more like German, while others seemed to keep the vernacular. A surname like Puchała would be very much at the mercy of both the transcriber and the original record-keeper.

And so it was that, despite losing the trail of Thomas—or possibly Tomasz—Puchała in Czarnylas, I did find a couple with a similar name in baptismal records for a neighboring village about thirty kilometers to the west, called Lubichowo. Could it be possible that Thomas Puchałła in the Lubichowo records was the same man? He did have a wife named Anastasia Zegarska, although a parenthetical remark was added to their entry of one name: Susanna. No other records in that search—of thirty entries retrieved—had such a secondary entry.

If we assume this was the same Thomas and Anastasia as the one we saw married in Czarnylas, it is tantalizing to see what they named their daughter in 1872: Rosalia. If Rosalia turns out to be Aunt Rose, the race is on to see whether she had a brother, and, if so, whether he would be my grandfather.

Once again, we see a Lubichowo baptismal entry for another infant, in this case, dated 1876. But this time, it comes with an ominous notation. The son, who was given the name Theodor, has no entry on his baptismal record for the name of a father. In the place where the mother's name would be listed, her name is given as "Puchała ur. Zegarska."

Google Translate has become my constant companion as I delve into this unexpected Polish side of my family history. Entering that phrase into the translator, we see what we had suspected: "Puchała born Zegarska." What had happened to Thomas Puchała?

This is where I return from these Polish transcriptions to my own family tree to review what I do know about the woman I was told was Anna Krauss, mother of Rose, living in New York City. This Anna, like Anastasia, was born in 1848. If my grandfather's original name was transcribed correctly in the records I've been able to find, his surname was listed in New York as Puhalski, or Puhalaski—at least, until he unofficially changed it around the time of the first World War.

My grandfather had, in those rare moments when he caved to his grandchildren's pestering, divulged that he had been an "orphan." Granted, by the time any grandchildren had arrived, Anna was already gone, having died in 1921, so technically, my grandfather could in all good conscience insist on that "orphan" status by virtue of this one fact: many great-grandparents don't live long enough to see their their children's grandchildren. However, it appears as if my grandfather's father was not in the picture by the time the family arrived in New York, as all records concerning Anna listed her with the surname Krauss—incidentally, a frustrating research dead end in its own right, but also demonstrating that her son might have been telling the truth, at least about being fatherless.

The question is: could the Anna Zegar Krauss who landed in New York actually be one and the same as the Anastasia Zegarska Puchała who was possibly widowed in Poland? Time to construct a tentative tree and run the relationships through their "what are the odds" paces.


  1. Jacqi, I'd say your Zegar names are a match. The "ska" ending just signifies that the person is a female.

    1. Thanks for weighing in on this, Linda. I'm still conflicted. While I'm aware of the "ska" and "ski" differentiation, what I'm wondering is whether it is reasonable to assume the suffix being dropped entirely was a choice commonly made by Polish immigrants. I'd like to see further information documenting that as a likely trend before I'm confident in assuming these two names represent the same individual.

  2. least you can run possible trees didn't have that possibility a few months ago! Progress!

    1. Yes, that is true, Far Side. I'm extremely grateful for these latest findings, thanks to DNA testing.


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