Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Before That Leap of Faith


Do you ever get to the point, despite hours and hours of due diligence in your genealogical research, of doubting that you had done "enough"?

Wrapping my head around the six hundred names I've now added to a new family tree, dubbed "Michalski DNA Link," you'd think I'd feel confident the pedigree has enough built-in support. After all, I'm the one who can't just do "quick and dirty" trees like my Search Angel friends who work with adoptees. I had to make sure each name in that family tree had census records, marriage records, death records and obituaries, and (mostly for those born in the 1900s) birth records attached to the corresponding individual.

The key, though, is the nexus between the originating ancestors in that family tree: sisters from a small town in Poland who all claimed a maiden name of Zegarska. Somehow, those sisters connected to a woman whom I never met, and whose name wasn't quite the same as Zegarska, but close enough. From just one certificate from my own family's collection, I have a paper which claimed her maiden name was Zegar. 

Close. But close enough?

It's at this point I felt the need to retrace my steps from that beginning point, back in the town where the Zegarska sisters originated: Czarnylas, in the Polish region known as Pomerania.

Fortunately, there is a website focused on the genealogy of that region, providing a searchable database with transcribed records from the time period I'm seeking: working from my paternal grandfather's date of birth around 1876 backwards through baptismal and marriage records.

Specifying a broad range of dates, I was able to pull up all records for Czarnylas involving marriages for women whose maiden name was Zegarska.


From that, having the name of each woman's husband, it was easy to recognize some of those married names as surnames I had spotted on the pedigrees of several of my growing list of DNA matches from that corresponding branch of my own family tree. It was, for instance, Czechowski which was the name of two daughters of "Pauline"—who probably was named Apolonia as her Polish name—who immigrated to Milwaukee in the early years of their marriage. Likewise for the tongue-twisting surname Krzewinski, along with Gracz, which I also spotted in some DNA matches' trees.

Likewise, I checked on births recorded (via transcriptions of baptismal records) in that same website, to see which couples welcomed children into their families before beginning that long immigration journey to America. That step helped guide me to ensure that I had located the right families in Milwaukee—especially for those families which later changed their identity (and surname). Thankfully, those oldest of their children still appeared to confirm I was working with the right family constellation.


The DNA link tree I'm building is for one purpose: to connect those present-day descendants who match my own DNA with their Zegarska roots in a well-documented tree...and then to hope that is enough proof for me to steel myself and actually pull the trigger to shoot that whole tree into my father's own tree. And say we are all one big—albeit long-lost—family. Humor me with the patience to retrace our steps on those Czechowski, Krzewinski, and Gracz lines this week while I build up my courage to take that final leap of faith and instantly expand my dad's family tree with an additional six hundred family members I've never met.


Images are courtesy the website of the Pomeranian Genealogical Association, with the first image representing marriages extracted from the database for the maiden name Zegarska, and the second image being of births to women with that same maiden name. 

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