DNA testing has done much to introduce into the pursuit of family history unexpected surprises. Not all of them are negative, of course. That's precisely why so many of us spring for those pricey tests: we're hoping to uncover a clue that will give us an end run around our intransigent brick wall ancestor. Those stubborn ancestors can refuse to reveal their secrets no longer.
Yet, the answer still does not come easily. Take that tight-lipped paternal grandfather of mine—the one who refused to tell his adoring grandchildren any stories of his origin. His own children, even as grown adults, would not divulge any details, themselves. But DNA can tell, at least part of his story.
After testing at five different DNA companies—and convincing my brother to do so, as well—I now have multiple indicators that my paternal grandfather's roots led back to the region around the Polish port city of Gdańsk known as Pomerania. I didn't learn any of that from my grandfather, of course, but from the several DNA matches who eventually appeared in my accounts at three of those companies.
All of the matches I've discussed so far descend from two brave sisters who, shortly after their marriages in Czarnylas, Poland, emigrated with their husbands to Milwaukee. I've traced those matches' trees from the present, backwards in time to their baptismal records in Czarnylas. Those sisters' mother was likely herself a sister to my grandfather's own mother, the "Anna Krauss" who showed up in New York with her two children.
There are, however, another set of DNA matches who somehow relate to this same root in Czarnylas, but whose pedigree does not point to the sisters of my Anna, but tantalizingly to someone who might lead us to a previous generation. To find more about this woman will require us to step back even farther in time to a woman whose maiden name was the same—well, if you don't mind a liberal hand with Polish spelling variations—as my Anna's own mother. Could it have been Anna's aunt? Or an even farther-removed relative?
For the next few days, we'll consider the story of an immigrant family surnamed—at least before they gave up on the challenges of Polish spelling—Krzewinski. Hopefully, we will press through the roadblock of unavailable Polish documentation to see what can be found about that founding Krzewinski ancestor's wife's birth name—but be prepared to face several iterations in this search as we look for a woman baptised Anna Woitas, or Wojtas, or Woytas, or Wojtasz, or.... Well, you get the idea. Whether you add in any of the Polish diacritical marks or not, we have our work cut out for us, this time.