Perhaps it is no surprise that when they came to this country, my Polish immigrant great-grandparents settled near a spot in Brooklyn, New York, later known as Little Poland. It was there, too, that my great-grandfather, Anton Laskowski, played host—not to mention uncle—to an eighteen-year-old returning to her native New York City after her parents left America to bring the family back to Poland.
Trying to determine the exact connection between that niece, Annie Gramlewicz, and her uncle, whose mother's maiden name was also Gramlewicz, might seem to be a slam-dunk exercise.
Think again. I've had to reconstruct the entire Gramlewicz population of the small town of Żerków, in the former Prussian province of Posen, in my attempt to arrive at an answer—and I'm still stumped. But I've learned ever so much more about those Gramlewicz kin in the effort.
It's been an effort of several years. Along the way, I ran into bits of information which seemed, at the time, to be inconsequential—but which, after discoveries years later, took on a new light.
Way back then, when I searched for newspaper reports with the name "Gramlewicz," I kept coming up with stories about a man who was not only a fellow Polish immigrant, but a Catholic priest. Not being aware of any relationships which included a priest, I was sure that, despite the rare surname, there was no family connection. And moved on.
Now, I'm finding out differently. Thanks to expanded online newspaper archive resources, that name keeps popping up as I continue my quest to outline those Gramlewicz connections. Included in those many references were the same details I had observed the last time I explored this possible connection: that Father Ignacy Benevenuto Gramlewicz had pastored a church in Pennsylvania—though inexplicably would stop by in Brooklyn on his travels back to his Nanticoke parish—and that he was somehow embroiled in Polish-American disputes which sometimes labeled him as controversial.
Perhaps in researching our roots, it is not only critical to find the information we seek, but to find it in the right sequence and at the right time. This month, finally, provided that right time.
I found the one newspaper article which divulged Father Gramlewicz's own roots. And, thanks now to all the research I've done this month, I have those people organized in my family history records.
At the time of Father Gramlewicz's passing, several local Pennsylvania newspapers published tributes to the man. One of the lengthiest, published June 6, 1910, in The Wilkes-Barre Record, revealed (albeit with the usual editorial deficiencies) enough about his origin for me to place him within the Gramlewicz family back in Poland.
It was no surprise that the priest had been born in Żerków; I had already suspected that from the other newspaper articles I had stumbled upon over the years. As for "Blazious," let's adjust that to Blasius. And that mother's maiden name? Forget all about Krukowski. Thankfully, the priest's death certificate set that record straight: it was Pawełkiewicz.
As for how I knew that, though, we need to rely on deductions based on other details provided in the Wilkes-Barre Record because of one small problem: going back to the records in Żerków only helps if you are looking for documents pre-dating 1829. From that year, there is a gap through 1873—right through the point where Blasius Gramlewicz and his wife would have been welcoming infants into their growing family.
That series of connections, of course, will take some time to explain—beginning tomorrow.
Image above: Excerpt from June 6, 1910, memorial in The Wilkes-Barre Record upon the passing of Father Ignacy Benevenuto Gramlewicz; image courtesy Newspapers.com.