Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Indulging in Daydreams


My mind can't help but wander, as I comb line by line through all these transcribed records of my Gramlewicz relatives of a prior century. Perhaps it's the tedious task which that mind wishes to escape, but as I review records and check them against what I already entered in my father's family tree, I think of what it must have been like to endure the events which now are reduced to mere lines on an aging page.

As I cross-check each detail, the research trail has me doubling back along lines which I've long since documented. Somehow, in reviewing these Gramlewicz relatives, an online resource led me once again to the digitized page listing my great-grandmother's trip across the Atlantic with her three children, all of whom were eight years of age or younger.

I had grappled with this passenger list quite a while ago, when I struggled with the naturalization record drawn up years later for John Laskowski, Marianna and Anton Laskowski's oldest son—having had a good laugh at the realization of what the ship's name actually was, as compared to what an eight year old boy might have remembered hearing. 

Looking at the document once again, I realized my paternal grandmother Sophie was listed in that passenger record as an infant—best I could tell from the angular German hand completing the required information. That's when my mind began to wander—to what it must have been like for my great-grandmother, leaving her hometown in Żerków to board a ship in Bremen, Germany, and then traveling across the Atlantic in February, on her way to meet her husband in a place as huge as New York City.

It wasn't exactly like I wondered who might be traveling with her to provide assistance on the journey, but somehow as I revisited the document once more, my eye caught the details on the lines above her family's entry. Someone else had reported their hometown as the same one Marianna Laskowska had. Who were these other people claiming that same small town as their home?

One of the names I didn't recognize. It hardly even looked like a Polish surname—Laryner, if I could read the handwriting correctly. But the line below that entry made me realize: hey! I know that guy!

Oh, that confounded handwriting! Could that name have been Miecyslaus? The last name, as poorly rendered, was surely Gramlewicz—or at least the typical misspelled version I have seen before, Gramlewitch. That was the same name Anton and Marianna had given their second-born son—a name he changed to Michael by the time he grew up and completed his own Declaration of Intention.

But this other Miecyslaus: I had seen him before, in family records. This, at least according to the age as well as the town of origin, was most likely the same man who later, with his surviving family in tow, decided to leave New York City and return to his native Poland. This was the same Gramlewicz whose daughter Anna later decided, after moving back from New York to Poland, that she really wanted to call the city of her birth her home—the very one whom I later found living in Anton and Marianna's apartment in Brooklyn, listed as their niece

My research had found a way to come full circle: the daughter of Marianna's traveling companion in 1889 had come back home to New York to live with her in 1915. And I hadn't seen that clue, the first time around, because I didn't yet know to even look for it.


Above: Excerpt from passenger list of the S. S. Wieland, arriving in New York City from Hamburg, Germany, on 16 February 1889; image courtesy


  1. The importance of reviewing old documents! Great find.

    1. It all comes down to a matter of what we know now, versus what we didn't know then!


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