Thursday, December 17, 2020

Two Nieces


Two nieces—one close to home, the other far from it—can possibly cement the connections between a controversial priest and his family back home in Żerków, Poland. We've already explored the connection between Father Ignacy Benevenuto Gramlewicz and the two nephews mentioned in his 1910 memorial, but including the exploration of the family roots of the two nieces also mentioned in that Wilkes-Barre Record article may help clarify some family speculations.

Father Gramlewicz's passing was said to have been mourned by two surviving nieces: "niece Maryanna Kujawska in Europe and niece Jadwiza Gramlewicz of Mount Carmel, this State."

"This state," of course, was the location of priest's parish in Nanticoke: Pennsylvania. But don't think it an easy matter to simply pull up the census record for Mount Carmel and look for "Jadwiza" Gramlewicz. That report, remember, was obtained from a newspaper, and newspapers are known for editorial errors—even when the paper is trying to be nice and say glowing comments about someone after his death.

A little background knowledge on given names in an ethnic community can come to our aid in seeking this "Jadwiza." But first, let's double check something. If you recall, after noticing the error the Wilkes-Barre Record had served up for Father Gramlewicz's mother's maiden name, we double checked on his death certificate to confirm that his mother should actually have been listed as Mary Pawełkiewicz. In that same death certificate, the informant had been listed as one Jadwiga Gramlewicz.

Unfortunately, the state of Pennsylvania did not ask for relationship of the informant to the deceased, but at least we have a clearer idea of what that woman's name might have been.

When we take that newly-confirmed information to the census record for that very year, though, we are once again delayed by a technicality: there is no such person as Jadwiga Gramlewicz listed in either Mount Carmel or Nanticoke.

There was, however, someone named Hedwig Gramlewicz. This is where that knowledge of name equivalents I mentioned can come in handy. Searching for a listing of name equivalents, we find that the Polish given name Jadwiga was originally the old German name Hedwig

Of course, in Polish, the "w" would be pronounced like a "v"—which explains why Father Gramlewicz's niece would show up in a fairly-mangled census enumeration as Hedvigis.

There, in the household of a priest, his assistant, a servant and a boarder, she was listed as "cousin." From that same census record, we learn that Hedwig—or Jadwiga—was twenty eight years of age, giving us an approximate year of birth in 1882, back in Poland. We also learn that her year of immigration was given as 1897.

That, however, was not her only time to travel across the Atlantic to America, for a passenger list a year preceding Father Gramlewicz's death shows a Hedwig Gramlewicz with the same year of birth arriving in New York City on the S. S. Rijndam from Rotterdam. There, her travel plans indicated she was headed to Mount Carmel from visiting her "Cousin Gramlewicz" in Deutschdorf, Posen.

With that clue, we are getting warmer. Our main purpose in exploring all this is to see just how Hedwig connects to this Father Gramlewicz in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. Returning to the Polish website BaSIA to search through transcribed records from that specific region—Posen—we can find a birth record for one Hedwig Gramlewicz, daughter of Peter Gramlewicz and Antonie (actually Antonina) Nawrocka.


Though the year of birth is one year off from the Hedwig we've found in Pennsylvania, this is likely the same individual, for we've already discovered, yesterday, that her father, Peter, was a son of Blasius Gramlewicz, same as Father Benevenuto Gramlewicz. Thus we find the simple connection between the woman listed as Father Gramlewicz's niece in his death notice and the inference that the priest's brother was Peter Gramlewicz.

Just as we had discovered in yesterday's search for the second nephew, our search today for the second niece involved an additional research step. That second niece, "Maryanna Kujawska," may well have been a daughter of Peter's sister Julianna.

Julianna, as you may remember from yesterday's post, was also a child of Blasius and Marianna. As we saw from her death record, she had married a man by the name of Onufry Weinert. While yesterday, we were searching for any record of their son Stanislaus' birth—and could find none—with their daughter Marianna, we are a bit more fortunate. Though her birth year apparently landed just before the close of that records gap I've mentioned, there was a transcription of a wedding record which proved most helpful.


While the bride's father's name was listed as August, not Onufry, the mother's name was indeed Julianna Gramlewicz. The town was the same as Father Gramlewicz's hometown, and once we recall one detail about surname suffixes for women, we realize this marriage to Martin Kujawa was likely the right record.

Normally, a typical Polish surname, like those ending in -ski, would be altered to indicate the wife or daughter's surname: -ska. In a more archaic form, other Polish surnames would see a similar transition, as well—for instance, the surname Gramlewicz might, for the wife, see the addition of the suffix -owa, as I found in some records from the early 1800s.

In the case of the surname Kujawa, the ending already contains an "a." So how would a Polish person alter that surname's ending for the wife or daughter? I did a search through the BaSIA website to see if I could spot any changes. With only one exception, all people with the family name of Kujawa, whether male or female, saw that surname remain constant. The only exception was in another town in 1830, in which a daughter born to a Kujawa father had her surname entered as Kujawska.

Chalk it up to typo or force of habit, but the "Maryanna Kujawska" in Father Gramlewicz's memorial was likely an editorial error. Father Gramlewicz's niece would have been Marianna, daughter of Julianna Gramlewicz and Martin Kujawa.

With that, of Father Gramlewicz's four family members surviving him in 1910, two—Edward and Hedwig—were descended from his brother Peter. The other two—Stanislaus Weinert and Marianna Kujawa—were children of his sister Julianna. Because I had no other way to determine the relationships of Stanislaus and Father Gramlewicz, himself, I was grateful to find that lengthy article published in the Wilkes-Barre Record upon his passing in 1910.

That long article, incidentally, also detailed more of Father Gramlewicz's history, including his early years in the priesthood in Poland and how, exactly, he ended up coming to America. You can be sure that if the man had no hesitation about speaking out about issues in his adopted homeland, he likely had the same propensity back home in Poland—which was exactly the problem.

When I began this week discussing my tight-lipped Polish ancestors, I had a reason for mentioning that. Learning the history of these two Gramlewicz men who became Roman Catholic priests—Ignacy Benevenuto and Edward—I realize just what type of situations some of our ancestors may have had to endure, back in that homeland they ever after refused to talk about.


Images: Top, excerpt of 1910 U.S. Census from; middle two images of transcriptions from BaSIA; bottom image of Hedwig Gramlewicz's passage to America, the then-U.S.S. Rijndam in New York harbor in 1919 following service during World War I and decommission to commercial service as part of the Dutch-American Steam Navigation Company; image courtesy of NavSource Online via Wikipedia; in the public domain. 

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