Monday, January 4, 2021

Because Now, I Can


Unlocking international resources for genealogical research has been an encouraging move for me. It seems that, having taken those first few tentative steps, delving deeper into the records of a non-English-speaking country is less intimidating. As more and more genealogically-minded websites open up outside North America, my chances of making research progress greatly improve.

Take that experience I had in discovering my paternal grandfather's true identity this past fall. Once I became familiar with the two Polish websites available, I could see how many more records might be available to answer further family history questions—simply because now, I can access them and navigate through their stores. By next fall, hopefully, there will be even more resources available for the mere click of a mouse.

That's a good turn of events. Now that I'm up to considering the last three of my Twelve Most Wanted for 2021, that set of research goals will be devoted to my father's roots. And what a jumble of secret identities that was. It's interesting to see how, once the linchpin ancestor gets identified, the rest of the blanks seem nearly to auto-fill with information.

Take my father's maternal grandmother. Depending on which document I used, her identity could have been two totally different names. Thankfully, once I discovered those Polish websites, I was able to confirm the right name: Marianna Jankowska. But why stop there? Now that I have access to records in Poland, I can push back one or two more generations. What about her parents? And any possible siblings?

For Ancestor #10, I'll tackle Marianna's father's identity—a man I only know now by the name of Franz Jankowski. I'll look mainly for clues about his parentage, of course, but I also want to know whether there were any others in his family—especially other children who, like Marianna, immigrated to North America.

One main driver of that curiosity is to identify possible distant cousins, especially if there are any among my unidentified DNA matches. While Jankowski is not an uncommon name, I'm interested to see whether that surname plus the specific location in the originating country of Poland will help fill in the blanks for some of those unconnected DNA cousins. That information would also lend a hand in chromosome mapping to see if I can identify any specific segments that can be attributed to that specific second great-grandfather.

This past year has certainly opened up many possibilities for me to build out that family tree for a man whose past had been such an enigma to our family. After zero research progress for so many years on my father's family history, it is awe-inspiring to see how quickly the details are falling together to form a coherent story. Franz Jankowski will provide just one-eighth of that entire tale, of course, but it will be a voice no longer silenced by the secrecy of his descendants. 

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