It certainly can be encouraging, when tentatively dipping into new research territory, to find hits for searches on those foreign-sounding surnames. I had no problem getting results to my queries for the Polish surname Radomski, the maiden name—in the feminine form of Radomska—for my second great-grandmother. Even when I limited the search to her hometown of Lubichowo in the region of Pomerania, there were websites cheering me on to the right track.
Not so for Susanna Radomska's husband. His surname, supposedly Puchała, gave me very few signs that I was on the right track. Looking for anyone else besides their son Thomas—or whatever his given name really was in Polish—I could only come up with one other candidate in the same village.
That possibility was a woman by the name of Marianna Puchała, who in 1858 married a man listed as Johann Flizik. Predictably, within the year, they welcomed their firstborn, a daughter they named Anna Elisabeth. And then promptly dropped out of sight.
Oh great: a surname to search which is even more obscure than Puchała. This caused me grave doubts that I was on the right track. I headed back to my go-to websites for surname origins at Forebears.io, where they assured me that, yes, there is such a surname as Puchała—although a rather rare one. Predictably, the greatest occurrence of that name occurs in Poland, where over six thousand incidences of that surname adds up to a relative rank of 742.
Okay, so now I understand where my struggle lies: there aren't too many of us around. Perhaps all my distant cousins tried the same tactic as had my paternal grandfather: move to New York and change your name.
Just to make sure there are others of us around—that still wasn't convincing enough for a doubter like me—I visited good ol' FamilySearch.org, where I entered the plain search term of Puchała. When enough hits helped build my courage that I am not imaging this surname, I tried a few limiting additions: search for Puchała in Pomorskie, Poland (the term for the province of Pomerania), and even search in Lubichowo.
I found plenty of people claiming that surname, both in Poland and in the United States, which was encouraging. Of course, they aren't my people, but at least there are people with that name in existence—a detail I was beginning to doubt. After all, having had my brother test his Y-DNA has not, in all those seven years since he agreed to test, produced one single exact match on that patriline. Where are all these Puchałas?
There is, however, one other question which plagues me as I pursue this Puchała line. That may have been the surname I was led back to as I traced this family from my grandfather in New York, to his multiply-married mother's birthplace in Poland, thanks to yet another boost from DNA testing. But Puchała wasn't the surname which I found my grandfather using when I first spotted him in New York before his top-secret name change. The name he was using then, depending on who was trying to spell it for American documents, was Puchalski, not Puchała. Where did he get the "-ski" from?
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