Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Filling in the Blanks With DNA Matches


It's off to my favorite Polish genealogy websites today. Let's see whether anything I find on the Gramlewicz family from two hundred years ago will fill in the blanks on the family tree branches connecting me with a recently-discovered DNA match at MyHeritage. I'm beginning with a website powered by Polish volunteers which provides transcripts of over five million records from the historic region of Wielkopolska.

Of course, I don't necessarily need to see all five million of those transcripts added by diligent volunteers over the past decade. I just need to see those which pertain to my Laskowski and Gramlewicz ancestors' village of Żerków. Keeping the useful Google Translate within reach, the intrepid researcher aims to conquer all—well, at least all those Polish terms in the website. Despite selecting the website's language drop-down menu to indicate English, there is still a lot of lingo to translate, so be prepared with a translation tool for this website.

The site is called, in English, Database of Archival Indexing System. I suspect its nickname—BaSIA for short—is an acronym from the Polish form of its title. Once on the site, I first enter the surname I am searching—Gramlewicz, my great-grandfather Antoni Laskowski's mother's maiden name—in hopes of finding any records of that family added since my last visit a year ago. From that point, I then sort through the categories of results offered up. The town of Żerków turns out to be the result with the most entries, which is exactly what I was looking for.

Once scrolling through the search results, I click on the hyperlinked name of the town to see an overview of what records are available. As suspected—and confirmed by that handy Google Translate service at my fingertips—there are records concerning the births or baptisms, marriages, and deaths for the local area. There is one problem, though: there is a huge date gap between the earliest records (1818-1829) and the continuation set (1874-1920). Of course, it's that gap in the fat middle which I'd be most interested in seeing.

Still, I power onward, scrolling through all the results flagged for the Gramlewicz surname. I notice the colored bars used by the website to highlight entries of interest aren't always accurately placed, so I scroll even more slowly and let my eyes do the scanning for the many Gramlewicz entries. I'm looking for Andreas Gramlewicz and Catharina Nowicka if I'm looking at Catholic church records, or Andrzej and Katarzyna if the entries were noted in civil records.

It wasn't until long after that first set of records from the 1820s that I finally spot something of interest. I notice an 1886 death record for Antoni Laskowski's mother, Elżbieta Gramlewicz. The transcript also includes the name of her husband and her father, confirming this is the right woman. Just below that is a marriage record for Elżbieta's young widowed daughter Agnes and her second husband, once again confirming connection to my great-grandfather Antoni's parents.

Just two entries beyond that is one which leads to my DNA match's ancestor. It is a transcription of the death certificate for seventy three year old Catharina Gramlewicz Cichocka. The 1887 certificate indicates her spouse, Vincent Cichocki, as well as her parents.

Don't jump up with shouts of acclamation just yet. While Catharina's father was indeed showing as Andreas Gramlewicz, her mother was listed as Catharina Zakrzewicz, not Nowicka.

Same person? I can't say just yet. Most assuredly, this will mean more digging to find out the answer.

Keep in mind, at this point we are merely relying on transcripts of documents, not scans of the actual records, themselves. We are using those copied record details to serve as way pointers. We need, as a follow up step, to take a look at the documents themselves—not just of this death record, but of any records explaining why we sometimes see Catharina represented with one surname, then another. Perhaps there were actually two wives of Andreas, each named Catharina. Or perhaps Catharina's husband died when she was young enough to have remarried. Depending on the outcome of our exploration, Catharina—or Katarzyna—and Elżbieta will either be sisters or half-sisters.

In the meantime, now that my DNA match has opened my eyes to the possibility of Cichocki relatives by marriage, I'm off to see what else can be discovered about this young Cichocki couple and any of their descendants listed in the BaSIA database, as well.  

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