Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Zakr . . . what?
Getting Negative About Half Siblings


Zakr.... Okay, take a deep breath and spell it out: Zakrzewicz. Only in Poland could I have run across a surname like that. And the only problem with that has been the question of whether that name represents a different mother for Katarzina Gramlewicz, or simply another alias.

Katarzina Gramlewicz was the direct ancestor of my recently-found DNA match at MyHeritage. On paper—at least, according to this match's tree—Katarzina's father had the same name as my second great-grandmother's father, Andrzej Gramlewicz.

That, however, is where things begin to break down. According to what I've struggled to find online, my second great-grandmother's mother had a maiden name of Nowicka. For the tree of this DNA match, though, Katarzina's mother had a different surname: Zakrzewicz.

Where did that come from? Does that mean Katarzina is only half-sister to my Elżbieta Gramlewicz? I had to go searching for any sign that Andrzej was married twice—and to two different women who were both named Katarzyna.

There are problems with such a search, at least with what is currently available online for Polish records in the Catholic parish of Żerków. There are two resources I can use. One is the Poznan Project, which is strictly limited to transcriptions of available marriage records, both church and civil, during the 1800s. The other resource, which includes baptisms and death records as well as marriage information in their transcriptions, is the website known as BaSIA

In addition to the hazards of relying on transcriptions, the collections include significant gaps in dates. For those reasons, I looked for signs of any family members in Żerków with the surname Zakrzewicz. I discovered a few unexpected details. For one, a man by the name of Adalbertus Zakrzewicz showed up with surprising regularity as the godparent at several baptisms for children with a variety of other surnames. None of those baptisms linked that surname to Nowicki. And only once was he a godparents to a Gramlewicz baptism—but not connected to Andrzej.

Another near brush with familial connection was the 1819 baptism of a Kraska baby, when a different Zakrzewicz identified as Martinus was named as godparent, along with a woman surnamed Gramlewiczowa. Close, but still not our line.

This is where things turn negative. I found no record for anyone named Zakrzewicz marrying a Gramlewicz, nor any baptismal record for a child of such a couple. Nor have I been able to identify a premature date of death for Katarzina Nowicka, mother of my Elżbieta, or even Katarzina Zakrzewicz, named as mother of Elżbieta's supposed sibling Katarzina.

The key, at this point, is that the only place I've seen mention of a wife of Andrzej Gramlewicz being named as a Zakrzewicz was years after the fact, when the younger Katarzina died in 1887. There, she was named as a married woman—her husband being Wincenty Cichocki—and the reporting party was listed as her daughter Agnes. As sometimes happens when such information is gathered, it is likely that the reporting party provided incorrect information.

On the other hand, when we review the dates where transcripts provided mother's maiden name, the elder Katarzyna was consistently listed by the maiden name Nowicka:

  • in 1820 for the baptism of daughter Apolonia
  • in 1822 for the baptism of daughter Josepha
  • in 1823 for the death of daughter Josepha
  • in 1824 for the baptism of son Joannes
  • in 1827 for the baptism of son Piotr Paweł
  • in 1827 at the death of son Jan (Joannes in Catholic records)

The record gap in question, though, is for the dates preceding that 1820 entry. Based on various other records in which the younger Katarzyna appeared, we can calculate her year of birth as either 1812 or 1814. A record at the Poznan Project indicates that her parents were married in 1810. And that 1810 document indicates the elder Katarzyna had a maiden name of Nowicka. Despite the gap in other records prior to 1820, until I am able to locate any other supporting documentation for another wife—or another maiden name—from the Zakrzewicz family, I'll call Elżbieta and Katarzyna two sisters from the same mother. 

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