Friday, October 20, 2023

The Story Behind the Story


It may seem strange, reading through all the research contortions I've twisted myself into, that I am having so much difficulty figuring out the maiden name of my grandfather's sister. And yes, generally, that answer  would be self-evident. But not in Aunt Rose's case. Here's why: there's a story behind that story.

My first problem was that I didn't even know I had an Aunt Rose until just after the last relative from my father's generation had died. Fortunately, on that relative's last birthday celebration, my brother had made a big to-do about interviewing her to capture some of her remembrances of days long past—and taping the conversation. Among other memories, this woman shared stories about a relative she called Aunt Rose.

At about the same time, my oldest cousin sent me a few old family photographs, including some from my father's boyhood days. Family photographs being what they are, they were seldom solo affairs. One picture captured my father and his sister—the birthday honoree—as children, along with their mother and a fanciful woman my cousin called Aunt Rose. Back then, neither of us could be sure this was a blood relative; we thought perhaps the woman had been called "Aunt" as a token of respect accorded to a close family friend.

It took quite a bit of research to locate the true Aunt Rose—mostly after my brother's interview with our own aunt produced some married names—and realize she was, indeed, a family member and not simply a close friend. By then, I had long since sent for my grandfather's death certificate and gleaned the names listed for his parents. The only problem was: I already knew half of that information was flat out wrong.

According to my grandfather's death certificate, he was son of a man named John. The surname for both father and son matched. The trouble was: that surname was fabricated. It was not the true name of either son or father—in which case, it couldn't be the maiden name of my newly-discovered Aunt Rose, either.

Although Aunt Rose lived with her mother in all the records in which I've been able to find her, for me to rely on her mother Anna's documentation wouldn't have helped, either. For the census records, Anna was always listed with a surname appearing with various spelling permutations, generally being something like Krauss. And yet, while the newspaper report of her tragic death listed her surname as Kraus, the actual police report gave an entirely different surname: something like Kusharvska.

Don't think that either Krauss or Kusharvski were Rose's maiden name, though. At least, that is not according to what I've found on my grandfather's own records from his homeland, something I only discovered, thanks to a very helpful DNA match (and diligent researcher). According to what I subsequently found at a Polish genealogy website, my grandfather's name at birth was actually Puchała. And my grandfather's own father had the Polish equivalent of the given name Thomas.

Problem: that name was obviously not Julius, the name given twice for the two marriage records we've found for Aunt Rose. Where did Julius come from? Could that have been the name of Anna's subsequent husband, the source of the unusual Kusharvski surname? Or was Rose not my grandfather's full sibling?

While I may never be able to determine the source for that strange double entry of Julius, it's about time we take a step backwards—much farther backwards—to review what I found on the birth records of both Rose and her brother.


  1. I'm looking forward to your next installment. If this were a mystery novel plot unwinding, I would put my money on them being half-siblings. I've seen a Julius and Anna Krauss on the census, but [insert shrug here]. That missing surname for Julius on two marriage records is such a head scratcher.

    1. And that's the trouble with Julius! I've spotted at least two different couples in NYC census records named Julius and Anna Krauss, which doesn't help my case. Perhaps Rose was merely referring to her step-father when she entered the name Julius in her marriage license applications. At this point, though, I can't really tell.


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