Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Retracing Steps


When it turns out that no further information materializes for a brick-wall ancestor, what do you do? In my case, looking now for wedding information on Uncle John's parents-in-law, I've been drawing a blank, so now it's time to review what documents have already provided details on their lives. It's time to retrace my research steps.

One reason for this is the need to confirm Uncle John's mother-in-law's maiden name. Last week, we discovered that Aniela—or Nellie, as she preferred to call herself in later years—may have come from a city in Poland now known as Płock. While that may have been a fortunate discovery, the trouble with searching for birth records in an ancestor's home town is that, at least for searching women, I need to know what the person's birth surname might have been. In other words, I am now looking for a viable maiden name for Aniela Aktabowski.

To find this, there are two research routes I can take. One is to look at the record of Aniela's marriage to Felix Aktabowski. The other is to examine the records left by her children which might include details about Aniela's maiden name.

I can already say that the latter search option has left me with doubts. For instance, the death certificate for Aniela's daughter Theresa—the one who married an Italian immigrant who changed his surname from Cappadona to Captain—reported Aniela's maiden name to be Kordecka. However, I am fairly certain that the reporting party for that death certificate—Theresa's husband Thomas Captain—was not present at Aniela's marriage, let alone her birth, so that response is already in question.

Further convincing me that Kordecka might not have been the right answer—yet creating another puzzle—are the records left behind for Aniela's other children. A transcription from the Social Security Applications and Claims Index entry for Aniela's son Gustave reported her maiden name as Nelly Sagwit. While memory of an aging son may have been impaired if he completed his paperwork for the recently-created Social Security toward the end of his life, I suspect handwriting issues and transcription problems may have conspired to create such an unbelievable response. Thankfully, several other children's records—mostly from their birth—agreed that Aniela's maiden name was more likely to have been something like Zelinska or Zielinska, in its proper feminine form according to Polish tradition.

While I will certainly keep those other two possibilities in mind—both Sagwit and Kordecka—my next quest is to find any confirmation of a Zielinska or Zelinska in marriage records from about 1887, the year indicated in the 1900 census as the possible date for the wedding of Felix and Aniela.     

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