Friday, January 5, 2024

Ancestor # 11: Collateral Companions

It was only thanks to a one-line mention in his son's New York City death certificate that I even knew the name of my second great-grandfather. Like so many others in my father's family, any detail about the family's history was a well-kept secret. Though he never said anything about Mateusz Laskowski, that was the name of my dad's great-grandfather—a man who fathered at least two other children who, like my dad's maternal grandfather, left Poland to seek a better life in America.

As many of us know who have researched our ancestral lines, when confronted with a "brick wall" ancestor, one of the best ways to make an end run around that research road block is to study the collateral lines—what became of those siblings of our direct-line ancestor. And for those of us who include DNA testing in our research bag of tricks, we know that the DNA matches we seek will often be the descendants of those collateral relatives. When it comes to researching immigrant families, add in the concept of the "FAN" Club—those family or friends, associates, and neighbors who traveled with our roaming ancestors—and we can supercharge our efforts to find missing ancestors, even those who have just crossed an ocean. These are the collateral companions I'd like to focus on as I wrap up the research year of 2024 on my father's family.

Specifically, I'll be looking at the family line of Mateusz Laskowski and his Polish wife, Elżbieta   Gramlewicz. This couple was born, married, and died in the place they called home in Poland, a small town called Żerków. Yet, despite their stationery position in life, three of their children embarked on the not-so-certain adventure of leaving home and family to travel thousands of miles to another continent filled with people who spoke a language they didn't know. While I've figured out what became of the one sibling—that's my father's maternal grandfather—I want to trace the lines of descent for the other two siblings. Not only that, but I would love to discover their family stories, as well.

By the time I reach the month designated for this year's final paternal ancestor, I will have reached the end of what can currently be found on this family's Polish lines. By then, I will have been working on my Twelve Most Wanted for five years. Not that I am saying I'm "done" with my family tree—that work is never done—but I am limited by the resources and capability of reaching back another generation on this foreign branch of my family's history. By the time we enter 2025, I will most likely have to rethink my research approach for future projects.

In the meantime, for the twelfth month of this year, I will test out a different topic to explore—one based not on my own family, but on a project I've recently launched. This will hopefully be of help to many others, as well as an enjoyable way to ply those research skills, even if I can't use them on my own family.

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