Oh, what a difference 20 years makes! In 1991, I started documenting family history, because my family bought a personal computer and I found a program, called Brother’s Keeper, to make sense of it all. My original intention was just to document what our family, especially my parents, already knew. Since both my parents were the youngest children of their families, there was a lot of family lore to record.
I started with the basics—birth, marriage, death. Births and deaths only happened once per person, so I expected the dates to be consistent across records. But they were not always. I kept finding gaps and mistakes. Somehow, the older women in some families grew younger as they aged. When I started listing the birth dates I was given, my great-aunts were younger than their baby brother! I needed to find corroborating sources.
Pre-internet, most of my research was personally visiting record repositories. In some cases I actually went to town, city, and county halls and viewed the original documents. I could do this from my home in Rhode Island with my husband’s Yankee and Irish relatives, and would take time during visits to my visits to Buffalo to research my Polish family there. I learned that many records had been microfilmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints, so I could order microfilm records from afar and view them locally.
The early records of St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Roman Catholic parish were among those that had been microfilmed, so I was able to view these baptism, marriage, and death records at the LDS Family History Center. I originally found them hard to read because the mix of Polish and Latin was unfamiliar to me. Where was Boruss. and why were so many of the parishioners born there? The other locations I saw were Galicia and Posen. I needed to learn more about Poland and my Polish heritage.
My elementary school, Our Lady of Częstochowa in Cheektowaga, had been very proud of a series of pull down maps that showed the shifting boundaries of central Europe. I naively thought of them all as “Poland” but the geopolitical boundaries were more fluid. In the 1880s when my father’s families came to the United States, there was no country called Poland. My Polish ancestors came from Germany, the Kingdom of Prussia! The Latinized version of Prussia was Borussia.
My great grandfather Jan Maciejewski died in 1896. I was able to back into the date because he was listed with his family in the New York Census of 1892, his last child was born in 1894, and my great grandmother was a widow in the 1900 US census.
The St. Stanislaus death record listed his birthplace as Tylice. I wrote it down, but was not able to locate the place in the 1990s. In 1999, Poland reorganized its administrative divisions, into voivodeships (provinces), powiats (counties), and gminas (municipalities), and I became even more confused.
Research is much easier in 2015. A Wikipedia search identifies that Tylice may refer to the following places in Poland:
- Tylice, Lower Silesian Voivodeship (south-west Poland)
- Tylice, Brodnica County in Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship (north-central Poland)
- Tylice, Toruń County in Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship (north-central Poland)
- Tylice, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship (north Poland)
Based on some things my father had said about the city of Wrocław (Breslau in German) before his death in 1995, I tend to believe that his parents’ families came from Silesia (Śląsk in Polish, Schlesien in German).
Tylice [tɨˈlit͡sɛ] (German: Thielitz) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Zgorzelec, within Zgorzelec County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, in south-western Poland, close to the German border. Prior to 1945 it was in Germany. Following World War II the native German populace was expelled and replaced by Poles. It lies approximately 5 kilometres (3 mi) south-east of Zgorzelec and 140 km (87 mi) west of the regional capital Wrocław.
Lower Silesia is called Dolnośląskie in Polish. Zgorzelec is the westernmost powiat in Dolnośląskie.
This area did not become part of the country of Poland until after World War II when the Potsdam Agreement set the Polish-German border at the Oder and Neisse Rivers (the Oder-Neisse line). The town on the Lusatian Neisse River (Lausitzer Neiße in German, Nysa Łużycka in Polish) was divided between the two countries. The western part in Germany is Görlitz, while the eastern side in Poland is Zgorzelec. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the town councils coordinate urban management and people may again travel freely on the bridges that cross the river.
You may have seen them. According to Wikipedia, “Due to the historical parts of the city, many movie-makers have used the various sites as backgrounds. Quentin Tarantino shot the movie-in-a-movie Stolz der Nation (Pride of the Nation) for Inglourious Basterds (which incidentally purports to be Sicily) on the Untermarkt and Obermarkt in Görlitz’ oldest parts of the city. Other films shot in Görlitz include the 2013 war drama The Book Thief and the teen years in The Reader. Görlitz was used as the primary shooting location for the Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel, with Görlitz standing in for a resort in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka.”
Google maps shows Tylice is just south-east of the town of Zgorzelec and other nearby villages.
So far, I have clues and some evidence, but I do not know if this the right Tylice. I need to do more research! The St. Stanislaus record says that Jan Maciejewski’s father’s name was Tomasz. My great grandfather was fifty when he died, so he was born about 1846. Will I be able to find records of his birth? Will they be in German, Latin, or Polish? Before I started this research, I had never heard about Lusatia or the Sorbian people near this region. Will I find that they are part of my heritage?
In researching family history, finding one piece of the puzzle only leads to many more. When I started, I thought I would only document what my parents knew.
Update: This was not the right Tylice! See Maciejewski Family from Tylice near Nieżywięć and Marriage of Johann Maciejewski and Veronica Lewandowska in Nieżywięć, Prussia.