Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

I was amazed to learn that a substantial number of Polish people went to America intending to better their future, make money abroad, and return to the old country. It seemed daunting to leave a small rural ancestral village, travel halfway across a continent, board a ship in steerage class, sail for several weeks, disembark and make one’s way to a new city and way of life. Perhaps the only way that some people were able to do it was to tell themselves it was a temporary condition.

But the return trip must have had its challenges as well. As Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. Your experiences while away have changed you. You are not the same person you were when you left, and neither are the people you left behind. Many returnees found back home an uneasy fit, and returned to America.

Although the United States has records about people who came to this country, it is harder to learn about people who left.

We know the Prus brothers were among those who traveled back and forth, leaving their wives and children behind.Prus children Koprzywnica Geneteka had records of their children before 1910, and I could not find records for Jozef‘s wife and children in America. Jozef himself is not in Erie County records, so he may have again returned to Poland. The twins born in 1906 died in Poland according to the notes in the margins of the parish books.

1913 Ellis Island Ursula Prus 1913 Ellis Island Ursula Prus1Jan Prus‘ wife Urszula and their daughter Helena did come to America on the S. S. Zeeland that sailed from Antwerp on July 26th and arrived in New York on August 5th, 1913. The ship’s manifest shows they were accompanied by Bartłomiej Staroń (alias Sharon?) from Gnieszowice. He had previously been in Buffalo in 1908.

I was told decades ago that one of the Kapuscinski daughters had married a man named Prus or Pruszak and the couple had four children–Zofia, Stanisław, Maryanna, and Ryszard–and that at least some of the children were American and in or near Buffalo, New York. I have not yet found the connection.

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