Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

Our DNA matches indicate that at some point our ancestors were in the same place. Even if we share too little DNA to readily find common ancestors, I like to look at my DNA matches to see if we can identify common locations where our ancestors were from, and sometimes we can help one another look back to the past.

I did that with PB, a DNA match and a descendant of the Brown family. For this family, the surname Brown is an Americanized version of the Polish name Buranowski.

On 23 July 1889, Galician-born Jan Buranowski and Prussian-born Julianna Ojdowska were married at Saint Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsyslvania. In 1900, many members of the Buranowski, Kulwicki, Ojdowski, and related families were living near one another on Hancock Street on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

1900 federal census, Hancock Street, Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania

Julianna Ojdowska‘s parents Th. and Mina Ojdowski and Julianna‘s younger siblings–Leon, Rozalia, and Helena–had arrived in New York on 2 December 1887 from Antwerp, Belgium, on the ship Rhynland.

1887 Rhynland ship manifest showing Th., Mina, Leon, Rozalia, and Helena Ojdowski to New York

The ship manifest showed their last place of residence was Rittershausen, most likely in Graudenz, Marienwerder, Westpreussen, Preussen. Today it is Szczepanki, Łasin, Grudziądz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, in north-central Poland.

The same manifest page had Joh. and Maria Ocdowski, ages 29 and 24, and Joh. and Marie Kulwitzki, ages 27, 23, and two children, Th. and Josef.

1887 Rhynland ship manifest showing Ojdowski and Kulwitzki families to New York

Johann [Jan] and Maria Ojdowski‘s last place of residence was Prenzlawitz, which is now Przesławice, Łasin, Grudziądz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, in north-central Poland. This couple may have settled in Detroit, Michigan.

The Johann [Jan] and Marie [Marianna Ojdowska] Kulwitzki [Kulwicki] family’s last place of residence was Roggenhausen, which is now Rogóźno, Grudziądz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, in north-central Poland.

These locations can be seen on the map below.

Heinrichsfelde, Borussia

My DNA match and other researchers wrote that Julianna Ojdowska was born in Heinrichsfelde. Some said it was a place outside of Berlin, others in a place called Borussia.

Borussia is the Latin term for Prussia, so I suspect this name was found in Roman Catholic Church records.

Ancestry gave another clue, suggesting that the DNA match is on my paternal side. This makes sense, since my paternal ancestors came from West Prussia, in areas called Marienwerder and Strasburg.

So I looked for places that were called Heinrichsfelde in Prussia. Meyer’s Gazetteer (Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs) shows there were many places called Heinrichsfelde in Prussia.

Meyer’s Gazetteer entries for Heinrichsfelde

The list includes a tiny Vorwerk (Residence or Farm) named Heinrichsfelde in Marienwerder, Westpreussen, Preussen.

Meyer’s Gazetteer entry for Heinrichsfelde #6, Vorwerk (Residence or Farm), in Marienwerder, Westpreussen

This Heinrichsfelde was near Groß Schönwalde, and was not far from Groß Schönbrück, where my paternal great-grandparents, Marcin Szczepański and Anna Kalinowska, were married in 1878.

Groß Schönbrück, Groß Schönwalde, Vorwerk Heinrichsfelde and Heinrichsfelde in Marienwerder, Westpreussen map (David Rumsey Map Collection)

Today, Groß Schönwalde is known by its Polish name, Szynwałd. It took me a while to find Szynwałd, and I wrote about it in

Szennato, Szynnato? Szynwałd, Groß Schönwalde! Deciphering Polish/Prussian Place Names

When the church records were filmed in 1954, Szynwałd (Grudziądz) was in the Bydgoszcz province of Poland. During the German Occupation of the 19th century, it was Provinz Westpreußen (West Prussia), or Prusy Zachodnie in Polish. After Poland was reunited in 1920, it was in the Pomeranian Province, and between 1975 and 1998, it was in the Toruń Province. Currently, Szynwałd is in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, or in Polish, województwo kujawsko-pomorskie. It is not surprising that references to this Heinrichsfelde may have included various places through the years.

Several of my DNA matches have ancestors who belonged to nearby churches.

Churches Near Szembruk, Grudziądz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland

Churches near Szembruk, Grudziądz, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland (Google map)

Julianna Ojdowska and Leon Ojdowski Baptized in Groß Schönwalde / Szynwałd, Grudziądz

Julianna Ojdowska was born 5 November 1869 in Heinrichsfelde and baptized 11 November 1869 in Kościół Narodzenie Najświętszej Maryi Panny [Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary] in Groß Schönwalde / Szynwałd, Grudziądz. Her parents were Thomas [Tomasz] Ojdowski and Müne Schweiger.

1869 birth/baptism, Julianna Ojdowska, Kościół Narodzenie Najświętszej Maryi Panny, Groß Schönwalde/Szynwałd, Grudziądz

Julianna‘s brother Leon Ojdowski was also born in Heinrichsfelde and baptized in Kościół Narodzenie Najświętszej Maryi Panny [Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary] in Groß Schönwalde / Szynwałd, Grudziądz. His birth date was 8 Sep 1871 and he was baptized 19 Sep 1871.

1871 birth/baptism, Leon Ojdowski, Kościół Narodzenie Najświętszej Maryi Panny, Groß Schönwalde/Szynwałd, Grudziądz

The younger Ojdowski children–Rozalia, Joanna, Katarzyna, Helena, and Marta–were born, and sometimes died, in nearby locations, including Groß Plowenz, Strasburg, Marienwerder, Westpreußen, Preußen, which today is Płowęż, Jabłonowo Pomorskie, Brodnica, Kujawsko-Pomorskie, in north-central Poland.

This modern Google map shows Szynwałd, Płowęż, Przesławice, Szczepanki, and Rogóźno in Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland. The former Vorwerk Heinrichsfelde is near the current village of Huta-Strelce.

While we have not identified common ancestors, our families lived in the same area of the world!


Comments on: "The Ojdowski Family in West Prussia" (2)

  1. paula spitler said:

    Hi Sandra,

    As usual – totally amazing research and a very absorbing read!


    Paula ________________________________


  2. Maria (Ojdowski) and Joh Kulwicki settled in Pittsburgh, PA. They were my grandmother’s Grandparents.
    Maria and Joh. Kulwicki->Mary(Odjowski) and John Kulwicki->Theresa(Kulwicki) Gasiorowski->Helen(Gasiorowski)Golubski->… ->Me!


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