Wojciech Dobroch was known to his descendants as George Dobro. While descendants of immigrants often know their ancestors’ Americanized names, successful family history research requires knowing the original name. In this case, personal knowledge of a descendant led to a search that pointed to the original Polish name.
I love to collaborate with DNA matches to unlock mysteries about our shared heritage. Several years ago, I worked with a distant DNA match, CP. His maternal grandmother had Kapuściński ancestors who also used the name Kapusta. I told the story in “Cabbage” Patch Kids: Kapusta/Kapuściński DNA Cousins. This research later helped me find my own grandmother’s sister’s birth record in Poland, which listed the name Kapusta and not Kapuścińska. Józefa Kapuścińska Dudek Stayed in the Old Country.
This was not the family CP and I had in common, though. When some of his other relatives tested their DNA we found our shared DNA matches belonged to his paternal grandmother’s family. JI was CP‘s father’s cousin, and JI‘s daughter, also JI, was CP‘s second cousin. They knew their common ancestors as George and Josephine Dobro, and they knew the Dobro family lived on 133 Sears Street in Buffalo, Erie, New York.
Józefa Łuczak Dobro‘s funeral notice was published in Dziennik dla Wszystkich [Everybody’s Daily], the Polish newspaper in Buffalo, New York, on 19 September 1934.
Part of the newspaper was in the crease of the online copy, but the names were clear. Wojciech Dobro was Józefa‘s husband. Her daughters were Florentyna, Stanisława, and Rozalia. Her son was Franciszek. The funeral notice said “wraz z Rodziną,” “together with family,” so Józefa had family in the area.
It is interesting to see how Polish immigrant ancestors and their children Americanized their names. Józefa became Josephine, Wojciech was listed as Albert or Adalbert in some records and George in others. Franciszek became Frank, Florentyna was Florence, and Rozalia was called Rose. Stanisława, like my mother and her aunt, was called Stella. The Polish surname Łuczak was listed as Uczak in 1955. We suspected that Dobro may have been shortened from a longer name such as Dobroch, Dobroczek, Dobrowolski, etc.
When George Dobro died in 1955, his death notice in the Buffalo Evening News used English names Josephine, Florence, Frank, Stella, and Rose.
DOBRO—George, June 5, 1955, of 133 Sears St.. beloved husband of the late Josephine (nee Uczak), father of Mrs. Frank (Florence) Czosek. Frank, Mrs. Harry (Stella) Pliszka and Rose; father-in-law of Wanda, survived by grandchildren. Funeral Friday at 9:30 A. M., from Casper C. Urban Funeral Home, 188 Clark St. and in Corpus Christi Church at 10. Burial In St. Stanislaus Cemetery. Friends are invited to attend.Buffalo Evening News, 6 June 1955
JI remembered hearing stories about her grandparents’ origins. She said that her mother had told her some things, including that there was another daughter, Angeline. JI thought that Angeline must have passed away before her grandmother in 1934 because her name was not listed in the funeral notice.
This turned out to be a great clue! Angeline is not a Polish name, but immigrants and their children named Aniela often adopted it to sound more American. So I went looking for an Aniela or Angeline Dobro born in Buffalo in the 1920s and I found her!
Aniela Dobro was born 4 Jun 1923 in Buffalo, New York, New York State Certificate Number: 48358.
The New York State death index records said Angeline Dobroch died 10 Jul 1923 in Buffalo, Certificate Number: 42825. The City of Buffalo also listed Angeline Dobroch in their Index of Death Records.
Aniela Dobroch was buried 11 Jul 1923 at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, Erie, New York. The cemetery record said that the funeral had been from Corpus Christi Church, the parish of the Dobro family.
I did not see the certificates myself, so I cannot be sure, but since there were no other records that were close in that time and place, these index records are probably correct. While they did not prove that Wojciech/George‘s original name was Dobroch, it became something else to look for.
So, I looked. Buffalo city directories from 1913 to 1917 showed that Albert/Adelbert/Wojciech Dobroch, laborer, lived at 482 Fillmore Avenue and 353 Gibson Street.
Albert Dobroch lived at 353 Gibson Street in 1915. He was age 24, from Russian Poland, an alien who had been in this country for three years.
When George Dobrich registered for the WWI draft in June 1917, he lived on 662 William Street, Buffalo, New York, and was born in Sandomierz, Russia. My maternal ancestors are from that area.
The following year, George Dobee of 662 William Street and Josephine Luczak of 330 Gibson Street obtained a marriage license, as was reported in the Buffalo Enquirer newspaper on 16 January 1918.
George Dobre and Josephine Luczak were married in Buffalo, Erie, New York on 22 January 1918.
In 1920, Albert and Josephine Dobro and their children Florence and Frank lived on 133 Sears Street in Buffalo, Erie, New York.
Other records showed the family name as Dobroch. The 1927 Buffalo City Directory showed that Geo. Dobroch lived at 133 Sears Street in Buffalo.
The New York State Death Index showed that Jozefa Dobroch died 18 September 1934 in Buffalo.
Wojciech Michał Dobro registered for the World War II draft in 1942.
Wojciech M Dobro claimed Social Security in 1954.
|Name:||Wojciech M Dobro|
|Birth Date:||6 Apr 1889|
|Claim Date:||8 Apr 1954|
|Notes:||03 Sep 1976: Name listed as WOJCIECH M DOBRO|
The New York State Death Index listed Wojciech G Dobro‘s death on 5 June 1955, in Buffalo, New York. The cause of death, code 151, was malignant neoplasm of stomach (stomach cancer).
While the family’s names were listed in both Polish and English in various places, enough overlap is seen to determine that this is in fact the same family. Not only was Dobroch rendered as Dobro, the Polish name Wojciech does not have an exact English equivalent. Men named Wojciech used the names Albert, Adalbert, and George in America.
The book First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins & Meanings, by George W. Helon and William “Fred” Hoffman, has this entry for the name Wojciech.
Under the name Albert, Helon and Hoffman explain that “Since the 10th century the name Wojciech (Czech Vojtěch) has been considered the native Slavic equivalent of Adalbert/Albert, supposedly because at confirmation St. Wojciech honored the Magdeburg bishop who confirmed him, Adalbert, by taking his name [KI] (see Wojciech).”
Immigrants to the United States named Wojciech, Grzegorz, or others sometimes Americanized their names to what they considered to be a quintessential American name, George.
The evidence shows that George Dobro‘s original Polish name was Wojciech Dobroch. Now that we know his name, we can look for more information about his origins in the old country. American records say that he arrived in the United States about 1912 and he was born 6 April 1889 in the Sandomierz area of Russian Poland.
- Józefa Dobro, Dziennik dla Wszystkich [Everybody’s Daily], Buffalo, New York, 19 September 1934, Page 11. https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83045091/1934-09-19/ed-1/seq-11/.
- DOBRO—George, Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, New York, 6 June 1955, Vital Statistics 25.
- Buffalo, New York, City directory, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1917, 1927.
- 1915 New York State Census, New York State, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 10, Erie, Page number: 18, House Number: 353, Albert Dobroch.
- United States, Selective Service System, “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database, National Archives and Records Administration (online : accessed 2 May 2021), George Dobroch.
- “U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes,” database, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C., (ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2021), Wojciech Dobroh; Index, 1906-1966 Petitions for Naturalization, U.S. District Court, Western Dist. of New York, M1677.
- National Archives, “World War II Draft Registration Cards,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2021), Wojciech Michał Dobro.
- Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Social Security Applications and Claims (online : accessed 4 May 2021), Wojciech M Dobro, 070051920, 8 April 1954.
- New York State, Department of Health, Vital Records Index, Death, Certificate Number: 36217, Wojciech G Dobro, 5 June 1955, Albany, New York.
- St. Stanislaus RC Cemetery (Cheektowaga, New York), https://gravefinderatststans.com, George Dobro.
- George Dobre, Josephine Luczak, Buffalo Enquirer, Buffalo, New York, 16 January 1918, Page 5.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Marriage, Certificate Number: 12686, George Dobre, Josephine Luczak.
- 1920 Federal Census, New York, population schedule, Buffalo Ward 10, Erie, New York, Albert Dobro; digital images, National Archives (online : accessed 2 May 2021); Fourteenth Census of the United States.
- Buffalo, New York, death, Jozefa Dobroch; City Clerk’s Office, City Hall, Reclaim the Records, archive.org.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Birth, Certificate Number: 48358, Aniela M Dobro.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Death, Certificate Number: 42825, Angeline Dobroch.
- Buffalo, New York, death no. 4439, Angeline Dobroch.
- Social Security Administration, “U.S. Social Security Death Index,” database, Death Master File (: accessed 26 October 2020), Florence Czosek, 091-12-5248, before 1951.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Marriage, Certificate Number: 40335, Florence Dobro, Frank Czosek.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Birth, Certificate Number: 83765, Frank P. Dobro.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Marriage, Certificate Number: 45343, Frank Dobro,.
- Dziennik dla Wszystkich, 16 September 1947.
- “Find a Grave,” database, Find a Grave (findagrave.com: accessed 27 March 2021), Stella E. (Dobro) Pliszka; citing cemetery records.
- Obituary: Stella Pliszka, Buszka Funeral Home, Buffalo, New York, February 2016.
- Buffalo News, 14 February 2016.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Marriage, Certificate Number: 45517, Harry Pliszka, Stella Dobro.
- New York State Vital Records Index, Birth, Certificate Number: 38443, Rose J Dobre.
- Buffalo News, 5 April 2021.
- Gliński, Mikołaj, “A Foreigner’s Guide to Polish Names,” Culture.pl, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, 26 August 2015 (https://culture.pl/en/article/a-foreigners-guide-to-polish-names : accessed 6 May 2021)