Our maternal grandmother, Agnieszka Kapuścińska Skrok Kiec, was the only grandparent my younger sisters and I ever knew. Our grandfathers Jan Skrok and Antoni Maciejewski had both died in 1936, when our parents were only five and eight years old. Our father’s mother Marya Szczepańska Maciejewska died in 1951, four years before I was born.
I was curious about my grandmother’s origins, and the land of my ancestors. In 2004, I joined a group tour of Poland, then rented a car to visit Gnieszowice, the small village near Koprzywnica, Sandomierz, where documents indicated my maternal grandmother had been born in 1895. Although I was able to verify my grandmother’s birth in the former synagogue that had become the Archives in Sandomierz, I did not think I would be able to do much research in the Polish records.
That changed in March 2015, when I attended the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts presentation by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz at the Chicopee Public Library on Locating Vital Records in Poland Using Online Resources, or, I Found My Village! Now What? She answered questions I did not know I had, and her detailed examples clearly illustrated her points. I was inspired.
Following her example, I used the Geneteka database of the Polish Genealogical Society (in Poland!) to find the birth records of my mother’s parents, their siblings, and their parents’ marriage records, indexed with their parents’ names. I learned how I was related to people I knew were cousins, but I was not sure how. Our ancestors came to Buffalo in the early part of the twentieth century from an area near Sandomierz, in the Russian occupied area of Poland, in what is now the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) province. To the family names I knew from western New York–Kapuściński, Kasprzyk, Kiec, Kwiatek, Rzepka, Skrok, Szczepański, and Witoń–I was able to add my great-great grandparents and the names Kołek, Bartkiewicz, Zybała, and Karczmarz to my family tree. Needless to say, I was pleased to make a donation to contribute to the volunteer site.
When I learned that Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz was to give a presentation on Polish Genealogy Research to the Polish Genealogical Society of New York State at their April 2016 meeting in Buffalo, I encouraged PGSNYS members to attend. I also reached out to several of my DNA matches in western New York and nearby Canada.
Although one of my DNA matches from southern Ontario was unable to attend the presentation, we exchanged information. She had been adopted, but she knew the names of her birth parents. Her birth father had even given her a tangible piece of her heritage, one of the coins that had been sewn into the interior hem of her ancestor’s dress when she left the country telling her that it was ‘not allowed’ to take monies out and that they ‘escaped’.
My DNA match had found the ship manifests from her father’s parents’ arrivals in Canada, but she was not sure from where they had come. But I did! I had been down this road and I knew some of the signposts. And we’re family!
Her grandfather Józef Drach‘s ship record said he was born in Świniary, Sandomierz. There are 2 very small villages named Stare Świniary and Nowe Świniary approximately 3 kilometers south of Łoniów. In Polish, Stare means old, Nowe means new. Both villages are in the administrative district of Gmina Łoniów, within Sandomierz County, Świętokrzyskie, about seven kilometers from Gnieszowice, where my grandmother Agnieszka was born.
Józef‘s parents were identified as Jan and Katarzyna Drach. Jan is the Polish version of the English name John. Katarzyna is the Polish name for Katherine.
Geneteka had an indexed record that indicated that Jan Drach and Katarzyna Borycka married in Łoniów in 1895 (entry #23), as well as listing the baptism of Józef Drach in Łoniów in 1905 (entry #27). The church in Łoniów is Kościół św. Mikołaja, St. Nicholas. While the record indices have been posted online, I did not find the original records.
My DNA match’s grandmother was Aniela Wieczorek. Her ship record said she was born in Suchowola, and her sister Katarzyna lived in Suchowola, Sandomierz. Today, Suchowola is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Osiek, within Staszów County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship. It is not far from Sandomierz.
The nearest church is Kościół św. Stanisława Biskupa i Męczennika, St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr, in Osiek. Since ship and Canadian records said that Aniela Wieczorek was born in 1900 or 1901, the most likely record is in 1900, entry 143.
Aniela‘s nearest relative was listed as her sister Katarzyna Janoś (sp?).
Katarzyna Wieczorek was a popular name, with baptisms of girls with that name occurring regularly in Osiek.
- 1891 35
- 1893 134
- 1895 71
- 1896 78
- 1897 100
- 1901 83
Although these records were available online, they were written in the Napoleonic format in Cyrillic, because this area was occupied by Russia in the 19th and early 20th century. I was not able to read the records myself, but my DNA match was able to use this information to extend her family tree to Michał Wieczorek and Franciszka Czech and beyond.
GEDmatch estimated the number of generations to our most recent common ancestor (MRCA) is 4.8, since we share a 19.1 centiMorgan DNA segment on chromosome 3. While we have not found our common ancestors, we found the common location where our ancestors lived.
When traveling in Poland, I stayed at the hotel at Baranów Sandomierski Castle, across the Wisła (Vistula) River from our grandparents’ birth places. I also visited the towns of Sandomierz and Opatów, and Krzyżtopór Castle in Ujazd, Iwaniska, Opatów, about 22 kilometers from Łoniów. I had read about these places in James Michener’s novel, Poland, and I was glad to make the connection to our family history in what is now Świętokrzyskie province.
Wikipedia contributors, “Gnieszowice,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gnieszowice&oldid=771022160 (accessed December 18, 2018).
“Ancestry,” database, Ancestry (ancestry.com: accessed 12 December 2018), Jozef Drach; citing Passenger Lists. Jozef Drach, Male, 25, abt 1905, Poland, Departure Port: Danzig, Poland, Arrival date: 8 Apr 1930, Arrival Port: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Vessel: Lituania; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Series: RG 76-C; Roll: T-14825; Ancestry.com. Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Library and Archives Canada, n.d. RG 76-C. Department of Employment and Immigration fonds. Library and Archives Canada Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, “Geneteka, Metryki,” database, Polish Genealogical Society, Genealodzy (genealodzy.pl: accessed 2016), Józef Drach; citing church records or Urząd Stanu Cywilnego (Civil Registry Office). 1905 27 Józef Drach Łoniów Łoniów [Indeks dodał: Wojciech_Liśkiewicz] .
Genealogiczne, Genealodzy, Jan Drach, Katarzyna Borycka. 1895 23 Jan Drach Katarzyna Borycka Łoniów [ Miejscowość: Łoniów] [Indeks dodał: Wojciech_Liśkiewicz] .
“Ancestry,” database, Ancestry, Aniela Wieczorek, Female, abt 1900, Birth Place: Suchowola, Age: 24, Date of Arrival: 12 Apr 1924, Port of Arrival: Saint John, New Brunswick, Port of Departure: Warsaw, Poland, Ship Name: Melita, Library and Archives Canada; Form 30A Ocean Arrivals (Individual Manifests), 1919-1924; Rolls: T-14939 – T-15248; Ancestry.com. Canada, Ocean Arrivals (Form 30A), 1919-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Library and Archives Canada. Form 30A, 1919-1924 (Ocean Arrivals). Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, n.d.. RG 76. Department of Employment and Immigration .
Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski, Birth, Aniela Wieczorek; digital images, Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : accessed December 2018). 1900 143 Aniela Wieczorek Osiek Osiek [Indeks dodał: Jabłoński_Edward]
Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski, Marriage, Jan Czosnek, Franciszka Cech; digital images, Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : accessed December 2018). 1880 3 Jan Czosnek Franciszka Cech Osiek [ Miejscowość: Osiek] [Indeks dodał: Jabłoński_Edward]
Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski, Marriage, 1890 4, Michał Wieczorek Franciszka Czosnek; digital images, Towarzystwa Genealogicznego Centralnej Polski (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : accessed December 2018). 1890 4 Michał Wieczorek, Franciszka Czosnek Osiek [ Miejscowość: Osiek] [Indeks dodał: Jabłoński_Edward]
Michener, James A. Poland. Random House, 1983