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Justin Baker



Joined: 02 May 2021
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Post Posted: Fri Feb 25, 2022 12:25 pm      Post subject: Learning about our ancestors' lives
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Does anybody have a good resource to help us learn about how our ancestors lived in Poland? It would be nice to know more about the daily lives of the average person in say, the 18th and 19th centuries. Topics like land ownership, work week, tax structure/pay, living arrangements, food/diet, adoption, pretty much anything!
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Shellie
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Joined: 18 Feb 2009
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Post Posted: Sun Feb 27, 2022 8:49 am      Post subject:
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Hi Justin, In what part of Poland did your family live?
I too wanted to know what life was like for my ancestors. Several years ago I requested a topic section for the forum devoted to how our ancestors lived. It is called everyday life of our ancestors. The link is at the end of this post. There are several posts, including one of mine that describes a book written by the mayor of a village.

Jan Slomka: From Serfdom to Self-Government: Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor, 1842-1927.

You may also find some other useful books in the book section - see link below.

I hope more people will share the resources they find about Polish peasant life!

Link to forum Everyday Life…
https://forum.polishorigins.com/view forum.php?f=21

Link to Books and movies section: https://forum.polishorigins.com/viewforum.php?f=22

Thank you for posting your question- it reminded me that I need to share some of the articles I found over the years. Please be sure to post anything that you find about Polish life of our ancestors - I am always looking for more info. Kind regards, Shellie
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Justin Baker



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Post Posted: Sun Feb 27, 2022 10:58 am      Post subject:
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Hi Shellie - From what I know, some of my ancestors lived around the Kozielsko area and the some lived northwest of Bydgoszcz. Do you know much about this area? What part of Poland are your ancestors from?

Thanks for the information about the forum. I just checked it out and it seems to have a lot of good information. I will share anything interesting that I learn on that part of the forum!

Justin
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dnowicki
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Post Posted: Mon Feb 28, 2022 5:33 am      Post subject: Re: Learning about our ancestors' lives
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Justin Baker wrote:
Does anybody have a good resource to help us learn about how our ancestors lived in Poland? It would be nice to know more about the daily lives of the average person in say, the 18th and 19th centuries. Topics like land ownership, work week, tax structure/pay, living arrangements, food/diet, adoption, pretty much anything!


Hi Justin,

There is no one source which speaks directly to what life was like for peasants in Poland during the 18th and 19th Centuries just as, for example, there is no one source which covers what life in general and rural life in particular was like in 18th and 19th Century America. Some of the questions you pose are items from the perspective of our contemporary culture and world view and those concerns would have been foreign to peasants in Poland and in Europe in general during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

You mention that your ancestors were from the area around Kozielsko and Bydgoszcz. During the 18th Century prior to the First Partition of Poland in 1772 those areas were part of the western Crown Lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and were within the provinces (województwa) of Inowrocław and of Kalisz. The Commonwealth at the time was still a society in which the relationship between peasants and nobles was still based on Poland’s feudal system. That area was seized by Prussia during the First Partition and directly incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia but society remained feudal in nature and thus questions like those about wages, the work week, etc. were not thought of in what is our terminology.

Poland was not exactly a homogeneous society any more so than one would find in the British North American Colonies and the incipient United States. Although there were commonalities within the population of the Commonwealth there also were regional ethnographic differences. Both Kozielsko and Bydgoszcz were part of the ancient Pałuki region (cf. Attached map) which was bordered on the east by the Kujawy region and on the west by ziemia Poznańska. All of my ancestors going back to the late third quarter of the 17th Century were from those regions. I read the book by Jan Slomka which Shellie mentioned and it is interesting it also speaks to experiences different from those of my ancestors.

An excellent source for regional info is the Słownik geograficzny but it is necessary to read the entries carefully to extract the date which helps to paint a picture of what life was like. Here are two links for entries for Kozielsko: http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/Slownik_geograficzny/Tom_XV_cz.2/147 and http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/Slownik_geograficzny/Tom_IV/548. During the second half of the 19th Century the German Partition had the highest literacy rate of the three partitions. The first two lines of the second entry for Kozielsko provides info which can help to answer you questions about living conditions in the second half of the 19th Century. Kozielsko had 8 houses with 82 inhabitants, all of whom were Catholics and 31 of whom were illiterate. The 8 houses with 82 inhabitants paints a picture of living conditions far different from those we take for granted. Since 31 individuals were illiterate we know that 51 were literate which results in a 62% literacy rate which would have been at least as high as the literacy rate in some parts of the rural USA at the time.

Here is a link to an example of the traditional formal dress of the people of Pałuki: https://muzeum.tychy.pl/eksponat-wirtualny/stroj-palucki-2/

Poland has a number of outdoor ethnographic museums (skanseny) where one can see examples of houses and buildings from the late 18th Century through the first half of the 20th Century. Since Pałuki bordered Kujawy both regions shared similar architectural styles, dress, and cuisine if you Google “skansen w kłóbce” you can see pics of cottages and other buildings which would have been quite similar to those found in Pałuki. If you Google “skanseny w wielkopolsce” you will find more pics of typical period buildings. The attached PDF has some background info and pics.

Wishing you a successful learning journey,

Dave



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Justin Baker



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Post Posted: Mon Feb 28, 2022 4:09 pm      Post subject:
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Hi Dave,

Thanks for the great response and suggestions! I always knew that my ancestors were likely poor, but I had no idea of how cramped living conditions probably were. My ancestor who came to the US in 1870 was living in Kolybki in 1868 (according to his marriage record). I found the record for Kolybki in Słownik geograficzny, but I'm not sure I completely understand it. I looked up all of the possible abbreviations and it is still difficult to decipher:

http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/Slownik_geograficzny/Tom_IV/269

Kolybki, Kolybki niem., Kolybek, dom., powist wagrowiecki, 1856 morg rozl.; 2 miejsc: a) K. dom.; b) Rakowo, folwark; 14 domy., 255 mieszkaney., wszyscy katolik, 118 analfabeci. Poczta i tel. w Leknie o 6 kilometr., stacya. kol. zel. w Budzynie o 24 kil., w Rogoznie (Rogasen) o 27 kil. Wlsnosc Moszczenskiego Wladyslawa.

Does 14 domy., 255 mieszkaney mean there were 14 houses with 255 people living inside? That comes to about 18 people per dwelling.

118/255 illiterate

Does the "1856" refer to the year in which the census was taken?

Does "Wlasnosc Moszczenskiego Wladyslawa" refer to the person who owned the land?

Thanks again

Justin
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dnowicki
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Post Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2022 8:34 am      Post subject:
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Justin Baker wrote:
Hi Dave,

Thanks for the great response and suggestions! I always knew that my ancestors were likely poor, but I had no idea of how cramped living conditions probably were. My ancestor who came to the US in 1870 was living in Kolybki in 1868 (according to his marriage record). I found the record for Kolybki in Słownik geograficzny, but I'm not sure I completely understand it. I looked up all of the possible abbreviations and it is still difficult to decipher:

http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/Slownik_geograficzny/Tom_IV/269

Kolybki, Kolybki niem., Kolybek, dom., powist wagrowiecki, 1856 morg rozl.; 2 miejsc: a) K. dom.; b) Rakowo, folwark; 14 domy., 255 mieszkaney., wszyscy katolik, 118 analfabeci. Poczta i tel. w Leknie o 6 kilometr., stacya. kol. zel. w Budzynie o 24 kil., w Rogoznie (Rogasen) o 27 kil. Wlsnosc Moszczenskiego Wladyslawa.

Does 14 domy., 255 mieszkaney mean there were 14 houses with 255 people living inside? That comes to about 18 people per dwelling.

118/255 illiterate

Does the "1856" refer to the year in which the census was taken?

Does "Wlasnosc Moszczenskiego Wladyslawa" refer to the person who owned the land?

Thanks again

Justin


Hi Justin,

There is a list of abbreviations in the Słownik Tom (Vol.) 1 Strony (Pages) 13 & 14. Here is the link:
http://dir.icm.edu.pl/pl/Slownik_geograficzny/Tom_I/13

Your ancestors were probably no better nor worse off than many of their contemporaries in the Province of Posen aka German Poland. When they left in 1870 they were among the first to leave Europe during the first great wave of immigration to the USA which took place roughly from after the end of the American Civil and started to pick up steam by 1870 and continued until roughly 1890. By about the time of the American Civil War it had become increasingly difficult for Poles in German Poland to find work in the land where their ancestors had been relatively prosperous. The situation was aggravated by policy of Kulturkampf instituted in 1871 by Otto von Bismarck, the Chancellor of newly united Germany. The policy of Kulturkampf targeted German Catholics and also included an aggressive policy for the replacement of Polish peasants in the Province of Posen with German colonists together with an attempt to strip the Poles of their culture. Polish farm workers often had great difficulty in obtaining full-time work in German Poland. Thus there existed a dual motivation for this first great wave of peasant immigration to America—to seek freedom from the oppressive policies of the German Empire and to find the means to earn a decent living. This emigration often was said to be “za chlebem” (“for bread”). Have you located your ancestor’s arrival manifest? If he came through NY it would not have been through Ellis Island since it still had not opened. Many immigrants who entered the US during that time period through the Port of NY came through Castle Island. However, many entered through other US ports like Baltimore, Philadelphia or Boston.

...Back to the entry from the Słownik...You were able to extract quite a bit of info from the entry. Here is a bit more. The entry begins with spellings in Polish & in German. Kolybki, Kołbyki (Polish); in German, Kolybek, a manorial estate in the powiat (county) of Wągrowiec. The 1856 refers to the size of the estate. It was 1,856 mórgs. (A mórg in the Prussian system consisted of 25.32 ars; a Polish mórg was 55.98 ars and an ar was 100 square meters. A bit of math calculation would be necessary to figure out the size of the estate in terms understandable in our American system of measurement of area.); the estate was split between 2 locations: a) Kołbyki and b) Rakowo, the folwark (manorial farm) You are correct that there were 14 houses and 255 inhabitants and yes, that on average each house had 18 inhabitants and yes 118 of the 255 were illiterate, which means that 137 were literate, roughly a literacy rate of 54%. Yes, Własność does mean that the owner was Władysław Moszczeński. The remaining info is that the post office and telegraph office were in Łekno, 6 kilometers away and railroad stations were in Budzyń, 24 kilometers away and in Rogoźno (Rogasen in German), 27 kilometers away. Your ancestors likely caught a train in either of those places to take them to the port of embarkation.

BTW, the parish church for Kołbyki is the Church of Saints Peter & Paul (św. Ap. Piotra i Pawła) which dates from the mid 16th Century. If you Google it you can see photos of both the interior and exterior of the building.

In regard to your question in your other post...Unless both spouses died at the same time (unlikely) the surviving spouse usually soon remarried and brought whatever children from the first marriage to the second marriage. The second spouse usually did not adopt the children from the first marriage but acted as a stepparent. Usually if the parent died later the child continued to live with the stepparent without any formal arrangement. Formal guardianship usually was a factor when there was property from the first marriage which needed to be dealt with. Keep in mind that a marriage was looked upon as a contract between the husband and the wife but was also something entered into with the agreement of the two families for the mutual benefit of the families. Also, the child had no claim on the property of the stepparent. My maternal great grandmother was widowed twice before she married my great grandfather and had children from her first two husbands. He raised his stepchildren but when he died the deed to his family farm came to my grandfather who was the eldest son and was living in Chi-town. My grandfather sent the deed back to his younger brother and told him that the farm was now his. Although my grandfather’s two half brothers were older than my grandfather they had no right to the farm since they were not descended from my great grandfather. (My maternal grandmother was born in Pałuki and came to the US at age 4 with her parents as part of the first wave of peasant immigration. My maternal grandfather was born in Kujawy in Russian Poland and came to the US as a young adult to avoid conscription into the Russian army. All my grandmother’s extended family, both close and distant relatives came to the US whereas my grandfather’s siblings and other relatives remained in Europe and hence the farm deed.)

I hope these details help to flesh out your ancestors’ life in Europe.

Dave
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Justin Baker



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Post Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2022 12:07 pm      Post subject:
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Morning Dave,

I have often wondered if there were any contributing factors leading our ancestors to leave their homeland other than the hopes for finding better work. It can't be easy leaving the place you love knowing that all of your descendants will be citizens of another country and that the homeland (and language) might one day be forgotten. To piggy back on the cultural persecution you mentioned - I read also that the powers-that-be placed restrictions on the Polish language. I'm not sure exactly how that was enforced, but I'm sure that the planned German settlement was one way of achieving that overarching goal.

I have not located my ancestors' arrival manifest. From what I know, they left Poland around 1870 as a family of three: Michael Pieczynski, wife Anna Busse, and son Henry. I have found the church records for these ancestors and interestingly, Henry was born "Andreas" which makes me wonder why he took the name Henry in America. After Poland, they show up in about 1871 with the birth of their second child Marianna in New York. From there they went on to Indiana (one of their children was born in Michigan City, BTW), and then on to Wisconsin where much of the family (including myself) still reside. Considering the second child being born in New York, I assumed that is where they entered. Family Search has indexed some of the arrivals in New York but their search engine doesn't show any results for my ancestors. I'm not sure what percentage of the records have been indexed, so I will start a manual search soon.

Thanks for the information on Kolybki. Do you know when those censuses took place? I Googled some photos of houses from the period as you suggested and it does appear they are larger structures. Still, 18 people in one dwelling seems a bit much for our standards today. I wonder if the Moszczenskis are still a prominent family in the area today?

It is good to hear the story about your grandfather and how "birthrights" were thought of in those days. I often wondered how important biological relationships were back then. If the records we uncover today truly reflect the "bloodline" that we are searching for in our genealogical quests. I mentioned my ancestor Michael Pieczynski. His father was Kacper Pieczynski. Kacper's marriage record has his name recorded as "Gasparus Melchiorem Kopczynski, alias Pieczynski" and his parents are recorded as Pieczynskis. This is what prompted me to ponder adoption and stepparents. Do you know anything about the use of aliases during that time?

Thanks for your input, it has added more vivid colors to the painting that is my family history!

Justin
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Henryk
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Post Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2022 2:53 pm      Post subject:
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Big population drop: Population By Year/Einwohner 1888: 154 1905: 115
http://www.kartenmeister.com/preview/City.asp?CitNum=26372
German Name Kolybki
Alternate Name 1: Hagenau, Gut
Alternate Name 2: Kolybek
Alternate Name 3: Kotybki 1788
Polish/Russian Name Agro-Kam Kolybki
Kreis/County Wongrowitz
German Province Posen
Today's Province Wielkopolskie
Location East 17°23' North 52°51'
Google Map Google Maps (Kolybki)
Map Number 3170
Location Description This village/town located 2.6 km and 360 degrees from Niehof, which is known today as Niemczyn
Lutheran Parish Lekno 1905
Catholic Parish Lekno 1905
Standesamt/Civil Registry Mokronos 1905
Gemeindelexikon/Town Index V-40-166
Population By Year/Einwohner 1888: 154 1905: 115
Remarks Shows in 1788 20 Rauchfänge. 1912 Page 63
Would you like to contact someone who is also interested in finding out information about this city?
One posted:
E-Mail Addresses Family Names
[email protected] Cegielski
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dnowicki
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Post Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2022 7:26 am      Post subject:
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Justin Baker wrote:
Morning Dave,

I have often wondered if there were any contributing factors leading our ancestors to leave their homeland other than the hopes for finding better work. It can't be easy leaving the place you love knowing that all of your descendants will be citizens of another country and that the homeland (and language) might one day be forgotten. To piggy back on the cultural persecution you mentioned - I read also that the powers-that-be placed restrictions on the Polish language. I'm not sure exactly how that was enforced, but I'm sure that the planned German settlement was one way of achieving that overarching goal.

I have not located my ancestors' arrival manifest. From what I know, they left Poland around 1870 as a family of three: Michael Pieczynski, wife Anna Busse, and son Henry. I have found the church records for these ancestors and interestingly, Henry was born "Andreas" which makes me wonder why he took the name Henry in America. After Poland, they show up in about 1871 with the birth of their second child Marianna in New York. From there they went on to Indiana (one of their children was born in Michigan City, BTW), and then on to Wisconsin where much of the family (including myself) still reside. Considering the second child being born in New York, I assumed that is where they entered. Family Search has indexed some of the arrivals in New York but their search engine doesn't show any results for my ancestors. I'm not sure what percentage of the records have been indexed, so I will start a manual search soon.

Thanks for the information on Kolybki. Do you know when those censuses took place? I Googled some photos of houses from the period as you suggested and it does appear they are larger structures. Still, 18 people in one dwelling seems a bit much for our standards today. I wonder if the Moszczenskis are still a prominent family in the area today?

It is good to hear the story about your grandfather and how "birthrights" were thought of in those days. I often wondered how important biological relationships were back then. If the records we uncover today truly reflect the "bloodline" that we are searching for in our genealogical quests. I mentioned my ancestor Michael Pieczynski. His father was Kacper Pieczynski. Kacper's marriage record has his name recorded as "Gasparus Melchiorem Kopczynski, alias Pieczynski" and his parents are recorded as Pieczynskis. This is what prompted me to ponder adoption and stepparents. Do you know anything about the use of aliases during that time?

Thanks for your input, it has added more vivid colors to the painting that is my family history!

Justin


Hi Justin,

Henryk makes a good point with the data on the drop in population in Kołybki but even more telling would be to consider surname shifts in the village—something not available in online data. I say this based on what took place in two of the parishes where my ancestors lived for generations in what was German Poland. Prior to 1870 the same family names appear in the parish records through the generations but between 1870 and 1890 almost all of those family names disappear and are replaced by more Germanic surnames. What happened is they all took Horace Greeley’s advice and went West to America. Here is an example. My maternal great grandfather from German Poland was born into a family of 9 boys and 1 girl. 4 of the boys died in infancy, which was not at all unusual at the time. He was the youngest of the 5 boys who survived to adulthood and his sister was the youngest of all the children. When his father died in 1876 the parish priest entered a sort of “obituary” into the death register by listing his surviving widow and children and where they were living. Three of the boys were still in Europe but 2 were listed as living in America. By 1886 all the boys and their families were in America. The only family still in Poland consisted of my widowed 2x great grandmother and her daughter, husband & children. By that point almost all the old family names had disappeared from the parish records. In 1890 2x great grandmother heard someone say “Jedzie boat!” (Ha, ha) and at age 78 she immigrated with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren to the USA. I’m sure that was not easy for her but what was left for her in Europe? It wasn’t like she was leaving her friends and family. Everyone she knew, both family and friends, had left her and now she was following them.

A part of the emigration phenomenon involves a joint marketing agreement between a German steamship company and an American railroad. The North German Lloyd Steamship Company (Norddeutscher Lloyd), had entered into an agreement with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1867 as a joint marketing venture to facilitate the immigrant trade. The North German Lloyd Company agreed to send ships to the two new piers built by the B&O at Locust Point in the Port of Baltimore The B&O terminal was at the end of the piers and the railroad built special new and larger passenger cars designed for the immigrant trade. Shipping company agents made the rounds of villages in German Poland offering "package deals" for both steamship and railroad transportation from Europe to cities in the United States—especially those in the northern Midwest served by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Some North German Lloyd passenger ships departed from Bremen, Germany and sailed to the Port of New York, where passengers who had purchased tickets for that destination disembarked. The ship then departed from New York and sailed down the Atlantic coast bound for Baltimore. As those ships entered the Chesapeake Bay immigration officials boarded and usually were able to process the immigrants through customs before the ship docked in the Port of Baltimore. The immigrants then disembarked and walked through the pier to the B&O terminal at the land end of the pier. There they were either able to board a train for their ultimate destination or would wait in the terminal until the train they needed was ready to depart. All in all it was a smooth operation and it worked well for my great grandparents who entered at the Port of Baltimore and hopped on the B&O and took the train to Chicago where the train station was less than ½ mile from where 3 of my great grandfather’s brothers lived.

I’m not saying that any of the above resembles the experiences of your ancestors but it is something to consider. Indexed early arrivals on Family Search is really rather hit or miss but a decent source for early ships’ manifests is Ancestry. That is where I found the Baltimore manifest. It is a subscription site and I’ve never had a subscription—too frugal aka cheap to spend cash on that. (I spent enough on the genealogy hobby renting Family Search microfilms in the days before online digitized records.) Our local public library has free access to Ancestry and that is what I used. It is just another available resource.
The Słownik geograficzny was a massive undertaking and the 15 individual volumes were published between 1880 and 1914 and since the entry was found in Vol. 4, which was published in 1883 the data was compiled prior to that date but it is not clear exactly when. Sometimes entries will include the year or years from which the data comes but that was not the case for your entry. My guess is that the figures were from the mid 1870s, but that is only a guess.

About the alternate surname...by the close of the 18th Century most Polish Christian peasants were using surnames but those names were rather fluid and hence the alternate surname Kopczynski. Assuredly it had nothing to do with adoption. Another example from my ancestry. During the second half of the 18th Century one of my ancestors worked at the trade of a carriage/wagon builder (stelmach) and he and his family used the surname Stelmaszek. His given name was Kajetan. After he died in 1804 his widow and children continued to use the surname Stelmaszek until about 1815. They then switched to Kajetaniak and so for a brief time were known as Stelmaszek alias Kajetaniak. That was not a unique situation. A substantial number of individuals used aliases although sometimes the reason for the alias was not as easy to determine as in the above example.

Just in case you don’t have a copy of the actual record for Kacper’s marriage it is attached. BTW The fact that he had two given names, Kacper & Melchior, is a good hint that he was likely born in early January on or near January 6 considering naming customs from the time he would have been born (c. 1791). His bride’s given name was omitted by the priest. (He entered that she was a maiden and her surname was Nowak but her given name got lost in the shuffle.)

That is all for now.

Dave



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Justin Baker



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Post Posted: Fri Mar 11, 2022 11:47 am      Post subject:
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Hello Dave,

Sorry for the late response to your post - I didn't receive or didn't see the email notification that it had been posted.

Thanks for sharing the information about your family and their immigration to the US. Have you been able to locate any living relatives in Poland (from the other side of your family, of course)? I uploaded my DNA Gedcom file to MyHeritage.com and matched with a bunch of people in Poland. After sending out a dozen messages I found somebody who had Pieczynskis in his tree who, as it turns out, is my 4th cousin. That is how I connected my line in the US with my 3x great grandfather Kacper (that and a number of other supporting records).

I have used Ancestry extensively. It was definitely a good tool in the early stages of my research as it allows you to review and add many people and records to your tree in a relatively short time. I don't have a subscription there anymore as I have already reviewed all the relevant "hints" that are available. I searched many times for the passenger list of my 2x great grandfather Michael Pieczynski but to no avail. I hope the record was not lost and that a manual search will uncover it.

I'm really happy you shared the Slownik Geograficzny. There are many villages listed in these church records that either no longer exist or have changed names. Sometimes a Google search will not yield any results while the Slownik will.

Thanks for the record of Kacper's marriage. There's another issue, albeit a small one. The family name on the marriage record is written as "Piesczynski" whereas it is recorded on dozens of other records as "Pieczynski". In your eyes is that a significant difference? Also, you indicated that Kacper (Kopczynski) having his alias being the same name as his parents' surname (Pieczynski) probably doesn't suggest guardianship/adoption. The way this record appears, would you think it is sufficient evidence to assume that Marcin and Marianna Pieczynski were Kacper's biological parents?

What is the occasion that took place early Jan - Jan 6th? I actually didn't know previously that Kacper and Melchior were the names of two of the wise men (thanks Google). Searching through the church records of Kozielsko, Juncewo, and Lekno I noticed on several occasions there were a number of children born on the same day or week who were given the exact same name. I assumed it was just a "keeping up with the Joneskis" phenomenon but now it makes sense that there were probably religious observances that contributed to why a name was picked.

Again sorry for the delayed response!

Justin
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