2. The long journey and unsolved mystery.

Here is where the mystery begins.  Wladyslaw Penczak, the oldest son of Jan and Catharina, was born in 1891.  Jan, Catharina and Wladyslaw Penczak arrived in the USA at Castle Garden in April 1891.    According to US Census Records and Jan’s Naturalization application, Wladislaw’s birthplace is listed as Russia.   Jan (Johan) Pecak’s passport has entries written in Russian.  Zenon e-mailed a friend who is an educated expert in the Russian language and who has helped others in PolishOrigins Forum in translations of old Cyrillic hand-written records. Ryszard quickly replied.

The most important facts we learned were:

  • The passport was issued in Ropczyce on March 20, 1885.
  • Jan (Ivan) Pecak was going to visit his mother Maria who was then 50 years of age.
  • The passport (or rather visa in it) was stamped on 5/17 April 1885 upon entry to Volochisk .
  • Later annotation in the passport reads that the bearer of passport was allowed unhindered travel abroad. The bearer was: Ivan/Jan Pecak and his wife Katarina. This authentic notation was valid for three weeks from the day of issuance. This allowance was issued in the City of Kamenets (in Polish Kamieniec), Podolia, March 3, 1891.
  • The final visa stamp, the square one, states: Upon departure, presented in Alexandrowo, 28 March 1891.

From these facts we can depict the most probable whole journey of my grandparents before they left Bremerhaven harbor in Germany on ship for the USA. See map below:

View Larger Map
They covered about 550 miles (or about 900 km) between March 3 and 28 from Kamieniec to Alexandrowo (most probably today’s Aleksandrów Kujawski which in 1800s was border town between Russia and Prussia). Then they traveled, most probably by train, to Bremerheaven harbor and on 21 April, 1891, they were already at Castle Garden, New York! And all of that with a little child who, according to passenger list, was only 10 months old when they landed in Castle Garden!!!

Part of the mystery is did Jan and Catharina marry in Russia?

Where in Russia was Wladyslaw born?

Why was Mariana Pecak in Russia?  In the 1890’s it was very rare for a woman, let alone a single woman, to move to an area far away from her family.

On Jan Pecak’s Application for Naturalization, there is a statement indicating the village where Wladislaw was born.  The name of the village is practically unreadable.   Again Zenon sent out a call for help deciphering the name of the village and there was one reply.  See it here: https://polishorigins.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2616 .


We spent four days with Zenon which included many hours in the Diocesan Archives Center in Tarnow. Here is a photo of Zenon and me at lunch one of those days, a photo of me in front of St. Anthony of Padua Church which is currently undergoing exterior preservation, and another photo of the church before renovation work began.

Zenon and me in Tarnow
Church in Nagoszyn
Church in Nagoszyn, side view.

I am slowly working through all the information we accumulated on the Pecaks. We visited Nagoszyn which is an attractive village. Through Zenon’s resourcefulness, he found there were still two Pecak families in Nagoszyn. Zenon knocked on the door and explained to Wladyslawa Pecak the research we were doing and she immediately invited us in and brought her husband, Josef, from his work in the barn. Over coffee and cake we discussed what we had found. We could not find a direct family connection, but it is very possible there is one. I have been e-mailing with Wladyslawa and Josef’s daughter, Anna, since our return.

All in all, it was a great experience and I was a bit overwhelmed with all we found and just being in the villages where my grandparents were born and lived. If anyone has any hints on the name of the village where my uncle Wladyslaw was born and maybe where Marianna Pecak was living, please send your suggestion in comments below this post or reply to the Forum thread here: https://polishorigins.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2616 . Thank you!

Alexandra Lewandowski Coughlin

One comment

  1. What a wonderful experience for you! Wasn’t it wonderful to stand in the very locations that your ancestors stood all those years ago? It brings tears to my eyes to read how the Pecak’s invited you into their home. I hope you find a connection – they sound like wonderful people. My tour with Zenon was just 1 year ago – I wish I could go back tomorrow! Shellie

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