Of course our trip included a visit to the Catholic Church in Lachowo that served the villages of Rydzewo-Świątki (birthplace of Rajmund Wierzbicki) and Kumelsk (where he and his mother were living in 1909). The current building was constructed in 1877 which means it is the exact building where my grandfather was christened and attended the first 17 years of his life. It was an amazing feeling to walk into this church and realize that this distant church would have been such an important part of the lives of my many relatives with the names Wierzbicki, Dąbrowski, and Sadowski.
Since the church was locked, the priest had to get the key to let us in to take pictures. Not only is the church old (by American standards) but so is the huge key!
Zenon and I knew the birth, marriage, and death records no longer existed for this parish; but because Zenon believes in researching every possibility, no matter how unlikely, we visited the church office. On our second attempt, the priest was in and allowed us to look through the ONLY 2 books with historical records from the time period we needed. As it turned out, they were conscription books compiled for use in locating boys who could be conscripted to serve in the Russian Army. What luck – one of the books covered boys born in 1892, the year Rajmund Wierzbicki was born!
According to the parish priest, many of the church records were burned in a fire that occurred in 1997. Additionally, no records from this parish were ever microfilmed by the LDS project. Also, the state archives in Lomza said they too had no records for Lachowo. This would be devastating to anyone doing family research!
The two books the church had from the time period I needed were two Russian Army conscription books. The two covers are shown here. The process apparently worked this way: Russian officials would go into a church and copy the birth records for boys. They would then learn and record information about them in order to know when boys in the area would be old enough to be forced to serve in the Russian Army. It seems the people in the area were interviewed about the boys so the information was sometimes sketchy. Zenon said he had never seen conscription books in a church, making our discovery even more amazing.
The family never knew he had a middle name! This document says he was born 7 February 1892 in the village of Rydzewo. We knew his birthday as 29 January. Mother listed as Barbara Wierzbicki . Father’s name not given. Location of Rajmund ? unknown. It seems that Barbara was not interviewed since her maiden name (Dąbrowska) was not given. My guess would be that she left the area not long after her son went to America. The family story of Rajmund going to America to stay out of the Russian Army was proven true with the location of this record!