Finding an ancestor is quite difficult, especially for those of us whose ancestors came long before the time when the U.S. Citizenship papers required specific information on the town in Poland from which the ancestor came.
My story which begins in 1976 might be of some help to others in their search.
My great-grandfather, Jan Marszalkiewicz and his older brother, Andrzej, emigrated to Duluth, Minnesota, in 1872. All I knew about their life in Poland, through my Dad, was that they were from “Poznan”, and that Jan had served in the Prussian army in the Franco-Prussian War, had been at Paris at the end in 1871 (date determined by history books) and soon after emigrated to the U.S.
U.S. and Minnesota census documents confirmed this information. Andrzej, now called Andrew Marshall, is listed on the 1875 Minnesota Census in Duluth with his wife and the two children who emigrated with them. Jan, now called John, didn’t appear until the 1880 Census after he was married and it is not known where he was in the interim.
>I was fortunate that the family remained in Duluth and I did not have to follow them to different cities across the United States as so many did. Between census, city directory, church, government, newspaper and other records, I have been able to put together a quite comprehensive record of the families. But I still was not able to determine from where they had come.
Naturalization (Citizenship) papers, the “Declaration of Intent”, determined that both brothers were in Duluth by the Summer of 1872. The many volumes of the “Germans to America” book series gave me the name of the ship that they had sailed on and its arrival date in New York City and I retrieved that information. The only information of value on that record was that they originally were headed to Detroit. In 1872, Duluth was a “boom town? and probably job recruiters diverted the brothers to the Minnesota city before they could settle in Detroit.
From then on, I was at a brick wall. But I listed what I did know on Rootsweb, the LDS site, Ancestry and the other websites in those days and joined a lot of web forums to seek possible clues as to where my ancestors had lived.
Since there was a goodly number of Poles in Duluth and they had formed their own parish by 1883, I attempted to find out from them where their ancestors had lived (few knew) and I helped some with some aspects of their search.
I stayed in contact with some of them, from time to time learning a bit, and teaching a bit. I got to be somewhat well known as a contributor to the St. Louis County, Minnesota, GenWeb site as an expert on the Poles of Duluth.
Someone once (about 1990) informed me that that an Ignasiak family (Andrew’s wife’s maiden name was Ignasiak) has lived in a town called Przysieka. A map search told me that there were nine or ten tiny towns of that name. I really didn’t feel like looking at that much microfilm so I didn’t do anything about it.
>A few years later, maybe 1992 or 93 someone sent me a photocopy of a citizenship document from Duluth for a man named “Mallerskiewicz.” This was in about 1918, after World War I. (45 years after my ancestors had arrived in the same city). The document said he was from Lechlin. Even though the name might be a bad spelling of “Marszalkiewicz”, it had been so much later that it seemed like a long shot so I didn’t do anything about it.
Then, a few months later, a man from Duluth saw a post I had made on a genealogy forum and he recognized my name from an earlier time when I had helped him with something and he sent me an email saying he thought he had found my Ignasiak ancestors. Well, I remembered the man and recalled that I was suspicious of some of his genealogical assumptions. He tended to assume that people who lived fifty miles or more distant from each other might meet and marry. Well, I know matchmakers were used, but I don’t believe that you can assume that a couple living that far apart would marry.
But he gave me the name of the town: Lechlin! I looked at a map and saw that near Lechlin was a tiny town of Przysieka, one of the 10 of that name I had ignored some years earlier. I figured it was too much of a coincidence and so I rented the microfilm from the LDS and within one half hour of my first visit to a Family History Center I found my ancestor and his brother, their parents and six other brothers and sisters in the tiny village of Budziszewko between Rogozno and Skoki, northeast of the city of Poznan.
Luck, yes, but staying active on genealogical forums, helping people, keeping scraps of paper that might not be important, but might be, also and staying with the search all allowed me to find my family in Poland. Computers and email are very helpful, too.
A few years later I made contact with a student in Rogozno who drove over to Budziszewko one weekend and asked a few people if they had ever heard of the Marszalkiewicz family. None had. So after 130 years, World War I, World War II, major border changes and communism, little is known of my family.
But Marszalkiewicz is a fairly rare name and I am in the process of emailing and writing people of that name to see if they might have relatives who once lived in Budziszewko.