Author: Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

Zalewski. Not a name you see everyday. Americanized, which is quite common. Though, not very hard to pronounce, some people just shred it because it ends in “ski.” We pronounce it zuh-loo-ski, but I’m told the original pronunciation is something like shuh-lef-ski due to the polish version of these letters.

According to a book on surnames, Zalewski comes from a topographic name for someone that lived on a flood plain or bay. (Leave it to my polish ancestors to live on a flood plain. No wonder we get a bad rap.) This is also similar to the Zaleski name, which means someone who ‘lived on the other side of wood‘. So, all I need to do now is go to Poland and check everywhere that is near water or near trees to find my surname’s origin.

Full Surname Info Page

The farthest back I can go on my Zalewski line is to Frank & Anna Zalewski. They would be my great-great grandparents. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about this couple, except what I can gather through research and my grandmother. My grandfather passed away before I could ask him about the Zalewski family.

From what I can gather, Frank Zalewski, Sr., his wife Anna, and their two oldest children – Martha and Angeline, emigrated to the US from the Baltic port of Danzig (Gdańsk) and arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, in about 1890. The couple’s third child, Mary, was born in Baltimore in March 1891 (Though, according to my research, the census says she was born in Ohio.) The family then traveled west to Nebraska and east, from there, to the Polish community in Chicago. (I have not yet found hard evidence of this, but this is what I received from a fellow Zalewski researcher.) By May, 1892, the family had settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This is backed-up according to an interview conducted in April 1980 with Frank Gierszewski, Jr, a grandson of Frank and Anna Zalewski by the same researcher. He indicated his grandparents left Poland from the Baltic port of Danzig and entered the United States through the port of Baltimore, Maryland.

There is some confusion, however, as to the area of Poland in which Frank and Anna Zalewski resided prior to their emigration to the United States in 1890. During a telephone interview with their granddaughter, Caroline (Walczak) Sullivan, conducted in January 1995, she indicated that Frank and Anna lived somewhere in the province of Poznan — an area of Poland then under German jurisdiction and known as South Prussia. This would correspond with information supplied on the death certificate and in the newspaper obituary of Frank Zalewski, Sr in 1941. Although neither source mentions Poznan as his place of birth, both list Germany as his country of origin. (Much of western Poland, including Poznan Province, became German territory after the three partitions of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century.)

There is, however, a conflicting story as to the area of Poland from which Frank and Anna originated. During a 1993 telephone interview with another granddaughter, Irene (Zalewski) Lutzenberger, she indicated that her late father (my great grandfather, Joseph Zalewski) had always said his parents came from eastern Poland — an area then under Russian rule. Irene’s father also stated that when his parents entered the United States, their surname was spelled “Salefsky,” thereby reflecting the Russian influence. Although no official documents can be found to verify this, it is interesting to note that in the 1934 obituary of another grandchild, Norbert Cybela, the maiden name of Norbert’s mother is spelled “Zalesky.”

It is hypothetically possible that Frank Zalewski, Sr is, indeed, born and raised in Russian Poland and, at some later point in his life, moved to the German section in which Poznan Province was located. Although traveling across political borders was difficult in 19th-century Europe, to say the least, it was not impossible. In Russian Poland, for example, all debts to the government, including military service in the czar’s army, had to be fulfilled before travel documents would be issued and borders would be crossed. Two years of active military service followed by two years in the reserve forces was required of all males when they reached their twentieth birthday. In Frank’s case, that would have accounted for the years 1878 through 1882. We know he married Anna Lindner (a German) in January 1885, which means he probably relocated from Russian-held, eastern Poland to the German-held, western area sometime between 1882 and 1884. This, of course, is only speculation but would explain the Russian “sky” ending on the surname.

I’ve spent a great deal of my research time trying to find any more information on this family. Unfortunately, getting records from 18th century Poland/Prussia is very difficult, if not impossible. As always, my hopes go out to my readers that I will run across a connection with someone else’s family. Contrary to my popular belief, Zalewski is a somewhat common name in the United States, and even Wisconsin, but I’ve not yet been able to connect my family line to any of them. I find it hard to believe that Frank was an only child, but who knows?

I found a nice collection of Genealogy-related videos ala YouTube at a site called RootsTube. I watched one on “Writing Your Family History” and it was very interesting. I am linking it here, but you can watch the rest or them (and more) at their website.

Go see the rest at RootsTube. To find more videos, click on the “Change the Channel” link. It took me a bit to figure that out. via The Genealogue.

I’d like to compile the largest database of Zalewski family trees this side of Poland. The first step in this process is to collect these family trees. So, I’m asking all of you with Zalewski family trees out there to send them my way. As long as you send them in a format that I can read, it doesn’t matter to me what it is (GEDCOM, Family Tree Maker, XML, Text files, etc.)

Contact me using my quick and easy contact form and we’ll work on getting your data into this project.

I started a database of some of the Zalewski information that I have. I got most of the information from a quick record search, including census records. View the current database.

I am no longer adding to the database, but I did start The Zalewski Project website, which has similar goals.

Some nice links for today:

  • Shorpy – a photo blog about what life a hundred years ago was like: How people looked and what they did for a living, back when not having a job usually meant not eating.
  • Technology Creates Extreme Genealogists – Internet genealogy can be extremely productive, agreed Dick Eastman, who writes an online genealogy newsletter. But it depends greatly on where your ancestors came from.
  • Geni.com – Everyone’s Related

I’m back again or am planning on it at least. I know, I know, you’ve heard that before. Though, I have a lot more free time lately and I’ve already been doing some more research.

I actually found some more leads and doing some more research using my Ancestry.com subscription. I have to admit that their new “My Ancestry” section is wonderful. After I uploaded my tree to it, it automatically helps in searching and attaching sources to my family members. You can also use it to connect to user’s trees together, etc. It’s like Family Tree Maker’s online search function, but a lot better.

I’ve been doing some more research on my wife’s tree. This section of family seems to come from the New York/Connecticut area (if I connected it right.) Does anyone have any good sources to use for research in those areas in the early 1800s and late 1700s?

I merged the two trees together, so there is now only one tree on the website. It’s much easier to search and browse now.

I logged back into Ancestry and found some new things that they have implemented. I’m really impressed with their “Personal Tree” option. What you do, like a lot of other sites, it upload your GEDCOM to it. It’s puts it into tree form, which you can share or not. But, the nice part is that it automatically searches the Ancestry site for matches. This makes it much easier that requiring you to type in the search info every time you want to find something. It now automatically takes into account birth, death, marriage, spouse, etc for you. It’s very nice. If you have an Ancestry subscription, give it a try, though I’m not even sure you need a subscription to use it.

Oooh, a post title with a double-meaning.

Well, for one, there have been a few additions to the Zalewski Surname Project over at Family Tree DNA. Thanks to everyone who has joined! If you’re a Zalewski or related to one, see what you’re missing by looking at my Zalewski Surname DNA Study page.

Also, everyone can welcome Darcy Zalewski to the family. Darcy is my new wife and she is so excited to have a new, more-complicated name to use. Oh, don’t forget about being last in line for everything now.

I really need to get back into doing some more research on my family tree, but I just haven’t had the time. I also don’t want to waste my subscriptions, because you know how expensive they are.

Sorry that I haven’t been updating this site. It’s been an extremely busy month and I haven’t had much time to do much else. I don’t think that I mentioned it yet, but I’ll be getting married on May 27th. So, everything these last few weeks has been about that. That also means that I’ll probably be adding another family tree to mine to make it easier for us to keep it in once place. There should be more updates once this is all complete.

I ran across this via Lifehacker. It looks to be a website that allows you to create a “family website” including family trees, photos, calendar, and maps. It’s called JotSpot Family Site.

Use our quick family tree builder to see all the family generations at a glance. Never forget the names of your cousins’ children again.

It looks like a neat site. The design is very clean and easy-to-use. I have not signed up for a site, since..obviously..I already have a site. But, for the novice family researcher, this may be a great way to get everyone involved and up-to-date. If any of you start a seperate Zalewski site, let me know and I’ll link to it.

Speaking of Zalewski’s, there haven’t been any signups to the Zalewski Surname Study. If you’re a Zalewski, please read all about it. This could help many family’s research into the Zalewski surname origins.