Stearns/Schumacher Family Letter

Many years ago I found an old letter, written in German, in my grandmother’s family collection. I tried to translate it myself a bit but found it very hard to read the German script. At one point, my dad knew someone who said they could translate it and copies were given to them, but they did not translate it and the copies were returned.

Many years later, I checked into the WikiTree Translators groups and asked if anyone had some spare time to translate it. Not too long after asking, someone responded with a wonderful translation of the letter.

It is dated 11 Apr 1923, not long after Germany lost World War I. It’s a fascinating view into history on how things were in the area in the early 1920s, how tough it is dealing with French occupation in certain areas, and how expensive everything was after the war.

CategoriesFamily TreePolishZalewski

With A Little Help From My Friends

As I mentioned in an update post last week, I was able to take back my Zalewski line back a few more generations. Here’s how that went down.

A few years back, I had found Frank and Anna’s marriage record in the Polish Civil Archives. That record listed his parent’s names and his birthplace which was listed as Krottoschin. This got me one more generation back, but with little more info besides names and a location.

Using sites like Kartenmeister and Google Maps, I quickly was able to find the location and it’s modern equivalent. It is now Krotoszyny, Biskupiec, Warminsko-Mazurskie, Poland. Not be confused with the more popular one in the Poznan area that I kept running into.

What I couldn’t find were any church records for this location. Civil records were available, but those didn’t start until 1874. Frank was born in 1858. I’ve always had great luck at finding record listings for almost any location using FamilySearch’s Catalog, no matter how small. For some reason Krottoschin wasn’t even listed on their site. I was at a loss and disappointed.

CategoriesAmanuensis MondayPolishZalewski

The Marriage of Frank and Anna

Since finding their marriage record that I talked about in my last post, I’ve done my best to transcribe and translate it to the best of my ability (and Google Translate.) Here is what I was able to translate, with some notes within and more notes after.

Nr. 8

Schwenten on the 2nd of November one thousand eight hundred and eighty-four

Before the undersigned registrar released today for the purpose of marriage

  1. Tagloehner(?) (day-laborer) known as Franz Zalewski, Catholic religion, born the fourth of October the year on thousand eight hundred fifty-eight in Krotoschin in Loebau, resident of Gottschalk in Graduenz.

    Son of (?) Michael Zalewski and (?) (?) Anna born Muschowska(?), residing in Gottschalk

  2. Known as Anna Lindner, catholic religion, born the fifteenth October (incorrect? baptism record is in Sept 1865) of the year one thousand eight hundred sixty-five in Schwenten in Graudenz, residing in Schwenten in Graudenz.

    Daughter of (?) Johann Lindner and (?) (?) Eva born Sonnenfeld residing at Schwenten.

Witnesses were drawn and published:

  1. The (?) known as Johann Lindner, 48 (?) years old, residing in Schwenten
  2. The (?) known as Franz Gurski, 36 (?) years old, residing in Schwenten

In the presence of the witnesses, the clerk of the court addressed to the betrothed the question individually and one after the other:

Whether they know they want marriage with each other. The fiancée replied to this question in the affirmative, and made the statement of the civil servant that he was now giving it up to the law of the law

Presented, approved and (?)

XXX (?) Franz Zalewski
XXX (?) Anna Zalewski born Lindner
XXX (?) Johann Lindner
XXX (?) Franz Gurski

A few notes here. It describes Frank’s birthday as 4 October 1858, which is probably correct. I’ve always had 4 Sep 1858, but I honestly don’t know the source of that specific date. I’ve never seen it myself, though the year is probably correct as that has been found in multiple places. I also now have Frank’s place of birth, which is a nearby town named Krotoschin in 1884. Today it is Krotoszyny, Biskupiec, Warminsko-Mazurskie, Poland, just northeast of their marriage location. I don’t know if Frank’s mother’s last name is Muschowska. It’s a bit tough to read.

All of the question marks (?) in the transcription are words I could not make out. Lowercase letters like e, n, and r look very similar in German Gothic script especially when the writer is a bit sloppy. They all look like one squiggly line with a few peaks and valleys. Most of the missing words are the occupations of the individuals. The three X’s at the bottom near the four names is probably similar to “his mark” in other documents stating that the person could not write their name.

For whatever reason, it looks like Anna’s birth date is wrong. I’ve previously found her baptism record in the church records and it was from September 1865. This states she was born in October.

The only other new item is the name of one of the witnesses, Franz Gurski. Not sure who that is, so I’ve been looking for the Gurski name in the rest of the civil records. I found a few birth records for Franz and his wife. I’ve also found a few more Zalewski/Salewski records and I’ve made note of them. They’re probably, or possibly, related to Frank Zalewski. Unfortunately, the civil records only go back to 1874, so I will need to track down the church records to see if I can find Frank’s baptism record in Krotoschin.

CategoriesBig NewsFeaturedPolishZalewski

Zalewski Brick Wall. Status: Crumbling

One of the most solid, longest standing brick walls in my personal genealogy research has come down this week. This wall has stood since I started researching my family in 1999, though I didn’t heavily pursue it until a bit later. I now have the names of my paternal 3rd-great-grandparents on my Zalewski line. Meet Michael & Anna (Muschowska) Zalewski.

The path to breaking down this wall started as a lot of them do, just doing random searching and browsing. I occasionally visit most of the sites on my “Genealogy Community” link list on the sidebar. I almost always visit Al’s site at Al’s Polish-American Genealogy. I know Al personally since we used to attend a local Polish research group for a few years. Al works very deep in Polish records and blogs in detail about what he found and how he found it. He had a post recently talking about the records he has on a specific individual and in it he mentioned a few sites he used. One of these sites was one he called the Genealogy in Archives website. I googled it and visited the only Polish one I saw.

CategoriesGenetic GenealogyGermanPolish

Ancestry DNA Genetic Communities

Yesterday, the big news across the Genetic Genealogy community was the release of Ancestry DNA’s Genetic Communities. According to Ancestry, these communities are built like this:

We find Genetic Communitiesâ„¢ by looking at a network of DNA connections we build using millions of AncestryDNA members in our database. When we build a network like this using millions of AncestryDNA members with billions of DNA relationships between them, we find groups of people in the network that have more DNA matches to each other than to people in other parts of the network. We call these groups Genetic Communities. We use a popular network analysis method called community detection to discover them.

So, it’s sort of a mix of DNA matches along with information from the millions of family trees built on the site. Together they can find a community in the more recent past. Previously, we only had ethnicity estimates to work with, but those were usually more broad and much deeper in the past. For example, here are my ethnicity results.

That Scandinavia one still confuses me a bit. but who knows where my deep ancestry came from. Those Scandinavians were known to travel.

My Communities

I have two active Genetic Communities, as do most people it seems. My first one is Germans in Brandenburg & Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (very likely >95%) which matches up very well with my known ancestry. The other one is Poles in Pomerania, which also matches up very well though their confidence is only at 20% for this one at the moment.

The German community points to this area, which is the original location of a lot of my German ancestry. The Pomeranian community points to a majority of northern Poland, which also has a lot of my ancestry. As always, click the images for a larger view.


You can also break down the communities into time periods to find out more information about what happened in that area during those years. If I open up the time period when most of my ancestors migrated, it talks about that exact thing and also talk about how they came to the Wisconsin area.

So far these communities have been helpful and surprisingly specific and on the right track. Based on a lot of the messy, incorrect trees I see on the site I’d expect some skew, but I imagine those are not the majority. If you’re looking for much more insight on these communities, check out the great post over at The Genetic GenealogistAncestry has also put together a short video introducing the feature.

Categories2017 ProjectBelgianDutch

Jacobus Van Parijs (1810-1848)

The eighth ancestor in my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project for 2017 is my maternal 4th-great-grandfather, Jacobus Bernardus VAN PARIJS. I am related to him through my mother â†’ her mother (Marjorie DeBROUX) â†’ her mother (Mildred VAN PRICE) â†’ her father (Peter VAN PRICE/VAN PARIJS) â†’ his father (Charles VAN PARIJS) â†’ his father (Jacobus VAN PARIJS).

The Van Parijs line was one that was difficult to find until I found it, if that makes sense. I started with my great-grandmother’s maiden name of Van Price and that’s all I had for years. I could never find more information. Then one day I ran across a forum posting somewhere that stated that Price and Parijs are interchangeable since they have the same sound. Once I starting searching for Van Parijs, everything fell into place. Van Parijs roughly translates to “of Paris” which makes me assume the line originates somewhere in France, which makes sense since the the line is found in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Jacobus Bernardus Van Parijs was born circa 1810 in Watervliet, East Flanders, Belgium which is adjacent to the Dutch border. His parents were Phillipus and Anna (JUNIS) VAN PARIJS. On 21 May 1835, he married Janneke DEES in the IJzendijke, Zeeland, Netherlands which is on the southern side of the province. Their son, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Charles, was born in July 1846, the last of their 5 children.

Jacobus died not too longer after Charles’ birth on 1 January 1848 at the age of 38. I have no specifics on his death besides the record of it, so I don’t know what took him that young. In 1848, there were many diseases or accidents that could have happened. His son Charles is my main Dutch connection and my immigrant ancestor who took his family to America in around 1874.

In terms of DNA, I have not found any direct connections that descend from this line specifically, so it is unknown.

Photo: IJzendijke, central square. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 by Michielverbeek.

CategoriesPolishSlownik Geograficzny TranslationZalewski

Slownik Geograficzny Translation – Gocza?ki

I decided to update one of the first Slownik Geograficzny translations that I did for the town that my great-great-grandfather, Frank J Zalewski, resided in when he was married in 1882Gocza?ki.

Gocza?ki is currently located in Gmina Łasin, GrudziÄ…dz County, Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-central Poland.

The translation is a work-in-progress and is obviously not completely perfect. I am grateful for some help from Al at Al’s Polish-American Genealogy, who has translated many entries himself. I will mark the words or phrases that I am confident are wrong or are not even translated as I could not find any information on them, with italics. The rest, while they may not flow very well, are mostly right and just need some small tweaking. Some of the diacritics on the letters may not have copied over correctly, I will fix those if  I see them. Any errors in the translations are completely my own.

A few terms that may be confusing are: morg: a unit of land measurement; in this area 1 morg = 0.631 acres – wlók: a unit of land measurement used in Poland, was generally about 30 morgs, but this can vary, depending on what part of Poland and what time-frame one is concerned with. Generally 30 morgs was considered a full-sized farm, big enough to support a family. There are others, though you can find most definitions here if you get confused. Other unique words will be defined in the translation.

Goczalkowo, also called Gocza?ki, in German: Gottschalk, a knightly estate, Grudziadz district, on the road from Grudziadz to Biskupiec, approximately 1 mile from the township Łasin and 1 mile from Biskupiec, where the ToruÅ„sko-Wystruckiej iron railway station is located. It covers 3100 morgs of land, 23 buildings, 9 inhabitants’ homes, 90 catholics, 96 evangelicals. Parish in ÅšwiÄ™te, the school site, mail at Łasin.

Gocza?ki was previously located in Pomezania, at the the border of Che?mno. Probably took the name of the holder of the German mayor Gotschalk or rather, a deviation of the German “Gotschalksdorf”. Belonged to the older Riesenburg Prussian ducal district. In the sixteenth century, this village was owned by a CzarliÅ„scy.

In the year 1543, Duke Albrecht of Prussia issued a new charter for Gocza?ki to the three CzarliÅ„skim (German Scherlinski) sisters Annie, Urszuli and Elzbiecie, which their deceased father Tomasz (Thomassen) possessed, but during the last war he went missing. Gocza?ki (Gottschalksdorff) was then 30 wlok and immediately next to it a second estate, that is called in German “Wrozelsdorff”, which consisted of 12 wlok and also belonged to them.

Although Gocza?ki in Pomezania lay within the limits zlutrza?ego(?) Prussian Prince, the people around here remained Polish for a long time. In fact, in 1601 there is a Pawel Stucki of Gocza?ki who in 1619 with Jan Goczalkowski waives his section in Gocza?ki to Rafalowi Goczalkowskiemu.

Around 1629, the place holders of the local gentry: Maciej and Rafal Goczalkowski and Bartosz Jaromierski.

In 1667 there were 5 separate shares in Gocza?ki, which had minor nobility.

In 1720, there were still a few of the shares from earlier. Then a wealthy German, Fryderyk Aleksander Backer, started using the unfortunate times and buying the smaller particles. In 1721. he bought the 14 wlok which were attached to Tymawy from Ernesta von Taube, in 1722 7 wlok from Adama Kosickiego, and in 1740 acquired the right to the mortgage of 21 wlok and a farm from Gotlibkowo and Worzelsdorf (which belonged to Gocza?ki) for 6000 gold for 40 years. Doing this, he had a total 42 wlok.

After the death of Aleksander Fryderyk Becker, his married daughter, Major Buchholz’s wife, inherited the estate. In 1770, it was acquired by the son of a Prussian lieutenant, Rafel Bucliholz “‹”‹for 10666 talar.

In 1780, Captain Jan Karol Borek is the owner, in 1786 Captain Ferdynand von Pfórtner, in 1794 a royal courtier and adviser Otto Graf von Keyserling, in 1797 von Hippel owned the estate and Lisowski.

Gocza?ki was acquired in 1836 by subhasty(?) August Teodcr von Peterson, and from him Gocza?ki and Dohnastiidt was purchased in 1841 for 53,300 talars by Baron Hugo Maksymilian Fryderyk von Blumenthal. Refer to Frolich, “Geschichte des Graudenzer Kreises” 82

S?ownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego – Warsaw [1895, vol. 2, p.755-756]. Retrieved from on 5 Nov 2014.

CategoriesGenetic GenealogyGermanIrishMoranZalewski

23andMe Follow-up

I mentioned in a recent post that I was able to get 23andMe tests for my father and my father-in-law that would hopefully help narrow down DNA matches and also find out more about ourselves. Those tests have been taken, sent in, and now finally analyzed. There were no surprising results, but it does help make a clearer picture of certain things.

With my father’s tests, I was also able to get his mtDNA (or Maternal) Line passed down from his mother’s line. The surnames that it follows would be CORRIGAN > BRAATZ > STEARNS > SCHUMACHER > HEINZ > HETTLER and that’s as far as I have right now. It’s basically a deep German line (minus the obvious Irish one in the beginning.) His mtDNA haplogroup is U4, but the subgroup is U4a3. 23andMe says:

Haplogroup U4 is found in western Eurasia, from Mongolia to central Europe. It arose about 25,000 years ago and subsequently spread with the migrations that followed the end of the Ice Age about 14,000 years ago.

[U4a] diverged from its U4 sister lineages about 21,000 years ago in the region surrounding the Baltic Sea. Today it is most common among the people of the Volga River and Ural Mountains of Russia, such as the Chuvash, Kets and Mari. It is also common among the Baltic and Finnish people of northern Europe who speak languages related to the Finno-Ugric tongues of the Volga-Ural region in western Russia.

That didn’t really surprise me. As for the YDNA line, which I also share, what is interesting is that my haplogroup is R1a1a* which usually means they know you’re R1a1a, but more than likely part of a subgroup. My father’s YDNA haplogroup is found to be just R1a1a, technically putting us in separate groups on the site. More than likely their tests are now more accurate and figured out that we’re directly from the R1a1a haplogroup.

My father-in-law’s tests were doubly useful as both the YDNA and mtDNA info was new to us as my wife doesn’t get either of those passed down from him. His mtDNA line, which follows the surnames: COLLINS > HUIZEL > REINDL > BOHM. The research on this line ends in the South Bohemian section the Czech Republic, which I assume was Czechoslovakia at the time. His mtDNA haplogroup is found to be H5.

H5 appears to have originated during the Ice Age, as the human population of Europe retreated to the few relatively mild pockets of the otherwise frozen continent. The haplogroup appears to have sprung up somewhere near the Caucasus Mountains, or in forests near the Black Sea. H5 is particularly common today in Georgia and in other populations from the Caucasus region. Not long after it originated, a few migrants carried H5 along the southern fringes of Europe into the Balkans and as far west as France, where the haplogroup can still be found today.

It seems to line up with the little amount of data we have on that line. His YDNA line, which we assumed was pretty deep Irish as the surname is MORAN, was pretty close to our assumptions. The YDNA haplogroup was found to be (besides the longest one ever) R1b1b2a1a2f*. There is that little asterisk again.

R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland, where the vast majority of men carry Y-chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup. Researchers have recently discovered that a large subset of men assigned to the haplogroup may be direct male descendants of an Irish king who ruled during the 4th and early 5th centuries. According to Irish history, a king named Niall of the Nine Hostages established the Ui Neill dynasty that ruled the island country for the next millennium.

Northwestern Ireland is said to have been the core of Niall’s kingdom; and that is exactly where men bearing the genetic signature associated with him are most common. Genetic analysis suggests that all these men share a common ancestor who lived about 1,700 years ago. Among men living in northwestern Ireland today that date is closer to 1,000 years ago. Those dates neatly bracket the era when Niall is supposed to have reigned.

Image copyright The New York Times.
Image copyright The New York Times.

Besides matching our assumptions, that is a cool fact about men from that haplogroup. It’s the first haplogroup I’ve dealt with that names an actual (possible) ancestor. It also gives a highly-probable area of where to look for the origin of his MORAN ancestors.

Outside of the haplogroup testing, we’re still using this new info to break down DNA matches. Having at least one parent allows you to know which side a match comes from, narrowing down the research. I’m still working on that. The tests also gave us some interesting data on our Ancestry Composition which I will post about soon.

Anyone test their parents or other close relations and get some useful information?

CategoriesFeaturedGermanPolishTips & Tricks

How to Search Germany, Prussia, Pomerania Church Records

FamilySearch has a boatload of church records scanned and available online for Germany, Prussia, and Pomerania from 1544-1945, though I would estimate that most of them are in the middle of that range. Currently they’re not available for searching, but I did see them in the indexing software, so maybe they will be available for that soon. That means you must look through them by hand, like the good ol’ days.

It seems that a lot of families from this area of Wisconsin immigrated from that area, which is now mostly in Poland, so I’m in luck. I used this collection to find a few records so far. I found my 3rd-great-grandparent’s marriage record and my 3rd-great-grandfather’s baptism record (I’m pretty sure.) Keep in mind that the towns and parishes are not named the same as they were in the 1800s, so you can’t just go to Google Maps. Don’t worry, I’ve done some of the hard work for you and will show you how to find the records you need. Though, this won’t do all of the browsing record by record and trying to determine what someone wrote in German on old, ripped paper from 1840 for you, but maybe for a few bucks I can do that for you, too.

Some of the Pommern church records available.

The key in all of this is an amazing site called Kartenmeister. They describe themselves:

Welcome to the most comprehensive database of its kind in the world. It contains 93537 locations with over 38.691 name changes once, and 5,500 twice and more.  Included in this database are the following provinces: Eastprussia, including Memel, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. It currently list most towns or points, points being: Mills, some bridges, battlefields, named trees, cenotaphs etc.

CategoriesEthnicityFeaturedGenetic GenealogyPersonal

Ancestry Composition

I received an email the other day from 23andMe letting me know about their new “Ancestry Composition” tool. I let it go to the back-burner since I didn’t have a chance to visit it the other day.

Today visited the link and was quite impressed. This is how it works, according to their site:

Ancestry Composition tells you what percent of your DNA comes from each of 22 populations worldwide. The analysis includes DNA you received from all of your ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before ocean-crossing ships and airplanes came on the scene.

Mine wasn’t really that surprising, as usual. Mostly Northern European with most of that going to German/French and small chunks going to the British Isles and Scandinavia, just like my test. Here is a capture of my data. That 0.2% Unassigned? That’s probably troll or goblin or alien or something. Nothing to worry about.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

Though, what was slightly surprising is when I loaded up my wife’s Ancestry Composition. I would’ve guessed she is mostly Northern European like me, with most of it going to the British Isles. It turns out she also has some Scandinavian. There was one surprising result on the list. Can you spot it?

Darcy 23andMe

That’s right. 0.2% East Asian & Native American, estimated to be about 0.1% Native American. That’s news to us. I have yet to find any connection to that, though I know this test is for way, way back. I’d be interested to see which side of her genes this came from, paternal or maternal. I’m pretty sure her dad would be interested in getting a test. He’s always interested in stuff like this. Maybe next time we visit, I can ask.

If you took a DNA test, was there anything really interesting or surprising in your results?

CategoriesBig NewsEnglishFamily TreeFeatured

But, What Do Mayflowers Bring?

Embarkation of the Pilgrims - Robert Walter Weir - Mayflower

It has been a bit quiet on the genealogy front. I haven’t had as much time to do any research, but recently I have come across some extra time and interest.

I recently added another individual to my “Everything I Know” site. This is the first person I did a site for on my wife’s ancestry. He is James COLLINS. I picked him because we previously had his information down and also information on his parents. Then we ran across a new census record that threw all of that out the window. I try to put together the info we have now (or lack thereof) and try to see if we can track down his real parents.

While researching James COLLINS and getting lost down other lines of my wife’s ancestry, I (tentatively) traced one of her maternal lines back to Plymouth Colony Governor and Mayflower passenger William Bradford. I say tentatively since most of the info I found was surprisingly located on Find-A-Grave entries (sidenote: glad they added those “Family Links” options.) Though, I did back a lot of it up using other sources. I just need to now source and confirm her line back to the more researched lines, though it looks pretty solid. This now adds the “Mayflower Descendant” title to her maternal line along with the other previous titles of “(Tentative) Royal Descendant” and “Daughter of the American Revolution.” All I have on my lines so far is “Sort Of Related to Robert Goulet.”

I’m hoping that if these connections stay true, this will hopefully help our children feel more connected to history. It’s a known fact that I’ve posted about earlier, I didn’t really enjoy History classes very much in school. Though, once I started genealogy and felt more connected to these places and events, I can’t get enough of it anymore. Now when my daughter starts learning about Thanksgiving in school (probably one of the first historical things kids learn) we can tell her that one of the Pilgrims is her 12th-great-grandfather.

Photo: Embarkation of the Pilgrims – Robert Walter Weir – Public Domain – Wikipedia