Go into your brain and pick out a surname that would be awesome to try to research. Something that would return 8 million results every time you searched for it. If you guessed the surname LAST, you win.
Searching for anything on that surname was never fun. I would get every version of “last name” or other common phrases. In order to try to help myself get my information organized on my furthest LAST ancestor, Johann LAST, I decided to set up an Everything I Know site for him. Just like the other sites I set up, when I start going over all of the information I have, sometimes I find new avenues of research. I started with the first record I have of Johann and his family, the passenger arrival manifest from when they arrived in New York in 1857.
I looked it over to see if I missed any important info. I didn’t see anything new. Then, I just checked which port they left from in Europe and I noticed it was Hamburg, Germany. I remembered that Ancestry had the passenger emigration lists from Hamburg on their site. I think I browsed through them before, but didn’t find anything. I looked closer this time using their Hamburg Passenger Index database and found their entry. It was under “J W G Last” just like their arrival record. It’s basically the same info, except one very useful piece of info, his place of origin. The record says what looks like “Nagard” so after some searching and tweaking, it is probably talking about “Naugard” which today is called Nowogard in northwestern Poland. This is exactly where I tracked Doeringshagen, the listed birthplace of Johann’s son Charles, to be located today. That’s good news.
One of those documents that I had my sights set on for the last 10 years of genealogy research is the passenger list containing the ZALEWSKI family when they left home and came to America. According to notes I had from a previous researcher, “…[Frank and Anna] left Poland from the Baltic port of Danzig and entered the United States through the port of Baltimore, Maryland…in 1890.” I’ve searched everything I could find online for this since I’ve been researching. I’ve tried every possible spelling of Frank’s name (Franz, Francizek, etc) and don’t even get me started on the different ways to spell ZALEWSKI (add in the many different ways to pronounce it.)
I decided to give it another try by locking down certain items using Ancestry.com’s search box. I tried locking in “Frank” and then locking in “1888-1892” then I tried locking down “Baltimore” and so on. I dare not lock in “Zalewski” since it never works. I then tried his wife, but nothing. Next I tried their first child “Martha” since her name is more than likely the same. Their next child Angeline has been written many different ways from Amelia to Angel. No hits on “Martha Zalewski.” Next, I thought I’d give “Salewski” a shot since I’m pretty sure ZALEWSKI and SALEWSKI don’t have the same soundex code. Guess what my first hit was? “Martha Zalewski, Baltimore, November 1889, age 3.” Dead on.
I’ve conditioned myself not to get too excited until I can strongly prove it’s the correct document. As soon as I saw the list of family members: Franz, Anna, Martha, Amela, I knew it was the right family. Everything matches up from ages to names. Plus, there was one more name: Elsa Salewski, aged 6 months. According to later census records, Anna is listed to have has 9 children with only 8 living. Also, looking at the order of children, there is a larger gap from Angeline in 1887 to Marianna in 1891. Frank and Anna seemed to be working off of the one child every two-years plan throughout their lives. Elsa must not have lived much longer since she is never listed with the family outside of this listing.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t get me much more information except much tougher evidence for their arrival and departure. The list just has them come from “Germany” and go to the “U.S.A.” and Germany could mean anything back then.
The ship was the “S.S. Weser” which departed from Bremen, Germany. This looks to be the ship here with a photo. Here is their snippet:
So, I guess the moral of this story is that it does pay to go back over everything you’ve searched. Try looking at it from another angle.
Since publishing my Single View post on my great-great-grandfather, Frank J Zalewski, Sr. I have been checking all information I have on the Zalewski family. I ran through each of his children’s records and all of the other info I had written down. I was then looking for copies of obituaries that I know I’ve seen. I checked the “Zalewski” folder in my file cabinet and decided to just browse through everything in there again. In 2000 I was in contact with a descendant of Frank & Anna, Michael Rynka, that was also doing some research. When my dad and I met him, he gave me a nice booklet with all of his Zalewski family information in it. There was nothing new in that book, but I was able to scan in a lot of the photos that I had never scanned.
Then I read over the two letters that he had sent me originally. There was nothing new in the letters that popped out, until I read this:
I am especially interested in learning more about the parents and siblings of Frank Zalewski, Sr. I do not know their names, nor do I know how many brothers and sisters he may have had. My mother’s (Editor’s note: his mother is Frank & Anna’s granddaughter) godfather was Joseph GORALSKI, and she remembers that he was somehow related to the Zalewski family. However, I don’t know what the relationship may have been. Joe GORALSKI was not Frank’s brother-in-law, since his wife’s maiden name was not Zalewski. Perhaps Joe was Frank’s cousin.
I decided to go down this path. This paragraph most likely means that Joseph GORALSKI had lived in the Milwaukee area. After finding a Joseph Goralski in the Milwaukee US Census records (1900-1930), he is shown living with his wife and in-laws in the same area as Frank & Anna. His in-laws are listed as August & Anna GWIAZDOWSKI. Using the information in these records (immigration, birth, etc) I found this same group in a Philadelphia passenger list for December 1892. In the notes for this group of people it says, “Visitors Nephew Franz Zaleski at 902 Pulaski St.”
Seeing that Pulaski Street is right near Fratney Street in the Riverwest neighborhood of eastern Milwaukee where Frank and his family lived most of their life, this was a very, very good clue. Now, assuming this all adds up, this would make August GWIAZDOWSKI Frank’s uncle and Mary GORALSKI (Joe’s wife) his cousin. And, obviously, this would make Frank’s mother’s maiden name GWIAZDOWSKI, also.
Now, I have yet to prove this information, but I am so happy that this passenger list happened to list that much detail as to where exactly the passengers were going. This is the first time I’ve seen that much detail and it was the exact information that connects them to my family. Without it, I wouldn’t have gave it a second thought.
This opens up more research, but that’s a good thing. One good and bad thing is that the surname GWIAZDOWSKI doesn’t seem to be extremely popular. I’ve already found some information on other people researching it, so I have some contact to make.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if Michael Rynka is still around. It’s been 9 years since I’ve last contacted him. When we met him he was already blind in one eye and I had heard that he may have had a stroke in the last few years. I checked around today using online phone books and even looked through the obituaries, but I haven’t found him. I do have his address and phone number from 2000, so I may just go out on a limb and give them a try.