Poznan Databases and the Szwajkowski Family

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I’ve been a big fan of the Poznan Marriage Database project for many years. Without it I would probably never have found ancestors who lived in Poznan area. The site definitely helped me figure out my great grandmother, Josephine Szwajkowski, was from the Kurnik area. I discovered this because I had her parent’s names from her marriage record: Joseph and Frances Kasperska Szwajkowski. So I put them into the Poznan Marriage Project site to see if I could find them, and I got the following result:

Poznan Marriage Project Example

Poznan Marriage Project Example

As you can see, this shows Josephine’s parents, Joseph and Frances, married in Krerowo in 1859. So this gave me a location to begin my search in Poland. At this point, I could have ordered the records through FamilySearch.org and gone to my local LDS church to view the microfilm. But with all the families I’ve been focusing on lately, the Szwajkowski’s were not really on my radar screen at the moment. So I logged their marriage and put it all away for another time.

Then the other day when I was at the Poznan Marriage Project site, I noticed a link to the “Basia Database.” So I spent some time checking out the site. According to the information there, volunteers are currently in the process of transcribing records for births, marriages, and deaths in the Poznan area. Then these records are made available through the site. So far it appears they have primarily covered the southern portion. Seeing that this covered the area near Kurnik and Krerowo, I put in the Szwajkowski name. And I was rewarded with records allowing me to discover many new family members along with a death record for my great great grandfather, Joseph Szwajkowski – Josephine’s father.

If you’d like to check it out for yourself, you can click on over to http://www.basia.famula.pl/en/. Once there you can fill out your search parameters as I’ve done in the image below by clicking “Extended Search” below the Search button and filling in the blanks with what you know:

Basia Database Site

Basia Database Site

After you have your information typed in, click the search button. Here’s how my results looked. I clicked the green area to get the listing below the map to show up:

Basia Site Search Results for Joseph Szwajkowski

Basia Site Search Results for Joseph Szwajkowski

This listing includes the marriage record for Johann Szwajkowski who is a son of Joseph and Frances and a brother to my great grandmother, Josephine. The listing also shows the death record for Joseph. To view the record, you need to click the little numbers on the right that look like this: 1876/4/82, scan 39. This takes you to a page that shows the actual document. This is the record for Joseph’s death which included the names of his parents, Johann and Marianna Kuzma Szwajkowski – my great great great grandparents!

Joseph Szwajkowski Death Record

Joseph Szwajkowski Death Record

Be prepared though if you find documents for your ancestors – the ones I found appear to be in old German and Polish. Even the handwriting is in an old German Script. I used this site to be able to figure out the letters: Gothic Handwriting. Fortunately, between that site and Google Translator, I was able to figure out what each document said.

We are fortunate that there are so many people willing and able to transcribe these documents for us. And thanks to the State Archive in Poland for making these records available online. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the results for the rest of the area.


Here’s a photo of my great grandmother, Josephine, and her husband, Joseph Norwich.

Joseph and Josephine Szwajkowski Norwich

Joseph and Josephine Szwajkowski Norwich

Finding Our Borowiaks in Poland

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Fortunately with the help of the Poznan Marriage Project and microfilms from the Church of Latter Day Saints, I’ve finally been able to locate our Borowiak family in Poland. My husband’s great grandfather, Frank Borowiak (1858-1925) immigrated from there sometime between 1879 and 1884. But we never really knew where exactly in Poland he was from. Based on some earlier research, we found his family initially living in Lemont, Ill., then moving to Minnesota between 1893 and 1896.

Michalina Borowiak Gravestone in Lemont, Ill.

Michalina Borowiak Gravestone in Lemont, Ill.

I think we even found the grave of his mother, Michalina Polcyn Borowiak although at the time, in 2004, we were not sure if Michalina was Frank’s mother or not. But by finding Frank’s baptismal record in the Polish records, we now know for a fact his mother’s name was Michalina Polcyn. However, I have still not convinced myself this gravesite is Frank’s mother’s only because so far the dates do not match up. I have a little more research to do to see if I can tie them in any way. Her birthdates are close, but not exact.

As for Frank, there had also been many discrepancies in his birthdate between all the sources we found. But finally we now know his birthdate was Dec. 24, 1857. And we finally know for sure the name of his father, Valentine. This had also been a question because of the many different names used in all the sources we found.

Valentine and Michalina married on Nov. 8, 1840, in the Zon Parish in Poland. Valentine had been born in Pruchnowo on Jan 14, 1815 (could also be his baptismal date – only one date was given in the record) to Joseph and Marianna Borowiak. I am still researching the family so have not yet verified many other details other than Frank had at least two siblings: Rosalia born Feb. 15, 1842, and Joseph born 31 Jan 1845.  Below are some of the entries for a few of these facts. I’ll post more as I learn additional facts:


Frank Borowiak Baptism Record

Frank Borowiak Baptism Record

Valentine and Michalina Polcyn Marriage record

Valentine and Michalina Polcyn Borowiak Marriage Record


Valentine Borowiak Baptism record

Valentine Borowiak Baptism record







Get Your Very Own 1940 Census Badge!

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1940 US Census BadgeThrough the FamilySearch Indexing project, I’ve been occasionally helping out indexing the 1940 Census images along with other records like death certificates, marriages, etc. What I like about FamilySearch is that they regularly send out emails to say thanks for helping – this is cool because these provide a gentle reminder to me to go index another batch. But the latest email offered something way cooler than just a thanks – now I can earn badges for indexing the 1940 Census records!

1940 US Census Badge - Minnesota

This has definitely motivated me to index even more records. And it’s not too late if you’re into collecting cool genealogy badges for yourself! Just hop over to the 1940 U.S. Census Project website and sign up to begin indexing and collecting your own badges.

While they have indexed over 60% of the images, there’s plenty more available. I included an example of the badges in this post and added them to the sidebar of this blog site. I’m in the process of trying to get as many states as I can. Too bad I didn’t realize they were offering badges or I’d have made sure to hit every state from the beginning! It would also be cool if they someday off the chance to order a framed certificate of all the badges earned.

The Illinois Bell Girls

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Joyce Marfell as Miss Voice, 1952In a previous post, I mentioned I discovered my mother had never graduated high school. She quit right after turning 16 and started working at Illinois Bell as a telephone operator. I am thinking she chose Illinois Bell because her Aunt Sophie worked there. (Unfortunately I was never really told what my Aunt did there other than serve as a union steward.) Anyway, in 1952, when my mom was 20 years old, she won the Illinois Bell Miss Voice contest for our area. It must have been a big deal for her because we heard stories about her experience many times during her lifetime. And there was always this huge poster of her as a telephone operator hanging in our basement.

After my Aunt Sophie passed away in 2000 and my mom passed away in 2003, I was left their photos. Within these family pictures were several of people who worked for Illinois Bell. Many pictures were of work-related events. Unfortunately I only knew a few people in the photos from the times when my mom would go through pictures with me. But one day I was talking to a friend of my mom’s, Rita Griffin, and I told her about the photos. She said she still met with some of the women who used to work at Illinois Bell and could probably figure out who some of the people in the photos were. So thanks to her, I now have some of them identified. I uploaded them to Flickr and figured I would post them here in case anyone saw a relative (you have to click the photo to see the names). There is one photo that seems very old, but unfortunately Rita was not able to identify anyone in that picture.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Tree is Fixed!

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Thanks to one of the smartest people I know, Anthony Hocken, the family tree is fixed! Yay! He told me a few days ago that my site was hacked. I checked it out, but didn’t really see anything so wasn’t sure how it could be hacked. But when I tried to go to the dashboard to write a new post, the layout was all messed up. After researching the problem, I found out that there is a hack going around. Sure enough it had hit a few of my sites including this blog and the tree. Fortunately I found a way to fix it and at least for now both sites are working again! Yay! Thanks Anthony and the person who posted the fix in the Dreamhost forums.

Tree is Messed Up Again

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It looks like the software that powers my family tree is messed up again. I’ll have to go in and probably re-install it again so until I get time to do all that, I apologize if you have access and can’t get it to work.  If you’re on Ancestry.com, most of the tree (minus living relatives) is up over there. So feel free to search for Broviak Family Tree at Ancestry.com until I can get this one working again.

The US 1940 Census and My Elusive Daltons

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Joe Dalton Gravestone

Joe Dalton's Grave

The release of the US 1940 census is almost upon us – only 30 more days. And when that day finally arrives, and the records are thrown open, who will be the first person you seek? For me, it will be Joseph Dalton, one of the more intriguing figures in my ancestry. This is because the 1940s seemed to be one of monumental change for Joe and his family.

According to family interviews and Joe’s death certificate, he was born in Fork Ridge, Tenn., on Feb. 23, 1900. His parents were Mack and Minnie Sanders Dalton. From what I have found so far, Joe was the sixth child in a family of nine. Perhaps Joe’s family problems were partially attributable to his mother and father’s relationship.  According to family lore, Mack left Minnie about 1916 to return to “the hills of North Carolina.” I’ve heard and read this from several family members – the story is that Mack was Cherokee and left to return to his homeland or another family he had and eventually died in that state. Some said he changed his name and even that Mack Dalton had not been his original name. One family member I spoke with said they heard another family member was visiting North Carolina years after Mack left and saw someone who they thought looked like Mack. I also heard stories that suggested Mack left because Minnie drank heavily and was caught with another man.

Of course, like many family stories there are inconsistencies with documents. All of the census entries for Mack show him to be a white male born in Virginia, as were his parents. His wife was from Virginia. And all of their children younger than Joe were born in Virginia. Another clue that Mack’s original birthplace was Virginia is found in the World War 1 record for his son,  George. The entry lists George’s father as born in Richmond, Virginia. But as we know, family stories are often based on some element of truth, so it makes me wonder what was really going on with Mack.

But back to Joe – as most of you would expect, Joe married at the relatively young age of 19. His wife was Ottice Woods, herself a descendant of an interesting parental history. From what I’ve found so far, Joe and Ottice remained in Tennessee after their marriage and had a son in 1921 and another in 1922. But sometime between the birth of their second son and 1924, they moved to Benham, Kentucky, in Harlan County where Joe worked as a miner. In 1924, Joe and Ottice had twins, but neither survived more than a couple days. The notation on their death certificates said, “I did not attend this case. No doctors were called. Twins born that were pre-mature.” Over the next 10 years, the couple had at least eight more children for a total of twelve. A few, like the twins, did not survive into childhood.

A Road in Benham, Kentucky

A Road in Benham, Kentucky

I often try to wonder what life was like for Joe and Ottice living in what was probably mining company housing. From the books and newspaper articles I’ve read about mining in that area in the 1920s and 1930s, I don’t think it was a very safe or easy life at all. They probably did not have proper nutrition or health care which could have led to the high infant mortality experienced by Joe and Ottice.

So with the last birth of Joe’s children around the mid-1930s, there ceases to be any further documentation of the family other than the death of his mother, Minnie, in 1940. And if it had not been for additional information I learned from other family members, I might never had discovered Joe’s final fate. According to my birth aunt, Joe divorced Ottice about 1944 and moved to West Virginia with his son, Jesse. What happens next I have pieced together from family stories and court records and a trip to West Virginia.

According to my birth aunt, Joe and his son opened a bar in West Virginia. On March 15, 1952, robbers entered the bar, and Joe shot at them and killed a man. Joe ended up in prison, but the day before he was to be released, May 19, 1953, he was knifed by someone in prison. When I found Joe’s death certificate online, I found that the official record indicates he slit his own throat. I thought this was odd because why would someone serve their time then commit suicide the day before they were to be released? So I traveled to West Virginia to read the court records myself.

Jail where Joe Dalton died

Jail where Joe Dalton died

According to the records, Joe pleaded not guilty. At his first trial, the jury could not come to a decision so a mistrial was declared. On November 24, 1952, the records show that Joe and his probation officer appeared before the court and asked he be placed on probation pursuant to a plea of guilty. Unfortunately for Joe, the court decided to instead put him in jail for one year. However, they did agree to give him six weeks to put his business in order prior to serving his sentence. And unfortunately on May 19, 1953, at 6 pm, Joe’s throat was cut – he died within two to three minutes.

In addition to documenting the court proceedings and his death, the records provided me with other interesting facts about Joe and his life in West Virginia. His probationary review shows a prior arrest on July 1, 1951, in Knoxville, Tenn., for intoxication. And the most unexpected twist I found was that Joe had been living in Greenbrier County for about seven years and worked as a miner until November 1951 when he married and started assisting his wife in operating “Beer Parlot” near Duo. His wife?! No one in the family had mentioned or seemed to know he remarried. According to the documents, he married his wife, Kathleen Sutton (age 37), in Covington, Virginia.

Beer Parlor owned by Dalton

Possible Remains of Dalton's "Beer Parlor"

Fortunately I was also able to speak with someone from Kathleen’s family who helped fill in more details and information about the shooting. According to her, these two brothers had entered the kitchen of the bar where Kathleen was and were threatening her and trying to rob her. Joe came in and shot at them killing one. This makes sense because of the hesitation for the jury to convict Joe of manslaughter. She also said while Joe was in prison, he was often released during the day to help out around the jail with cooking and other duties. Kathleen passed away in 1988.

During my time in West Virginia, I also went into the mountains to try to find the bar where the shooting occurred. The road to the bar was a one lane road next to a creek with few buildings left along the route and no way to determine an address of anything. After traveling the correct distance out of Duo, I fortunately saw someone in the front yard of a mobile home, and I asked him if there was a bar nearby. He said the only bar he knew about was the one shown in this photo – as you can see it had fallen into ruin. Based on my research and the information from this man, I believe it is probably the right one. Although I really wanted to go through the debris, I did not want to trespass and also wondered about snakes and wild animals. So I took my photos and left.

As you can see – there are still many unanswered questions about Joe and his life and even his death. One day, I had hoped to talk with one of his children. But I’ve not been able to locate them with the information I have, and as time goes on, I have less of a chance to find them alive. At least the release of the 1940 US Census might provide me with a few more clues. Although I’ll probably never know if Joe really did take his own life or if someone stopped by the jail that night in May of 1953 to pay Joe back for killing their relative or friend.

Family Secrets

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Joyce Marfell Ochs

My mom - Joyce Marfell Ochs

Over the last week I’ve been fortunate to have received some correspondence shedding more light on a few unanswered questions in my adoptive family’s maternal tree. This is the second time that a family member has shared what had been a family “secret” or unknown fact with me on my mother’s side of the tree. My mother would have been scandalized, or would she? For I discovered shortly after she died, my mother held her own secret.

My mother was English on her father’s side and Polish on her mother’s. She was fiercely close to her father’s sister, Aunt Agnes, who had no children. Throughout her life she emphasized how completely moral and strict her father and his family were – a proper English family. She was very proud of this heritage. Because my mother freely shared so very many memories with me from her life, I would at first think she had no idea about the past I have uncovered.

And perhaps she was completely unaware of the two stories I have been told – one happened in England many years before she was born. The other occurred in the decades leading up to her birth. Which makes me wonder if these events pushed her father and his sister to live such a strict, moral life and raise my mother with as many restrictions as possible.

This upbringing must have worked, because my mother seemed to have led a moral life herself completely dedicated to her husband and my brother and I. She also was obsessively strict with us. But she did take one secret to her grave.

Shortly after she died, I received all the family photos and documents. This along with my life-long obsession of tracing my tree was enough to encourage me to begin my genealogical journey through the past. As most suggest, I began with my parents trying to collect any information or documents I didn’t already have. One place I always look is school yearbooks. The problem was I could find my mom in every year but Senior year. Worried I was missing something, I contacted the school. They told me I could pick up a copy of her transcript that day. To my surprise I discovered she never graduated high school – she quit the day of her 16th birthday!

Needless to say, she never shared this with my brother or I. When I asked her brother about it, he said “she never wanted me to tell you.” But finding out this fact explained so very much about my relationship with her. I believe she loved me, but there was always an undertone of animosity towards me I could never quite figure out. And she had not been at all supportive of my pursuing a college education and encouraged me to quit several times.  Now the pieces fell into place – she had almost failed every class she took while I frequently received outstanding grades.

As we begin our journey back through our trees, we might have some preconceived notions about what we will find. What I’ve realized by tracing all trees – adoptive and birth family and those related now through marriage – is that what we expect is often not what we discover. And sometimes if only we had shared a little more while everyone was alive we could have better understood each other and improved our relationships with our loved ones.

Found! Naturalization Record for Jozefa Lisowska

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The big win for me this weekend was finding the naturalization record (and attached photo) for my great-grandmother, Jozefa Lisowska. Because I was adopted and this is my birth family, I don’t have many photos from either my birth father or birth mother’s side. Fortunately I was able to spend time with my birth family, including Jozefa’s daughter and my grandmother, Stella. But while they were generous with stories and photos, I don’t think they had any of Jozefa. But now I have the one on her naturalization record!

So not only was I able to obtain all the standard information about her family and date of immigration, but I was able to see her!

Here is the page with her photo:

Naturalization for Jozefa Lisowska











As an aside, I was able to find this because Footnote.com was offering half off for subscriptions if you are an Ancestry.com subscriber. Although I hated to have to spend more money on subscriptions, I have to admit it was well worth it just to get this record!

Photo of US Soldiers During Korean War

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Soldiers in the Korean WarI’m slowly going through the photos and other memorabilia that have been handed down to me from my relatives. Because some of the items could be of interest to others, I thought I would start posting a few to the blog. Today, I am posting a photo of the company my dad was in during the Korean War. I have tried to list the names that were on the back so they could be picked up by a search engine if their family is looking for them online. But not all were legible so I did the best I could. I also was not sure if all were listed, and the names don’t necessarily correspond to those in the photo. If you want a copy of the photo for your own family records, I have posted it on Flickr here:


The permissions are that you can use it for your own use, but you cannot sell it or use it for commercial purposes. If you recognize anyone, want to add a name not listed, or correct a name I have incorrectly transcribed, just email me at pbroviak@borowiakfamily.com

(I wish I knew more about where the photo was taken, but my dad was in a few places during the war such as Ft. Leavenworth and Ft Worth so not sure where exactly this one was taken at.)

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