On December 25, 2009 I wrote the 11th post in my 12 part-series on "From Whence I Came" in which I wrote a tribute to each of my grandparents and great-grandparents. That Christmas Day post was on my great-grandmother, Mary Anna Rubisz, and was the one ancestor, out of the other 11, that I had the least information on.
I have been involved in genealogy since the mid-1970's. While I had more success on certain lines, I did attempt to glean as much information that I could on all of my 8 great-grandparents. Some were born in the US, others were born in Germany and Poland. I had varying degrees of success in finding records and, amazingly, had great success with getting records from one line in Poland and another line in what had been Pomerania but was now Poland as well. I did NOT have success, though, with learning anything significant on the history of my Rubisz line.
When I began my research, I did have my grandmother Kijak's birthday book in which she had faithfully recorded all the birthdays of family members and friends. At the back of the book, on a blank page, she had listed the marriage date of her in-laws with the notation that "John Kijak came to the US on June 19, 1882" and another notation that stated "John Kijak was married in Bay City, MI on October 26, 1891".
With that information, I wrote to the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Bay City, inquired if the marriage had taken place there (this was a guess as I knew my Kijak family had been Catholic and it was my first choice out of the Bay City Catholic churches) and I received a prompt response with a copy of their marriage record (typed from information in the church books).
This record told me several things (1) that my great-grandfather, John Kijak, was born in Taniborz, Poznan, Poland and (2) that my great-grandmother, Mary Anna Rubisz, was born in Zczierzany, Gniemenski, Poland. At the time, I noted that the place of birth of Mary had been whited out and re-typed using a blue ribbon as opposed to the black ribbon of the remainder of the typed document. I surmised that the village name was hard to read in the records and the church secretary perhaps had felt she had typed it incorrectly the first time. When I later visited the church and saw the actual church books, it did show the exact spelling (as well as I could decipher in the old Polish writing) and I do regret now that I never asked for a photocopy of the page - this was, of course, ions before digital cameras and such and was in the early days of my research passion. I was just pleased to see these records and have the typed transcript.
With that information, I did have great success in finding Taniborz, Poland on a map, wrote the Catholic church in nearby Tulce and received many, many records from them on my Kijak line. When I visited the area in 1993, I actually walked in the church yard and through the cemetery in Tulce and saw the village of Taniborz as well.
However, I did not have the same success with the village of Zczierzany, Gniemenski, Poland, the supposed village of birth of Mary Rubisz.
At the time, I scoured maps and atlases in the libraries, I visited Germany in 1983 and bought some Polish maps there but there did not seem to be any village by that name. This was also before the advent of Google and maps, atlases, networking seemed to be the research aids of choice.
In the mid-1980's I did write to a professional researcher in Salt Lake City and inquired as to whether this village of Zczierzany, Gniemenski, Poland was indeed a village in Poland and was it possible the name was misspelled? It took the researcher 18 months to respond and when she did she simply stated that "your village is correctly called Jeziorzany in the district of Gniezno, province of Poznan, Poland". She also indicated that Jeziorzany was a "very small village and the nearby village of Dziekanowice is where the Catholic church is". She sent no copy of a map to indicate the location of this village but at least she had given me a new clue.
Again, back to the maps and atlases I went. I did find Gniezno in Poznan. I had good maps of Poznan since my Kijak ancestors had been from there and I had purchased some maps over the years. But neither Dziekanowice or Jeziorzany was found on these maps. I surmised that they must both be tremendously small villages to not be included on any of these maps.
I will admit that I let this Rubisz research languish for the next 20+ years in favor of other more fruitful lines. During those years, I visited Germany again when my brother was living there and my sister-in-law tried her hand at assisting me with finding this village. She had an uncanny ability to find the tiniest villages in Germany but, again, we had no luck. I figured if my sister-in-law was unable to find this village (I have great respect for her sleuthing ability), then it was hopeless!
But, hopeless is not a word for a true genealogist as I have just learned!
Enter 2009. My genie friend, Jasia, of Creative Gene fame, had become more than just a correspondence friend when she and her husband purchased a second home condo in St. Joseph in the same condo complex where I had moved. We met and a good face to face friendship has developed. As we all know, Jasia is also a Polish research genius and I don't say this lightly. She has done extraordinarily well on her total Polish research and she has contacts, ideas and hints for breaking down those brick walls that we all have.
I had been discussing my Polish predicament with her and she and I discussed this at length yesterday. She remarked that it is a known fact that Polish documents in this country are quite often filled with misspellings and inaccurate data due to the language barriers that the immigrants faced when they arrived in the US. I had just recently tried going to Google and did find the village of Dziekanowice listed. There were several articles on this village and by all indications a very small area it is. The Google listing stated that this village was a small village in Greater Poland approximately 16 km west of Gniezno and 40 km east of Poznan.
It also showed the village name was pronounced as Dzyekhanovitse which I will have to have Jasia demonstrate to me!!! Are you reading this, Jasia?
However, there was no Google listing for the village of Jeziorzany in the area of Gniezno. Several variations in the spelling of the name were suggested by Google but these were villages far removed from Gniezno and Poznan.
Jasia had suggested trying the Family History Library Catalog listing to see if the records from the village of Dziekanowice had been microfilmed. A quick look showed that they WERE and for the periods of time that I would be interested in. The listing also showed that the records for Dziekanowice also included records for the nearby villages of Jeziorzany, Lednagora, Waliszewa (Walsee), Siemianowo, Zydowko, Schonfelde. (I apologize to my Polish readers for not being able to adequately display the language accent marks).
Jasia suggested, aptly so, that I visit my local Family History Library, order a few of these reels and see if I could pinpoint my Rubisz family in them. She helped me with deciphering the Polish on the listing of records so that I would know which films related to my years of interest and I was excited about this new development.
I do have a local Family History library in St. Joseph, however, they have very, very limited hours of operation. In the past, with my work schedule, it was virtually impossible to visit them and I had not pursued that avenue of research in some time. Now, though, I am on a fast slope to retirement in September, my job changed radically and my hours have been cut to almost nothing. Now is the time to re-enter the previously languishing genie research game.
Now the plan is to order some films, scan them for any Rubisz records that they might contain being aware of spelling variations in the names and hoping (fingers crossed) that the Polish researcher who gave me the "appropriate" spelling for my Rubisz home village was correct.
But that is not the end of the story yet. After speaking with Jasia and printing out the Family History film sheets, I decided to pull out my Polish maps and atlases again. I had been to Germany in 2008 to visit my cousin, Gerhard Kolberg in Berlin, and he had helped me select some new maps at their local book store. I had even purchased some new Polish maps as well.
I pulled out all those maps and atlases and did a long search for either Jeziorzany or Dziekanowice. Even though I could find Gniezno and Poznan on the maps, there was no indication of either Jeziorzany or Dziekanowice. Disappointing.
However! Light bulb moment! I remembered that I had purchased, back in 1983, some old German maps of former areas of Germany now in Poland. I went to my shelves, found a map of Gnesen-Wreschen from the former area of Posen, Germany and now Gniezno, Poznan in Poland. I quickly found Gnesen and Posen on the map. When I followed the Google description of 16 km west of Gniezno and 40 km east of Poznan, look what I found.....
JEZIORZANY AND DZIEKANOWICE.
The map even showed the other villages of Lednagora, Waliszewa (Walsee), Siemianowo, Zydowko, Schonfelde named on the Family History Library listing in the vicinity of Jeziorzany and Dziekanowice. I knew for certain this was the correct Jeziorzany that I was searching for.
The map is not the best. When I scanned it and enlarged a bit I was able to see the villages. I am hoping on this post that it will be visible when clicking on the image. In any event, it is there in black and white that these villages do exist and I had this map in my home since 1983. I had bought it for my German research and never thought of using it to find these Polish villages.
I am still tempering my excitement with the knowledge that I am going on the assumption that the Polish researcher in the 1980's correctly indicated to me the proper spelling for Mary Rubisz' birthplace from the spelling on Mary's 1891 marriage license. It still remains to be seen if the films from the Family History Library will finally corroborate what I am hoping is true - my Rubisz family in actual Polish church records. But I do now have proof positive in map form of the existence of these tiny villages. That is excitement enough for today.
A huge thank-you must go to our genie expert and my good friend, Jasia, for her help and suggestions. I could not have done it without you!
Above photos and documents personal collection of Cheryl Schulte