Wednesday, February 20, 2013


            John Braciszewski and Josephine Gruszka are my Great Grandparents.  They are one of two sets of Polish great grandparents. John Braciszewski was born in Poland on 16 October 1865.  According to our family bible, he was born in Warsaw, Poland (but not too sure how accurate that is).  Josephine "Jozefa" Gruszka was born in Poland on 17 Nov 1870.  The family bible lists her birthplace as Krakow, Poland.

          According to the Poznan Marriage Project, John and Josephine were married in 1892 in Kuszewo, Poland. Now, if I were to believe all these locations given, it would mean that Warsaw is in Eastern Poland, Krakow in the south and Poznan in the West.  It seems like a lot of traveling to me!  I do know that the information seems to be correct in the Poznan Marriage Project, so I will go with that.  John's (or Johann or even some times referred to as Jan) parents are Franz B Braciszewski and Michalina Jakubowska.  Josephine's parents are Antonina Zuchowska and Jacob Gruszka.

        John and Josephine are Little Grannie's parents (just to give a reference point).  In fact, the above photo is of Little Grannie when she was a little girl with her father John and older brother Michael.  John and Josephine's three oldest sons were all born in Poland.  Stanislaus (or Stanley) was born on 9 Apr 1894, Michael on 6 Sept 1895 and Francis in Sept 1897.

       John and Josephine immigrated to the US in 1900 with their 3 small boys on a ship called the Nederland.  I can't imagine traveling with 3 little ones (ages 2, 3, and 4 years old) from Poland to the US on a ship.  According to the Philadelphia Passenger List (April 20, 1900), their last residence was Ruda (which according to Wikipedia could be almost anywhere in Poland!) and their final destination was Milwaukee.  The ticket price for John (Jan) was $6 and an additional $7 for the rest of the family.  They obviously traveled in the steerage section.  His reference for the trip was Ignatz Reszel, who was already living in the US and was married to Josephine's sister Marianna.  This was the 3rd time that John has been to the US and according to this travel document it had been 4 years since his last trip.  John had heard from Ignatz 2 months ago and Ignatz had promised John work in the US.  Well, at least that is the story he told the immigration people.

       A year after they arrived in the US, John and Josephine welcomed a new baby boy Edward, who was born on 6 Oct 1901 in Milwaukee.  Then the story gets really interesting ...


              Yesterday I posted some information on Antonina Zuchowska Gruszka.  I thought about it last night and realized that I had made a mistake -- she is my 2nd great grandmother not my 3rd.  I double checked the dates today because Antonina had given birth to my great grandmother Josephine when Antonina was 45 years old.  I also posed the question whether or not Antonina had any other children besides Josephine and Marianna.  Well, clarity must have come to me today because I remembered that on the 1900 US Census they asked the questions of "how many children did you give birth to" and "how many are still living".  I love these questions and wished that they had asked these questions on every census but especially on the older censuses when childhood and infant mortality was so high.  So, I looked on the 1900 Census and found that Antonina had given birth to 11 children (all I am assuming in Poland) and that 4 were currently living.  I see I have my work cut out for me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


         I guess I will begin with Little Grannie's (Lillian Braciszewski -- the lady on the far right in the photo) family tree.  Her maternal grandmother (and my 2nd great grandmother) was Antonina Zuchowska..  She is the oldest relative that I have information on (other than a name) of Lillian's ancestors.  Antonina was born in Poland in 1825.
        Thanks to the wonderful Poznan Marriage Project (at, I found information on Antonina's marriage to my 2nd great grandfather Jacob Gruszka.  Antonina was 22 years old at the time of the wedding while her spouse Jacob was 26.  They were married in 1847 in Lechlin, Wielkopolskie, Poland.  Jacob's parents are listed as Joannes and Marianna Gruszka while Antonina's parents are Thomas and Marianna Zuchowska.  The Poznan Marriage Project is a great resource because you can get a lot of information, however, the parent names aren't always given.
        I can't find any more information on Jacob Gruszka.  He must have died in Poland before 1896 because Antonina immigrated to the US in that year to live with her daughter Marianna. In the 1900 census, Antonina is living at 1129 3rd Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her married daughter Marianna, her son-in-law Ignatz Reszel and 5 great grandchildren.  Antonina's marital status is listed as widowed.  I can't find Antonina in the 1910 census -- not with Marianna's family nor with her other daughter Josephine's family.  I did find a Marjanna Gruszka that died on 26 March 1903 in Milwaukee (according to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries at site). I wonder if that could be her.
According to my research, I only found two children from the marriage of Antonina and Jacob -- Marianna and Josephine.  So, there could be more siblings out there  -- I have located more Gruszka's in the US.  Time (and more research) will tell if we are related or not.

Friday, February 15, 2013


                Kinga Jeanine Stachowiak was married to my Great Uncle Eugene Stachowiak.  I don't ever remember meeting my great uncle who died in 1961 but I do know that I met Kinga.  While I don't remember much about her (except for her unusual name), I do remember attending her funeral in 1971.  It was held at a Polish Catholic Church in Los Angeles and the Mass was said in Polish.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


               This week when I heard that Pope Benedict had announced his retirement, I immediately thought of my Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski) and one of my favorite stories about her. I'm the one in the 1st Communion dress and she is behind me.  Yes, by the beginning of 4th grade I was definitely taller than her!  Okay, back to my story ...
               Until 1978 all of the Popes (or at least all that we were familiar with) were of Italian descent.  Then in 1978, a miraculous thing happened -- someone of Polish descent or at least from Poland was elected Pope.  Little Grannie was thrilled to say the very least.  By this time, she was a widow (Grandpa Leonard died in 1967) and never learned to drive so I would take her on errands -- grocery shopping (I could reach the highest shelf), to the bank and of course out to lunch.  I was in college, had free time and you couldn't ask for a grandma that made you feel more special.
             At first I thought she just felt a kinship to Pope John Paul II due to their shared nationality.  Little Grannie told me that her grandparents and the Pope's parents were buried in the same cemetery in Poland.  So, in her eyes they were almost relatives!  Pope John Paul II visited the United States on a trip where he toured several cities.  Little Grannie was a big Dodger fan (well, as big as you can be at 4'9") and used to listen to the games on her transistor radio.  Well, she was as big a "Pope" fan as she was a Dodger fan and during that visit, I happened to be at her house (waiting for my car to get repaired) and there she was listening on her transistor radio to the commentary of where the Pope was visiting at that moment.  I think she listened to the radio for his entire trip to the US.
           Not until this week did I realize that the Pope's mother Emilia had died in 1929 when she was in childbirth and young Karol was only 8 years old.  Lillian also suffered the loss of a parent, her father John  Braciszewski died when she was 11 years old. So, there was more in common than I had originally anticipated.
             Jozef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II's father, is buried in Rakowicki Cemetery in Malopolskie, Poland. I don't know why I didn't think to research my ancestors based on this information that I have known for years.  Maybe that is another purpose of remembering all these wonderful stories -- hidden clues that I hadn't previously thought of. Well, I would love to say that I researched the cemetery and found some of my ancestors but the only listing I could find so far, only has American soldiers who were buried there in a special section of the cemetery.  The good news is that I have more information than I started with and will continue my quest to discover more about my Polish roots.

Monday, February 11, 2013


             I am done procrastinating, well at least about this blog!  I have thought about blogging about my Polish ancestors for the past year or so.  My poor Polish ancestors have been ignored while I blogged about my Irish and German ancestors on my HomeoftheSherlocks blog.  In my mind, I didn't have enough stories to blog about.  What happens if I run out of things to say?  Well, I have decided to put caution to the wind and dive headfirst into the Polish genealogical pool!  So, here goes ...

            Both of my maternal grandparents are 100% Polish even though they were both born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My grandma Lillian (Leokadia) Braciszewski or as we affectionately called her "Little Grannie" was 4'9" and 70 pounds soaking wet.  For her entire life, she shopped in the "little girls section" of the store for her clothing.  Lillian's parents were John Braciszewski and Josephine Gruszka.

            My grandpa Leonard Stachowiak was probably 5'11" in height but always seemed so much taller, probably because he was standing next to the diminutive Lillian.  Leonard's parents Charles Stachowiak and Anna Szukalski moved to the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles in the late 1920's after residing in Milwaukee.  Soon all their children followed suit, moving to Southern California.

             The above photo is of Little Grannie.  I am not sure when this was taken or what the occasion was. I will just call it my "Rose Queen" photo of Lillian.