Friday, July 18, 2008

My Quest

My grandfather Jozef Warunek, was born in Hucisko on August 31, 1889 and baptized one day later, September 1, 1889 in the parish of Sw. Mikolaja in Niwiska. His parents were Jan Warunek and Anna Zadlo. We knew that he had a brother Frank who lived nearby and another brother, Valentine who lived in Poland. We heard stories that Valentine came to visit here but not much of anything else was known about him.

We had copies of Jozef’s baptismal certificate, thanks to my father, but it was years before I realized just how valuable it was to have this document. It was a starting point for me and one less bit of information that had to be tracked down once the search began seriously. I knew the name of the church where he was married and the places where the family lived and died, but I didn’t know much about his life in Poland. Discovering and making use of the Internet really changed everything for me. I became aware of the Family History Centers and the resources at the Library of Michigan. Until that time, researching took place at the Burton Collection by using census records and city directories. I had everything that I wanted to know about my grandfather’s life here in the States, now I needed to embark on a quest to discover more about his life in Poland.

I began using the Internet by doing simple searches on surnames and signed up to use message boards. In doing this, several connections were made and much data was collected. It seemed logical to take the next step and join the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan with the hope of learning more about my heritage and research techniques.

I met friendly people who were on the same journey as me who were researching their families in Poland and the Detroit area. It was always exciting to speak with someone who had ancestors in the same vicinity as mine. Meetings were held monthly and I would attend them as my schedule permitted. The Polish Eaglet, which is the Society’s journal, was another source of information and tool for me to use. I found out that Robert Postula, had already been researching in the parish of Niwiska and extracted surnames from FHC microfilm #0996700. The surname list was printed in the September 1998 issue. I could hardly believe it when I saw my surname, Warunek in this article and knew that I had to contact him about it. My surname is not a particularly common name here or in Poland. We exchanged e-mails, pedigree charts, group sheets, vital documents and had countless discussions regarding the families from that area. Eventually, we discovered that our ancestors were married to each other.

The next logical step in my quest to learn more about family was to combine my love of travel with genealogy and return to Poland. My husband, Tom and I had already been to Europe in 1985. It was a bus tour of Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria. It would be interesting to see the changes there since the fall of communism. In February of 2003, my husband and I left to visit once again except for this time; we stayed with Chris Warunek and his family in Kozy, rather than in a hotel. He and his family drove us to Hucisko, Niwiska and Huta Przedborska. There we stayed with his cousin in Huta Przedborska, visited families in Hucisko and went to the church of Sw. Mikolaja Biskupa in Niwiska. Chris also translated for us the whole time as most of the people we met did not speak English. I will always be grateful to him and his family for their kindness and hospitality.

Unfortunately we were not able to meet with the pastor at Sw. Mikolaja Biskupa, but I left a letter with a request for information about my family. A few months later, he sent baptismal certificates of my grandfather, his brother and the birthdates of their siblings. We were unaware of siblings except for Valentine, and even then, the stories were sketchy and incomplete. These baptismal certificates contained more information about my grandfather than the previous one.

By using these typed baptismal certificates and the extracted names from the microfilm 0996700, I was able to link the Warunek family to Andreas, my fifth great grandfather. These certificates spurred me to searching for the other siblings, Zofia and Ignacy. I found Zofia living in Detroit but have yet to find anything on her brother Ignacy. Two other surnames, Staron and Wnuk were added to the family tree.

Traveling to Poland brought me full circle in the search for my Warunek ancestors. It was deeply emotional and an experience which I will never forget.


Terry Thornton said...

WALERIA, That for sharing your experiences --- random acts of kindness throughout the world makes genealogy work so very rewarding.
Terry Thornton

wendy said...

So happy to read that you have more documentation on your ancestry! It's always wonderful to find relatives!

Waleria said...

Thanks for commenting, Terry and Wendy. It truly has been rewarding and continues to be a work in progress.

Daniel Domino said...

My great grandfather, Franciszek Domino also emigrated from Niwiska in 1889. He came to Buffalo, NY. His brother, Ignacy, moved to Chicago, IL. Ignacy died in 1962 and in his death notice, it mentioned that he was a member of Club Niwiska. I never could find any information about Club Niwiska in Chicago. I also used Microfilm 0996700 in doing my research.