1913: A Wedding in Cumbola: Stanley and Susan

#52Ancestors Week 23 Wedding

The prompt of this week for 52 Ancestors is “Wedding” and I would like to share some wedding pictures of Stanley Lubinsky (Wierzbicki) and Susan Stempkowski. Note that the Wierzbicki family later used the surname Lubinsky so their records are found under either name! Reasons for the name change are unknown although perhaps Wierzbicki refers more to the area where they came from in Lithuania and Lubinsky may be an Americanized version of Wierzbicki. Stanley and Susan became the parents of Elizabeth Lubinsky of Cumbola, Pennsylvania who married Charles Pawlak of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Elizabeth and Charles were the parents of my husband, Daniel.

It was a beautiful day on the 25th of June in 1913 when a handsome Stanley Wierzbicki (Lubinsky) married a lovely, petite girl named Susanna Stempkowska in Cumbola, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. They made a beautiful couple indeed!

Stanley was the son of Joseph (Jozef) Wierzbicki and Mary Anne Wojtkiewicz who immigrated to America from Lithuania around 1893. They brought three of their children with them including Mary, Stanley and Joseph. Five more siblings of Stanley were born in Cumbola, PA where the family settled. Susan Stempkowska also immigrated from Poland to America with her family in the 1890s. She was only about 2-3 years old when she arrived with her parents, Adam and Florence Stempkowski, her brother Michal Constantine, and her aunt, Mary Stempkowski (sister of Adam). Susan’s family also settled in Cumbola.

We don’t know exactly how Stanley and Susan met but since Cumbola was such a small town, they may have gone to school or church together. As a matter of fact, both families were Catholic and attended St. Anthony’s Polish Catholic Church in Cumbola and the children of both families went to St. Anthony’s School where lessons were taught in both English and Polish. It is no surprise that they were married in St. Anthony’s Church as shown by the copy of their marriage certificate below! Their names are written in Polish.

Another picture from their wedding shows the newlyweds, Stanley and Susan, in the middle. Next to Susan in the best man, Joseph Wierzbicki (Lubinsky), who was the brother to Stanley. Next to Stanley is the maid of honor. I was once told that this is Rose Wierzbicki, a sister to Stanley. However, this is not verified. Stanley actually had five sisters including Mary, Rose, Helen, Anna and Margaret and two brothers, Joseph and William. This is part of another larger picture. I can see that there are more people in the background that are most likely other family members of Stanley and Susan. However, I have no idea where the original picture is or who has it, but I certainly would like to see it!

There are few pictures of Stanley and Susan together as Stanley died in 1940 at the age of 48 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Susan passed away in 1988 at age 91. The picture below is from the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.

Stanley and Susan are buried together in Saint Anthony’s Church Cemetery near Cumbola. Watch for more posts on Stanley and Susan in the future! Thanks for stopping to read my blog!

“Where There’s a Will”…Blanche Pawlak

#52ancestors Week 18 Where There’s a Will

Finding a will of an ancestor can tell a researcher many things such as names of children or assets of the deceased. Some wills I have come across are very complex and some quite simple. The last will I was lucky to find was the last will and testament of Bronislawa Pawlak, also known as Blanche Pawlak. Her will was dated November 5, 1966 and Blanche passed away on December 11, 1966, just over a month later. Blanche lived as a widow for 26 years after her husband, Stephan Pawlak, died on June 25, 1940.

It does seem usual to me to find a will written by a woman but perhaps Blanche wanted to have a will because Stephan died intestate (without a will). After Stephan’s death, Blanche had to hire a lawyer to petition the Milwaukee County Probate Court to prove her survivorship and right of ownership of their home on Becher Street in Milwaukee. According to the documents, Blanche had to first establish she was his legal wife: “The petitioner further represents that she, the widow and former wife, and STEPHAN PAWLAK, her husband, from the time of their marriages, up to and including the day of the death of STEPHAN PAWLAK, had lived together as husband and wife.

Further, the document stated that Stephan “did not during his lifetime sell, transfer or convey or dispose of the … real estate or any part, parcel, or portion thereof, or any interest therein, and that BLANCHE PAWLAK, also known as BRONISLAWA PAWLAK, as such survivor, upon the death of said STEPHAN PAWLAK, became the sole owner of said premises, pursuant to said deed and conveyance.” To sum up the rest of the document, Blanche was granted a certificate from the County Court of Milwaukee County for the right of survivorship. This document was dated April 28, 1941, ten months and 3 days after Stephan’s death.

Because Blanche left a will, her wishes for dispersal of her estate were clearly laid out quite simply and efficiently. The will consisted of four parts with the first part directing the executor to pay all her debts, funeral expenses and other expenses and to see that a monument is erected over her grave that is similar to the one on Stephan’s grave.

The second part of Blanche’s will bequeaths all the rest of her estate, real and personal, in equal shares to her heirs. Each of these heirs received 1/6 th and this included sons Stanley, Edward, Sigmund and Charles, daughter Clara and daughter-in-law Agnes Pawlak, widow of late son Joseph. If Agnes were to predecease Blanche, then her share would have been divided equally between Agnes’ children.

The third part of the will names Clara Berndt (daughter) as sole executrix unless she was unable to serve, then son Stanley would have been the executor. If Stanley was unable then son Edward would serve. In the fourth or last part of the will, Blanche authorized the executor to sell, mortgage, convey, lease or otherwise dispose of her property and personal estate as soon as it was convenient after her death.

Clara, as executrix of Blanche’s estate, sold the home on 2032 West Becher Street in Milwaukee to Agnes Pawlak (widow of son Joseph), Alfred J Pawlak and Marilyn L. Pawlak, his wife on March 10, 1967. The sales price was $10,000. The proceeds were used to pay Blanche’s final expenses which included $1295 for Max A Sass Funeral Home, $195 for the Quarry Monument Co., $84.50 for doctors and St. Francis Hospital, and $630 for Attorneys fees. Leaving a will clearly outlined Blanche’s wishes for her heirs!

Blanche & Elizabeth Pawlak (Lubinsky) 1946
Blanche and Charles Pawlak, 1946
Blanche Pawlak with grandsons Daniel and Tom, Jan 7, 1957.

Blanche Pawlak with grandsons Daniel and Leonard Pawlak, circa 1962

Joseph and Mary Ann Wierzbicki

The father of Elizabeth Lubinsky was Stanley Lubinsky, also called Stanley Wierzbicki. The family used both surnames but used Wierzbicki usually in early records and Lubinsky in later records. Stanley’s father, who was Elizabeth Lubinsky’s paternal grandfather, was Joseph Wierzbicki. Joseph married Mary Ann Wojtkiewicz, Elizabeth’s grandmother, about 1878 in Lithuania. On Google translate, Mary Ann’s last name of Wojtkiewicz translates roughly to “province of Kiev” so it may mean where her family originated from.

Now Joseph was born in May of 1856 in Balwierzyski, Russia – part of Lithuania. He was the son of Antoni Wierzbicki and Anna, both born about 1830. Did you see the “wierz” in the middle of Balwierzyski? I wonder if the Wierzbicki surname has something to do with where Joseph came from. According to Wikipedia, Wierzbicki is a “noble Polish family name. It derives from the Polish word wierzba meaning willow. The Lithuanian form is Verbickas and the Russian is Verbitsky/Verbitski.”

So how did the Wierzbicki family get to America and become the Lubinsky family? It all started with the immigration of Stanley’s parents, Joseph and Mary Wierzbicki, who came to America in 1893 bringing their three children named Mary, Stanley and Joseph Jr. Daughter Mary was about nine years old, Stanley was about seven and Joseph Jr was about four years old. Most likely they traveled as steerage passengers and were subjected to crowded, unsanitary conditions aboard a steamship. I have not found a passenger list but the 1900 census lists their immigration year as 1893.

I wonder how they chose to settle in the mountains of Pennsylvania, namely Cumbola in Schuylkill County. Perhaps they had friends or relatives already in that area and learned about Cumbola from them. In the early 1900s, Cumbola was mainly composed of Polish and Lithuanian Catholics. Maybe the mountainous area was similar to where they had come from in Lithuanian. Many of their friends and neighbors spoke Polish like the Wierzbicki family and the church services were in Polish. Polish and English were both taught in the schools.

1900 Census for Joseph Lubinsky

The first written records of the Wierzbicki family is the 1900 Federal Census for Cumbola, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania and, interestingly, they used the name Lubinsky in the census ( the census taker spelled it Librusky!). Joseph works in a coal mine like many of his neighbors. He was listed as an alien (not naturalized). Joseph was now 45 years old and wife Mary (Mary Ann) was 40. Mary was born in January of 1860 and they have been married 22 years and now have seven children born and all are living in 1900. The three that were born in Russia were Mary, age 16 and her two brothers, Stanley, 13 and Joseph Jr, age 10. Other children that were born in Pennsylvania included Rosy (Rozalia) age 6, Annie age 4, William age 2 and Ellie (Helen) age 3 months. They rented their home and had a boarder named John Creguna, a 20 year old coal miner, who also immigrated from Russia the same year as the family and may have traveled with them.

The family was harder to find in the 1910 Census and I had to browse all the Cumbola census records to find them. Instead of using the Lubinsky name in 1910, they used Wierzbicki! Joseph is listed as 52 years old and Mary as 48 so in ten years since the last census, Joseph and Mary gained only seven or eight years! I believe, based on other records, Joseph was about 55 and Mary was about 50 in 1910. Sometime between 1900 and 1910, Joseph became a citizen and was naturalized. At that time, when the husband became naturalized, the wife and children were automatically naturalized.

In 1910, Joseph was working as a retail merchant in a grocery store and spoke English and Polish. Their sons, Stanley and Joseph Jr, worked as carpenters in a railroad box shop. Besides Rozalia, Anna, William and Ella (Helen), the latest family addition was Margaret, age 8, who was incorrectly listed as Magdelena. Interestingly, it also listed ten children born to Mary Ann but only eight were living. They lost two children between 1900 and 1910! No death records were found for the children who apparently died at birth or died young.

In 1917, tragedy strikes when their daughter Mary dies. Mary was 34 years old and married to John Krizno and they had two young sons, Leo Krizno born 1909 and Jesse Krizno born 11 Nov 1917. Mary Wierzbicki Krizno died on 20 Nov 1917 in the Pottsville Hospital just nine days after the birth of Jesse. The cause of death was “Puerperal Septic Infection” and General Peritonitis. Most likely this was a complication from the birth of the baby as the duration of the illness was ten days. She was buried in Sacred Heart Polish Cemetery near Cumbola.

By 1920, Joseph owned his home free of mortgage and worked as a “teamster” doing “hauling.” His age is listed as 65 and Mary is 62. Daughter Annie is 24; William is 22 and works in a car repairer shop; Ellie is 20 and works as a winder in a silk mill, and Margaret is 18 and a saleslady in a grocery store. Also the family is raising Jesse Krizno, age 3, the son of Mary Krizno.

The last record I found for Joseph was his gravestone in Sacred Heart Polish Cemetery near Cumbola. He passed away in 1928 and was buried next to his daughter, Mary Krizno who died in 1917. Mary Ann stayed in the same house and, in 1930, daughters Anna and Helen lived with her along with grandchildren Jessie Krizno and Theresa Lubinsky and a nephew, Alex Rufus. The same relatives were living with her in 1940 except Helen who had married.

Mary Ann lived to 1941, dying of a coronary occlusion on February 8th. Mary was buried in a plot in the same cemetery and two of her daughters, Margaret and Helen, were later buried next to her. More about the family will be in future posts!

Joseph and Mary Ann Wierzbicki/Lubinsky, circa 1920.

Sources: U.S. Federal Census: Year: 1900; Census Place: Cumbola, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0122; FHL microfilm: 1241482.

U.S. Federal Census: Year: 1910; Census Place: Blythe, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1416; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 0007; FHL microfilm: 1375429.

U. S. Federal Census: Year: 1920; Census Place: Blythe, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1649; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 8.

U. S. Federal Census 1930, Index and images, FamilySearch; Blythe, Schuylkill Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0009; Sheet: 6B; Roll: 2144; FHL microfilm: 2341878.

U.S. Federal Census: Year: 1940; Census Place: Blythe, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t 0627-03601; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 54-9.

Eva Leliwinska Wysocki

#52ancestors Week 14

I found two old photos from Elizabeth Lubinsky Pawlak’s album showing “the grannies” of her children. The first picture features Elizabeth with her mother Susan Lubinsky, her grandmother Florence Stempkowski and her great-grandmother Eva Wysocki. It was probably taken in the late 1920s.

Left to Right: Florence Stempkowski, Susan Lubinsky, Elizabeth, and Eva Wysocki

The second photo was taken on the same day and features Florence Stempkowski (mother of Susan Lubinsky), Sister M. Assumpta (Sister of Susan), Antonina Stempkowski (a relative) and Eva Wysocki (mother of Florence).

Left to Right: Florence Stempkowski, Sr. Assumpta, Antonina Stempkowski, and Eva Wysocki.

The person I have been researching as of late is Eva Wysocki and these are the only two pictures I found of her. She was the mother of Florence Wysocka Stempkowski, both who were born in Poland. Eva has an interesting story. She was born as Eva Leliwinska in 1847 in Poland, most likely in Stawiszyn-Laziska, Zurmin, Mosovia, Poland. Eva Leliwinska married Jakob Wysocki who was the son of Bartholomiej Wysocki (1813-1894) and Maryanna Tucholska (1822-1898). Jakob was born in Chamsk, Zuromi, Mosovia, Poland and had six siblings named Adam, Franciszek, Katarzyna, Wojcieck, Antoni and Franciszka.

Jakob and Eva (Ewa in Polish) had two daughters that I found. One daughter, of course, was Florentyna (Florence) Wysocka, born 1870, who married Adam Stempkowski on 20 November of 1884 in Warszawa, Radzanow, Mlawa, Poland. The other daughter was Maryanna Wysocki, born in 1872. So far, nothing is known about sister Maryanna. Did she come to America or stay in Poland?

Jacob and Eva lived in Poland after Adam and their daughter Florence immigrated to America about 1891. Sometime before 1907, Jakob passed away and Eva was left alone. Of course, Florence must have been quite worried about her mother! The part of Poland Eva lived in was taken over by Russia. Her husband, Adam, decided to go to Poland/Russia and get his mother-in-law and bring her to America to live with them. At this time, Eva was about 50 years old. How many husbands would do that for their mother-in-law? It must have been somewhat of a sacrifice as they lived on a coal miner’s salary!

According to passenger lists, Adam Stempkowski traveled to Poland/Russia in December of 1907. He arrived in Liverpool, England on the ship “Cedric” on his way to Rabomo Plock, Russia where Eva and Jakob lived. I found a returning passenger list for Adam and Eva when they sailed from Bremen, Germany on June 9, 1908 aboard the ship named SS Kaiser Wilhelm II. Adam was listed as 39, married and occupation as a miner and Eva was listed as 50 years old and widowed. This confirms that Jakob died before 1907.

Adam and Eva are number 15 and 16 on this list

I am quite sure Florence was extremely happy to see her mother again and have her and Adam arrive back in Cumbola PA safely! In talking to a cousin who grew up in Poland and knows many family stories, I found out something interesting about Adam. It seems that Adam loved to travel and before he married, he traveled to the Holy Land. Besides other sites, he walked the path that Jesus walked on his way to the crucifixion and found a black stone on the path that he believed was turned black by the blood of Jesus. He kept the stone and the family would rub the stone while they prayed.

I think it was wonderful of Adam to travel all the way to Poland/Russia to bring Eva to America. I do not have a death date for Eva Wysocki, but know she died between 1930 and 1940. She was last listed in the 1930 census as age 70 living with Adam, Florence and the Lubinsky family in their three story home in Cumbola PA . Eva was buried in St. Anthony’s Polish Cemetery near Cumbola in East Norwegian. However, relatives have been unable to locate her grave marker so her death date cannot be verified. Adam passed away on 20 September 1933 from “myocardia degeneration” and was also buried in St. Anthony’s Polish Cemetery. As noted in a previous blog, Florence died in 1942 and was buried next to Adam. Hopefully, I will be able to find more information on Eva as I research the family!

A Children’s Home and Sophie – Nearly Forgotten!

#52ancestors Week 13 – Nearly Forgotten

With the COVID-19 virus touching just about every facet of our life, I wondered how they managed back in 1917-1918 when another pandemic raged called the Spanish Flu. More importantly, I think of the Pawlak family in Milwaukee at that time, Stephen and Blanche (Bronislawa) Pawlak and their seven children including Charles Pawlak who was the youngest. They had a lot more going on in the family than just trying to avoid the epidemic.

In early 1917, Blanche fell ill and it may have been tuberculosis as she had to leave the family for an extended period of time for treatment. Or perhaps she was in a postpartum depression after the birth of her last child or she had the flu and pneumonia. We really don’t know why she had to seek treatment but do know that it must have put the family in turmoil. Stephen and the oldest son, Stanley had to work to continue supporting the family but who would care for the other six children?

The solution was the Milwaukee County Home for Dependent Children in nearby town of Wauwatosa, WI – an institution nearly forgotten today!

This old postcard show a pretty peaceful and pleasant setting for the Home for Dependent Children. Children of families that couldn’t afford to care for them were housed here after the complex was built in 1898. This institution cared for children of poor families, abandoned children, delinquent children and orphans as well as children of parents incarcerated, insane, neglectful, immoral, ill, deceased among other reasons. The Children’s Home was intended to be a temporary home and children were returned to parents as soon as it was possible. This 160 acres multi-building complex was interconnected by artery-like tunnels to the Administration building which had a laundry, children’s dining room, kitchen and washrooms – all the necessary rooms for a functioning children’s home. The children stayed in one of four “cottages” and attended the school on the property.

One of the Girl’s Cottages on the right with a tunnel connecting to the Administration building.

The Children’s Home was an answer to the Pawlak family dilemma when Blanche fell ill. Edward, Joseph, Clara, Sigmund, Sophie and Charles went to the Home on 10 April 1917. Sophie was just two years old and Charles just turned one year old. Clara, who was seven at the time, remembered her dad bringing them to the home. The girls went one way and the boys another when they arrived. She remembered her dad visiting them as they were in the Home for some time. On 4th of July, she recalled getting all dressed up in stars and stripes and being picked to lead the girls in a parade. Clara recalled she learned how to swim while at the home and learned English in the school. (The Pawlak family spoke Polish at home.)

Milwaukee County Home School and Playground.
Children in front of Administration Building. According to records, by 1915, the Home averaged 297 children per day and the average stay was around 8 1/2 months.

Although Clara enjoyed her time at the home, things did not go well for her younger sister, Sophie, who was two years old. Five months after entering the Home, Sophie becomes gravely ill and died on September 22, 1917, just five months after arriving. Little Sophie was about 2 years and 9 months old. The cause of death was double migrative lobar pneumonia and convulsions due to toxemia. Could her death have been connected to the flu epidemic? Many times the flu victims contracted pneumonia and that was listed as the cause of death rather than the flu. We will never know. Clara remembered little about Sophie’s funeral except the little white coffin. However, Stephen and Blanche must have been devastated to lose their child under these circumstances.

Hospital Building for the Milwaukee County Home where Sophie most likely died.

Sophie’s funeral was at St. Adalbert’s Church and she was buried in St. Adalbert’s Cemetery in Milwaukee. Although the family made wooden crosses for her grave throughout the years, a permanent marker was never purchased for some reason until last year. Charles’s son, Daniel, and two cousins decided Sophie must never be forgotten and purchased a marble grave stone. After 102 years, Sophie finally has a marker that will last long after those who remember her are gone!

On this 160 acre complex on Watertown Plank Road in Wauwatosa, WI with the Children’s Home were also other public welfare institutions such as the Milwaukee County Hospital, School of Agriculture, Muirdale and Blue Mound Sanitoriums, and the Asylum for Mentally Diseased. All the buildings associated with the County Children’s Home have been razed and just the Administration Building is left and designated as a Historic Site.

In a way, the Milwaukee County Home for Dependent Children is a nearly forgotten institution. But it still has a place in the Pawlak family history – a sad chapter with the loss of Sophie Pawlak. The Children’s Home has a heavy history as a place surely of sorrow for countless children but perhaps also a place of comfort for others. My final image is that of a group of orphans being tended by a young nurse at the Children’s Home. I find it a touching photo.

Source: https://onmilwaukee.com/history/articles/county-parks-headquarters.html.

Luck and a Prayer!

#52ancestors Week 11 Theme: Luck

This story is about Charles “Carl” Pawlak, my husband’s father and a very dear father-in-law to me! Carl had joined the Wisconsin National Guard at age 18 just like all his brothers had done but he went further and decided to enlist in the regular army. It was June 16, 1941 and Carl was officially in the service. His parents didn’t want him to go because, after all, he was the youngest son, but he was 25 and made his own decisions.

Carl went from Fort Sheridan, Illinois to Camp Polk, Louisiana (he always called in Lousy-anna after that) and then to tank training in the Mojave Desert. Mountain training then followed in Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania. Here is where he met Elizabeth Lubinsky, the love of his life, but that will be another story! On September 5, 1943, he was put on a ship bound for England and endured nine months of training over Britain’s Salibury Plains. Clearly, he was being prepared for the invasion of Europe.

Carl survived D-Day plus one on Normandy Beach in June of 1944. He was in the Third Armored Division, a tank division, and served as reconnaissance NCO under the command of Gen. Maurice Rose. Some of the battles and campaigns he was in included Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe and the Battle of the Bulge.

Elizabeth corresponded with Carl and they wrote almost daily. She saved all his letters and passed them on to their sons. Carl’s handwriting was very neat and legible and his spelling was excellent. Many letters were sent by V-mail or air mail across the Atlantic. V-mail is short for “Victory Mail” which was a hybrid mail process used in WWII as “the primary and secure method to correspond with soldiers stationed abroad. To reduce the logistics of transferring an original letter across the military postal system, a V-mail letter would be censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at its destination.” Correspondence was on small letter sheets (7″x 9 1/8″) would be reduced to thumbnail size for transport and later blown up and printed.

It was a copy of one of these V-mail letters that caught my attention. The postmark was April 15, 1945.

So far Carl had been through a lot of battles and harsh circumstances too numerous to expound on here, but he considered himself lucky to have survived as many of his friends and comrades didn’t. Then came the day his luck ran out and the “law of averages caught up “with him. It was Easter morning in Patterborn, Germany on March 31, 1945 and he was hit and spun around by a German bullet. The medics quickly sewed up his hip and side in the field leaving part of his field jacket and belt in the wound in their haste. Many more were wounded and all needed attention! I guess he felt lucky to survive the injury but he would not make it home unscathed.

What impressed me was how he made “light” of the injury in his letter to Elizabeth and tried not to worry her. But it was much more serious than he let on. He was sent to a hospital in France and when they opened him up, he had developed gangrene in his wound and the surgeon had to scrape his hip down to the bone. The army was worried Carl wouldn’t make it. Penicillin therapy and debridement (removal of foreign matter) was the course of treatment. In September of 1945, Carl was back in the states and discharged from the army on October 5, 1945. He had served two years and three months of Continental Service and two years and 17 days of foreign service.

Carl was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, EAME Theatre Ribbon with 1 Silver Battle Star, four Overseas Service Stars, one Service Stripe, Bronze Battle Star and the American Defense Service Ribbon. The whole family is proud and honored by his service and sacrifices for our country. How did he survive? Many times Carl said that surviving the war required “luck and a prayer!”

Portrait of a Strong Woman: Florentyna Wysocki Stempkowski

#52ancestors Week 10 Theme: Strong Woman

There are so many strong women in Pawlak and Lubinsky ancestries that I feel like I should write about them all! But of course, just picking one for this week’s blog would be enough so I decided on Florentyna Wysocki who married Adam Stempkowski. Florentyna, or Florence as she was known in English, was the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth Lubinsky Pawlak, being the mother of her mother, Susan Stempkowski Lubinsky.

When you first look at her photo, you may not characterize her as a “strong woman” as she is young, petite, lady-like, and has an endearing smile. But researching her story reveals her surprising inner strength and resolve.

Florentyna Wysocki was born in Stawiszn-Laziska, Mazowieke, Poland which was near the city of Radzanow and located near the central part of what was the Poland in the 1870’s. Florence’s birth year varied in the Federal Census listings of 1900 to 1940 but checking her death certificate, her birth year was listed as 1870. However, her gravestone lists 1866! Her parents were Jakob Wysocki and Eva Liliwinski. She and Adam were married in Poland according to the Warszawa, Radzanow (Mlawa) Church Records on 20 November 1884 when Florence would have been about 16 years old. When she was about 18 years old, she bore their first child, a son named Michal Konstanty (Constantine). You can read about Constantine’s story here: https://thepawlakpast.com/2020/02/22/death-in-a-coal-mine/

A second child, a girl, Susanna (Susan) Stempkowski, was born on 17 March 1888 in possibly Poznan, Poland. Things seemed to be going well for the new family or were they? Poland was in a state of unrest and, for some unknown reason, the family decided to make the move to America. Florence had to leave behind her mother Eva and father Jakob and others she knew and loved and travel to a strange country with her husband, young son and small daughter! Since they were living near central Poland, they had to travel probably about 400 plus miles by coach, train or wagon, to a port such as Bremen, Germany to board a ship. Most likely, they traveled in crowded and unsanitary conditions as steerage passengers aboard the ocean liner.

Passenger records for them have not yet been found but they did immigrate in the 1890’s as they first appeared in the 1900 Federal Census living in Cumbola, Blythe Township, Schuylkill Co., Pennsylvania. Florence was now about 30 years old and had another child, a daughter Bridget. According to the census, Bridget was 4 months old. Adam was working as a coal miner and they had two boarders who were also coal miners and born in Poland. Taking in boarders probably helped the family get by but added more daily work for Florence.

By 1910, little Bridget had disappeared from the Census and it is likely she died as an infant or young child. It must have been devastating for the family! Also, son Constantine was killed in a coal mine accident at about age 16! Family story has it that they may have signed for him to work as he was underage. How devastating for Adam and Florence! Between 1900 and 1910, the family buried two of their children! Their son Anthony who was born on 13 Jan 1901 did survive and was 8 years old in the 1910 Census. In 1906, one year after Constantine’s death, Florence and Adam had another daughter who was named Czeslaw or Celia, in English. Celia entered the convent at about age 15 and became Sr. Mary Assumpta.

More distressing news came to Florence around 1905. Back in Rabomo Plock, Poland/Russia, Florence’s father Jakob had passed away and her mother Eva was left widowed and alone. Florence must have been so worried about her mother that her husband Adam actually traveled to Poland/Russia in 1908 to get Eva and bring her to America! Eva was 50 years old at the time and Adam was 39. The passenger list confirms that Eva was a widow.

Florence, her daughter Susan, her grand-daughter Elizabeth Lubinsky and her mother Eva. c1930s

Eva lived with Florence and Adam and they all eventually moved into the Lubinsky home. Adam passed away in September of 1933 and Florence lived until 23 March 1942. Florence died of “obstruction of the esophagus” due to carcinoma of the esophagus. She was buried next to Adam in St. Anthony’s Cemetery near Cumbola. Florence had many challenges to face in her life including her move to America and losing two children. She lived through World War I, the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. She was indeed a strong woman!

Death in a Coal Mine

#52ancestors Week 9 Disaster

Last week, I began researching the mystery of a young boy in a photo and managed to identify him as the brother of my husband’s grandmother. He was an uncle to Elizabeth Lubinsky Pawlak (the brother of her mother, Susan Stempkowski Lubinsky) His name was Michal Konstanty Stempkowski and he was called Constantine in English. I was delighted to find his Polish birth certificate but could find no record of his death. I know he was alive in 1900 as he was listed in the census but disappeared from the 1910 and further census records! You can review his story thus far in the previous post. Just so you get a sense of the area of Pennsylvania in which the Stempkowski’s lived, here is an overview of the location of Schuylkill County (pronounced Skool-kill).

Schuylkill County is outlined in red.

Since the family stories claimed Constantine died while working in a coal mine, I searched for information on coal mine accidents in Pennsylvania. Since the mines in this area contained Anthracite coal or hard coal, I had to find the reports for the Anthracite regions. I found the “Pennsylvania Registers of Mine Accidents, Anthracite 1899-1913” online and began browsing the records. Thankfully they were arranged in alphabetical order by surnames and then first and middle names. The categories on the register included the names of the mine, date of accident, age of victim, fatal/nonfatal, occupation, nationality, single/married, # children, accident cause or remarks, and fault (victim, others, unavoidable) among other information.

Here is what the pages of the register look like.

On this register, I found the death record of Constantine Stemkofski (surname was misspelled) who died in a fatal accident inside the Silver Creek mine on September 20, 1905. I am certain that this is the young man I was looking for. He was listed as Polish nationality, alien, single and age 18. Since he was born on 29 September 1888 according to his birth record in Poland, this fatal accident occurred just nine days before his 17th birthday! So he was really 16 years old when he was killed in a fatal accident! Family story has it that his parents signed for him to work in the mine as he was underage but that is not verified. It could be that he misrepresented his age so he could work to help support the family.

Closeup of report showing Silver Creek Mine and date of fatal accident of Constantine Stempkowski.

The other side of the report listed the cause of his death. He was struck by a descending cage and the accident was classified as “unavoidable.” How very sad the death of Constantine is! No one wants to be forgotten and by finding his story and telling it, I feel he will be remembered. Just looking at all the accidents, one is aware of the multiple hazards of working in a coal mine!

The other half of the report of Constantine’s death – “struck by descending cage”

Another verification that this report was actually about Constantine is the fact that the Silver Creek Mine is just north of Cumbola where he and his family lived. The map below of part of Schuylkill County PA show “Silver Creek” just above Cumbola and New Phildelphia.

I have not yet found any pictures of the Silver Creek mine or of Constantine’s grave. Perhaps the area historical society would have some photos and information on the mine. I am in the process of contacting them. I am guessing Constantine was most likely buried in St. Anthony’s Cemetery (incorrect – see below) near Cumbola. There are very few gravestone photos of the cemetery online so if I ever get to travel to Pennsylvania, a visit to the cemetery would be on my list of places to see! I will post anything I find on future blogs.

March 29, 2020 I found a list of people buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in New Philadelphia near Cumbola and Constantine is buried there. On the list, he is named as “Stemkowskiego, Konstantego Date of Birth: 1888 and Date of Death: 1905.”

Source: lithuaniangenealogy.org/static_db/PA-cemSacredHeart-NewPhiladelphia.php

Favorite Discovery – Solving one Mystery and Finding More!

#52Ancestors Week 7 Theme: Favorite Discovery

I have been researching my husband’s lineage, the Pawlak and Lubinsky families, for a while and I have hit a lot of road blocks. This usually happens when I want to find records from Poland and Russia! I was working on the Elizabeth Lubinsky’s line one day and going through photos. I have seen this photo many times and so often wondered about the two unknown persons in the photo.

I wanted to find out who the two unknown people are in the picture – the young boy and young lady on the right. I had to start with what I knew already. I knew that the adults in the picture were Adam and Florence Stempkowski, the parents of the little girl who was Susan Stempkowski, the mother of Elizabeth Lubinsky. Susan was between two and three years old when the family immigrated from Poland and this picture was taken after their arrival in America.

Looking for clues, I found some on the back of the photo. On the back of the picture, Elizabeth wrote, “My mom (is) the little one in front; Grandmother, Grandfather & Uncle on right, I think his name was Constantine, Don’t know who the lady on right is, She might be a Kowalski..” Then she added on the bottom, “Constantine, I never knew him” Thank goodness, Elizabeth usually wrote notes on back of photos!

I had to assume that the boy was the son of Florence and Susan because she called him an “uncle” but I had never come across a Constantine in my research! I pulled out their 1900 Federal Census for Cumbola, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania where they lived in 1900. They immigrated from Poland about 1899 as noted on the 1920 census. In 1900, Adam was 36 and a coal miner and Florence was 30. The children listed were son “Custic” who was born 1888 and was 12 years old, daughter “Susie” born 1896 (Elizabeth’s mother), and daughter Bridget, four months old in 1900 born in Pennsylvania. Is “Custic” even a name? Also in the household was Mary Stempkowski, SISTER of Adam, who was 17 years old and born in Poland. Mary must be the young lady in the photo on the right and immigrated with her brother Adam! One mystery solved!

Skipping ahead to the 1910 and later census records, there were no further records of a Constantine or “Custic” or a Bridget or Mary Stempkowski! Bridget should have at least been in the 1910 Census as she would have been 10 years old. No records of Bridget’s death or burial have yet been found but I will keep looking. It is also not known if Mary Stempkowski married or died after 1900. One mystery solved always seems to lead to another! The 1910 Census listed, another son, Anthony who was eight years old and another daughter, Czeslawa (Celia) who was four years old along with Susanna (Susan). They were born in Pennsylvania.

1910 Census for Stempkowski Family. Note that Bridget and “Custic” are no longer listed!

Then my research to find this “Constantine” or “Custic” finally paid off – my favorite discovery so far for this family! I found a Polish birth record of Adam and Florence Stempkowski’s son dated 29 September 1888! His name was Michal Konstanty! Now I can’t read Polish but I could read enough to determine that this was their son and this was a birth record. Michal Konstanty was born in Warszawa, Radzanow, Mlawa, Masovia Poland according to the Church record. Now I had a name! Michal Konstanty was probably called Constantine in English. He is the young boy in the picture! His year of birth matched perfectly with the 1900 census information.

Birth Record of Michal Konstanty Stempkowski, 29 Sep 1888, Warszawa, Radzanow, Mlawa, Masovia, Poland.

To find out what happened to him, I contacted my husband’s cousin who grew up in Pennsylvania and knew more about the family history. Family story has it that Michal Constanty went to work in the coal mine when he was about 16 years old. His parents had to sign for him to work there as he was underage. He was killed in a mine accident in about 1904-1905 when he would have been about 16-17 years old. How sad is that! That does explain why he was not in the 1910 Census. I have not found death or burial records yet as many records from small towns in Pennsylvania are not online but my search is just beginning. This photo is the only known photo of Michal Constanty!

To find a Polish birth record is a big discovery for me! As an added bonus, I found the marriage record of Adam Stempkowski and Florentyna Wysocka in the same church in Poland. I am hoping to someday have both the records translated into English but for now I am just happy to find them and to identify the two mystery people in the photo!

Marriage Record of Adam Stempkowski and Florentyna Wysocka, 20 Nov 1884, Warszawa, Radzanow, Mlawa, Masovia, Poland.

Sources: U.S. Federal Census; Year: 1900; Census Place: Cumbola, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0122; FHL microfilm: 1241482.

U. S. Federal Census; Year: 1910; Census Place: Blythe, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1416; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0007; FHL microfilm: 1375429.

Poland Marriage Records; Warszawa, Radzanow, Mlawa, Masovia, Church Records; Image: 173; FamilySearch; FHL microfilm: 101,615,527.

Poland Birth Records; Warszawa, Radzanow, Mlawa, Masovia, Church Records; Image: 67; FamilySearch; FHL microfilm: 101,615,452.

Charles’ Grandfathers – Same Names!

#52Ancestors Week 6 Theme: Same Name

I use the weekly prompts on “52 Ancestors” website by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow to get ideas on what to write about each week. Sometimes they are helpful and sometimes I write about something else. This week the prompt is “same name.” As I was researching, I realized that Charles Pawlak’s maternal and paternal grandparents actually have the same first names – Michael! One grandfather to Charles is Michael Nowicki and the other grandfather is Michael Pawlak.

Let’s look at his maternal grandfather first – the father of Bronislawa Nowicka Pawlak. His name was Michael Nowicki and he was born about 1837. I know he was born about this time as there is a marriage record for him and Tekla Zielinska. In the record, Michael was age 40 at time of the marriage in 1877. He was also a widower but his first wife is unknown as yet. On 22 June 1877, he married Tekla (also written Thekla) who was 24 (her first marriage) in Labiszyn, Poznan, Poland.

Michael Nowicki’s parents were Martinus Nowicki and Francisca Cholewiaska who were married 24 October 1836 in Rogalinek, Poznan, Poland. Martin was 24 and Francisca was 18 at the time of marriage. Tekla’s parents are not known as yet.

Michael Nowicki was a coach driver in Poland. They were married ten years and had four children including Bronislawa. Sadly, Thecla Zielinska Nowicka died young – at age 35- of Typhus in Koscielec, Poland on 1887. About three weeks later, Michael Nowicki died on 10 June 1887 at age 50. The cause of death was intestinal inflammation. More will be coming in later posts about this family.

Charles Pawlak’s paternal grandparents, the parents of Stephan (Szczepan) Pawlak, were Michael Pawlak and Catherina Sprzaczkowski. Michael Pawlak was designated in his records as “Stellmacher” which means his occupation was either a coachmaker, railroad car maker, or carpenter. They lived in Radlowek, Kries Inowroclaw-Zacod, Poland in 1877 when Stephan was born. No information on their deaths has been found as yet.

According to a small black book kept by Bronislawa (Blanche), Stephan did have some brothers and a sister. His brothers were Andrew (Andrzej), John (Jan), and Frank (Franciszek). His sister was Joanna and was born 22 May 1888 in Gniezno, Inowroclaw. Stephan’s brother John was born in 1881 and died 13 Feb 1931 in Czarze, Poland. Clearly, their family needs more research!


Most of the information found on Family History Library microfilms:

229065, no. 27; 1194844, No. 4, p. 308; 2233216, No. 231; and 2329118

Copy of original birth certificates of Stephan Pawlak and Bronislawa Nowicka