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!

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.