Relative Riches

My original intent when starting my genealogy research was to prepare a Family History for my father as a Father’s Day gift. One of the first things I did was to call as many relatives as I could find and ask them to help me fill in the information in our common family tree.

In the process of doing this, I contacted many relatives whom I hadn’t seen in decades and I met several others for the first time. Everyone I contacted was happy to help with this project.

When I first started, I really didn’t expect that I would be able to discover much about my Polish ancestry. Much to my surprise, I was able to make significant progress on learning about the families of three of my grandparents.

I decided to start this blog as an attempt to publish the details of my ancestry and link digital images of the original documents to the events in my ancestors’ lives. Doing so has led to an embarrassment of riches in the number of new family members I’ve contacted in the United States, Poland, Lithuania, England, and Scotland. Most of these new family members contacted me, after finding information about their own ancestors on my blog.

Those who have contacted me include:

  • Piotr, my half-second cousin from Kraków, Poland contacted me. I had heard about the Dańko relatives living in Kraków but really didn’t know how to reach them. Fortunately, they contacted me. Piotr sent me photos of his family and provided me with the first connection to my relatives in Poland.
  • Liz, in England, who was able to correct a misspelled Polish surname. Liz is also my half-second cousin. Liz’s mother fled to England during World War II.
  • Wincent, in England, who sent me photos from his trip to the North Pole. Wincent is also my half-second cousin. Wincent is Liz’s first cousin. His mother also fled to England during World War II.
  • Kasia, in Warszawa, Poland. While we don’t have the critical document to prove our relationship, Kasia and I are relatively certain that we are fourth cousins, twice removed. Our common ancestors appear to be my 3rd great grandparents, Wojciech Dańko and Marianna Jedlińska. Kasia sent me a biography of her second great grandmother (my second cousin, twice removed), Katarzyna, who died during World War II in the Forgotten Odyssey.
  • My second cousins, once removed, David and James, both contacted me. I had heard stories of their parents from my uncles, but I had never contacted them. Because some critical documents in my grandfather’s ancestry are missing, both David and James are participating in the DNA study to prove or disprove our family relationship.
  • Walter and Ed, both of whom are cousins of my cousins, contacted me and provided a lot of details about their families, even though we are not, technically, related.
  • Louise, the wife of a cousin of a cousin, who likewise contacted me because I had blogged about her husband’s family. She, too, filled in many details about her family that I did not previously know.
  • Charlene, a very distant cousin of a cousin contacted me and sent me scans of handwritten vital records from her family. These handwritten records are essential in understanding the family relationships in this branch of the family, since these records predate governmentally mandated vital records.
  • Tadeusz from Poland, contacted me when he found information on his relatives on my blog. Tadeusz is related to the husband of my half-second cousin once removed, Rita Meleski. Tadeusz provided me with information on the ancestry of Rita’s husband.
  • Thomas, my first cousin once removed, contacted me when he found information on his paternal ancestors on my blog. I met Thomas only once, back in 1974. Thomas was only four years old at the time the one time we met.
  • Jerry, a distant cousin of my cousins contacted me to learn more about his living relatives. As it turns out, Jerry and our mutual cousins live in the same city, but had never met each other.

I’ve also contacted people who have connections to my family:

  • Paul from Scotland, who I contacted via the message boards while researching the ancestry of my Aunt Sophie’s husband Clark Gibson. It turns out that Paul is descended from Clark Gibson and Clark’s first wife, Margaret Coyle. Paul’s relatives in Scotland had been searching for information about Clark for many years before we met each other on the message boards.
  • Paulette, whose Dziurzyński ancestors come from the same Galician village as my own Dziurzyński ancestors. Moreover, both of our ancestors changed their surnames from Dziura to Dziurzyński at about the same time in history. We are fairly certain we are related, but we have not been able to gain access to the parish records to find out exactly how we are related.
  • Liliana, my second cousin through my maternal grandmother, was born in Lithuania not far from where our common ancestors Wincenty Chmielewski and Anastasia Wojnowska lived. Liliana and her brother Aidas hosted my trip to Lithuania in October and introduced me to several other relatives there.
  • Ralph, my second cousin once removed, who I contacted several years ago. Ralph brought me around Worcester County, Massachusetts and showed me Sky Farm where my grandfather’s uncle ran a dairy.

When I began the search for my family history, I had no idea I would be able to meet so many relatives previously unknown to me or my family. In particular, finding relatives still living in Poland and Lithuania has helped me feel a real connection to the homelands of my ancestors.

Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko

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5 Responses to Relative Riches

  1. Bronwyn Klimach says:

    Steve,
    Your post today reflects so much what I have found in my Polish researches, albeit on a much grander scale in your case! I have only had access to the Internet for a few years, but there are so many breakthroughs and contacts I could not otherwise have made. Indeed, initial queries years ago were usually met with ‘there is nothing to be found in Poland’. Sometimes I am pleased I am not good at taking advice :-)
    Looking forward to another fantastic year of articles from you,
    Bronwyn

  2. James says:

    Fascinating stuff Steve. It makes me think how valuable it is that people such as you document this family information, because it seems as if families are able to forget much of their history within a couple of generations! Being able to publish this work is a great way to ensure that the history lives on.

  3. Thanks for this article Steve… it really has encouraged me to get more information on my blog and look for those elusive “cousins” that I know are out there somewhere.
    Sue Edminster

  4. Donna says:

    Steve,
    It looks like you’ve had great success with people contacting YOU! In my case, I’m the one finding cousins. It would be quite different for one to find me for a change!
    I’m really curious to see how that DNA study works out, so I hope you post about the results.
    Donna

  5. Bronwyn, James, Sue, and Donna,

    Most of these relatives would not have found me if it were not for this blog, and is one reason I’m encouraged to write.

    Donna, as for the DNA study, most of the results are in, I’m just waiting for the final few pieces. I must say that this DNA analysis isn’t going to be as clear cut as I thought. I may need to consult a geneticist to fully understand the results.

    I initially thought all I needed was to test the Y-DNA of two individuals, one from each line of Niedzialkowskis, in order to tell if the two lines were related. I tested three individuals. I think I should test more to be certain of the conclusions.

    Steve

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