Aunt Bronisława Has Been Misplaced

Somehow my family misplaced my Aunt Bronisława.  Granted, she died 93 years ago, but how could the family misplace her?  Years ago, my Aunt Helen had prepared a family history and listed a sister called Bertha with no birth or death information, just a notation (Hope Cemetery) Worc. Ma.  This entry was the first time I had heard about this child.  Soon after I read this, my cousin Joe told me that this child was supposed to be buried in an unmarked grave in Hope Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts.  He had visited Hope Cemetery, but the cemetery had no record of her burial.

On one of my trips back east, I visited both Hope Cemetery and Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester (the two cemeteries are right across the street from each other).  I inquired about Bertha in both cemeteries, but both told me they had no record for her.  In fact, Hope Cemetery had no record for anyone with the surname Danko.  I’m familiar with both cemeteries since I have relatives buried in both, although most of my relatives are in Notre Dame Cemetery.  I have a map of Notre Dame Cemetery, and even an aerial photo of the cemetery.  Several of my relatives are buried there including my grandparents, Michael and Mary (Dziurzynska) Danko.

Notre Dame Cemetery in Worcester Massachusetts Monument for Michael Danko and Marianna Dziurzynska - Obverse

Monument for Michael Danko and Marianna Dziurzynska - Reverse

I visited the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records in Dorchester and looked through the birth and death indexes there.  Sure enough, I found the child and obtained copies of her birth and death certificates.  On the birth and death certificates, Bertha’s name was listed as Bronisława Danko.  She was born in Worcester on 03 January 1912 and died on 13 January 1913 of broncho pneumonia.  The death certificate stated that she was buried on 15 January 1913 in Worcester and the undertaker was Lucian Karolkewicz.  No cemetery was listed.

Now, I knew that most of my relatives were buried by Henry Karolkiewicz (Lucian’s son?)who ran Karolkiewicz Funeral Home (later called the Henry Funeral Home).  Relatively recently, Henry sold the business and the funeral home is now called Henry-Dirsa Funeral Service.  I wrote to Henry-Dirsa and asked if they had any records for the burial of Bronisława.  I enclosed my phone number, email address, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to be sure they had everything they needed to get in touch with me.  Six months later, I still hadn’t heard from them.  I wrote a second time, and a few days after I sent the second request, I received a call from the funeral home.  They told me that they had no records of burials before the 1950s, but they called Hope Cemetery and Notre Dame Cemetery to try to find where Bronisława was buried.  They received the same response that Joe and I had received:  no record of her burial.  I thanked the gentleman for his efforts and hung up.  A few minutes later, I received a second call from Henry-Dirsa Funeral Home telling me that Notre Dame Cemetery had just called them to let them know they found Bronisława!  The surname had been spelled “Danka” instead of “Danko”.  What luck!

But here is where the story really gets interesting.  Bronisława is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery in a single grave in Section 3, Lot 1464 with two other infants!  The cemetery had no record of ownership of the Lot, but had the following information:

Notre Dame Cemetery No. 01 – Owner: Owner, unknown
Lot – Sec-3 Lot-1464 Grv-1A-1C
3                                         3
3                                         3
3                   1C                  3
3                   1B                  3
3                   1A                  3
3                                         3
3                                         3
Space Deceased/Reserved  Burial Date     Age  Container
1A       Kurpiel, John            12/21/1912    1Month
1B       Danka, Bronislawa    01/15/1913   1
1C       Stonia, Franciszek    08/30/1914    8Months

AAAEnd of ListAAA  Perpetual Care Unpaid — No Activity Allowed Until Full Payment

So here is the great mystery.  Who are these two other children buried in the same grave with my aunt?  Why are they all buried together in a single grave?  And who purchased the lot?

Well, I’m still working on this mystery.  There is no stone on the grave, so I’m planning to have one set in place this year.  I paid the perpetual care fees that had been accumulating for over 90 years, so now I’m the legal owner of the lot.  The cemetery requires that I place the names of all three children on any stone I place on the grave, so I’m trying to find the birth and death dates for the other two children.  I have had some limited success.

John Kurpiel was born on 30 October 1912.  Since he was buried on 21 December 1912, I assume he died a few days before he was buried, although I haven’t yet found a death record for him.

Franciszek Stonia is a more of a mystery.  I haven’t found a birth or death record for him, yet.  He was buried on 30 August 1914, so he probably died a few days before then.  He was 8 months old when he died, meaning he was probably born in December 1913.

The last time I was in Massachusetts, I visited the Vital Records Office in Dorchester again.  Unfortunately, they had just transferred all the records from 1910-1915 to the Massachusetts Archives.  So, I went over to the Archives.  When I arrived there, they told me that they had just sent all the 1910-1915 death records out to be microfilmed!

I’m planning to be in Massachusetts in July, so I’ll stop by the Archives again and try to find the missing records.  In any case, there will be a stone on Aunt Bronisława’s grave by the end of the year.

Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko

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3 Responses to Aunt Bronisława Has Been Misplaced

  1. Sandi Swett says:

    Why don’t you try going to (or contacting) the Worcester Public Library and looking up the deaths by date in back newspapers. Worcester has newspapers back into the 1800’s and since you have burial dates you may be able to find obituaries.

    If you have already made your trip to Mass. and still haven’t found the answers to your questions let me know and the next time I go to the Worcester Library I will check the back papers for you if you’d like.


  2. Hi Sandi,

    Now that you mention it, checking the newspapers for death records should have been high on my to-do list! Thanks for your kind offer to ckeck the newspaper archives in Worcester.

    I did, eventually find the birth and death records for all three children, but their names were spelled differently in different records.

    Since I wrote this article, I arranged to have a monument placed on their grave.


  3. Hi Steve,

    I am totally riveted by your “scientific method” posts and by the post concerning your Aunt Bronislawa. I am of Polish/French-Canadian descent from the Worcester, MA area and have “found” two infant girls, cousins of my grandmother, with stories similar to your own. My grandmother’s cousins date from around the same time period as well. Just curious, did you ever make a connection between your aunt and the other children buried with her? You may have already solved this mystery, but if you haven’t I’d be happy to try to help you out if you ever decide to pursue it further. I’m glad your aunt has been “found” and more importantly remembered after all these years.

    Thanks for such an interesting series of posts!

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