Don't Believe Everything You Read – Or Should You?

Yesterday, I posted the Marriage Certificate for my grandparents, Kostanty Niedzialkowski and Helena Chmielewska.  In that document, my grandfather listed his parents as Theophil Niedzialkowski and Xaveria Zygmuntowicz.  I found one other record for my grandfather that also lists the names of his parents – Kostanty’s Application for a Social Security Account Number (SS-5).

SS-5 for Kostanty Niedzialkowski

Kostanty Niedzialkowski’s SS-5

Click on the link for a PDF copy of Kostanty Niedzialkowski’s Application for a Social Security Account Number.  The record states that:

  • Kostanty Niedzialkowski received Social Security Number 034-09-4891
  • He was living at 18 Huntington Avenue, Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Kostanty was working for Worcester pressed Steel, 100 Barber Avenue in Worcester
  • He was born on October 28, 1892 in Poland and was 44 years old in 1936 when he applied for his Social Security Account Number
  • His parents were Teofil Niedzialkowski and Ksavera Napierkowski
  • He was a white male

In this document, Kostanty stated that his mother was Ksavera Napierkowski.  However, in his Marriage Certificate, he stated that his mother was Xaveria Zygmuntowicz.  What’s going on here?

Did Kostanty forget his mother’s maiden name in one or both of these documents and simply guess at her name?  The first name could be different spellings of the same name in both documents – Xaveria and Ksavera – but there is no way the surname could be variants of the same name.

Is the name of Kostanty’s mother incorrect on one of these documents?  If so, which one?

Clearly, the document that would answer this question is Kostanty’s Birth and Baptismal Record from Poland.  Unfortunately, I could not find his Birth and Baptismal Record in the Parish Records where he said he was born, nor could I find the Marriage Record for his parents.

I did find Birth and Baptismal Records for what appear to be two brothers and a sister, and these three records list the mother as Ksawera Zygmuntowicz.  However, this is not clear evidence that Kostanty’s mother was the same woman.

Here are two hypotheses on the correct name of Kostanty’s mother.  The first assumes that only one of the two documents is correct and the second assumes that both documents are correct:

  1. Kostanty’s mother’s maiden name was Ksavera Zygmuntowicz and he simply made a mistake on his SS-5
  2. Kostanty’s mother was married twice, meaning that either Napierkowski or Zygmuntowicz was her maiden name, and the other name was the surname of her first husband

The only Szwelice parish records where I found the surname Zygmuntowicz were the Birth and Baptismal Records for Kostanty’s brothers and sister.  In Szwelice, the surname Napierkowski is extremely common.  At this point, I assume that Ksawera was from a different parish, and that Teofil married Ksawera and the couple gave birth to Kostanty in Ksawera’s parish, not in Szwelice.  Which parish that was, I have no idea.

This document contains two other interesting facts.  Kostanty was working for Worcester Pressed Steel in 1936.  He continued to work at Worcester Pressed Steel until he retired in 1961.  In 1936, the family was living at 18 Huntington Avenue in Worcester.  This house was owned by Kostanty’s uncle, Frank Niedzialkosky.

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4 Responses to Don't Believe Everything You Read – Or Should You?

  1. Jasia says:

    Here’s a third hypothesis for you… Konstanty’s mother had 2 maiden names.

    Here’s the scenariao: Ksawera’s parents had one surname (say Zygmuntowicz) which she had too when she was born. Then her parents died when she was young and she was raised by one of her godparents who had the second surname (say Napierkowski). They weren’t fussy about legally adopting orphaned children in the old days back in Poland, so I’m told. It was actually common for children to assume the surname of the family that took them in and raised them, or use both surnames interchangeably. This was explained to me by someone doing some research for me in Poland. It happens to have been true in the case of someone on my family tree who used 2 surnames interchangably. It could be the case here as well.

  2. Thanks for the new hypothesis, Jasia!

    I hadn’t thought of the possibility that Ksawera might have been raised or adopted by another family, but that’s an excellent hypothesis. In the past, I’ve found that my ancestors usually didn’t leave blatantly incorrect records, so I’ve been loathe to speculate that my grandfather just wrote the wrong name for his mother’s maiden name on his Social Security Application. I’ll keep your hypothesis in mind as I continue to search for my grandfather’s Birth and Baptismal Record and my great-grandparents’ Marriage Record.

  3. As a corollary to Jasia’s excellent suggestion, is it possible that one of the names is a patronymic?

    I’m not familiar with Polish names, but with Russian names a woman might be known by her given name, her patronimic, and her last name. Sometimes only the given and patronymic were used. Perhaps this is what’s happening with your Polish records?

  4. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Polish names don’t typically use patronymics. However, when surnames were first used in Poland, some surnames were based on patronymics. The patronymic was then passed down to future generations as a surname.

    Zygmuntowicz was originally a patronymic from the name Zygmunt. Napierkowski is not a patronymic.

    Since I’ve had no luck finding my grandfather’s Birth and Baptismal Record or my great-grandparents’ Marriage Record, I think it might be worthwhile to see if there is a Zygmunt Napierkowski in the Szwelice parish records. Who knows? The search won’t take long and I might just find something!

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