Never give up on (finding) family

Genealogy is a fascinating field of study. I think we all have a universal, innate desire to learn from whence our ancestors came.

I don't mean folks should begin to investigate the controversy over Darwin vs. intelligent design, but only to seek, correctly, the names of one's grandparents and maybe their great-grandparents.

Many pragmatic reasons almost force us to know who our recent ancestors are, e.g., even a visit to one's personal physician elicits questions of genetics and possible heredity diseases, all necessary information to properly treat many medical maladies.

The first stories I wrote for this column told of efforts to locate my Polish ancestors (March 16, 2005). Recently I've received some exciting new information which I'd like to share. It illustrates the time-honored maxim: Never give up.

A bit of background history is necessary to set this story. About the time I graduated from high school my folks packed up the family and we drove our 1951 Chevy coupe non-stop from Flint, Mich., to Pittsburgh, Pa., to attend a wedding. I recall asking my parents with an exasperated voice: "What's the big deal? Who are these people anyway forcing us to drive hundreds of miles?"

"They are your father's relatives," my mother said. That was all the information I ever extracted from anyone. The next year I was selected to represent my family for a funeral in a small town near the Pennsylvania city. This time I not only had to travel with my uncle but I had to share the same bed with him. Yuk!

I came away still perplexed about who these relatives were and why in the heck I was forced to attend these two special events. No one had heard from nor seen any of these Pittsburgh families since my travels in 1957-58.

Out of the blue last month I received a letter from my cousin Romana in Poland. She wrote: "Bernard, I have found our step-uncles/aunts. I found the records." It was obvious from the tone and length of her message that she was very excited to have helped me solve the 50-year-old genealogical mystery.

During my visit to Poland in 2001, I shared with her the Pittsburgh family conundrum. Well, to my utter amazement, my dedicated cousin in Mlawa, Poland, stayed the course, and through diligent research in churches and civil public records she discovered official records confirming that our common great-grandfather married twice and had two families.

Quoting from Romana's research: "My Grandpa Mike's father was Jan Sadowski, son of Wawrzyniec and Antonia Sadowski. Antonia's maiden name was Gawronska. Jan Sadowski's first marriage was to Jozefa Lebkowski. She was born in 1825 and died January 29, 1877 in Bogucin. They had eight children-these are the step-sibs: Walenty, Franciszek, Maryanna, Malgorzata, Teofilia, Jakub, Adam and Michalina.

"After Jozefa died, great-grandpa Jan remarried at age 54. He found an 18-year-old girl, Ewa Tomkalska, and they married and had seven children. One of these kids was your beloved grandpa Mike Sadowski. Thus, the truth is confirmed."

With shaking hands, I read and reread her letter; I actually felt a bit woozy from the adrenaline rush. I yelled out: "Rita! Rita! Look! Look at what arrived in the post from Europe! Holy smokes, what a jewel of a find. I think I now know why I once traveled to Pennsylvania for a wedding and a funeral."

I conjectured with some degree of certainty that one of the step-aunts must have immigrated to America and married Robert Bitkowski in Pennsylvania. It was the wrap-up piece of research that, in my mind, demonstrated the connection I had with relatives in the Pittsburgh area.

After the personal jubilation subsided and reality was restored, I entered the family information into my computer data bank. I felt very pleased with having completed the ancestor puzzle for posterity. After I publish the family book I plan to submit copies to libraries, historical societies and genealogical clubs of import.

The moral of this personal saga, I believe, is to never give up on the search for family members-dead or alive. Keep on looking. The search for truth, be it in science, mathematics or genealogy, is worth the effort.

Lastly, if you're interested in a lighthearted peek at yourself, you could enter your name at and see what happens. Perhaps you will find a long-lost relative! Google is a very powerful search engine-it will review billions of web pages in a fraction of a minute.

But if you are a little more serious about your family tree, is the place to go. Many thousands of family trees are posted for the general pubic to research.

Good luck.

Bernie Sadowski is a freelance writer living in Magnolia.[[In-content Ad]]