One of the key challenges in my family history research has been identifying the town where my paternal grandfather Alex Kowal was born. I tracked down his marriage certificate which helped to identify my grandmother’s place of birth. But it was difficult to read Alex’s place of birth.
But today I decided to search for Alex in the database of World War II draft registration cards on ancestry.com. The documentation for what they called the “old man’s registration” – a 1942 call for men 45-64 years old to fill out draft cards just in case they were needed – is just now being released. And lo and behold there he was.
According to the form, which Alex (or more likely someone on Alex’s behalf given his shaky signature at the bottom) filled out on April 25, 1942, he lived at 29 Lungsten Avenue (I remember the address as 29 Storer Avenue but maybe the street had a different name then) in Charleston, Staten Island and he worked across the river in Perth Amboy, New Jersey at the Amboy Hat Company, located at 224 Smith Street. His employer was a Mr. Irving Hutt.
But the real coup was getting a clear, legible name for place of birth: Charza, Russia. That seems reasonably consistent with the garbled name on the marriage certificate which begins with Cha- and ends with -ze. But it also looks like there’s an extra vowel in there. Maybe Charuze?
So I went to a bunch of websites dedicated to helping people find small villages in Ukraine, including the surprisingly helpful ShtetlSeeker database, and… nothing! No Charza, no Charuze. Nothing. The closest thing I could find was Charche in the northwest corner of Ukraine near the Belarus border. Is that the place? I don’t know.