I have gone through two two rolls of microfilm containing two decades of parish records (księgi metrykalne) from Zalozce, Austria (1873-90). Those records have revealed a lot about the family history of my grandmother, Katarzyna Bosakowska, and I can’t wait to get my hands on three additional rolls with records going back as far as 1816.
Unfortunately, there are no microfilmed records after 1890. For those, you have to contact a state archive in Warsaw that holds vital records from towns that were once part of Poland but which now lie in Ukraine, Belarus or Lithaunia.
So I wasn’t expecting find the birth record for my grandmother, Katarzyna Bosakowska, and her two siblings Honorata and Wincenty. All three, as far as I know, were born after 1890 and all three definitely emigrated to the U.S. between 1911-13.
But, oddly enough, I did find a birth record for a girl named Katarzyna Bosakowska. The parents are my grandmother’s parents, Jozef Bosakowski and Maria Buczna. But the date of birth is November 8, 1889 – four years before the date my grandmother gives in an Alien Registration Form filed under oath in 1940.
So was my grandmother lying about her age? Was she really born in 1889? Was she actually older than my grandfather Alex Kowal, who was born in 1892?
Or did my grandmother have an older sister with the same name who died before she was born?
From the parish records I’ve had the opportunity to review, it was not unheard of for a child to be named after a dead older sibling. For example, Jozef had a younger brother named Wojciech who married a woman named Franciszka Sierzant in 1880. Over the next decade, the couple suffered one tragedy after another.
Their first child, a daughter named Honorata (born January 1881), died after eleven months from a heart ailment.
The next two children – Maria (born January 1883) and Stanislaw (born May 1885) – happily did survive infancy.
But then Jan, their fourth child (born October 1887), died at one month and Ursula, their fifth child (born January 1889), lived only six days. The cause of death for both in the Latin records was convulsiones.
Then, the couple had another boy named Jan (born May 1890). Tragically, the second Jan Bosakowski only lived seventeen days before succumbing to convulsiones.
So what about my grandmother? Did she shave a few years off her age when she started a new life in the States or were there two Katarzynas in the family? If I had to guess, I would say it was the latter. The answer to this question lies in that archive in Warsaw.