Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to travel to Krakow, Poland for a business meeting. So I added an extra day on to the trip and dashed up to Warsaw to visit the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie, where they keep vital records from cities and towns in what used to be eastern Poland before World War II. That’s where records from Zalozce, my grandmother’s home town, are kept.
AGAD’s offices are located in a beautiful old palace just outside Warsaw’s Stare Miasto (or Old City). The place is well run and the staff was very helpful. With some help from my Polish friend Litka, I breezed through security and settled in to review microfilm copies of parish records for the years 1891-1900.
My primary goal was to settle the question of when my grandmother Katarzyna Bosakowska was born. I wrote about this in an earlier post.
As far as anyone knew, my grandmother born in November 1893, which would make her a year younger than my grandfather. The documentation is for the most part consistent. On their Affidavit for a License to Marry, dated November 1916, my grandmother said she was 22 years old. In the 1920 census, she reported her age was 26, and in 1930 she told the census taker she was 36. Even her tombstone gives 1893 as the year of birth.
The only document I have that provides a specific date of birth is a 1940 Alien Registration Form, where my grandmother said she was born on November 25, 1893.
But documents from her April 1912 trip to America suggest she might have been born a bit earlier. On the passenger manifest for the SS. Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, my grandmother’s age is recorded 21 years old. That would mean she was born in 1890 or 1891.
Looking over old records, you get used to a certain amount of confusion about dates. But I was surprised, a few weeks back, to find a birth record for a Katarzyna Bosakowska – with the same parents – dated November 8, 1889. That’s four years earlier than the date she gave in 1940, outside the margin of error.
So, as I wondered in my earlier post, did she lie about her age or did she have an older sister named Katarzyna who died before she was born?
After reviewing those ten years of records in Warsaw, it seems beyond doubt that Katarzyna Bosakowska was born on November 8, 1889. There is no birth record dated November 1893 and no evidence that there ever were two Katarzynas in the same family.
So my grandmother was 22 years old when she traveled to America and 26 when she married my grandfather. Considering that she came from a town where most women were married by the age of 18, perhaps she just didn’t want it known that she was older than her husband.
It’s worth noting that my grandmother’s sister Honorata also appeared to have fudged her age. On her Social Security application, Honorata gave her date of birth as May 16, 1896. Her tombstone records the date of birth as October 3, 1894. But according to the parish records from Zalozce, she was actually born on September 23, 1892.
Their brother Wincenty (Vincent), on the other hand, was only off by a day. On his petition for naturalization, he said he was born on September 9, 1895. In fact, he was born on September 8.