I started this blog to document a family history project tracing the lineage of my four grandparents – Alex Kowal, Katarzyna Bosakowska, Harry Agin and Anna Sabol.

From the outset, I didn’t really expect to find much of interest. As I always understood it, we were a family of immigrants – with no real roots in this country and few connections (if any) to the old country. So I was prepared to drill a lot of dry wells.

I knew that my father’s parents, Alex and Katarzyna Bosakowska Kowal, emigrated from Poland and Ukraine in the early 1910s, back when these were provinces of Austria and Russia. They met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, married and had my father Anton in 1917. Not long after that, they settled in a remote corner of Staten Island and raised a family of seven kids.

On my mother’s side, the family history was a bit more mysterious. My grandparents, Harry and Anna Sabol Agin, had three kids (including my mother Lillian) and lived in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I knew that my grandmother’s parents, Andrew and Mary Sabol, emigrated from Austria in the 1880s and that they were of indeterminate nationality. (My grandmother said they were “Slavish.”) But no one ever explained the origins of the Agin family. When I asked my grandmother, she would just say they were “a League o’ Nations.”

But a couple of months of research produced way more information than I ever expected about my ancestors in the Kowal, Bosakowski, Agin and Sabol family lines. But there are still many missing pieces to the puzzle.

From old census forms, I learned that Alex and Katarzyna Kowal came to this county in 1912 and married in 1916. That morsel of information allowed me to track down a marriage certificate revealing the names of my great grandparents and towns where they were born – if only I can decipher the handwriting. Can this be the key to finding my European ancestors in the Kowal and Bosakowski lines?

From census data I also learned that Andrew and Mary Sabol were Slovaks. Turns out I’m one-quarter Slovak and never knew it! But where in Slovakia did they come from and who were their forebears?

But the biggest surprises came from the Agin branch of the family. From old census forms I learned that my great grandfather was Jacob S. Agin and that he was married to a German immigrant named Tillie. So it turns out I’m one-eighth German and never knew that either! But where did Tillie come from and what was her maiden name?

I also found Tillie’s mother (my second great grandmother) living in the United States. Mary Vannote was also born in Germany and married an American named William Vannote years after the birth of her daughter. So what happened to Tillie’s father? And how did Mary come to marry William Vannote?

Finally, and most amazingly, I was able to trace the Agin family lineage up to my fourth great grandfather, James Agin, who fought in the Revolutionary War and was the progenitor of generations of Agins in central New Jersey, Ohio and beyond. And through my second great grandfather, Samuel Davis Agin, who fought in the Civil War and came home to marry a woman named Rhoda Wyckoff, I have been able to trace ancestors back more than ten generations – including some of the very earliest inhabitants of New York and New Jersey back when this was still a Dutch colony. I also learned that the Agin line is a mix of Irish, English, Welsh, Dutch, French and more – so my grandmother was right after all when she called them “a League o’ Nations.”

Already, I’ve uncovered so much information that it’s getting hard to keep it straight. So I’ve started this blog as a record of my research, a chronicle of some wonderful discoveries (more on these in future posts) and, hopefully, a way to connect with others who can shed some light on the forebears I never knew I had.

If you have any information on a shared ancestor (not to mention a photo or two), I’d love to hear from you!

John Kowal


7 Responses to About

  1. Sarah Bosakowski says:

    My name is Sarah Bosakowski. Upon researching my ancestry I came across your blog. It’s very impressive. I was wondering if there was any relation in “Bosakowksi’s”? My grandfather was Julius Bosakowski.

    • johnkowal says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Yes I think there is a connection. Did Julius grow up on Staten Island? I’m pretty sure he was the son of Vincent (Wincenty) Bosakowski who was the younger brother of my grandmother Katherine (Katarzyna) Bosakowska. My grandparents also lived on Staten Island, as did I. I don’t remember Vincent (he died when I was 6) but I knew about him.
      Julius had two brothers, Rudolf and Stanley. I understand that Stanley is still alive.
      If all that is correct, we’re cousins!

      • Barbara Bosakowski Guertin says:

        John and Sarah,

        Sarah, you were the flower girl at my wedding. Your father, David Bosakowski, is my first cousin.

  2. Stanislav says:

    Dear Mr. Kowal,

    your blog helped me a lot indirectly.

    I have 1 typ for you, if you are looking for some records, cadastral information etc.

    try to check this site:

    Stanislav Seman-Tkáč

  3. Doreen Turkot says:

    Thank you for your story as my great grandmother was Zuzana Byczek and Stella was my grandmother. I would like to find out more about my father’s side of family. Stanislawa (Stella) married Karol Massuk also from Galicia. Kovel , Ukraine. How did you obtain information from Ukraine?

    • johnkowal says:

      Hi Doreen, thanks for your note. This makes us second cousins, related through our shared ancestors Bazyli Bosakowski and Rozalia Kwasnicka.
      After the partition of Poland in the late 1700s, Zalozce ended in the Austrian Empire (province of Galicia). That made it relatively easy to find the records because (1) the Austrians had a good record keeping system and (2) the Polish archives inherited the records. I found them in the library of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I viewed them on microfilm. The process is you order them online for delivery to a Family History Library research center (usually attached to a Mormon temple). Or you can go to Salt Lake City and view them there.
      I took a look at their catalog and see that they have microfilm records of Roman Catholic church records from Kowel, Poland starting in 1827. This is the link: https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/results?count=20&placeId=71327&query=%2Bplace%3A%22Poland%2C%20Wołyń%2C%20Kowel%20(Kowel)%22&subjectsOpen=390737-50
      For what it’s worth, Kowel/Kovel was not in Galicia. It was in Wolynia/Volyn.
      If you tell me where you live I can point you to the nearest center.

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