Friday, January 24, 2014

Wasosz Poland: Ancestral Village of the Monkowski-Markin Family

Monument to Jews killed by the Nazis in Szczuczyn, in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.  My husband's grandparents and several other relatives were members of this organization.  Abraham and Rose Krause (my husband's maternal grandparents) are buried near this monument.
My husband's maternal grandmother's family, the Monkovskis,  came from a small town in Northeast Poland called Stuchin, or Szczuczyn in Polish.  After doing some research and obtaining famiily records from Jose Gutstein, of  I found that they actually came from the small village of Wasosz, which is about 3.5 miles south of Stuchin.  When they immigrated to Chicago, they formed a landsmanshaftn, a group of people who came from the area around Stuchin, called the Stuchiner Social Society.  One of the things that they did was to buy a section in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois, where they could be buried with people from their home villages.  They also raised money for a monument in remembrance of the Jews of Stuchin who were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Map of Northeastern Poland, showing the town of Wasosz.  It is located northeast of Warsaw,  3.5 miles SE of  Szczuczyn, and 45 miles NW of Bialystok, and was the home of many Monkovski ancestors. Today, it has a population of 1600.

Stuchin was established in May of 1436 by the Polish Prince Wladyslaw.  It became part of Russia as as result of the partitions of Poland during the rule of the Russian Tsarina, Catherine the Great. In 1897, Stuchin had a population of about 5000 and a Jewish population of about 3,336, about 66% of the total.  After World War II, the Jewish population of Stuchin was zero. Most of the Jews in the Stuchin area were tradesmen or merchants. The most common trades were shoe making and tailoring.  Members of the extended Monkowski family included tailors, shoemakers and glaziers. Others worked as laborers.

Farms in the

area of Wasosz, Poland

Typical street in Razilow, a town neighboring Wasosz and Stuchin. I included this picture, since I couldn't find any pictures of places of the town of Wasosz.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Genealogy of Chiam Pesach Monkovski

Chaim Pesach Monkovski and his family.  Only some of the daughers are identified.  In the front row, from left: Udis, Ryka, Chiam Pesach.  In the top row: Unidentified Son, Lachie, unidentified Daughter, unidentified Son, Esther, unidentified Daughter. 

Chiam Pesach Monkovski was the son of Wolf Berek (Velvil) Monkovski and Bejla Pienanzek. 
He was born in Wasosz, Poland, a village near Szczuczyn, Poland on August 27, 1869.  His father was a tailor.
At the age of 20, on January 28,1890, Chiam Pesach married Rywka Lewinowicz, age 19, also of Wasosz.  Her parents were Berek Wolf Lewinowicz and Sora Rochel Maslowicz, both shoemakers. Chiam Pesach took up his father's trade and became a tailor.

According to records, they had four children, although the portrait above shows more. The children were
  • Mendel, born in 1892
  • Nochim Lejb, born in 1896
  • Aron Joszer (Aaron Joseph) born in 1896 
  • Pelia born in 1899. 
All the children were born in Wasosz. Aaron Joseph immigrated to Israel and died in Tel Aviv, date unknown.  Aaron Joseph was the only descendant of Wolf Berek and Bejla Monkovski  I know of that immigrated to Israel, the others came to the United States. There is no other information about the other children of Chiam Pesach Monkovski at this time.  Chiam Pesach passed away in on April 13, 1928 , in Wasosz.

The people in the portrait below are not identified.  From resemblance to the people in the family portrait above, I believe that they are Chiam Pesach and Rywka Monkovski.

This portrait may be of Chiam Pesach and Rywka Monkovski with one of their daughters, possibly Pelia.

This woman is unidentified--she may be one of the daughters in the family portrait at the top of the page. This postcard came from Jack Krause, a grandson of Wolf Berek (Velvil) and Bejla Monkovski

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Genealogy of the Monkovski/Markin Family

Marriage Record of Velvil Monkovski and Bejla Pienazek, December 31 1865, Wasosz, Poland

Some very exciting genealogical news arrived this week!  Nineteen family records of the Monkovski family in Poland were obtained and translated, thanks to Jose Gutstein, who runs a site about the town of Szczuczyn, Poland.  The earliest record was from 1848 and the latest from 1899.  My knowledge of this family is greatly expanded!  For a link to Jose's site, click here
The story began with a box of old pictures from my mother-in-law, Lillian Gerstein.  The pictures belonged to her mother, Rose Krause, who was born Rose Monkovski in Szuzczyn, Poland.  The only picture that Lillian could identify was of her grandmother. The other picture, was identified by Lillian's cousin, Libby Fretzen.  Eventually, this name, Uncle Chiam Pesach Monkovski, led to finding many more family members.

Belja Peysakowna Pieniazek, Lillian Gerstein's and Libby Fretzen's grandmother, the picture that started my genealogy search.

 Chiam Pesach Monkovski and family, identified by Libby Fretzen.

Velvil (Wolf Berek) Chajmowicz Monkovski, 1848-1898, born possibly in Wasosz, Poland.  He was the son of Chiam Monkovski and Leja (Leah), employed as laborers in Wasosz. Chiam was deceased. Velvil worked as a tailor. 
Belja Pienanzek was born in 1849, possibly in Wasosz.   Her parents, Pejsach Pienazek and Sora Mendlowna Nochymowna, were glaziers. She is listed on the marriage record as a maiden, her parents were deceased. They married on December 31, 1865 in Wasosz, Poland.  At that time, this part of Poland was ruled by Russia.  However, the legal documents were written in Polish.

Velvil and Bejla were the parents of at least seven children.  I am guessing this because there are
gaps between the births of  several of the children, for instance, Chiam Pesach in 1869 and Nochim in 1875.
Several of the Monkovski children Americanized their surname to Markin when they immigrated to the United States.
  • Chiam Peysach, b. 1869, death unknown.
  • Nochim, 1875-1898,
  • Rose Krause, 1887-1956,
  • Jacob (Jankiel) Markin, b.1890,
  • Fanny Markin Center, 1891-1967,
  • Eva (Chawa) Markin Krause, 1896-1982. 
  • Daughter, first name and birth year unknown,  who married Jankiel Ross, and was the mother of Libby Fretzen. 
There is so much more in the records, but way too much for one blog post. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014


British sheet music, published in 1914, using young women to encourage young men to enlist in the British Army.

My reflections on the New Year 2014 bring me back 100 years to 1914. As a lover and student  of history, I believe that  the year 1914 may be the most significant one of the 20th century.  As a keeper of family history, the year 1914 had consequences that affected my extended family profoundly.
Some historians believe that the 19th century ended not in 1900, but in 1914.  The events of that year certainly changed the world and its effects are still with us. I will be writing about World War 1 from time to time in 2014.

World War I began on August 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  The cause?  The assassination of Arch-Duke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Serbian nationalists in Sarajevo, which is today in Bosnia.  Why did such an event cause a war that changed the map of Europe, resulted in the end of four empires,  the death of 8.5 million soldiers, 17 million wounded, with a total of 37.5 million killed, wounded or lost?

When the European powers started this war in August, 1914, they were convinced that it would end by December.  The soldiers were sent off with the blessings of religious leaders, all the parties sure that God was on their side.  Later, it was called "The Great War", "The War to End all Wars,"  and people were told that "The war would make the world safe for democracy.' 
It ended with an Armistice on November 11, 1918.  As a result of the war, countries disappeared from the map, new countries appeared, and boundaries were redrawn in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Europe in 1914, showing the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente,

In the years leading up to the First World War, the three European empires were forming secret military alliances in case some kind of hostility developed.  Great Britain ruled the seas and controlled colonies that included India, South Africa, and a good part of the rest of Africa, Canada and Australia.  Germany was a new country, uniting several smaller countries into the German Empire in 1870.  It was a developing military power and wanted to build an empire that rivaled Great Britain's.  The two other empires, Russia and Austria-Hungary were older, weaker, poorer, and made up of many religious and ethnic groups.  They were mostly agricultural, and beginning to industrialize.  An interesting fact was that the ruling families of the British Empire, The Russian Empire and the German Empire were related by blood and marriage.  Of the four empires, only in Great Britain did the people have any say in the government.  The others were absolute monarchies where the people had little or no say in how the empire was run.

The government of Germany was afraid of the possibility of a war on two fronts, as you can see from the map.  Ever since Germany consolidated their empire in 1870, bordering countries like France, which lost territory to Germany, were not on friendly terms with their neighbor.  Russia bordered on the east, and was considered to be a threat to Germany, mainly because of its large population of potential soldiers.

 Tsar Nicholas II of Russia ,George V of Great Britain and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were cousins.

The first alliance Germany made was with Austria-Hungary.   Spying was just as active 100 years ago as it is today, and the British and French caught wind of this alliance quickly.  The Triple Entente was formed by Great Britain, France and Russia to counteract the Triple Alliance.  Later the Ottoman Empire, based in Turkey joined with Germany.  Now, remember, these alliances were super secret, and most subjects of the empires involved had no idea that they existed.

What was so surprising was that Europe had finished a century of relative peace and prosperity.  Why were these military alliances necessary?  Germany had spent years building an army and navy and developing weapons-- the weapons of mass destruction of the day.  It had aggressively expanded its territory by taking parts of France and Denmark. The British were worried about the growing Germany Navy.  There were problems, in Russia, the government was terrified of any dissent, especially since Tsar Alexander II was killed in 1881, by a radical group that demanding change.  The government became more hard line, with a policy of Nationalism, Autocracy and Orthodoxy.  The government of Austria-Hungary was more liberal; but the empire was made up of many ethnic and religious groups who were demanded more participation in the Empire's affairs, more self government, and possible independence from the Empire.  Its ruler, Franz Joseph was elderly, his son and heir had committed suicide years earlier.  The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his grandson, was taking over ceremonial duties for his grandfather.  This is why he was in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

Emperor Franz Joseph celebrating fifty years as Emperor of Austria-Hungary.
If you are interested in learning more about the beginnings of World War 1, I suggest reading Barbara Tuchman's book, The Guns of August.