Friday, June 26, 2015

John Nyznyk: My Grandfather an Enigma, The Story Continues

Last week I wrote about my grandfather John Nyznyk, who has always been a mystery to me.  All I know about him are some family stories, so when I began to research my family history, I was interested in finding more about him.  In last week's blog, I started to tell his story through my research findings.  This week, I will continue his story.

Surprises found in my research

The biggest surprise I found in my research was that my father had a brother and a sister.  My father knew that his father had been married before and that his first wife had died.  He never mentioned that there were any other children.  The second surprise in my  research was that my grandfather did not mention his son, my father, in his Petition for Citizenship.  He listed the children from his first marriage, but not my father.  This is interesting, because states that he was still married to my grandmother Mary Klak.

John Nyznyk's Petition for Citizenship

John declared his intention to become  a United States citizen in 1926.  He filed the Petition for Citizenship on April 8, 1930.  He was living at  533 East 6th Street in New York City and listed his occupation as an upholsterer. He stated that he was born on July 27, 1878 in Pomorainy, Galicia, Austria.

John Nyznyk's Petition for US Citizenship

John said the had been in the United States since 1910 (at least 5 years of residency were required in order to file for citizenship.)  He stated that he was married to Mary Klak, but had no knowledge of her residence since 1915.  He named his two children, Paul, born on August 19, 1904 and Michalina, born August 20, 1910.  He also named his first wife, Anna Kowalsky, who died in Pomorainy (known then as Pomorzany), Poland in 1913. My father Peter was conspicuously absent.  John's citizenship was finalized on November 10, 1930.

John Nyznyk's final Naturalization card

The 1930 United States Census: John Noznick

Searching for information about John Nyznyk in the 1930 US Census was very interesting.  I did not find anything about John Nyznyk, but I did find John Noznick.  The census taker was at 624 East 11th St, New York City on April 12, 1930.  The Noznick family was made up of John Noznick, age 49, Mary Noznick, age 42, and Peter Noznick age 14.  Neither John nor Mary were able to read or write.   They were both born in Galicia, Poland.  John came to the US in 1916,  Mary came in 1911. According to the Census, John worked as a porter in a restaurant and Mary was a housewife.

The 1930 US Census, showing the Noznick family on line 77

When I read this, I thought--what is going on!  First of all, John Nyznyk filed his Petition on April 8, 1930, 5 days before the census taker came to the Noznick home. According to his Petition, he lived at 533 East 6th Street, several blocks away.  John Nyznyk was an upholsterer and  from what I found in his records, never worked in a restaurant.  He was 52 years old, not 49 as listed on  the census.  John Nyznyk could read and write, John Noznick could not.  John Nyznyk stated that he had no knowledge of Mary's residence since 1915, but according to the census record above, he was still living with her.  From what I know for sure, John Nyznyk was never known by the surname Noznick.  So what do we have here?  I have a feeling that my father gave the census taker the information.  His step-father's name was Peter Zackowski and his mother married him before 1920.  I think that my father gave the census taker Peter's  occupation information.  I have no idea why he did not give the actual names of his parents.

The 1930 United States Census: John Nyznyk

Sometimes following a hunch leads to a genealogy jackpot, some times to a wild goose chase.  This time I hit the jackpot.  I decided to search the 1930 Census, using the address John Nyznyk used on his Petition for Citizenship.  After finding the enumeration district for the address, I found the schedule for 533 East 6th St. Looking down the list of names, I found a John Mazwyk, which looked liked it might be my grandfather. There are mistakes on the US Census, often names are miss-spelled or other wise mangled up.  When the person giving the information is not fluent in English, the census taker  would spell the name as best  as he/she could. John's age and birthplace were correct, as was his occupation of upholsterer. The year he immigrated to the US is 1910, which confirms other records. He stated that he was a naturalized citizen and could read and write. His place of origin was listed as Austria.  More surprises, his age at his first marriage was blank.  He stated that he was a widower;  he had "forgotten" not only his son, but his second wife as well.

John Mazwyk aka John Nyznyk is on line 30.
Now I have another record to back up John Nyznyk's basic information, his age, his date of arrival in the US, his US citizenship and his occupation. John's story does not end here.  There are more surprises that I will write about next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

John Nyznyk: My Grandfather, an Enigma

My paternal grandfather John Nyznyk, is an enigma, a mysterious or inscrutable person.  I never met him and have see only two pictures of him, both from his wedding to my grandmother Mary(Maria) Klak in 1914.  There are a few family stories about him, but I have no way of verifying any of them.  In this post, I am using material that has a source--no tales, no hearsay, only the facts.  There are only a few sources that I am sure about--the marriage license, the baptismal certificate of my father and his application for United States citizenship.  There are other documents, but I can't be sure that they are his. His story illustrates the problems of finding information for genealogy research. 
If you know anybody with the name of Nyznyk or Niznik or Nisnik, who has ancestors from Galicia, they may be related to John and could shed some light on his story.
Map of Ukraine, green arrow points to Ternopil'

Pomorjany (Pomorany) is about 15 km SW of Zbirov. and 48 km west of Ternopil"

Arrival in the  United States 1910

John Nyznyk was born on July 27, 1878 in Pomorainy, Galicia, a part of the Austrian-Hungarian.   According to his Declaration of Intent for citizenship, he came to the Port of New York on March 12, 1910 on the Albany.  The Intent (First Papers) was filed on November 19, 1926.  This confirms his date of birth and birthplace. According to the ship's manifest, John arrived in New York on April 1, 1910, on the ship,  S.S. Volturno which sailed from Rotterdam on March 14,1910.  His name is listed as Jan Niznik.  His age is either 22 or 32-- the handwriting is hard to read.  He had $25 with him, he came from the village of Pomorainy in Galicia, his language and ethnicity Ruthenian (Ukrainian) and his occupation was laborer.  He could read and write, and he left his wife Parasia Niznik in Pomorainy.  The ship's manifest also states that he had been in the United States from 1901-1908.  The name and address of the person he was going to in New York is illegible. 

Old postcard sent from Pomorany--Pomorzany in Polish. Source: del

Marriage to Maria Klak: 1914

John Nyznyk married Mary Klak on November 21, 1914 at St George Greek Catholic Church, 22 East 7th Street, New York, New York.   On the marriage lisence he listed his occupation as a laborer and his residence at 533 East 6th Street, New York, New York.  He also stated that his parents were Paul Nyznyk and Anastasia Romanowicz.  The witnesses to the marriage were Michael Rudnicki (brother-in-law of Mary Klak) and Nicholas Malinowski.  The priest officiating at the wedding was Rev. M. Lysiak.

Birth of son Peter: 1915

Peter Noznick, son of John and Maria Nyznyk was born on August 18, 1915 in New York City at Bellview Hospital. Peter's  surname on the birth certificate was Nausneck, no first name was listed.
According to the Birth Certificate, the family was living at 403 East 92nd St , New York City.  John's occupation was listed as harness maker.  Peter was baptised at St George Church on September 12, 1915. On the Baptismal Certificate his name was listed as Peter Paul Nyzny .  His baptismal sponsors were Michael Rudnicki and Ksenia Malynowska (also a relative of Peter's mother). The officiant was Rev. Pidhorecky.

World War I Draft Registration: 1918

In 1918, all men were required to register for the draft since the United States had just entered World War One. I found a Registration Card for a John Naznak,  with a birth date of July 27, 1876.  I think that this might be my grandfather, but the birth date listed is two years earlier than the birth date on his marriage license.  His residence is 123 Avenue A, Room 12, New York City.  His occupation is listed as upholsterer, his employer is  Liberty Auto Trimming Company.  He is described at tall, slender with grey hair and brown eyes.  He also states that he has filed papers for citizenship, which is different from his Intent papers which he filed eight years later.

United States Census: 1920

According to the 1920 Census, John Noznok was living at 613 East Eleventh St in New York City.  There are several discrepancies in this Census record, so I am not sure that this man is my grandfather.  His age is 42, born in 1878, and he states that he is married and that he has filed first papers.  His occupation is listed as a trimmer in an auto factory.  His year of immigration is listed as 1913, his birthplace is listed as Galicia and his mother tongue is Ruthenian (Ukrainian.) The only information that is consistent with other sources is his age, native language and birthplace and that he is married.

Declaration of Intent to file for United States Citizenship 1926

John filed his Declaration of Intention for US citizen ship in 1926 in the Southern District of New York.  He states that his name is John Nyznyk, he was born on July 27, 1878 in Pomorainy,  Austria.  His physical description lists his complexion as dark, his height as 5 feet, seven inches, his hair gray and his eyes brown.  His occupation is upholsterer.  His says that he is married and his wife Mary, born in Austria, who lives with him at 138 East Third Street, New York City.  He also says that he came to the United States on the ship Albany, on March 12, 1910.  He does not mention that he has any children.  He signed his name "John Nyznyk" and the signature looks similar to his signature on World War I registration document. The date of filing is November 19, 1926.

Petition for United States Citizenship 1930

John Nyznyk's Petition for Citizenship was filed on April 8, 1930.  He lists his address as 533 East 6th Street, New York City, the same address as he had when he married in 1914.  He says that he  married Mary on November 21, 1914, and that her residence was unknown to him since 1915. He also states that she came to the United States in 1916 or 1917. He said that he has two children, Michalina born in 1910 and Paul, born in 1904.  He also states that his wife, Anna Kowalsky died in 1913.  He does not mention my father Peter at all.  He said that he came  to the United States on June 6, 1910 on the ship Niew Amsterdam, which left from Rotterdam, under the name Jan Niznik.  His two witnesses confirming residency were Michael Pochmarsky and Stephen Hysa, both of New York.  On November 10, 1930, he received certification of his citizenship by the US District Court at New York City, New York, petition number 167317. Again, inconsistencies are present in this document.  His date of immigration and name of ship differ from the Declaration of Intent. The information about wife Mary contradicts what he stated in the Declaration of Intent as well.

 My Conclusions--based on the information I have

There are quite a few discrepancies in John's petition. According to his Petition (1930), he arrived on June 6, 1910 on the Niew Amsterdam.  According to the ship's manifest (1910), he arrived in New York on June 1, 1910 on the S.S. Volturno.  The wife listed on the ship's manifest was Parasia, not Anna. If he had been in the United States from 1901-1908(Manifest), he probably wasn't the father of Paul, born in 1904(Petition).   In the Petition, he does not mention that he has a third child, my father, born in  New York in 1915.  He states in the Petition that his second wife's residence was unknown to him since 1915, but in his Declaration (1926) of Intent, he stated that he was living with her.

I do not think that the Jan Niznik on the ship's manifest is my grandfather.  There are three ships mentioned, the Albany, The Niew Amsterdam and the Volturno-- on which ship did he arrive?  It doesn't seem that the  authorities who determined  his citizenship cross checked the sources.
Although John could read and write, I doubt that he had the knowledge to do the research necessary to find the records he needed.  He probably had to hire somebody to find that information.  So after studying the sources, I have concluded that the only information about John that is consistent is his name, birth date and physical description, place of birth and native language.  His story did not end in 1930--I will revisit it next week.

Friday, June 12, 2015

LIving in Ukraine 100 Years Ago: Dealing with Sickness and Injury

Sickness was dangerous in Bila, according to my great aunt Katherine Rychly Pylitiuk. Bila was village bordering Ternopil', a city in eastern Galicia   She was born in Bila in 1904, grew up in there,  and immigrated to the United States, in 1922.  Later in life told her life story to her daughter, Julia Pylatiuk Lawryk.  That story is the information source for this blog post.
Map of Ukraine showing the location of Ternopil. Source: Bowdoin College

Katherine lived in Bila with her mother,  2 sisters and 3 brothers.  Her father, Sylvester Rychly was in the United States,  working to provide a better life for his family in Bila and hoping to bring them to America.  Katherine's older sisters, Anna and Pauline were in the United States, immigrating in 1913 and 1914.  It was difficult to make ends meet in Bila; the family had a farm, but it was too small to support a family of 6.  The younger children attended school, but everybody had to work so there was food on the table.  Since Sylvester was gone, Maria, Katherine's mother, had a heavy load of responsibility.

The family grew hemp and grain on their land, as well as fruits and vegetables.  Hemp was a versatile crop, it grew quickly and could be used for many things.  Its fibers were used for rope,  and could be woven into a fabric.  This fabric was used to make sacks as well as clothing for the family.  The grain was ground into flour that provided the family's bread. Cooking oil was extracted from the seeds. 

Cutting hemp in Ukraine.  Source: Library of Congress
One of Maria's responsibilities was to prepare the grain and hemp.  Before the grain could be sent to the mill, it had to be cut,  and the chaff separated from the seeds. Everybody in the family had to help with the grain harvest.  The hemp was cut, bundled and put into the neighboring lake to rot. After several weeks, it was dredged up and cut.  The fibers inside of the stalk were removed, combed and sent to the tkach (weaver) to be made into cloth.  The women were in charge of cutting the hemp stalks and preparing the fibers.  These jobs took a toll on Maria's health.  She developed allergies to the grain and the dust that came with the threshing.  The mold associated with the hemp also irritated her. She developed asthma.  There was no treatment for asthma except for bed rest, and often Maria was laid up in bed for several weeks.

Maria gave birth to daughter Ksenia in 1908.  In the village, women were expected to go back to work after giving birth.  She had to take care of the baby and her other small children as well as cooking, cleaning and farm work. This time she never recovered her strength.  Her asthma flared up and and she developed pneumonia.  She was sick in bed for weeks and the family thought that she might die.  The family wrote to Sylvester, who was working in Pennsylvania, asking him to return to Bila. By the time he arrived, Maria was feeling better.  He stayed for a several months, then returned to Pennsylvania, but Maria's asthma continued to affect her health.

A typical whitewashed house in Ukraine.

 In 1913, when Katherine's youngest brother Onufrey was two years old, he fell into a bucket of "vapno." Vapno is whitewash,  a type of paint made from calcium hydroxide and chalk.  It is very effective on surfaces made from clay because it absorbs easily and makes the clay harder.   Most of the peasant houses in Galicia, including the Rychly's, had walls made from clay on a wooden frame,  and were painted with whitewash inside and out.  Onufrey was sitting on a bench watching his mother mixing the vapno, and while she looked away for a second, he fell head first into the bucket.  The ingredients in whitewash can cause serious skin irritation, chemical burns, blindness and lung damage. For Onufrey, the results of this accident stayed with him for the rest of his life.  He could not see for the several months after the accident.  One eye was larger than the other, and did not focus properly.  I remember that one his eye bulged , but I never knew why, or that his vision was impaired.  He never saw a doctor for this injury, and was treated with home made remedies.

 In 1916, when Katherine was twelve, she and her younger brother Onufrey, who was four, came down with "prypasnytsia" an illness similar to malaria.  World War I was going on around them since they were living on the Eastern Front.  Malaria is a disease that comes with war.  Today, it exists in tropical areas, but 100 years ago, it was prevalent in many parts of Europe.  Since there were soldiers in the village, and they were staying in village homes, it is possible that the disease came with them.  It is caused by mosquito bites, and in those days, there was no cure. Its symptoms are a high fever, chills, shivering and fatigue.  After six months, Onufrey recovered.  However Katherine was sick for two years.  I wondered how this disease could last so long,  I found that an affected person can suffer relapses.  Since the family was so poor, they were reluctant to see a doctor.  But her mother was worried that the Katherine wasn't getting better, so she went to a pharmacy in Ternopil'.  It was recommended that she treat Katherine with "keenova voda," which means horse's water.  It was prepared by soaking rusty nails in water.  Katherine took this "medicine", which had a bad taste.  She recovered eventually.  I could find no evidence that iron oxide mixed with water has any effect on malaria.

Illness and injury were often ignored because of the cost of treatment and because the family could not get by without everybody working.  Katherine cut her finger harvesting oats.  She had to continue cutting the oats because the crop needed to be harvested immediately.  Her finger had a serious cut,  so it was bandaged and she went back to work.  A few days later, the family cow became sick.  In those days, sick cows were treated by blood letting.  They took the cow to have her blood let, but couldn't pay the bill.  Katherine had to work in the doctor's field in order to play the bill even though her finger was not healed.  Debts had to be paid right away.

Painting of women harvesting grain in Ukraine.
When Maria came to the United States in 1923, she was still suffering from the effects of a asthma.  Now it was possible for her to see a doctor who could treat her illness, but it was too late.  The doctor told her that there was nothing that could be done for her condition.  She died on April 12, 1925 at the age of 52.  According to her death certificate, the cause of her death was bronchial pneumonia.