Monday, July 17, 2017

Genealogy Surprises and Family Secrets.

Michalina Nyznyk's  Declaration of Intention, 1936.
Ancestry.com has been a friend and and a nemesis. Spending hours looking through lists and finding nothing is a part of genealogical research, and I have spend a lot of time doing this, but the other day, Ancestry dropped a gift right in my lap.

Several years ago I found my paternal grandfather's John Nyznyk's petition for naturalization on Ancestry.  It was full of surprises, the biggest one was that he had two children left behind in Pomorany, Ukraine.  As far as I knew, my father was an only child, and I doubt that he knew that his father had other children. According to his petition, John had a son, Paul, born in 1903, and a daughter, Michalina born in 1910.  If mu father did know, it was a big, dark family secret.  Over the years, my mother shared a lot of family secrets, and this one was so big, that I doubt that she could hold it back.

A few years, I got a hint in Ancestry, Michalina  came to the United States in 1931, and that she was going to live with her father in New Jersey.  That was it, no further mention of her in any records.  In the 1940 Census, I found my grandfather living in New York City without Michalina. What happened to her? Did she marry, did she return to Europe.? I even sent in an application to  the PBS production Genealogy Road Show,  trying to get on the show and find out what happened to  Michalina.  Unfortunately, my question was  not accepted.

Then out of the blue, I found her again on Ancestry.  Michalina was still in New Jersey, and she was applying to become a United States Citizen!  She started her application in 1936, after she was here for five years.  She was living in South Orange, New Jersey and her occupation was housework.  She also had an alias--she was known as Mildred Nesnick.   On her final petition, she legally changed her name and would be known as Mildred Nesnick.  She swore an oath of allegiance on February 14, 1939 and became a United States citizen. 

What surprised me was that my grandfather was not a part of this process, there is no mention of him in her application.  According to family information, he was not a part of my father's life at all.  After he and my grandmother separated, he had no contact with my father at all, even though he lived only a few blocks away in New York City.  I wonder if Michalina had the same experience--her father brought her  to the United States, and after that, no more contact.  There is another question--did Michalina's brother come to the US at some later date? 

So, My advice to readers who are trying to find lost family members--genealogy is a tedious hobby--lots of work with few results.  Use all the resources that you can afford, one of them might have the answers you are looking for.