Friday, April 06, 2007

Bridging My Gawel Lineage, Part 1 of 2

Bridging My Gawel Lineage: Linking to Microfilmed Records (Part 1 of 2)
by Robert W. Postula

This article is dedicated to my mother, Sophie (Gawel) Postula, without whose knowledge, recollection, help and patience, my genealogical pursuits and successes would not be possible. Her First Holy Communion picture can be found at: (and included at right)

Preparing For My Search

Several years ago, my interest in genealogy began when I purchased a kit to start on my ancestral family history search. It contained a booklet providing basic information on how to get started, sample family group sheets and pedigree charts. It was placed on a shelf in my closet where it remained for several years. In later years I went to the library where I found genealogy books filed according to the Dewey Decimal system in section 929.1. How disappointed I became when I could not find any information on my family readily available in the books I searched. I went from library to library - section 929.1, continuing my elusive search. I was gaining more and more insight into the ways of searching for my roots. I quickly learned that Polish genealogy is not a simple task. Then I learned about the Mormons and the huge collections of data that they had and in 1995 mustered the courage to visit a Family History Center. It is through this visit that I began getting serious about my research.

Gathering Available Information

My mother was helpful since she had a great memory and was very patient repeating what she knew. I began a number of informal interviews and I finally gained the wisdom to not only listen, but to start writing. I beat the bushes asking for papers of any sort that might be available. The very small collection of historical documents passed down through the family included a naturalization document for Marcin which was missing the photograph that was mysteriously cut out. With the "Certificate of Naturalization" and the place of naturalization, (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan), I wrote to the Federal Archives Branch in Chicago(1) on September 14, 1992. On September 22, 1992, I received a response confirming they had the documents. On October 2, 1992, I forwarded another letter with payment and a request for the copies. In return, I received:

Certificate of Arrival No. 8 153588 issued August 11, 1938, identifying arrival of Martin Gawet April 15, 1912, on the SS. President Lincoln at New York.

Declaration of Intention No. 228719 filed September 29, 1938.

Petition for Naturalization No 148117 filed April 30, 1941.

Another document passed down was a small page of a German Arbeitsbuch issued 26 November 1911 at Döben, Germany. Even though the maternal name is correctly spelled Gawel, most records show the name as Gawet. I had always thought that converting the Polish "ł" to a "t" happened in the United States. However, I now learned that this change occurred in Germany as the Arbeitsbuch clearly shows Gawet three separate times. At the age of 22 my maternal grandfather, Marcin Gawel, left Döben, Germany, where he had gone after leaving his home in Przewrotne, Galicia, Austria, to seek employment. Being unsuccessful, he traveled on to Hamburg, Germany, where he left for the United States on Sunday, April 2, 1912, sailing on the SS. President Lincoln of the Hamburg-American Line, and arrived at the port of New York on Sunday, April 17, 1912. The SS. President Lincoln carried 982 passengers, of which 306 were of Polish descent. There were 71 first class passengers, of which 22 were U.S. citizens, 231 were aliens - while the remaining traveled in steerage. The passenger manifest indicates that Marcin Gawel had $16 and a ticket to travel to New Milford, Connecticut, to be used to visit his cousin, Jacob Brutz. Close examination of the manifest interestingly identifies that a Franciszka Gawel (female) age 50, traveled with her five children (passenger #'s 189-08-189-13). She had $53.00, and tickets to travel to 32 Schenectady Road, West Albany, New York, to join her husband, Jan Gawel, with three boys Wojciech (Albert) age 16, girls, Antonina (Antonia) and Walerya (Valery) age 11, Marcin (Martin) age nine, and another boy Pawel (Paul) three years nine months of age. Two of the boys were named Martin and Paul. The point of departure on their journey was from the hamlet of Soliska, near the village of Palesnica, in the province of Krakow. Grandfather Marcin was from Przewrotne in the province of Rzeszów.

In this period the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan printed an extract of passengers sailing on the SS. President Lincoln from Hamburg and arriving at the Port of New York on April 17, 1912.2 FHL film #1400526 lists the passengers including passenger #191-08, my grandfather, Marcin Gawel. The manifests lists his birthplace as "Szpewotna" instead of Przewrotne.

(1) National Archives - Great Lakes Region, 7358 South Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60629-5898. Records for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

(2) Refer to "Poles Arriving at New York on the SS. President Lincoln on April 17, 1912", pages 126-143, and "Localities from the SS. President Lincoln" pages 144.146, The Eaglet (ISSN 0732-1007), Volume 12, Number 3, September 1992.

This article appeared in the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan's journal, The Polish Eaglet, September 1999, pps. 108-114. It is reprinted here with permission from the family of Robert Postula and the PGSM. All surnames are in bold text as is customary in The Polish Eaglet articles.

Continued in Part 2 of 2