For over 150 years, Milwaukee has been home to a large community of people of Polish descent. The Milwaukee Polonia Project hopes to show the interweaving, intertwining family trees that resulted in this community. It is hoped that, eventually, all the families can be connected to one another. The Milwaukee Polonia Project is also a means to explore our common history and celebrate our shared heritage.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Featured Profile #3 - Michael Domachowski

Rt. Rev. Michael Domachowski
Michael Domachowski (1875-1940)

The country of Poland has a long and proud history dating back to as early as the middle of the 8th Century. However, its fortunes have waxed and waned. At one time, it was the largest country in Europe, but for much of the last three centuries, it has not even appeared on a map. Instead, its lands and peoples have been ruled by Austrians, Germans and Russians. Today's biography is about one who worked tirelessly to restore, and keep, the country of Poland.

Michael Domachowski was born on September 29, 1875, the seventh child of Jacob Marcus Domachowski and Marjanna (Radomska) Domachowska. (One sibling, Rose, has already been mentioned in this blog as the wife of Andrzej Boncel. Another sibling, Joseph, has his own Featured Profile (Featured Profile #5.) Michael's birthplace was the small village of Pinczyn in Pomerania. At that time, it was known officially by the German name of “Pinschin” and was in the German district of West Prussia.

The Domachowski roots in the area were deep. Michael's father came from the nearby village of Zblewo, and its parish records are filled with Domachowskis. Unfortunately, by the late 1880's, conditions became so intolerable that many Domachowskis decided that even the pain of separation from family and homeland was more bearable than life under German rule. They began leaving. Some ended up as far away as Brazil, but many of these families came to Milwaukee.

One of these was the family of Jacob and Marjanna Domachowski and their surviving seven children. They boarded SS General Werder in Bremen and arrived in New York City on April 12, 1881. They eventually made their way to Milwaukee. At the outset, it should be mentioned that, besides his father's Domachowski relations, some of Michael's maternal relations also came to Milwaukee. One of these was Michael Wenta who was to remain a close friend of Michael Domachowski and who was to live a remarkably parallel life. However, Michael Wenta deserves his own Featured Profile, so a full discussion of his life will have to wait to another time.

Nothing is known of early life of Michael Domachowski other than he attended St. Hyacinth Grade School. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in what was then known as Marquette College (now Marquette University). Showing the determination and leadership that would serve him throughout his life, he quickly made a name for himself playing the rugged (and distinctly American) game of football, which was just then starting to develop. He played halfback on the 1896 Marquette team and then captained the 1897 team. 

The Marquette 1897 Football Team.  The chap holding the ball bears a resemblance to Michael Domachowski.

However, Michael Domachowski never gave up his scholarly pursuits. In 1901, he and Michael Wenta both graduated from Marquette with a Masters of Arts while students of divinity at St. Francis Seminary. He was ordained June 22, 1902 and he then began his life as a priest. He served as an assistant at his old parish of St. Hyacinth until 1908. While there, he was put in charge of amateur dramatics which he felt would help preserve the Polish language and customs in Milwaukee.  Assigned away from St. Hyacinth, he helped organize St. Casimir's Parish in Kenosha and St. Adalbert's Parish in Milwaukee. He continued serving at St. Adalbert's until he was made the Pastor at St. Vincent de Paul in 1909.

He was to remain in that position for the rest of his life. During that time he became a confidant and trusted adviser to rich and poor, working man and professional. His leadership and devotion were recognized by Pope Pius XI when he appointed Michael Domachowski Monsignor on April 21, 1934.

However, a turning point in Michael Domachowski's life occurred much earlier, in August, 1914 at the outset of World War I. The powers that had divided Poland were now at war with one another. While this raised the tragic possibility of Pole fighting Pole, it also opened the opportunity of a reincarnated Poland. (This was especially true later in the War when it became one of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points). Michael Domachowski worked tirelessly to bring this about. He collected funds and organized recruits into the army (possibly some into Haller's Army). After the war, he also become the Commissioner in charge of the sale of Polish government bonds in Wisconsin.

The Polish government was not blind to all that Michael Domachowski had done for it. On April 23, 1926, it sent Ignace Paderewski, world famous pianist and former prime minister to Milwaukee to award Michael Domachowski with the Order of Virtuti Militari. The Polish government would also grant him the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Miecze Hallerowski (the Swords of Haller). The latter was given in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Polish Army's Veterans Association. 

Michael Domachowski receives the Virtuti Militari from Igance Paderewski. Mrs. Paderewska observes.

Of course, all the work and effort by Poles all over the world could not save Poland from further tragedy. On September 1, 1939, Hilter's forces invaded Poland, sparking World War II. One can only imagine how devastating this must have been to Michael Domachowski. It may even have affected his health.  He died just a short time later, on February 8, 1940.

At his funeral, six priests were pallbearers, all of them ordained from Michael Domachowski's parish: Walter Bednarski, Joseph Gutkowski, Bernard Gabinski, Francis Gabinowicz, Stanley Bartnicki, and Maximillian Adamski. The mass was officiated by the Rt. Rev. Michael Wenta, who preached in Polish, but Samuel A.Stritch, then Archbishop of Chicago, (later Cardinal) also gave a homily. Perhaps as a fitting coda, the last known dignitary to visit the grave of Michael Domachowski was Joseph Haller. He spent a few minutes paying his respects to the grave while he was in Milwaukee to (once again) raise funds in defense of Poland.

Besides the above accomplishments, Michael Domachowski was also the Chaplain of the Polish Association of America, and, at various times, a director, secretary and vice-president of the Nowiny Polski, and a member of the Executive Board of the Polish Priests Association of America.

Relation to Last Featured Profile (Andrzej Boncel)Brother-in-law
Path From Last Featured ProfileAnrdrzej Boncel to his wife, Rose (Domachowska) Boncel, to her brother, Michael Domachowski.

"Paderewski Pins Medal on Polish Priest," Milwaukee Journal, April 23, 1926, p. 57 (all references are to page numbers on Google News.) 

The Pinkowski Files, quoting Who's Who in Polish America.

"Polish Priest, Leader Dead," Milwaukee Journal, February 8, 1940, p. 21.

"Rites for Priest are Arranged," Milwaukee Journal, February 9, 1940, p.25.
"Stops at Priest's Bier," Milwaukee Journal, February 12, 1940, p. 17.

"A Strong Team, Milwaukee Journal, September 29, 1897, p. 6.
"Twenty-Five Years Ago Today," Milwaukee Journal, June 4, 1926, p. 22.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Status Update - Kobza & Kulwicki

I've been moving in several different directions the last couple weeks.  First, I continued my exploration of  the families surrounding Roman Czerwinski.  In doing so, I discovered yet another individual who will most likely become a Featured Profile at some point or another.

After doing that, I was determined to clear away some of my backlog of documents.  In doing my research, I often acquire information that I don't have the time or inclination to enter just then.  So, I save the documents with the intention of coming back to them at a later date.  By now, I probably have well over a hundred of these documents.  They press on my conscience and on my sense of efficiency.  I wonder what research I'm duplicating, or what links am I missing, because the information is already in my hands and I simply have not entered it yet. So, I decided to attack my backlog files.

The first document I chose was one entitled "Kobza Descendant List," dated May, 1996.  It appears to list all the descendants of John Kobza and Anna (Kallas) Kobza. Unfortunately, it is not signed and I don't know to whom to credit with it.  (If anyone knows, please inform me.)  It was given to my mom by one of her Kobza cousins, but my mother does not think that the author was the woman who gave it to her.  I must admit that I have a special affection for this Kobza family.  I am related to it in three ways:  two of my mother's cousins married into it as well as a great-aunt on my father's side.  It was this fact, that I was related to this family on both my mother's side and my father's side that made me realize how relatively insulated the Milwaukee Polish community really was.  (I have since discovered that this is not the only family to which I am related through both my mother and my father.)  Anyway, I had already entered the information regarding the parts of this family to which I am related, and I decided that I would go ahead and enter the rest of it, at least down to generation dubbed, "The Greatest." (Because of privacy concerns, I generally do not enter information for individuals younger than this, unless they are directly related to me.)

Unfortunately, I was only halfway through this project when I got pulled in a different direction.  A chance remark by one of my cousins gave me the clue I needed to solve a small, but annoying, question in the tree.  I can't describe it in great detail here because some of the individuals involved may still be living.  However, that research led me to a list of notable Wisconsin athletes.  In scanning the list, the name "Alan Kulwicki" caught my eye.  I was pretty sure we had some Kulwickis in the tree.  When I looked it up, I was confirmed my belief.  In fact, there were quite a few Kulwickis in the tree.  The connection ran through Frank Kitzke, (sometimes spelled "Kitzki)  who has already been mentioned twice in this blog:  once in Rumble at St. Vincent's and once in Family Braids.  In my research on him in the past, I had discovered that he had been married at least twice.  First to Maryanna Wydryuska and then to Mary Klinkosz.  However, I noticed that the woman buried next to him was not a "Mary" but a "Anna" who had died in 1942.  Curious, I did some research and discovered that the woman was Anna Kitzke, Frank's third wife, previously unknown.  Her maiden name was "Brozda", and before she had married Frank Kitzke, she had been married to Ignacy Kulwicki.  One of her great-grandchildren through this marriage was Alan Kulwicki.

I must admit that I have never followed NASCAR very much which is why "Kulwicki" did not ring any bells with me the first time I saw it.  However, Alan Kulwicki, is by far and away the best known of the individuals in our tree, so far.  You can read more about him on his Wikipedia biography.  Or, stop in at the Alan Kulwicki Memorial Park in Greenfield.

I hope to finish that "Kobza Descendant List" soon

Names Added since last Status Report:

Bednarski, Berry, Brozda, Brzyska, Budny, Buschke, Cajkowski, Chovanek, Cvikel, Cybylska, Czaskos, Czubek, Drabinski,Franke, Frontczak, Fryjoff, Gajewski, Galaska, Gengorik, Grohall, Gromacki, Henke, Jaraczewska, Jaraezewska, Jaroch, Kaczanowicz, Karpinski, Katzor, Kluczynski, Knasinski, Koput, Kopydlowska, Kruzick, Kszyski, Kwiatkowski, Larkowski, Lichosik, Matula, Obszal, Paczkowski, Pesge, Peszczynski, Pettke, Potrykus, Premke, Prusynski, Selin, Sostarich, Stasiewski, Staszewski, Stempski, Styn, Szajnowski, Szpek, Szpotek, Szymanowski, Tuchalski, Warkoczewski, Wenzel, Wielpski, Wierzba, Wolskiej, Zboralski.

Also, "Straslewski" was corrected to "Stasiewski."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bługowo, Poland

Bługowo, Poland Fact Sheet

Bługowo is just a small village located on the south side of a small lake.   It appears unremarkable in just about every way.  Yet, it was the Point of Origin for a relatively large number of Milwaukee families.  The reason is unknown at this point.  Perhaps further research will solve this mystery.

Bługowo is currently part of Złotów County, in the northern point of Greater Poland Voivodeship (Wielkopolska Province).  Some nice photographs of the village can be found here.

Polish Name: Bługowo
German Name: Seehof
German County (Kreis):  Wirsitz (I have also seen it mentioned as being part of Kreis Flatow.  That is the German translation of its current Polish County, which may be the reference.  Or, it may have been in the German County of Flatow which did exist at one time. Or, it may be due to the fact that there are two villages of Bługowo which are very close to one another.)
German Province:  Posen
Population 1905:  157

Name of Catholic Church:  St. Jacob Apostle
Parish records includes surrounding villages of:  Kunowo, Podróżna, Tłukom Nowy, Tłukom Stary
This parish had a population in 1888 of 1010 souls

Location of nearest Lutheran Parish:  Łobżenica  (German name:  Lobsens).

Known Milwaukee Families with some association to Bługowo (including nearby villages of the same parish):  Biedrzycki, Czerwinski, Erdmann, Jagodzinski, Krysiak, Maciejewski, Michalek, Michalski, Paprocki, Plewa, Sonenberg, Sromala, Tutaj, Wnuk,

(Further research has to be done on the following Milwaukee families which may also have ties:  Bilaf, Brzezinski, Buzy, Ciepluch, Dziekan, Kryzel, Rybarczyk, Rzepka, Skowera, Smetkowski)

(Click on the following satellite view for more information.)

Blugowo google map

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Influential People

If you have not yet visited, please check out the home page of the Milwaukee Polonia Project on Geni.  One of the features that you will find there is a list of past influential members of Milwaukee Polonia.  Those leaders who have not yet been connected to the tree are listed in the main text of the page under the caption:   "Wanted: The Czernina Kids (Community Leaders to be Added)".  Those influential people who are already part of the tree are listed in the "Profiles" box on the right of the page. Clicking on a name in the Profiles box will bring you to the page of that individual where you will find a detailed biography.

In part, this list of leaders is meant to serve as a source of inspiration.  (I, for one, never heard of the substantial influence that members of Milwaukee Polonia had on the development of the whole of Milwaukee even though I grew up there.)  However, this list also serves as "targets" in that it gives some direction to the research, both for those working on the Project and for those trying to connect to the tree.  It is also a rough gauge of progress because the more leaders we can move from the unconnected list to the Profiles box, the more of the community we know we have connected.  For all these reasons, it is important to connect individuals and to move them from the "Wanted" list to the Profiles box.

Unfortunately, it has been several weeks since I made any effort to connect one of the listed leaders to the tree.  So, that is what I worked on this last week.  The leader I was trying to connect was Roman Czerwinski.  He served as Milwaukee Comptroller from 1890-1894, the first Milwaukee Pole to hold this important position.  His victory in a city-wide election was an indication of the growing clout of the Polish-American voters in Milwaukee.

I picked Roman Czerwisnki as a target in part because the indexed records of St. Stanislaus Church indicated that he had come from Bługowo, Poland.  There are quite a few Milwaukee families from Bługowo, many of whom who are already connected to the tree, and I thought it would be fairly easy to link Roman Czerwinski through one of these families.  Boy, was I wrong!  In the end, I was only able to connect him via his daughter-in-law Anna (Michalek) Czerwinski whose family had also come from Bługowo.  Even then, the connection would not have been possible without the invaluable information I had received from Joacim Cyran, a genealogist in Berlin (Germany, not Wisconsin) and his daughter who had indexed the Bługowo birth records.  

But this is not the end of the story. When I add an "influential" person to the tree, I also like to include their families.  Doing so often often requires me to research the in-laws as well (and sometimes in-laws of in-laws), both to clear up questions or ambiguities or to satisfy my own sense of curiosity.  Oftentimes, I will discover another "influential" person in the process. In this case, I found not one, but four!  Only one, the first female deputy sheriff in Milwaukee County, is on the "Unconnected" list, but the others deserve to be, and would have been  if I had but previously known of them.  Two are listed in Who's Who in Polish America and the other was a U.S. Congressman.  I will be adding them to the Profiles box and doing their detailed biographies as soon as possible.

Family Names Added Since Last Status Update:  
Bardonski, Baron, Blazen, Biedryzcki, Biedryznski, Bulvid?, Brznkola, Czarnecki, Czez, Czyz, Dziekan, Feutek, Holek, Kaczka, Kaczkowna, Kasprsak, Kobrzynski, Kozak, Kundler, Kaszewska, Krenz, Kwasnieski, Mima, Minia, Owocki, Peczwozniak, Przewozniak, Pufal, Puhek, Rytewska, Seifert, Siekierka, Somerfeld, Sommer, Spychalonka, Wasielewski, Welniak, Wertin,Wnuk, Zacharska,

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Old Rug Swindle

While doing research for my post "The Search for John Peksa", I ran across the following article which ran in the Milwaukee Journal on October 28, 1919:

At the time, I did not yet have any information on Julius Peksa, much less his wife.  However, I did have two Peksa families already connected to the tree.  One was the family of Jan Peksa which I discussed in my post, "The Search for John Peksa".  The other was the family of Andrew Peksa and Mary (Domachowski) Peksa  (a second cousin to Rose (Domachowski) Boncel mentioned in the Featured Profile of Andrzej Boncel.)  Could I find a way to connect Julius Peksa and his wife to the tree?

Well, a quick search of the records on was enough to show that Julius Peksa was a brother to John Peksa and that he had married Pearl Somerfeld in 1908.  So now I had both Julius and his wife, Pearl, connected to the tree.  But, as in most things that we do, my research only led to further questions.  The Milwaukee Catholic Cemetery records indicated that he was buried on February 22, 1921 which meant that he was only 37 when he died.  Why did he die so young?  Also, the 1920 census shows that Pearl and their son, Stanley, were living alone at that time.  Since Julius, presumably, did not die until 1921 where was he in 1920?  Some of these questions may be answered by Julius's death notice which was published in the Kuyer Polski between August 19 - 22, 1921.  However, since I don't have any easy access to this paper, I will have to wait to find out.  In the meantime, if someone else could look this up and send the information to me, I'd appreciate it.

Other names mentioned in the article but not yet connected:  Jessie Riess, Harry Demecki