#52Ancestors – No. 1 – Frank Kowalski – Starting Over, Coming Home

52ancestors-2015 Image

Image courtesy of No Story Too Small (Amy Johnson Crow)

This is the first post of the 2015 #52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge where a group of us blog about a different ancestor for each week of the year.  To learn more about the 52 Ancestor Challenge visit Amy Johnson’s site at Amy’s website.

To spice up the writing challenge, optional themes were added to give participants inspiration on how we look at our ancestors.  The theme this week is “Fresh Start.”  I jumped the collateral tree limbs and chose Frank Kowalski.  Born in the US, raised in Poland, emigrated back to US prior to WWII.

Frank was born (1916) in New Jersey to immigrant Polish parents.  The story goes his father didn’t care much for the new country and went back to Poland.  Because of Frank’s common surname being the equivalent of “Smith,” I have not been able to find definitive records for him or his family.  His parents names are generic too.

According to his son, Frank never talked about his family, his siblings, relatives, his life in Poland.  The usual clues one would use are just not there.  Frank wanted a new start when he returned to the US and he left his family stories behind.

It is  not known when the Kowalski’s went back to Poland. I am hoping to find them on the 1920 Census or city directories.  No luck so far.  Though Frank had an accent, his English was good.  He may have went to school here as young child.  I am not certain if his parents stayed in New Jersey or made a migration to Detroit before going back to Poland.  Frank himself came to Detroit in October 1938.

A ship passenger list is the first record I can confirm for Frank. The Ascania sailed from La Havre, France, on the 7th of October 1938.  The ship arrives at its destination, the Port of Quebec, on 18 October 1938.  The manifest is a list of US citizens.  Frank is listed as Fransicek S. Kowalski.  It includes his birth date and lists, Jersey City, NJ as his birth place.

He was naturalized at a district court in Warsaw, Poland, on October 3, 1938.  Entered on the line is, PP 6112, which could be a possible record ID for his naturalization paperwork.  Also included in his address in the US.  Bingo!  Frank lists his aunt, Stanislawa Studzinski, in Detroit, MI. Finally a direction to take my research.  From Quebec, Frank made passage to Windsor, Ontario and crossed over to Detroit.

Frank lives with Stanislawa and his two cousins in 1940.  The Studzinski research is also an enigma as I can find very few records on them.  The Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, provides clues to Frank’s military service.  It lists the dates of his military service.  Frank avoided persecution by Germans or Soviets in WWII if he had stayed in Poland.

One story Frank did share, is that he tried to visit his mother while station in Poland.  It was toward the end, but his commanding officer refused to let him go.  I wondered if that information would be in his military file?

Frank married Wladria (Wanda) Uroda in 1946 and they reared two children.  There were no family tales, histories were provided.  As if Frank’s childhood didn’t exist. Frank put his past behind for reasons not known to start over.

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