This undated photograph of two young men, of similar age, wearing almost identical tailored suits, was for many years lumped in the “unknown” pile of pictures that my Polish grandparents had kept. If there had been a photographer’s imprint showing a studio that would have helped, but both front and back are unmarked. Earlier, I had posted about the Wasik family, and their invitation to my sister and I to attend their family reunion. With my brother-in-law’s kind offer to drive out to McDonald, Washington County, PA we set forth with some scanned photographs and finally solved a few family mysteries. There we were told that the man on the left, with the faint X over his head, was Jan “John” Wasik (1887-1934), but his children did not know who the other man was. We knew Jan’s brother, Stanislaus, also married and raised a family in Washington County, and that is where our Polish grandparents, Jozef and Zofia Szczerba Mirota, had first lived when they married in 1909 – in a small village called Cherry Valley. But this other man doesn’t bear much of a resemblance to Stanley Wasik.
Researching our Polish family has always been a bit of a challenge. Not that our Irish side is much easier! First, there is the language barrier in reading old Polish letters and notes on pictures, and then also with the many partitions Poland has gone through over the years, sometimes records have been scattered to the winds. Part of that challenge was trying to find out our connection to the many identified Wasik photos we have. Our bapcia, Zofia Mirota, (bapcia means grandmother in Polish) loved her family and keeping up connections, but from the beginning of our research we knew her maiden name was Szczerba, not Wasik. Since Bapcia had died in 1954 much of her oral remembrance has been forgotten. When my sister was at her local Family History Center, looking through microfilm of Polish baptismal records for the area in southeast Poland that Bapcia came from, she solved part of the riddle. LDS Microfim #2090065 Items 4-5, Roman Catholic baptism records of Berdechow ad Bobowa, Grybow, Austria (Poland) had both the family Szczerba records and the Wasik records.
Stanislaus, also called Stanley, Wasik was born and baptized on 1 December 1889 in Berdechow, Poland. Stanislaus’ father was Lawrence Was – and his occupation was farmer, and Lawrence Was’s mother, Marianna Was, had been single. Stanislaus’ mother was Apolonia, daughter of Thomas Olszewski and Marianna Filip. This was the first conclusive proof that Stanislaus and Sophia Szczerba were half-brother and sister, having the same mother. His grandchildren told us they had heard he had a twin but no one seemed to know what happened to the twin. He was born in house #24 (belonging to his grandfather, Thomas Olszewski) in 1889. Here below is another mystery picture with the only clue being a faint mark on the upper left side with the initials, SW. Could this portrait of a serious young man, who was nicely attired in suit and tie, possibly be Stanislaus “Stanley” Wasik? Again, there isn’t a photographer’s studio imprint.
Both Stanley and John Wasik immigrated through Ellis Island in 1910. Their father Laurentius Wasik (1844-1904) had died, and possibly after their mother Apolonia “Pauline” Olszewski Szcerba Wasik (1848-1910) had died on January 7 of that year, it seemed the right time to venture forth to the United States to seek a better life. On May 26, 1910, John Wasik landed in NYC after traveling from Hamburg, Germany on the SS President Lincoln. He was going to his brother-in-law, Jozef Mirota, in Cherry Valley, PA. His next of kin in Berdechow, Austria (Poland) was his uncle Jakub Wasik. Brother Stanley immigrated on July 11th on the ship SS New Amsterdam from Rotterdam, Holland, and he was going to his step-brother-in-law, Jozef Mirota, of Cherry Valley. His next of kin in Berdechow was his half brother Pawel Szczerba. John Wasik stayed in Washington County, PA and married Katarzyna “Katie” Bronczyk in 1913. She was from a neighboring village in Poland called Falkowa. Brother John married Jadwiga “Jennie” Stoklosa in 1921. She also had been born in Falkowa. Both families were blessed with lots of children.
Here is another Wasik photo that shows that Jozef and Zofia Mirota’s children were also a bit confused about the family. It is dated from 1934, and has a note written in Polish, and under that they wrote “Uncle John’s family,” but John is crossed out with Stanley’s name written over it.
In this last photograph, dated from the early 1950s, siblings Zofia and Stanley are shown with some of their grandchildren in Zofia Szczerba Mirota’s side yard in Hunterdon County, NJ. Although there are a few marks on this picture I do love how similar the siblings looked and how they both have their arms placed protectively around the younger generation. Looking at this photo of Stanley Wasik I think I can see a resemblance to the mystery photo of “SW” that is above. But maybe that’s only wishful thinking!