Great-Grandmother Johanna J. (Gazda) Markoski

You would think there would not be too much to say about Johanna after all my posts about Stanislaus. On the contrary, what I’ve found about his life just adds to her story, rather than the other way around.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when Johanna was born; it seems to range anywhere from 1875 to November 1878. Her birthplace, however, was gen on the 1908 ship’s manifest (more on that later) as “Rehberg, Galicy”. As we saw in researching Stanislaus‘ home country, this area was Galicia, the northeastern section of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which stretched from modern-day Poland to modern day Ukraine. So where was Rehberg? According to the Galicia Town Locator on geshergalcia.org, it was in the Jaworow Administrative District and the Krakowiec Judicial District. With a little more poking and prodding on the internet, it seems that the town is now known ans Yavoriv, which is now in the Ukraine, very close to the Polish border.

Johanna’s parents, according to her 1896 marriage record, were Andrew Gazda (misspelled Garda, I assume due to a mis-reading of some original paperwork) and Marie Tenera (the 1908 manifest says her mother’s married name was “Marya Gasda”). Johanna arrived in the United States sometime between 1890 and 1892; the 1900 census (closest to that time) states 1891, and I tend to lean toward that. If she did arrive prior to 1892 in the Port of New York, she would have been processed at Castle Garden. I have not been able to find her or her parents in any immigration database yet. For all I know, she may have come over with brothers or other family members. From what my aunt says, there were other Gazda’s in Holyoke, Hampden County, MA, so it seems that she didn’t immigrate alone.

Castle Garden, today known as Castle Clinton. Author’s collection.

If Andrew and Maryah did in fact immigrate to the United States, Maryah did not stay here. The 1908 ship manifest I mentioned before shows “Joanna”, “Mieczyslaw” (Max), “Stefan” (Stephen), Edward and “Domicela” (Doris) “Markocka” sailing on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm from Bremen, Germany on June 16, 1908 and arriving in New York City on June 23. It is clearly our Johanna, as page 2 states that she is returning to her husband “Stanislaw” at 116 Lyman Street in Holyoke. Since Doris was just six months old upon this return journey, and other records show that she was born in “Poland”, a pregnant Johanna and the three boys must have departed America in late 1907. I strongly suspect that Stanislaus did not go along, since the manifest notes that Johanna paid the passage for herself and the children. While there, the family visited Maryah, who was then living in Wisniowa, which today is in southwestern Poland (about 175 miles due west of what was Rehberg). I don’t know why Johanna and the children made the visit; perhaps Andrew had died?

Poster about the SS Kaiser Wilhelm at the Ellis Island Museum. Author’s collection.

Another interesting tidbit on the ship manifest was it said that Johanna could read and write, whereas the 1900 census stated that shoe could not. Was the census wrong? Or might she have learned over the course of eight years? Perhaps Mater Dolorosa Church helped immigrants with this skill (I’m just guessing!), or maybe she learned through her own children’s schooling. In any case, Johanna stated on the 1940 census that she had a sixth grade education. That seemed to be enough to get by in her community.

Another thing the ship manifest provided was a physical description of the passengers. Johanna was four feet, eleven inches tall, but her growing children’s heights were not given. All were blond and had either green or blue eyes. (Johanna’s were green – now I know where my eye color comes from!)

Johanna’s life followed the same track as Stanislaus’ until about 1940, where the city directory stated that she “removed to Flushing, LI, NY”. That is where youngest child Charles (who changed his last name to Markham) lived with his wife and baby daughter. I’m not sure why Johanna went there – whether there was marital difficulty, or if Charles and Janet needed help with the baby, or she could have just missed her youngest son. The Holyoke City Directories don’t show Johanna by name again until 1944, but I can’t say for certain if she was actually away all that time.

In any case, Johanna remained with Stanislaus for the rest of his life. For the rest of her life, she lived with various children. My mother remembers her living with Bruno’s family for a time (although she never re-appeared in the Holyoke directories). From 1958 to 1959, she lived with son Stephen in Springfield, Hampden County, MA. Stephen’s wife Josephine died suddenly in 1958, so perhaps Johanna was helping him get through that aftermath. Of course the majority of Johanna’s later life was spent with daughter Doris Mieczianka in Riverhead, NY. Doris had no children, but her door was always open to extended family who needed a place to stay.

Johanna Markoski in the 1950s. Author’s collection.

On Friday, September 13, 1968, Johanna passed away in Westhampton Beach, Suffolk County, NY. I’m not sure why she was in Westhampton Beach; her residence was still Riverhead. Perhaps she was in the hospital there. Her wake was in Holyoke the following day, and her funeral mass was at Mater Dolorosa Church that Monday, followed by her burial next to Stanislaus at Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley.

I never knew until recently that Johanna’s lifetime extended right into mine. I know I never met her, but probably wouldn’t have remembered her if I had. I’m just glad to have learned all that I have about her now.