Stanislaus Markoski: From the Beginning

Although Stanislaus’ marriage records and US census records place his birthday anywhere from February 1874 to 1876, I lean toward believing the record where he directly gave his birthdate of November 24, 1875 – the World War I draft registration.

From his 1896 marriage record to the 1918 draft registration, Stanislaus’ place of birth is listed as “Austria” or “Polish Austria”. I’ve been wondering what that is all about — what is “Polish Austria” anyway? I got a couple of clues from his wife, Johanna. In 1908, she and the children were on a ship’s passenger list for a trip back from “Galicy” (or Galicia). Since Johanna had been listed as being from Polish Austria as well, I suspect that she and Stanislaus were likely from the same region. Galicia was an area in the northern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until about 1918, which marked the end of World War I. After the war, Poland itself gained that territory. However from February 1919 to March 1921, Poland was at war with the new Soviet Union, and its borders changed dramatically throughout that war. This explains Stanislaus’ 1920 census country of origin being “Russian Poland”. Later censuses simply indicate “Poland”.

Pinpointing the exact town Stanislaus was from, though, is another matter. I have not yet been able to find a ship’s passenger list with his name on it (having infinite name spellings and combinations is not help). I know that eventually, I will have to get my hands on his naturalization records, which should be dated between 1910 and 1918. (This is discounting the 1920 census saying that he is an “alien” with an immigration date of 1908. That is obviously not true, considering all the other records I’ve found.) Action item: find out whether local courts and/or NARA have the paperwork.

As far as Stanislaus’ parents’ names go, the only thing I have is the 1896 register of marriages in Holyoke, Hampden County, MA. It states that his parents were John Markoski and Marie Pytel; I suspect that at least the first names are Americanized. ( Stanislaus’ wife Johanna’s mother’s name is also listed as Marie (Tenera) – so could the city clerk have entered both mothers’ names as Marie by mistake? I later confirmed that Johanna’s mother’s name was Marya, which could easily be Americanized as Marie.) Where else could I find his parents’ names? Recently, I wondered if he had any siblings in the Holyoke area. According to city directories and censuses, there are other Markoskis (or similarly spelled surnames) in Holyoke, So I tried looking up marriage records for them in Holyoke. There are two really close matches: Andzej and Aniela, both of whom have parent names of John Markocki and Helena Pytel. However, this really doesn’t prove anything yet. It is an avenue worth exploring, though.

According to the 1900 Census, Stanislaus immigrated to this country in 1893. (The 1910 and 1930 Census say 1894.) Where did he first step foot in America? My strongest suspicion is Ellis Island. First, it was the largest port on the East Coast. There was also easy access to Holyoke via the railroad. Finally, when Johanna visited her mother in 1908, she sailed back to the US to Ellis Island. It’s also possible that he arrived in Boston and took a train out to Holyoke. Another reason to obtain those naturalization records!

Ellis Island, as Stanislaus may have seen it. Courtesy New York Public Library.

So what brought Stanislaus to Holyoke anyway? I know that Holyoke had a burgeoning Polish population in the 1890s as the paper and textile mill industries grew there. Maybe, like so many others, Stanislaus had a friend or relative who let him know about the possible job opportunities. I don’t know what conditions were like in Galicia at the time (this is when being on “Genealogy Roadshow” would come in handy!), but this is the time period when people began immigrating to the US in droves. Stanislaus was just one of millions.

Next time, we’ll start to take a look at Stanislaus’ life in Holyoke.

Great-Grandfather Stanislaus Markoski: What I Know


[Edited March 8, 2017 to correct marriage place.]

For the past nearly three years, I’ve written about my father’s side of the family. Here is where much of the low-hanging fruit is, though I can’t say I’ve exhausted everything on that side, especially descendant research. We can always come back to that later.

Now it’s time to look to my maternal ancestors, which are much, much harder to trace back. They are all Eastern European! The paternal side is Polish and the maternal side is Lithuanian. I decided to start with my grandfather’s father, Stanislaus Markoski. Because he is somewhat of a brick wall, my pace is going to be slower and more analytical.

Stanislaus Markoski is the name of my great-grandfather that I grew up knowing. However I’ve seen his first name also recorded as Stanislaw, Stanislawa, and later (in the 1920 census and directories from 1936 onward), Stanley. His last name has also been spelled Markocki, Markowski and Markocka. This makes for very challenging record-searching! Here, we will just call him Stanislaus.

If Stanislaus himself was certain of his birthday, it was November 24, 1875 (according to his World War I draft registration) in Polish Austria. His parents, according to his American marriage record, were John Markoski and Marie Pytel. He had black hair, grey eyes and was medium weight as an adult. He was considered to have a sixth grade education.

Stanislaus immigrated to the United States sometime around 1893-1894. On either June 30 or July 1, 1896, he married Johanna Gazda in Holyoke, Hampden County, MA.

Holyoke, Hampden County, MA is where Stanislaus spent the majority of his adult life. There was a period in the late 1920s when he and his family were living in nearby South Hadley, Hampshire County, MA and a brief time after 1931 when they lived in Brooklyn, Kings County, NY (which was complete news to me!). His occupations included a textile mill labor, butcher, laborer in a paper mill, ticket agent for a steamship company, farmer, and a sweeper in a rubber mill (we’ll revisit all those more slowly later).

Holyoke, MA in 1900. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Holyoke, MA in 1900. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Though he died when my mother was just a little girl, my mother remembered him as having a collection of smoking pipes (like his son, my grandfather, did) and he would give her a nickel each time she would visit. Stanislaus died in 1949 and is buried at Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley.