I thought the life of my great-great-great-grandfather Ferdinand Oswald Bleschke was completely researched. Obtaining his death record was on the side burner because I assumed it couldn’t offer anything new.
I was in for quite a surprise when I found the record on Ancestry.com’s new database, Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945.
In his 80s, my great-great-great-grandfather moved to Schwerin an der Warth, Germany (now Skwierzyna, western Poland) from Bialystok, Russian Poland (now eastern Poland). The death record didn’t make sense but it had the correct first and last name, age and birthplace.
My great-great-great-great-grandfather’s death place was partially correct. My distant cousin told me he died in Schwerin, Germany, not Schwerin an der Warth. I assumed that he moved in with a grown child living in current-day Germany after his wife died in 1918.
That was far from the truth. I posted on genealogy groups on Facebook, asking about why would such an older man move so far away in his 80s. It turns out that I never bothered to look at the history of Bialystok at the time.
The city was in the middle of the Polish-Soviet War, a war I never heard of until now. The pain that my great-great-great-grandfather must have felt from this experience.
He recently lost his wife of 60 years in 1918. He had to leave the area and never be able to visit his wife’s grave ever again. My great-great-great-grandfather came to the area in the late 1860s with three young children to work in the growing cloth-making industry in the Bialystok area.
He had to leave behind his home, his church and his neighbors and see his large family scatter and separate from each other.
I wasn’t surprised where my great-great-great grandfather chose or was sent to live. Schwerin an der Warth was only 50 kilometers north of where he was born in 1834.
So many questions are still unanswered. Did he choose the location of Schwerin an der Warth? Did he move to Schwerin an der Warth with family from Bialystok? Did he know any family living in the town?
The research continues on these answers. Archives in Skwierzyna doesn’t have any records on my great-great-great-grandfather. The records possibly were given to German State Archives in Leipzig so I am waiting for an answer from the archives.
No matter where ancestors are being researched, this story shows every detail needs to be fully researched and documented to learn their complete stories. We all assume we know so much but surprise, surprise life is full of surprises no matter which time period is being researched.
Here are five tips to avoid my mistake and get the full story of your relatives and ancestors:
- Get and review all details of every possible document.
- When something is out-of-place or seems unusual, start asking questions. Did a fire destroy the factory where they worked? Did a drought put an end to a family farming business? Did a war force them to move? Did they move due to a backlash against their ethnicity or religion?
- What historical and political events were occurring where they lived and around them?
- Document who lived with your relatives and nearby neighbors with the same last name whenever possible.
- And most importantly assume nothing. Ask who, what, when, where and why questions until they are answered.