One detail completely changes the story of great-great-great-grandpa’s life

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:

  1. Get and review all details of every possible document.
  2. 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?
  3. What historical and political events were occurring where they lived and around them?
  4. Document who lived with your relatives and nearby neighbors with the same last name whenever possible.
  5.  And most importantly assume nothing. Ask who, what, when, where and why questions until they are answered.
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An incredible surprise of rediscovered old photos brings alive the family tree

I just was thinking about contacting my cousin from my great-grandfather’s brother’s family to see whether they have any more old family photos. They already shared some old photos, family letters and documents over the past seven years.

I am so grateful to find the family. They really found me on a genealogy forum. I didn’t want to bother them one more time to ask if they have any more photos. I have been so grateful for everything I have received over the years.

Then by luck my cousin from Moscow, Russia,  e-mailed me Friday that her sister found some old photos of my grandmother’s family. I hadn’t thought there could be any more photos because our families haven’t seen each other since the 1930s.

Then I saw the photos my cousin uploaded to Google Photos. I already have three of the photos, one of which I got from that cousin a few years ago. But I hit the jackpot in photos once again.

My cousin’s sister has a photo our great-great-grandfather with my great-grandmother and four of my grandmother’s brothers and another close up shot of my great-grandmother with three sons from the early 1900s. The woman or girl standing behind my great-grandmother is a mystery, along with the photo’s location.

My Russian cousins have given me more old photos of my grandmother’s family than I have found in my own family’s possessions. My grandmother had five brothers but I only have a handful of pre-World War II photos of the family.

Only one brother of my grandmother moved to the USA and had a child. Another two came to the USA but didn’t have children. The other two brothers immigrated to Germany and Argentina.

The kids in these photos were born between 1891-1899.  By the time I got my hands on the family photos from my grandmother’s apartment in 2006, I can imagine or don’t want to imagine how many old photos were thrown out.

Only one child is alive of the six children from this family. She didn’t have any old family photos. I had to send her photos of her great-grandfather and grandfather because she wasn’t lucky enough to have old photos.

Too many people fight over pieces of furniture, china sets and jewelry from their relatives when the priceless possessions are the photos. These photos bring to life  the people in family trees.

One day, those precious pieces of furniture will crumble, the china will break and the jewelry will lose its luster. Only photos can keep forever moments from long ago alive.

Related posts:
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Eight years of patience brings dreams of a family reunion to reality
Great-grandpa thought his secrets would never see the light of day
DNA testing finally proves its value in finding 16th century documents