The Road to Mikołajówek

Part 1

by John Johnson

 

My mother was born of Jozefa Arasim and Kazimierz Pachucki, making me an American with Polish ancestry on my mother’s side. My father was of German, Welsh and English ancestry, thus I don’t possess a Polish surname. I always considered myself Polish, though, and always answered so when asked what my heritage was. My grandmother had 14 grandchildren and only two demonstrated much interest in genealogy: an older male cousin and I. He studied his surname, Pachucki, which was our grandfather’s; and I studied my grandmother’s, Harasim (though we knew it only as Arasim). I never met my grandfather and of course I bear my father’s name, and I did not have any particular curiosity about either, but I lived many years with my grandmother and we were very close. I always dreamed of learning about her old world, but knew I had no chance. Well, thankfully, I was slightly mistaken.

Easter Sunday, 2002, was a turning point: my 17-year-old daughter looked through a box of old stuff at my mom’s house, and came across the old pictures of my grandmother and others. She was drawn to them and to my mother’s “Elementarz” book. She said she wanted to speak Polish, and I knew then she was hooked and I finally had what I needed: an ally in the search and an explainable reason for the time I would need to spend searching.

jozefa

Jozefa and Kazimierz with son Frank

That very night I posted a query on the Arasim Genealogy forum requesting information for Arasim who lived near the towns of Raczki or Suwalki, in Poland. These were the only towns any of the first generation folks (my mom included) could remember being discussed. No one even knew their grandparents first names, only that they were “Arasim,” and all who came over had that name on their tombstones, along with their married names.

A few weeks later, I got an email from a man in Michigan, Michael C., who asked me some questions about my post. He had begun his search for the same surname a few years earlier, and had documents from St. Louis, where we lived (including, on an old calendar, the address of the house in which I was born) and the ship’s manifest for my Great Aunt Stefania's trip to the USA. I filled him in with as much information I could, and he did likewise. We surmised that we were related somehow, but were not sure exactly how.

sign

With his assistance as to procedure, I went to a local LDS Family Learning Center and had some microfilms sent there for viewing. I began scouring ship indexes using the Soundex code for Arasim, and looked for ships arriving in Baltimore Harbor, where we knew Jozefa Arasim had arrived in either 1907 or 1909. I eventually found her index card, which contained the name of her village, Mikolajovka (listed as being in Russia), her parent’s names, their occupation, how much money she had, where she was going in the USA and so forth. It also listed the ship’s name, so I was able to find the actual manifest later, and found the original entries. It was incredibly thrilling.

 

We couldn’t find Mikolajovka on the map in the vicinity of Raczki or Suwalki, but when I showed this to my Czech brother-in-law, he told me it was a “case” issue. The village was likely to be Mikołajówek. This we found, so now we had the village and where it was located. An internet search of available LDS microfilms yielded extensive church records at a nearby church in Janówka. By now, it was late 2002, and things had slowed down in the searching for many reasons.

continued: please click here for Part 2

written by John Johnson
January 2006
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Recommended books:

Polish Roots by Rosemary A. Chorzempa (read Jaga's review)