Casimir and Marianna (Fabich) Marczynski left Poland for the Fourth Ward of Dunkirk, New York on January 17, 1900 with their four young children–Apolonia (b. 1895), Franz (b. 1897), Katha (b. 1897) and Stefan (b. 1899) in tow. Casimir worked as a boilermaker at Brooks Locomotive Works and opened a penny-candy store on St. Hedwig’s Avenue in Dunkirk to support his family, and the couple went on to have four more children together: Joseph (b. 1902), Josephine (b. 1902), Louis (b. 1904) and Edmund (b. 1906). Things took a turn for the worse, though, after Marianna contracted typhoid fever and died on February 14, 1907 at the age of 35. Casimir’s mother arranged for a young woman from Poland to travel to Dunkirk, marry her son and take care of his six children.
Cut to my great-grandmother, Mary Witkowski, in Julianowo, Poland. Each of her daughters told a slightly different story–some claimed that Mary’s fiancé had died at war, while others believed that her family did not approve of the engagement–but all agreed that, in the end, Mary left home because she had “no prospects” in Poland. She traveled to Dunkirk aboard the SS Lutterworth with her future sister-in-law, Franciszka Jozwiak, only five months after Marianna’s passing, and she married Casimir on August 26, 1907 at the age of 23. According to her daughter Blanche, Mary’s first few years in America were difficult–she joined a ready-made family who didn’t accept her at first–but in exchange for her willingness to marry Casimir, he paid for her siblings’ passage to New York.
Casimir and Mary (Witkowski) Marczynski had eight children of their own–seven daughters and one son–and this “Large Family” is the perfect fit for this week’s 52 Ancestors prompt. There’s Viola, the oldest: she was born on November 27, 1908 and was the caretaker in the family. After my great-grandmother had her first child (and almost died in childbirth), Viola would stay up with the new baby all night to let her sister and brother-in-law sleep. Then there’s Agnes, the second daughter: she was born on Christmas Day in 1910, and I think of her as the posh sister. Although she remained in the city of Dunkirk, she moved further away than her other siblings, and she and her husband, Peter, had more money than the rest of the family.
I’ve shared my great-grandmother’s story here many times before: Hattie was the third of Casimir and Mary’s eight children, and she was born on either July 9, July 10 or July 11, 1913 at home. She was a seamstress at a lingerie factory by day–and a bartender by night–and she was just plain cool: witty and sarcastic and the best grandmother a girl could have. Hattie was so heartbroken after her husband’s death in 1964 that she never remarried (my mother likes to point out that she had a number of proposals in the years after her husband’s death, though), and she’s one of two great-grandparents that I was privileged enough to know.
And then there’s Eddie–everyone’s favorite sibling–who was sandwiched in the middle of the Marczynski sisters. He was born on November 5, 1915 and enlisted in the United States Army in Detroit during World War II; luckily, he made it back home. Next is Victoria–or Vicky–who was known for being strict; Tessie–the kindest and most compassionate of the Marczynski siblings–died much too young; and Blanche–the original family historian–married a like-minded jokester and raised four children of her own. Patricia, the youngest, was born on March 18, 1931 (her namesake? St. Patrick), and because my great-grandparents were the only ones in the family with a car at the time, they picked her up from the hospital and took her home.
I have two photos of Casimir and Mary’s children: one was taken during World War II, and the other is from sometime in the 1980s (the only family member missing is my great-grandfather, Stanley Zielinski). And I love the Marczynski family’s story: I love Mary’s determination to start anew in America and her courage to marry a man she had never met; likewise, I love the way the siblings remained close and took care of each other throughout their lives. The two photos, though, bring this story full-circle, and with eight kids? They’re the perfect family to highlight here this week.