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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trying to find city or village of grandfather's birth

Joe S. asked me on Jan 4/09 .... I am trying to locate a city or village where my grandfather (John Szudarek- now spelled Shudarek) came from. According to the 1900 Federal census he arrived in the US in 1880. On his marriage certificate he came from Posen, Europe. Born on 2 Nov., 1863 and baptized a catholic. His parents were Ignatius Szudarek and Apolonia Kaczmarek. My dad said he did not know of any brothers or sisters. So far I have not been able to locate any passenger records.

I wrote to Joe privately and asked for the location of his grandfather in 1900 and the name of his grandfather's wife. There were too many "hits" when I went to look for John on the census so I needed more details to find the right man.
Joe responded with: The reason I left out some details was because it happened after my grandfather arrived here and I thought it would not help.
My grandfather was married to Julia Gebel on Nov. 26, 1888. They were married in Portage County, Stevens Point, Wis. On the marriage certificate she came from Slesia. Europe. They lived in Wis. all their lives. My grandfather died on March 13, 1933 and my grandmother died Dec.25, 1952.
I ANSWERED: Hi Joe, You've obviously done a lot of research on your family and have gathered some good details. I needed your grandfather's location and wife's name so that I could look in census records for more clues. I checked the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census for your grandfather as I wanted to verify his immigration year. I also wanted to see whether or not he ever naturalized. Naturalization records are a great way to find details such as place of birth or an exact immigration date and ship name.

I noted that, as is often the case, his immigration year varied from census to census. In 1900it was 1880, in 1910 1880, in 1920 it was difficult to read but it looks like 188[?] and in 1930 it was 1882. So you have a range from 1880-1882 and I would allow a couple of more years on either side of that. So search ships passenger lists from 1878-1884 for starters.

As for your grandfather's citizenship details, he states that he has his first papers (PA) in the 1910 census. In 1920 he is listed as an Alien so that means he hadn't yet naturalized. 1930 census once again shows him as having his first papers (PA) so there is a chance he had to re-apply. But in any case there should be first papers if not actual naturalization documents on file for him. You can find out more about Wisconsin naturalizations but there are very few Wisconsin Naturalization records online. Your search may have to extend to offline records.

Portage County naturalization records from 1844-1956 are held at Stevens Point Area Research Center. The address is

James H. Albertson Library
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI 54481

Phone: 715/346-2586

I would phone or visit and have a search for your grandfather's first papers (and his naturalization papers in case he naturalized)

As for your question about his village or town of origin, you may find that on his naturalization papers. Meantime you might want to join the Posen mailing list and post a query. Posen is a province of Poland, formerly of Germany, so talking to others who are knowledgeable about Polish or German research should be helpful.

This was a very interesting puzzle and I hope I've been able to steer you in a good direction to carry on your search.


  1. I wanted to thank you for help. I called the UWSP library and they are closed until Jan. 19 for remodeling. I will let you know how the research went once I get a chance to check the records.
    Thanks again for your help.
    P.S. I have never heard of the term first papers

  2. Joe,

    First papers are the same thing as the Declaration of Intent. If an individual had applied for that, it was noted on the 1910 Federal census as "PA"