Tekla Tekla Tekla

This is a bit of a departure from the lines that I have been writing about (The Dunn/Lloyd connection and the Hassans), but I’m just so excited about an avalanche of information that just fell into place after a lot of awkward peering in corners.

When I was in kindergarten, one of our assignments was to ask our parents to help us fill in a family tree up to great grandparents and we would all talk about our families for show and tell. I remember feeling proud that half of my great-grands came from Eastern Europe and were prairie pioneers in the 1900s (I had a huge thing for Little House on the Prairie, and I imagined it was like that but more Canadian and with perogies). When I became interested in my ancestors again, I went looking for that tree. I didn’t find it because if it is still around, it’s in a box in my Mum’s attic and I’m too afraid of falling through the ceiling to go up there. However, I found something better: The notes my Dad made when I asked him to help.

They’re a bit grim and while I am grateful now that I have this information, I haven’t a clue why he would tell a five year old about assorted uncles who had liver problems or Schizophrenia[1]. What I was hoping to find was the maiden name of his maternal grandmother, but I had no luck. He had just written “Patrinella” with her birth and death dates. Dad passed away in 2004, so I couldn’t just call him up and say, “So, your grandma Patrinella? Was she some sort of Ukrainian rockstar, or did she have a last name before she married Phillip Podwysocki?”

What I did have on my side was that Podwysocki is not exactly a common name in North America. I already knew that Phillip and Petronella[2] lived in Manitoba and would have been married before 1920. Easy. Use the 1916 census to figure out when Phillip came to Canada and to confirm my gut feeling that there weren’t a ton of Podwysockis around to muddle a search for a marriage registration. There was only one Podwysocki marriage in the Manitoba Vital Statistics Index, and it was in 1917 of Phillipe Podwysocki to a Petronella Kreszczuk[3] in Brokenhead.

From there, I found the Kryszczuks on the 1916 census, and they were living with Petronella’s maternal grandparents, Martin and Tekla Niznik. After that, it was easy to get the record from the ship that brought them to Canada.

The Kryszczuk family departed from Antwerp, Belgium on the Montezuma, and disembarked in Quebec before making their home in Beausejour, Manitoba.

If you click on the picture, you’ll be taken to the full page from the Montezuma’s manifest. At the very bottom is Marcan Niziuk (Martin Niznik). Tekla is not on the next page. There was nobody else on the ship destined for Beausejour.

The 1916 census had said that the Kryszczuks arrived in Canada in 1912, so I hadn’t looked at the 1911 census. Here they were, disembarking in Quebec on the 16th of November, 1910. Maybe Tekla had come a little later. It wasn’t uncommon for husbands to immigrate first, but why would Martin go ahead with their daughter’s whole family and leave his wife behind? They were all living together, so surely the farm could support one more person? Were there loose ends Tekla needed to attend to before leaving home?

Tekla was not living with them when the census was taken in 1911. I started to wonder if she was Domicela’s mother after all, or if Martin had married someone in Beausejour. There was only one Niznik marriage for their area in the index before 1916, and Niznik was the bride’s name.

I had tried looking for Tekla in the past, using Ancestry’s Canadian Passenger Lists database. This turned out to be all but impossible because my toddler likes to babble “Tick tick tick ticka!” and after looking at page upon page of “Tekla” I could hear that baby voice at the back of my mind and it all became nonsense that I couldn’t concentrate on. Anyway, the kid was sleeping so I pulled up the immigration records the other day and proceeded to comb through every Tekla who came to Canada between 1909 and 1916. Then a promising name popped out at me: Tekla Reznik.

I’m no stranger to transcription errors, so I’m willing to click on anything in an index that remotely shares the smallest bit in common with my original search.

Tell me, does this look like “Reznik” to you?

Tekla finally makes it to Beausejour!

Well, maybe a little because of the loop from a letter in the line above it comes down and touches the N. Look at it slowly, though. It’s pretty clearly “Niznik.” The Rozalia Niznik she is travelling with is the Niznik marriage I mentioned earlier. And speaking of Niznik marriages, it was lucky I thought about searching for the possibility of Martin marrying in Canada, because even though he didn’t, Domicela (Petronella’s mother) did get remarried after Bill Kryszczuk died. Her indexed marriage registration states her name as Domicela Kryszczuk Niznik, and she married John Baran in 1928. Finally I have a date range for Bill’s death, and I can find out when Domicela passed away, too. As a bonus, Domicela’s marriage certificate may have Tekla’s maiden name on it or her birth mother’s name if Tekla is her stepmother. Now I can start collecting documents and getting my ducks in a row for that line!

[1] Thinking on it, I probably do know why. Dad was a bit awkward around kids, and you almost needed a dictionary to speak with him. He enjoyed horror films and sci-fi with a creepy bent. Dad was the sort of guy who would answer the door on Halloween, looking perfectly normal. Then when he gave the kids candy, a spooky smile complete with vampire fangs would spread across his face, and he’d drool a little fake blood from the corner of his mouth.
[2] Dad probably wrote down “Patrinella” because later in life she called herself Patricia or Pat.
[3] It gets spelled several different ways over the course of the paper trail including Kreszczuk on Petronella and Phillip’s marriage registration, Krischuk and Cherchuck by census enumerators, and Krzyszczuk on the ship’s manifest when they immigrated, but the spelling used most often is Kryszczuk so that is the one I use. If there is someone out there who is part of this line and uses something different, please let me know!