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Family History

Family History Miracles: How my Love for Stories Led to an Important Discovery

I often have difficulty doing “official” family history work because it feels rather overwhelming. However, I do love reading the stories and viewing the pictures that are found on familysearch.org. One afternoon several weeks ago, I was researching the documents of a particular ancestor who lived in the early 1800’s. One document, entitled “Our Family’s Seventeen Miracles” caught my attention and I became fully entranced as I read the recorded miracles that had taken place in their family. Several of the recorded miracles happened to a family by the name of *Welazski (*name has been changed), and I include those experiences below:

FAMILY MIRACLES

“My aunt made sure my father told me this story about the Welazski family in Poland in hopes that I would write it down. One spring the Welazskis found an injured goose. As they nursed it to health they became attached to it and could not kill it for dinner. The goose was released and flew away. That winter when food was scarce for the Welazskis, they heard a commotion in the barn. Wild geese had come for protection from the elements. The Welazskis had plenty to eat that winter.

My grandfather C. Welazski was the oldest surviving child in his family. As WWI loomed his parents knew that he would be drafted into the Russian army to fight fellow Poles drafted into the German army. At that time Poland was partitioned and ruled by Russia, Germany, and Austria. His parents sold some land to pay for a new barn to replace one that had burned. The extra money was given to him for passage to America. He had to convince local authorities that since there was no work in his small village he had to have papers to leave. He traveled to Bremen, Germany, and booked passage to America. He went through Ellis Island and went to Pennsylvania to stay with an uncle.

In Pennsylvania he needed work. He would go to one of the steel mills and wait outside the gate hoping for a job. He joined many other workers who were waiting for the same thing. Since he didn’t know English, he did not join in their conversations. One day while he was waiting, a worker was injured and the foreman went to the gate to find another worker. He saw him and motioned for him to come in. A worker who spoke Polish showed him what to do and he had his first job. Later he asked why he was chosen out of all the workers standing at the gate, and the foreman said, “You were the only one not talking.”

Later he moved to a Polish district of Toledo and married. At one time he had a wound on his leg that did not heal. His wife was very concerned and prayed fervently, but the sore did not get any better. Finally, she prayed that if the wound healed, she would give up meat one additional day each week as she already had meatless Fridays. The wound healed and she kept her promise.

My grandfather and his wife had 4 sons that served in the military during WWII. His wife prayed throughout the war that her sons would not see action. The first son was in the Navy and became so nervous when he went to sea that he was given duty on land in the states. The second son was in a ball game during training when a player threw the bat hitting him in the mouth. All of his teeth had to be removed, so he was given stateside duty. The third son served in the merchant marine and did not see action. The fourth son was in army intelligence and also served stateside. All survived the war.”

old letter

Photo courtesy Jarmoluk on pixabay.com

A DEEP CONNECTION

I felt drawn to the Welazski family the moment I began reading about them. Were they, in fact, related to me? I had to find out. I located C. Welazski ‘s family tree and discovered, to my great disappointment, that we are not related.

Why do I feel so drawn to this family, I wondered, when they are of no relation to me?

The fact that C. and his wife had four sons serve in WWII and survive caught my attention because my paternal grandmother’s four brothers also served in WWII and survived. I felt compelled to learn more about these four sons and began with the second son (the one who was hit in the mouth with a bat). Imagine my delight when I learned that he married a woman from my family line. Mystery solved! I am related to the Welazski family through marriage.

As I read the memories of the second son’s life, I made another important discovery. He divorced his first wife shortly after they were married and, interestingly enough, married his ex-wife’s younger sister. Both sisters grew up in MY hometown, years before my parents were even born. Pre- WWII they meandered through the same mercantile store that I would later shop in with my mother. They “ding-dong-ditched” treats on the front steps of houses, some of which are likely still standing today. Post-WWII Walter worked at the same National Park where I spent my summers camping with my family. The more I read, the more of a bond I felt with the Welazski family.

It was then that I noticed that something was not quite right. The second wife was not listed in family search as a spouse to her husband. My heart jumped at the opportunity to link this wonderful family together. I called my mom and, together, we researched her records and attached them to her husband’s records, along with a couple census records, a marriage license, and a grave headstone picture.

A TWIST

In another twist, I realized that their headstone included a birth and death date for him, but only a birth date for her. Was it possible that she was still living? I sent her daughter, who I located through family search, a message and prayed that I would receive a response. A couple weeks went by and nothing.

Then, today, only an hour ago, even as I was in the midst of typing this experience, I felt impressed to check my family search messages and learned that the daughter had responded to my message three weeks ago with the information that her mother was still alive. My heart soared.

Then, another message, sent two weeks later stating news that made my heart altogether stop: Her mother passed away 10 days ago and her funeral was held yesterday in my hometown. YESTERDAY. I didn’t get the message in time. I missed her funeral and the opportunity to connect with this family that I was led to through family history research; a family that I have grown to love.

Why would I receive so much inspiration regarding this family in the past few weeks, only to miss her funeral by one day? Why was I not inspired to check my messages earlier? I may never receive an answer to those questions, but maybe, just maybe, things are playing out exactly as they should.

My melancholy mood for having missed the funeral is tempered by the fact that her daughter is grateful to have connected with me and is will to share more information with me about her family.

MIRACLES STILL EXIST

Family history work is a gut-wrenching, soul-stretching, heart-filling adventure, complete with agonizing twists and turns and marvelous surprises. I never suspected the wonderful discoveries, blessings, and personal connections that lay in store for me as I began to read the document in my ancestor’s memories entitled “Our Family’s Seventeen Miracles”. Nor did I anticipate the miracles that would soon take place in my own life in connection with the Welazski family. This experience, recorded now for the sake of posterity, is proof that miracles still exist today–yes, even for simple people like myself, who know very little about how to do “official” family history work.

 

**Top picture taken near the National Park where my ancestors and I have created many cherished memories. (Photo credit: author)

 

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RECOMMENDED READING: Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org

RECOMMENDED READING: The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy

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