Friday, May 27, 2011

Zalesie? No, Zalesie

Or maybe Zalesie?

I could go on like this for a while. There are no less than 78 towns/villages in Poland named Zalesie, which means "place beyond the woods". I don't know why this sounds so in the US we have approximately 30 states with a city/town named Greenville. The difference here is that it initially created some confusion in my research and now I have the problem that the village of Zalesie where my ancestors lived was so small I can't find any information about it. This is the first time in my research that I've had to deal with this situation.

Zalesie is located in the Lukow District of the Siedlce Province prior to WWI (Lublin Province after that) and is approx.3 miles WNW of Lukow. The village is too small for a listing in The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life but it is listed in Where Once We Walked as having a Jewish population of 36. The source of this figure is the "Black Book" or its successor the "Grey Book" which used various government censuses taken during the 1920s and 1930s. That's all of the information provided, the location of the village and its Jewish population.

Zalesie was too small to have its own town officials so registration of births, marriages, deaths, and other government business had to be done in the nearest town that did have officials, in this case Lukow. Thanks to JRI-Poland I now have family records.

I have the 1837 birth record for my 3rd great-grandfather Szymon Wolf LAST, son of Jankiel and Liba Malka LAST (maiden name not known at this time). I also have the birth records for his brothers Leybus (1848) and Boruch Josef (1851). All of these births were recorded in Lukow and the records show that the family living in Zalesie with Jankiel's occupation listed as shoemaker on two records and day-laborer on the third. In 1858, Szymon Wolf LAST, still residing in Zalesie, married Sura GRYNBERG, daughter of Ajzyk Lejb GRYNBERG and Leja AJZENBERG and a resident of Miedzyrzec Podlaski (see map...this town is located 18 ENE of Lukow). The marriage took place, and was registered, in Lukow. By the time two of their daughters were born, Mirjem Szprynca (1863, my 2nd great-grandmother) and Nojma (1867), the family was living in Miedzyrzec. I'm working on records for the GRYNBERG family in Miedzyrzec and whatever LAST records I can find. Lots more to order from the Family History Library and Polish State Archives.

This entry in the 1929 Polish Business Directory (Polish & French) shows that Zalesie had a total population of 501. The town had a gorzelnia (distillery) and mlyny (mills). There is a listing for an I. LAST, a szewcy (shoemaker). We are likely related but I'm still working on 19th century records so I don't know who he is yet or what happened to his family.

That's it...the extent of my knowledge of the village of Zalesie.

It's interesting looking back at the map above. The family seemed to be following a general eastward migration along that road #2. Marjem Szprynca (known only as Szprynca) LAST married Moshe-Hersz TOKAR sometime in the early 1880s and their first child Szymon, named for Szprynca's father which means the elder Szymon was deceased, was born in 1885. The family was either living in Terespol or Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus) by that time (see east side of map). I don't have Szyprynca and Moshe-Hersz's marriage record yet but I'm feeling more hopeful that the TOKAR family lived in Poland vs Belarus (makes a huge difference in my ability to learn about the family). Szprynca died in the early 1920s and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Brest (now covered by a sports stadium). Moshe-Hersz and most of their children and their families were murdered in the Holocaust (five out of child died much earlier, two emigrated to America and Israel before the war, and that last child's name has been lost to time).

The hunt continues. I taught myself to extract data from the 19th century Polish records so I don't have to pay a translator anymore. By the late 19th century, records in this part of Poland were written in Russian and I need to see if I can learn to extract data from those too. As I come forward in time I may find family members who emigrated from Poland and whose descendants may be located....maybe. The LAST name is difficult to research because search results include "no last name" records and the GRYNBERG name is very common. The hunt is part of the thrill...good thing I don't need a gun for this type of hunting :-D


Susan (Nolichucky Roots) said...

I think you've done amazingly well!

Regarding the records in Russian - I've dealt with this, too. One thing I've done which has helped is literally stick post-its on the computer with the surnames and villages I am interested in written in Cyrillic script. Silly, but it works for me!

Sharon said...

Thanks Susan. My version of your post-its for the Polish records is copy/past snippits from original Polish records into an Excel spreadsheet. I think I just needed to get to the point where I had enough Polish records professionally translated to start this little "database". I'll try it with the Cyrillic too if I can get past the fact that it has no basis in the Latin alphabet.

Anonymous said...

I was searching for the Tucker/Toker/Tokar family when i saw your blog. There is also a Morris Tucker in my family, or Moshe, who immigrated from Europe to New York. I was just looking for relatives of mine or more information about my family history. Hopefully you could help! Please email me at

Unknown said...

I am experiencing the same frustration with "Zalesie." The Hamburg passenger list says "Salesche Russland" ... the Ellis Island Manifest says "Salesie Russia." After endless searches, I am left empty-handed with Salesie and think it is Zalesie. However, I'm not sure if it is in fact Russia or Poland, which parts were under the Russian Empire during 1910. Any help as to how to start sorting out? I know very little else about him prior to his arrival in the US.

Sharon said...

The reference to "Russia" in 1910 could mean Poland or any of the countries that were part of the Russian Empire. Don't assume that you will always see "Poland" if the town was located within the borders of Poland. To find out which Zalesie you're looking for, you'll need a reference to another town or gubernia. I had reference to Lukow so I knew it was that Zalesie that the other records were referencing. If it turns out that you're ancestors are from the same Zalesie, let me know. It was a townlet, not even big enough to be called a town.