ANTON NAGORSKI FAMILY GENEALOGY RESEARCH
Written by James A. Conrad (son of Mignon Sussmuth Dulko, grandson of Felicia Nagorski Sussmuth, great grandson of Anton & Katherine Nagorski, nephew of Homer Sussmuth, and cousin to many).
Dated: April 18, 2018
► Fact: No one in the Nagorski family who emigrated to the United States was born in Poland. That is impossible because the country of Poland did not exist for over 120 years from 1795 to 1918 when they were all born, including mother Anna. Their birthplace was the Russian Empire, which existed from 1721-1917. Prior to 1795, Poland was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795). The Commonwealth was taken over by the Russian Empire in 1795.
► The question is, then, where did Poland as a birthplace come from in the Nagorski genealogical record? As the 1900s progressed and the Russian Empire ceased to exist, especially its western states, the Nagorski family members in America were required to provide a country of origin on various government forms and inquiries, such as the U.S. Census, the latter of which they indicated "Poland" as their birth country. They identified more with the Polish language, culture, and the emerging Polish community in the Milford area. They likely heard stories of their Polish ethnicity passed down from earlier generations, relatives, and neighbors back in the old country. The U.S. Government understood the problem of arriving immigrants and changing borders and country names in eastern and western Europe. The U.S. Census actually required that participants give the modern name equivalent of the place where they were born, so they all said Poland. Thousands of other ethnic Polish immigrants, perhaps over a million, from the former Russian Empire did the same thing.
► In May 1892, the Nagorski family emigrated to the United States on a single Russian passport issued to Anton Nagorski as head of the family. This passport still exists. It is a thin booklet of a familiar size as other passports, though not as sturdy as modern ones. No passports have been found for any other members of the family. According to family lore, Anton's wife Katharine Nagorski spoke Polish at her 84-acre farm home at 39 Wolf Harbor Road, Milford, Connecticut (later the address became 39 Wellington Road after the Wilbur Cross Parkway cut through a section of it during its 1939-40 construction and it became an exit to Wheeler's Farms Road). The Nagorski family were ethnic Polish subjects of the Russian Empire when they arrived in the United States. Russian was the official language of the Empire and its use was mandatory in government offices and documents. Polish was spoken informally. It is not known to what extent any Nagorski family members were fluent in the Russian language.
► The name "Grodno" or "Hrodna" on documents might instead refer to the larger Grodno Governorate (state) in the Russian Empire in which Grodno and many other villages were located, including the city of Bialystok. If the available information on old records indicates instead that the Nagorski family members were born in the Grodno Governorate and not specifically the city, and with the Governorate eventually being divided when the Russian Empire ended and the borders redrawn, the actual birthplace today could be in modern Poland, Belarus, or Lithuania. Less likely would be Ukraine, located further south. The dual-use name confusion of Grodno in historical records is similar to that of New Haven, Connecticut, which could refer to the city or county, and New York (city or state). Old genealogical records should be checked again to see if there is wording to indicate if Grodno refers to the city or the larger administrative territory (governorate) of many villages that was under Russian rule.
► Grodno was located near the western border of the Grodno Governorate. Since it ended up being part of modern day Belarus, the connection to Poland could not have been that strong. Bialystok was also part of the Grodno Governorate and it is located today in modern Poland. It is possible that the city of Grodno changed ownership in this sequence: Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth > Prussia > Russian Empire > Belarus. On old maps, it seems to have been just outside of what was once the Kingdom of Poland, later known under Russian rule by locals as Russian Poland. This could be why it ended up in Belarus. It is possible that people in the Russian Empire who were born and living in rural areas who were emigrating to America and elsewhere were required to state the nearest city as their residence because there were government offices there. If so, they might have indicated Grodno on documents, but actually have been from a smaller village or rural area outside of a village. More research will have to be done on Anton Nagorski's passport in the future. He obviously had to travel to a city and official government office to get it. He also had to have some wealth to emigrate the entire family and then buy 84 acres in Milford. Maybe Grodno is the city where the passport was issued. One of the problems with the passport is that, besides having words printed in Russian, there is cursive handwriting that is difficult to interpret into letters for English translation and may require someone with expertise in old Russian documents to extract any additional useful information from it. Some of the U.S. Census documents are also written in longhand and the ink used has bled into the paper and faded over time, resulting in transcription errors by genealogy organizations.
► On an 1834 map of the Grodno Governorate (see photo) with spellings in the English language, Grodno is spelled Grodno and Bialystok is spelled differently as Bialostok. Back then, Grodno was located on the northwest border and Bialostok to the southwest of Grodno. There is a considerable distance and approximately 20 named villages between the two.
► With regard to modern descendants of the Nagorski family tree (all of us), it would be correct to refer to oneself if desired as having Polish and Russian ancestries and being either or both a Polish American and Russian American. At the time Homer, his sister Mignon, and other were doing the early work on the family genealogy, Pope John Paul II, born in Poland, was very popular worldwide and this is likely why they did not go into specifics about the family actually emigrating from the Russian Empire in their finished work. The connection to the Russian Empire can be factually established. There can never be any factual government documentation of Polish ancestry from the 1800s simply because Poland did not legally exist during the 1800s and the Russian rulers forbid using the earlier kingdom name publicly or officially in any sense. It is possible, however, that a connection to the earlier Polish kingdom could be established through ancestors before Anton Nagorski and his wife if they were born in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795). In the U.S. Census every 10 years, the Nagorski family members who participated in it self described their country of birth as Poland to match their ethnicity. Even though it literally was not true, it was an acceptable answer to give by the United States government and so it is considered a legitimate form of documentation for genealogical purposes, to be accompanied by the historical name Russian Empire in parentheses, written as such: born Poland (Russian Empire) or born Poland (then the Russian Empire). An alternative version is also accurate: born Russian Empire (modern day Poland).
Anna Majewska Nagorski
Poland (then the Russian Empire)
Born: 1853 (gravestone says 1852)
Poland (then the Russian Empire)
Katharine Pankiewicz Nagorski
Born: 1859 (gravestone says 1860)
Poland (then the Russian Empire)
ONLINE RESEARCH - APRIL 2018
RUSSIAN EMPIRE (1721–1917) - WIKIPEDIA
"The third largest empire in world history, stretching over three continents, the Russian Empire was surpassed in landmass only by the British and Mongol empires. The rise of the Russian Empire happened in association with the decline of neighboring rival powers: the Swedish Empire, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Persia and the Ottoman Empire."
"What Was The Russian Empire?"
"Founded by Peter the Great in 1721 and lasting until the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Russian Empire dominated northern Eurasia for two centuries. [...] According to an 1897 census, the Empire had attained a population of 128.2 million by the end of the 19th Century. The vast lands were a home to more than 100 big and small nations, and non-Russians accounted [for] 57% of the population's ethnic demography. The Russian language was declared as the official language nonetheless, and made compulsory in all public institutions."
POLISH-LITHUANIAN COMMONWEALTH (1569-1795) - WIKIPEDIA
"In 1768, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth became a protectorate of the Russian Empire. [...] The country was partitioned in three stages by the neighboring Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy. By 1795, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had been completely erased from the map of Europe. Poland and Lithuania were not re-established as independent countries until 1918."
POLAND - WIKIPEDIA
"Following the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, Poland regained its independence in 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles."
POLAND PROFILE - TIMELINE - BBC
• 1794-1795 - Reformers lead an armed uprising against the partitioning powers. Following its failure the Commonwealth is finally partitioned among Prussia, Russia and Austria. Independent Poland disappears from the map of Europe.
RUSSIAN PARTITION - WIKIPEDIA
"The Russian Partition (sometimes called Russian Poland) constituted the former territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that were invaded by the Russian Empire in the course of late-18th-century Partitions of Poland. [...] The first partitioning led by imperial Russia took place in 1772; the next one in 1793, and the final one in 1795, resulting in Poland's elimination for the next 123 years. [...] To both Russians and Poles, the term Russian Poland was not acceptable. To the Russians after partition Poland ceased to exist, and their newly acquired territories were considered the long lost parts of Mother Russia. To Poles, Poland was simply Polish, never Russian. While the Russians used varying administrative names for their new territories (see below), another popular term, used in Poland and adopted by most other historiographies, was the Russian Partition. [...] The Russification policies were harsh, and there were many repressions, [...] Many Poles were exiled to Siberia, some 80,000 of them in 1864 in the single largest deportation action commenced by the empire. Polish language was discriminated against, and it lost its official status. [...] There was no education in the Polish language, and publications in Polish were few. The only elementary schools were constantly underfinanced. [...] Polish stores – where Russian was not being spoken – were routinely denied license. Polish names were removed even from botanical signs. Hunger and poverty were rampant with [a] record number of women forced to work at the Russian military brothels, of which there were some 185 in total, including 16 official ones (1884). [...] There was nonetheless growth in national consciousness, and the Revolution in the Kingdom of Poland (1905–1907) resulted in the general improvement of the situation soon before the dissolution of the Empire."
CONGRESS POLAND / KINGDOM OF POLAND - WIKIPEDIA
"The Kingdom of Poland, informally known as Congress Poland or Russian Poland, was created in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna as a sovereign state of the Russian part of Poland connected by personal union with the Russian Empire under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland until 1832. Then, it was gradually politically integrated into Russia over the course of the 19th century, made an official part of the Russian Empire in 1867, and finally replaced during the Great War by the Central Powers in 1915 with the nominal Regency Kingdom of Poland."
THIRD PARTITION OF POLAND - WIKIPEDIA
"Angered by what was seen as dangerous, Jacobin-style reforms, Russia invaded Poland in 1792, beginning the War in Defense of the Constitution. Abandoned by her Prussian allies and betrayed by Polish nobles who desired to restore the privileges they had lost under the May Constitution, Poland was forced to sign the Second Partition of Poland in 1793, which ceded Dobrzyn, Kujavia, and a large portion of Greater Poland to Prussia and all of Poland’s eastern provinces from Moldavia to Livonia to Russia, reducing Poland to one third of her original size prior to the First Partition. [...] Austrian, Prussian, and Russian representatives met on October 24, 1795 to dissolve the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, with the three conquering powers signing a treaty to divide the region on January 26, 1797. [...] The victors also agreed to erase the country's name: [quoting agreement terms] 'In view of the necessity to abolish everything which could revive the memory of the existence of the Kingdom of Poland, now that the annulment of this body politic has been effected ... the high contracting parties are agreed and undertake never to include in their titles ... the name or designation of the Kingdom of Poland, which shall remain suppressed as from the present and forever.' [...] The Third Partition of Poland ended the existence of an independent Polish state for the next 123 years."
GRODNO - WIKIPEDIA
"In 1795, Russia obtained the city in the Third Partition of Poland. [...] In the Russian Empire, the city continued to serve its role as a seat of Grodno Governorate since 1801."
History of Grodno
"Grodno is one of the oldest cities in the territory of modern Belarus. [...] In 1795, after the third partition of Rzeczpospolita, the territory of modern Grodno region became a part of the Russian Empire. The ancient city belonged to such countries as Lithuania, Poland and the Soviet Union."
HISTORY OF GRODNO
"Grodno, one of the oldest cities in former Lithuania, began as a village founded by a Russian prince. The village is first mentioned in the Chronicles of 1128.
• 1568 - Rech Pospolitaya (Polish Principality and Lithuanian principality united)
• 1795 - Grodno was in Russian Empire.
• 1796 - Grodno was the center of Lithuanian Guberniya (Litovskaya Guberniya), Russian Empire.
• 1801 - Grodno was the center of Grodnenskaya Guberniya [Grodno Governorate], Russian Empire."
GRODNO REGION - WIKIPEDIA
"As the part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth forming the Grand Duchy's Trakai Voivodship, and due to subsequent Partitions of Poland, the whole of the Grodno region was finally annexed by Russian Empire by the end of 1795. The city of Grodno then became a seat for [the] Grodno Governorate."
GRODNO GOVERNORATE (1795–1915) - WIKIPEDIA
"The Grodno Governorate, (Russian: Гро́дненская губе́рнiя, translit. Grodnenskaya guberniya, Polish: Gubernia grodzieńska, Belarusian: Гродзенская губерня, translit. Hrodzenskaya gubernya, Lithuanian: Gardino gubernija) was a governorate (guberniya) of the Russian Empire."
GOVERNORATE - WIKIPEDIA
"A governorate is an administrative division of a country. It is headed by a governor. As English-speaking nations tend to call regions administered by governors either states, provinces, or colonies, the term governorate is often used in translation from non-English-speaking administrations."
GRODNO - 1897 RUSSIAN EMPIRE CENSUS - WIKIPEDIA
(the Nagorski family left in 1892)
BIALYSTOK - WIKIPEDIA
"The end of the eighteenth century saw the division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, in three steps, among the neighboring states. The Kingdom of Prussia acquired Białystok and the surrounding region during the third partition. The city became the capital of the New East Prussia province in 1795. Prussia lost the territory following Napoleon Bonaparte's victory in the War of the Fourth Coalition as the resultant 1807 Treaties of Tilsit awarded the area to the Russian Empire, which organized the region into the Belostok Oblast, with the city as the regional center."
HISTORY OF BIALYSTOK - WIKIPEDIA
• Capital of the New East Prussia province, Kingdom of Prussia from 1795 to 1807.
• Capital of the Belostok Oblast, Russian Empire from 1807 to 1842.
• Capital of the Belostok Province of the Grodno Governorate, Russian Empire from 1842 to 1915.
• Capital of the Bialystok-Grodno District of the German-controlled territory of Ober-Ost during World War I (1915–1918).
• Capital of the Białystok Voivodeship, Second Polish Republic from 1919 to 1939.
• During World War II it was the capital of the Belastok Voblast, Byelorussian SSR from 1939 to 1941 and 1944 to 1945.
• Capital of Bezirk Białystok during the World War II occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944.
• Capital of the Białystok Voivodeship, People's Republic of Poland from 1945 to 1999.
• Since 1999 it has been the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship, Republic of Poland.
BELARUS - WIKPEDIA
"Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Belarus declared independence as the Belarusian People's Republic, which was conquered by Soviet Russia."
GRODNO (HRODNA), BELARUS
"Hrodna, also spelled Grodno, city and administrative centre, western Belarus, on the Neman River. [...] It passed to Lithuania in the 13th century and later to Poland, reverting to Russia in 1795; it was under Poland from 1921 to 1939."
BELARUS ARCHIVES - U.S. GOVT INFORMATION PAGE
"The Belarusian archives hold a big number of documents which are used in genealogical research and can be of interest to those who search their family history (parish registers, census records, records of institutions, religious communities, nationalities, and various types of vital records). For periods roughly before 1920 these records are kept at the National Historical Archives of Belarus in Minsk (the former Minsk, Mogilev and Vitebsk provinces of the Russian Empire and a part of the Grodno and Vilno provinces) and the National Historical Archives of Belarus in Grodno (the former Grodno and Vilno provinces)."
HISTORY OF LITHUANIA - WIKIPEDIA
"In 1385, the Grand Duchy formed a dynastic union with Poland through the Union of Krewo. Later, the Union of Lublin (1569) created the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that lasted until 1795, when the last of the Partitions of Poland erased both Lithuania and Poland from the political map. Afterward, the Lithuanians lived under the rule of the Russian Empire until the 20th century."
POLISH AMERICANS - WIKIPEDIA - DEFINITION
"Polish Americans are Americans who have total or partial Polish ancestry."
RUSSIAN AMERICANS - WIKIPEDIA - DEFINITION
"Russian Americans are Americans who trace their ancestry to Russia, the Russian Empire, or the former Soviet Union."
BELARUSIAN AMERICANS - WIKIPEDIA - DEFINITION
"Belarusian Americans, also known by the somewhat dated terms Byelorussian Americans, Whiteruthenian Americans and White-Russian Americans, are Americans who are of total or partial Belarusian ancestry. [...] According to the 1990 US Census, only 4,277 respondents claimed Belarusian ancestry; there are no reports as to the estimated population from the 2000 census. The precise number of Belarusian Americans is difficult to determine, as census and immigration statistics did not historically recognize Belarusians as a separate category, as the Belarus region was for a long time part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union when early immigrants arrived. Many of them were recorded as Russian or Polish, depending on the region of Belarus where they were born.
KATHE NAGORSKI - STATE OF CT DEATH RECORD
CT STATE LIBRARY SEARCHES
• Connecticut Death Records Index, 1897-1968.
• Connecticut Marriage Records Index, 1897-1968.
ANNA NAGORSKI 1916-01-17 MILFORD
ANTON NAGORSKI 1934-01-16 MILFORD
KATHE NAGORSKI 1953-09-16 MILFORD
(Kathe appears not to be not an abbreviation for data entry purposes. The full names Katherine, Catherine, and Catharine do appear as first names for other people. Whoever reported her death appears to have just given her informal shortened first name. She is not listed in the Social Security number death index.)
KATHERINE NAGORSKI - NEWSPAPER MENTION (POSSIBLE)
(This would have to refer to the estate of Katherine Nagorski, since it is dated 1955 and she died in 1953.)
The Bridgeport Telegram from Bridgeport, Connecticut, November 10, 1955 · Page 58
"Zone Change Is Requested For $500,000 Motor Court. MILFORD -- An application for a change of zone on a portion of land in the Wheeler's Farms area, if granted, will pave the way for the construction of a motel motor court estimated to cost approximately $500,000. The application of Irving Weitz of [company name, illegible] Norwalk is one of two such applications to be considered at a public hearing tonight at 7:30 in the Town Court building. The other application is that of Norm Rosinoff of Bridgeport [lawyer?] for Katherine Nagorski, who also seeks a change of zone in order to construct a motel."
[NOTE: The first application could have been for the successfully built Howard Johnsons motel-restaurant at the exit/entrance of the Wilbur Cross Parkway and the Nagorski estate request could have been for a proposed motel by a different developer on the other side of the parkway that was never built. The Connecticut Death Records do not indicate that there was ever any other person named Katherine Nagorski who died in the state between 1897-1968, so it is assumed that this was her estate making the request through a lawyer and the farmland had not yet been sold.]
CATHERINE NAGORSKI 1940 CENSUS - SPELLING AS CATHERINE
• Ancestry.com - "Catherine Nagorski in the 1940 Census"
"This snapshot of Catherine Nagorski's life was captured by the 1940 U.S. Census. Catherine Nagorski was born about 1862 in Poland. In 1940, she was 78 years old and lived in Milford, Connecticut."
• Archives.com - "Catherine Nagorski in the 1940 Census"
First Name: Catherine
Last Name: Nagorski
Age at Time of Census: 78
ANTON NAGORSKI - POSSIBLE POLAND RECORDS MENTION
(Needs to be researched, could be a different person. Nagorski appears to be a common last name. Supposedly has photo of signatures, but link wouldn't work.)
"The Population Registry of the city of Poznań [Poland] from 1870-1931"
Nagorski zd. Sierzchólska, Helene
[NOTE: There are numerous other Nagorski households listed. This listing has "Anna" but not her husband John or her father Frank, so it is probably a false lead, unless signatures match.]
GRODNO LAWYER WITH LAST NAME NAGORSKI IN 1887 - POSSIBLE RELATIVE?
(Anton Nagorski emigrated in 1892. Could this be a relative who helped him with the legal paperwork? Nagorski appears to be a common name, however.)
"Nagorski, Stanislav Stanislavovich, lawyer, Grodno"
JOHN J. SUSSMUTH - WIKIPEDIA (ESPERANTO LANGUAGE ARTICLE)
(This is an article on John J. Sussmuth, who was a leader in the international Esperanto language movement. Esperanto was a universal language that its proponents were trying to establish, but English won out. The article includes a military photo of him, which matches others in the Sussmuth-Dulko photo collection. Apparently the article was created and is maintained by a historian in the Esperanto community.)
• ENGLISH TRANSLATION VIA GOOGLE: