Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Going back to the roots - journey to Mogielnica

My father's mother, Stefania Dembińska nee Witkowska, came from Mogielnica, a small town 70km south-west from Warsaw. She met my grandfather Tomasz Dembiński after the First World War. My father has never been to Mogielnica, so I thought it would be a good idea to take him there, along with Moni, to trace our family's rural roots. Below: the neo-Gothic church of St. Florian.

Mogielnica I've visited a few times, a small country town of 2,500 inhabitants. My father's mother, Stefania (1893-1975) came from around here, but he has few details. He said they had a farm which they had to sell at a low price because of the economy. We come to the cemetery to look for traces of family history.

We find three graves bearing the surname 'Witkowski'. My father recollects having family across the river in Warsaw, visiting them in Grochów. Although his mother was an only child, she had cousins, also originally from Mogielnica, with the surname Sepczyński. It is probable that Stefania Witkowska's mother Teodora, who died in 1943 and is buried along with Stefania in Warsaw's Bródno cemetery, was from the Sepczyński family. Moni scouts on ahead and finds a grave of the Sepczyński family, below.

Below: we find a few more graves of the Witkowski and Sepczyński families. The oldest contains the body of Ignacy Sepczyński, born 1805, died 1885. His wife Florentyna, 22 years his junior, died in 1917. Both reached the age of 80.

If these are indeed my father's grandmother's grandparents, it would mean that I can trace my roots back to 1805. Some genealogical digging is required!

The trip answered another question for my father. After his father's death in 1941, his mother would make trips back to Mogielnica to buy food, which she'd smuggle back into occupied Warsaw. Some she'd sell on, the rest would feed the family. How did she manage to do that, wondered my father, given the distance between Warsaw and Mogielnica? A horse-drawn wagon would take forever...

The answer was - narrow-gauge railway. Moni found the station that served Mogielnica, to the north of the town, from 1917 to 1988. The line, which ran through Grójec and Tarczyn, terminated at what is now Metro Wilanowska bus terminal, then Dworzec Południowy.

After our visit to the cemetery, we had lunch at Mogielanka, the town's only restaurant, where I paid 52 złotys (£11.17) for: cold beer, half-litre, two sparkling mineral waters, two soups and three massive main courses. My father's portion was so large, half of it served as his supper back home!

This time last year:
My father's walk around Jeziorki

This time three years ago:
What's the Polish for 'sustainability'?

This time five years ago:
Last chance to see Amber Gold's billboards in Warsaw

This time six years ago:
The Twilight Rambler


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, very interesting research.
I've done something similar and have used the "Geneszukacz" and the "Genealogy Indexer" to find my family records. This and other sources are listed in the "prewar research" section of this Kresy Family site:

Birth records for Teodora are shown here:

Good luck!


Michael Dembinski said...

@ Janusz,

Many many thanks! My father is delighted! Thanks to you, he has found his great-grandparents! His maternal grandmother he knew as a boy, she moved in with the family during the war, up to the time she died on 2 February 1943. So thanks to you, we now know she was born in Mogielnica on 28 March 1865, daughter of Piotr Sepczyński, aged 35, a cobbler, and his wife Franciszka nee Świderska. You have prompted us to do more searching!

Anonymous said...

Very happy to have delighted your father. Best wishes to him!

Here are some more snipets:
Piotr Sepczynski & Franciszka Swiderska marriage – 1852 (parents Michał, Rozalia Pionek. & Andrzej, Franciszka Sawicka)
their 8 children

Tomasz Dęmbiński & Stefania Witkowska marriage 1920 (parents Antoni, Michalina Kruszewska & Wiktor, Teodora Sepczyńska)
Antoni Dęmbiński & Michalina Kruszewska marriage 1885
Stefania Witkowska Birth 1893


Sigismundo said...

I would recommend contacting the kancelaria of the parish church in Mogielnica and the local marriage registry office (urząd stanu cywilnego). If you're lucky, they should have between them records of all births, deaths and marriages (or respectively baptisms, marriages and burials) dating back 100 years, so to 1917.

Normally, the record books older than 100 years are then sent for storage to the nearest provincial archive, which may well be in Warsaw, but they will tell you in Mogielnica.

You'll be surprised what you can do with just a few phone calls to the above institutions.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Janusz

Absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much - I have dedicated a new post to these findings. My father is in total heaven!

@ Ziggy

Moni and I are planning a return to Mogielnica, we'll definitely be in touch with the kancelaria of the church to dig into the history of the Sepczyński and Świderski families.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Michael. Really happy for your father!

I've use this same source to find a great, great, great, great, great grandfather, born in the 1700's. However with other branches of the family I can find anything beyond a great great grandfather.

Good luck in your hunt!