Monday, July 23, 2012

Figuring Out Which Joseph or Which Mary

My great grandparents, John and Sophia Libera, ca. 1900.

I've finally returned to my ongoing family history project.  It's one of those things that you have to be in the mood to do.  Over several years I collected all sorts of odd bits of information, emails from relatives, and information my dad shared with me from time to time and put it all in a box labeled "Libera".

Knowing that the Latter Day Saints have been microfilming birth, marriage and death records from foreign countries for years, off I went to Ludlow with a numbered list of reels that might have information on my family.  I thought I was going to have to pay to order them from Utah but the center in Ludlow is apparently very popular.  So popular that they have their own small permanent collection.  And my #1 reel, birth records from my grandfather's village, was in house.

Have you ever looked at these microfilmed pages from church logs?  Firstly, they are written in Latin.  Ok,so I studied Latin a little.  Puer is boy, puella is girl.  That's the easy part. Being able to read the fancy scrolled penmanship of the 1700-1800s is something else.  And they're not actually birth records but baptismal records listing parents, grandparents and godparents all scrunched into boxes to the right of the child's name.  Three hours later, square eyed, I actually found my grandfather's baptismal record....and, of course, it was closing time.

If you look real close you'll see "Josephus" and to the right "Joannes Libera" & "Sophia Nowak".

The Center is only open 2 days a week so I had to wait 7 days to get back to that record which was the beginning of a goldmine of relatives.  There are LOTs of Liberas in this little village in Poland and unfortunately many of the men are named John or Joseph and several of the women are either Sophia or Marianna.  With all the possible names out there you'd think they could be a little more creative.  And what really surprised me was that when a child died as a baby, and that happened often in those days, it wasn't unusual for another child born later in the same family to be given the same name.

So the fact that I found my grandfather Joseph's baptismal record was pretty amazing.  My father was John and I found out that my great grandfather was also John, and his father was Joseph. My grandfather's mothers name was Sophia, his grandmother was Sophia, and his great grandmother was Marianna.  He had several cousins named Marianna or Sophia and a few Johns and Josephs as well.  This whole idea of honoring your ancestors by giving your children their names can make it messy to try to find your lineage.
Especially if there were 10 siblings and each had 10 children.

Armed with my new list of ancestors I started looking for the ones who immigrated to the U.S.  The Ellis Island site is great and the U.S. Census is pretty helpful.  Problem is the birth dates in both places are estimated and the dates I have from the Polish records are baptismal, not birth.

I did finally find my grandfather's records and those of his brothers who also came here.  But in the process I've also found other John and Joseph Liberas who came from the same region in Poland at the turn of the last century and settled in Mass.  Who are they and are they related?  Well, that's a search for another day.

My family tree is now about 4' long.  And my great-great-great grandfather was named Sebastian!! But his wife was a Marianna.


  1. WOW! It's a lot...but at least it's searchable! In my case, being part Cherokee Indian and also's a horse of another to speak. LOL I ran into problems trying to search the native American record and it totally discouraged me. I hear that some of those records are open now...but my wanting to search it again is not!...Who knows, maybe I'll get in the mood again in the future. ^_^ Have fun on your searches though! I applaud your stick-to-ative-ness!

  2. I wouldn't even know where to start looking for Native American ancestors but I know people who have found their African American folks. It was a lot of work though and meant going back through lots of records. It would require a lot more "stick-to-ative-ness" than I have.

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