Surname Saturday: WOJCIECHOWSKI


Meaning/Origin – The name WOJCIECHOWSKI (hear it pronounced in Polish) is derived from the Polish first name Wojciech, which in turn comes from the root woj-, meaning “battle”, and ciech, meaning “joy”.   (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Countries of Origin – The surname WOJCIECHOWSKI is Polish.  According to the World Names Profiler, Poland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at  897.5 per million.  The United States comes in a distant second at 21.68.

Spelling Variations –  Other names derived from the same root include WOJCIECHOWICZ, WOJCIESKI, and WOJCIESZEK. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman) The feminine version of the surname is WOJCIECHOWSKA.

Surname Maps – The following map illustrates the frequency of the WOJCIECHOWSKI surname in Poland. As you can see, the surname is rather popular.  There is a wide distribution across the country over 378 counties and cities.  According to Wikipedia, it is the 15th most common surname in Poland!

Distribution of the WOJCIECHOWSKI surname in Poland.

SOURCE: “Mapa nazwisk” database,, accessed February 23, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stanisław Wojciechowski (1869-1953) was the President of Poland from 1922-26.

My Family – My Wojciechowski family comes from the town of Mszczonów, Poland. My earliest ancestor so far with this name is Maciej Wojciechowski.  I have no birth or death dates for him yet, but he was named on the marriage certificate of his son, Jan.  The line of descent is as follows: Maciej > Jan (b. c.1816, Mszczonów – d. unknown) > Franciszka (b. 01 Oct 1840, Mszczonów – d. 29 Apr 1914, Langhorne, PA, USA).  Franciszka has a special distinction in my family tree – she is my only 3rd great-grandparent to immigrate to the United States.  All that I know about her is that she married Ludwik PLUTA and had at least two children: a son, Jan, and a daughter, Antonina Rozalia.  Antonina is my 2nd great-grandmother.  She immigrated to the US with her husband, Jozef Pater, and their seven children from 1905 – 1907.  In 1909, Franciszka immigrated alone at the age of 69 to join her daugher’s family.  The passenger list describes her as 4′10″, limping, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a dark complexion. What an amazing journey for a woman her age! She lived with her daughter’s family until her death in 1914.

My Research Challenges -I need to continue my research, which I plan to do on a visit to the FHL later this year.  The church records from Mszczonów are available, and I should be able to fill in some missing dates and names for this family.

Surname Message Boards – Ancestry has a Wojciechowski message board as does GenForum.

Links to all posts about my Wojciechowski family can be found here.

This post is #7 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.


Bring Old Photos Back to Life

Although we can’t bring our ancestors back to life, we can bring photographs of our ancestors back to life!  Not all of us have the unique talents to do this – I certainly do not.  But photo restoration professionals can transform old, scratchy, crumbly photos into “looks like new” photos that can be displayed and admired.

I only have one photograph of my mother’s family, which consists of my mother, her sister, and their parents.  The condition of the photo makes it difficult to even describe it as a photograph.  It appears to be a photographic copy of a photograph that was printed in a home photography studio by my aunt’s first husband.  The date of the photograph is July 4, 1937; the copy would have been made around 1950.  It is in very poor condition:

"Original" unrestored photo of the Pater family on July 4, 1937

In this photo my grandmother is almost 30 years old, my mother is 1 1/2, my grandfather is 25, and my aunt is almost 5.  No other photo of the four together remains.  I have other photographs of my grandfather with his daughters at their weddings, but my grandmother is not in those photos.  I had this crumbling photo for years, and one day I wondered why I never bothered to get it restored to a more acceptable state.  My mother is the last surviving member of the family…wouldn’t it be nice to give her a “fixed” photograph?

Although I have done very minor restoration work on my own computer, such as repairing color fading or minor scratches, the extent of the damage of this photograph obviously required a professional.  I called upon the “Queen Of Restoration,” Janine Smith, of Landailyn Research and Restoration.  Take a look at her beautiful handiwork!

The photograph of the Pater family brought back to life!

I can’t thank Janine enough for all of her hard work on this restoration.  And my mother was quite impressed as well!  In addition to the Landailyn Research and Restoration website, also check out other samples of Janine’s restoration work on her blog, Janinealogy.

Do you have any old family photographs in your collection that are ripped, cracked, torn, wrinkled, faded, or damaged?  You do?  Then what are you waiting for?  Bring those photos back to life!  You will be glad that you did.

Family Tree Magazine’s Top 40 Blogs – Thanks for Voting for Me!

What’s Past is Prologue has been named one of Family Tree Magazine’s 40 Best Genealogy Blogs!  Many thanks to all of my readers and friends who voted for me.  It is truly an honor to be recognized.  I am also honored to be in the company of the other 39 Best – for they truly are the very best that genea-blogging has to offer.  Visit Family Tree Magazine’s site and read the names and descriptions of all of the Fab Forty!  Thanks also to Family Tree Magazine’s managing editor, Diane Haddad, and Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, who wrote the article about the Top 40 and said such nice things about all of us.

Lux Mundi

The theme for the 7th Festival of Postcards is Light.  The postcard I chose to illustrate this theme is modern, not vintage, but the Light that it portrays is much older!  This postcard was sent to my parents from me in July, 1985 on my now infamous first trip to Rome, Italy.  The image is the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. (click on the image for a close-up view, then hit the “back” button to return here)

This image was taken from the nave near the statue of St. Peter, which is shown in the foreground on the right, and is looking towards the magnificent baldacchino or canopy over the altar.  The reverse of the postcard is as follows:

I wrote: “Dear Mom, Dad, & Drew, We are having a great time – very interesting!  See you soon.  Love, Donna + Louie + Tom.  P.S. I was there” Very interesting? An understatement that only a teenager could make with a straight face.  Though, in retrospect, I probably kept it simple so as not to surprise my mother with the little details that would make her crazy, such as our dump of a hotel or the fact that I was wandering around a large city of foreigners occasionally without adult supervision.

The light shown on the postcard appears to enter the basilica from one of the windows near the dome.  While it may look like an overly dramatic image that was “touched up” to sell postcards, I can assure you that the rays of light entering St. Peter’s is often that dramatic depending on the time of day.  I took this photograph years later from a slightly different position in the basilica and got an equally dramatic effect.  I am standing right by the main altar looking towards the left transept – you can see only the twisted columns of Bernini’s baldacchino but not the canopy itself.

Interior, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome - taken by the author December, 2003.

While the play of light on the interior of the basilica makes for stunning photography (and postcards), I chose this for the “Light” theme for another reason – the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World, that I feel within these walls.  For every time I visit Rome and enter St. Peter’s, I can not help but feel the overwhelming love of God in addition to literally being overwhelmed by the immensity of the building itself.  I am drawn back there time and again.

For more images of the interior of St. Peter’s that also show the incoming rays of light, see the Wikipedia article and Sacred Destinations.

[Submitted for the 7th Festival of Postcards: Light]

Grandparents can be Valentines, too

The word prompt for the 20th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival is Valentine!  Here’s a photo of a couple who were each other’s valentines for a long time – my grandparents.  When the photo was taken, they had been married for 23 years.  James Pointkouski first saw Margaret Bergmeister working at a stored owned by her brother.  He was friends with the brother, and immediately asked him who she was.  Like a typical brother, he replied, “Her? Oh, she’s just my sister” as if that meant she was nothing special.  But she was special to “Jimmy” and he immediately pursued her and eventually married her.  Her brother didn’t mind!

James and Margaret Pointkouski, 1957

Submitted for the 20th Edition of Smile for the Camera: Valentine

I’d Like to Thank the Academy…2009 iGENE Awards

Each year, the Academy of Genealogy and Family History (AGFH) offers genea-bloggers the opportunity to celebrate the “best of the best” – our best blog posts for the previous year.  After reviewing all of the entries and deliberating with great care, it’s time to roll out the red carpet and present the honors.  Welcome to the 2009 iGENE Awards starring What’s Past is Prologue!

Best Picture

“What a great picture! How can things get better when you’ve got both a bottle AND a pacifier!”~ Leah Kleylein from Random Notes ~

I see he’s already perfected the Clint Eastwood stare. What a tough guy!” ~ Denise Olson from Moultrie Creek ~

The “Best Picture” category honors the “Best Old Family Photo” that appeared on What’s Past is Prologue in 2009.  And the winner is…Blazing Diapers from August 14, 2009.  The subject of the photo, my brother, may dispute whether it qualifies as an “old” family photo or not, but it is in black and white!  This photo beat out more vintage family photos as my favorite because it was a rare snapshot taken by my parents that seemed to capture the essence of who their little boy would grow up to be!

Runner-Up: February’s Fashions of the 1920’s – My great-grandmother’s sister strikes a dramatic pose in these stylish photos.

Best Screenplay

“Great post…Rome is a heck of a first vacation.” ~ Tim Agazio from Genealogy Reviews Online ~

“What an amazing first vacation. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos. Makes me want to hop on a plane.” ~ Tracy from The Pieces of My Past ~

Which family story shared in 2009 would make the best movie?  Without a doubt, The Innocents Abroad from July 14, 2009.  While it was more of a story of my personal history in lieu of family history, it would definitely make the best movie – a side-splitting comedy.  Four adults and eight teens on a whirlwind trip through Rome – can the city survive their visit?  This would have been a John Hughes film for sure!  The movie is still being cast at press time, but it is rumored that Kathy Bates will star as the history teacher leading the teens.  Anne Hathaway and Sandra Bullock are fighting over the role of me.

Runner-Up: March’s I Remember Betsy – How my life intersected with actress Betsy Blair’s.  Betsy’s own life  story is worthy of a movie, but for the story of how the former Hollywood star welcomed the starstruck “kid” into her home would make a great one too!

Best Documentary

“I’m sitting on the ‘edge of my seat’ in anticipation of reading ‘the rest of the story’ as Paul Harvey says…” ~ Becky Wiseman from kinexxions ~

“Enjoyed reading this multi-part story on your search, research & confirmation!” ~ Wendy Littrell from All My Branches ~

The “Best Documentary” category offered a wide variety of eligible posts, which included any informational article about a place, thing, or event involving my family’s history.   The winner is the 3-part series The Slesinski Sisters from January, 2009.  This documentary starts with a mystery – how do you find female ancestors with just a few clues?  Part 2 highlights the research, and part 3 confirms it with a surprise cache of photographs.

Runner-Up: Another 3-part series, The Millers’ Tale from September, 2009. Three families with the surname Miller, all coming from the same town in Poland to Philadelphia, and all living on the same street – are they related?

Best Biography

“What a beautiful tribute to your beloved aunt!”  ~ Lisa from 100 Years in America~

“Your Aunt was beautiful bride, and from you shared with us, a beautiful person. Thanks for telling her story.” ~ Bill West from West in New England ~

The best biographical article in 2009 is Memories of Aunt Joan posted on March 15, 2009. I was missing my Aunt Joan, so I wrote a tribute with some facts, photos, and funny stories about her life.  Remembering and laughing at those good times make me smile even though I still miss her.

Runner-Up: I didn’t write any other biographies this past year (other than the Betsy Blair piece that’s the Runner-Up in the Best Screenplay category).  But my uncles got equal time in the Carnival of Genealogy entry from April – Uncle, Uncle!

Best Comedy

“Wow – you have really neat parents! I can see where your creative humor comes from…” ~ Greta Koehl from Greta’s Genealogy Bog ~

What was the best funny story, poem, joke, photo, or video that I shared on my blog in 2009? For the second year in a row the award goes to a Smile for the Camera entry…photos and stories of my father’s show-biz days are far funnier than anything I write!  The winner is…A Different Kind of Bling from August 10, 2009.

Runner-Up: While it did not appear here on this blog, it was written by me!  My Runner-Up is my Weekend with Shades debut for The Humor of It Column, Off With Their Heads! It’s still my favorite column!

I’d like to thank the Academy, and our Carnival of Genealogy hostess, Jasia, for a wonderful chance to look back on our blogs.

[Written for the 90th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: The Third Annual iGene Awards, The Best of The Best!]

If Genealogists Ruled the Television Networks

Genealogists everywhere are excited about the two upcoming television shows that will highlight genealogy and family history.  First we have Faces of America, which premieres on 10 February on PBS.  Then there is the long-awaited Who Do You Think You Are? which finally starts on 5 March on NBC.  Naturally we will all be watching, meaning “we genealogists”.  But secretly we hope that many non-genealogists will tune in and become so fascinated by what we do that they will all want to do it.  Did you ever wonder what would happen if millions of Americans discovered the joy of genealogy?  If these shows are successful, maybe the copies would begin – that’s usually what happens on network television.  Wouldn’t it be great if the evening television schedule had a genealogy-related program EVERY night?  I can see the schedule now…

Lost – a show about what to do when you feel completely lost in your search and provide examples of how to find those frustrating elusive ancestors.

Cold Case – an investigative show in which “madness Monday” and “brick wall” cases are analyzed and solved.

How I Met Your Mother – provides a special focus on marriage records and how to find them.

Law & Order – hosted by our own geneablogger and lawyer, Craig Manson, this show will highlight law-related genealogy topics like copyright issues as well as outline sources to find out more about those “Black Sheep” ancestors who served time.

Heroes – focuses on our ancestors who served in the military and will include how to find military records as well as present dramatized portraits of our veteran relatives.

The Forgotten
– brings Unclaimed Persons to the small screen to highlight the group’s efforts at using research tools to help identify “the forgotten” unclaimed in morgues.

The new NCIS spin-off, NARA, will be a dramatic series about a team of NARA archivists fighting to preserve our nation’s historical records.

Stay tuned!  Tell me your own ideas in the comments!