|Fundamentally speaking, births are accidents of
Children being born can be planned or unplanned, prayed for, scientifically urged by IVF, or even a result of force, but each birth is an event that “just happens” when the right biological factors fall in line.
Parents have to meet, of course, and this is accidental as well.
For some children, however, a certain additional factor must be present for their life to begin. For these children, the usual course of their two parents “getting together” is not all that is, or was, needed.
My parents met in high school, married and had four children. I was the third one. They planned us. It all happened as usual. Nothing unique.
But taking one and two steps backward in time, to my father’s and mother’s parents and grandparents, exposes the special added factor that was required for me and my siblings to be born: my father’s parents and my mother’s grand parents had to travel to the United States – before my parents could meet and produce their offspring.
To me, the decision of my ancestors to travel, despite the hardship, to another country, to seek a better life, was the explicit, purposeful, fundamental reason that I was born. It wasn’t enough for my ancestors to procreate in their hometowns. If my ancestors did not travel, my parents would not have met. If my parents had not met, I would not have been born.
This is not a unique situation and pattern of behavior. All children and grandchildren of American immigrants, for generations, have this factor in common – someone traveled. Someone altered their lives and took a dramatic course of action that resulted in generations of children being born as a direct result of that action.
That my ancestors made a specific conscious decision to come to
It was for that reason that I began this genealogical research – of my father’s parents - to try and discover where they came from, when and, more importantly, if possible – why.
What follows is a compilation of the documents and the information complied in my research -- in the order that I discovered it. It is not chronological because I believe it will help narrate my journey as well as my discoveries.
HOW IT BEGAN
Growing up, all I knew about my father’s parents was that they came from
We were also aware that my father and aunt found each other when they were in their 20’s although the circumstances of that reunion were not known to us.
My father had one photo of his parents and older brother.
Joseph, Frank, Anna
It appeared that Frank was about 8 or 10 years old and that they were already in
My father didn’t talk about anything – at least not to me. I, sadly, did not ask any questions either. From the time I was old enough to hear and understand these simple facts, it was the extent of my knowledge. And it never occurred to me to pursue it.
As I said, I knew my father’s sister, Pauline, and I also knew my father’s adoptive parents, briefly, because they died when I was young. And I knew my father was adopted.
That’s it. That’s all I knew.
But then after college and after both of my parents had passed away, Mom in 1988 and Dad in 1992, I began to be curious. I asked my family what else they knew – my sisters (who were older) my Aunts and Uncles, my cousins (Pauline’s children). No one knew anything more than the same basic information that I had always known.
I was able to round up the few documents that we had:
a.) My father’s “birth certification” – from the Greek Catholic Church in
b.) My Aunt Pauline’s Baptism Certificate – from a
So already we had two spellings of the last name (Pinzelek and Penzelik) and two last names (maiden names?) for my grandmother Anna – Dzamka and Griga.
We also had birth locations -
c.) Next came the Adoption Papers for my father. They said very little.
His name was written as Andrew Penschik and changed to Robert Andrew Metzler. His adoptive parents were David A. and Abby Lawton Metzler. It did not say anything specific about his circumstances – only that a Humane Society Agent represented his interests. His orphanage was not named. It was dated
And then came the official, formal Birth Certificate for my father:
This virtual lack of knowledge festered in the back of my mind for years. I had married Hikari Baba and had a son, Alex, in 1984. And then a divorce. And then I got married again to Cecile in 2006. By March of 2010 we were expecting a baby and also moving to the
Surprisingly, in only a few weeks, I began to see a picture of my grandparents that had never been seen before.
The first thing I found on Ancestry.com was the 1920 census for
It was almost too easy. Why hadn’t we done this before? (Note: Ancestry.com didn’t come into existence until the late 1990’s).
Here it is! And when I saw it – in particular the entries on lines 76-80 – I was at first stunned, then excited. I had actually found concrete evidence of the existence of my blood grandparents, and the first record of my Uncle Frank and my Aunt Pauline and, of course my father. Their name was spelled Pinzelek like on Pauline’s Baptismal Certificate.
They lived at
Joseph was 43, Anna was 30, Frank was 16, Pauline was 3.5 and Andy was 1.5. This established their years of birth: 1877, 1890, 1904, 1916 and 1918 respectively.
I read (in column 13) that they arrived in
This information answered some questions, and, at the same time, made me aware of all the other things we did not know.
Here was the framework I was now able to work from – with this added information that I had found:
Joseph, Anna and Frank arrive in
I wanted to find out if they arrived in
I wanted to find out if there was any other family left in
At his point, nothing else came up on Ancestry.com except a whole bunch of other people named Pinzelek – from other countries and of different ages.
I thought maybe their building might still be located on
I Google searched the address
So I tried MapQuest, instead, and there it was.
A picture image of the street showed that it was totally devoid of buildings and/or houses. It was basically a highway crossing the railroad track. Nothing but trees. If this was where my father and his parents and siblings lived, all traces were now gone.
I don’t remember, now, thinking back, how the next discovery occurred, but I was Google-ing around with the Buckeye Road address, and found a link to a repository of pictures of old Cleveland. Dozens of them. And within the catalog of photos were photos of
I couldn’t believe my eyes!
After studying all of the photos in the series and matching the captions (some of which had building numbers on them), I was able to determine that this corner building was, in fact,
This was the building where my father was born!
It matches the section on the
I was overwhelmed!
By an accident of history, someone had, coincidentally, taken a series of photos of this particular stretch of
I never, in my wildest dreams, ever thought I would actually find a photo like this.
Suddenly my grandparents were no longer a vague concept. They were real.
I next searched for death records for Joseph and Anna. I had no idea when they died. I assumed it was sometime between 1918 after my father was born, and 1924 when I knew that my father was adopted by the Metzlers.
I started by looking for cemeteries in the area where they lived. I found a list of three or four. I wrote to them and one replied –
They did – with two death certificates:
Annie Pinzelik died, at home, on
“Joe” Pinzelik signed with his “mark” as Informant. They were still living at
Joseph Pinzolek, died on
Very interesting. Where were the children? Frank would have been 18 by now. Why hadn’t he signed the certificate as “Informant”?
Had they moved to 606 Berg? When?
Anna: Section 47, Row 88, Grave 4071.
Joseph: Section 50, Row 2, Grave 138.
This was perhaps the most emotional part of the quest so far.
Starting out, only weeks ago, knowing very little, I was now in possession of actual documentation that my grandparents existed – for a short time – here in
It seems they achieved no other task or accomplishment than that.
It was emotional and humbling and really profound.
My brother Mike’s wife Terri Metzler, and their son Scott, actually traveled to
The graves were unmarked, except for the identifying numbers. We could choose to place cement markers if we so desired.
There was one other document I found. The 1930 Census showed an entry for Pauline Penchik. She was living as a “lodger” in the home of William and Catherine Kirchner at
And basically that was the extent of my discoveries before we left for the
I had hit a road block and could not find any other documents.
I did not renew my ancestry.com membership and that was that – until 2 years later, at the end of June 2012, when I got the itch again to try and find out the answers to all the questions that were still a mystery.
RENEWING THE QUEST
Where were the Pinzelek’s from in
Was there any family still there?
Why did they leave?
Where were the ship records of Joseph’s and Anna’s arrival?
What orphanages did my father and his sister, Pauline, go to?
What ever happened to Frank?
Why didn’t he take care of his younger siblings?
And, a broader, more vague question – was there anything to discover if I found a way back another generation or two or three?
I had become a fan of the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?” I watched every week as celebrities searched for their roots and their history. It was incredibly interesting and incredibly alluring. I kept wondering, as I watched each episode, what if I could find my way back through Hungarian records to ancestors of interest or maybe even of note?
I renewed my Ancestry.com membership and set out, once again, to see if there was anything I could find now – that I could not find before.
The first search I made was in the Immigration and Travel section of Ancestry.com.
This time I put in the name of Frank Pinzelek. Only I typed it “Ferenc” which I had come to understand was the Hungarian spelling.
And just like more than 2 years earlier, I immediately came up with a document. This one even more stunning than any before.
I didn’t get a find for Ferenc Pinzelek, but I got a find for Ferencz Pinzalik.
It was the Ships Manifest for the Ivernia – arrival
Lines 11, 12 and 13.
There was Anna, age 24, her race given as Ruthenian from the town of
And there was Ferencz, age 4
Stunning, amazing, heartbreaking news!
Not only had I discovered that Anna and Frank did not arrive in
And – look at line 10.
It says Ilona Osrak – and written sideways is the word “niece”.
I wondered what that could mean. There were no other Osrak’s listed. And I moved across columns to the second page of the record – Column 18.
This tells who the passenger was to join in
It says, on line 10 – “uncle : Pinzalik Joisef,
And under this info, on line 11, is “husband” and ditto marks.
And under that, for Frank and Ilona is “father” and ditto marks.
They all were going to see Joseph – including the niece Ilona Osrak.
And now we know where they lived in
So then, knowing that Ilona Pinzalik did not live with the family in
Helen Pinezelik (yet another spelling of the name!)
I later found out that Helen is the American version of Ilona – from a genealogist I communicated with in
Helen was born on
Her father was listed as Joseph Pinezelik and there was Annie Semko. (?) All from
Helen was buried in
I intend to try and find this burial site – hopefully soon.
So, now, discovering that Anna had not traveled with Joseph as originally thought. I even began to suspect that Joseph maybe hadn’t arrived in 1910 like it said on the 1920 Census.
I did another search for him on Ancestry.com. This time I found this:
Josko Pinzelek – age 30. This is a four year difference from the 1877 as we had before that also was corroborated on his death certificate.
On the boat “
His hometown was given as Szolyva, and this, frankly, is the only piece of information that convinces me that this is Joseph’s arrival record - other than the name Josko being Hungarian for Joseph. Nothing else matches what we thought from the 1920 census. But another genealogist I have written to says that you cannot trust everything on the census records.
Josko was going to stay with a "friend" in Brooklyn - last name Yanos. The address was difficult to read. This same person in Brooklyn was the brother-in-law of the #25 passenger, Maria Kruczynica (age 20). Josko's occupation was listed as "farm laborer."
The form gave Josko's race as "Ruthenian" which was a Latin terms referring to Slavic people and also used as a generic term for Greek Catholic.
Still don't know how or when he got to Philadelphia. Just one year later, Anna and Ferenc arrived. On their Passenger record, they said they were meeting Joseph in Philadelphia.
So, once again, I have come to an impasse in terms of finding records. And there are a lot of unanswered questions.
I still do not know what ever happened to Frank (Ferenc). He doesn’t show up anywhere.
I even tried searching for variations of his name in case he changed it. Nothing.
Was he in school in Cleveland? What school?
I am still wondering where he disappeared to, when his parents died, and his 2 younger siblings could have needed an 18-20 year old brother - rather than be put into orphanages or foster care.
I wonder if, perhaps, he didn’t like
I wondered if he, too, died, like Helen (Ilona) – but I have found no death certificate.
If he lived - what about marriage and children?
I would love to find the orphanages that my father (Andy Penzelik-sp?) and Aunt Pauline were put into. And more about the mention of Pauline's residence on the 1930 census - was this a foster home?
Maybe there are employment records at the railroad where Joseph worked as a "watchman" while living on Buckeye Road. I do not know what railroad that was.
I wonder about the niece, Ilona Osrak, that arrived with Anna and Frank in 1912 – who was she and what happened to her?
I have found 8 different spellings of our last name:
Penzelik - Robert's Birth Certificate
Penschik - Robert's Adoption
Pinzelek - Pauline's Birth Certificate & 1920 Census
Pinzalik - Anna's Passenger Manifest
Pinzelik - Anna's Death Certificate & Josko's Passenger Manifest
Pinzolek - Joseph's Death Certificate
Penchik - Pauline's 1930 Census Record
Pinezelik - Hellen's Death Certificate
I also found 3 "maiden" names associated with Anna: Griga, Dzamka & Semko
One genealogist in Hungary says that these names aren't even Hungarian. So that raises the questions: what nationality is it? If the 1920 census said Joseph and Anna spoke Slovish, does that mean they have roots in Slovakia? How did they get to Hungary before they came to America?
Are there any records of their lives in Szolyva, Hungary (now called Svalyava or Szolyvia, Ukraine). Any other family members?
in old Hungary
is an old map
and a modern
As to why they left
It was good, however, that they came when they did. Because the whole world in
Getting records from that city (as part of the former Russian Empire) is literally impossible. But my
I am still wondering and I am still looking for answers.
Here are my parents Robert Andrew (Bob) Metzler and Mary Rita (Welsh) Metzler
My father is the second generation Pinzelek.
Next are Mike, Barb, Robert Jr. (Bo) and Jeannie - 3rd generation Pinzelek
Followed by Alex, Sara, Andy, Scott AND Dominick - 4th generation Pinzelek
and then Rilyn and Isaac - 5th generation Pinzelek
It has been an interesting journey for me – but not as momentous as the one Joseph and Anna took 100 years ago.
Thanks to them, I have been able to discover their story, and share it with you.
Maybe someday I will attempt to trace back my mother's side of the family. Who knows what I might find.
Robert (Bo) Metzler Jr.