Growing up, I always thought we were French (on mom’s side) and Ukrainian (on dad’s side). That all changed in my late-twenties during a trip back to Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan to see my family and friends.
I was living in Estevan, Saskatchewan at the time working shift work. They were 12-hour shifts with a schedule of four days on and four days off and the occasional stretch of six days off. Being single at the time, those long periods of free time offered plenty of opportunity to travel and I often returned to Hudson Bay.
During one such trip – though I don’t really remember it – the topic of dad’s parents must have come up. I have a vague memory of dad telling me a couple of things though I’m not certain if this was during the same trip. He told me:
- Whenever he would ask his dad about where he came from, grandpa would always ask him, “What do you want to know that for?” Consequently, dad never learned much about his dad’s family.
- Grandpa came to Canada with his brothers. They lived together in Quebec for a while but then there was a house fire where they lived. The brothers got into a big fight and ended up going their own separate ways.
It turns out that there was a nugget of truth in that story but that will have to wait for another post. Two of the more tangible outcomes of that trip to Hudson Bay was given to me by dad’s sister, Auntie Edith. First, she had grandpa’s naturalization certificate!
What a wonderful document and the surprises it held – especially the ‘particulars’ on the back on the form (see below). Nick (Nieck) Winowich was born February 12, 1888 in Podhajczyki, Galicia. Wow! He was 75 when I was born! Quickly doing the math … he was 50 when dad was born, 47 when his first child was born, and was 45 and single when he was naturalized. Again, wow! That seems to be rather late in life to be getting married and having children, particularly in the 1930s.
This document raised several questions for me. Why was grandpa’s name spelled Nieck instead of Nick? Why did he start a family so late in life? Where is Podhajczyki, Galicia? But, the biggest question pertained to the entries for SUBJECT/CITIZEN of ______ and PARENTS SUBJECTS/CITIZENS of ______. What? Why on earth did those entries say Austria? We’re Ukrainian!
Well, it took a little while but I eventually learned that to do eastern European genealogy one has to learn eastern European history at the same time. With various wars over time, borders in Europe changed numerous times. As each new country took over a region, our ancestors’ citizenship changed accordingly but their ethnic background remained the same.
At the time of grandpa’s birth, the village was in Galicia, which was a crown land in the Austrian portion of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hence, the citizenship of Austria. His ethnic back ground was still Ukrainian … or so I thought. I would later learn that grandpa was, in fact, Polish and it was grandma who was Ukrainian.
The second tangible outcome was an original letter 2 dated 4 July 1958 (see below) that grandpa received from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. The letter clearly states the particulars about him found in the immigration records:
- Name: WINOWICZ Nykola
- Name of vessel: Canada
- Port of arrival: Quebec
- Date of arrival: May 14, 1913
- Date of birth or age: 25
- Status: Landed Immigrant
What a find! This would lead me to track down grandpa’s immigration records, which will be the subject another post.
1. Nieck Winowich original Series A naturalization certificate numbered 103964 effective 24 April 1933, in Chris Bukoski family collection, privately held by Chris Bukoski, [address for private use]. This printed 8 1/2″ X 11″, double-sided document has the certificate on the front with particulars such as name, address, date and place of birth, marital status, citizenship, parents’ citizenship, and physical attributes on the back. After his death, the certificate was held by his daughter, Edith until the late 1990s when it was given to the current owner. ↩
2. Letter to Nick Winowich from Department of Citizenship and Immigration dated 4 July 1958, in Chris Bukoski family collection, privately held by Chris Bukoski, [address for private use]. After his death, the letter was held by his daughter, Edith until the late 1990s when it was given to the current owner. ↩