Walter (Władysław) Mierzejewski

Birth: 27 November 1879 (disputed, could be 1883), Tomasze, Mazowieckie, Poland

Death: 1 May 1946, Toledo, Ohio

Relationship to me: Paternal Grandfather

Walter was my grandfather. He was born near or in Tomasze, Mazowieckie, Poland some time in the late 1870s to early 1880s. (His birthdate on significant records varies, it is always 27 November, but the year is different on each document. I have not yet been able to locate a birth record from Poland for Walter.).

He was the son of Jan and Anna Budziszszewska. Jan had three wives: Anna Budziszszewska, Eleonora Gumkowska, and Eleanora Budziszszewska. It is believe Anna and Eleanora are sisters. I am unsure of the order of his marriages; and do not know of any children born to the marriage with Eleanor Budziszsewska. I have been able to identify eight children that Jan had:

  • with Anna, Jan had six children.
  • with Eleonora Gumkowska, he had two children.

Walter was the fifth child born to Jan and Anna.

I do not know much of Walter’s early life. I do know that her married Helena on 10 February 1908 as stated on Walter’s naturalization papers. Two children were born in Poland, Waclaw (Walter) and Czeslawa (Celia).

From oral family stories, he and Helena did have a small farm. Walter and Helena had a few farm animals (cows and a bull), likely milled wheat, and lived in a community that contained both Roman Catholic citizens and Jewish citizens. The story told had been the community was very small and rural. Priests would travel to attend to the sick and dying or to perform marriages. The community, whether Jewish or Catholic, would gather for a death to prepare a body for burial. This was well before modern day American funeral practices where a body may be embalmed and kept for days or possibly over a week before burial. Embalming would have not been the practice then so Catholics would bury their dead in this regional fairly quickly, within two days or so of death.

The family left Poland in 1923, just after Poland had gained its independence after World War I. However, because of where they lived, in eastern Poland and the area had been ruled by Russia prior to World War I, the region was quite unstable politically. The Russian Polish War took place and the Russian Civil War was ongoing. Stories have been told that the Red Army had been attempting to conscript men from the region.

I have been able to document that Walter had been in the US at twice, possibly three times, before settling in Toledo. There is a record on a manifest from Hamburg that indicates he may have been traveling to the US in 1903. That record though does not provide much evidence that this is my grandfather–there is no contact listed nor place he intended to go. It does state he was born in 1884; and his death certificate provides his birthdate as 27 November 1883. (Although his naturalization paperwork states his birth day is 27 November 1876. His gravestone states he was born in 1877.) So this record is just a possibility that it is my grandfather.

There are two other times that do document that Walter had been in the US a twice prior to settling here. A New York Passenger List from Ellis Island dated 26 November 1909 provides his wife, Helena as his contact in his native country, and he is traveling with his brother, Marcel. Marcel also states his sister-in-law is his contact in his native country and they both state their last residence was Borowice. They were traveling to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to meet Ludwik Thoromanski. (I have not yet discovered who this person may be.) It’s very possible my grandfather came and went multiple times to raise money to send home to help support the family. Also, his siblings did not seem to be interested in immigrating to the US but his wife’s siblings did. Walter’s brother, Marcel, did attempt to settle in the US but disliked it here. He returned to Poland, married, had a family, and died in Poland. Walter so far has been the only sibling in his family to have settled in the US.

On 23 February 1923, Walter arrived at Ellis Island after sailing from Copenhagen with his family, heading to Toledo. Destination was an address on Buckingham Street (Helena’s brother). On that manifest, it states the last time he was in the US was Nov. 17 (1922). I have not found manifest or other record relating to this trip, but it would make some sense. Helena’s family had been in Pennsylvania or Toledo for a number of years before their arrival and perhaps Walter would have been looking for a place to live or work on his arrival.

When Walter arrived with his family, wife Helena and two children, Walter and Celia, he was held for detention. In 1921, quotas were set for immigrants from different areas. The quota set in 1921 was to be permit just a bit under 32,200 Poles into the United States. A total number of immigrants overall was set to about 310,000 in 1922. This was a drastic reduction of immigrants admitted in 1920 when 805,000 immigrants were admitted. During this period, immigrants from eastern, central, and southern Europe were seen as undesirable.

Upon arrival at Ellis, Walter and his family were indicated as QE LPC, which meant “quota exceeded, likely public charge.” Meaning, the quote of Poles to be admitted for 1923 had already been met by February when they arrived and the family was deemed unable to support itself. This decision may have been made in part due to the notation that was made that my grandmother was unable to read and write in her own language. They had been held at Ellis Island, and then my grandfather had been admitted to the hospital at Ellis on 9 March. It look as if an initial hearing on the family’s status was scheduled for 28 February. There is no indication of a re-hearing or any delay due to Walter’s hospitalization. He was released from the hospital on 20 March, and the manifest indicates the family was admitted to the country on 24 March. There was even notation of the meals the family was provided and had consumed through this stay: 85 breakfasts, 85 dinners, and 81 suppers.

Hospital Ward, Ellis Island 1920s
Hospital Ward, Ellis Island 1920s
Immigrant Meals at Ellis Island, 1920s
Immigrant Meals at Ellis Island, 1920s

The family eventually made it to Helena’s brother’s home (John Mierzejewski) at 1763 Buckingham Ave. The following year on 23 December 1923, my father was born at this home on Buckingham. This address is interesting and none of my family will appear on a census with this address–all of this activity took place between approximately 1921 and 1925. However, Helena’s brother John and his family lived here at about the time of Walter and Helena’s arrival in the US. On this manifest with Walter’s name, he also gives this Buckingham address as his home and stated John was his brother. It also seems that several of father’s close relatives had lived in that home with their families over a relatively short period of time as I’ve found evidence that Helena’s brother Władysław (yes, she had a brother and husband with the same) had lived at this residence as well.

By 1928, my grandparents Walter and Helena were living on Woodstock Ave. The 1930 census shows that Walter had submitted his papers for naturalization, Helena and the children were indicated as aliens. The first two children, Walter and Celia, were 21 and 19 at the time of this census. Walter and these two children were employed in factories (I believe Walter was employed at Overland and son Walter and daughter Celia were employed at Champion.) They owned their home and it was valued at $5300–there were only two homes on that block worth $5300 or more. Helena is indicated as unable to read and write and both Walter and Helena were unable to speak English.

Wladyslaw Mierzejewski Naturalization Portrait (1938)
Wladyslaw Mierzejewski Naturalization Portrait (1938)

Walter did obtain his citizenship in 1938. His naturalization paperwork does state “wife not naturalized.” This paperwork reflects an address of 622 Woodstock, the same as the 1930 census. However, the 1940 census shows the family living at 1143 Hamilton as renters. However this census states the family had been living in this same house since 1935. I do know that at some time during the 1930s, during the Great Depression, my grandparents did lose their home, so it likely would have occurred after the date of my grandfather’s naturalization on 17 November 1938. Walter was registered to vote as well in 1938, meaning he would have been able to vote for president in 1940. The 1940 census does state my grandfather was employed in a WPA project and worked 30 weeks during 1940 at an income of $450.

Helen and Walter Mierzejewski, Evesham Ave. between 1943 - 1946
Helen and Walter Mierzejewski, Evesham Ave. between 1943 – 1946

By 1943, Walter and Helen were residing on Evesham. I am not sure at what point Walter and Helen took up residence on Evesham. Helena finally was naturalized and registered to vote in 1943, giving the address on Evesham. Walter died on 1 May 1946 and is buried with his wife in Calvary Cemetery in Section 41.

Grave Walter (Wlaldyslaw) and Helena Mierzejewski, Calvary Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio
Grave Walter (Wlaldyslaw) and Helena Mierzejewski, Calvary Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio