Grampy Otto at 100 Part 2: The Galician Connection

This is a continuation of my previous post about researching a little deeper into the family of my grandfather (step-grandfather if you want to be precise), all kicked off as he would’ve been 100 a few months ago. I’d half-heartedly poked and prodded the Frysol name, but had put off doing the one thing that would’ve been actually useful: contacting any archives in Germany for more information (not strictly true, I did email one once but didn’t get a response!). So I knuckled down and found out the best route to get what I wanted …

And apologies – this is a bit of a Long read!

One of the things that’s beaten into genealogists is to use living family members as a resource, to mine them for information that can lead us down avenues (some of the stories may indeed be more story and less fact, but that’s ok), so I had spoken with my mum about what she knew of her (step)father’s origins. That was a short conversation. East Germany, POW, a vague recollection of a notification about his mother’s death but he was scared to go back for her funeral in case he wasn’t allowed home again (this was back when the Berlin Wall was dividing Germany – and Europe – into two distinct blocs). She knew that he had had 2 sisters – Luise Elfride Gisela (known as Gisela) and Marthe Luise (known as Luise) – with Gisela dying in Berlin in 1985 (various whispers hinted that this may not have been quite such a tragic accident … something I have not investigated!). After unification, some of his family did come to England on more than one occasion, and technically I did meet at least one of his nieces. A truly wonderful early 90s photo exists showing my mum with her sister and one of said nieces. I’m sure I have an electronic copy of it, but I can’t seem to find it now! Curses!

I had also purchased my grandmother’s marriage certificate to Otto, which gave his father’s name as Ladislaus Frysol.

I had a few emails back-and-forth with one of Luise’s children a few years back, but she didn’t know a lot of history about the family either, only stating that Ladislaus’ wife was one Anna Gleissner, who had a large number of siblings, and that Ladislaus had a couple of sisters but that was it.

A colleague several years ago obtained a copy of Ladislaus’ death registration from the state archives in Hof:

It transpired that he died on Platform 1 of the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) in the town of Hof at 4:30pm, with the death registered only after the police report was received. It also confirmed the name of his wife, and that she had predeceased him. It also gives the date and location of their marriage – 6 April 1922 in Petersdorf bei Briesen. Amazing.

The city side of the Central train station, Hof, in 1902

As I mentioned in my previous post, the FamilySearch Wiki has a tremendous amount of information regarding contacting archives etc in different countries, including some set phrases to help get you through writing your request email or letter. I can’t abide the thought of English-speaking people writing to non-English archives in English and expecting a prompt and courteous response. It just baffles me, when there are ample free resources (Google Translate being just the tip of the iceberg) that can be used. But I digress.

I contacted a few archives to obtain what I needed. Evangelischen Landeskirchlichen Archiv in Berlin und Brandenburg (Evangelical Church Archive), Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv (Brandenburg State Main Archive), Landkreis Oder-Spee (Oder-Spee District Archive). All of whom were extremely helpful! The first document to arrive was a copy of the civil marriage entry for Ladislaus and Anna from the Landkreis Oder-Spee. Much like French civil registration entries, this German record also contains more information than simply X married Y on this date at this location. It gives dates and places of birth for both parties, and two additional non-standard notes.

Whilst I can’t read every word, I can translate it well enough to know that Ladislaus Frysol, who was a labourer (“Arbeiter”) was actually born in Kupno in Galicia, and Auguste Anna was born in Albertoske, in the District of Neutomischel.

We also have a comment regarding the birth of their son, Otto, in Paproc, Poland on 1 March 1921, the year before their marriage. The second piece of note is at the bottom of the first page, where it records the death of Anna on 25 March 1956 in Petersdorf.

Now, there are a few thing there to unpack, especially as these areas of Europe have a … complicated geography with shifting borders and even names. For example, although Kupno remains Kupno today, its location has changed! Whilst today in the Polish province of Podkarpackie (or Subcarpathian) voivedeship, at the time of Ladislaus’ birth in 1899, it was part of the Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria aka Galicia aka Austrian Poland. This was in existence between 1772 and 1918, and was formed out of the First Partition of Poland (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) which at its height covered an area of about 1,000,000 square kilometres and had a multi-ethnic population of around 12 million people. After WWI and the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire came the Polish-Soviet War, eventually in 1921 Galicia became part of the Second Polish Republic, which itself came to an end with the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939.

Anyway, if you thought that sounds confusing, then that’s only a smidge of what happened in that area of Eastern Europe from the Middle Ages onward. Austria valued Galicia as a supplier of food and raw materials to other Habsburg provinces so was purposefully underdeveloped. As a result, poverty levels were extremely high – in fact, the province was the poorest and least educated in all of Austro-Hungary. Importantly, one of the raw materials extracted were young men who were conscripted into the imperial army. The vast majority of the population were serfs with only limited smallholdings and very few possessions. In the late 19th century oil was discovered, and Galician oil remained the only domestic source of oil for the Central Powers during WWI. By 1900 the province was the 4th largest oil producer in the world. However, this did little for the overall fortunes of the region. The ethnic make-up of the region reflected its complex past, with Ethnic Germans, Poles, Ruthenians (ancestors of various East Slav peoples, including Lithuania, Belarus and western Russia), Armenians, Czechs, Hungarians, Slovaks, Jews, Roma and others all present. The predominant religions were Christianity, Catholicism (split into Roman and Greek Catholic rites), and then Judaism (primarily Hasidism).

It is not a surprise, then, that an estimated 2 to 3 million peasants emigrated from Galicia between the 1890s until 1914. The Frysol family – or at the least Ladislaus – must have been part of that exodus. Whilst some moved from the country to richer urban areas (although their lack of education and transferable skills wouldn’t have helped them much), some made the journey to other parts of Austro-Hungary, or other nearby countries like Prussia, Russia, Poland, or what would become the modern-day Czech Republic and Germany. A great many Galician Poles emigrated to the Americas.

However, it seems that Ladislaus made it over 600km to the north-west and the district of Kreis Neutomischel which, along with the Poznan region in which it sits, had been part of Prussia but was ceded to Poland after the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-19 (as opposed to the Greater Poland Uprising of 1794the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806, or the Greater Poland Uprising of 1848). The area had historically been part of the Kingdom of Poland until the Second Partition of Poland when it was given to Prussia. It is of interest to note that in the interwar period, the Poznan province was incredibly wealthy and farmed by modern agricultural practices. I don’t know when he arrived in the area, but it was here in the village or Paproc that Otto was born in 1921. Anna was from the nearby village of Albertoske (now known as Albertowsko). After this, the family moved to Petersdorf where Ladislaus and Anna married.

After I had received the ‘civil’ record of the marriage, I then received the church entry of the marriage from the Berlin and Brandenburg Evangelical Church Archive (ELAB).

Not the easiest of documents to read, but I became very excited when I realised the Church Book entry records the names of the parents – including the mother’s maiden name! From this one record I learnt that Ladislaus (here the surname is spelt Frisol instead of Frysol) was the son of Ignatius and Caroline (nee Kosal), farmers of Kupnow in Galicia, and Auguste Anna Gleissner was the daughter of Johann and Luise (nee Jädike), labourers from Albertoske. There was one other small nugget on the certificate: von der Katholischen zur evangelischen Kirche übergetreten. Ladislaus had converted from Catholicism to the Protestant Church. That was a new one on me!

Of course, there was one more archive to send me their findings: the Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv. But for those documents we scroll forward to, first, 1928, and then further to 1941 when a different set of challenges faced Ladislaus and Anna – as well as Germany, Europe and, eventually, the world. Stay tuned for Part 3!

Cover image: Kingdom of Galicia from 1897 Atlas

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