Daily Connector | Discovering My Polish Roots: DNA Relatives and the Genealogy Puzzle | Larry Less

A brief recap from three blogs that I posted in October.  My Polish history has been shrouded in mystery.  Many years ago, I was told that my Grandfather had only one brother and that they both immigrated to America around 1905, I was not able to identify his brother.  Then around 2014 while visiting my cousin on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh, he suggested that we go through a box of my Aunt Theresa’s (my Dad’s youngest sister) memorabilia together.  We discovered a letter from a “Mrs. John Lesh” in Lorain, Ohio inviting my Grandfather to his nephew’s wedding over Labor Day weekend in 1946.  Research of Ancestry records on this family and the stacks of the Ohio History Connection led me to John Lesh’s obituary published in the Lorain Journal in 1951.  The obituary stated that he had two surviving brothers, Martin in Pittsburgh and Michael in Hamtramck; two sisters, Catherine and Anna in Poland; and several other brothers elsewhere in Europe!

I was able to contact Michael’s descendants in St. Clair Shores, MI.  We visited Michael’s youngest daughter, Virginia Wroblewski, and some of her family on a trip to Michigan in 2015.  Sadly, Virginia passed away recently.  Back then to my surprise, they also knew my Aunt, Sister Eva Marie, when she had been assigned to a Catholic school in Dearborn, MI for three years.  They visited with her often in the late 1970s. 

Virginia knew of her Uncle John Lesh, but had only seen him once in her life on a family visit to Lorain when she was about 10 years old.  What’s with that, I still wonder?  Despite repeated attempts to contact and visit the John Lesh descendants still living in Lorain, I have been unsuccessful in learning more about their family than what the Ancestry records reveal.  My Mom and Dad had visited John’s widow, Tillie, in 1951 during the summer after he passed away as documented in a few photos from that visit.

So that’s the end of the story, right?  Yes, if not for DNA and public trees posted on Ancestry.  I went back to researching some of my DNA relatives on the Polish side by looking for those who had my “Les” surname in their tree.  I came up with one person, Bernie Miller from Media PA.  His centimorgan count, a measure of our potential relationship, and his tree revealed that we were second cousins.  His Grandfather was Ignacy Les, but Bernie did not know the identity of Ignacy’s parents.  With information from Ignacy’s naturalization application and a search of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island site,* I was able to discover that he came over on the Kaiser Wilhelm II in May 1906.  I corresponded with Bernie several times last fall, and he revealed some interesting family history.  Why did we not know about this Great Uncle, I wonder?

He told me that his Grandmother and Grandfather on his mother’s side had sponsored John Lesh when he immigrated to America in 1907.  He also had learned that they had a sister Mary who was born in 1889.  I still know nothing about her and their other two sisters in Poland.  The Ignacy Les family and descendants live in the Philadelphia area, but apparently there were some ties to Lorain with several other “Les” relatives buried there.  More research into Ancestry records now needed on that account!

And how about the relatives in Poland?  To try and answer that question, I revisited my search of DNA relatives from my DNA posted on the My Heritage site.  It turned up another second cousin, Marek Les, living in Bialogard.  His Grandfather is Wiktor Les, probably another of my Great Uncles.  Unfortunately, Marek has not visited that site for a couple of years now and email correspondence has gone unanswered.  The three sisters may remain a mystery a while longer because we often lose track of them once married, and most records from Catholic parishes in Poland are not accessible digitally.  But I am counting on more DNA descendants who will pop up to help complete the pieces of this puzzle!

* The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island site https://heritage.statueofliberty.org/ offers passenger searches, or you can search by ship manifests if you know what ship they were on and when they arrived in New York.  You need to register, but use of the site is free.