Daily Connector | Discovering my Polish Roots: The Pictures | Larry Less

Picking up with the discovery that I had a Great Uncle named John Lesh and a picture from Dresden, Ohio, I searched Census records and found that John and his wife, Tillie, had lived in Lorain, Ohio their entire lives.  My Mom’s youngest sister, Rosemary, who was about 10 at the time, went on a trip with them in 1951.  One photo is in front of the large Longaberger basket in the park in Dresden along with an older woman.  When I asked Aunt Rosemary about a trip that she may have taken with my parents, she said that they had gone to Ohio to visit one of my Dad’s relatives.  As it turns out, they had gone to visit my Great Aunt Tillie (John’s widow) and my Dad’s cousins during the summer after Great Uncle John had passed away.

Through my research on Ancestry, I was able to obtain their immigration records, marriage licenses and death certificates.  ‘Jan’s immigration record revealed that he came to America from Biala, Galicy in March 1907 at the age of 19 travelling alone aboard the Chemnitz which departed from Bremen.  Documentation in Find-a-Grave indicated that he had been born in Bialystok, Podlaskie, Poland.  Both of their death certificates reported that their parents were Alexander and Anastasia Les from Poland.

There was another photo with my Dad’s cousin Alexander and my Aunt Rosemary at their house in Lorain.  On a trip that Sally and I took in 2015 to visit the Elmwood Cemetery where they had been buried, we also stopped at the address listed in the Census records and on their death certificates.  Other than being updated and maintained, it was a match with that photo from 1951 along with photos taken in front of the house looking across the street.  We also came across a sign on a building for the Polish American Club in Lorain.

A brief history lesson is required at this point.  After Poland was defeated for the third and final time in 1794 by Russia, Prussia and Austria, each carving up a portion about every 10 years, Poland no longer existed as a country.  Therefore, immigration records over that period recorded that they came from one of those countries.  Most Poles who were able to immigrate came from the Austrian partition and most sailed out of Prussia, most of which is present-day Germany.  According to Wikipedia, around 2.2 million Poles or Polish subjects immigrated into the U.S. between 1820 and 1914.  After WWI, one of the 14-points of the Treaty of Versailles was that Poland would become a nation again with much wrangling as to which territories would be turned back over.  So U.S. Census records from 1920 onward accurately reported that my ancestors came from Poland.

Given the date of death for John Lesh and burial in the Elmwood Cemetery in Lorain, Ohio, I then looked for an obituary in the Lorain Journal.  The weekend editions of the paper had been converted to microfiche and were available in the files on the main floor at the Ohio History Connection.  It turned out that he had died on a Sunday so his obituary appeared in a daily paper.  However, the daily newspapers are not digitized.  I had to put in a request and someone went into the archives and returned with a big bundle of all the daily papers from 1951 wrapped in butcher paper.  As I perused the daily papers for that week, I came across the obituary that revealed the entire family and who had stayed in Europe and who had immigrated to America.  But that will have to wait for the next installment.


Dresden Ohio 1951                                                              John Lesh home in Lorain                                                       Polish American Club in Lorain