Thecla Widłak's mother and father

Return to

Thecla Widłak's mother and father

Thecla Widłak [2071] (1821-1895) appears frequently in these records as she had (and indeed still has) many descendants.

She was born on May 5, 1821. Her mother is stated to be Anna, the daughter of Andreas Barszcz. There is no father, and she is marked as Illegitimate (literally, "of an illegitimate bed"). This was a strike against her, because in times of famine and epidemic, the illegitimate children tended to be the first to die.

Thecla was born in Rozdziele House 56, and this fact is important for determining the identity of her mother. And although she was born pater ignotus ("father unknown"), I believe I have figured out who her father was, too. In order to do so, I had to pry into some of the intimate details of her mother's life. I hope she won't mind.

1. Thecla's mother

I have the marriage record for Thecla's mother, Anna Barszcz. On June 15 1834 she married Mathias Widłak, son of Andreas. Mathias was a tailor (sartor) in Lipinki, a town a few kilometers north of Rozdziele. Since this marriage took place 13 years after Thecla's birth it appears that Mathias was not her biological father, but he adopted her, and she bears his name in the metrical records of her descendants. That, at least, is how things appear at first glance.

Curiously, there is no birth record for Anna Barszcz. Because of her stated age on the marriage record (43 in 1834) she would have been born around 1791. There was only one Anna Barszcz born around that time, and her father's name is Philippus, not Andreas. Furthermore, there is nobody named Andreas Barszcz fathering children in that era.

There is, however, an Andreas Pawlak (Paulak), and this is indeed Anna's father; his surname changed from Pawlak to Barszcz over the course of the years, as we can see when we compare the surnames of his children when they were born with their surnames when they got married.

Children of Andreas Pawlak

Name at birthMarriage
Name when married
11784Pelagia Paulak
21787Basilius Paulak
31788Damianus Paulak1810Damianus Barszcz
41791Anna Pawlak1834Anna Barszcz
51793Andreas Pawlak
61796Barbara Pawlak1820Barbara Barszcz
71800Irina Pawlak

And finally we have the death record for Andreas Barszcz. Since this death takes place in House 56, and nobody named Andreas Pawlak ever died in Rozdziele, we can be reasonably certain that Andreas Pawlak and Andreas Barszcz are one and the same person.

2. Thecla's father

Now we know the identity of Thecla Widłak's mother (and her maternal grandfather). What about her father?

Between 1814 and 1834, we see a number of illegitimate births taking place in House 56. Interestingly, our Anna Pawlak/Barszcz (whose siblings we were just enumerating) was the mother of all three of them.

The first, Stephanus, was born in 1814. No father is recorded.

Then came Thecla in 1821, whom we already know. Again, no father.

Finally in 1833 Josephus was born. Although he only lived five weeks, his birth record is of enormous genealogical value. Because, while he too is "illegitimate", the name of his father is stated. The name of his father is Mathias Widłak.

There is also a statement beneath Joseph's birth record that Mathias made in the presence of witnesses:

Jako to dziecko Józef jest mojim własny: This child Jozef is my own.

There are two more interesting pieces of information to glean from these records. First is that Andreas Pawlak/Barszcz, Anna's father, died in 1831, and Josephus, the first child that Mathias Widłak admitted he was the father of, was born two years later. And then, just a year after that, Mathias and Anna got married. I hope it's not too outrageous to speculate that Andreas disapproved of Mathias, and perhaps Anna had to keep her love for Mathias a secret, even denying she knew the name of the father of her first two children while her own father was still alive?

Second, take a close look at Mathias' name as recorded on Josephus' birth record. That D. in front of his name can only stand for one thing: Dominus, "Lord" (Pan in Polish). Evidently, in addition to being a tailor, Mathias was a member of the szlachta or aristocratic class, many of whom were reduced to poverty; it would not be unheard of to find one working as a tailor.

It would be romantic to think that Pan Mathias and Anna had been carrying on a furtive love affair for 20 years, hiding their secret even from her (possibly stern and unreasonable) father, and they only brought it out into the open after his death. But there is a problem with that hypothesis: Pan Mathias may have claimed Josephus as his own, and Thecla and Stephanus may have assumed his name, but the clerks who did the record-keeping continued to regard Thecla and Stephanus as bastards.

Stephanus was married twice, in 1839 and 1843, and on both marriage records they write that his father is "unknown", and he is still "illegitimate".

When Thecla got married in 1842, the language used is slightly different. She is "illegitimate", but Mathias Widłak is acknowledged to be her father.

So: what are we to make of this? Mathias had plenty of time to "claim" Stephanus and Thecla as his own flesh and blood. Perhaps he did, but they remained illegitimate in the eyes of the Church. This must be a consequence of that formula used on the birth record: "born of an illegitimate bed". The child was born "in sin", according to Church doctrine, and nothing could change that harsh historical reality, even if the father later married the mother.

I happen to think that the fact that Thecla's father is admitted to be Mathias on her marriage record is significant, and indicates that it may have been common knowledge that he was, in fact, her biological father. As for Stephanus, I'm not so sure, because his marriage records continued to state "father unknown", even though he was using Widłak as his own surname by then.

So far I have uncovered no evidence of Mathias' fate. I have Anna's death record; she died in 1847 at the age of 56. But I have no idea what happened to Mathias. Did he tire of the rustic life of Rozdziele and return to Lipinki, after squaring himself with the mother of his children? I would need to consult the Lipinki death records before I could speculate on that.

Here, for reference, are the detail pages for Thecla and her parents, where you can find links to all the records associated with them:

Thecla Widłak [2071] (1821-1895)

Anna Barszcz [466] (1791-1847)

Pan Mathias Widłak [4279] (1776-?)


Creative Commons License | Licencja Creative Commons

The material offered on this website (except for the scanned images provided by the Polish National Archives) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Materiał oferowany na tej stronie (z wyjątkiem zeskanowanych obrazów dostarczonych przez Polskie Archiwum Narodowe) jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa 4.0 Międzynarodowe.