The Genealogical History of the Kowalski Extended Family

J. Kowalski, January 24, 2020, revised February 11, 2020

During the year 2019, a number of positives has permitted a more complete knowledge of the Kowalski Extended Family Genealogical History.

First is the improvements in’s ethnicity estimate based on DNA.  Previously, my ethnicity was ‘100% eastern European which means Slavic.  The new Ancestry ethnicity estimate is that I’m “Eastern Europe and Russia – 62%; Baltics -36%; and, Sweden 2%.  A big change.  The primary Baltics are the old Prussia, which occupied western Poland from the late 18th century until 1918, and Lithuania.  My maternal grandparents are from eastern Poland, and I have not identified any Baltic influence.  My paternal grandparents came from western Poland, and undoubtedly are influenced by the Baltics, and, especially by old Prussia.  Making the reasonable assumption that no Baltic influence is in my maternal grandparents, my father should be considered Prussian.  With this assumption, my father is: Baltics – 72%; Eastern European and Russia – 24%; and, Sweden – 4%.

I have four grand-parents: John Kowalski, Maria Henke, Joseph Sysko, and Bronislawa Lewandoska.  The only information that I have in regards to my Kowalski great-grandfather comes from John Kowalski’s death certificate.  His name sort of looks like Laurentius which is Latin and has been used in Catholic records.  A Polish equivalent is Lorenz and I have used this Polish name.  According to the death certificate, Lorenz was married to Elizabeth Zbiarwony.  Yet, a Polish-born academic doesn’t consider Zbiarwony to to be a correct Polish surname.  The only search for Lorenz that has been ‘successful’ has been on the Poznan project.  This should be good since the Kowalskis come from province of Poznan in Poland.  The report states: Lorenz Kowalski age 28 (born 1817); Anna Elizabeth Fiedler, age 27 (born 1818) were married in Kargowa [Karge/Unruhstadt] in 1845. [located in Zielona Gora county, Lubusz Volvodoship, Poland.  Roughly half way between Berlin and the city of Poznan.]

A great deal of information has been collected, primarily, through DNA matches from Ancestry, com in regard to our Henke ancestors.  I have traced our Henke lineage to our great-great-grandfather, George Henke.  His son, John Henke, our great-grandfather, married Antonina Kolodziejorek (or Kolodziej), our great-grandmother.  John and Antonina had one daughter: Maria.  John Henke’s sister, Rosalia Rosina, married Antonius Tony Radtke and they and their family emigrated from Poland to Michigan.   After John’s death (per Connie MacKinnon, he died in a battle, likely the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871), Antonina married Joseph Dywelski.  They had one child – Constance.  Constance emigrated to New York city, and married Mr. Herbert.  Later, she moved to Massachussets.  One of her children, Connie MacKinnon lived in Truro, Nova Scotia, and Constance Herbert lived in her later years with her.  I visited Connie MacKinnon in 1995,  On that trip, I was able to examine Constance Dywelski’s birth certificate, and, from that, obtain her mother’s name and where Constance was born.  John Henke’s brother, George, had a farm in Kansas which John Kowalski took his entire family from Nanticoke, Pennsylvania to visit circa 1906 when my father was about four years old.

Again, with the help of DNA matches on, I have gathered a great deal of information in regards to the Sysko family.  It is likely that the  proper spelling is Szyszko.  Sysko, in my opinion, is the Anglo-sized version.  The Sysko family in the U.S. has three branches: the Kowalski Sysko family, the Wilkes-Barre Syskos, and the Chicago Syskos.  Josef Szyszko of the Chicago branch had two sons: Alexander and Boleslaw.  Both Alexander and Boleslaw emigrated to Chicago.  The Wilkes-Barre Syskos are ones that many of us remember.  We spent many good times together.  The three branches are headed by three brothers: John Sysko (Kowalski branch), Josef Szyszko (Chicago branch), and Stanley Sysko (Wilkes-Barre branch).  Their father who is the common ancestor Szyszko is Unknown.  Searches of birth, marriages, and death have been futile.

Nothing is known of Bronislawa Lewandoska, our grandmother.  Again, searches have been futile.

What follows is, primarily a simplified descendant’s reports extracted from Family Tree Maker.

The Kowalski Family.

As I have written in the past, our Kowalski Y-DNA is extremely rare.  The Y-DNA is only passed from father to son, and therefore is a powerful tool for determining paternity.  In my case, I have only one Y-DNA match, a Mr. Belousov who is likely Russian and resides in Saint Petersburg.  And, our common ancestor lived 25 generations ago.  Using 25 years per generation, this means 625 years ago or the year 1395.So, expecting any cousin DNA matches is out of the question.  My post – Who Am I? – The Need to Understand 1st Millennium Slavic History – discusses my research in trying to unravel the whys.  See

We do know that Lorenz Kowalski is one of my paternal great-grandfathers.  We are assuming that Anna Elizabeth Fiedler is his wife.  From Y-DNA, we are aware that our Y-DNA is extremely rare.

My father explained that John Kowalski, my grandfather, had siblings back in Poland, but I have been unable to obtain any information in regards to them.  I suspect that the German invasion of Poland and the genocidal bestiality of the German Wehrmacht has obliterated many Poles in Poznan and destroyed crucial records.

My grandfather, John Kowalski (1857-1906), emigrated to the 1882, and we know from the 1900 census that he lived in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania with my grandmother, Maria Henke, and their children: Elizabeth, (1893-1947), Constantine, (1899-1907), Sylvester Constantine, (1902-1968), Edward, (1904-1933), and Joseph (1907-1907).

John Kowalski died in 1906 shortly after the family returned from Kansas where they visited their family.  This likely included George Henke, Maria’s uncle, who farmed in Kansas.  Prior to their Kansas visit, John sold his saloon.  When, John died in 1906, Maria was pregnant with Joseph who died in 1907.  Also, Constantine died in 1907.  I’m sure a difficult time for Maria.

My father, Sylvester C. Kowalski, and his older sister Elizabeth are the only two, to my knowledge, who married and had children. John Kowalski and Maria Henke had the following children:

Elizabeth E Kowalski was born on 24 Sep 1893 in Nanticoke, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. She died on 02 Feb 1947 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She married StanIslaw Janczak, son of Michael Janczak and Rozalia Trojanowska on 20 Nov 1910 in Newport, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. He was born on 27 Oct 1887 in Poland. He died on 16 Apr 1928 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania.   Stanislaw and Elizabeth had the following children: Regina Janczak was born on 13 Nov 1911 in Butler Township, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. She died in Oct 1988. She married Carl Heinrich on 22 Jan 1943 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He was born on 17 Oct 1906 in 627 Vale Ave., Scranton, Lackawanna Co., Pennsylvania. He died in Dec 1987 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA.  Leopold Janczak was born on 15 Oct 1914 in Butler County, Pennsylvania. He died on 16 May 1996 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He married Modesta Rehm on 04 May 1946 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. She was born about 1920 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. She died (date unknown) in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He then married Mary Ligocki. She was born on 17 Jun 1916 in Scranton. She died (date unknown) in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania.  Rose Janczak was born on 15 Apr 1917 in Butler County, Pennsylvania. She died on 10 May 1996 in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. She married John T. Forconi, son of Chester Forconi and Agnes (Forconi) on 14 Sep 1940 in Roaring Brook Township, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He was born on 15 Oct 1913 in Scranton , Pennsylvania. He died in Oct 1977 in Scranton , Pennsylvania. They were married in St. Stanislaus PNC Church.  Vince and I, inadvertently, were altar boys for the marriage service.  We were the only family members to witness the service.  Mary Janczak was born in 1919 in Pennsylvania, United States.  She died at an unknown young age.

Sylvester Constantine Kowalski was born on 02 Dec 1902 in Nanticoke, Luzerne, Pennsylvania. He died on 24 Nov 1968 in Cherry Hill, Camden, New Jersey. He married Sophie Sysko, daughter of Joseph Sysko and Bronislawa Lewandoska on 07 Mar 1928 in Carbondale, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA. She was born on 28 Dec 1907 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. She died in Dec 1980 in Glendora, Gloucester, New Jersey.  In 1930, the family lived in a small house in the rear of 621 Locust Street.  Sylvester C. Kowalski was the head of household. His wife Sophie and his son Sylvester J. lived there. In addition, his mother Maria Henke and his brother Edward lived there.  Sylvester Constantine Kowalski and Sophie Sysko had the following children:  Sylvester J Kowalski was born on 01 Feb 1929 in Brooklyn, New York, New York. He married Pauline Rita Rizzo, daughter of Theodore Rizzo and Vita (Anna) Miraglia on 07 Jun 1952 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She was born on 26 May 1926 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. She died on 26 Jan 1986 in Cherry Hill, Camden, New Jersey.  Vincent Kowalski was born on 14 Oct 1930 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He died on 31 Oct 1987 in Pennsylvania. He married Dolores Kersavage on 29 Jun 1963. She was born on 04 Dec 1933.  John Kowalski was born on 21 Dec 1932 in Pennsylvania. He died on 26 Dec 2006 in Lansdowne, Delaware, Pennsylvania. He married Sally Leahy. She was born on 19 Mar 1933 in Lilly, Cambria, Pennsylvania. She died on 12 Jan 2005 in Lansdowne, Delaware, Pennsylvania.  Ronald Kowalski was born on 27 Aug 1936 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He married Jeanette L Kennelly on 05 May 1956 in Springfield, Delaware, Pennsylvania. She was born on 03 Aug 1936 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Joseph Kowalski was born on 24 Oct 1941 in Scranton, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania. He married Joyce Dare on 07 Jul 1961 in Bellmawr, Camden, New Jersey,. She was born on 20 Sep 1941.

The Henke Family.

In 2020, I was able to more accurately develop the Henke line.  Other researchers developed a good foundation.  These researchers assumed that Rosalia Rosina Henke was the daughter of John Henke, my great-grandfather.  My analysis shows that she is the sister of John Henke.  The following tells us about the Henke family.

My great-great-grandfather, George Henke, was born in 1810 in Prussia.  Until 1871, we had Prussia, but no Germany.

George Henke had four children: George Henke was born on 11 Mar 1836 in Silchov, Pila, Schneidemuhl, Prussia. He died on 19 Oct 1922 in Osborne, Kansas, USA. He married Elizabeth Krall in 1858. She was born in 1835 in Germany. She died on 25 Dec 1877 in Atchison, Atchison, Kansas, USA. He then married Mary Rosalia Greener in 1879. She was born on 30 Jul 1853 in Germany. She died on 19 May 1946 in Washington, Washington, Iowa, USA.  John Henke was born in 1838 in Prussia. He married Antonina Kolodziejorek (Kojodziej in some records) in 1865 in Rogozno, Obernicki, Poznan, Poland. She was born in 1844 in Poznan, Wielkopolskie, Poland. Our cousin, Connie MacKinnon of Truro, Nova Scotion whose mother, Constance Dywelski, our Henke grandmother’s younger half- sister, told me that John Henke died in battle.  The likely battle was the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war.  Anton Henke was born about 1840 in Prussia.  Rosalia Rosina Henke was born on 10 May 1846 in Rogozno, Obernicki, Poznan, Poland. She died on 04 Feb 1934 in Michigan. She married Antonius Tony Radtke in 1868 in Rogozno, Obernicki, Poznan, Poland. He was born about 1841 in Rogozno Obernicki, Poznan, Poland. He died before 1900 in Filer Township, Manistee, Michigan.

George Henke was a farmer in Kansas.  He had seven children with Elizabeth Krall, and four children with Mary Rosalia Greener.  John Henke and Antonina Kolodziejorek had, to my knowledge, one child, Maria Henke, my grandmother.

Antonina Kolodzjeorek’s first cousin, Vincent Kolodziejczak, in 1900 lived in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania about 1 and 1/2 miles from where John Kowalski and Maria Henke lived.  Vincent Kolodziejczak had ten children.

The Szyszko/Sysko Extended Family.

With the help of DNA matches on, I have gathered a great deal of information in regards to the Sysko family.  These DNA matches allowed me to come into communication with our Chicago and Michigan cousins.  Without their help, my results would have been meager.  And, especially with the story of Anthony Sysko, which I will discuss later.  The help of my Michigan cousin is invaluable.  For anyone interested in the Sysko family as a whole, one needs to consult their family trees.  They are located on the website, and can be accessed with a membership with  First, there is the Roth Family Tree which is managed by Phil Roth.  The second is Guzorek Prezwoznik Sysko Skowronski Family Tree managed by GotToSmile.  Both are invaluable.

The Sysko family in the U.S. has three branches: the Kowalski Sysko family, The Wilkes-Barre Syskos, and the Chicago Syskos.  Josef Szyszko of the Chicago branch had two sons: Alexander and Boleslaw both of whom emigrated to Chicago, Illinois.  The Wilkes-Barre Syskos are ones that many of us remember.  We spent many good times together.  Sophie and Ziggie Sysko along with their mother attended my graduation in 1951 from Drexel Institute of Technology (now Drexel University).  The three branches are headed by three brothers: John Sysko (Kowalski branch), Josef Szyszko (Chicago branch), and Stanley Sysko (Wilkes-Barre branch).  Their father who is the common ancestor Szyszko is Unknown.  Searches of birth, marriages, and death have been futile. provides DNA matches and the amount of shared DNA. Also, the Szyszko/Sysko surname is in the Roth FT, Guzorek Prezwoznik Sysko Skowronski FT, and John Kowalski FT.  As the table below shows, Phil Roth is my 3rd cousin once removed, while GotToSmile and I are 3rd cousins.  The probabilities based on the amount of shared DNA support the table’s conclusions.


Roth Joekowalski9898 GotToSmile
3C1R Phil Roth 3C1R
3C Private Grocki about 1929 Sylvester J Kowalski 1929 GotToSmile 3C
2C Agnes L. Syska 1909 Sophie Sysko 1907 Jeannette Sysko 1923 2C
1C Alexander Syska 1885 Joseph Sysko 1885 Boleslaw Sysko 1893 1C
Sibling Josef Szyszko about 1860 John Sysko about 1860 Josef Szysko about 1860 Sibling
Common Szyszko Ancestor Common Szyszko Ancestor Common Szyszko Ancestor


The specifics are as follows:

Josef Szyszko was born about 1860 in Bialystok, Poland. He died in 1934. He married Konstancja Dziewiatkowski. She was born in Knyszyn, Podlaskie, Poland.  They had the following children:

Boleslaw Sysko was born on 16 Nov 1893 in Dlugoleka, Gmina Krypno, Monki County, Podlaskie Volvodeship. He died on 22 Jan 1974 in Eau Claire, Berrien, Michigan, USA. He married Anna Skowronska on 10 Oct 1917 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA. She was born on 10 May 1896 in Hula, Wielkopolkie. She died on 01 Aug 1952 in Rural Pipestone Twp, Berrien, Michigan, USA.  They had the following children: Jeannette Sysko, 1923-2006; “Babt” Sisko, 1918-1918; Stanislaw Siska, 1919-1920; Helene Sysko, 1921-2007; Henry C. Sysko, 1926-2016; and,Casimir Sysko, 1928-2012.

Alexander Syska was born on 06 Nov 1885 in Knyszyn, Podlaskie, Poland. He died on 18 Dec 1964 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA. He married Lottie (Wladislawa) Stachurski, daughter of Adam Stachurski and Rosalii Markowski on 17 Sep 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. She was born on 29 May 1886 in Lesniki Tykocin Parish,Poland. She died on 29 Aug 1960 in Chicago Il.  They had the following children: Agnes L. Syska, 1909-1977; Joseph S. Syska; and, Harriet M. Syska, 1913-2002.

Josef Szyszko and Konstancja Dziewiatkowski had five additional children:  Jadwiga Szyszko was born in Długołęka, Gmina Krypno, Mońki County, Podlaskie Voivodeship. She died in 1934; Jan Szyszko; Ludwiga Szyszko; and  Paulina Szyszko.

John Sysko was born about 1860 in Bialystok, Podlaskie, Poland. He married Amiela. Sysko. John Sysko and Amiela Sysko had the following children:

Joseph Sysko was born in 1885 in Bialystok, Podlaskie, Poland. He died on 25 Feb 1914 in Greenwood Cemetery, Greenwood Avenue, Moosic, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA. He married Bronislawa Lewandoska, daughter of Pan Lewandoski and Pani Lewandoska in 1906 in Moosic, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, USA. She was born on 22 Mar 1889 in Bialystok, Podlaskie, Poland. She died on 07 Jan 1961 in Moosic Borough, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania.  They had the following children: Sophie (1907-1980), Anna (1910-1985),Joseph (1912-1998), and, Jean (1913-1995).

Stanley Sysko was born about 1865 in Russia, Poland. He died on 26 Apr 1928 in Wilkes- Stanley Sysko and Sophia Bernacki had the following child:

John Sysko was born about 1892 in Bialystok, Podlaskie, Poland.  He married Sophia Sysko on 04 Feb 1912 in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, USA. She was born on 12 Mar 1894 in Poland. She died on 05 Oct 1977 in Kearny, Hudson, New Jersey, USA.  They had the following children: Sophie (1913-1986), Zigmund (1920-2001), Edmund (1924-1980), and, Edwin (1927-1991).

John and Amiela Sysko had the following additional children: Katarzyna, Emilja, and, Aleksandra.

The Lewandoski Family (This section was added in the February 11, 2020 revision.)

A more thorough review of my DNA match with C.K., managed by sharonblattnerheld, showed that the proper way to analyze the family connection is via CAROL ROMAN.  While C.K. and I share 129 cM of DNA, C.K. and CAROL ROMAN share 318cM of DNA.  With this approach and using the probabilities of the quantity of shared DNA, CAROL ROMAN and C.K. are 2ndcousins, once removed.  Carol Roman’s mother, Eleanor Kosciuk, and C.K. are 2nd cousins.  Bronislawa Lewandoska and Regina Cybulski are 1st cousins.  Bronislawa Lewandoska mother, Pani (Ciesielska) Lewandoska and Joseph Cybulski are siblings, and Jan Cybulski is their father.Antoni Szyszko Story

The Antoni Szyszko Story.

For at least twenty years, I have been aware of “Tony” Sysko.  The 1910 U.S. Census lists him as living with my grandfather, Joseph Sysko, at 3352 Greenwood Avenue in Minooka, Scranton, Pennsylvania. The census states that he was born about 1885 in Russia, migrated to the U.S. in 1905, and was a coal miner.  No more was known about “Tony” Sysko until in 2019, our Sysko cousin from Michigan, unearthed on her Michigan farm two letters written in Polish, dated in the year 1937, and addressed to the sender’s uncle who turned out to be Boleslaw Sysko.  Anthony Sysko’s letter was sent from Greenwood Avenue in Minooka appealing to his uncle for help because in the Scranton area there was no work.  He stated that his father was Anthony Sysko who had two brothers, Alexander and Joseph, and that his grandfather is John Sysko.  Joseph Sysko is my grandfather in whose home in 1910 Anthony’s father, “Tony” Sysko resided.  My grandfather’s death certificate states that his father is John Sysko which corroborates the information in Anthony’s letter.  The second letter was written by my aunt, Jean (Sysko) Bohenek just prior to Christmas introducing herself and the Sysko family in Minooka and to wish her uncle a Merry Christmas.  Both letters were written in Polish, and both had the same penmanship.  Both were written by Jean (Bohenek) Sysko.  But, the big question remained:  What happened to Anthony Szyszko when he left Minooka.

The next piece of the jigsaw puzzle also happened in 2019 shortly after the two letters surfaced.  An DNA match showed up: irene6461 and showing that she and I were 2nd cousins and likely related via the Sysko line.  To further complicate the matter, irene6461 and I share a match with CAROL ROMAN who is my half 1st cousin.  After my grandfather Joseph Sysko died in 1914 as a result of a mine explosion, my grandmother, Bronislawa Lewandoska, married John Kosciuk.  Carol Roman is John Kosciuk’s grand-daughter.  So, in some manner, the Kosciuk line is involved with Antoni Szyszko line.  At about this time, I found a 1920 U.S. Census listing for Antoni Szyszko which had the following information.  Antoni Szyszko, head of household lived at 3 Main Street in Minooka with his wife Katie.  He was born about 1891, and immigrated from Poland in 1908.  Anthony was a coal miner, and he and Katie had three children: Anthony, 5 years old, Charles 2 and 1/2 years old, and Mary an infant.

After seeing irene6461’s DNA match, I communicated with her with what I knew, or thought I knew, via the message system.   What follows is a synthesis of information from the Antoni Szyszko family, the Boleslaw Sysko family, the Alexander Sysko family, and what I knew and experienced.

Some time after the 1920 U.S, Census was taken in Minooka, Antoni Szyszko, along with his family left the United States, returned to Poland, and resided in the village of Dlugoleka in the province of Bialystok.  Alexander Szyszko, who never left Poland was a farmer, and had three children: Katarzyna, Albia, and Antoni.  Antoni Szyszko’s wife’s maiden name is Kazimiera Kosciuk, and is the sister of my grandmother’s second husband John Kosciuk.  Kazimiera’s and John’s parents are Stanislaw Kosciuk and Aniela Osieckie.  She was born in Bajki.  They had the following children: daughters Kazia and Maria, and three sons, Jan (my grandmother Bronislawa’s second husband), Jozef, and Czeslaw.  Mary Kosciuk married Edward Gutowski, and they lived on Loomis Avenue in Taylor, Pennsylvania.  In 1938, our family lived directly across the street from the Gutowskis.  The 1930 U.S. Census report shows that Amiela lived with her daughter Mary on Loomis Avenue in Taylor, Pennsylvania.  Later she lived with my grandmother, Bronislawa on Greenwood Avenue in Minooka.  Amiela was a quiet woman short in stature and quite slim.  She spent her time weaving throw rugs from rags on her loom in the basement.  Our family had one of her “rag” rugs.  About 1940, Amelia moved back to Mary’s home on Loomis Avenue and died there in 1943.

Antoni Szyszko and Kazimiera Kosciuk had four children: Anthony, Cazimir, and, Mary all born in Minooka, and Monika born in Poland.

As detailed above, Anthony returned to Minooka in 1937, and then relocated to Chicago.  Casimir followed him to Chicago in 1939.

I frequently state that every family has a story to tell, and that it is very important to each of us.  We are the result of our ancestors.  Can we really know who we are if we don’t know something about our ancestors?  I believed until recently that I was 100% Slavic and Polish.  New DNA information informs that I am 62% Eastern Europe and Russia, 36% Baltic (Prussian) and 2% Sweden.  The Prussian part comes from my father.  Ethnically, my father was Prussian.  But, he was not the stereotypical Prussian.  He was a “real” man – bright, respectful of others, a radical for social justice, kind, and considerate.  He certainly had the opposite characteristics of the stereotypical Prussian.  He is my hero.





















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