In Michigan, the Big Boy restaurants are owned by the ELIAS Brothers (as opposed to Bob’s or Frisch’s in other parts of the USA). In fact, in MI the Elias name is somewhat common, especially among Italians and Syrians. So unless I see a name like Boleslaw Elias or Wladyslaw Elias — I tend to filter those names out as NOT Polish.
My Grand-Uncle Jan Elijasz was born in Pacanow on 6th-December-1880 the first born child of Jozef Elijasz and Maryanna Paluch. I have his church birth record. I also have his marriage record to Pelagia Kedzierski (also in Pacanow). I have his Ellis Island ship arrival record (as Eliasz) with his brother-in-law Wlodzimierz Kedzierski. Once Jan/John was here in the USA, his name varied back and forth between Elijasz and Eliasz, before settling on Eliasz. I have in the US Censuses from 1920 and 1930. I also had his WWI Draft Registration (which referenced my grandfather Jozef as the nearest contact). But I could never find a record of his death.
I constantly searched for him in Mt Olivet cemetery and its records, after all my grandfather, his brother was there (as were others). My father and one uncle told me he died after my grandfather (a short time my uncle said). My dad remembered a train going by the cemetery at the burial (he was young). So I searched for cemeteries in Detroit and also in Macomb County (last known residence from 1930 Census) that were near to railroad tracks and called cemetery after cemetery (year after year in case they found new records). Annually around the new year, I would post a searching-for plea in the MI genealogy mailing lists and Yahoo groups for MI (Wayne/Macomb). I even started researching historical newspapers of MI, vowing to search the entire decade of the 1930′s until I found him. That is how my efforts with the Dziennik Polski newspaper came about.
One year a fellow genealogical researcher (with Mt Clemens Public Library), Ann Faulkner, took pity upon my annual plea — being familiar with my Dziennik Polski efforts and she, unbeknownst to me, undertook a small search for the death of my great-uncle John Eliasz using the information I supplied in my posts. Well I have told this story before in my blog, about how this kind woman found John Eliasz and I was certain it was him because she found an obituary and a church burial record (transcription) that listed enough other details for her and I to confirm that this John ELIAS was my grand-uncle John Eliasz. With this info I did order his death certificate (see below). The death certificate listed my great-grandparents’ names, so I had yet another further confirmation. I have to admit if I had seen ‘John Elias’, I may have ignored it due to not being “Polish enough” and due to the fact that Syrians and Italians from MI outnumbered the Polish Eliasz by a good bit. I might have missed it, but Ann fortunately, did not.
I cannot explain how my grand-aunt, Mary Eliasz Gronek who reported his death had not corrected the various people, writing his obituary, his church burial record, and even his death certificate. My dear grand-aunt had a horrible record of mis-dating her brothers’ birth dates on their death certificates — so it is a VERY good thing I have their birth records from the church in Pacanow to have the correct dates. On my grandfather’s death certificate, she had even filed an affidavit to correct his birth date (which was very nearly correct) to a very much wrong birth date — I had so many birth dates for my grandfather, that if I had not found his birth record, I would NEVER have known anything more than a consensus birth of “late March 1885″ [ignoring my grand-aunt's May 15, 1887 which was an outlier guess]. Who knew you could file an affidavit to change data on a death certificate? Has any other genealogist encountered such an affidavit? How would I go about finding such an affidavit? Genealogy is very complex, having to winnow the truth from so much inaccurate chaff.
Quite a name evolution huh? Elijasz to Eliasz to Elias. My grand-uncle John’s name kept getting shorter. Is it any wonder; since his paper trail was disappearing as fast as his last name over time. It is a major reason why I list the family tree as Elijasz/Eliasz/Heliasz which are all correct versions (Elias just being a typographical error). I have also had to accept Elyasz and Eljasz too as variants. Never mind that I have seen ELIASZ Polonia in St Louis, MO area “Anglicize” their name to Ellis. I have to feel sympathy for Donna Mierzejewski-McManus (fellow Polish genealogy blogger) as she sifts through the MANY variants of her Mierzejewski name.
There are quite a few morals to this over long tale… Be persistent, Collaborate with others (particular experts in regions), Use Historical Newspapers, Do RAOGK for others, be creative in finding a way around genealogical road blocks. But genealogists who research Slavic names, must be prepared to try many, many variants of their last names, over and over again in ALL searches. You may have to go back to prior searches and retry a new name variant when you find the new variation.