Władysław Filip von Kornaszewski: Nobleman?


Władysław Filip von Kornaszewski was born in what was, at the time, Strelno, Bromberg, Posen, Prussia (now Strzelno in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian province of Poland) around the year 1845. Outside of his birthplace, I know nothing about his early years. I have yet to find a baptism record for him in the old country, or indications of who his parents might be. He must have moved north to the area around Putzig (now Puck) where he met his wife Antonia Grabowski. She was baptized in Putzig, and their first children Edward/Edmund and Leokadia were baptized there as well. Family lore says that Władysław was a “veltsman” for Kaiser Wilhelm in one of his palaces, and that was how he met Antonia, who was a maid in the same palace. I have yet to find any confirmation of this story, and there certainly don’t seem to be any Prussian/German royal palaces around Putzig. At any rate, Władysław  and Antonia were married sometime before 1874 when their first child (either Edmund or Leokadia, or perhaps both, the records are unclear) was born. Their first four children were born in Prussia between 1874 and 1882.

On September 13, 1883 a 31 year old “Wladislaw Kornazewski” arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, having departed from Bremen, Germany on the “General Werder”. A year and half later, April 20, 1885, “Wl. Kornoszchefsky”, 40 years old and traveling with Antonia (35), Edmund (7), Leokadia (6), Stanislaus (3), and Gregor (2), arrive in New York aboard the “Martha” departing from Gothenburg and Stettin. The second record is obviously the right Władysław and his family. I’m not sure whether the first record is an entirely different person (based on the age) or perhaps a reconnaissance trip and he later came back to Prussia for the rest of the family

The SS General Werder. Possibly the first ship Władysław arrived on.
Władysław and family listed in passenger registry of the “Martha”, 1885.


The family made their way to Chicago, Illinois and only a few months later, July 5, 1885, Władysław and Antonia’s first American-born child, Helene, was baptized in St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. Sadly, Helene died in September, barely a few months old. Władysław  happened to also be listed in the 1885 city directory for Lakeview (at the time just outside the city limits of Chicago) and was living at 456 Southport Avenue. Over the next 6 years, 4 more children were born; Anselm Andrew in 1886, Alphons in 1888, Elizabeth in 1889 (who also died after only a few months), and the youngest, my great grandfather Alois in 1891. All of the children were baptized at St. Alphonsus, a German parish established almost at the same time Władysław arrived in Chicago. Interestingly, in the baptism records for Helene, Anselm, and Alphons (the first three childen born in America), Władysław has the German “von” added before his last name. Although not always the case, the “von” can sometimes be an indicator of German nobility. Only in these few church records, however, is the “von” present. The earlier baptisms in Prussia do not have the “von”, although those records are transcriptions, so it may be there in the originals. It also seems as if Władysław  dropped the preposition later during his time in America as the later of his children’s baptisms and his death records do not show the “von” as part of his name. This “von”, however, is the only indication that there might be a kernel of truth to the story of Władysław  working for the Kaiser.

kornaszewski, anselm - baptism record (highlighted)
Anselm’s Baptism Record with Władysław’s full name including the “von”
The interior of the second St. Alphonsus church, completed 1897, just two years before Władysław died.

On September 17, 1892, Władysław was granted his final papers and became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. A month later he registered to vote in the City of Chicago. The 27th of November, 1899, while the Chicago Drainage Canalwas in the final stages of construction, Władysław died of Typhoid Fever. During the last half of the 19th century Chicago had one of the highest death rates from typhoid fever in the world, until reversal of the Chicago River in 1892 (during the process of constructing the canal), and the chlorination of the city’s water supply beginning in 1912.

A photograph of the Kornaszewski family taken soon after Władysław’s death. His painted portrait is included and is the only picture I have of him.

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