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Praniewicz - where did my great grandfather come from?

5 Oct 2016 #1
Hi everyone,

First of all, I apologize ahead of time for not knowing more than I do. However, I have spent a great deal of time tracking down the little information I do know and I am eager to see if I can add to that knowledge with your help.

My maiden name is Praniewicz. Nobody in my family seems to know anything about my fathers history so last year I took it upon myself to find out more. My great grandfathers name was Michal Gudzinowicz Praniewicz (later changed to Michael) his naturalization form says he was born in Russia on April 30th, however his death certificate says Poland. He immigrated when he was 37 years old through Hamburg Germany and arrived "At the port of New York." (He is not in Ellis island records that I can find) He later settled in Pennsylvania and married my great grandmother Rozalia (Rose). They had 7 children, including my grandpa Frank. Frank had three sons, including my dad. However, according to the 1940 census, Michael had another wife (at the same time! Talk about family dirt!) in Massachusetts named Bertha. It is also mentioned on this census that he was born in Lithuania.

There's a lot of family rumors about Michael being a spy for Russia and not being home a lot in Pennsylvania. I have no idea if any of this information is true or just family rumors. I would however like to find out who Michals parents were and what part of Poland/Russia we come from. I read an interesting article that said Praniewicz used to be a royal name too. I also know that our last name means "clean" "son of a laundered/clean one".

Would love to find out more! :) thanks For Your help.
5 Oct 2016 #2
Helpful links:
For the record, I have no idea who juraj is. I tried to contact him at the given email to see if he had any other information, and the email address is no longer valid.

Census info:



Oh also one of my aunts swears that she was told growing up that Michael was " An Interpreter for President McKinley"
5 Oct 2016 #3
Just found this information:

Michal Prenewicz (alternative spelling)
Departed when he was 23 years old - 17 Oct 1900 - single
Lived in Kowno Russia. (Kaunas)
Departed Hamburg Germany, arrived in Grimsby on a ship called Leicester (steamboat) Hamburg-Amerika Linie (Hamburg America Line)

was a 1,002 ton ship, 241ft x 32ft, one funnel, two masts, speed 15 knots, accommodation for 50-1st and 360-emigrant class passengers. Built 1891 by Earle's Shipbuilding Co, Hull for the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Co. She was one of four sister ships which operated a daily service between Hamburg and Grimsby. 1897 transferred to the Great Central Railway Co on take over. In 1914 she was requisitioned as a naval store carrier and on 12th Feb.1916 en route Portsmouth to Cromarty with general cargo, she struck a mine and sank off Folkestone with the loss of 17 lives.
DominicB - | 2,707
6 Oct 2016 #4
Based on the map of the surname in present-day Poland, it is almost certain that they did not come from anywhere that is now in Poland. There are only 23 individuals in Poland with that surname, almost entirely within those parts of Poland that were added after WWII and settled with refugees from the eastern regions that were lost. It may turn out that your ancestral village is now not populated with anyone related to you, or that it no longer exists at all.

The biggest advantage you have is that this is an exceedingly rare surname, so you can somewhat safely assume that anyone with it is closely related to you. Your next step would be to locate individuals with that surname in Poland and communicate with them.
6 Oct 2016 #5
I have found some links on which are not included on your list, so maybe you haven't seen them. Whether they contain anything not covered in your other links I don't know.

I can understand your confusion about whether he was born in Russia or Poland as one of the links specifies birthplace as being Kovno, Poland, Russia.

Kovno refers to Kaunas, a Lithuanian city, which at the time of your great grandfather's birth, was under Russian rule, if that is indeed where he was born.

born in Russia on April 30th,

I have 2 dates from the links, the 8th and 10th of April:-

according to the 1940 census, Michael had another wife

Yes, I found that one too:-

Talk about family dirt!)

I'm sure most peoples family histories rake up a few skeletons, there are worse things than bigamy ;)

Michal Prenewicz (alternative spelling)
Departed when he was 23 years old - 17 Oct 1900 - single

That would put his birth date well before that of 1899/1890 if that is the same person. About 1877 in fact.

Anyway, hopefully others here will have a few suggestions, good luck with finding any new info!
DominicB - | 2,707
6 Oct 2016 #6
One last word of warning. Kowno probably does not refer to the city of Kowno itself, now Kaunas in Lithuania, but to the entire Russian imperial province of Kowno, which covers a huge chunk of modern-day Lithuania. Look up "Kovno Governorate" on Wikipedia. It has a map showing the area.

Also, I expect this was a very well-to-do family at one time, as one Fr. Tomasz Praniewicz was poet, composer and a very high-ranking Catholic clergyman in Poland in the early 1800s, and then in at Notre Dame in Paris after he left after an uprising in 1931. High-ranking clergymen and highly literate people in general came almost exclusively from influential families.

Also, from bits and pieces I could read on the internet, the family seems to have been anti-Russian Polish nationalists, or at least some of them were, and at least one was imprisoned for supporting revolutionary activity.

It could be that the bulk of your relatives were deported to Siberia, either by the Tsar or by the communists, or probably both. That was the case with my mother's family, which was similar and from the same region, which was almost entirely killed outright or deported to Siberia.

In light of that, it is rather improbable that one acted as a Russian spy. Even if he had wanted to, his family background would have made him automatically unreliable.
25 Mar 2017 #7
I am trying to find some information of my Grandfather who cam from Lithuania. His given name was Michael Vaiksnorkes. He was born on December 23, 1903. The paper work I have states he had no mother. It did not contain any other information about any other family members. I do not know how he came to America or when. I do know that his name was changed to Walter Weiser.
Grace Krainska
27 Jan 2021 #8
Michal (Michael) Gudzinowic-Praniewicz -was born Ryski (Belarusian Рыскі; Russian. Рыски) - a village in Belarus, in the Grodno region, in the Grodno region, in the Skidle district.. He was married to my mother Aunt-Rozalia (Rose) Szalacinska

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