The Valentine's Day Death of Edward Pawlowski (1905-1907)

For this week's blogging challenge I reviewed the master list of important dates (e.g., births, marriages, deaths, etc.) in my family tree of about 2000 people.

What stood out for me on February 14th, Valentine's Day, was the death of one-year-old Edward Pawlowski in 1907. This is his story. 

Edward Pawlowski (1905-1907)

Edward Pawlowski is my first cousin twice removed. His parents, seated in the wedding photo below, were John Pawlowski (1882-1920) and Paulina Grzeskowiak Pawlowski (1883-1941). They were married in November of 1904 and I am biologically related to both of them.

As the brother of my great grandfather, Adam Pawlowski (1879-1959), John is my 2nd great uncle. As the sister of my great grandmother, Marianna Grzeskowiak (1879-1941), Paulina is my 2nd great aunt.

Two Pawlowski brothers married two Grzeskowiak sisters. I don't know who the couple standing is, but I do know they aren't my great grandparents. 

 John Pawlowski and Paulina Grzeskowiak Pawlowski wedding (1904).

John Pawlowski and Paulina Grzeskowiak Pawlowski wedding (1904).

John and Paulina were married in November of 1904. Edward, their first child, was born before their first anniversary in October 1905. The only records I have for Edward's short life are his death certificate (below) and his Find A Grave memorial

 Edward Pawlowski death certificate 1907

Edward Pawlowski death certificate 1907

At the time of his death Edward was only one year, four months, and nine days old. The cause of death is listed as pneumonia with meningitis as a contributing factor.

Edward is buried at Mt. Olivet cemetery in Detroit, Michigan, though I do not remember seeing a grave marker for him on my last visit. It is possible that he is unmarked somewhere in the family plot or perhaps buried in another part of the cemetery.

Early 1900s wedding photographs aren't known for their joviality. It is hard though, given what I know now, not to read some prescient sadness into the faces of John and Paulina.

John and Paulina Pawlowski cloeseup.jpeg

While of course they couldn't know, I do wonder if somehow they sensed tragedy was to befall them. Before their third anniversary their first born child would be dead.

At the time of Edward's death, Paulina was likely about seven months pregnant. Theresa Pawlowski (1907-1976), John and Paulina's second child, was born two months after her brother's death. 

As I think about Edward and my family tree I am reminded of the mission of The Psychologenealogist: Exploring the spaces where psychology, genealogy, and history converge - one story at a time. Here are some of the questions I have:


  • Are their any photos of Edward?
  • Is his birth certificate available? Was he sickly?
  • What about a baptismal certificate?
  • Are their any newspaper announcements of his death or funeral?


  • Losing a child, unfortunately, was not uncommon in the early 1900s. How did this loss impact John and Paulina?
  • Did the loss of Edward impact Paulina's capacity to mother her newborn daughter, Theresa, two months later? How about John as a father?
  • How does bereavement differ from complicated grief? What about postpartum depression?
  • How would people in the early 1900s think of these mental health issues as we conceptualize them today?
  • When did Valentin's Day become a "thing" (here is a neat history of it in the U.S.)

This is the 7th of 52 weekly posts planned for 2018. It was inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.