The Ponczochs have been a thorn in my side for as many years as I have been doing family research. The surname alone makes them a difficult family to trace. I have seen the name spelled: Ponshock, Ponchoch, Toushock, Punshok, and many other ways. Searching any database for this surname is extremely challenging.
My great grandmother was Mary Ponczoch. She grew up in the Rozellville/Stratford area of Marathon county, Wisconsin. Her parents, John (Johann) and Ottilie, came to the US in 1880 with a daughter, Anna, listed on the ship’s manifest. The family appears to have come directly to Marathon county. On 15 October 1883, Mr “Panshock” filed his first papers for Naturalization in Marathon county. In June of 1885, the family is enumerated on the Wisconsin State Census in the Town of Day (near Rozellville). The family consists of 5 members, 3 males and 2 females. The census further indicates that 3 persons were born in Germany, and 2 in the US. The 3 born in Germany can only be John, Ottilie, and daughter Anna (all listed on the ship’s manifest at immigration), so there are 2 boys that have been added to the family since 1880 when they arrived.
More children would follow and the family stayed located in Rozellville until John and Ottilie’s passing. I can find them on census records in 1885, 1900, 1905, and 1910. John died in 1917. Ottilie moved in with son Charles first, and then later, when she was in her final illness, she lived with son John. Ottilie died in 1933. Both John and Ottilie are buried at St Andrew’s Catholic cemetery in Rozellville.
The tricky part is following the family back to the generation before John and Ottilie. The country of origin is listed as Germany or Germany/Prussia on all the documents that I can find in the US. There is no further information in the obituary for Ottilie. John’s obituary is one I have not been able to locate. In searching for his obituary, I ran across numerous accounts of the social comings and goings of the Ponczoch family and their friends. In several of these social notes, there was mention of the family traveling to, or having visitors from, the Kaukauna, Wisconsin area. There was also a Frank Ponczoch family living in the Town of Day in the early 1900s that moved up from Kaukauna.
These families are definitely connected – but how?
I enlisted the help of the Kaukauna Public Libray’s newspaper index to look for more information. Poor Gavin Schmitt, the local historian tasked with newspaper requests, soon understood how dificult this family was to search for. We did turn up a few articles, but nothing tying the family together.
I have seen several online trees linking John Ponczoch to a Ponczoch family living in Kaukauna. The family lists 5 brothers and sisters (August, Fred, Frank, Johanna, and Maria Eva), and parents Adam Ponczoch and Augusta Wiglinski. There are some passenger lists, marriage records, and census records listing these people. In some of these records, relationships are explicitly stated. Adam and Augusta Ponczoch immigrated on 3 June 1883. They came with 2 daughters, Johanna and Eva. Eva’s obituary states she is survived by her sister – Johanna – and 2 brothers, Frank and Fred. (John and August Ponczoch were already decreased by this time).
Frank and Fred Ponczoch also immigrated in the early – mid 1880s and settled in Kaukauna. Fred married Johanna Zoch and stayed in the Kaukauna area. He died there in 1937, the last of the children attributed to Adam and Augusta to pass away. Frank married Rose Pilachowska in Chicago and moved to the Town of Day. They had children there and eventually moved up to the Ashland/Butternut area of Wisconsin where they died.
Another son attributed to this couple is August Ponczock. He is a little more elusive. There are no documents explicitly linking him to the rest of this family. He arrived in the US in 1882 on the same ship as Frank Ponczoch, although they are not listed together on the manifest. August lived in the Kaukauna area for much of his life. A few years before his death in 1917 he moved up to Rhinelander, WI.
Curiously when Adam Ponczoch died in 1889, the newspaper said that he “leaves a wife and six children, four of whom are married”. If I count John and August into the six children (the only two Ponczochs who are not explicitly stated in any source found so far to be related to Adam or any of the other four known children), then in 1889 this statement is correct. John’s age fits nicely with the ages of the other children attributed to this couple. Adam and Augusta are buried at Holy Cross Catholic cemetery in Kaukauna. I have not found a burial location for August Ponczoch but his wife, Maria Anna Hoppe, is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Kaukauna. John Ponczoch, as previously stated, was Catholic.
I contacted the Diocese in Green Bay for records from Holy Cross pertaining to this family. Unfortunately, the information recorded was very brief only mentioning his date of death and burial. Augusta’s death is similarly recorded.
I further contacted the LaCrosse Diocese looking for records at St Andrews for John and Ottilie Ponczoch. Those records stated that “Johann Ponczoch, the son of Johann Ponczoch” died and was buried. These records were sent as a transcript only, so I cannot verify the translation of the document. This would seem to rule out Adam Ponczoch as the father of John.
I still have hope that someday another document will come to light explaining the link between these families. I am not convinced even now that Adam could not be John’s father. It is possible that the transcription is in error, that the actual information in the death registry is incorrect, or that Adam’s first Christian name was indeed Johann and Adam was a second name that he went by. Of course Adam could also have been an uncle or other relative.
For now, this branch ends with John Ponczoch and I have Adam Ponczoch listed with a big “?” in my tree.