I am in desperate need of assistance in my search to find out more about my family:
My grandfather was named William Nowak, he was born in the 1890s, but I'm not sure of the date. He married Bernice (maiden name unknown....another key item I need to find out!) in the mid 1920s, then immigrated to Canada (specifically Cambridge/Waterloo Ontario) in 1929 to work on the tunnel from Detroit to Windsor. his relatives are traceable, and I've been able to locate a few around the Detroit area. My problem is, I have no clue about my grandmother's side of the family; I do not know the name of the small village in Poland where she was born (also sometime in the 1890s, 1896 I believe?), only that a lot of her family were killed in the Warsaw ghetto during WWII. Luckily, she followed my grandfather in 1933 to Canada, along with their 2 children, before Hitler could do too much damage to the Jewish population. here is my theory: her family MUST have been either Jewish or suspected to have gypsy blood...otherwise why would they have been forced to live in the squalid conditions of the gated Jewish ghetto? In the Nowak side of the family (my grandfather's side, which had markedly 'Aryan' physical attributes) this idea was fiercely denied, and my grandmother seemed to be a staunch Roman Catholic...however, over the years I have heard mention of some 'skeletons in the closet' - secrets that Bernice took to her grave in 1988.
First off, my father, who was born in 1925 (William Thomas Nowak) just outside Krakow, did not look at all like his father; many times my grandfather would threaten to 'sell him off the the gypsies' since he wasn't really his son. My grandmother would always scoff at him, attack him verbally...and the conversation always ended there, without any further details. So, there is a strong possibility that he was not really the biological son of William Nowak. It was rumored that Bernice had a lover back in Poland - an olive-skinned, black-eyed man who lived next door - but according to her, she had NEVER taken up with him after she was married. His first name was Peter and was rumored to be of some exotic ethnic descent (of course extremely vague)
Does anyone have any suggestions on how I might start with this seemingly hopeless endeavor? I've searched census records, birth/death/marriage records, etc...but most of these sites seem to be only within the U.S. I was thinking of cemetery records for Bernice and William, but I do not know the name of the cemetery in which they are buried, in what used to be called Preston, Ont. Also, as my sister pointed out, this would only give me specific birth dates, and would not offer any help as to her maiden name. If I could find a way to access marriage records of the 1920s in Poland, then that could be a start...I've only reached brick walls in this avenue as well, unfortunately.
Please, PLEASE help me! Any information (no matter how trivial you may think it is) would be most gratefully appreciated!