Semanchuk is one of several transliterations of the Cyrillic original Семенчук. The most common Polish transliteration is Semańczyk, but I have also seen Semańczuk. American transliterations include Semanchuk (obviously), Semancik, Semanchek, Semanchuck, Semanchick and other variations. To give you an idea of how inconsistently these forms were used, Semanchek appears on the tombstone of my great-uncle Peter; he is buried next to his brother/my grandfather Michael on which the surname is spelled Semanchuk. Their nephew Hrehori (a.k.a. "Big Harry") has Semanchuck on his stone. I don't consider any of these "more correct" than the other, especially with regard to Polish versus Americanized versions. Both are just copies of the original. That said, I try to use the name in the form in which it appears in the cited record. For European records this is almost always Polish. I am told that the name means "son of Simeon".

The earliest reference I have to Semanchuk in any form is from citations of the 1787 Cadastral Records(1) which show Semańczyks living in Wolica which is where my grandfather was born approximately 100 years later, so it is a very good bet that they're the same family.

Semańczyk also shows up in some other Lemko villages. I don't know if they're related or not. My instinct says not. Some of these Semańczyks even came to the same area of Pennsylvania as my family. There are Semańczyks from Wola Wyżna and Rzepedż that moved to the Minersville, PA area. I've looked over the LDS records for these villages and the Semańczyk name was in those villages from the time the records start (at the time of the Austrian occupation in the late 1700s), so if they are connected to my Semańczyks from Wolica, the connection lies in prior to that.

Unfortunately there is precious little information to be gathered from the cemetery in Wolica. Most of the old tombstones are gone. The cemetery was hit by bombs during WWII(3), and I suspect some of the Lemko tombstones were turned into paving materials in the aftermath of Operation Wisła.

I have records of individual Semańczyks dating back to the early 1800s. They consist of four family lines that I assume have a common origin, but I don't have any data to prove that. Inferred dates are marked with "~", and unless otherwise noted, all of the information below is from the Wolica parish book database. That book has been a treasure trove of information on the Semanchuk lines. In the notes below, I sometimes refer to (potentially) different persons with the same first and last name. I differentiate them by adding a distinctive element (e.g. "1895 manfifest") in [square brackets] after the name.

Wolica Line I - Basil Semańczyk and Anna Podweipska

Basil and Anna had two children that I know of: Teodorus (~1814 - 1876) and Peter (~1839 - 1874). Peter married Katarina Kowalczyk. Their children that I know of were Tecla (1865 - 1868), Kristina (1868 - ????), and Tomas (1871 - ????).

Wolica I – Tomas [1871]

I know a fair amount about Tomas. His descendants still live in the Bukowsko Triangle.

He was born in Wolica 49. At some point he married Anna Tynik of Pobiedno(35). Anna was Polish and so many of Tomas and Anna's children were baptized Roman Catholic in Bukowsko(35). Debbie Greenlee has speculated that in "mixed" marriages like this, the daughters were baptized in the mother's faith and the boys in the father's. This seems true for Tomas and Anna's family and it means I have a lot of information about them since their family was recorded in the well-preserved Bukowsko books.

Anna died a widow in 1932 in Zboiska 44(36).

Tomas and Anna had at least six children. Rozalia(35) was born in 1900. Marianna and Carolus(35) (1904) were twins born in Zboiska 1; they did not survive to see 1906. Salomea (1907 - 1978) (27, 35) was born in Zboiska 1 and is buried in the Wolica cemetery. Bronisława (1909 - 1986) (27, 35) was born in Zboiska 23 and is also buried in the Wolica cemetery. Michał (1912 - ???) was born in Zboiska 44 (35).

I have found three references to Tomas [1871] in the Ellis Island database(6).

Since the Ellis Island records state that Tomas was in the USA from 1901 - 1905, one wonders how his wife Anna became pregnant in 1903 and gave birth in 1904. Other than the obvious explanation (Tomas was not the father; the birth record was fudged), I don't have any explanation for this.

Tomas died before his wife Anna but I don't know when.

Wolica I – Rozalia

In 1923, Rozalia married Jan Kowalczyk of Wolica(38).

Wolica I – Salomea

Salomea is referenced in some Operation Wisła documents that I saw in the Sanok Civil Archive. The document listed Lemkos still in Zboiska after April 9, 1946 when the others were forced out. The document listed her children as Bronisław and Mieczsław. My notes say that Bronisław had a son named Emil, but I don't know where I got that information from.

Her gravestone gives her surname as Semańczyk and her death record lists her as panna ("Miss"), so it's almost certain that she never married.

Wolica I – Bronisława

Like her sister Salomea, Bronisława never married, had a child (Mirow Joannes(35)), and is buried in the Wolica cemetery.

Wolica I – Michał

Michał married Sophia Niemiec in 1947(35). That information is an addendum to his birth record.

Wolica Line II - Peter Semańczyk and Anna Bryła

Peter and Anna had just one child that I am aware of. Ewa a.k.a. Eudokia (~1843 - ????) married Jurij Kowalczyk in 1868. Ewa lived in house number 35 in Wolica. Their children that I know of were Katarina (1871 - ????), Gregory (1880 - ????) and Andreas (1882 - ????).

Wolica Line III - Peter Semańczyk and Katarina Drobosz

All I know about this Semańczyk line is that their son Jurij (~1857 - ????) married Kristina Luczkowa in 1884, with Hryc Semańczyk as one of the witnesses. The marriage took place in Wolica 61.

Wolica Line IV - Stefan Semańczyk and Anastasia Bryła

This is the most important line because it leads to me. =) I don't have a birth date for Stefan, and his death isn't mentioned in the Wolica parish records that start in 1867, so I presume he died before 1867. He certainly died before 1869, for Anastasia's 1869 death record lists her as a widow. Stefan and Anastasia (~1817 - 1869) had three children that I know of: Ewa, Michael (1846 - 1869) and Gregory (1858 - ????). Only Ewa and Gregory had children. I know considerably less about Ewa's line than Gregory's. Anastasia lived in house number 33 in Wolica at the time of her death.

Ewa married Gregory Kohut who was apparently a resident of Ratnawica, because Ewa was from Wolica but all of Ewa and Gregory's children were born in house number 1 in Ratnawica. Their children were Katarina (1868 - ????), Anna (1863 - 1867), Joannes (1867 - 1867), Joannes (1873 - ????), Antonius (1874 - 1876) and Stefan (1876 - ????).

A photo of Wolica 33. Wolica 33 was still standing as of 2002. It is now being used as a barn.

Ewa's brother Gregory stayed on in Wolica 33, I guess because Ewa had moved out and his brother died young. Gregory married Kristina Bończak (~1853 - 1923) of Zboiska. Kristina died of pneumonia in Wolica 33 on 14 July, 1923 at age 70. (20) Gregory and Kristina had nine children, all but one of whom survived to adulthood. Gregory (a.k.a. Hrehori, Hrehorij, Hyrc) and Kristina may have been important figures in Wolica, since they were godparents to eighteen children (eleven for Gregory and seven for Kristina) and Gregory was witness at four weddings. In 2002, an old woman who lived across the road from Wolica 33 told me that "their house was the finest in the village because they had rich relatives in America".

Gregory and Kristina's children were Anna (1870 - 1932(20)), Stefan (1873 - 1936(22)), Iwan (1876 - 1952?(25)), Tomas (1879 - ????), Katarina (1881 - 1883), Peter (1884 - 1939 (7)), Katarzyna(6) (~1887 - ????), Michał (1890 - ????) and Antoni (~1895(6) - ????). I know quite a lot about some of these siblings and nothing about others. Those for whom I have further information are below.

Wolica IV - Anna

Thanks to my cousin Aleksander Bednarz(21), I know a little about Anna. She married Walenty Jadwisieńczak (1861 - ????) of Bukowsko who was ethnically Polish (as far as I can tell); his mother was a Pleśniarski. They had seven children: Franciszek, Józefa, Antoni, Katarzyna, Antonina, Kazimiera and Anna. Walenty and his sons Antoni and Franciszek travelled to the USA. Antoni and Franciszek stayed to become a U.S. residents. Antonina married Ludwika Bednarz, and my cousin Aleksander is their son.

Anna died of old age in 1932 in Zboiska 44. (20)

Wolica IV - Stefan

Stefan was somewhat of a mystery until I tracked down and met his daughter Maria Szklar (nee Semańczyk) who lives today (2004) in Berezhany (Brzeżany), Ukraine. She is the source of all of my information about Stefan's family unless otherwise noted. Stefan travelled to Minersville, PA in the USA in 1898(6) to work as a coal miner. While there he married Katarina Piechowicz. Maria told me that Katarina was ten years younger than Stefan and the Wolica parish book contains a record of a Katarina Piechowicz born 2 November 1882. It seems likely that this is her. Interestingly, she was born in Wolica 32, while Stefan was born in Wolica 33. Do I smell an arranged marriage? Maria also told me that, in addition to being a coal miner, Stefan was a priest in church.

I have a census record from 1900 that lists a Stephen Samanski living as a border with a Kramer family. The information listed for Stephen matches perfectly with that of Stefan [Wolica IV]. Specifically, both are recorded as having been born in June 1873 and as having emigrated in 1898. I think they're the same person.

While in the USA, Stefan and Katarina moved to New York state where their son Hrehori (Gregory) (1905? - 1955)(23) was born. (Maria gave me his birthdate as 1908.) As with my father who was also named Gregory/Hrehori, Hrehori turned into Harry in common usage. Stefan's family was apparently in touch with my father's family because the two acquired the appellations "Big Harry" (Stefan's son) and "Little Harry" (my father)(24). Big Harry married "as an old man" and died five years later. I don't know if he had any children. Maria sent me a picture of his gravestone; on it his name is spelled Semanchuck.

Stefan took a trip back to Wolica in 1906 and on his return was marked as a non-immigrant farm laborer(6), so apparently he'd made his way out of the coal mines. Stefan and family moved back to Wolica before WWI, and, due to the war, had to abandon their plans of moving back to the USA. While in Wolica they had four more children: Antonina (1913 - ????), Iwan, Peter and Maria (1926 - ).

Maria married young and was still living in Wolica when she was forced from her home by soldiers in April of 1946 during Operation Wisla. She and her husband were sent to Berezhany, Ukraine and given some (inadequate) compensation for their property that had been seized. Maria still lives in Berezhany as of this writing (2004); her husband died in 1971. I don't know what happened to her siblings.

Wolica IV - Iwan

Iwan (Ivan), or John as the name is usually translated to in English, may have been the first Semańczyk to emigrate to the USA, but I can't verify this. An Iwan Semanczyk entered the USA via the port of Philadelphia in July of 1895, headed for Shamokin, PA. The manifest gives his age as 18, but Iwan [Wolica IV] has a birthdate of Feb 1876 which would make him 19 in July 1895. I'm willing to overlook that discrepancy and assume that they're the same person. Supporting evidence comes from the fact that when Stefan [Wolica IV] travelled to the USA in 1898, he was going to meet his brother Iwan in Minersville. (6)

The 1895 manifest says that Iwan is going to meet "cousin Antoni" which is less than helpful. However, the line above Iwan's is for a Michael Rabicki of Wolica who is going to meet his brother-in-law Ant. ???????, who I presume is also Iwan's cousin. The last name is hard to make out, though.

There is a John Semanchick buried in Minersville, PA. He is buried with Mary Semanchick (???? - 1948) and Michael Semanchick (???? - 1935). I also have a 1936 record (in Polish) of a Maryanna Szymanczak acting as witness to the baptism of Janina śsniarska. I assume this is the same Mary(anna).

Wolica IV - Peter

I don't know when Peter emigrated to the USA, but when his brother Antoni emigrated to the USA he said he was going to meet his brother Peter, so Peter must have emigrated before 1912. (6) Peter is buried in Philadelphia. His tombstone gives his last name as Semanchek and the year of his death as 1939. (7) According to family history, he never married or had children.

Wolica IV - Michał / Michael (My Grandfather)

Michael emigrated to the USA in May 1908 at age 17. He worked as a coal miner in Minersville. Eventually he met and married Viktoria Drozd (1892(26) - 1972(3)) who was ethnically Polish. Viktoria was born in Nagórzany which is about 5km from Wolica. They probably recognized each other's family names, although familial history has it that they didn't know one another until they met in the USA.

At some point he moved to Philadelphia (he may have met Viktoria there) and they had three children: my father Gregory (1918 - 1998), Stefania (1920 - ) and Helena (1926 - ). For the record, my father always went by Harry; in fact I was in my teens before I ever learned that Harry wasn't his real name.

Wolica IV - Antoni

In October of 1912, Antoni joined the parade of Semańczyks headed for Minersville, PA via Ellis Island. (6) I don't know what happened to him after that. I think I was told that he was blinded in a coal mine explosion, and I note in the photo below that there is a slender cane leaning on the wall next to Anthony.


A photo from Michael and Viktoria's wedding
Weddding day for Michael Semańczyk and Viktoria Drozd. From left to right: Stefan, John (Iwan), Viktoria, Michael, Peter and Anthony. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Other Lines and Loose Ends

I've seen references to some Semańczyks that I can't link to the others.

Iwan [Old]

An Iwan Semancik, age 47, entered the USA in 1896 headed for Pottsville, PA.(6) This implies a birth year of ~1849. I haven't come across any other references to this Iwan.

Iwan [Young]

In 1912, Iwan Semanczyk (~1896 - ????) travelled from Wolica to Minersville, PA to meet his brother Piotra Semanczyka. See "Arfry / Amfry" below for more about this Iwan.

There is a John Sumanshuck listed in a 1920 census record that I have. He's 26, and living with his brother-in-law Nicholas Che??skie and Nicholas' wife Anne. Since John is listed as single, is seems likely that Anne is his sister. I can't find her in the Ellis Island database, for what that's worth. John is listed as having emigrated in 1912, and the birthdate of ~1896 matches that of the Iwan in the Ellis Island database. They might be the same person.

Arfry / Amfry

Ellis Island records show an Arfry Semanczyk (mis-transcribed as Lemanczyk), married, age 32, who intended to come to the USA in 1905 from Wolica to Pottsville to meet his brother Stefan. His ticket is said to have been paid for by a brother. However, there is a line drawn through Arfry's name and record on the manifest and he listed as not on board. The manifest information implies a birthdate of ~1873 which means he should appear in the Wolica parish database. He does not. In fact, the only male Semanczyk whose birth appears in the database from Jan 1871 to Dec 1873 is none other than Stefan Semańczyk, son of Gregory and Kristina (Bończak). Furthermore, Stefan was born in June, making it impossible that his mother had yet another birth that same year. I'd be willing to ignore Arfry, except that he comes up again. In 1912, Iwan Semanczyk (~1896 - ????), son of Amfry (I assume this is our Arfry), travelled from Wolica to Minersville, PA to meet his brother Piotra Semanczyka. (6) The only other clue I can add is that Iwan is listed as having blue eyes. Blue eyes run in my line of the Semańczyk family. My father had gray eyes, and his father's were blue. (6) This doesn't really help much since blue eyes are not uncommon in Ukraine.

Vasily / Wassel / Basil

Vasily (Basil) is buried in Minersville, PA. His stone is in Cyrillic and the photo I have is poor and difficult to read. (25) There is also a Wassel Semanszak(?) in the 1910 census (34). In 1910 he was 25, married to Katie (age 20) and with children Cassie(?) (age 2 1/2) and Mike (age 3 months). Both Wassel and Katie are listed as being from "Austria (Russian)" and Katie's language is listed as Russian. (Wassel's is listed as English, so that's not a helpful clue.)


This page is from the 1995 L'viv phone book.

When I was in L'viv, Ukraine in 2002 I checked a 1995 phone book for Semanchuks. Sure enough, there were no less than eleven entries of the name Семенчук. My cousin Maria in Berezhany told me that they are relatives, but distant ones. I assume that they are the descendants of Wolica lines I through III who were booted out during Operation Wisła. Similarly, a Poland-wide surname search turned up two instances of Semańczyk in the north, near Olsztyn. I was told by a Lemko in Wolica that the Lemkos who were not sent to Ukraine during Operation Wisła "went north". Olsztyn certainly fits the bill. I also vaguely remember seeing a more official reference to Lemkos being sent to Olsztyn but I can't recall the source.

There are many Semanczyks (and variations) in the Ellis Island database. I believe I have found and noted all of the ones that are related to me.

There is a Semanchuk family in New York state with whom we have corresponded and determined that we are not related.