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Świtała Family

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DERING/DERENG (Pol) Deręgowski, a Lithuanian noble family.

MALICHNOWSKI (Pol) mały. Meaning: small.

PALACZEWSKI (Pol) palacz. Meaning: stoker, fireman.

ŚWITAŁA (Pol) świt. Meaning: dawn, daybreak.

SZWOCHA (Pol) szwoch. Meaning: uncle, relative.

WALIŃSKI (Pol) from name element Wal- as from Walenty. Meaning: strong, healthy.

WYSOCKI (Pol) wysoki. Meaning: tall, elevated, high.

ZELIŃSKI (Pol) ziel-/ziol-. Meaning: primarily connected with the colour green and with growing things, herbs.


Jan Świtała, (b. 1827–d. 1913) was born at Starzęcin on 18 September 1827, the son of Albrecht Świtała (b. abt. 1782–d. 1852) and Maryanna Johanna Dering (b. 1797–d. 1852). Jan married on 15 October 1854 at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Lubiszewo-Tczewskie to Jozefina Malichnowska (b. 04 April 1832 at Małżewko–d. 1860), the daughter of Balthazar Malichnowski (b. 1792–d. 1833) and Anna Palaczewska (b. abt. 1800–d. 1840). The family born at Małżewo were: Maryanna (b. 1855–d. 1861), at Lubiszewo-Tczewskie; Jan (b. 1857–d. 1933) and at Piwnice; Stanislaw (b. 1860–d. 1860). Jozefina died just two weeks from giving birth to Stanislaw on 23 May 1860. Jan was then remarried to Katarzyna Zielińska (b. 15 February 1829 at Liniewko–d. 1873), on 14 October 1860 at Lubiszewo-Tczewskie, the daughter of Jan Zieliński (b. abt. 1799) and Maryanna Gręca (b. abt. 1802). The family born at Piwnice were: Michal Nicodem (b. 1861–d. 1874), Franciszek (b. 1863–d. 1863), August (b. 1864–d. 1920), at Suchostrzygi; Anna Julianna (b. 1867–d. 1868) and at Piwnice; Jakob Marcin (b. 1869–d. 1934). Katarzyna died at Piwnice on 11 April 1873 aged 44.


Jan was then remarried on 1 June 1873 at Lubiszewo-Tczewskie to Franciszka Szwocha (b. 03 October 1829 at Obozin–d. 1925), the daughter of Albrecht Szwocha (b. 1799–d. 1880) and Anna Wysocka (b. abt. 1796–d. 1840). Franciszka was the widow of Jozef Waliński (b. 16 December 1831 at Mirowo–d. 1872), the son of Antoni Waliński and Katarzyna Kochanska, who died on 5 February 1872 aged 40. The family left Małżewo for Hamburg, where they set sail aboard the Reichstag on 10 May 1874, arriving at Port Nicholson, Wellington on 6 August 1874. The family had been nominated by family and friends to settle in New Zealand.


John Switalla, Anton Velenski, Francisca and Joseph Switalla, Ca. 1880s, courtesy of Lynette Sheppard


Listed aboard were: Johann Switala age 47, Francisca 45, Johann 17, Marianna 15, Michael 13, August 9, Jacob 5 and Anton 3.  They were sent to Soames Island for isolation before being sent to Dunedin where they were sent to the western compartment of the Caversham Immigration Barracks. From here they travelled south to Allanton where they settled and gave birth to Joseph (b. 1875–d. 1952) and a baby boy (b. 1878–d. 1878), who survived only three hours.

A couple of years after the family arrived in New Zealand, they get a letter from their nephew and godson, Jozef Willmann. He reports on the families deteriorating situation back in Poland and asks the family in New Zealand for financial support to come and join them in New Zealand.

Gruppe, 25 June 1876. Dear Aunt, Uncle and Siblings, I received your worthy letter while in the best of health and would like to express my most sincere thanks to you. Firstly, I would like to send very best wishes from us all over the seas and continents to you. We were very pleased to get your letter and to learn that you are all still healthy, alive and doing well. Firstly, I want to describe the same situation. Grandfather is still rather ill but he is now stronger than he was earlier. They are still much the same as they have always been. What I do not know is where old Schweder is. Behrendt has a new lodger in the room where Schweder used to live. I cannot say how Behrendt and Willman are getting on, but there is certain to be the same old argument.  My father still lives in Locken with Lyskowski’s father [or: with old Von Lyskowski]. Much has changed in his [my father’s] family since I last wrote to you. He has married off three of his children. That is me. Michal [sic] and Marie. We all married last year in October. As I wrote to you in my last letter, I have married well. My wife has received a good deal of wealth: Beds and some livestock. So, I am living quite happily now and so is Aniela, who is in service in Locken as a housekeeper. When I last wrote to you, I was in Graudenz but there is another village this side of Weichfeld. Marie married well too. She married Wizenty Hesieki, who is a steward on an estate in Locken. They have been allotted good land, have two cows grazing in the master’s [i.e., the local landowner’s] fields; a pretty house and garden for the winter and the summer costs 80 thaler, 24 bushels of rye and 4 bushels of wheat. They are doing well. Michal is well and what is even better is that he has married a girl and is living together with her parents. Soon he will be farming an allotment in Jenin. Only Father still has his problems. He is well but still having so many children and having to feed them costs a lot. He asks whether you could send him some money, if you really do have so much. He wants to come to you soon. If it were up to him, he wouldn’t want to come even as far as here, but he does want to make the little children happy. At Whitsun he was here with us in Gruppe and said that when I wrote I should ask you to help him back on to his feet, since Mother is also wanting to go on a trip.

My dear Aunt and Uncle, I must also tell you that when we look around here many people have gone to Australia. Your old neighbour, Witkowski, has gone. Six families have gone from Locken (Obozin) and 40 families have gone from the Kakosk (Kokoszkowy) estates. Apart from that, nothing much has happened here. The hay harvest is taking place now. There is no word about war to be heard here. Crops here are as I described to you in my last letter. I was wed twice too, first in the registry office and then in the church. The monasteries have all been dissolved and where a priest dies, no one takes his place. We hope that God’s help will help us all get back to how it used to be.  Now I will finish and a thousand greetings to you all from us. Parents, siblings and mother together with their wives all send their greetings. We are all in good health and no one has died. Only Huseh [?] is still sick. He has been ill in bed for two years now, and the prospects of his regaining his health look no better. One last request: do write to us again soon. Getting a letter from you is a source of great joy for us. I will write to you again too. Once again best wishes, and my wife also sends her best wishes. I remain yours affectionately, Josef Willmann. My address to Willmann – Rural Delivery Recipient in Gruppe, Schwetz District, Marienwerder Province, West Prussia.

According to the 1882′ Return of Freeholders, John owned one acre to the value of £150 in Allanton. He built the family cottage of sod which consisted of two rooms and was originally thatched. Around 1905 the roof was replaced with a galvanized iron one which enabled water to be collected into tanks. The earth floor was frequently covered with fresh straw to keep the place warm and dry through the winter months and Emily Sophia Pedofski, a granddaughter, recalls doing this task as a young girl. John was employed as a labourer and was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 14 November 1893.  He died at Allanton on 31 January 1913 aged 86.

Mrs. Lomas, a great granddaughter, remembers his death.

‘He was lord on a horsehair style sofa, curtains were drawn and candles lit. All the woman folk (children included) gathered at his home. Once inside the praying started and would continue until the candles burnt out or some other sign was made. In this case the candles were very nearly all burnt out when a mouse appeared under the table, moved around the room once or twice then faded into the darkness. With that the prayers ceased for the day as they had witnessed the lord coming in one of his many guises to take the soul of the departed safely to his kingdom”.

Francisca was a quiet loving lady and known to everyone in Allanton as Granny. She was the midwife for the Allanton district and was required to be out at all times in all types of weather, usually accompanied by someone with a lamp to guide the way. Dressed in black she would wear a plain white collar and cuffs with a sack apron while doing her daily chores. In the afternoon she would then change to a lace collar and cuffs with a white apron for the afternoon. The grandchildren would come to visit granny Switalla after school where she would be sitting patiently in her rocking chair. In the pocket of her apron there would be some sweets for the eager waiting youngsters. Mona Todd, Granddaughter, recalls staying with her grandmother: –


John and Francisca Switalla


Whenever we visited Granny, she would pat both cheeks and repeat “policzki, policzki,” (cheeks, cheeks). It was a common phrase in many Polish homes. All cooking was done over an open fire, which had iron bars on which a large black kettle was always boiling. It had an oven at the side in which cakes, scones and bread was baked. It was a real treat to turn the churn to make butter. Arms felt like dropping off but I never gave in. Then the best part was making the lump of butter into pats with two wooden pats lined and like two small tennis bats. Butter for the table was rolled into small balls or what they called rolls. There was a large garden where every kind of vegetable was grown. Apples, pears, plums and greengages, red and black currents, gooseberry and raspberries were among the variety of fruit grown. A few hens’ eggs were never in short supply. Parsnip and elderberry wine and apple cider were always made each year. There was a room at the back of the house where stores were kept. It had a stone floor and was always cold. Strings of onions and rolls of bacon were found hanging from the ceiling. Now and again Granny came to Dunedin for a few days and stayed with Mum. I always hoped I would look as elegant as she did in her very best clothes. These were kept in a tin trunk in the bedroom and only worn on a very special occasion. Taffeta petticoats were worn under her frock which made a swishing noise as she walked. A black frock, black boots which were buttoned on the side, black beaded bonnet and beaded purse, black gloves and cape completed the outfit. Granny always wore black. Black apron was worn to do the housework but, in the afternoon, a beautifully embroidered white apron was worn. She was always knitting, sewing, embroidering or doing crochet. I never saw a pattern but she did some beautiful crochet supper cloths.

When Fanny had to go into the Little Sisters of the Poor in Dunedin, the sod cottage remained unlived in from that day. She died in Dunedin on 31 May 1925 aged 95. Johann and Francisca are buried together at the Allanton Cemetery.


FIVE GENERATIONS OF TAIERI RESIDENTS, COMBINED AGES TOTAL 219 YEARS. Mrs Switalla (93 years), Mrs Pedofsky (63 years), Mrs McCutcheon (42 years), Mrs Kelly (21 years), and Baby Kelly (one year). Mrs Switalla and Mrs Pedofsky arrived in New Zealand in 1873, courtesy of Papers Past | Newspapers | Otago Witness | 19 June 1923 | FIVE GENERATIONS OF TAIERI RESIDENTS, WHOSE… (natlib.govt.nz)


“DEATHS. SWITALLA.—On May 31, at the Home of The Little Sisters of the Poor, Anderson’s Bay, Francisca, widow of John Switalla, of Allanton; in her ninety-sixth year. R.I.P.” Otago Daily Times, 1 June 1925, p 6


John Switalla, Anna Junge (nee Walinska) and Fanny Switalla (nee Szwocha), courtesy of Patricia Clark


John Switalla was born at Lubiszewo-Tczewskie on 18 October 1857. He married on 10 November 1881 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at East Taieri to Martha Perniski (b. 22 November 1865 at Kłodawa–d. 1938) . The family born at Allanton were: Joseph (b. 1882), Francis Patrick (b. 1884–d. 1949), John (b. 1886–d. 1926), Martha (b. 1888–d. 1977), Anthony William (b. 1890–d. 1956), Michael James (b. 1893–d. 1967), Mary Emma (b. 1895–d. 1970), Annie Magdalen (b. 1898–d. 1960), Alice Josephine (b. 1900–d. 1973), Edward Alexander (b. 1903–d. 1958), Charles Millan (b. 1905–d. 1979) and Eileen Veronica (b. 1907–d. 1929). According to the 1882’ Return of Freeholders, John owned land to the value of £70 in Allanton. John was employed as an engine driver and was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 14 November 1893.

Mosgiel Magistrates Court. No: 15. 14th March 1903. Prosecutor: Carmody, Police Const.  Person Charged: Alfred Mossey, John Switala, Albert Mossey of Allanton. Offence:  Breach of Animals Protection Act 1880. Decision:  Alfred Mossey and John Switala each convicted and fined 50/- with court costs and prof. costs 10/6. Albert Mossey convicted and fined 20/- and ordered to pay prof. costs 10/6.

“At the Outram Court on Friday, before Mr J. R. Bartholomew, S.M., Frank Wroblenski, labourer, of Allanton, was charged with using behaviour in the Allanton Public Hall, during an entertainment on August 16, whereby a breach of the peace was occasioned. John Switali, labourer, of Allanton, was charged with assaulting James Glover, of Allanton, on the same occasion. Mr Scurr appeared for the defendants, who pleaded not guilty. Constable Southgate prosecuted. Wroblenski was fined 40s, with costs (40s), in default 14 days in gaol: and Switali was fined 40s, with costs (18s), in default 14 days’ imprisonment. Both defendants were warned that they would be severely dealt with if they came before the court again on a similar charge.” Otago Daily Times, 1 October 1918, p 4

John died in Dunedin on 18 May 1933 aged 75 and is buried with his wife at the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.


Michael Nicodem Świtala, who was thirteen years old at the time, may have died on the journey out as there is no documentation of him in New Zealand.


Anna Junge (nee Walinska), Francisca Switalla (nee Szwocha) and Mary Millar at granny’s cottage at Allanton, courtesy of Lynette Sheppard


August Switalla was born at Piwnice on 25 August 1864. He married on 8 August 1889 at the church of St. John’s in Milton to Elizabeth Jane Templeton (b. 24 April 1871 at Ballyraine–d. 1938), the daughter of John Templeton and Frances McConnell. The family born at East Taieri were: Harry Walter (b. 1887–d. 1967), Frances Elizabeth (b. 1890–d. 1918), Albert Angus (b. 1892), John (b. 1894–d. 1963), Frank (b. 1897–d. 1982) and Margaret Jane (b. 1900–d. 1922).  The couple eventually went their separate ways when August went to Central Otago.  The break up may have played a part in Elizabeth constantly being charged for obscene language and drunken disorder among the Mosgiel locals.  It wasn’t helped by the fact that August failed to keep up with his child maintenance.

“Messrs J. Carroll and H. Calder were the presiding justices at the Police Court this morning, when James Casey was convicted of drunkenness and discharged. For failing to send their children to school at least six times in any week in the course of which the school is open nine times Angus Switali and Isabella Holland, brought up on two charges, were each fined 4s.” Evening Star, 26 October 1901, p 4

“THE COURTS-TO-DAY. MAGISTRATE’S COURT. (Before E. H. Carew, Esq., S.M.) Indigent Children.—Albert, John, Frank, and Margaret Suitalli, whose ages ranged from nine years, to one and a-half, were shown to be children in indigent circumstances, and committed to the Industrial School, to be brought up in the Presbyterian religion, the father to pay 2s 6d a week for the maintenance of each.” Evening Star, 16 December 1901, p 6

Magistrates Court Mosgiel. No: 34. 17th January 1905. Prosecutor: Police. Person Charged: August Switali. Offence:  Did make in offence of obscene language in a public place to wit Gordon Road in 10th June 1905. Plea:  Elects to be tried summarily & pleads fully. Decision:  Convicted and fined 40/- and court costs 7/.  14 days allows payment.

“CITY POLICE COURT. Friday, June 28. (Before Mr H. Y. Widdowson, S.M.) Maintenance. — Augustus Suitalli was charged with disobeying a maintenance order for the support of four children in the Caversham Industrial School, and being £93 in arrears to January 28 last—Defendant, did not appear.—Sub-inspector Norwood said defendant had promised to pay £1 per week last April, but had failed to do so. He would ask for a warrant of distress, the present proceedings to be withdrawn.—An order was made accordingly.” Otago Daily Times, 29 June 1907, p 3

MAGISTRATE’S COURT.  CHRISTCHURCH. Mr T. A. B. Bailey, S-M., presided at the Magistrate’s Court yesterday. August Switalli was charged that, being a registered alien, he did fail to give notice of a change of address within fourteen days. The defendant said he did not consider he was an alien, as he had come to the country when he was six years of age, and he had. three sons at the front. ‘The Magistrate said that unfortunately defendant was an alien in the eyes of the law, and must notify changes of address.  Defendant was fined 20s and costs.” Lyttleton Times, 17 October 1918. p 8

August worked as a shearer for Mt. Nicholas Station, a farm labourer, and a labourer for Halswell Quarries. He died at the Coalgate Railway Station on 22 July 1920 aged 56.

“ACCIDENTS AND FATALITIES. SUDDEN DEATH. A man named August Switalli, who has for some time past been in the employ of the Public Works Department at Lake Coleridge, yesterday dropped dead on the Coalgate Railway Station. He had intended coming through to Christchurch. Deceased was removed to the Coalgate Hotel by the police. It is likely that an inquest will be held at Coalgate today.” Sun, 23 July 1920, p 11

Elizabeth died at Hokitika on 14 December 1936 at the age of 65.


Foreground; Kovaleski’s and Antoni Velenski’s on corner and tree beside washing hole. Further back is Frank Switalla’s and the property of John and Fanny Switalla


Jacob Martin Switalla was born at Piwnice on 16 November 1869. He never married and resided at Allanton working at times as a butcher. Jacob, employed as a labourer, was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 14 November 1893. On Christmas Eve of 1921, Jacob became the victim of an attempted murder and suffered serious injuries due to the ordeal.  He became embroiled in an argument with his step-brother, Joseph, which it seems may have had jealous intent.  The event made headlines in all the papers and the NZ Truth, Assault With An Axe.  He died at Dunedin on 24 November 1934 aged 65 and is buried at the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.

“DEATHS. SWITALLA. —On November 24, 1934, at Dunedin Hospital, Jacob Martin, beloved son of the late John and Catherine Switalla, late of Allanton; aged 65 years. R.I.P. — Requiem Mass at the Holy Name Church, King street, To-day (Monday), November 26, at 8 a.m.—The Funeral will leave the church To-day (Monday), at 2 p.m., for the Anderson’s Bay Cemetery.—W. H. Cole, undertaker.” Otago Daily Times, 26 November 1934, p 8


John Switalla and Francesca (nee Szwocha), Catholic Block Plot 41 at Allanton Cemetery, courtesy of Paul Klemick


Crawford P. E. E. We Were Here Too!, History of the Junge family. (1982), page 103.

Pobόg-Jaworowski, J. W, History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, ed. Warsaw; Chz “Ars Polonia.” 1990, pages 25, 26, 27, 42, 44, 155, 171, 172 & 197.

Research Sources

Archives New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973, FamilySearch.

Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, St Mary’s Church, Milton; Baptism Register.

Godziszewo, Lubiszewo Tczewskie & Subkowy Parish Records, Pelplin Diocese, Poland.

New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs Naturalisations, Births, Deaths and Marriages.

New Zealand Government Property Tax Department, from the rates assessment rolls, Return of Freeholders of New Zealand 1882, published 1884.

Todd Mona, Dunedin, supplied family information.


Jacob M Switalla, Block 128 Plot 17 at Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin


John Switalla and Martha (nee Piernicka), Block 85 Plot 1 at Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin


Allanton Cemetery – Francisca Switalla (1829-1925) – Dunedin City Council

Allanton Cemetery – John Switalla (1827-1913) – Dunedin City Council

Andersons Bay Cemetery – Jacob M Switalla (1869-1934) – Dunedin City Council

Andersons Bay Cemetery – John Switalla (1857-1933) – Dunedin City Council



Compiled by Paul Klemick (2023)




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