Surname Saturday – Dreffs
October 1st, 2011 by Jessica

This week we take a look at the lineage of the Dreffs surname as it pertains to my family’s history.  The Dreffs name has come to be synonymous with BRICK WALL for me.

Wedding Portrait for Mary and Walter Dreffs (November 1951)

Wedding Portrait for Mary and Walter Dreffs (November 1951)

Earliest Known Ancestor

My great-grandfather Joseph Dreffs was born in March 1866 in PoznaÅ„ (Posen), Poland when it was under German occupation.  According to Joseph’s death certificate, his mother’s maiden name was Grayeski.  Joseph married his wife Anna Kozminska in Poland in 1866.  He came to the United States and filed his Declaration of Intent on July 6, 1891.  (I’m still looking for his actual passenger record – it’s my biggest genealogical brick wall!)

Joseph and Anna spent several years in Gaylord, Michigan which is where their eighth child, my grandfather Walter Anthony Dreffs, was born in 1900.  He moved the family to Saginaw around 1910 and lived there until the 1930’s when the family moved to Gilford in Tuscola County.  Joseph Dreffs died 20 Dec 1941 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Saginaw.

Joseph and Anna had eleven children: Martin Dreffs (1887 – 1976), Hattie (Ida) Dreffs (1888 – 1960), the elusive Vincent Joseph Dreffs (1892 – ?), Jennie Dreffs (1892 – ?), Veronica (Vera) Dreffs (1894 – 1946), Mary C. Dreffs (1896 – 1973), Francis Stanley Dreffs (1898 – 1959), my grandfather Walter Anthony Dreffs (1900 – 1958), Paul Anthony Dreffs (1902 – 1980), Andrew S. Dreffs (1903 – 1961) and Carl Casimier Dreffs (1906 – 1969).

Lineage for the Dreffs Surname

Lineage for the Dreffs Surname


Jessica Marie Cole > Diane Marie Dreffs > Walter Anthony Dreffs (1900 – 1958) > Joseph Dreffs (1866 – 1941)

If this tiny lineage isn’t indicative of a solid brick wall, I don’t know what else is.  I’ve been heavily researching this line for more than a decade.  Unfortunately, my grandfather Walter died when my mother was only six years old.  He was somewhat of a drifter, a gambler and an alcoholic; he left no trace of his family history except what little bits I’ve been able to unearth that were documented in his vital records.

Items of Interest

  • I wrote to the Polish Genealogical Society of America and asked them to send me information on the Dreffs surname.  I received in response a single piece of paper with the following information:  “Drefs 8, ToNa: F. 1, PoSz: M. 1, F. 1, PomPo: M. 2, F. 2, SzmSz: M. 1″  They included no instructions, so I am assuming that means the Drefs family has a grand total of 8 family members in all of Poland.  That’s probably why I am finding the research nearly impossible to conduct for this surname.  Looking on their website under the Dictionary of Surnames in Current Use in Poland, I see this surname is found in either PoznaÅ„ or Szczecin.  Given that the Naturalization papers for Joseph say he is from “Posen” I have to assume he came from the province of PoznaÅ„.
  • My grandfather Walter Anthony Dreffs is missing in action between 1925 when he is listed in the Saginaw City Directory and 1941 when his father’s obituary lists him as living in Saginaw.  I can’t find him at anywhere, including the 1930 US Census.  We believe he may have had another family somewhere during this time.
  • Walter returned to Saginaw after his father’s death and began having children with my grandmother, Mary Rose (Stroik) Karpuk.  The couple had eight children together – two single births and three sets of twins.  Only six of their eight children survived.  The middle set of twins died at birth.  If you look at the wedding portrait for Mary and Walter you will notice that she is 8 months into her final pregnancy with my mother Diane and her twin brother, Daniel.  They had their first six children out of wedlock.

Family Notes

  • The Dreffs family has been my biggest brick wall throughout my first decade of genealogical research.
  • I am desperately seeking Joseph Dreffs’ passenger ship record.
  • I am forever looking for Walter Anthony Dreffs in the 1930 US Census.  Did he have another family before he got together with my grandmother?  They knew each way back in the 1920’s but didn’t hook up until 1941.  I can’t WAIT for the 1940 Census to be released in April 2012.  Grandpa – I WILL FIND YOU!

Additional Information

Check out my Ancestry Family Tree for Joseph Dreffs.

See all of the Dreffs graves I have posted on Find A Grave.

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