Before I was married I was often asked the same question by people I met. "Are you any relation to Terry Sawchuk?"
"Yes, I am," I would proudly proclaim. I had heard all my life that Terry was a cousin of ours. Later, when the genealogy bug bit me I asked my grandfather exactly how we were related to the late, great goalie His answer was deceptively simple, "We just are. There aren't that many Sawchuks out there." True enough, but we can hardly use that as our claim to fame. My genealogy sense began tingling. How awesome would it be to be the one to find the link to NHL greatness?
I began researching Terry's life, reading a variety of biographies that provided a glimpse into his early life and to find what information I could about his parents, Louis and Anna. Not a lot was written about his parents' background so I needed to get creative.
It was at this point that I realized the connection between Terry's family and my family was fading for three reasons: First, to my knowledge, we had never been Shewchuks. Secondly, my great-grandfather emigrated from Galicia, Bukovina, Ukraine. Looking at a map from the late 1800s the city of Skalat and the area of Galicia, Bukovina were in adjacent provinces in Ukraine. However, it's unlikely they were immediate family members as there is quite a substantial commute between them. The third reason that the connection was becoming iffy was that Louis was born in Austria in 1898, around the same time that my g-grandfather, Michael, was emigrating to Canada with a wife and two sons. So they are not the same generation. Further information about Paul (Terry's grandfather) is needed.
Years passed, and I expanded my genealogy investigations to other members of the family. This puzzle remained in the back of my mind, however, like an annoying itch. Following my grandfather's death in 2007 many of his papers were given to me and I picked up the trail again after a serendipitous revelation. I was shocked to discover that my grandfather's name when he was a boy was "Shewchuk" as seen on his school certificates and birth certificate. I had no idea our name was Shewchuk at any point, and my father and his siblings couldn't remember this either as they'd all been born Sawchuk.
Being unable to find my great-grandfather's death certificate under "Sawchuk" or "Sawczuk" I checked the Manitoba Vital Statistics site once again for a "Michael Shewchuk" who died in 1928. Success! Michael Shewchuk's death certificate (reg # 1928-06-010076) states that Michael, born in 1868 in Galicia, Poland, died in 1928 when my
grandfather was 15, a fact he mentioned several times in our chats. Further confirming the relationship, the address listed as his home at the time of death is the same address (8-3-5E, District of Franklin, Manitoba) that is listed on my grandfather's birth certificate.
This certificate yielded two other items of interest. The first is that Michael's father's name was Steve Shewchuk. Michael named his son (my grandfather) after his father. This was customary, but I could never (until now) prove that Michael's father would have been Steve as well.
The second point of interest is that the informant on the death certificate was Mortey (?) Shewchuk, Michael's nephew. I don't remember my grandfather talking about any uncles or cousins and we certainly don't know of any so this is another lead which could be a link between my family and Terry's.
So to sum up, Terry and I both have Shewchuks in our family trees. And they came from adjoining Ukrainian provinces. Coincidence? Or relatives? This is where the story ends -- for now. I remain cautiously optimistic that Terry and I are cousins, although much further removed than my grandfather realized.