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Markowitz’s wingman solves history’s mysteries

Brooklyn Daily

This Brooklynite spends his days as the righthand man to a New York City powerplayer, but he moonlights as a kind of private investigator, digging up records, chasing down leads, and solving mysteries.

No, we’re not talking about Jason Schwartzman in the recently axed TV show “Bored to Death” — this is the story of Mark Zustovich, press secretary to Borough President Markowitz by day, genealogist by night.

When he’s not working as Marty’s mouthpiece, Zustovich works his cases, researching long-lost siblings, bygone property owners, and sometime unearthing ancient family secrets.

“It’s about more than just names, dates and facts,” said Zustovich, who became an ancestral detective two years ago. “You get a great deal of satisfaction when you make a phone call and say, ‘Guess what? I found your brother or grandmother.’”

So far, his clients have included a Queens resident seeking proof of his family ties to the American Revolution and a California man confronting a relative’s criminal history.

“What you uncover may not make people happy,” Zustovich said. “His ancestor was not only in jail but married and divorced at least three times.”

Sometimes the cases hit close to home — even for this hardboiled family detective.

In his sleuthing, Zustovich found out that his grandfather had a previous wife and kids that no one talked about.

“It gets very personal when you suddenly realize there are stories behind all these people,” he said. “They’re no longer just names on your family tree.”

The Borough Hall wingman juggles two or three clients at once, but does little to publicize it.

He’s traced his own bloodline to London in the 1500s and a pal’s lineage to 1200s France — but he’s still working on his boss’ backstory.

“Over the years, my staff has included everyone from published authors to attorneys to nurses,” Markowitz said. “So in a borough rich in history, diversity and family tradition, it was only a matter of time before we had a genealogist!”

The Beep says he’s proud of his spokesman, but remained mum on his past, claiming his forebears hail from Russia and possibly Poland, but he doesn’t know much else.

For Zustovich, it’s the fragility of family trees that makes his cases so enthralling.

“Genealogy brings out all the very weak links in your existence,” said Zustovich, who is gearing up for a big document dump when feds disclose the 1940 U.S. Census — crucial records for cases in the World War II-era — on April 2 at 9 am. “These could have been broken at any time and you would not exist. It freaks me out every time I think about it.”

Zustovich named his company, Baka Genealogy, after his storytelling grandmother who hailed from Istria. For info, visit www.istriamark.com.

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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