The Gift of Family
Part 3. Research in Poland, Research in Polish
Nie mówię po polsku (I don't speak Polish)
Looking at a page of Polish text is extremely daunting when you do not know the language. I sampled a few Polish webpages, but soon realized
there was no way I could cope on my own. Even a Polish-English dictionary was of little help, because of the structure of the language. Sometimes I could
decipher a few words, but rarely the meaning.
I studied Rosemary Chorzempa's excellent book, Polish Roots,
and thought I could deal with the forms and records that were written in Latin (having studied Latin for several years in high school). W. Fred
Hoffman's books on Polish surnames and first names (both books can be purchased from
PolArt Center), in addition to being written with a wicked sense of humor, provided a
basis for deciphering the form of the names that might be found on the records, but first I would have to obtain copies of those documents.
Many people write to various genealogy forums on the Internet hoping someone will be able to help them, and sometimes they are very lucky and a
volunteer will produce some good leads or information for them. The most active forum is
http://genforum.genealogy.com/poland/ . Another excellent site that has an associated forum is PolishRoots
Many people also write to parishes in Poland, hoping for a reply from the priest. Recently I read that parishes in Poland get several hundred
thousand requests for vital records per year. Obviously, it is not reasonable to think that these requests can be answered.
Although the Church Latter Day Saints (LDS) has microfilmed many parish archives in Poland, the ones I needed did not appear to be available.
Click here: FamilySearch - Family History Library. After a period of fruitless
searching (did I really think the documents I needed would miraculously appear on the Internet, or that I would learn Polish by staring at it?), I
finally decided that if I was serious about getting information from Poland, I was going to have to seek professional researchers and/or those who spoke
There were a handful of professionals listed on the Polish Genealogy Society of America's website, and one
or two individuals offered services through one of the email lists.
First, I found someone to translate my aunt’s letters.
Polamer, Inc., in Florida provided a beautiful translation, and all at once a warm young voice lifted off the page, worrying about her family and
giving homey advice on how to treat the influenza if it should strike them. The other letter was equally clear—flowery and emotional—with the news of the young nun’s death.
I then contacted PolishExpress, a research service with offices in both the US and Poland Within a few days they confirmed that the names I had given them were known by the priests in the villages I had mentioned (thereby confirming just which location I needed to focus on), and that the civil offices also had relevant information.
Part of the letter from Pauline
|Over the next few months, I received emails containing information about the family of my maternal grandfather, including aunts and an uncle who had been born in Poland. Unfortunately, with one exception, this information was never confirmed by the official documentation that had been promised, and which I knew was necessary to verify the connection of these individuals with my family. Still, there were enough details to convince me that I had to make another effort to obtain the records, and also search for those of my paternal grandparents.
|Read the next part of the essay entitled: A Passion for Poland (4)
written by Nancy Maciolek Blake
2005, revised January 2006
contact the author by e-mail