Here is the fifth article about my search for family history in Poland.

Read the previous part: A Passion for Poland (4)



The Gift of Family

Part 5. Traveling Polish Roads

Day 1. Olszyny – village of my maternal grandfather
Click here: Webshots Community - Olszyny (Karaś)

Driving east from Kraków, we first sought out the cemetery in Olszyny. The area is very rural with many fields across the landscape. The small cemetery turned out to be typical of the others we saw, but it was certainly unusual in my eyes, being on the side of a steep hill, with the graves apparently above ground and very close together. The priest in charge of the parish records was a bit grudging in his reception of us, but Cezary’s charm and expertise eventually put him at ease and he pulled out several books and allowed Cezary to look through them.

Although we did not find the hoped-for records of my grandfather’s siblings, we did find information on my great-grandfather, who, it turned out, had married three times. Based on the records at this parish, I was able to extend my lineage two generations back to 1790. Zenon and Cezary have offered to help me continue the search at the archives in Tarnów, where more complete records might be found.

Day 2. Kozłówek – village of my maternal grandmother
Click here: Webshots Community - Kozłówek and Frysztak (Górka)

Here we found a larger church, a friendlier priest, but little information. Even the cemetery (in Dobrzechów) yielded few graves with the family name. Following up on information from Polish Express, we went to the civil offices in nearby Frysztak and ordered copies of the birth and death records of twins who had been born in 1904 and died before they reached one year of age. We also explored another large cemetery, but no trace of the twins’ graves.

The day itself was very enjoyable, talking with Zenon and Cezary about life in present-day Poland and their hopes for the future. My husband and I were both very impressed with these young men. Zenon is an extremely bright, young, family man who taught himself to speak English using books and audio tapes. Cezary’s professional approach to searching the ancient records gave me enormous confidence in the results, but my favorite memory of him is singing an old Polish lullaby that I knew from my childhood. Their friendly and sociable nature made our visit to Poland especially enjoyable.

Day 3. Piątkowa – village of my paternal grandfather
Click here: Webshots Community - Futoma and Piątkowa (Maciołek)

This was the day I had been waiting for! This was the day I would look for the people of my heart, my father’s family. Although my mother’s side of the family is dear to me, it has long been clear that it is my father’s family that I take after and I was anxious to see the village where they originated. I knew that there were several families with the same surname in Piątkowa, and many had immigrated to the same town in Massachusetts, but my Dziadieu maintained that we were not related. Fortunately, I knew the names of my paternal great-grandparents.

We started with the priest in Futoma, where parish records for Piątkowa are held. He was the friendliest of all the priests we met on this trip. He produced stacks of old record books (see picure below), and seated Cezary at his desk to look at them, and sometimes even helping him with the search. Cezary became completely engrossed in going through the books, so Father Jan showed the rest of us photo albums of his trip to New Jersey, and then invited us for coffee in his dining room. Later I said to Cezary that I was sorry he had missed the treat from the priest, but he replied he was happier looking at the old records.

futoma

cezary
The records that yielded traces of my family were marriage banns, which I was told were as certain as a record of the marriage itself. Suddenly Cezary looked up and said “These people could still be living!” What happened after that is an emotional blur. Father Jan took the telephone book and proceeded to call every family with my surname. He asked each if they were related to "Dominik and Monika." After several nie's (no), I could hear an excited voice saying tak! tak! (yes, yes!). We arranged to meet this family at the bus stop in Piątkowa. When our car pulled up in front of an older woman, a woman my age, and a young man, they greeted me warmly and handed me pictures of Dominik and his brother Ambroży. I was shocked, because it was as though I was looking at photos of my own father! (It turned out that Dominik and Ambrozy were my father’s first cousins.)

We had a whirlwind visit to the cemetery (see picture below for a view from the cemetery) and the homes of the women, where I met additional family members. None of them spoke English, so I was grateful that Zenon was there to translate. At one point he asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask them, and I replied that I was too overwhelmed to think. After taking a few photographs of each family, it was time to leave in order to meet other commitments.


piatkowa

 

Read the last part of the essay entitled: After I Retuned Home (6)

written by Nancy Maciolek Blake, contact the author by e-mail
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