Thursday, March 7, 2019

Polish Research - Where Do You Start?

Getting Started
The a3Genealogy International Team has been tackling large Polish ancestry project the past year. We have bragging rights for breaking brickwalls if given enough time.  These projects are not easy, most of the in-country documents are not indexed.  There are different research techniques for Jewish ancestry in Poland, and Catholic.  Let’s further break this down.  Catholic genealogical research is even divided between Roman Catholicism and the Greek Catholic Church.  Have you heard of Ruthenian? I’ll explain that late.  Bu the way…Polish genealogical research is not really in Poland. It includes the full eastern bloc to include Ukraine, Austria, Russia, Hungary, and Czech.  No…it’s not easy! So where do you start.

As with all genealogical research start with yourself.  Exhaust the American or Canadian or European, or Australian records.  Those are just some of our projects.  You should be ferreting out all you can, on you surname (and remember that surname can be spelled in a half dozen ways.)  But start with the most recent spelling and be flexible. What to look for in the online collections?  Yes, start online.  It’s one of the few times I will say, spend lots of time, just pulling online records. 
  • Census records -will give you family units.  Not a big hint since the same names may be in the household three doors down, but pay attention to occupation, military service, education level, age, and place/date of birth.  These small details will become life-safer later.
  • Death records of your immigrant may hold family secrets.  Plus you will want to pull the birth records of all of their children.  This will narrow down the emigration, and help to tie family units in Europe.
  • Military records -these records give us contact persons’ names, and date and place of birth. May mention if your ancestor was an alien or naturalization.  You may find that the next of kin is a wife back in Galicia Poland (let’s say), or family that did not travel, or maybe state where in Galicia, or Tarnapol or one of the powiat, or voivodeship, gmina.  
Collecting more is best.  The reason is when we “jump the pond”, we get to match these people like a Rubik's cube.

  1. Immigration / Passenger List records – Here you are looking for birth information, “home” contact, and arrival contract.  Don’t get discouraged if it names an in-law or acquaintance, as these may be your key to the correct ancestor.  You will want to use all of your tools for this to include but not limited to:
  2. Ellis Island Passenger Search
  3. Familysearch.org, NY Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924
  4. The National Archives, AAD is a great resource for Russian and German (index files).
  5. Naturalization Records – just start online, but you need copies of the originals (the indices gives us minimal details, and really, is more for confusion than untangling family units. Don’t forget Declaration of Intent records (1st Papers).  By the way this is where you will find change of names too.  My Wasyl changed his legally to Walter
  6. Special Boards of Inquiry, Immigration Records,  – a common overlooked one.  There aren’t a lot that have been digitized, but exhaust there first, the find out where your Special Boards of Immigration Inquiry are located (if salvaged).  What will you learn? LOTS!
  • Character of the immigrant
  • Family situation
  • Family members
  • Occupation
  • Migratory path
His Story

Her Story

OH....and 
  • Lots of lies, but more truths.  Luckily these sworn statements help us wade through the obvious issues here.


Immigration Records, Boards of Special Inquiry (BSI)

Today I worked in the Philadelphia, PA Immigration Records, Special Boards of Inquiry, between 1893-1909 digitized on ancestry.com.  I have also worked with this record collection in the regional National Archives - NY. 

Other Sources: 
This is the time for super passenger/manifests list knowledge.  Matter fact, if you have been waiting for an excuse to understand the markings, locations, how to use them,  the time has arrived to be the best friend of passenger and manifests lists.
Kathleen Brandt
a3Genealogy@gmail.com
Accurate, accessible answer

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