Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Eastern European Church Records to the Rescue

Typically, seeking ancestors in Eastern Europe is quite time consuming. Rarely will we find family units who were stationary for generations.  But, church records will be the researcher’s best friend. 

A few key tips to working in Eastern Europe:

  1. Familiarity with location and surname - location association
  2. Be guided by a strategic research plan that allows for expansion and molding as your research unfolds
  3. Keen eye for detail.  One accent can move the researcher from one voivodeship (province), powiat (county / district), or gminas (municipalities)

Location Confusion
The structure of the voivodeship (province), powiat (county / district), or gminas (municipalities) is the first hurdle.  Researchers should be quite familiar with this location’s idiosyncrasies. 

One research project, based on US documents suggesting Galicia, lead us to Dobromil.. The surname we were researching was also seen in the area.  After coming up empty handed on our original targeted search, we uncovered a bit more about the region.  

Dobromil (given name), a given name of Slavic origin
Dobromil, Lower Silesian Voivodeship (south-west Poland)
Dobromil, Podlaskie Voivodeship (north-east Poland)
Dobromilice, a village and municipality in Prostějov District in the Olomouc Region of the Czech Republic.
Dobromil, the Polish name for the town of Dobromyl, Ukraine

Strategic Research Plan (must be fluid)
 Extensive research tying surnames and location led us  to explore Drohomyśl (Jaworów ). As I mentioned, church records can be our best friend. In the District of Jaworów in Galicia our first set of tips and hints were buried in the following locale's collections:

  • Wełykie/Velkie (Michowa Greek Catholic Center)
  • Drohomyśl (Jaworów)

Our original research plan was designed to  research in Poland, Lwow, Dobromil 1784-1875, with our target on Church Records, 1784-1875; and our research plan expanded to in Roman Catholic parish register of marriages and deaths in Wielkie Oczy, Galizien, Austria; now Wielkie Oczy (Lubaczów), Rzeszów, Poland. 

Keen Eye for Detail: Spelling is Similar but Locale is Different

This research Included Drohomyśl, Galizien, Austria; later Drohomyśl (Jaworów), Lwów, Poland; now Drohomyshl′, I︠A︡voriv, L'viv, Ukraine.

Again we began with the church records. Many of these church records are already digitized on Familysearch.org. Here are just a few of the relevant ones: 

Strzelbice, Lviv Ukraine, Stari Sambir (Starosamborski region) 
Wełykie [Velkie] Lviv Ukraine, Stari Sambir (Starosamborski region) 
Metrical Books, 1837-1894 Greek Catholic Church Kniazpol (Dobromil
Metrical books,1784-1906, Greek Catholic Church. Drohomyśl (Krakowiec), Greek Catholic Church records (births, marriages, deaths) for Drohomyśl (Krakowiec), Galizien, Austria; later Drohomyśl (Jaworów), Lwów, Poland; now Drohomyshl′, I︠A︡voriv, L′viv, Ukraine

Final Tip / Hint
Research plans must be fluid with every hint or tip uncovered. Sometimes we must expand our Research Plan to a larger daunting region to locate our answers. Enjoy the journey.

Kathleen Brandt


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Immigrant Society Records and Genealogy


Irish, Jewish, Catholic, Greek, Plus Other Records

Ancestors left their home places, families and the comforts of their language and community behind when they took the voyage to the new world. The world of hope was on the other side of the sea.  Those who made the trip were processed at ports like Ellis Island, exiting to what should have been a land of opportunity. These were the lucky ones; albeit homeless, poor, and sick.

Their luck often ran out as they exited the processing station. They needed shelter, food, jobs and healthcare, but they were often met by "runners" known as scammers, today. With little knowledge and a bit weary and desperate, they often fell into the trap of being exploited.  With each flood of ethnic emigrations, new arrivals fell prey. That is until Immigration Societies began forming with the mission to provide the basic needs. Food, cash, housing and guidance was provided to the new immigrant. Some societies offered lists of upstanding businesses and care for children and women.

Was My Ancestor Sponsored?
Between 1880-1920 these aid societies were in abundance, but they were established as early as the late 1700's, like the ones for Irish refugees. You may find in passenger lists that your ancestor was supported by an Emigrant Society or ethnic aid society. Obituaries may list your ancestor's involvement or membership.  Church records may record assistance given to your ancestor upon arrival.  I've seen ancestors recorded immigrant records supported by the Catholic church, Greek Orthodox, and Jewish organizations, to name a few: 

Catholic Emigrant Societies.  Visit the New Advent, Emigrant Societies for a listing of Catholic emigrant societies.

Charitable Irish Society
. In 1737 twenty-six men organized the Charitable Irish Society in Boston, Mass. The society collaborated "with the Irish Immigration Center and the Irish Pastoral Centre." Employment, housing, education, finance, health, and the law seminars were offered.  Charitable Irish Society Records, 1737-2008 may be found at the Massachusetts Historical Society. 

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS).  The HIAS, founded in 1881, provided meals, transportation, jobs and temporary housing for Manhattan Jewish immigrants. http://www.hias.org/ The American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) collection includes immigrants arriving in Boston,  Providence and Rhode Island, between 1870 and 1929.  Arrival cards, individual case files, and passenger lists from the Boston HIAS are now held at the AJHS which has a collection of over 100 years. 

Emigrant Aid Society.  The Emigrant Aid Society founded in 1841, supported Irish immigrants. In 1850, the Emigrant Savings Bank was founded to provide safe banking practices to include sending bank drafts back to Ireland.  Records from 1841 - 1975 are held at the New York Public Library Manuscript Division. These records may also be found at the Family Search Library.

Royal Philanthropic Society.  In 1788 the Royal Philanthropic Society was organized "for the admission of the offspring of convicts and the reformation of criminal poor children." Mostly these children roamed the streets of Great Britain (majority in London) and parents had been either transported to Australia. or of Australian heritage. According to the website, this society housed, clothed, fed, schooled and apprenticed these children with the end goal that that they would become "useful members of society." The Admission, Discharge and Other Records, 1788-1890 can be found at the Family History Library.

Where to Begin
These records are not centralized.  But the search for where they are housed is worth the effort.  They are full of ancestral data.  A good place to start for Immigrant Society research is at the Family Search Library website using the keywords "Emigrant Societies." Be sure to expand your search.

Don't forget your State Historical Society, local libraries and additional information may be found in Ethnic Genealogical Society collections, which may be found via a simple Google search (i.e. Polish Society).

(Post updated 15 Sep 2020; original 2011).

Kathleen Brandt