Memories of Dziadka: Rural life in the Kingdom of Poland 1880-1912 and Immigration to America

My new book is about the life of a Polish immigrant from the Russian partition of Poland. It covers his early life in Poland, includes descriptions of his journey to America and his life in his new land. I used my grandfather as the main character but it is not his biography. I included information from accounts from various immigrants to give an example of a complete life and used this format to make it interesting for the reader. My hope is to show what our immigrant ancestors endured to come to America.

Oral History – Fact or Fiction

Our family’s oral history may involve stories of the immigration of the family to America or it may be as simple as saving a family recipe. The information we obtain through conversations with relatives must be taken at face value. But remember that memories often fade and facts get confused with other facts. Some of the facts may not seem accurate but remember that some parts are probably true.

It takes practice to recognize what parts of oral history should be believed but in most cases all portions of the stories should be researched to confirm their validity. Remember that we may never find the complete story because some information simply isn’t available. Also be patient and research the facts thoroughly.

Translate Polish Records

The language used for the records that you find in Polish records will be in Latin, Polish, Russian or German. As you browse the images you should have a list of key words such as dates and relationships to help you select the images that may pertain to your ancestors. You will be able to assemble your list from word lists in the wiki articles at or genealogy books that have glossaries of genealogy terms. Modern translation dictionaries will not normally include the terms that you find in these older documents because many terms have fallen out of use and have been replaced with modern terms.

I have found that translating old Russian records are difficult for those that learned Russian in modern schools because they cannot interpret the old script and are not familiar with the old formal terms. Also the Cyrillic alphabet was changed by Stalin in the 1950s. The Napoleonic format was written in Polish until the Tsar tightened his control over his Polish provenances and required the use of Russian on all records. In 1868, officials and priests began using the Cyrillic alphabet and Russian for vital records Russian was used for this area until after WW I when the language used reverted to Polish.

I hope that my new eBook, Hints for Translating Polish Genealogical Records, will prove help as a quick reference.

Other books that will aid you in understanding Polish records are:

Genealogical Word Lists

Many people have approached me and stated a reluctance to search for the European records of their ancestors because they fear they will have problems translating the documents. I found that translating my ancestors’ records was a challenge but it was not insurmountable or costly to overcome.

Most of the records that I have found were in a tabular format and this allowed me to use the genealogical word lists to easily translate most records. The column heading were typed and therefore easily read. I could then look through the wordlist for the appropriate language and find the translation for each column. The information found in each column was normally a name or a date. If it was not one of these it was the person’s occupation. I was able to find most of the terms found in the documents listed on the word lists. Remember that early Catholic Church records were recorded using Latin and not the native language.

There are various genealogy books that include a word list for their language but the most convenient resource that I use is the wikis found on

Census Records: Your next step after the “shoebox papers”

After you have recorded the oral history and personal documents, I recommend your next step in researching your family history should be finding and recording the information on census records. These records are a snapshot of your family at the time the census was taken and contain a wealth of information that can be used to describe the lives of your family.

When I initially started my research, I used the names to extend my family tree back through the generations. However, the records are much more than a list of names and a head count of the population. I use the information found in the columns that are beyond the names to bring my ancestors alive. Here are examples of using this information:

    • For each address I obtain a picture of the residence and insert the picture into the family history near the narrative listing where my ancestors lived. I feel this gives more insight to the neighborhood where they lived and brings more life to family histories. Early pictures were obtained by traveling to the location and using a camera. My current methods include using Google Maps Street View o find the image of the homes. Printing or downloading this image is not an available option but using the snipping tool program on Windows computers allows me to capture the image and save it for use in my family histories.
  • If the family moved across the continent as the land was settled, I include a map showing the year and the location with connecting lines to show the westward movement.
  • Explore the local and American history for the time period around the census record for events that may have affected your ancestor. This research may uncover reasons for relocations, change of occupation, causes for early deaths or other events in their lives.

Another New Book – a short eBook


 cover - final I tried to rest after publishing Write Your Family History but found inspiration for my second eBook. Once I got the idea, the urge to get it written and published could not be stopped.  It was published two weeks later and I think it will prove to be a great research tool. 

Title and Description:Deciphering the 1790-1840 U.S. Census Records: Two case studies

This book is based on a portion of my program on the census records and the eBook allows me to discuss more details of the two case studies I use to analysis methods to decipher the early U.S. census records


Available on



My new book – Write Your Family History is now available

My new book Write Your Family History: Easy Steps to Organize, Save and Share is now available on Amazon.

Genealogy research should go beyond finding documents and filling in charts. This book outlines a simple process that will aid genealogy research and will also create pages of information that can be easily read and understood by all family members. Your research will become faster and more accurate and your family can enjoy the family history.


Price $17.99


Click here to order


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