Celebrating Easter with our Ancestors

Easter was an important celebration for my Polish ancestors, and I find it exciting when I feel I have found a way to celebrate it with my deceased ancestors.

The season begins long-before Easter Sunday with zapusty or pre-Lenten traditions. Do you remember when the nuns at your school sat us down to list what we were giving up for Lent? Candy was a popular item on my friends and my list. I also remember Sister Valentine marching me and my fellow first-graders to a pew in the Church on Ash Wednesday to be marked with ashes on my forehead. Over the next few years, I understood the symbolism of this ritual. Adults in various countries made their lists, but they came together at Mardi Gras or Carnival for a tremendous round of merrymaking on the days. I never experienced a Mardi Gras-type celebration, but I remember the careful steps the nuns had their students do in preparations for the Lenten season.

How can we come closer to our ancestors during the Easter season?

  • Enjoy a special snack with our family eating the traditional Paczki on Fat Tuesday.
  • Make egg decorating a family activity with both the simple one and two-color eggs and some family members trying to make the intricate Pisanki eggs.
  • Have our Polish priest bless willows and hang over our doorways.

Most importantly, celebrate our Easter family feast with traditional Polish foods such as the traditional egg slices, sausages, pierogi, soups, vegetables, and a chocolate egg hunt for the children. (In 2021, the size of this gathering should be smaller, but the use of virtual devices could have our normal attendance using multiple locations.)

Always, celebrate our Polish heritage of traditional holidays and let our children and grandchildren learn about their ancestors.

Virtual Genealogy Class at Harper College

I am excited to present my beginning genealogy course through Harper College Continuing Education. This virtual course will be given at 7 PM for the next three Mondays: March 1, 8, 15. Each class will run 2 hours. Use the link below to sign up if interested.

LAA0011 – Genealogy: Start Your Family History

Genealogy: Start Your Family History

Learn a process to help start research and get hints to make your research successful. Before spending countless hours doing unproductive research, learn about a proven success that will guide you to the genealogical information you’re looking for. You will learn about DNA research and the various tests that are available. Discover research methods to make your efforts more efficient and create documents to share with family. Students gain hands-on experience in using the internet for research. LAA0011-004 ONLINE – Live Meetings 03/01/21-03/15/21 MO 7:00 pm-9:00 pm Instructor: Stephen Szabados TUITION & FEE: $75.0

New Book, Irish Immigration to America

My new book, “Irish Immigration to America,” is now available on Amazon. This should become a great resource and a must-have when writing your Irish family history. When did your Irish ancestors immigrate, where did they leave, why did they leave, how did they get here? The author hopes you find the answer to some of these questions. The book will give insight into the immigration of your ancestors. Irish immigration had many factors, and the Great Potato Famine only magnified the main causes.

 

Available on Amazon

Who are Your Ancestors?

After all your work finding genealogy documents, what are you doing to save them? Will your family keep them or throw them out when you are no longer here? Most family members do not understand our charts and family trees, but they love the stories. Find the stories in your documents. Dig out the details. What was the address of the house – find a picture to see how large it was. Where did they work? Who were their neighbors? Where did they shop? Find photos of the neighborhood.

How are you saving the stories? You can publish a newsletter and send out regular issues to all your family members. You can create a blog or do videos. I publish family history books with narratives that tell a story and include many pictures from the family albums, copies of all of my documents, and some family trees.

Who will do it if not you? Save the stories for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Let them know their ancestors.

Haller’s Army during WW I

 

Here is a must-see video for all of you who had relatives serving in Haller’s Army during WW I. The video tells the story of one man’s search for information about his great-grandfather’s service. He found many pictures and films showing many details beyond what you have read in the past. It covers the formation, training, and post-war service in Poland. The video may not be about your ancestor, but it will give you fantastic insight into what they experienced.

Watch the video

Your DNA Test Results: Fact or Fiction

DNA test kits seem to be a popular gift idea. The testing companies have filled our TV screens with ads promising to unlock the locations of our ancestral homes and magically fill out our family tree. Can submitting a DNA sample fulfill these promises?

DNA testing is a powerful tool in genealogical research, but it is one of many tools that help us fill in the blanks of our family history. However, we also have to be careful as to when you take a DNA test. Submitting a sample as your first step in your family history research will usually produce confusing results. Basic document research should be the starting point in doing family history research.

Also, have a specific goal in taking the test. Are you genuinely interested in researching your family history, or do you just want to know your ethnicity? In both cases, please delay submitting your DNA sample until you know more about the origins of your family. Your DNA test results will not magically show you the answers and will probably be confusing unless you have done other research.

One reason many people seem to be taking the test is to reveal their ethnicity. Am I Polish or German or Russian? I see many matches in my DNA results with no attached trees and this makes me believe the test taker only wants to see their ethnicity and not do the family history research. However, their ethnicity results will probably be too general to answer people’s questions. In fact, this is one of the many complaints I hear from people when talking about their results.

DNA testing for genealogy is a relatively new science. Determining your ethnicity is based on the use of algorithms (complicated formulas) and comparing your DNA to base populations. Each testing company has a set of algorithms and base populations that are different. So, each company may give you a different set of ethnic percentages. Also, the base populations extend across broad geographical boundaries, that have seen vast back and forth migrations of the different groups of ethnic people. So, it is difficult to differentiate the DNA of many ethnic groups from their neighbors. Intermarriage has mixed their DNA over the centuries. For example, the DNA of Germans is similar to the DNA of the French. Also, most people living along the Mediterranean Sea coast have similar DNA. Likewise, the Poles have mixed their DNA with their German, Russian, Austrian, and Scandinavian neighbors for many centuries. Remember, the use of DNA is a developing science, and the accuracy of the results will improve in the future. Can you wait?

If you just want to submit your sample to see the origins of your ancestors, this may not be the time to take the test for you. If you want to start researching your family history, your DNA test results may give you clues on where to look. However, I would recommend waiting until you have found some of the basic documents such as census records or birth, marriage, and death records, and completed three to four generations of your family tree.

Doing basic genealogical research will give your family history a better foundation, and your DNA results may not be as confusing.

If you do not want to do the research and your children gave you a test kit, submit your sample. However, be patient when looking at your test results. Do not be frustrated with your ethnicity percentages. You may have to wait a few years before it makes sense. Doing basic genealogical research (such as census records, naturalization papers, passenger lists, and a basic family tree) will always help you understand the results faster.

If you do not want to immerse yourself in the details of doing research, make it a project with your children if they gave you the kit. Make them do the research, and you fill in the stories you remember. That strategy could be a fun family project and a great way to pass along your memories to your children and grandchildren.

Christmas Suggestions for Your Czech Friends and Relatives

Suggestions for Christmas

 

 

Here two fantastic websites for Polish related Christmas gifts and decorations:

Polish Art Center – https://www.polartcenter.com/

Polish American Journal (see Books and Gifts Tab) http://www.polamjournal.com/

 

Stay Safe During the Holidays

This year with the threat of Covid-19 looming around us, our holiday celebrations may seem even more critical to our lives as we pray to return to normal activities. Will the magical feeling we get from celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family make this return to normalcy possible? Or will family gatherings bring unwanted results? We need to have a balance between celebrating with our families and practicing safe contact. How can we do this and still stay safe?

Decorating the house inside and out can quickly and safely get the family into the Holiday Spirit. The decorations can give our family the warm, welcoming feeling of Christmas as soon as they drive up to our home. However, inside the house, the risk of transmitting Covid-19 increases, and we should take steps to minimize this risk.

Here are my common-sense suggestions:

  1. Do not travel to attend the family party. Everyone needs to stay close to home – different states and different counties follow different rules and cause confusion.
  2. Schedule your family gathering at a large enough house to maximize social distancing in the sitting areas. Do not congregate in the kitchen.
  3. Add tables to increase elbow room at the tables when eating
  4. Deliver food, beverages, and presents a few days before the gathering to allow time to wipe down packages and containers. Avoid last-minute shopping.
  5. Prepare food only at the location of the party.
  6. Minimize who handles food, dishes, and utensils
  7. Minimize who handles Christmas presents
  8. Before the party, ask family members if they have Covid-19 symptoms, and those who have symptoms should stay home
  9. Have masks available for all family members to wear if they need to
  10. Ask family members who have attended holiday parties at work or with friends at bars or restaurants to wear masks or stay home
  11. Have hand sanitizer dispensers available at multiple places at the party and encourage their use
  12. Inform family members about these practices in writing before the party

These may seem like extreme measures, but they will minimize the risk of transmission of the virus at your party. I feel they are needed because I would be devastated if a family member became infected with the virus at my family celebration.

Even with the above practices, you can still enjoy the festivities. Focus on enjoying traditional Holiday meals with all your favorite. What will you serve? Bring out the family photo albums and scrapbooks. Try to create an atmosphere that encourages everyone to remember family stories. If there are small children, read Christmas stories to them. Sing a few Christmas carols to bring the group together. Take pictures and write down the family stories.

Best wishes, and I hope you follow many of my suggestions. Have fun but stay safe.

Why is the Immigration Story Important?

Our immigrant ancestors are:

  • The foundation of our roots in the United States.
  • Do not underestimate their sacrifices and contributions.
  • Consider their role in the factories and farms of the U.S.
  • Their work and lives were building blocks in the growth of their new country.

 Each immigrant has a unique immigration story. Record the narrative passed down by our parents and grandparents. Then dig out the details from all resources and match the historical reasons to the family oral history. Unlock more stories by looking at the documents, photos, family stories, and social history. Find out how do they relate. Do the work, add to your Family Histories, and honor your ancestors.