Get Organized!

Success in our genealogy research will come more accessible if we are organized. Being organized allows us to quickly access what information we have and keep us on the correct path to find more information.

Being organized means we can quickly find all of the information we have on an individual to do the next search. I also believe it means we can quickly review what we have for an individual to restart our search for his documents after being away from his details for a while.

I do not rely on rows of cabinets and piles of color-coded folders to retrieve my information. I found storage space is always in demand and never enough when you have paper copies. So I now save only electronic copies. My laptop, thumb drives, and external hard drives give me all the space I need to store my copies. They are also easier to carry when I am going to a library or archive to do research.

The most challenging aspect of saving electronic copies is labeling my files with a consistent naming system. Our computers will automatically sort our files alphabetically, so our files need names that place them in a predictable order. In addition, the naming system will allow us to find and review the documents quickly.

However, the most critical aspect of my organization system is prioritizing compiling the information from my documents into summaries for each ancestor. This step is because summaries are the core document in my research method and organization.

Benefits of Summaries

  1. Lists everything I have found for an individual in one place
  2. I can quickly find the criteria  needed to do the next search
  3. The summaries make my research efficient
  4. I spend less time searching my files and more time finding more documents
  5. The system also allows me to analyze the summaries to see what I need to do next and see the stories in the information I found.
  6. Its format is flexible, and I can easily add information in a logical order
  7. It is readable and understood by our non-genealogist family members so we can exchange our treasure-trove of stories
  8. Listing the information in chronological order allows our ancestor’s story to develop and reveal itself to us as we do our research.
  9. Combining the individual summaries is the beginning of our written family history.

Saving the documents using an organized system is essential, but organizing the information that is in the documents is critical to our success. The summaries are the core of my research, and the family histories that I publish for my grandchildren come directly from these crucial narratives.

Begin compiling your data into summaries to be more successful and having more fun!

SAVE THE DATES: October 22, 23, 29 and 30

The  2021 GENEALOGY CONFERENCE is coming with 7-8 speeakers and 10 presentations that help you trace your Polish-American and Eastern European roots.

Sponsored by The Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast, Inc. and The S. A. Blejwas Endowed Chair of the Polish and Polish American Studies, Central Connecticut State University.

More information coming soon. Check back later at https://pgsctne.org/

Scotch-Irish Emigration

The largest group to leave Ireland in the 1700s was the Scotch-Irish. Their ancestors had just arrived from Scotland about 100 years before, but by the early 1700s, they had enough of the British discrimination against them. They decided to leave and then packed everything they had – clothing, personal items, tools, farm implements, and weapons. They were never returning to Ireland. The English laws did not allow the Scots to own any land. So, their only ties to Ireland were the family members they left behind. Many were prosperous farmers and skilled tradesmen who were the backbone of Ulster agriculture and the linen industry. They were farmers, but many were active in the linen trade to supplement their farm income. However, the continued threats of higher rents and fluctuating prices drove even the prosperous tenant farmers to emigrate to America.[1]

Many had money and could afford the passage. If the Scotsmen did not have the 3 pounds 10 shillings needed for the passage, they willingly agreed to be indentured workers in America. They signed contracts with agents or ship captains. They knew the shipping company would sell their indenture contract after arriving in the colonies to farmers, merchants, or tradesmen who needed workers. The agreement was for five to seven years of labor in America and paid for their passage.

Ironically, the Ulster linen trade established the overseas trade routes between the Ulster ports and the American colonies that enabled their immigration to America. Ships hauled many tons of flaxseed and other materials from Pennsylvania to Ulster and were eager to fill their empty cargo holds for the return trip to America. The captains willingly accepted the Scottish emigrants’ money to pay for their passage to America, thus generating new revenue for the ship’s owner.

After the Scots in Ireland made arrangements for passage to America, packed their belongings, they said goodbye to friends and family, loaded their carts, and made their way to the Ulster ports of Londonderry, Portrush, Larne, Belfast, and Newry. Their small ships sailed for Philadelphia and Charleston with about fifty passengers on-board.[2]

Filling the cargo holds with immigrants also solved a desperate problem for the American colonies who needed more workers. Many governors and land promoters in the American colonies offered land, tools, and seed to the immigrants. They sent out advertisements and hired agents to recruit workers to come to America. Charleston, South Carolina, and Philadelphia became the primary destination for the Ulster immigrant, and during the mid-1700s, Charleston rivaled Philadelphia as the port of entry for the Ulster-Scots. After arrival, the immigrants found cheap land without a landlord. They discovered the English Penal Laws did not exist in the colonies, and they did not have to tithe to two different churches. America offered the Scotch-Irish a new beginning and hope for their families.


[1] Blethen, H. Tyler; Curtis W. Wood Jr. From Ulster to Carolina: The Migration of the Scotch-Irish to Southwestern North Carolina, North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

[2] Blethen, H. Tyler; Curtis W. Wood Jr. From Ulster to Carolina: The Migration of the Scotch-Irish to Southwestern North Carolina, North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

What Name Should We Use?

The name of our ancestors can lead to confusion when we find possible variations in the documents. So, what name should we use when we document our research?

I think the question comes up for most people when referring to how to enter the name on a family tree. I tend to use the name most people will use in recognizing the individual in my family tree. In most cases, I will put the baptismal name in parentheses if different.

I place more importance on writing a narrative of the individual for my family history. In the narrative, I can give the various names used in chronological order as I found them on the documents. We may never know why the variants were used. Many may be from the clerk’s understanding of what the name should be – right or wrong and with inadvertent misspellings. In some cases, it is the preference of the individual. Call the individual by the name they prefer but record all rest noting where you found that variation.

Writing a family history narrative for each ancestor gives me the flexibility to list all the names used and lessen the confusion found in the documents. Knowing the name variations helps us find more documents and stories because we have more choices to use in our search criteria. However, let the focus of our research be on our ancestors’ lives and their stories. The narratives make my family history come alive for other family members and give a complete view of their lives.

Hiring a Polish Researcher

Not all records are available online yet. If you are in this situation, you may want to consider hiring a professional researcher. They can help you find the documents that organizations have not digitized yet. Since this may be an expensive option, you will need to be specific in your request, and you should try to use researchers recommended by trusted friends or groups. Also, check with one of the Polish genealogy societies for recommendations.  I have used this option when I could not find a birth record for my grandmother and a marriage record for my great-grandparents. I have also asked a researcher to track down living descendants of my grandparents’ brothers to find older pictures of the family and exchange family stories. I found that paying a researcher to find these documents and people was a bargain compared to the travel costs to perform the research myself in Poland.

Other tips in hiring a researcher in Poland:

  • Your request should be for specific documents. Please do not ask for a generic search.
  • Also, ask how they require payment and be careful with your payments.
  • If you are contacting an archive of Polish group, be prepared to send your email or written request in the language of the country. The Polish Genealogy Society of America (PGSA) offers form letters that you can use for these requests. This jester is a sign of respect, and it may generate a more positive response from the archive. I usually send my request in English and Polish.

Another tip is to use books, local genealogy programs, genealogy societies, genealogy conferences, online educational offerings, and social media to sharpen your genealogy skills. Again, once you start your journey, it will probably be a lifelong passion.

“Remember to have fun.”

Tips on Writing Family History

My Plan of Action

  1. Focus my research and then log information for one person, one location, and one time period
  2. Next, research the family group,
  3. Next, research collateral friends and family,
  4. Next, move on to my next direct ancestor,
  5. Revisit each ancestor as I find new sources of information.

Save information by adding details to a summary for each person.

Below are three examples showing one of my statements and how I expanded it after finding more related details.

Step One: Encyclopedic Statement of Fact

My grandfather Stefan Zuchowski was born on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anny Dmochowski in Dmochy Kudly, Poland.

Step Two: Improved Statement of Birth

The baptismal certificate for my grandfather Stefan John Zuchowski listed that he was born in Dmochy Kudly, Russia, on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anny Dmochowski. He was baptized the next day at the nearby Catholic Parish Church, Peter and Paul the Apostles, in Czyzew.  Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.

Final Narrative: Expand interest by adding descriptions from pictures and other accounts

The birth of my grandfather, Stefan Zuchowski, was in a small cottage in the farming village of Dmochy Kudly, Poland, on December 26, 1893. The next day, his parents Leopold Zuchowski and Anna Dmochowska, carried him five miles down the dirt road to the Catholic Church of Peter and Paul the Apostles to be baptized in Czyzew. Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.

Where Did I get my information for my final narrative? I was creative in my words, but I did not make up the details.

  • Birth and Baptismal Dates – from Stefan’s baptismal record
  • Birthplace and location of church – from Stefan’s baptismal record
  • Descendant from Nobility – notation in the baptismal and marriage records of his parents
  • Size of the cottage – from vintage pictures of the village
  • Condition of roads – from a vintage picture of the village

Points to Remember:

  • Record your facts in chronological order
  • Be accurate but let your personality be part of the narrative
  • Try to vary your information flow
  • Add descriptive information when you can
  • Think of documents as information representing an experience for the family
  • Find other accounts to expand the details of an experience that will give life to your ancestor. The accounts may be of different people as long as they describe the place and time for your ancestor. Use the information from the account to describe the background and history surrounding your ancestor. Use specific information not general history and it must show a direct effect on your ancestors.

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.