Helpful Books on Polish Genealogy

Books on Polish genealogy are another important element in developing your genealogy research skills. Polish Roots. Second Edition 2nd Edition by Rosemary Chorzempa and Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research by Jonathan Shea have proven to be reference volumes explaining many of the Polish documents that are available.  Sto Lat: A Modern Guide To Polish Genealogy by Cecile Wendt Jensen and my book Polish Genealogy: Four Steps to Success present plans to logically do Polish genealogically research.

The challenges of translating your Polish records can be reduced by using the glossaries found in Jonathan Shea’s book Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research and the series he wrote with William Hoffman In Their Words – Polish, Latin, and Russian. If you find Polish records in the narrative format, you will find A Translation Guide to 19th Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin is an excellent user-friendly and practical resource.

Go to my page Helpful Book on Polish Genealogy for more details and a list of more books.

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Is Roots Magic winning the marketing battle with Family Tree Maker?

Roots Magic just released their version 7.5 which interfaces with Ancestry.com for the first time. Now RM users can see hints for Ancestry.com records along with the hints they are enjoying from Familysearch.org, MyHeritage, and Findmypast. The new interface also includes our family trees we have on Ancestry which RM is calling Treeshare.  RM’s Treeshare is not the same as FTM’s Tree-syncing but does allow users to connect to Ancestry family trees, compare differences and changes between Ancestry and RM trees, and then select what information to migrate between the two versions. FTM Treesync allows Ancestry and FTM trees to be the same. RM Teeshare allows you to have additional people in your RM tree and be different from your Ancestry tree. I like the additional control RM gives me, but it does take more time to make the comparison.

My experience with FTM14.1 which is currently available is satisfactory, but interfaces with only Ancestry.com.  Mackiev has promised their new version FTM2017 will improve the syncing function and add an interface with Familyserch.org. However, the release of FTM2017 has been delayed and is about six months overdue.

With the release of RM7.5, Roots Magic seems to have moved ahead of FTM, but what will happen when FTM2017 is finally released? How much market share will FTM lose as now that RM7.5 has been released and the release of FTM2017 continues to be delayed? How much better will FTM2017 need to be to win back the market share they lost since the announcement by Ancestry to discontinue FTM?

I have been a long-time FTM user but my loyalty is being tested, and I am on the edge of the fence with my decision. FTM14.1 does not interface with Ancestry as well as older versions, but I think this is due to Ancestry not owning FTM and not due to the software. Will the interface between Ancestry and FTM2017 remain the same, go back to the old level, or get better. Only the release of FTM2017 will give us the answer.

Write-down Your Family Memories for Future Generations

 

It is important for us to save our memories for future generations, especially for parents and grandparents, because writing down the stories is a great way to personalize our family history narratives. Below are a few of the memories of my grandmother that I included at the end of my narrative for her. Using the first-person voice seems to bring the memory more to life.

  • “After I had started at St Pat’s School, I began walking with my grandmother the two blocks to St Patrick’s Church for Sunday Mass. This walk was always a pleasant walk in good weather, and I would ramble on with stories of various topics that she would patiently listen to and sometimes comment. She was always very patient with me.””
  • “Dinners at the Zuchowski table were very basic. Grandma did not bring any Polish recipes with her from the old country. Our meals consisted of meat, potato, and a vegetable. However, I was picky about what foods I liked to eat, and grandma would usually make something special for me. Later as an adult, I was frustrated when my children were picky, but I have a special love for my grandmother for spoiling me.”
  • “In the late 1950s, Grandma worked in the kitchen at Auth’s which was a local restaurant. One night she brought home a catfish dinner that was left over from their weekly fish fry. This was the first time I had catfish, and I liked it. After that, I would occasionally stop at the kitchen door of Auth’s when she was working to get another taste of catfish.”

We need to think about our ancestors and the memories we want to pass along to our children and grandchildren. We need to write them down and save them, so they will not be lost. If not us, who will do it?

March 12 at Palatine Library: Local Author Fair

Join me on March 12 at the Palatine Library for their Local Author Fair. Eighteen other authors. It should be fun.

 

Saving Your Ancestors for Future Generations

Saving the family history for the next generation is the main reason I print my family histories. I see more interest from my children when they are reading the narratives and viewing the pictures. They show no interest in doing the research but have begun to ask many more questions. The grandchildren have also read some of the passages. Leaving my work in a bound printed book gives me more hope that someone in a future generation will continue the story. Self-publishing is an economical method to publish a bound book and still limit distribution to family members. Self-publishing also allows me to speak in my voice and tell the story of my ancestors.

POLISH CHRISTMAS

Celebrating holidays and special events gave the Polish people an overall rhythm to their lives during the year. My Polish ancestors enjoyed this rhythm as the seasons and weather changed. One of my Polish cousins told me his extended family and neighboring villagers would come together for the celebration of the customs for the different holidays occurring during each season. The celebrations gave them relief from their daily work, and they would look forward to the next festive time.

Thoughts of the Christmas festivities began with the four weeks of Advent which begins the preparation for Christmas with fasting and prayer. At the start of the holiday season, mothers and grandmothers in the Dmochy and Przezdziecko areas began cleaning their homes, and they began preparing those special dishes and treats such as Christmas cakes.

My grandparents told me Christmas seemed to create a magical atmosphere. It was a special time when people forgot all their problems and tried to be together. Christmas helped people transform themselves from the cold dark realities of winter into a better mind by enjoying the festive celebrations surrounding Christmas. Family, relatives, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers became kind, friendly and generous.

On Christmas Eve, the Christmas trees were set up in most homes. My grandmother and grandfather both told me they always had a Christmas tree in their home because it was always special to the children. However, their trees were set up differently. The trees were hung from the ceiling in Poland. Their families decorated the trees with walnuts wrapped in silver and gold foil, bright red apples, gingerbread in fancy shapes, and chains made of glossy colored paper. A manger was set up in the church in Czyzew and also in my grandfather’s home. My grandmother said they did not have a manger to set up. My grandparents said that they and their brothers and sisters made many of the decorations, but the manger and some of the foil decorations were ones used by my great-grandmother’s family.

The children watched for the first star to appear in the night sky because this was the signal for beginning the supper. After sighting the star, those attending the celebration knelt in prayer. Next, father broke the Christmas wafer (opłatek), took a piece, and passed it around the table for each person to do the same. Then, the family exchanged holiday wishes in the form of prayers such as God bless you (Niech cię Bóg błogosławi); God give you happiness (Daj Ci Boze szczescie).

The opłatek were unleavened wafers that were baked from pure wheat flour and water and were usually rectangular in shape and very thin. They were identical in composition to the communion wafers used in the Catholic mass. The Opłatki wafers were embossed with Christmas related religious images, varying from the nativity scene, especially Virgin Mary with baby Jesus, to the Star of Bethlehem.

After the wafer had been passed around the table, everyone then got to taste the traditional dishes that were prepared by mother and her kitchen helpers. The meal included cheese, sauerkraut pierogi, fish in various forms, fish or mushroom soup with noodles, herring, boiled potatoes, dumplings with plums and poppy seeds, stewed prunes with lemon peel, a compote of dried fruit and poppy seed cake. The traditional Christmas dishes followed the rule to use food from each of the family’s food sources: grains from the field, vegetables from the garden, fruit from the orchard, mushrooms and herbs from the woods, and fish from the sea, rivers, or ponds.

After supper, the candles on the tree were lit by the entire family or sometimes by only the children. Then the entire family joined in singing Christmas carols. After the singing, father, mother, or a grandparent would tell old Polish Christmas legends and different stories of how Christmas was celebrated in ancient times. One favorite story was about the belief that the farm animals spoke in human voices at midnight.

Beginning on Christmas Eve and continuing through the holidays, groups of boys from the village and the two nearby villages went around singing Christmas carols for their neighbors. They usually carried a szopka which was a miniature stable, with figures of the Holy Family, the shepherds, and the animals mounted on a pole or a platform and carried shoulder-high. One person in the group carried the star and was the gwiazdor or the star boy. My grandfather told me he was the star boy for the Christmas before he left for America. Over time, the person who carried the star became known as jolly St. Nick.

The festivities ended with the family blowing out the candles and then traveling to church to attend midnight mass.

On Christmas Day, the Zuchowski and Chmielewski families spent the day at home eating, singing and enjoying the family. On the second day of Christmas, they ventured out to visit friends and family in the neighboring villages.

 

How did Immigrants Pack to Leave Home Forever?

What would you pack if leaving your home forever? How would you feel if you did not have room for a favorite item?

Emigrants had to decide carefully what personal belongings to bring with them. Letters from their immigrant friends and relatives warned them that there was limited space available on their voyage, they only had room for the bare necessities. Items that families were able to pack often consisted of clothes, tools needed for a skilled trade, possibly a family Bible and a picture of their parents, family heirlooms, and necessary provisions for the trip. These items were typically packed in one trunk or perhaps a few suitcases to fit in the limited space that they were allowed. They stored their trunk in the ship’s cargo area. The early steerage passengers were given very little storage space near their sleeping area. They were allowed to carry only a few items that they could store on the beds. As the size of ships increased and sanitary conditions improved, shipping lines allocated more storage space in the steerage sleeping areas. Suitcases or carry-on items were stored in the sleeping area for the family to access during the trip.

Single males and females had accumulated less clothing and personal items to pack, but the selection process may have been difficult because they had to give away a favorite item.

How would you say goodbye forever?

The emigrant was leaving home, possibly forever.  Many had been traveling outside of their parish and their comfort zone for the first time. They were leaving their friends,  siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They had to say goodbye as if they would never see them again. Some of the emigrants had thoughts of returning; an estimated twenty percent did return. However, most emigrants would never see their loved ones or homes again.

My grandmother, Anna Chmielewska, told my mother “that after I had received Hipolit’s letter telling me to come to Camden New Jersey,  I cleaned and repaired the clothing that I was going to take with me, and I looked through my other things such as hair brushes, pictures and jewelry to decide what I wanted to take with me to New Jersey. The letters from Hipolit also included money that was used for the tickets and I also purchased a used suitcase for my things. When the day to leave came, Boleslaw put my bags on his cart and drove me the seven miles to the train station at Czyzew. We had waited about an hour before the train came for me to leave Boleslaw, my family, and Poland forever. I was crying, and he gave me his last hug and helped me onto the train.

As you write your family history, try to find the words that let your family feel some of the joys and sorrows that your ancestors felt. Exploring answers to some of the above questions will probably bring your ancestors alive.