Naturalization of Our Ancestors: establishing our roots in America

The naturalization of our ancestors establishes our family roots in America. They were part of the wave of emigration that left Europe with the hope of finding work and a better life. They saw immigration to America as their last chance.

Our lives would be much different if they did not endure the challenges of immigration to America. Do not underestimate their contributions. They may have left us some material wealth, but the most important contribution they left is their family and their role in the factories and farms of the United States. Their lives were building blocks in the growth of their new country. Remember that they made many sacrifices for us and their daily work helped build the United States.

I believe that our role should be to leave something that will help our children remember them.

Research and record the details of their journey to arrival and naturalization. It is an important part of your heritage. Capture the memories by writing your family history. If not you, who will do it?

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Understanding our Ancestors May Help Us Understand Ourselves

Understanding our ancestors may help us understand who we are.  To gain this understanding, our genealogy research should go beyond the names, dates, family trees, and documents that are standard talking points in genealogy discussions. Review the facts and events that you find about your ancestors and ask Why? How? Where? When? You may not find the answers, but exploring their options may give you a better insight into the character of your ancestors. Review carefully the challenges that your ancestors faced and how it may have affected them.  Remember that some points of their character may have filtered down to you through the generations.

 For my grandmother, I tried to envision her early days in Poland. I sought accounts of what happened around her village during World War I. What fears and challenges did she face during her immigration to America. What did she find after she arrived to live with her brother? How did she react and overcome the challenge of an arranged marriage and making a new life in America in a town where she knew no one.

 My grandmother had a significant influence on me. When I was able to relate the challenges in her life to the points of character that I saw in her, I was able to understand how her accomplishments had silently influenced my character.

 Try this process for one of your ancestors and you may be amazed by what happens.

Social History and our Ancestors

Social history is defined as the study of our everyday lives and was an important part of the lives of our ancestors. We may think of our ancestors as unique individuals but, they were usually part of groups that reacted to the economic and political pressures that surrounded them. Researching the historical context in which our ancestors lived will add a historical background that may help answer questions and explain behaviors. Common elements in the daily lives of that can be researched include their residence, occupation, religion, local politics, local economy, family migration, military experiences and social status. Including this information and events could add important insights into our ancestors’ lives and help portray them as real people and not just names on a chart.

When adding social history as a background for your ancestors be sure to mention your sources and draw your conclusions after presenting evidence that leads to those conclusions. Be careful not to fictionalize their lives by forcing their lives into events that they did not take part. Avoid inserting famous historical events that are not relevant to your family history.

 I have used many sources for the social history that I have added to my histories. I used general history books and many other books that I found at my local library.  I also used the internet to find various articles and books about various topics such as the journey that immigrants endured. Other sources that may give historical references that can be used in our histories may be found in letters and diaries, favorite recipes and notes in cookbooks, biographies, histories of urban ethnic neighborhoods and county histories.

Social history has brought more life to my ancestors. However, as a general rule, I try to add as much social history as I can but these events must affect the lives of my ancestors. As an example, a brief history of the railroad shops in Bloomington, Illinois will help explain why my family was in Bloomington seeking jobs. However, explaining the workings of all of the various departments in the shops is overkill.

As I stated earlier, our genealogy research should be more than collecting documents. Your genealogy research can generate a family history that will be a wonderful treasure for many future generations of your family.

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Merry Christmas to all.

Enjoy your Christmas Feast. What memories do you want to save? Ask your siblings what are their Christmas memories.

Write them down so future generations can enjoy them.

 

Save Your Christmas Memories

Your Christmas memories is a magical portion of your family history. Capture them while they are fresh in your mind. Show your brothers, sisters, and cousins photos from past Christmas days and the stories will flow. Record or write down what is said. Those words will be an extraordinary gift to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren when they read your family history. Honor your grandparents and capture their memories. Their lives are important building blocks for our roots in America. Celebrate with their Christmas traditions and remember to enjoy the spirit of Christmas every day.

Genealogy and Your Polish Heritage

Now is a time for us to celebrate our Polish Heritage and I feel one of the best ways to do this is through researching our Family History(Genealogy).

Try to find information on your Polish immigrant ancestors.  Read accounts that describe Polish life in areas close to where your ancestors left. Was it a rural or urban area? Try to find vintage pictures of the town, church, and homes. Find accounts that describe the daily lives of the villagers.

What challenges did they face on their journey to America?

  • What port did they go to for their voyage to America?
  • How did they get to the port? Was there a train station near their village?
  • How was life onboard the ship? How large was the ship? How many decks?
  • Review the passenger manifest to see if there were many Polish men. What were the occupations of the other Polish immigrants? Who did your ancestor talk to during their voyage?

What was their voyage to America like? What were their experiences when they arrived at te port? What were their fears?

Their destination was usually listed on the passenger list. Who was at their destination in America? What was the relationship to the person listed on the passenger list?  This information is part of the chain migration story. How did they get from the port to their destination? Train, trolley, or walking?

Why did they come? If you do not know, explore some possible reasons. Do not assume that the reason was economic or to avoid the military draft. Did other siblings immigrate? Did their parents immigrate? What was the status or occupation of your ancestors in Poland?  Multiple factors forced the migrations from Poland, and your immigrant may have been affected by more than one cause.

Look through early pictures in family albums and also history books of the local area and neighborhoods. Pictures of their homes, neighborhood, and their church are very important. Try to describe their lives in America.

Identify where they worked because this would have been a significant part of their lives. The growth of America needed the immigrants who worked in the factories or on a farm in the late 1800s, or early 1900s. Without their labor, America would not have grown as quickly. Do not sell them short.

Look at their overall life in America. How did they enjoy their new life? Did they do anything outside of work? Did they have a hobby? Were they active in a fraternal group? Did you find pictures of family gatherings? How was their life here better than what they would have had in Poland?

You will not find answers to most of these questions. However, asking the questions and researching for the answers will give you a perspective of what your ancestors experienced and give you a better understanding of their character and your Polish Heritage.

Now sit back, read, and enjoy what you find.

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.