A tale of two villages, or what a difference the LDS makes

Today I upload a new page devoted to my ancestors from the other (western) side of Galicia: the Prusaks and Jareks from Przeciszow and Kwiatonowice respectively.

I have been searching for these ancestors for many years, and with one village I have been able to find records going back to the late 1700s while my wheels are spinning in the mud with the other. What made the difference to me was the fact that one of the villages was microfilmed by the LDS and one was not. So with one side of the family I have many relationships charted and facts verified.

That would be Kwiatonowice, with parish records at Biecz going back quite far. Not to say has it has been easy — it is only by looking at every page and discovering a notation at the end of one year that I discovered that one great-grandparent had later married another, and that 3 children of one first marriage married 3 children of another! Maybe more on that another time…

With Przeciszow, there is not one place I can document that has the originals, much less the microfilms! Letters to the parish church and to various archives over the years have not made a dent in this gap of knowledge. And so I have been left with researching the existing records in the U.S. and trying to piece the truth together. I have learned a lot about the families in the U.S., but before 1901 the trail goes cold.

As a librarian, I know how poorly funded libraries and archives can be, but it would be nice to receive one follow up letter once in a while. Do I keep trying, or not?

And I also know that Przeciszow is only a couple of miles away from Oswiecim/Auschwitz, and there are so many who senselessly lost their lives there and so many people who cannot know the fate of loved ones. My quest to find relatives does not seem so important, but how can I learn if I have relatives who perished there during World War II? What did the Nazis do with the local populace who were not Jews? Were my unknown relatives “righteous”? collaborators? resisters? or just swept along in a flood of human misery? Who survived? What happened to the records of their lives?

Who were they and who am I?

The sounds of their voices

Recently two items have crossed my desk. One was a column from the New York Times by Verlyn Klinkenborg on how the sounds of our voices are so easily lost to time, and the other was a BBC Archives collection of oral history stories by survivors of the Titanic. This got me to thinking about how we as genealogists have a unique opportunity to preserve the sounds of those we love with the ease of today’s recording devices.

Can you remember the voice of a loved one who died 40 or 50 years ago? All I have is the sound of a trumpet on an old polka band recording to remind me of my father. No voice messages, no home movies, just trumpet notes and my fading memories. And I have noticed that I use my mother’s sayings as a way of keeping her memory alive. Wouldn’t it be a thrill to hear our grandparents’ voices?

If you have an elderly, or even not so elderly, relative, maybe you should be recording their words for the next generation. And maybe we should be recording our own voices, too. Sing a lullaby to a generation as yet unborn. Read a family letter. Share the instructions for a favorite family recipe. Retell stories of the old country. Talk about your childhood. Describe the anxieties and joys of living in the year 2013. Personal Story Corps-type recordings can be fun and revelatory. Can you offer any tips on how to achieve this? What are the best tools and techniques?

Are your ancestors from “my town”?

Well, Christmas 2012 and the 2012 pierogi platter are now in the memory files. I was blessed to be given some old family pictures that I did not know existed! Hope you had a happy holiday!

I’ve been trying to find more about the people who left Bialy Kamien at the turn of the last century. Here is a list of surnames I have found so far on the Hamburg passenger lists. Are any of them names you are looking for? Archjmovicz

Please note the wide variety of spellings!

It is interesting to compare my list with the one at the Jewish Records Indexing project – Poland. The people in this project do amazing work and are an inspiration to me.

Favorite maps of Galicia: part 1


If you are new to this area of research, the very first thing you will discover is that the term “Galicia” is used for two very different areas of Europe. When you search for Galicia, ustedes no quieren la región de España! In other words, we are not talking about the region in the northwest of Spain!

Here is the brief description as found on Wikipedia: “Galicia or Halizia (Ukrainian: Галичина (Halychyna), Polish: Galicja, Romanian: Galitia/Halici, German: Galizien; Russian: Галиция (Galitsyia)/Russian: Галичина (Galichina), Czech: Halič, Slovak: Halič, Yiddish: גאליציע (Galitsie), Hungarian: Kaliz/Gácsország/Halics) is an historical region in Central Europe that presently straddles the border between Poland and Ukraine. The area, which is named after the medieval city of Halych, was first mentioned in Hungarian historic chronicles in the year 1206 as Galiciæ. In the 18th century the Galician region was enlarged with territories now found within the modern Polish provinces of Małopolskie Voivodeship and Podkarpackie Voivodeship.”

There are some beautiful historic maps of the area, many of which can be found on the Polish Genealogy Project page.  My personal favorites are the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1:200,000 Topographic Maps. Go to the index map and click on a dotted town to see the incredible detail offered in these maps. Very few small villages are not on these maps. This was one of the first maps I saw that showed Bialykamien (on the Brodi section), but I found it in an actual atlas at the Minneapolis Minnesota public library years ago. How wonderful that so many beautiful maps are now online! Maps and gazetteers are your friends!

Genealogy in the “old days”

Anybody else remember the 1970s? That’s when I first got hooked on family history. We did have genealogy societies for Poles, and people of all ethnicities were beginning to trace their roots. And many of us knew next to nothing about where our families came from.

We knew that all the grandparents came over on big boats because life was just too hard in the old country. I grew up near Ellis Island (in the days before it was restored) and so I knew just where they landed. Every time I saw the Statue of Liberty I tried to imagine seeing it for the first time from a huge, crowded steamship. What did they think of America? How did they ever manage keeping children safe and in line on such boats?  How busy New York Harbor must have been!  Would I have dared to take such a journey?

Why did genealogy become so popular just AFTER the first generation of immigrants had died? We lost the real experts and were left with tantalizing clues and crossed signals. And in the days before computers and the Internet, we had to rely on the mail to bring and pick up the painstakingly filled out  forms of various official offices. If we tried to write to the Old Country often the mail came back with censor stamps. People were just beginning to create volumes of surnames and researchers with contact information.

And yet, we had the bug, we were bitten and just kept on going. The potential rewards were too great. Identity was just around the corner!

Searching serendipity!

Today I would like to thank Mundia for their fascinating site. Thanks to them I now have a new distant relative to share information with! It is so cool to find someone who met my grandfather — in 1947!!!

Mundia is kind of an offshoot of ancestry.com that allows people to mount trees and multimedia files. So good to see so many other folks so willing to share information. If you haven’t checked it out, take a bit of time to do so.

A piece of blue paper, and the journey begins

I still remember the thrill I had many years ago when I finally got my mother to write down the name of the village where her parents were born. In her inimitable style, she took a scrap of blue paper and wrote down the word “Bialykamien.”  She pronounced it for me and that was about all I had to go on. A name, and the fact that it used to be in Poland, but was now in Ukraine. Oh, and yes, when she lived there as a little girl it was in the Austro-Hungarian empire. And at some point there was something going on with Lithuanian princes and Polish princesses  (raise your hand if you have heard stories like this).

I should have known right there and then that genealogy was not to be easy for me. Legends and wars and boundary changes and lost records were going to come in the way of finding out who my ancestors were (and maybe who I was, too). Not to mention an Iron Curtain and my complete ignorance of the languages I would be seeing. That’s why the word “Wanderings” in my title is so appropriate; there is no straight pathway for anyone who researches this particular area of the world.

Welcome! Witamy! Вітаємо!

Hoping to  use this as a forum for Galician genealogy and for forging connections among people from the former Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire and their descendants all over the world.

My personal interest is Polish and Ukrainian genealogy, but those searching for Jewish and  other roots are more than welcome, as this region has a complicated history and the more we share, the more I hope understanding will  occur among us all.