When I first dove into genealogy research, I thought that I could find information about my grandparents and their descendants. In my naiveté, I assumed there was little hope for discovering anything about my ancestors before my grandparents. After all, my grandparents were all immigrants, they were all deceased, and no one in my family had ever discussed anything about the lives of my grandparents before they arrived in America.
What a difference the past ten years has made! During the past decade, I have learned about some of my ancestral lines all the way back into the 17th century or earlier. While I, myself, have devoted many, many hours to genealogy research, my genealogical success has been due largely to the assistance of others who have directly provided me with information, written excellent books on genealogy, presented seminars, prepared online information sources, or provided me with assistance in numerous other ways.
Any attempt to list all the people, organizations, institutions, and resources for which I am thankful would be an onerous task and one that would suffer badly from its omissions. Suffice to say that the names of numerous relatives, repositories, and websites would be on the list.
I can, however, enumerate a few resources that were seminal in my early research in Polish genealogy and that I still use on a continuing basis:
The Polish Genealogical Society of America
I have been a member of the Polish Genealogical Society of America for many years, but I made my biggest research breakthrough after I attended an annual conference of the society for the first time. I learned so much during that first conference – information about Polish history, church records, and geography – that has proven to be indispensable in my research. Three resources (two books and one CD) provided by the Polish Genealogical Society of America have proven to be very important in my research:
- Hoffman, William F. 1998. Polish surnames: origins and meanings. Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society of America.
- Hoffman, William F., and George W. Helon. 1998. First names of the Polish commonwealth: origins & meanings. Chicago: Polish Genealogical Society of America.
- Sulimierski, Filip, Bronisława Chlebowski, and Władysław Walewski. 1880-1902. Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich. Warszawa: Filipa Sulimierskiego i Władsława Walewskiewgo.
The Family History Library
As many people know, I travel to Salt Lake City twice a year to research in the venerable Family History Library there. The microfilmed records there have provided me with most of the information I have on my maternal grandfather’s family, and the staff and volunteers at the FHL have, over the years, provided much needed assistance and advice. Although I now spend more time each year at my local Family History Center, renting films from the FHL and viewing them at the FHC, I find the opportunity to spend a concentrated period of time conducting research at the FHL very exhilarating.
In Their Words
I have attended lectures by both Fred Hoffman and Jonathan Shea and have learned a lot from both of them. The two of them have, however, made their greatest impact on my own research through two publications:
- Shea, Jonathan D., and William F. Hoffman. 2000. In their words: a genealogist’s translation guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian documents. Volume one, Polish. New Britain, CT: Language & Lineage Press.
- Shea, Jonathan D., and William F. Hoffman. 2002. In their words: a genealogist’s translation guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian documents. Volume two, Russian. New Britain, CT: Language & Lineage Press.
I keep these two books near my desk at home, and I consult them frequently as I conduct research in Polish records. I’m eagerly awaiting the publication of the next two volumes in the series: German and Latin.
For these resources and for all those who have assisted me in my research, I am eternally thankful.
Written for the Carnival of Eastern and Central European Genealogy.
Copyright © 2008 by Stephen J. Danko