I woke up at 5:15 this morning to catch my flight to Chicago. Pretty much everything went smoothly – no traffic to the airport, the plane was on time. My plane was scheduled to arrive at 3 PM and the conference began at 4 PM, so I decided to carry my luggage on the plane so I could get to the conference as soon as possible. Unfortunately, security screening seized my toothpaste.
Since this is a Polish Genealogy Conference, while on the plane, I got myself in a Polish genealogical mood by reading The Peasants – Autumn by Władysław Reymont. This book is the first volume of a four volume historical novel on the peasants of Poland. Each volume relates the lives of the peasants in a Polish village through a different season. In 1924, Reymont won the Nobel Prize for Literature for this work.
A year ago at the PGSA Conference, Ceil Jensen presented a wonderful lecture on The Peasants, and after I returned home, I spent some time trying to find copies of the books. The books are currently out of print, but I finally found a complete set of used copies and, after just the first two chapters, I found that I’m really interested in finding out what happens to these people! Their lives were probably very similar to the lives of my father’s ancestors (now, my mother’s ancestors – that’s another story entirely!).
Now, admittedly, I’ve only read the first two chapters. I spent the rest of the time on the plane napping. The plane arrived at Midway Airport on time; I picked up the rental car, and then entered Chicago rush hour traffic. From the time the plane landed, it took me an hour and 45 minutes to reach the hotel. I checked into my room (the front desk clerk kindly provided me with toothpaste to replace the toothpaste seized at security in Oakland), checked into the conference, and found that I had missed most of the first lecture on The Importance of the National Archives.
Ah, but not all was lost. Rather than worry about the lecture that was almost over, I simply took the opportunity to introduce myself to James Conroyd Martin, the author of Push Not the River and Against a Crimson Sky, two Polish historical novels published by St. Martin’s Press. I purchased copies of both books on the spot and Mr. Martin kindly autographed them for me. About a month ago, Jasia reported on her blog that she attended one of Mr. Martin’s lectures and book signings.
After meeting Mr. Martin, I explored the vendor area and picked up a copy of Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman. I thought this book was out of print, but I guess it’s back in print now, in a new hardcover edition.
Before the evening lectures, I made an appointment for translation assistance with Ola Heska, who provided 15 minutes of free Polish and Russian translation assistance. She helped me finish up the translation of the birth and baptismal record for Stanisław Markiewicz, helped me a little with the birth and baptismal record for Stanisław’s brother, Antoni, and got me started on the translation of what appears to be the record for Stanisław’s father’s second marriage.
From there, I had a quick bite to eat and then attended the evening lectures. In the first lecture, Professor Mary Patrice Erdmans gave an informative and entertaining lecture on The Grasinski Girls: The Importance of Oral History where she described how she recorded the oral history of her mother and aunts. I need to do the same with my living aunts and uncles.
The final presentation of the day was by Ceil Jensen who spoke on Mariana: Matka, Żona, Córka, Siostra, Researching the Female Line – Mariana: Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister. In her lecture, Ceil mentioned the rule of thumb to look for a child every two years after a couple is married. If a child isn’t born approximately every two years, perhaps the father was away, or perhaps a child died young. That reminded me that my grandfather, Michał Dańko, left Poland in 1905 and my grandmother didn’t immigrate to America until 1909. Further, I know that one child died young and there was supposed to be a second child who died young. I should apply this two year rule and see how well it predicts the time my grandfather spent away from the family and the deaths of the two children.
Ceil also talked about alien registrations, searching collateral lines, midwives, education records, and sacramental records, and ended with a beta version of an audio-video presentation where Ceil’s mother talks about her own mother in Polish. Ceil’s presentations are always informative and entertaining, and this lecture was no exception. Ceil is presenting several more lectures on Saturday and Sunday.
It’s now almost 11 PM here in Chicago (OK, it’s Schaumburg). I plan to read a bit more in The Peasants and then get a good night’s rest before the lectures tomorrow morning.
Copyright © 2006 by Stephen J. Danko