Monday, August 29, 2016
Eastern European Documentation
Discovering the Poznań Project has brought me hours of delight in researching my paternal grandmother's Polish roots. Since mentioning what I found last week, I've been busy poking and prodding the website to see what else I might be able to reconstruct from the Laskowski and Gramlewicz family constellations in and around Żerków, the town of their Polish origin.
My delight is due to one simple fact: I've found a way around the research bottleneck that keeps most of us homebound armchair researchers stymied. If you have been deluded into thinking all you have to do to research your foreign roots—and almost all of us have ancestors who originated in a different location than that of our current residence—is to sign on to the international offerings at Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, think again. The offerings for those seeking their Polish roots at Ancestry are fragmented by time periods and ethnic focuses. For FamilySearch, the options are limited, even when including the browse-only collections.
Granted, those two organizations are digitizing records at an amazing speed. It's just that, when you need to have the entire world at your fingertips, it's hard to make headway at any one location.
Patience may be a virtue, and I've learned that waiting often rewards the researcher who checks back regularly. Right now, though, I'm not primed for the waiting game.
Discovering the Poznań Project reminded me there are other websites which can provide the documentation we seek for those difficult eastern European locations. A good place to start in finding those other resources, much as it was when I started online researching over twenty years ago, is Cyndi's List, which has ample selections of websites for not only Polish but other countries in the region.
Just on the Poznań Project itself, though, I'm provided with another resource for further information. We may be spoiled in this Internet-based research era and forget our genealogical-researching roots, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded that much of what we seek may still be patiently waiting for us to discover our answers in those old fashioned—and slightly nauseating—microfilmed records.
In searching my family the other day, the project provided me two clickable links. One explained where I could get further documentation at the National Archive at Poznań. The other, an information page on the specific parish in which I was interested—Żerków, a church of "4260 souls" in 1888, the year before my great grandmother left home to bring her three young children to America—listed the towns which are included in that specific parish, and showed how I could access further documentation at the state archive. Plus, it provided the specific microfilm numbers to access further records from the LDS Family History Library.
Now that I'm getting used to researching these Polish ancestors, keeping a tab open to Google Translate, I'm ready to take on some of these less user-friendly interfaces on foreign websites. Like any other challenge, it calls for diligence in mounting a learning curve, and patience while we run the research gauntlet on the digital school of hard knocks. But if we don't attempt these challenges, we don't make the headway we're hoping for. Sometimes, brick walls are in our minds, not in reality. The information is out there, somewhere. It just might be in a language we don't understand, locked in a website for which we simply need to acquire the knack of navigating.
Above: The Flower Bed in the Garden, 1891 painting by Polish artist, ; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.