Why does it seem so fun to be invited to browse while shopping at the mall, but considered drudgery when applied to online searches? Perhaps it's because we have become so spoiled in our family history pursuits.
When it comes to browsing, I'd like to propose we adopt the maxim, "It's the journey, not the destination." There is so much we can glean by slowing down and reading through a targeted collection of records. We might actually spot something which otherwise could have been missed by computer-assisted searches.
Right now, I've been undergoing the "tedium" of searching line by line for any sign of my great-grandmother Marianna Jankowska's extended family. I had already learned from her marriage record that the bride of Anton Laskowski was the daughter of Franz Jankowski and Franziska Olejniczak. Born in Żerków, Poland, Marianna's age was extrapolated from other records: that she was born about 1863.
Finding the Polish website BaSIA enabled searches from a wide date range, with the possibility of narrowing the geographical region to as small as a five kilometer radius. From trawling through the results—transcriptions of Polish birth, marriage, and death records—I learned that Marianna had at least two siblings. One, Stanisława, married in Żerków and like her older sister, moved to New York. Finding the other, however, presented some problems.
To locate the youngest of the three sisters mentioned in any records other than her own birth report required several passes through the BaSIA website. Why did I not successfully locate Antonina at first? Many reasons conspired against me. For one, this daughter of Franz and Franziska was reported in the first record I found under the name Antonie. Several others I found contained the same spelling—until I decided to widen my search horizons and go back through the entire set, line by line. Not by using a quick "search" mechanism, but by using my own eyes and watching for spelling variations was I able to piece together a more complete picture.
Then, too—perhaps thanks to the limitation on the nineteenth century date range for the other Polish website I was using—I had not pushed that search to its limits when I jumped over to the BaSIA site. After all, the search page on BaSIA boasts dates from the 1500s to the current century. Why not push it to its limit?
Since "Antonie" was born in 1878 and married Josef Karcz in 1898, any children beyond the couple's firstborn would have arrived in the twentieth century, so I pushed as far as I could go in search of children's names. After all, perhaps that would glean information to identify those mystery DNA matches I'm still puzzling over.
Two passes—first browsing through the records using the surname Jankowska, then trying the married surname Karcz—yielded a family of at least seven children: Stanislaus, Cecilia, Marianna, Johanna, Helena, Wincenty, and Wictor. Not only did that assure me that Antonina did not emigrate to America like her two sisters, but one further record discovery cemented that fact: the inclusion of her name on her father's death record in 1911.
True, my opportunity to browse through the records was abruptly cut off after the 1913 birth of the youngest Karcz child—no chance to catch any glimpse of marriage records in the 1920s or 1930s. Though I can't yet confirm it, it still could be possible that any one of the children made the decision to travel to a new world. There is likely more browsing to be had in my future as, unbelievably, Karcz is not a rare surname, even in America—not to mention all the possible phonetic variations that could be applied to an arriving immigrant's surname.
For now, I'll adopt that traveling theme and remember it's the journey that's important, as I browse through whatever record sets are in my future. In some research cases, we need to remember that we serve as trailblazers when the path isn't laid out for us quite as completely as it is for those with longstanding pioneer heritages. Don't fret over the barriers; enjoy the journey. Along the way, you may discover something you'd otherwise have missed.
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