Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Making the Leap Once Again


Family history buffs seem so excited to arrive at that momentous step when they will leap "across the pond" to explore their roots in the ancestral homeland. Landing in that strange new world, however, can be quite disorienting.

The premise, of course, is that one of the genealogical guides we've become accustomed to relying on in the English-speaking world will be there to take us by the hand and introduce us to the challenges of research in a new setting—and often in a new language. In some instances, that will indeed be the case. For my foray into Poland and my paternal roots, unfortunately, the records I need are not there at my favorite go-to sites—yet.

From the kindness of others further down the research path than I am, I've learned about some alternate genealogical resources in Poland. We've already explored what is available when I tackled my research challenges concerning my paternal grandmother. Sophie Laskowska was born in what is now Poland and arrived in New York as a young child—too young, probably, to even have remembered what home was like, or where to find it. But from some serendipitous errors on the part of census enumerators in New York, I was able to learn exactly where in Poland the family originated: a region called Posen by the Prussians, but Poznań by the Polish.

As it turned out, the lack of digitized documents for the region in our usual go-to places was made up by a website put together by enterprising genealogists in Poland. You can be sure I made good use of that website, once I found it. But I also discovered something about that website: it worked great for finding way pointers for my ancestors related to Sophie's family in that region, but not for her future husband's family. Why? Because that line—my father's patriline—came from a different region of the country which is now Poland.

Thomas Puchała, my great-grandfather, came from an area of Poland known as Pomerania.While the website covering records from Poznań would be of no help to me in this new project, there was—thankfully!—another resourceful group of local genealogists who banded together to create a database of use to researchers like myself.

The website was created by a group known in Poland as Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne—or, translated, the Pomeranian Genealogical Association. Let's just say I'd like to follow suit and call them PTG for short, as they suggest. 

The PTG has been in existence since the key organizers met in 2005, but they formalized the organization in 2011. Adopting the slogan, "If you want something to be done for you, you should do something for others first," the PTG set about transcribing local records which are searchable for free on their website. Transcribed information covers baptisms, marriages, and deaths, as well as information regarding cemeteries. Each resource is cross-referenced to the location of the original record.

From that discovery, brought to my attention by a fellow researcher following the same line as I am, I became the recipient of one of those acts of "giving back," that genea-kindness which has helped so many of us progress in our research. Now, my quest—although at this point, it may merely be an attempt—is to see if I can push back to yet another generation on this line, to the parents of my great-grandfather Thomas Puchała.

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