There is an old saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention." I hardly ever expected I'd be applying that saying to genealogical research. But today, I am.
My problem is this: I need to research old Polish records for some verification of the connections in my great-grandfather Antoni Laskowski's maternal Gramlewicz family line, but there aren't many resources which have digitized—or even transcribed—records from their native parish in Żerków, Poland.
Of course, I've been able to find some transcriptions of records posted online at BaSIA by some Polish volunteers, which has been incredibly helpful. However, that collection has a significant gap in dates right during a key period in my family's history there. Granted, I could also search marriage records at the Poznan Project for that same parish—which I have done—but those, too, are limited in their coverage.
There is, however, a third Polish genealogical resource which I'd be happy to utilize, if only it included the parish where my family once lived. That website is known as Geneteka, a project of the Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, or the Polish Genealogical Society.
Since the website doesn't include any records from Żerków, I had previously discarded any notion of using the site. But then, I had second thoughts. This is where the necessity-as-mother-of-invention comes in. I recalled that, when searching for various family records at the other two Polish websites, the search terms always included a ten kilometer radius for the specified location. Thus, I sometimes would encounter records from a nearby parish—perhaps, if a Żerków resident married someone from a neighboring village, or if someone filed a civil record in a neighboring location.
I went back to BaSIA to repeat my search there. Only this time, I broadened my search location to cover twenty kilometers instead of the usual ten. I noticed the listings of some nearby towns holding records for Gramlewicz or related lines, such as Żółków and Kretków. Then, I hurried back to the Geneteka website to see whether those newer locations were included in their database.
While I struck out with Żółków, there was a very slim collection available online for Kretków. Though it only covered death records from 1853 through 1857, I thought, why not give it a try? Back at Geneteka, I tried entering Gramlewicz as my search term for surname, but got no result. Trying again, this time I did a blank search, entering no surname at all. For my experiment, I received a readout of 312 names. Among them were some other family surnames I recognized.
This little experiment may not have yielded me the information I was hoping to see, but it did confirm my suspicions. And it opened my mind to the possibility that tinkering with websites may coax them into revealing some useful information, after all.
I've used computers for decades, but I'm no computer expert. I learn by "poking around," and anything I've learned about using computers, I've learned by that same method. Once I learned that, in the world of computers, anything besides dividing by zero will not blow them up, whole new vistas of trial-by-error possibilities opened up. Poking and prodding websites to explore their secrets may indeed help find records in what otherwise would be a dearth of resources. That mother of invention may know best, after all.