Monday, October 2, 2023

Polish Heritage: A Strictly-Kept Secret


Genealogy can sometimes be so serendipitous. Here we are at the beginning of October, the month I had slated in my Twelve Most Wanted plans to be reserved for researching my father's Polish roots. Why I never was aware of this, I'm not sure, but it just happens that October is also Polish-American Heritage Month. At least, that was the announcement I just received from the monthly newsletter of the Polish Genealogical Society of America, Genealogy Notebook.

Of course, I never had the slightest inkling that I should be researching my roots in Poland. That important detail was the strictly-kept secret of my paternal grandfather and his also-Polish wife who was quite agreeable about keeping up the ruse throughout the remainder of their married life. It might seem odd to see such secrecy, considering my native New York is home to a state population which includes over four percent who claim Polish ancestry. How was I to know, when every older member of my family who would have known about this heritage was determined to keep silent on the issue?

Bit by bit, I've been chipping away at the issue. DNA has helped; it enabled me to discover multiple distant cousins whose genetic maps resonated with mine sufficiently to confirm the truth not only about my heritage, but about the specific ancestors who belong in my family tree. That will always be an ongoing process of discovery as I examine each new distant cousin appearing in my DNA match lists at several different companies. But this month, I want to take a different approach to researching the tenth candidate among my Twelve Most Wanted for 2023. I want to learn more about Aunt Rose.

Aunt Rose was the stranger in the few family photographs passed on to me by my oldest cousin who inspired great curiosity. Over the years, I've wondered who that woman might have been. True blood relative? Or simply a close family friend to whom had been accorded the respectful familiarity of the title, "aunt."

For almost as long as I've been writing posts to this blog, I've circled back to that question about Aunt Rose. In 2015, I brought up the earliest mention of Aunt Rose from a recorded interview which had been shared with me, one that had been done with my own paternal aunt by my brother. At almost the same time, I reviewed those old family photographs from my cousin, and explored the possibilities of just who Aunt Rose might have been, and followed up soon after with some exploration through old documents. I revisited the puzzle a few years later, when document searches led me to an unexpected family tragedy—and, unfortunately, even more questions than answers.

While unexpected errors in census records and other serendipitous finds—thanks especially to DNA testing—eventually led me to the specific village in Poland where my paternal grandfather's family once lived, I can't lose sight of the fact that much of that was discovered while I traced the collateral line of the woman known by my cousins and older siblings simply as Aunt Rose.

If I learn any lesson from that experience, it is that Aunt Rose may well be an important person to pay attention to. And yet, there is very little I do know about that specific relative—all the more reason to learn as much more about her life as possible. This month I intend to do just that.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know why your grandfather hid his Polish heritage?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...