While Uncle John's in-laws may have entered a New World when they immigrated to the United States, as I trace their lines back through time, the Old World they left becomes a new world of research for me. All I have to go by, so far, is a mistaken entry in a 1940 census enumeration which tipped me off that Aniela Aktabowski—back then, known by her maiden name of Zielinska—may have come from Płock in Poland.
When I am entering a new-to-me research location, my first stop is to see what others have found as useful online resources, so to Cyndi's List I went. Indeed, under the heading for Poland's births, marriages, and deaths, I spotted a few possibilities.
While I have used Polish websites for specific branches of my father's family, I've found most of them concentrate their efforts on a specific region of the country we now know as modern Poland. For instance, there is the Poznan Project, where I found transcriptions of Uncle John's own parents' wedding in their hometown of Żerków. Then I needed to use a different Polish website to find genealogical records on my paternal grandfather's own roots in a different part of the country known as Pomerania; for that, I used the Pomeranian Genealogical Association to access transcriptions from a parish in the tiny village of Czarnylas.
Now, however, I was moving into an area I hadn't researched before. I was curious to see which websites might guide me as I looked for records in yet another region of Poland, the city of Płock in what is called the Masovian province. From Cyndi's List, I selected the website called Geneteka, and zeroed in on "Mazowieckie" on the website's map.
Fortunately, the city of Płock is also the name of the Roman Catholic diocese of the area. According to the key at Geneteka, the ample date range for births ran from 1581 through 1891, tempting me to entertain visions of pushing back multiple generations in this Zielinski line.
Not so fast, I discovered. Entering my search terms for either Zelinski or Zielinski—plus double checking with the feminine versions of each of those surnames—I found several birth records, but eleven out of the twelve possibilities were all children of one couple, Ludwik Zielinski and Małgorzata Zaleska. Worse, their most recent child was born in 1864, while our Aniela was reported to have been born closer to 1871.
The last entry in that listing was for a child born in 1909. Even repeating the search to include nearby parishes within a fifteen kilometer radius didn't add anything pertinent. Painfully, I spotted one child's name: Bronisława, same as Uncle John's wife, but had no way to determine whether that might have been an ancestor.
Though none of the online options I found through Cyndi's List seemed to fit my current search—everything seemed geared to specific regions only, not a nationwide resource—it did require me to make several trips back and forth to Google Translate. While I can't say the steps that finally led me to find this one page—you try your hand at reading legalese in a language like Polish when you can't even understand it in your own native language—by hunting, pecking, and translating, I found a website page specific to archival records which included the city of Płock.
Scrolling down that page, what should I find at the start of the scanned images but the familiar way pointer for the typical FamilySearch.org microfilm: "Microfilmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah."
One hardly needs a translation service for a place card like that. Welcome home. Now to find whether I can locate the same records on a website I'm far more familiar navigating.