24    Dec 20100 comments

Holidays: Family traditions

Santa may look very different in other countries!

Did your ancestors receive treats of whale blubber as a Christmas delicacy?

If they did, they must have come from Greenland.

Learn more about holidaycustoms around the world - which may be quite different from your experiences. It may help you understand your ancestors' traditions.

Santa Claus - who has many names - doesn't always wear his traditional red suit, fly around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, or pop down a chimney.

In Hawaii, he wears a red Hawaiian shirt, and arrives in an outrigger canoe, with elves in aloha shirts.

In some countries where the main religion is not Christianity, there are also interesting traditions.

When we lived in Teheran, I was surprised to see that one could buy Christmas trees, and many stores sold all types of brightly colored lights and decorations. There was a  large Armenian community (both Protestants and Catholics) along with Iranian Nestorian Christians.

In India - in the former Portuguese colony of Goa - there are nine days of fireworks and parties to celebrate the Wise Men's arrival. Christians and Hindus celebrate together on January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings. Young boys from prominent families are chosen to play the kings, wear bright costumes and ride in on white horses.

Some other traditions:

Continue reading "Holidays: Family traditions" »

29    Jul 20100 comments

Make someone happy: Talk tradition

During this year's round of conferences and travel, I've been reminded more than once that creating contacts, asking questions and talking traditions can produce clues to our family history.

After reconnecting with someone whom I knew in California and who was now in New Jersey, I realized her husband's family's long connection to a small community, now a suburb of a larger city, in that Eastern state. My own family had a long-ago connection to the same community when it was much, much smaller, and more rural.

My great-grandmother's sister and her husband had settled in that small town soon after they arrived in 1905, although my great-grandmother and her family lived in nearby big-city Newark.

I took a chance and asked if the woman's husband, whose family had lived there from the early 1900s, possibly had known my relatives. It was very exciting to learn that my great-grandmother's sister had been the husband's  babysitter! Continue reading "Make someone happy: Talk tradition" »

1    Oct 20071 comment

Poland: Podcasting and genealogy

Since 1995, DearMYRTLE has provided family historians with practical information. She's now doing podcasts with her Family History Hour.

Author/editor Cecil Wendt Jensen was her guest on August 14. Jensen dispelled myths that Polish records were destroyed during the wars and that the language barrier makes research difficult.

Warsaw Old Town
Warsaw's Old Town

In 1998, Jensen switched to professional genealogy in 1998 after 30 years as an educator. She is a Certified Genealogist, runs the Michigan Polonia website, and is completing a "how to" Polish genealogy book, Sto Lat, highlighting techniques she used to find her grandparents' ancestral villages in Prussia, Russian Poland and Galicia.

I also met up with her at two recent genealogical conferences.

You can listen or download the podcast here.

DearMYRTLE also mentions an assortment of specialized Polish resource links:

Polish Genealogical Society of America.
Books by William F. Hoffman: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition (some 30,000 names), and anew book, with George W. Helon, First Names of the Polish Commonwealth: Origins and Meanings includes a 300-page list of names including those of Hebrew, Yiddish, Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Latin, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, and a list of Cyrillic forms of common Jewish names).

Let me know if you have questions. I look forward to reading your comments and answering your questions.

23    May 20075 comments

Polish ancestors? Some essential resources

Are your ancestors from Poland?

If so, there are many online resources to help you discover information. These range from assistance in locating ancestral towns to investigating what vital or religious records are available.

You'll need to know something about Polish history and changing borders, and there are sites to help on these topics. You'll also need to determine your ancestral towns.

Click to view photo in full size

Your Polish ancestors may be listed on immigration records as Polish, German, Ruthenian or other designations. They may also be listed according to religion, and may have been Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox or Jewish.

As always, recommended genealogy guidelines are always to work back from what you know. Use immigration and citizenship records to learn where where your ancestors were born and lived.

Once you have that original name and place, there is much more to discover. And do use MyHeritage's amazing search engine to look for your names of interest in more than 1,000 databases.

I look forward to hearing from you, so please post your questions and comments.


Here are some resources to help you get started:

This site offers excellent articles on getting started, how to find the name of your ancestral town, border changes and other issues, a history of Poland, what sorts of records are available and where for various religions and a good article on meanings of Polish names. There are also numerous link collections for Internet sites, Polish libraries, online databases, discussion groups, books, maps, Polish genealogical societies, Polish archives and much more. A good first stop.

Poland's place names and boundaries have changed numerous times in the past 200 years. This article explains how place names have changed over time and gives tips on locating your ancestor's town of origin. State boundary changes are also discussed.

A wonderful guide to genealogy research in Poland by Lukasz Bielecki, Poznan, Poland.

Cyndi's List offers many specialized sites, from general resource, history and culture, how-to resources, language and handwriting, libraries and repositories, mailing lists, newsgroups, maps and gazetteers, military, newspapers, people and families, professional researchers, volunteers, publications and software, surname lists, records, religion and societies and groups.

This is the place for everything on Jewish genealogy, including Polish Jewish genealogy, with excellent Infofiles, extensive resources including ShtetlSeeker, which will help you find the correct name and location for a place you can't spell, millions of records through Jewish Records Indexing - Poland, and much more.

This site offers many links and resources including links to other PGS societies.

This site offers an extensive compendium on Polish resources, including maps and geography.

Finding Parish Addresses
Links and suggestions to help you find the name of the parish to which a specific town in Poland belongs.
Obtaining Polish Records
Addresses and information for obtaining records from Poland including civil records, church records, Jewish records, emigration records, Polish archives and military records.

The former territories of Galicia (a crown land of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy) are now shared between southern Poland and western Ukraine. This is an excellent outline for record sources and contact info for Galician genealogy. Good resources and links, but it hasn't been updated since 2004, although other links listed on the page have been updated. For Jewish Galicia, JewishGen is the source, particularly the Gesher Galicia SIG.

A brief history of Poland from its Slav origins through post-war Poland. Has a good section on Krakow.

Comprehensive listing of microfilmed Polish records available through international Family History Centers.

A useful PDF file that will help you write a letter to Poland to obtain family information.

Poland Genealogy Search
A look at Poland in a nutshell, and a search engine that currently searches 120 websites related to doing genealogy in Poland.

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