Family genealogy – how to find your Polish ancestors

Do you have Polish ancestors?
Are you wondering about your Polish genealogy and how to find your family history resources? Today I’m hosting a valuable article of Anna Cholewińska – Associate Professor, Online Programs Co- Coordinator, and the Undergraduate Programs Director in the Division of Arts and Sciences at City University of Seattle. You’ll learn what tools to use searching for your Polish genealogical tree.

Never before in the US history, was diversity so valued. While immigrants were accepted to the US for centuries, they were expected more or less to melt into American society and culture.

A metaphor of melting pot was coined to illustrate a heterogeneous society of immigrants and their very different cultures becoming more and more homogenous.

In this process, the different elements or cultures would “melt together” into a concordant society with a common culture. Melting pot term is describing, in particular, the assimilation of immigrants to the USA was in use since 18th century.

Complexity of the American Society

Polish family history
Polish family genealogy

It was not until the 1970s when proponents of multiculturalism who started acknowledging cultural differences within society challenged the assimilation of immigrants and the melting pot model. They emphasized that those differences are in fact precious and should be preserved, not lost in the process of assimilation or melting into American society and culture. The alternative metaphors, such as the mosaic, salad bowl, or American Kaleidoscope were conceived to show that US society is made of different cultures that mix, but at the same time remain distinct.
As a result, the attitude to immigrants and diversity has started changing. Immigrant groups became more active, curricula in schools have been re- written, and events such as
Ethnic Festivals are part of our lives.

This change in attitude has also resulted in an increasing interest in family history and genealogy. Special software, such as Family Tree Maker or Family Tree Builder could be purchased or downloaded for free to help creating family trees. Access to specialized databases often requires a purchase of software. However, family searches often require more than just access to such databases. Especially if we know that our ancestors lived in countries other than the US.

How to find your Polish family

Here are some tips on how to search for your family using accessible databases and less public databases in Poland:

  1. – Database owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can find there even for the families that were not members of this church.
  2. – Many immigrants came to the US via Ellis Island. Ellis Island database has travel records from 1892-1924. You can also find some tips on how to start your search and how to continue it on that website.
  3. – Most of the searches need to start with finding a parish where your ancestors were born. This site will allow you to find it.
  4. – If you know that your ancestors come from Warmia and Mazury region or what used to be Prussia, your search of the parish should start here.
  5. – This database covers all areas that were historically part of the Polish Commonwealth from the 16th to the 18th centuries throughout the years of partitions by Prussia, Russia, and Austria. It also covers Poland’s rebirth in 1918, subsequent domination during World War II and postWar occupation. You’ll also find information about its most recent struggles for independence through the latter 20th Century.
  6. – Polish National Archives that have vital records.
  7. – Regional database for Lublin region.
  8. – Search site for Polish Genealogical Society.
  9. – A portal where you can find information about regions that used to be part of Poland, such as Ukraine. You can find maps, pictures of cities and towns, as well as discussion forums for people looking for their relatives.

The best way to discover past

The above are just a few suggestions for starting genealogical searches online and in various databases. However, you should remember that the best way to start is to gather all documents that you have in the family as well as talk to your relatives who might shed some light and provide you with valuable information.
Start with reading some books on genealogy and family searches. Create the first family tree and write down questions that you might have about your family. Those would help you with your searches of databases and find information that you are looking for.”

To Anna’s list, I’d also add Your Roots in Poland– a company specializing in discovering your Polish roots “whether it be in regions within the present geographic borders of Poland or in regions that used to be Polish soil.”