Reveal more about your family’s unique story through DNA and genealogy!
What You Will Learn in this Genealogy Webinar Video:
Your DNA Guide will get you started using DNA
There are more options, and possible outcomes, than you might think! Diahan will walk you through the choices.
Lisa Louise Cooke will provide strategies for filling in the gaps in your family’s story
Lisa will show you online tools that go well beyond names and dates. Then we’ll expand your story in unexpected ways by finding DNA connections.
Lisa & Beth Forester will show you how to share the story you’ve uncovered through video
You’ll discover how easy it is to tell your story like a pro!
Watch the Free Genealogy Webinar Video Below:
Genealogy Societies and Libraries:
You have our permission to show this free video class to your genealogy society or library group and you are welcome to advertise the presentation to your local media outlets, newsletter, social media, etc. Attribution Requirements: Include the text “This video is presented by Lisa Louise Cooke and Diahan Southard and sponsored by Animoto. Learn more at https://lisalouisecooke.com/webinar/” This attribution must be included in all promotions and announcements about the presentation. Please also share with your audience that we have several companion resources:
If you’re interested in showing more video classes to your group in the future, check out our Genealogy Gems for Societies package! It is a licensing subscription service just for genealogical societies and groups such as libraries. The package provides you with a 1-year license to show one video class per event or meeting (click here for current video class catalog) and includes printable handouts. Learn more and purchase the 1-year Genealogy Gems for Societies package here.
For any questions about attribution requirements or the Genealogy Gems for Societies package, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researching your Polish genealogy may seem a little intimidating at the start. Read these get-started tips from a Polish genealogy veteran at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Then you’ll know how to dive right into your Polish family history–and where to turn if you need a little help.
Thanks to Legacy Tree Genealogists for supplying this guest blog post. Legacy Tree employs researchers with a wide range of expertise. They asked their Polish expert, Julie, to share tips for finding Polish ancestors, based on her decades of experience.
If you’re an American researching your Polish ancestors, you aren’t alone. Polish Americans make up the largest Slavic ethnic group in the United States, second largest Central and Eastern European group, and the eighth largest immigrant group overall. So how do you begin tracing your roots in Poland?
Get Started: 4 Polish Genealogy Tips
1. Get to know the basics of Polish history.
Probably every Polish-American family has heard mention of the “border changes” that were supposedly the reason why Grandpa’s papers say he was from Austria, although everyone knew he was Polish. What many people don’t realize is that Poland did not exist as an independent nation from 1795 until 1918. Historically, Polish lands were partitioned among the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian Empires, and ethnic Poles were citizens of one of those three nations. This is why you might see your Polish ancestors stating Russian birth on the 1910 U.S. census, but Polish birth on the 1920 U.S. census, after Poland was reestablished as an independent nation.
By Rzeczpospolita_Rozbiory_3.png: Halibuttderivative work: Sneecs (talk) – Rzeczpospolita_Rozbiory_3.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, click to view on Wikipedia.
2. Determine your Polish ancestor’s religion.
Buffalo, New York. Children of the Polish community leaving church with baskets of food on the day before Easter. Library of Congress photo; digital image via Wikipedia. Click to view.
Although we in the U.S. are accustomed to the separation of church and state, this was not the case in many places. In Poland, it was common for priests, ministers, or rabbis to act as civil registrars, blending ecclesiastical and government authority as they recorded births, marriages, and burials. Although this was the protocol in all three partitions for the majority of the 19th century, the exact span of dates in which this was true vary based on the partition in which your ancestors lived, and greatly affects where you should be searching for the records you need. In “Russian Poland,” for example, civil record keeping began in 1808 with Roman Catholic priests acting as civil registrars for people of all faiths (not just Catholics). Beginning in 1826, each faith was allowed to keep its own civil records using a paragraph-style format that remained relatively stable through the 1930s. Civil registration that was independent of any religious organization did not begin until 1945.
The fact that civil copies of church records were made increases the likelihood that records survived for your ancestor’s town. There’s a persistent myth that “all the records were destroyed in the wars,” but that’s simply not true in most instances. Existing records for some locations date back to the 1600s, but in other places surviving records are sparser.
3. Use U.S. records to determine your ancestor’s precise place of origin.
Grandma may have said that her father came from Warsaw, but most of our ancestors came from small villages, not large cities. It’s more likely that her father was using Warsaw as a point of geographic reference to give people a rough idea of where he lived, since others are unlikely to recognize the name of a small village. This means that you most likely won’t find his birth record by looking for it in Warsaw, but it also leaves you in the dark about where to look instead.
What kinds of records are most likely to indicate a precise place of birth? Passenger manifests and petitions for naturalization (if dated after 1906) are great sources for this information. If your Polish ancestors were Catholic, church records from the parish they attended in the U.S. are much more likely to contain specific place of birth than their civil equivalents. These include marriage records for immigrants who married in the U.S., baptismal records for U.S.-born children of immigrants, and church death/burial records.
Click here for an article about a woman who found her Polish Catholic grandparents’ church marriage record–and with it their overseas birth place–at St. Stanislaus parish in Buffalo, NY. You’ll also learn tips for finding Catholic church records in the U.S.
If your ancestors were Jewish, check cemetery records for mention of any landsmannschaft to which they might have belonged. Landsmannschaften were fraternal aid societies organized by immigrants from the same town in Europe, and they frequently purchased large burial plots for their members.
4. Use a gazetteer to determine the parish or registry office that served your ancestor’s village.
Depending on which partition your ancestors came from, some good gazetteers include:
The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, which includes all of Russian Poland (officially known as the “Królestwo Polskie” or Kingdom of Poland) published in 1877. The SKP is mostly written in Polish with some text in Russian.
Kartenmeister, an easy-to-use online gazetteer for “German Poland” that covers East Prussia, West Prussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. Kartenmeister can be searched using either the German or the Polish name for a town.
The Galician Town Locator, offered by Gesher Galicia, is another easy-to-use resource that covers the historic Galicia region, which was a part of the Austrian Empire that is now split between Poland and Ukraine.
The JewishGen Gazetteer is a phonetic gazetteer to assist in identifying the correct location in cases where your ancestor’s place of origin is misspelled on U.S. records. It covers areas throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Once you have correctly identified both your ancestor’s place of birth and the location of his place of worship or civil records office, you’re ready to make the jump back to records in Poland.
Get Expert Help with Your Polish Genealogy Questions
We at Legacy Tree Genealogists would be honored to assist you with any step along the way in your journey to discover your ancestral origins, including onsite research if needed. Our experts have the linguistic and research skills to efficiently find your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Exclusive offer for Genealogy Gems readers: Save $100 on a 20-hour research project using code GG100, valid through October 31st, 2017.
German place names have changed dramatically over time, so it can be challenging to identify your German ancestors’ place of origin. This free online tool helps family historians navigate changes in German place names, jurisdictions, and boundaries. Thank you to...
Lydia thinks her great-grandfather was murdered–perhaps even by her grandfather! Here’s some advice for her and everyone researching “cold cases” for criminal ancestors on your family tree.
I heard recently from Lydia with these intriguing questions:
My great great grandpa William John Gabriel Nelson disappeared one day, never coming home from work. It was family lore that he had been “shanghai’d.” But even as a child the story didn’t add up. [Through a] few other mentions of the account throughout the years, and recently reconnecting with cousins through Ancestry.com/DNA and your advice to just email DNA matches, I have a growing reason to believe my great-grandfather was murdered. An even bigger fear is that my grandfather may have been the one to do it.
All parties involved with this are now dead, so follow-up is impossible with them. But I’m wondering about contacting the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) or the library to determine if indeed there was a cold case, missing persons report or John Doe. Since this happened in the mid 1940’s, would I contact the LAPD or is this now a job for a historian?
As a citizen, Lydia can certainly contact the LAPD here. It might take a bit of persistence to get to the right person or resource. I would start by asking for how you can find out the status of a cold case from the year in question.
Here are 4 ways to follow up on your own criminal ancestors’ cold cases:
1. Look for cold case files online.
As I often say, all good searches start online because they will help you prepare to go offline. In other words, not everything is online, but searching online first will give you a lay of the land, revealing what is available, who to contact, and where to go in person. Start with a Google search such as LAPD cold cases. The search results include several good leads:
With a case like Lydia’s that is over 70 years old, I wouldn’t expect to pull it up in an online database (though you never know!) But I do see several sites here that provide phone numbers to gain access to those who can lead you in the right direction.
2. Search Google for clues.
Use Google’s powerful search technology to look for online mentions of the names, places, and dates of your particular case.
In Lydia’s case, she might begin with keywords relating to her great-grandfather’s disappearance, with his name, year, and the place he was last seen. Including descriptive keywords such as disappear, mystery, vanished or murder might also yield helpful results.
Newspapers in your ancestor’s hometown (or further afield) may have mentioned the incident. With a common name like William (or Bill) Nelson, you may need to weed out the overabundance of unwanted results you get. Let me show you how I did this in GenealogyBank, a popular genealogical newspaper website:
The initial results of searching GenealogyBank (above) for the terms William Nelson and Los Angeles brought up over 1,000 search results! (The red arrow points to the tally.) Since I don’t like wasting valuable research time on irrelevant results (who’s with me?!), I refined the search. I specified Nelson as a last name, William as a first name, Los Angeles as a keyword, and I added a date range: the decade during which he disappeared. Next, I limited my search to Los Angeles-area newspapers, shown below:
This search narrows results down to under 200: a robust number, but at least manageable to look through for relevant material.
I want to be able to use these same search parameters in the future, so I click Save My Search. The search now appears in My Folder for future reference.
4. Look for criminal records.
If you knew (or suspected) that a relative was prosecuted for a crime, it’s time to start looking for records relating to the criminal case. There may be several kinds:
In cases of suspicious death (where there was a body, unlike Lydia’s case), look for any surviving coroner’s records.
If a trial may have occurred, research the jurisdiction to find out what court would have handled it, and then look for files relating to the case.
If an ancestor may have served time, look for prison records. Genealogy GemsPremium podcast episode 29 is devoted to the topic of prison records.
Read this article about a woman who was researching not one but two mysterious deaths on her family tree.
Want to help investigators lay to rest their own cold cases?
Click here to read about the Unclaimed Persons Project and how you can help.
Find your Abuela (the Spanish word for Grandma) in a wide variety of Catholic Church records for Mexican genealogy at FamilySearch. Also in new and updated genealogical records, collections from Norfolk, England; Victoria, Australia; and Quebec, Canada.
Mexico – Church Records
Abuela Francisca Ramos. Photo used with permission from the family.
FamilySearch has updated and added thousands of new Catholic church records in their Mexican genealogy databases. These church records cover many areas of Mexico, but in particular, the Hidalgo, Puebla, Jalisco, and Guanajuato databases have all reached over 1 million records. The years covered will vary, but the earliest records are from the 1500s and as recent as the 1970s.
These Catholic church records include baptismal records, marriage records, deaths, and other miscellaneous records that may contain valuable genealogical data for your ancestors. Check out the following databases for Mexican genealogy below:
Several collections for Norfolk, England have been updated at Findmypast this week. Among them are first, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts Baptisms 1685-1941. Norfolk Bishop’s transcripts for baptisms contain over 647,000 records. Each entry includes an image of the original document and a transcript of the vital details. The amount of information found in the transcript will depend on the age and condition of the original document. Most will include a name, baptism year, baptism place, and the names of parent’s. Images may reveal additional information such as your ancestor’s birth date, father’s occupation, and the name of the officiating minister.
The second database is titled, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts Marriages 1685-1941 and contains over 157,000 records. Each record includes a transcript and may include the birth year, date of marriage, place of marriage, and the name of their spouse as well as an image of the original document.
Thirdly, the Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts Burials 1685-1941 collection will allow you to search over 434,000 Bishop’s transcripts of Norfolk burials to discover your ancestor’s final resting place. Transcripts will also reveal when they died and their age at death. Images of original documents may reveal additional information such as the name of the minister who performed the ceremony, your ancestor’s date of death and, occasionally, their cause of death.
Finally, the Norfolk Electoral Registers 1832-1915 containing over 4.5 million records may be just want you are looking for. Electoral registers were first created in 1832. Every year, a new electoral register was created to list the name of every individual eligible to vote. Voting was closely linked to the possession of property; therefore, the registers described the type of property owned or rented by the individual.
Electoral registers are an invaluable resource to trace your ancestors between the census years. Each entry in the Norfolk Electoral Registers 1832-1915 will include an image of the original register and a transcript of the facts listed. Transcripts will list your ancestor’s name, the place they registered, the district and the year they were registered. Images will provide additional information such as you’re their address and the type of property they owned or rented.
Australia – Victoria – Birth Records
Also at Findmypast, over 104,000 records have been added to the Victoria Births collection. These civil registration records may reveal your ancestors birth place, birth year, parent’s names and registration number. The entire collection now contains over 1.9 million records spanning the years 1837 t0 1917.
England & Scotland – Newspapers
Over 1.6 million articles and 13 brand new titles have been added to Findmypast’s collection of historic British Newspapers. The new additions cover the North West and South East of England, a number of Scottish counties, Nottinghamshire, and Bournemouth. The new Scottish titles include the Haddingtonshire Courier, Linlithgowshire Gazette, Ross-shire Journal, Rothesay Chronicle, Kinross-shire Advertiser, Peeblesshire Advertiser, and the Scottish Referee.
Canada – Quebec – Various Record Collections
The Drouin Institute has been in the genealogy business for over a hundred years. The Drouin Collection, which is available on Ancestry as well as on GenealogyQuebec.com, was microfilmed in the 1940s and digitized in the 2000s by the Institute. The Drouin Collection contains the civil copy of allparish registers (baptism, marriage, and burial records) from Quebec from 1621 to the 1940s. It is just one of many of the collections you will find from the Drouin Institute.
In total, GenealogyQuebec.com offers many databases to research and reaches near 43 million images and files.
To access the Drouin Institute record collections, you will need to visit GenealogyQuebec.com. It is subscription based website. Subscription information can be viewed here.
The LAFRANCE is the most popular and comprehensive tool available at GenealogyQuebec.com. It is a very detailed, high quality index of the Drouin Collection, and also provides the original document. Here is an example of what the LAFRANCE looks like from our users’ perspective:
Currently, the LAFRANCE covers the entirety of the 1621 – 1849 period for Catholic baptisms and burials, as well as, the 1621-1916 period for Catholic marriages. In addition, the LAFRANCE covers the 1760 – 1849 period for Protestant marriages.
The LAFRANCE’s index is particularly valuable and appreciated by English speakers, as it negates the need to read and understand French in order to obtain all the relevant information from a record.
The Library of Congress has launched a comprehensive portal to its extensive WWI holdings. This one-stop portal is designed to help you search WWI subject material with ease. Search things like propaganda posters, letters, diaries, newspapers, and more. It is a wonderful site for not only the genealogist, but the avid historian as well.
More on Mexican Genealogy
The Mexican Genealogy Guide by David A. Fryxell from Family Tree Magazine will help you discover the bounty of records in Mexico. This digital download will help you understand naming practices, pinpoint ancestral whereabouts, and how to best navigate church records there.
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