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Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church - Their Use and Understanding in Genealogical Research

Reviewed by Rosalie Lindberg

Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church written by Gerald Ortell and published by the Polish Genealogical Society of America, is an early example of work produced to direct researchers in the "how-to" of Polish research. Its guidance is still valid as it reminds us that you need to familiarize yourself with, and understand, your subject in order to make sense of what you learn from your research. The author’s common-sense approach reminds us of obvious techniques we should take into consideration, but often don’t.

For example, Ortell gives us a sample list of historical events—floods in 1836, famines in the 1850s, and the Austro-Prussian war in 1866—which, when put in context with our personal research, provides valid suggestions pertaining to the why and how of the experiences of our ancestor’s. Comparing our research timeline to the events reminds us that our ancestors didn’t live in a physical or political vacuum but had lives impacted by what was going on around them. This is only one of the methodologies suggested in the book that can help us keep our family history projects moving forward.

The book deals with other subjects as well; the tricks of the language and its impact on names, both personal and surname; discussions on occupations including lists and details on land ownership and serfdom; individual chapters with information and examples of baptismal records, marriages and death records. All this is supplemented with appendices of common document terms, saint’s days, and a chapter on alphabets.

Even if you are not new to Polish research, revisiting material delivered in a simple and direct manner can often result in an "Ahah" moment. Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church - Their Use and Understanding in Genealogical Research can be the tool that stirs up your thinking and lead to that moment when you find the missing piece of your puzzle.

The Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church is listed on the inside back cover of the Rodziny or is available on line from the PGSA Bookstore.

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Polish Roots - Korzenie Polskie

Reviewed by Joan Schmidt, PGSA Summer 1993

By Rosemary A. Chorzempa, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21202. 262 pp., paperback, with maps and illustrations. $17.95 per copy, postage and handling $3.00 for one copy, an extra $1.00 for each additional copy. Can be ordered with VISA or MasterCard by calling 1-800-296-6687, Maryland residents add 5% sales tax, Michigan residents add 4% sales tax.

Polish Roots gives an excellent overview of how to approach Polish genealogical research. Written in a manner easy to read and understand, it is excellent reading for the beginner and a valuable reference for others. Each chapter ends with a list of sources and additional reading references.

The first part of her book deals with beginning research in America - the many types of records and where and how to obtain them. She lists the addresses of all the regional archives, Polish Genealogical Societies and many Polish Fraternal Societies in the U.S.

The second part of the book deals with research in Poland. She gives a synopsis of Polish history, the different ethnic groups in Poland and the areas in which they lived. Also mentioned are the various boundary changes and how they affected the Polish people, the different religions, and the types of records found in each area. Some photo examples of actual documents and their translation give one the feet of what to expect when doing one's own research. Listed are addresses of the diocesan and regional civic archives, and the types of records available.

She concludes with a history of development of Polish surnames and how familiarity with knowledge of naming children after saints' feast days can help in finding an ancestor's birthday. Listed are many Polish saints' feast days, terms and definitions of words and phrases found in Polish documents, including illnesses. Last, but not least, is a Polish Letter Writing Guide - a must for those who don't speak Polish trying to obtain information or documents from Poland.

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