Navigating the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Archives

Date 20 May 2018 (2pm to 4pm)

Location Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Avenue, Arlington Heights, IL 60004

Attendance at the library is free and open to members and non-members. The presentation will also be offered as a free Webinar to members. To defray costs, non-members will be charged a $10 fee.

Guest Speaker: Ray Johnson

Topic Summary: The Circuit Court Archives are a great, often overlooked resource. This class concentrates on a very practical approach to on-site court research including, civil, law and chancery cases, divorces, wills and probates, county naturalizations, declarations of intentions, criminal cases and burnt records.

Webinar registration for members and non-members can be made by clicking here. Mail-in registrations will not be accepted.

Haller’s Polish Army in France


Date 18 February 2018 (2pm to 4pm)

Location Fountaindale Public Library District – 300 W. Briarcliff Road. Bolingbrook, IL 60440

Attendance at the library is free and open to members and non-members. The presentation will also be offered as a free Webinar to members. To defray costs, non-members will be charged a $10 fee.

Webinar registration for members and non-members can be made by clicking here. Mail-in registrations will not be accepted.

Guest Speaker – Paul S. Valasek

Topic – Haller’s Polish Army in France

Topic Summary – An in-depth discussion of this fighting force of over 23,000 men with origins in Pittsburgh, recruited from North America, trained by the Canadians, outfitted by the French, to serve alongside the French Army in World War I and later to establish Poland’s eastern borders in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920.

Bio – Paul S. Valasek is a three-time graduate of Loyola University of Chicago, earning his Doctorate in Dentistry in 1984. Born and raised in Chicago, he and his wife Andrea have always been interested in their ancestries and where their families came from in Europe. Paul’s first of numerous trips to Europe was in 1974 with his immigrant grandfather Joseph Valasek, a major turning point in his life. Dr. Valasek has written numerous articles for genealogical publications, as well as being an international lecturer. He completed his first book, Haller’s Polish Army in France (2006) which makes available long lost and obscure material detailing the formation of this fighting force of over 23,000 Polish Americans in World War I and the subsequent Polish Soviet War of 1919-1921. He also has the most complete database of the army with over 3 million facts accumulated to date.

Formal participation in genealogy began with his Presidency of the Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA), founder and treasurer/editor of the Czech and Slovak American Genealogical Society of Illinois (CSAGSI), founding member of the Moravian Historical Society, and a founding member of the popular Polish American website, He has also served as a Director and Second Vice-president on the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s Board as well as sitting for multiple terms on the board of the Polish Museum of America. He has served as Vice-president and editor for the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum of Illinois and as a Board Director of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, (CGSI).

Rising from the Ashes — Warsaw, Poland

Date – Sunday, November 19, 2017 (2pm to 4pm)

Guest Speaker – Margaret Guzek

Location – Copernicus Center- King’s Hall, 5216 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60630
This presentation is open to the public and will also be offered as a Webinar to members and

This meeting will be held in King’s Hall located in the Copernicus Center.

Topic – Rising from the Ashes – Warsaw, Poland

Topic Summary – By the start of World War II, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were intent on
razing Warsaw as part of the Pabst Plan to create a future “German” town. By the time of
Warsaw’s liberation in January of 1945 from German occupation, the Wehrmacht had destroyed
85% of the city.

This presentation discusses the events leading up to the destruction of Warsaw and the Polish
community’s meticulous post-war reconstruction, which includes the recognition of Warsaw’s
restoration of its historic quarters as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bio – Margaret S. Guzek is a writer and preservationist. She has written landmark nominations
on architecturally and historically-significant properties for local preservation commissions and
the National Register in addition to writing architectural surveys. Ms. Guzek’s paternal
grandmother was a member of the Polish resistance and fought in the Warsaw Uprising, and her
maternal grandfather was a member of the Second Polish Corps under the leadership of General
Wladyslaw Anders and fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino. Ms. Guzek holds a master’s
degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. An
article written by Ms. Guzek based on this presentation in the Fall 2016 issue of Rodziny.

Gems of Polish Genealogy at the Newberry Webinar Recording


This video was originally presented as a Webinar at the Schaumburg Township District Library
(NW) on Sunday 20 August 2017. The presentation focused on the Polish Women’s Alliance of
America (PWAA) records and other little-known sources for Polish genealogy at the Newberry,
such as Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographic
Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom and Other Slavic Lands] and Mapa Polska, Warsaw: Wojskowy
Instytut Geograficzny, 1915-1939; including holdings of city directories and histories of U.S. cities
where many Poles settled, such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Two Handouts provided at this meeting can be downloaded by clicking on the file(s) below.

Polish Genealogy _ Newberry.pdf

central european places .pdf

Gems of Polish Genealogy at the Newberry Library

Date – Sunday, August 20, 2017 (2pm to 4pm)

Guest Speaker – Grace Dumelle

Location – Schaumburg Township District Library (NW), 130 S. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60193

This presentation will also be offered as a Webinar to members and non-members.

Registration link for Webinar at GoToWebinar:

This meeting will be held in the Rasmussen South room of the library. Only Library attendees (PGSA members and the general public) will need to register by phone – 847 985 4000 or on line at the library website – prior to the meeting.

Topic – Gems of Polish Genealogy at the Newberry Library

Topic Summary – This presentation will focus on the Polish Women’s Alliance of America (PWAA) records and other little-known sources for Polish genealogy at the Newberry, such as Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego i Innych Krajow Slowianskich [Geographic Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom and Other Slavic Lands] and Mapa Polska, Warsaw: Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny, 1915-1939; including holdings of city directories and histories of U.S. cities where many Poles settled, such as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.

Bio – An assistant in the Reference and Genealogy Services Section, Ms. Dumelle guides genealogy patrons of all levels, answers reference queries, manages the Newberry’s loan program with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and processes donations of genealogical materials with the help of ace volunteer Melisa Limanowski. Dumelle’s research interests lie in lesser-known records and methodology. Her articles on Illinois state hospital records, posted on the library’s Genealogy Blog, continue to shed light on a sensitive topic. She is the author of the award-winning Finding Your Chicago Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide to Family History in the City and Cook County.

PGSA Workshop: “The Polish Connection”

Date – Saturday, May 20, 2017 (Noon to 4pm)

First Speaker – Tadeusz Pilat – Noon to 2pm

Second Speaker – Jason Kruski – 2:30pm to 3:45pm

Translations– 11 to 11:45am/2 to 2:30pm (10-15 min per person)

Location NIU Naperville Meeting and Conference Center, 1120 E. Diehl Road, Naperville, IL 60563

Take exit toward Naperville Road from I-88 W & continue on Freedom Dr. to NIU; or Take Naperville Road exit from I-88 E & continue on Freedom Dr. to NIU. Check in at the conference room entrance begins at 10:30am. Food and beverages are prohibited in the conference room.

Details – The first speaker will broadcast live from Warsaw, Poland. His presentation is scheduled for 90 minutes and 30 minutes for Q/A. The second speaker will make his presentation at NIU as a non-webinar and is scheduled for 60 minutes and 15 minutes for Q/A in room 260. An “Ask Us” team (several PGSA volunteers) will be available to answer genealogical questions.

Registration for either the webinar or attendance at NIU can be made online by clicking here. Mail-in registrations will not be accepted. No walk-ins and no refunds for cancellations. The cutoff date for registration is May 10, 2017 or sooner if 50 registrations for attendance at NIU are received. There is no cutoff date or registration limit for the webinar.

Registration fees:

NIU attendees–members/non———–$15/$20

Online seminar attendees–members/non——$20/$25

Speaker – Tadeusz Pilat

Topics – (1) “Notary Records in Poland (With Emphasis on the Notary Records of the 19th Century)”and; (2) “Galician Maps in Poland: A Great Source for Family Research”

Summary – (1) Notaries were obligated to record: last wills (testaments), inheritances, deeds, cessions, sales and purchases of all kind, premarital contracts, etc. This data cannot be found in any kind of parish registers, metrical books, or civil registers; and (2) Maps that are a product of Land Surveys (also known as Cadaster) are a great source for genealogical research. Handmade 19th century maps in all partitions (Russia, Galicia, and Prussia) contain details which also cannot be found in any of the church records.

Bio – Tadeusz (Teddy) was born in Silesia, Poland. He currently resides in Poland and Germany. He pursued Library studies at the University of Maria Curie-Sklodowska in Lublin, Poland, focusing on the history of books and old documents. He specialized in “Supralibros” in Private Collections of the 16th to 18th centuries. In 1999, he was granted the degree of Master of Library and Information Science. Tadeusz is an Accredited Genealogist specializing in Polish research, including all partitions of the former Commonwealth of Poland.

Speaker – Jason Kruski

Topic – Technological Advances in Polish-American Genealogy

Summary – Covers how to get one’s family tree back to Poland and finding the village of origin using technology. Will include the latest updates from various archives within Poland including Przemysl, Wloclawek, Poznan, and more along with the national and archival efforts to digitize records. Will also examine the latest collections of American records available online. An overview of how to find one’s ancestral parish utilizing the online Slownik Geograficzny will also be included.

Bio – Jason is a public speaker specializing in Polish-American genealogical research at all levels. He has delivered presentations about how to begin researching Polish-American ancestry, advanced Polish-American genealogy, and technological advances in genealogy. Additionally, he has lectured about recent advances in genealogy including indexing projects and how to utilize DNA results to expand one’s family tree. His speaking credits include the Indian Prairie Public Library Genealogy Society, CAGGNI, South Suburban Genealogical Society, Wheaton Genealogy Society, Elgin Genealogical Society, and Will-Grundy Genealogical Society.

February PGSA Meeting: “Guess Who’s Polish”

Topic: Distinguished/Famous People of Polish/Polish-American Origin

Date/Time: February 19, 2017 – 2:00PM CST

Registration link for Webinar at GoToWebinar:

The United States has been characterized as “the Great Melting Pot.” In a melting pot the identity of individual ingredients is lost in the new product that is created. In this same way, the contributions of Poles and Polish-Americans to the development of the country have often vanished. This presentation will highlight people of Polish ancestry who made contributions to American culture, or those who invented well-known products, whose Polish ancestry is often unknown or overlooked.

Presenter James S. Pula is a Professor of History at Purdue University. He has authored more than a dozen books and is the editor of the Polish American Encyclopedia and the former editor of the academic journal Polish American Studies.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Polish National Film Archives (Filmoteka Narodowa) needs your help!

by PGSA member Abbey Brewer

My cousin, Agata Zalewska, is the Film Collection Manager for Filmoteka Narodowa, the Polish National Film Archives in Warsaw. As a state cultural institution, Filmoteka Narodowa is charged with protecting national cultural heritage in cinematography and dissemination of film culture.
Since its inception in 1955, the Archives has been collecting and restoring all films made in Poland with the hope of finding copies of all films. It has an almost complete collection of films made from 1946 forward. Of course more early silent films are missing than later films.

As Polish Americans, we can be proud of the work Filmoteka Narodowa has done in preserving Polish cultural heritage. Today it has one of the largest film archives in Europe. It has restored 75% of Polish feature films made between 1930 and 1939. It is a member of the International Federation of Film Archives. Besides films, Filmoteka Narodowa has extensive collections of promotional materials, books, posters, stills and other materials related to films. It makes its materials available in its Library, through movie showings and festivals and lending, and through the production of print and digital media.

For instance, Agata gifted me with one of Filmoteka Narodowa’s publication of a DVD containing six restored shorts and an introduction about the early days of World War II for Poland especially Warsaw. It was very well done and included an English version with subtitles.

Agata’s interest at Filmoteka Narodowa is in finding missing Polish films. Although it has become harder and harder to find films and in many ways it is a race against time, Filmoteka Narodowa keeps turning up a gem here and there. There is no telling where a film, full-length, documentary or short, may be found. For instance in the late 1990s, a 1929 film was found in the Royal Archives in Brussels; and in 2003 a 1914 film was purchased from Filmmuseum, Amsterdam. I believe others have been found in private collections stored away in attics and forgotten.

If you have any materials that would be of interest to Filmoteka Narodowa, know where any are or might be, would you please contact me or Agata?

Abbey H. Brewer
1422 E. Brooklake Drive
Houston, Texas 77077 USA
[email protected]
713-882- 7229

Agata Zalewska
Filmoteka Narodowa
00-975 Warszawa
ul. Puławska 61
[email protected]

New PGSA Website Launch!!!

We are in the final stages of development of the new PGSA website. In order to test the new membership system as much as possible, you may get some notices from the new site regarding passwords, membership status, or other. These will have reference to a site at , and this should be a signal to you to ignore this message for now, as it is regarding activity on the development site. This Friday we will launch the new version of the website and membership system. This will affect you in a few ways:

1. For security reasons, we cannot transfer usernames and passwords to the new system. Once the new site launches, your username will be your membership email address and your password will need to be reset. You can reset your password by going to the new home page, clicking the Log In link, then using the “Forgot Password” link on the login screen. Use your membership email address as your username, and check your email a few minutes later for the password reset link. If you don’t receive that email within 30 minutes, check your spam folder. Once your password is reset, you’ll be able to login to the new site and receive member discounts once again.

2. In this new version of the membership system, renewal will work a bit differently than it has in the past. We have transitioned all active memberships from the old system to the new. When your currently active membership expires, you will renew by going to the main membership page and signing up for the subscription that best suits you.

3. Please note that this is a new system for everyone, including site administrators. There will inevitably be some issues during the transition and we intend to address them all as quickly as possible. Please be patient with us as we are learning the new system and doing our best to serve you well.

Ultimately this is a more robust and reliable system, and we are excited to bring this to the PGSA membership base. In this new version of the site, we will not immediately have the database searches available, however that improved search functionality (the ability to search all databases through one unified search) will be available in October.

Again, we are excited about this transition and do ask for your patience while we launch the new website and assist you with any issue you may encounter. We will send another note to the membership base when the new system is live with more detailed instructions on how to reset your password and report issues. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please reach out to [email protected]