3 Men and a Mom: Finding our Polish Family. Introduction & Leaving for Poland.

2014, April 23-24

Up until about 4 years ago I knew very little about the Polish side of my family, my mother’s parents and their ancestors. My Mom is the youngest of her siblings by 11 years, and her mother died at a young age so she didn’t learn much about her family while growing up.  Even the older relatives didn’t know many details when I began asking – so much of our family history had been lost over the past 100 years.

At San Francisco airport ready to board our plane

I did know the names of my mother’s 4 grandparents, each of whom immigrated separately from Poland at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries.  Already familiar with genealogy from the research I’d done on my father’s side, I began digging to determine which villages my great-grandparents had immigrated from.  Passenger records provided 3 of the village names, but it took more trial and error to identify where these villages were located because there are multiple villages with the same name in Poland.  I was not able to locate the passenger record for my great grandfather Jan Twaróg, but some creative research allowed me to eventually break through this brick wall using U.S.church records and I finally knew where all 4 great grandparents were from.

During the course of my research I had found the PolishOrigins forums and I began reading the blogs of the tours others had taken.  Excited by the stories of others, I knew I wanted to visit the villages of my ancestors and the perfect occasion was approaching.  I discussed the idea with my brother Mark, and we decided to surprise my mother on her 70th birthday with a gift of a trip to Poland with both of her sons.  I will never forget the day we told her: she burst into tears of shock and joy, it was a very emotional moment!  None of us had ever been to Poland, so this would be the trip of a lifetime.  Working with Zenon and the PolishOrigins team, we planned the details of our tour and waited anxiously for the big day to arrive.  It was a long wait: I first contacted Zenon almost 2 years before our tour!

Finally the day was here and the 3 of us met at the San Francisco airport.  Our flight to Kraków (via Frankfurt) was long but uneventful.

We arrived at our hotel almost 24 hours after leaving home, tired but excited to be in Poland.  We enjoyed our first meal (pierogis of course!) and went to sleep, ready to meet Zenon in the morning and begin our tour.

Our first meal in Poland: delicious pierogis
Our triple room at Hotel Columbus in Kraków
In Kraków



  1. I’m the Mom from “3 men and a Mom” blog.

    It was a trip of a lifetime ! Visiting the villages of all 4 of my grandparents….and seeing it all of it with my sons, Brian & Mark, was very emotional and exciting.

    No words can describe how I felt when I touched the same baptismal fountain my paternal grandfather was baptized in so very long ago.

    Meeting my maternal grandmothers first cousin,Adela (98 years young), was a special highlight of our extended Polish family. Sh remembered last seeing my grandmother in 1934 when she returned fom America to visit. Adela told us stories of her early life and was …..as they say….”sharp as a tack”. An amazing woman and I’m proud that she is part of my family.

    One of my foundest memories will also be of our our guide from PolishOrigins…ZENON.
    We called him Zen. He added his knowledge and charm to make the adventure PERFECT.
    It was difficult to say goodbye to him. Zen will always hold a special place in my heart…….he had become my 3rd son.

    Thank you to my sons for this amazing, memoralble, fun, exciting, emotional (you get the picture) unforgettable trip.

    Jean Woodall

  2. What an interesting and wonderful story! I have never met anyone who actually completely traced their footsteps back to the origins where they are from. This is a wonderful gift to your Mother Jeannie! I knew who her when I was a little girl, and I never forgot what a sweet, kind heart she has! She deserves these great memories from her to great sons!! Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Hi,

    We just did something similar in May, 2014 and went to the villages of Zawoja and Skawica to attempt to find relatives. We also visited the parish and received some documents which gave us two more generations but unfortunately, no one could definitely verify a connection. We were mostly impressed by the friendliness and eagerness to help us and that we were invited into homes for coffee and cakes. This area is amazingly beautiful and I would just love to return.

    We also stayed at the Hotel Columbus and just loved it!


  4. Jean, I am so excited to follow your trip. I had my own tour several years ago and it was the event of a lifetime. You must be so proud of your sons, they obviously love you so much to put 2 years of planning into this gift to you!

  5. Yes, Shellie………my sons were the greatest gift of my life. I am so truly fortunate to have them. Glad you enjoyed Brian’s blog.

  6. Jean, thank you for sharing your wonderful story with me. I’m so happy the three of you got to go on this amazing journey together.

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