Our Dreams Come True. Part 1 – The Journey Begins.

Our customized two-week tour of Poland took place late September, early October 2022. Our journey, however, really began in August 2019 when I contacted PolishOrigins to help my sister and me fulfill our lifelong dream of visiting the birthplaces of our Polish ancestors.


We wanted to visit Biadoliny Szlacheckie and Szczawnica – the villages where our late father’s mother and father were born. We also wanted to visit our mother’s maternal grandmother’s birthplace – but we had no idea where that was!  I had been searching for that information for many years without success. If we were ever going to realize our dream, I needed help!

I was familiar with PolishOrigins through their blog, forum and newsletter – plus all their reviews were spectacular – so I started the process of working with them to research our mysterious great-grandmother in anticipation of proceeding with our genealogy tour itinerary. I provided a theory from a distant cousin plus a few promising DNA leads which helped PolishOrigins decide in which Polish archives to do their research. Success! Lucjan, their genealogist, found our great-grandmother’s baptism record which showed she was from Rogi in present day Krosno County! He also found records for her parents, siblings and grandparents! We went from a brick wall to discovering her family tree back to the early 1800s! 

My sister and I were ready to put our heads together with Aleksander from PolishOrigins to work on our itinerary.  Biadoliny Szlacheckie, Rogi and Szczawnica would be our primary destinations where we would visit churches, cemeteries, museums and search for distant relatives. We would arrive and depart from Kraków, and while there, visit some of the area highlights. We would also spend time in Tarnów and Dębno for additional research, and stop at some of the wooden churches and an ethnographic village on route. Aleksander provided tourist attraction and accomodation choices for our review, suggestions and approval. It was great fun deciding on how we would spend our time!

Genealogy Tour Route

We decided our trip would be the first two weeks of September 2020. As one might have guessed, the Covid-19 Pandemic put a stop to those plans. We crossed our fingers and rebooked for 2021 – well that did not work out either! We then rebooked for the end of September/early October 2022 – and, third time lucky!  

Besides attempting to learn some basic Polish during those 24 long months of waiting and updating the itinerary, I decided to request more supplementary research – this time on the locations of our ancestor’s houses in all three ancestral villages. I had several house numbers from various parish records that PolishOrigins used to cross reference with cadastral maps and operats from around 1850. They then designed map overlays which showed the locations of the old houses on current maps! These overlays proved invaluable during our visit!

Current Map with Cadastral Map Overlay


The big day finally arrived! Our driver met us at John Paul II International Airport and soon we were at the well-situated and elegant Queen Boutique Hotel. We were happy to receive a welcome call from Aleksander right after we checked in! These first four days we played tourist on our own, with wonderful drivers, guides and tours prearranged by PolishOrigins. We enjoyed a golf cart tour of the Jewish Quarter, an Old City Tour including St. Mary’s Basilica  and Wawel Hill Castle and Cathedral, a Pierogi workshop, a Wieliczka Salt Mine tour, and an Auschwitz-Birkenau tour. We re-visited many of the old Kraków sites on our own, plus St. Mary’s Market, the Cloth Market, and St Francis Church. 

Concert at St Mary’s Market, Pottery for Sale in Market, St. Mary’s Basilica

We started ticking traditional Polish cuisine specialties off our “bucket” list – pierogi, barszcz, szarlotka, pączki, local piwo, and of course, wódka! My personal favorite was smalec. It turned out to be a real treat that I sought out in memory of our father, who tried to invoke sympathy from us as children when he told us growing up they were so poor he had to eat lard sandwiches! Delicious!

Pierogi Workshop, St. Mary’s Market Food Stall, Smalec Sandwich


Our genealogy guide, translator and driver, Lucjan, picked us up from our hotel on our final morning in Kraków. We were happy to meet the genealogist who had expertly researched our great-grandmother’s family and birthplace. Our drive to Tarnów was full of interesting conversation and scenery. We got to know each other, talked about our goals for the next several days, and had quite a few laughs!

Tarnów served as a base for our three days in the area. Hotel U Jana, originally built at the end of the 13th century was very spacious and comfortable. The renaissance town square, old town architecture and outdoor markets were very picturesque and charming. The local restaurants served some delicious Polish specialties from our bucket list – rosół, kiełbasa, kapusta, kotlet schabowy, kotlet de volay, not to mention some more local piwo!

Adam Mickiewicz Monument at Kazimierz Wielki Square, Municipal Market, Pork Cutlet

During this part of the itinerary, we spent a few hours each day at the Diocesan Archives looking primarily for marriage and death records, zeroing in on specific ancestors with gaps in their paper trails. It was extremely handy having record books for several adjacent parishes where we located baptisms, marriages and deaths for direct ancestors and their siblings. The Archivist was very helpful and friendly, gladly providing the necessary registers and funny anecdotes. Lucjan had studied our family tree and was able to expertly and efficiently direct our research. His enthusiasm helped keep us focused during what could have been considered a tedious and overwhelming task!

Tarnów Diocesan Archives





  1. Your story brings tears of joy to my eyes. How wonderful for you and so grateful for of those that so graciously have given their time to make this such a wonderful trip !

    1. Thank you, Nikole! Everywhere we went, the people were so kind and helpful to us. We can’t wait to return someday!

  2. Je suis très contente pour vous que vous ayez pu trouver les traces de vos origines. J’ai moi-meme été en Pologne en septembre 2019 car ma maman est née à Kalish en 1920….. elle est venue en France en 1930 avec ma grand-mère et son frère. Mon grand-père y était dejà depuis 1920….. Morte en 2018, je lui avais dit que je faisais la généalogie de son côté et que j’irai en Pologne. Elle est morte avant et lorsque j’ai retrouvé à Kalish la maison de brique rouge qu’elle avait habitée, j’ai pleuré ….. …….. C’est pour cela que je comprends tout ce que vous avez pu ressentir lors de votre voyage…… Notre périple a duré 15 jours et nous avons vu Cracovie, Varsovie, Poznan, Kalish et Lodz ainsi que les mines de sel……..
    C’était merveilleux…. J’ai 75 ans et je cherche toujours à travers les documents le trajet de mes ancêtres………. je ne pourrai pas y retourner mais peut-être mes enfants……. en tous les cas, je leur laisserai toutes mes découvertes……..

    1. Thank you for sharing your story with us. How wonderful you were able to travel to Poland and find your family’s red brick house! It sounds like a lovely trip. I am sure your children will appreciate all your efforts!

  3. What a fabulous experience for you! We are headed to Tarnów next month. Care to share
    any of your favorite restaurants? We also found the Diocesan Archives most helpful during
    our last visit there. It is a gem of a town.

    1. I’m jealous, Susan! How great you are returning to Tarnów a second time! We generally had two meals a day – breakfast and either lunch or dinner at our hotel – Hotel U Jana. My sister and I always ordered something different so we could share. We also had a light lunch of delicious rosół in Dębno, but the restaurant was Italian! For the other meals we just ate some wonderful pastries from our cousin plus Pączki from the local bakery. If we go back, we want to spend more time exploring the town and restaurants!

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