Our Dreams Come True. Part 2 – A Glimpse into Our Grandmother’s Life.

As we began our exploration of the Tarnów area, we arranged to meet recently discovered fifth-cousins on our father’s mother’s side of the family. We found our connection through DNA matching and verified that we shared 4x Great Grandparents!  We were thrilled to spend time together, exchange gifts and take some photos.  To the best of their knowledge, we did not have any close relatives living in the area as many residents immigrated to the USA in the early 1900s or moved to bigger cities for work. We reviewed directions to  places of interest, the house locations on our map and documents providing a history of the area. We promised to keep in touch and to continue sharing our family research. It was a wonderful experience!

DNA Match with Fifth Cousin

Biadoliny Szlacheckie and Biadoliny Radłowskie

We then drove to the mapped house locations, searching for any signs of old buildings, and talking to other locals who might have known something about our long lost kinfolk. Our presence, as expected, created some curiosity which invited neighbors and passers by to discuss possibilities. We were well-supplied with family tree copies, photos and calling cards to share.

Village Views

Then eureka, we struck gold with our grandmother’s birth home!  The family currently living in the location of the old house was very friendly. They walked with us to their backyard where an old wooden house with peeling blue paint stood.  The couple said they used the now vacant house for extra storage.  It was rebuilt about 1906 on the foundations of an earlier house.  It is likely that our grandmother lived in the older house growing up and in the rebuilt house for a short time prior to departing for the USA in 1907.  Looking at the old faded wood, the shiny tiles and the cozy interior felt amazing, knowing that not only did our father’s mother live there, but also her parents and siblings. We were very humbled and grateful to have had this glimpse into their lives.

Grandmother’s House, A Tile from the House

Armed with some more directions, we said our goodbyes then made our way to the local modern Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Biadoliny – Kościół Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa w Biadolinach, to ask the priest if we could review some of the more recent parish records not held in the Diocesan Archives. The priest said he had to prepare for mass and to come back the next day. We stopped the next day as agreed, but the priest was still not able to assist us. He did promise, though, to look into our short list of names and dates when he had time. We are still waiting!

We also walked through the nearby parish cemetery, looking for family graves, searching back into history for headstones with our family surnames – Pałka, Bodzioch, Płaneta, Wołek, Orszulak, Hebda, Pater, Dziadek, Wajda, Oćwieja, and Sowa. While the cemetery was relatively new, dating from around WWII, we did end up taking photos of headstones with our surnames having the oldest birth dates, with the hope that someday we might find connections.

Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Cemetery

Our last must-see stop in the town was a small chapel at the edge of the forest that our fifth-cousins told us about,  Kapliczka św. Piotra i Pawła – the Chapel of Sts. Peter and Paul.  The shrine to these saints was built in the mid-1800s in honor of a miracle performed by St. Peter centuries earlier. Per local legend, St. Peter discovered a spring when he dug a hole with his traveling stick and proceeded to use the holy water to heal the blind son of the poor elderly couple who lived there.   The spring was still there, now protected by a wooden cover. A selection of cups and mugs hung nearby for the faithful to use. It was very serene and scenic!

Sts. Peter and Paul Chapel


The church where our grandmother was baptized was in Dębno as neither Biadoliny Szlacheckie nor Biadoliny Radłowskie had a church in 1888.  The Gothic church from the end of the 15th century, Kościół św. Małgorzaty w Dębnie – Church of St. Margaret in Dębno, was closed for renovations (this turned out to be  a recurring theme for us during this trip!), but we were able to walk around the outside and look through the indoor gate.  Lucjan encouraged me to go up a circular metal staircase into the choir loft, where I was able to get a few more precious photos of the church interior! We visited the adjacent cemetery as well. Looking back, I wish that we had placed our family tree calling cards under the znicze – cemetery candles – to give any potential relatives the possibility to contact us!

Church of St. Margaret in Dębno and Cemetery

Our last research stop in the area was the Dębno city hall to search for more current records that could not be found in the Diocesan Archive books or microfilms. Because of privacy regulations, we needed to provide evidence of our relationship to the deceased and were not allowed to do the research ourselves. We were relieved that the office staff was meticulous in her expert scanning of page upon page of registry books looking for our list of names, with Lucjan monitoring closely from the proper distance! We were overjoyed when she found marriage records for our grandmother’s siblings, adding valuable new surnames to our growing family tree. 

As a result, we also came closer to solving the mystery surrounding two letters my cousin had given to me from the 1960s. The letters were addressed from Kraków to one of our uncles from an unknown person with the surname Zielinski – which turned out to match the married name of one of our grandmother’s sisters! Even though the Kraków street names had changed since the 1960s, Lucjan was later able to provide us with the current street location using his magic! We hope to investigate further!

We gratefully left a few mementos from our home state as a thank you to the accommodating staff. 

Dębno City Hall, Mystery Family Letters


We decided to take a quick trip to the lovely historical painted village of Zalipie located about 30 minutes north of Tarnów before heading to our next genealogy stop at Rogi.  We took time to drive around admiring houses, shrines, fences, gardens and so on, decorated with traditional floral patterns. We stopped at an ethnographic museum with three important historical homes we could tour inside and out. They were amazing – so colorful and unique. After the tour and lots of photos we drove to the local cultural and art center where we saw a workshop of village ladies painting souvenirs with traditional yet their own personal designs. The “pająki” on display were colorful and gorgeous! My sister decided then and there that she was going to learn how to make them!  

Homestead Felicja Curyłowa Ethnographic Museum Exterior/Interior, Pająki Display at House of Painters

We then set out on our two hour drive towards Rogi, enjoying the scenery as it changed from low rolling hills toward more mountainous views…






  1. Your story is wonderful and immediately transported me back to the trip we made 18 months ago on which Lucjan was also our worker of miracles. He – and everyone at PO is just so fantastic. Your photos and words have me fighting with myself on this snowy Tuesday morning in Boston. I have much work to do and I’m battling to keep myself from putting my work aside and diving back into my Ancestry, looking for more threads to pull. 🙂

    You went to Zalipie!! We did as well because my grandmother came from there and with the invaluable help of Lucjan and Kinga, we found so much about my family history, including the cousin we didn’t know existed and whose artwork, including pajaki that he made, you may well have seen in the museum you visited. My writeup about that trip is here in the PolishOrigins archive. Thanks to Kinga and Lucjan, we, too found the property from which my grandmother came. The house was newer, but the barn was likely the one that her family used. Your photo of the tile is really moving. What a tremendous connection to have made.

    Thank you for brightening this gray, dreary day for me. I’m sitting here with a grin on my face remembering what a fantastic trip we had and looking forward to the day when we can return.

    1. Thank you, Stephen, for your feedback and comments. I often go down that research rabbit hole as well – so difficult to resist. And, of course, any new finds are an encouragement to make that next trip to Poland!

      I loved reading your write-up on your travel experience and your wonderful artwork discovery. AMAZING, to say the least!

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