(This post was originally published by Marie on Polish Genealogy group on Facebook. Marie graciously agreed to share it with our blog readers..
I struggled for years to unravel my Polish roots. Fortunately, I discovered PolishOrigins. Within just a few months, their genealogist, Zbigniew Stettner, provided me with a 30 page report and detailed email setting out details of my father’s family going back to his great-great-great grandparents and family! This based on the limited information I was able to provide being his date of birth, a letter from the Polish Red Cross with a few details and information regarding his parents’ names.
Our next step was to find living relatives. Not wanting to let too much more time lapse, I worked with PolishOrigins to organize a trip to Poland and Belarus (where my mother was born).
My husband and daughter accompanied me in September on our genealogy tour.
PolishOrigins looked after every single detail of the trip including accommodation, booking tour guides in Warsaw, Krakow and Auschwitz and helping us with details regarding money exchange, etc.
We met at the airport by Zenon, the owner of PolishOrigins. He stayed with us to ensure we were settled in our hotel.
We finally met Zbigniew a day later when we started our genealogy tour. We first drove to Belarus. We quickly found out that Zbigniew has a passion for the hunt and joined in our excitement with each new revelation. In addition to his many technical skills and experience, we found he has a disarming approach that causes strangers to open up with information. He was well prepared and would constantly review new leads. He always kept us moving in a forward direction.
By the way, our daughter, Sara became very good at reading road signs, whether they were in Belarus or Russian!
The trip turned out to be a very successful one. In Belarus we found an 86 year old woman in my mother’s village who remembered her and played with her when they were young girls (even though my mother was much older). She remembered that when the Germans came, they took the three oldest girls in the village to Germany for work, my mother being one of them.
We also found my uncle’s grave, my uncle’s son’s grave, the house my mother used to live in, and a cousin living in Pinsk. The cousin said she wished I had arrived a few days earlier, as her daughter just got married the Saturday before and I could have met the rest of the family!
By the way, when I say we, I really mean Zbigniew!
Everywhere we went, the villagers wanted to take us in, feed us, even offering their homes for accommodation. They were more than willing to help us by enlisting all their friends and relatives in our search. They did this even though they were in the middle of their harvest season. Incidentally, we reaped the benefits of the harvest, leaving us with bags of plums and apples!
Our next stop was the area where my father was born and lived northeast of Krakow. We spent several days in that area. We visited the archives at Kielce to obtain certified copies of birth and military records, we visited the estate where my father’s family worked and lived (they were peasants and worked for the local land owner), we visited the church where he was baptized, the cemetery where his parents are probably buried and another cemetery where other family members are buried. We located relatives when we searched the town given as his last place of residence by the Polish Red Cross. We found and met a couple of cousins, who then provided additional information to fill in the family chart.
We were following new leads right up to the last moment we were in that area of Poland. These leads all panned out, we were able to find another cousin who had been living in Canada not far from where we live for the past 20 years! Another lead to follow up here at home.
This turned out to be a trip of a lifetime. I cannot tell you how pleased we were with Polish Origins and their staff, including Zenon, Ania and Zbigniew. Zbigniew in particular was sensational. He has the ideal demeanor, sensitivity, and skills. We all miss him. I would highly recommend the services of PolishOrigins to anyone who is in need of genealogical services in Poland or Belarus.