The series of blog posts was originally published on Adrianne’s blog: http://fortenberry.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/polish-origins-adventure/.
This trip was taken in honor of my mother, Wanda Wierzbicki Fortenberry. I wish she had been with me.
Between 1976 and 1984, my father and mother, with help from the rest of the family, researched and published a family history on my dad’s family, the Fortenberrys. During this time, mom would periodically attempt to research her parents’ Polish roots.
Because the internet and digitized records were still in the future, not much could be accomplished. So instead, she wrote the stories she had heard as a child. This is the story of my attempt to find the Polish roots of my grandmother, Pelagia Jaroszewska, from north of Płock and my grandfather, Rajmund Wierzbicki, from north of Łomza.
According to her birth record, Pelagia Bregetta Jaroszewska was the child of Jan Jaroszewski and Antonina Cybulska born on March 7, 1898 in the village of Kowalewo in the parish of Łęg Probostwo. She always celebrated her birthday on March 10. Quite a few stories my mother wrote about had been my grandmother’s memories. During the past 5 years, with the help of the internet and LDS microfilm, I have been able to fill in some of her family information. I even had one of her lines, the Cybulski family, back to the late 1700s.
Because my grandfather almost never shared stories, very little was known about his life or family in Poland. I was hoping this trip would substantiate some of the stories and answer some questions!
Rajmund Wierzbicki, born in 1892, celebrated his birthday on January 29. He was the son of Jan Wierzbicki and Barbara Dąbrowska. Even after extensive research, no church birth record has been found but this trip yielded something more interesting.
In my research on the internet, I located a website called “PolishOrigins”. The more I read, the more interested I became in actually making a trip to Poland. Not one single piece of information about Rajmund Wierzbicki could be located using the LDS microfilms, even though I knew the exact village, had written the church in Lachowo, and had written the archives in Lomza. All responses indicated that records did not exist for the church in Lachowo. With the opportunity of going to Poland, research possibilities that could not be addressed from a continent away began popping in my head! After reading testimonials online, I booked my trip with Zenon Znamirowski.
Before going any further in this discussion, my feelings about our guide, Zenon, must be expressed. There are many adjectives to describe him but I will use just a few. He is professional, knowledgeable, calmly persistent, flexible, kindhearted, goal oriented, and has an amazing master plan for his life! He is also very tolerant of Americans’ inability to say the simplest Polish words. With his help I have a better understanding of the life choices my immigrant ancestors made, an appreciation for the history of an historically oppressed culture, and have strengthened my desire to honor my Polish ancestry. Thank you Zenon!