The purpose of writing the story of how I found my family in Poland for you is to show that successful family history involves much more than looking at book, articles and microfilm. I did spend very many hours in libraries doing that. But if it were that easy, it wouldn’t give that much enjoyment or (or take so long).
It involved learning much about the history, names, language (a bit) and geography of Poland (and Prussia). It required a good computer program to keep track of many of the names, dates and facts that get uncovered during the course of research. I use The Master Genealogist that allows me to record more than one date, name or place for an event, and give them reliability ratings.
I learned about resources and research techniques by joining many computer forums and mailing lists and seeing what other people were doing. I participated in them by providing information on what I was seeking and by helping others when I had information from which they might benefit. Some people became good friends (even though we never met in person) and were important providers of help to me.
I have found that most serious family researchers are among the most friendly and helpful people that you will ever find on the Internet, or in probably in person. One reason for this might be that most of us often spend long periods of times in front of a “brick wall” as they say, not learning anything. But we don’t quit.
We understand that if we keep at it long enough, we may achieve success. So one way to occupy oneself is to help others with their research. Some people have found most of what is possible to find and spend many hours helping others. I am thinking of Debbie on the Polish Genius list or Fred Hoffman, the author of Polish Surnames: Origin and Meanings; Rafal Prinke, etc. Real genealogical “saints.”
Now is a good time to get serious about researching in Poland and Europe. When the Internet got going in 1994 or so, very few Europeans had computers, or if they did, they had to pay for internet time “by the minute.” Many weren’t interested in family history. But that seems to be changing. People like Zenon here on the PolishOrigins site are making a difference and I’m sure we will see more local help coming from people in Poland (and Germany).
Many people today think that all you have to do is ask Google or Yahoo and they will come up with the answer, and if they don’t, then there is no answer. That’s wrong. It may take some time, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of internet sites, forums and mail lists that have people willing to help you find your family.
One important thing to remember about your research if your “brick wall” still finds you in the United States or other foreign country. Spend your time getting to know other researchers who have achieved some success. In what is called “chain migration”, many immigrants came to places in the U.S. because friends and relatives had gone there before them and had written back saying there was good land or jobs to be had.
For a start, check out “Cyndi’s List”, the definitive list of everything you would ever want to know about Poland. Today there are 367 such lists on her page: http://www.cyndislist.com/poland.htm .
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it might give you some ideas as to how to proceed on your story.