Tuesday, June 6, 2023
My father Gary and I took a 7-day tour with PolishOrigins to trace his ancestors who emigrated from Poland. Our genealogist and tour guide was Zbigniew Stettner.
We started in Małopolska (Lesser Poland), where my father’s mother’s parents (separately) emigrated from. It was part of the Austrian Partition. Maryanna Dadał was from Długołęka; Józef Majda was from Podegrodzie. Those villages are less than 5 miles apart. He emigrated in 1903, she in 1905. It makes me wonder if their families knew each other, or even if Józef “sent for” Maryanna once he was in the US. This is the only branch of the family that I had researched myself, mainly through records available through Family Search. Although I knew the facts, I was looking forward to personalizing that information with visits to the villages and the parish churches.
What an amazing, emotional, unforgettable first day we had. We spent four hours this morning in the Diocesan Archives in Tarnów, finding new and double-checking already known records.
Highlight of the morning: finding who took care of my great-grandfather’s daughter, Barbara, once her mother died. My great-grandfather Józef Majda had a family in Poland. Two of the children died before he left for America in 1903. His wife Marianna Waligóra died one year after he left, leaving their four-year-old Barbara essentially an orphan. Barbara wrote a letter – absolutely heartbreaking – in 1948 to her father, his new wife (my great-grandmother), and their children (including my grandmother) in the United States. In that letter, she states that she is living with the wife of her dead uncle and gives her address as care of Antoni Hejmej, Juraszowa house #12. (Family oral history has it that my great-grandmother really wanted to bring Barbara to the US; they even sent money to her for the trip.) Zbigniew was able to piece together that when Barbara’s mother died, her maternal grandparents took Barbara in. At some point, Barbara’s uncle Wojciech Waligóra married Zofia Zwolińska; Barbara lived with them. Then, Wojciech died. In 1923, Zofia (the wife of the dead uncle) married Antoni Hejmej; Barbara lived with them.
Highlight of the afternoon #1!!!! We accomplished one of our main goals of the trip. We saw the house (renovated but still THE house) where my great-grandmother was born. I knew from my own research at Family Search that my great-grandmother Maryanna Dadał was born in house #53 Długołęka in 1882. (Her mother Zofia Mentel was born in that house, too, in 1863.) But it took some additional archival research plus some networking on the ground (see highlight of the afternoon #2 below) on the part of Zbigniew to actually get us there. (We also could not have gotten there without his expert driving on the hilly, winding roads.) The view was breathtaking. It is almost unreal to think that my great-grandmother looked out on those same hills before emigrating to the US at age 22, and that several generations of the family grew up and grew old on that land.
Highlight of the afternoon #2! In the process of looking for house #53, we met some Dadałs still living in Długołęka: Teofil and his wife Urszula and their nephew Tomasz. (Zbigniew did some research the next morning and discovered that Teofil is my Dad’s third cousin once removed and Tomasz is my Dad’s fourth cousin.) We drove up to their house, completely unannounced, and they welcomed us with open arms. They welcomed us into their house for what I thought was going to be tea with lemon, but it turned out to be a plate with four different kinds of homemade smoked meat; some kind of soft cheese with onion; a plate of store-bought bread (that Teofil apologized several times for); a few pieces of homemade bread that Teofil said was like the kind his mom used to make; a bowl of homemade pickled peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms; cake and cookies; and the offering of a few different kinds of alcohol. We talked for close to an hour about family history and history of the houses; they even brought out two old family photos including a wedding photo of my great-grandmother’s brother from 1921. Teofil knows who lives in house #53; he made a phone call to her and she invited us over (see highlight of the afternoon #1 above).
About DAY 2 you can read HERE.