Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Family Research 101

I've received a number of emails asking for help in researching family root in Przemysl. While I always like to help, let me assure you that I have no secret stash of records or private access to Polish Archives! Luckily, much of what you'll need to get started is available to all on-line.

Think like a detective - develop theories, follow leads, keep an open mind, pay attention to details, and be sure to take notes when you interview the witnesses!

Researching your (Przemysl) tree:

1. Before you start searching I highly recommend that you invest in a program to keep track of your records - your tree. I use Family Tree Maker - it's OK - but I'm sure almost anything would do the job.

2. Populate your tree as best you can. The single best source for family information is your family! Call/email/write every living relation. Do they remember your great aunt's maiden name? Grandfather's birthday? Every detail is useful - keep them all. Look at old photos for clues. This is the fun part! Once you have a basic tree built, you can see what's missing and focus your energy there.

3. Join JRI-Poland and JewishGen then go to Family Finder Search and register your surnames. This puts you in touch with other looking for similar names in your towns. Email them - network! Download and read their Hints and their Research Guide.

4. Search the JRI - Poland Database These are the birth, death and marriage records from Poland that are over 100 years old. If you find a match, copy all the information. Remember: names change over time - the uncle your family knew as Morris might have been born Modrechi. Also check for children's names under the mother's maiden name - they were sometimes listed that way. You want to try to make connections - If you find a birth record with parental data, try to find the marriage record of the parents, etc. Search all of the other JRI databases: The JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database, Galician Surname Index, etc...

5. ShtetLinks: Przemysl is a very useful site well worth perusing and joining. It is part of Gesher Galicia, the special interest group for the parts of Poland once ruled by Austria. They have an excellent search page.

6. For Shoah victims, you'll want to search The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names at Yad Vashem.

7. For relations who came to the US, Ellis Island records can be of tremendous value as the ship manifests often show birthplace, name of person the passenger is going to and a name back in the old country. Again, names can be different than the one's you know. Web pages by Stephen P. Morse is a great place to start as he allows for more complete searching than the Ellis Island Search itself.

8. It's worthwhile looking at the old business directories for Przemysl if you suspect your family had a store or a business. I use this one: Search Engine for Online Historical Directories

This is only the beginning... happy hunting!

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