Years ago – well before Social Media, it happened.
I was researching my Polish roots. E-mail did exist, in its earliest form. I started e-mailing a gentleman from Sanok, Poland. I found him through the tourist information portion of the town’s website. I reached out to him to see if he could help me find my ancestors – they had long, deep roots in that area.
I had also great success writing to the Polish Catholic Church Archives, despite some of the horror stories that I had heard.
At one point, I told him that I had a picture that was taken in Sanok – would the photography studio still be there or am I crazy? Well, he did say that I was crazy – after all, this photo would have been taken around 1900 or so – but he did something that I did not expect…
…he put the picture in the local newspaper.
Days passed and I didn’t really think much about sending him the picture until I received another e-mail from him. He had received a letter from someone stating that they were part of the family in the photo and that they had the exact same photo to prove it! What were the chances? I was beside myself with joy. I ran around the office (OK, not running, but certainly a bit out of breath) telling anyone who would listen what happened. Most stared at me like I had gone completely mad. But then – almost as quickly as the elation came – the dread occurred. They only spoke Polish. I could not really rely on my contact in Poland to help me as he was only a worker in what we would call a Visitors’ Bureau. It wouldn’t be fair to him.
I did have a Polish co-worker who was willing to help me write a few letters. This was key. I was able to write as much as I could with books and dictionaries and then he would fix them so that they didn’t sound completely broken, like a pre-schooler. I gained confidence and continued to write, broken Polish and all. It didn’t matter. This was family and they didn’t seem to care. We exchanged photos and some information – in fact they knew of family in Pennsylvania that my mother didn’t know we had!
I was even able to show my mother a picture of her Great Aunt Karolina (far left), after whom she was named. It was definitely a ‘Kodak’ moment!
If I hadn’t reached out, I would have never made this connection. That was 12 years ago and I am still in touch with both that gentleman AND my family in Poland. My Polish has improved and thanks to tools like Google Translator, it’s close enough that we can figure out what each other are saying.
As the title states, leave no stone unturned. You never know what you may find. It may just come from some pretty unexpected sources.
Feel free to share your unexpected discoveries in the comments section as well!
What a great story! Good for you.
Love this! My grandmother’s family was from West Prussia but now central Poland. Maybe I’ll give it a try!
It’s worth a shot! Why not? What do you have to lose? I would search for the town on the web, on Facebook, etc. You can even see if you can find someone who works for the town in FB and see if they will answer you.
Thanks for stopping by!
This is an inspiring story! And even more inspiring, it was done before Social Media and all the Internet databases. With just letters (well, email and a website) and people and photos and newspapers. I’ve found that most people really love to be helpful. Like the man who put your photo in the paper. It’s kind of a miracle that you were able to get in touch with them, but then . . . it stuns me to realize that genealogists were busily researching long before today’s technology. I guess this is how they did it. Reaching out, like you did. Congratulations!
I know – it was great. Sometimes now I think we forget of the ‘Good ol’ fashioned way’ of doing things. Everyone that I met wanted to help, which I was amazed as well. I would have never thought that this would happen, but I’ll have to do a follow up blog post – you will find Lightning Can Strike Twice! 🙂
What a great post! It’s so easy (these days) to rely on the obvious sources because they exist and are “easy”. But a bit of lateral thinking worked for you. You’ve inspired me to take another look at my brick walls and try to figure out new ways of chipping at them. Thanks.
Thanks for the nice comment, Su! You never know what you may find out. My prior post regarding Bay Village, Ohio was the same thing – they said he was the mayor. Because I went snooping around, I was able to connect with family. Even local authors have helped – one put a book together about the town’s history and he helped me track down baptismal records as part of his research, too.
What a fantastic story.
Thank you! I appreciate you ‘stopping by’ my blog and taking time to comment. Have a great day!