Last night I attended the Fountaindale Public Library‘s Genealogy Group meeting which is overseen by Debra Dudek, the Adult and Teen Services Manager. Debra has a fantastic high-energy, outgoing personality that livened up the beginning of the meeting. She introduced the speaker, Steve Szabados, a local genealogist. Steve spoke on Finding Grandma’s Ancestors. In May he spoke about Tracing Grandma’s Ancestors and June’s presentation was the second part for his discussion.
Steve provided many wonderful resources and websites for researchers to use when tracing ancestors, primarily Polish, but he also touched on other Eastern European records. Chicago has a large Polish population and those researching their roots will benefit from hearing Steve speak.
Steve discussed the importance of locating as many records in the U.S. as possible to find maiden names of women, birth and marriage dates and most importantly, the village or city from which the ancestor came. European countries changed their borders after wars or new rulers took power. The village in which an ancestor lived may have at one point been considered part of Russia, Germany, Austria or Poland. Take those boundary changes into consideration.
Wikipedia was provided as a great resource, even with its errors, to locate place names. Steve suggested that when using it you start typing the name of the village one letter at a time and other possibilities will appear. When you locate the correct name and view the Wikipedia entry for it, the village name will appear in other languages as well. Write those down so you will have them when you search for records.
Steve stressed the importance of knowing not only the village but also the parish where the records were held. This is important when searching Family History Library films. Another important point was to have a cheat sheet of commonly used words in the language you are working with. For example, a cheat sheet for me would be in Czech and English. It would like numbers, months of the year, relationships primarily and any other words I might commonly find in Czech documents. Along those lines it is important to use a Czech to English dictionary from around the time period you want to translate. Words that were in use around 1900 may not be in use today nor found in today’s dictionaries. He also encouraged attendees to borrow or purchase the book Following the Paper Trail: A multilingual translation guide by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman as it provides much of this information.
The presentation ended with a listing of several websites to use when you come up against brickwalls. Genforum, Rootsweb and Ancestry.com were the three big ones discussed. Steve explained by posting queries he has met cousins living in Europe who have been able to share information and photographs of his ancestors.
The presentation was very educational for everyone, even those without Polish roots. So many of the concepts discussed apply to other ethnicities. If you get the opportunity to hear Steve speak, absolutely do it.
I have attended many genealogy meetings in the area and this is one of my favorite groups. Genealogists overall are a very sharing and open community. If you want to join the ranks, just jump on in! With this group, there is an overwhelming feeling of friendliness and high energy that is contagious. Even the newcomers, of which I was one, found themselves immediately at ease, laughing along with the other participants, and immediately part of the group. Everyone was willing to share and add tips to enhance what the speaker discussed. Not all genealogy societies or groups emit these feelings. This is one group in which I plan to be very involved.
The library is planning its 2012 Genealogy Day for April so watch for information on that. It will be a day filled with speakers, networking and education. The Fountaindale Library’s Genealogy Groups meets the third Wednesday evening of the month from September to June at the library. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and run until 9 p.m.I hope to see you there!