If you want to trace Polish genealogy a good many skills are required of the researcher. The ability to read a map or a gazetteer is critical. Where is Babcia’s village? So mapa.szukacz.pl is good for locating today’s existing villages/towns/cities. If you use Google Maps, then the basic concept should be familiar to you. But Stanczyk likes mapa.szukacz.pl because you lookup the village. To lookup a placename you enter the village in the field with the title ‘Miejscowość’ in the pink dialog box with the title, ‘Pokaż na mapie’ (‘Show on Map’). Finally, you press the button named, ‘Pokaż’ (Show). That is it. The village appears, assuming it still exists and you are fortunate enough to spell it correctly. If the placename you entered is a common one, then you may see a list of choices to examine and pick from. That is it and you have located dziadek’s (grandfather’s) home town. Of course, you have probably done some extensive research to get to this point. But now you have the lay of the land of your ancestral village. The radio buttions by ‘Zebliż’ change the zoom of the map; so adjust to your needs. All this is well and good and mostly just like Google Maps, except the ability lookup by name. But there have been a few new tricks added to this wonderful tool.
It already gave you the population (ex. 1275 osób, like for Pacanow). You need not enter the diacriticals. It also gave you woj. , pow. , and gmina. Which you may think of as state, county, and township/borrough. Write these down, you will need them over and over again. Sadly, these levels of administration have changed since your grandparent’s time. You also get a postal code and telephone prefix in case you seek out family in the mother country. If that were all it would be a useful tool. But as I said, they have enhanced this web application. There is a valuable drop down named, ‘Przydatne punkty’ (“Useful points’). It only allows you to pick one selection. I find ‘kościoły’ (Churches) and ‘cmentarze’ (Cemeteries) the most useful to a genealogist. A word to the wise. The symbols that pop-up on the map (if any, at your zoom level) are woefully incomplete. So the church you are seeking may not show, as in my case. But I am hopeful that they will keep adding to his valuable resource. This option is akin to that of ‘search nearby’ in Google Maps. Originally, I did not use Google Maps for Poland or Ukraine because it was woeful in listing villages and its ability to search nearby was no good for countries that did not have English as their primary language. But I see today that those issues have been resolved by Google. But Mapa.szukacz.pl still gives you the population and administration levels and other demographics that Google has yet to provide. Stanczyk does have to praise Google in one way. The ‘little yellow man’ that you can place on most US roads to get a web-cam still panoramic view of the location is replaced with little blue ‘dots’ where you can drop him and see photographs from that spot (Which Pacanow seemed to have many). So I guess you should use both maps.google.com and mapa.szukacz.pl to geo-locate your ancestral village. To get the spelling correct, perhaps you can use JewishGen’s (also now in ancestry.com) Shtetl Seeker tool to help you get the spelling correct. Alas, that is another useful website for another day….