Gentle readers, today’s article is about the many genealogical or personal ties to the history of Haller’s Army. The focus is on what the genealogist may want to pursue to flesh out his/her family tree.
The era was World War I (1914-1918) and the world was mad with war and carnage and pestilence. There were 16.5 million deaths and 21 million wounded making it the 6th deadliest conflict (or possibly 2nd/3rd worse if you include the Flu Pandemic deaths). [See: this cheery web page on the estimate of Wars, Pandemics, Disasters, and Genocides that caused the greatest number of deaths.] Out of this madness, was an army of diaspora Poles formed, of which over 25,0001
came from the US via a US sanctioned formation of a foreign force, which had to be constituted in Canada due to USA fears and its isolationist policies that limited President Wilson.
These brave 25,000 men were added to another contingent of 35,000 Polish men formed largely from prisoners of war from the German and Austria-Hungarian armies inside France, who were now willing to fight against Central Powers as a part of the Allied/Central Powers. They fought bravely in World War I, before the USA entered the war and for nearly four more years (1918-1922) after World War I officially ended in the Polish-Bolshevik War (aka Polish-Soviet War).
The recruitment centers were in the Polish Falcons centers. The Polish Falcons were called the Związek Sokołów Polskich w Ameryce (ZSP) and this is what you will find on Haller’s Army enlistment forms. The Polish Falcons still exist and are headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA. There are reportedly 115 Polish Falcon Nests across 15 states. Each Nest has its own history that it maintains.
The Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA.org) maintains a database of the Haller’s Army registrations that can be searched for your ancestor(s). It is free to search and there is a modest charge to get a copy of the actual documents. The search page is here: (http://www.pgsa.org/haller.php) . These documents are archived by the Polish Museum of America in Chicago. This data is also on LDS Microfilm by region see this page for details .
There are three types of forms. These forms are in Polish. You need not worry about that as the PGSA offers example forms in English (FormA | FormC) in PDF format. On the forms you find the following info:
- Form A is an intention to volunteer and contains the name, address, age, and marital status.
- Form B is a medical examination report for the volunteer.
- Form C is the final commitment paper. It includes date and place of birth and usually the name and address of a parent or other close relative. The Form’s family notes include close family in USA and in Poland.
The Allies issued medals to their victorious soldiers so you may have in your family heirlooms one of these. This website has an index of the various medals (with images). Many of the websites whose links are in this article also have pictures of men in uniforms — which included their distinctive hats.
We tend to think the soldiers were all Polish men and that these men were Catholics, but our Polish-Jewish brethren also served in Haller’s Army. This page from Polish Roots is about the Jewish soldiers who served and provides a table of many of the men known to be Jewish.
The ship manifests in Ellis Island record the return Haller’s Army soldiers, who returned en masse. You can see the soldiers who are listed on pages together with a note on the bottom, “Reservists”. That notation should eliminate any confusion with other possible passengers/crew members. The soldiers returning from the European theater are known to have arrived via Ellis Island on the following ships:
- SS Antigone (from Danzig – April 18, 1920)
- SS Latvia (August 17, 1922)
- SS Pocahontas (from Danzig – June 16, 1920)
- SS Princess Matoika (from Danzig – May 23, 1920)
- SAT (US Army Transport) Mercury, from Danzig on June 16, 1920, and arrived at New York June 28 1920
Links to the Ship Manifests
http://bit.ly/rlVaaQ SS Princess Matoika from Danzig in 1920 [more dates than shown above] 4253 Returning Troops
http://bit.ly/p3ViM2 SS Pocahontas from Danzig in 1920 [please note the ship name is P-O-C-A-H-O-N-T-A-S. It was misspelled on the PGSA.org website]. 4199 Returning Troops
http://bit.ly/nwYwsx SAT Mercury from Danzig June 1920. 2074 Returning Troops
http://bit.ly/n6YRot SS Antigone from Danzig April 1920. 1628 Returning Troops
http://bit.ly/pGwQa5 SS Latvia from Danzig August 1922. 1517 Returning Troops
Returning passage – Payment of passage was split between the Polish and United States Governments. [see column 16] on ship manifest. It appears some soldiers returned with wives and children too [so those numbers above are not all soldiers].
One more connection. Like the VFW for veterans, there is an Polish-American organization in NYC called POLISH ARMY VETERANS ASSOCIATION2
They (PAVA) have genealogical data from their membership forms. According to Dr Valasek, the membership application for the association has the usual, date, place of birth, current address, and occupation; It also had something most descendants of Hallerczycy desperately want to know: the unit in which the man fought, and his rank upon leaving the army. There is also the identification of which post the soldier joined. Each post has its own history, as well as photos, banquet books, anniversary booklets, etc. All valuable adjuncts to your research once you identify the correct post, (or, as it’s known in Polish, placówka). There is also a question on the form, Do jakich organizacji należy? , to what organizations does he belong. More avenues for research.
In any war, there are casualties. Haller’s Army is no different. Stanczyk likes this Polish Genealogical Society (http://genealodzy.pl/name-Straty.phtml) named aptly, The Polish Genealogical Society. They have many databases, but they have search front-ends for two related to Haller’s Army. The one from the link above is for: List of Casualties of the Polish Army, killed in action or died from wounds from the years 1918-1920.
With this link I was finally able to determine that one of my ancestors who was in America up through the 1910 census, but was missing from the 1920/1930 censuses, whom I had previously thought had returned to Poland — had really died while serving in Haller’s Army. I found his Haller’s Army Forms at PGSA and then from this Polish website I found a scanned image of a Polish book listing his name, date/place of death.
Some soldiers who came to America who served in Haller’s Army, earned benefits from the new Polish nation. I have seend land grants awarded (not to my ancestors). They often had to be contacted through the Polish Consulates in America. This leads to my final recommendation — using Historical Polish Language Newspapers from that era to find out about your soldier. The newspaper may write about the returning units in a story and possibly a picture. I have also seen that the Polish Consulate took out listings in the newspaper and referred to Haller’s Army veterans they were seeking to inform them of their veteran benefits. See my Dziennik Polski (Detroit) page at the top menu-tabs for an example what these Polish Consulate ads might look like.
Let me finish today’s article by mentioning Dr. Paul S. Valasek’s book on the subject matter: Haller’s Polish Army in France http://www.amazon.com/Hallers-Polish-Army-France-Valasek/dp/0977975703 and also another book entitled: Remembrance http://www.hallersarmy.com/store/Remembrance.php. written by Charles Casimer Krawczyk.
Tomorrow … Haller’s Army in My Family Tree
1=Polish Falcons History page . Paul Valasek says the number is above 24,000. The wikipedia says the number is 23,000.
2=PAVA, 119 East 15th Street, New York, NY 10003 - e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>, telephone 212-358-0306