Maps & Gazetteers in Genealogy — #Genealogy, #Polish

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

imageStanczyk, long ago realized the value of knowing the terrain of his ancestral villages as an aid in reading and understanding records and in how these data points, just like family names and dates.  In fact genealogy is all about “who” did “what” at the “where” on “when”. We are practically journalists. In fact, we collect those four data points (who, what, when, and where) precisely so we can can infer the “why”.  Then we write these journalistic facts down in a family tree or a family history, etc. So today’s blog is about where.

Two blog posts ago, on May 27th, this jester wrote about PIESZCZOCHOWICZ.  I was trying to learn about Boleslaw Pieszczochowicz who along with a Stanley (a brother ?) lived at 3224 Maple Street, Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio.  When I examined Boleslaw Piesczochowicz ‘s  World War I Draft Registration card, I was rewarded with S???rajowice (or S???rajowiec), Russian Poland. Unfortunately, I could not read the handwriting and, it was a village I was unfamiliar with.

So I had made a logical leap. If this PIESZCZOCHOIWCZ was mine then this village would be near my ancestral villages. Keep in mind that this works further back in time when social mobility was a lot less than the present time. So in 1917/1918 this idea is viable. So I went to my Atlas:  “Marco Polo  POLSKA Atlas Drogowy” [Polish Road Atlas, which is 1:200,000 scale],  on page 196. Anything with that scale  would work. You do not want it so “zoomed in” [say 1:50,000] that your field of view is too small. Now, as I said, page 196 because, almost every village where I have found records of my family is on that page — hence my idea. So I scanned that page starting close to Biechow and Stopnica (my locales for Pieszczochowicz). Knowing that  Konstanty Pieszczochowicz (the most mobile) also had residences in Strozyska and Chotel Czerwony. Nonetheless, all four of those villages were on page 196. So I scanned all areas around these villages and what do you know? I found SUSKRAJOWIEC. I went back to the WWI Draft document and yes, I could see that was what the clerk was trying to record.

Now I had to find what parish it belonged to. The Road Atlas clearly marked the surrounding parishes for me. No surprise, there were more than a handful of possibilities. OK, now it was time to use a Gazetteer that provides the mapping of a locale to its parish. I turned to my trusted source: Skorowidz Miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej [Index of Placenames of the Republic of Poland] circa 1931. I looked up ‘Suskrajowice’ and quickly determined that the only Suskrajowice in an area that was previously the Russian Poland partition (and furthermore was in Kielce Gubernia or wojewodztwo) was mapped to a parish named BALICE. OK, now to see if I had any records online for Balice and maybe I could find Boleslaw in his birth year. In fact, when I went to the PRADZIAD database to check what was available, I saw that the Balice parish, I was researching (there were two) only had birth data 1900-1905. So now I went Googling for Balice Mertyki. I found the Balice parish page. Turns out that Balice was erected as a parish only in 1923; early enough to make my Gazetteer, but Boleslaw was born in 1880’s/1890’s so his parish would not have been Balice. The Balice parish page said it was made up from Gnojno and Janina parish territories. OK those were two of the villages I had noted as possibilities for Suskrajowice. Back to the online records: and success both had online records. Now I just had to find which one had Suskrajowice listed in its birth records. I found out that GNOJNO was the one. The year range I needed was not online so I could not verify Boleslaw’s parentage yet. But I know where to look. So if you are seeking Boleslaw Pieszczochowicz (and probably a Stanley/Stanislaw too) then you need to seek in Suskrajowice  in: wojewodztwo: Świętokrzyskie (made from Kielce Gubernia), powiat:  Kielce,  gmina: Chmielnik, parish of GNOJNO (1923 forward in Balice).

The takeaway from this article is that a Map and a Gazetteer, along with a little Googling and some PRADZIAD data can get you the ‘WHERE’ with certainty. But you have to have a methodology for the search of parishes. So I detailed my thought process for you to use. Notice also that I used the ‘Russian Poland’ to limit possibilities when you are seeking a  village name that frequently occurs in Poland. I also knew the rough area from prior data points and I used these all  to understand a poorly handwritten document.

P.S.

I forgot to mention two comments. First, when I find a parish in the Gazetteer, it is very uncommon that the parish was erected after the Great Immigration era that brought our Polish ancestors to the USA. The second comment I should have made, was that I made a 2nd leap when I did not find any Kielce Gubernia metryki online for Balice. I thought the reason for that must be that there was none and that either the parish was new or the data was destroyed (more uncommon than believed to be).


Gazetteers –  See my Gazetteers page (on right).

 

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