Curious about your Polish roots?
If so, the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society has just the event for you. It's the Polish Research Roundtable, set for 10 a.m. Saturday. It will be held at the society's Family History Research Library, at the Hanover Green Cemetery, Main Road, Hanover Township.
Tony Paddock will moderate the free discussion. Reservations are not required, but seating is limited. You can reserve a seat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A huge number of people living in or formerly living in Northeastern Pennsylvania can trace all or part of their ancestry to Poland. Polish churches, Polish food and Polish clubs have been a feature of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area's life for nearly a century and a half.
But, as genealogists know, tracing Polish ancestry comes with a collection of special problems. For one thing, the borders of the nation of Poland have shifted drastically over the years because of wars, annexations and political disputes. For many years, Poland as a nation did not even exist, but was finally reconstituted.
As a result, an ancestor whose descendants claim Polish lineage might have been born – or might have lived – in another country entirely, in a city or province with a name that sounds very un-Polish. The reason, of course, is that an area that was Poland at one time later became part of another country, such as Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire or Russia. Perhaps at some point that area reverted to Polish control.
So a good genealogist tracing Polish roots must study European history, concentrating on Eastern and Central Europe, and must acquire a book of historical maps showing Poland's shifting borders and the changing names of towns and provinces.
Resources: Two traditional resources for biographies of prominent local men of the 1800s and early 1900s are available online. The Lackawanna County Genweb (search under that name) offers the text of The Pennsylvania Wyoming Valley in 1892 by S.R. Smith and Prominent Men of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Vicinity (1906) by Dwight J. Stoddard. These are the life stories (with photos) of the men who headed the coal mines, railroads and factories as well as those who were leaders in law, medicine and education. Some entries include the subjects' ancestries as well.
More and more genealogy-related books, most too old or too special-interest for general circulation, are becoming available online. These are typically local history and biography, such as Historical Sketches of Plymouth, by Hendrick B. Wright (1873). Search for it by name. On the Luzerne County Genweb you'll find H.C. Bradsby's 1893 History of Luzerne County.
• In the mood for some good old chills from granddad's day? The Luzerne County Historical Society has two Ghost Tours remaining. They're at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday this week. To reserve a spot call (570) 823-6244 x3 or go to facebook.com/luzernehistory.
• The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is planning some sessions on getting started with Family Tree Maker 2012. Dates will be announced. Family Tree Maker is a handy computer filing and storage system for genealogical research.
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader genealogy columnist. Reach him at email@example.com.