A Guide to Polish American Family History Research
Jonathan D. Shea, Accredited Genealogist
A review by Jerome Biedny, Jr.
As a professor of foreign languages at several post-secondary schools in Connecticut, Mr Shea has a fine grasp of the Polish language. But, it is his personal heritage that drives his newest offering from Language and Lineage Press. Going Home is a compendium of his best published works well organized as a one 400 page, large format guide.
Whether you would love to give a gift to a Polish American just starting in their research or you would like to enrich your own genealogy library, Going Home is destine to become the seminal work on the subject for decades to come. He begins with a brief but comprehensive discussion of the Polish language useful to anyone doing first source research. He also includes a nice history of Poland so that readers can understand the Partition Period and its effects on immigration.
He then discusses solid genealogical research techniques applicable to any ethnicities- but he always places them in context of Polish America. He covers all sorts of records that can fill in and around the standard births, deaths and marriages. The reader will find help with understanding the richness of everything from printed sources to school records. His chapter on Federal Records such as Census, Passenger Lists, and Military Records is very clear.
He returns to specifically Polish research with a chapter on place names and sources and two more on sources in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. His discussions are very practical and you feel him unlocking each source through the text. Always the linguist he even offers vocabulary lists in Polish, Latin, German, and Russian. He also devotes time to surname development and patterns.
A third of the pages in this book contain graphic examples to support the text. This make it lively and interesting. He offers maps, examples of standard vital records as well as other cultural documents. It also contains a wonderful Polish to English first names list. The Appendices are small books of their own: Polish Parishes in the US; Computer links to get you started; and Contact Addresses for Archives.
I research several ethnicities including Colonial American, Polish, Norwegian, Welsh, Irish and English. So, I am constantly looking for another book that will make my research path with that group more productive. For Polish Americans, I’ve found THE book. As a private printing it may take awhile for you to find it on the shelf at your local Barnes and Noble, but at $35 it is the best value in a research guide I have come across for any group.