From talking to her when I was in my childhood and into my early teens, I knew it was not a good area where she grew up. However, she did talk about playing in the rivers with her cousins and
|1980s my grandmother and I in Newburgh, NY USA|
However, back 16 years ago, there wasn't too much documentation on the web and I didn't have the resources to go tracking down the information. However, over the years, I didn't give up. If anything, I became more determined. Then when I lost my job nearly 3 years ago, I decided to crack open the information and really get into researching all my family.
Maternal Side Search
At first I had hits on my maternal side and started to find out information and go back and back. I found out an uncle I was told that had died had not and cousins, I didn't know about, were there. In fact, talking to some cousins they told me some of that part of the family had been looking for US! I found extended family in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama and even Poland! Yes, I tracked my mother's side back to Poland and found a cousin there as well!
|My DNA make up from Family Tree DNA|
DNA: Why did I do it & what to do with it?
Then we sat there and looked at each other and were thinking the same thing - I should take one, so off we sent for a DNA test for me in 2014. I took it, and got the results. I looked at them and thought they were interesting but what now? To me it looked like list of people with a range of cousins based upon the test. Then I realized to learn about the Polish in my DNA wasn't going to be that easy because I am Polish on BOTH sides.
Anyhow, as I asked questions, my husband, who's obsessed (or so it seems) with DNA results, started going on about blocks of DNA and matches. These I could pretty much understand - if your DNA is the grey part and the greys and other colors match then you are related somehow even if it is 1,000's of years. Then he started to go on about this and that and the eyes started to glass over and roll and his voice started to sound like the teacher in Peanuts (imagine wawa wawawa wa wawa over and over again). I realized this was going to require me to do some real research to understand anything more than colors match equal cousins somehow. I put it away in my to be done pile.
Dad to the Rescue with DNA
|My father's DNA make up from Family Tree DNA|
|My grandmother's obituary from Times Herald Record in 1988|
Did DNA but Don't give up on paperwork!
|2015 Letter enclosed with naturalization documents|
I then figured if I could do it for him, maybe there was something there on my grandmother. I knew she was a minor when she came over but why not give it a shot and filled out all the information on her. Back around 2012, I did come across her and my great grandmother's ship manifest so I had the names they used when they arrived in the US, so I put all the information I had down for her and sent it away in 2014. Let's just say when you deal with the US or state governments, the requests take awhile - think of how long a baby takes - 9 months if not longer - and you'll get a result. What appeared was shocking - My grandmother a lot of information including her parents were both naturalized as well! Upon seeing this, within an hour I put in for both my great grandparents naturalization files to be pulled.
|Taken from Google Early in October 2015. Shows areas around Nur, Poland.|
Upon getting that information in mid 2015, I now knew my grandmother and great grandfather were both born in Wojtkowice Dady Poland (which was both Russian and German at times). My great grandmother was born in Malkinia Poland (which was both Russian and German at times) and both locations were within 50 miles of each other! I also found my great grandparents were married in 1906 in Nur Poland which was 1/2 way between the two towns.
Using DNA to find cousins
Taking this information, I went into my father's DNA profile and started to look at the people that were pretty close 2-4th cousins. One of them had a Polish email address! Bingo! I emailed this person in August 2015. We have been talking via email about our connection and agree we are related but by which ancestor? He recently found my great grandparent's wedding certificate, which was written in Russian, and sent it to me from the archives. This took me back another generation on BOTH sides of my father's ancestry.
|DNA cousin against my father's DNA in FTDNA|
We're still looking to track more information down, but usually cracking the area your ancestor comes from - in ANY country (I've done this in Belgium/France and now twice in Poland) - is the hardest step. You get that area down and it seems the information comes to you in tidal waves.
|My great grandparents' 1906 Russia Poland wedding document|
|Happy dance from https://media3.giphy.com|
I do have a 2 things to say to wrap this post up. First, try and get your paperwork to match DNA. Remember DNA doesn't change but paperwork could so keep looking. Second, if you do decide to do DNA, please make sure people can contact you AND fill out the ancestor information as much as you can because this is how people know where you are looking. Adopted and looking? Why not put this in here too. Keep on looking but make sure you help yourself by filling out information fully and correctly and ask questions! Questions are helpful to learn anything.