Before libraries, courthouses, churches, funeral homes and other establishments produced their various documents online, I was in the basements, cellars, attics and dark corners of these places delicately turning the pages of fragile texts, reading in dim lighting and searching one manuscript after another for the facts. It is no wonder that because of this project, I now wear eyeglasses. When you begin to read one census record and ship manifest after another, the eyes grow weary of handwritten documents. So it is with great pride, I offer these transcripts for you to view and digest as a labor of love for posterity!
HIRING PROFESSIONAL RESEARCHERS
YOU are the person with the vested interest in the results. No one else will be as invested in this process as you. You will recognize a misspelled family name or a link to some other family member that no one without your knowledge will recognize. Therefore, when and only when you reach a stonewall, an expert might be necessary. Even then, there are online forums everywhere that may have answers for you. People who have gone through the process are willing to share their information. Hiring a researcher should be your last resort.
ONE OF MY EXPERIENCES: While searching online for Italian family members after 10 years of researching, I noticed on www.rootsweb.com a genealogy with family members of mine. The author named my great grandmother with 26 children having been married twice and her husband twice. Since my knowledge came from family members as well as documents, I contacted the author who turned out to be a paid genealogist. After rereading his notes, he discovered he was wrong. This incident occurred 5 years after the information had been presented to his client, my cousin, and uploaded onto the internet. That being said, seek out organizations that require proper credentials for their agents. Seek out those genealogists that have a track record and are part of a credible organization.
PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEES
Do not take ‘no, does not exist or cannot be found’ for an answer from public employees. There are a multitude of stories to tell. For ten years, the recorder in the Prothonotary’s office in Wilkes-Barre kept telling me that my great grandfather’s naturalization papers and documents had been lost in the 1972 Flood. Never giving up, I called one day to find a new person at the post. Telling her my story, she spent exactly TWO HOURS on the project and found the documents in question…after TEN YEARS with an incompetent employee merely waiting for the day of retirement!
In the Register of Wills Office at the same location, the marriage and birth certificates are housed. Spending week after week from opening to closing in the office, reading ledger after ledger, I had the opportunity to observe that government employees are not as concerned about crumbling historical documents as those researching. Anyone can leaf through them. I left after several months, frustrated, appalled and discouraged that these precious documents were treated with such disrespect. In addition, asking for assistance is often was viewed as an inconvenience! And then there are employees, such as the Registrar of Deeds who will bend over backwards to assist the amateur.
BEWARE OF DATES, SPELLING
It is only a recent phenomenon that EXACT dates are used in documents. In the past guessing and approximating was more important. Census records, naturalization papers, birth certificates and ships manifests all types of documents were not exact as to the date and or spelling of names, towns or countries. The best sources of information on any subject are a variety of documents that can corroborate your data.
As one progresses through the documents, one bit of information leads to another. For example, the census records misspelled Brzezinski as Broza. If it wasn’t for the fact that there were family members who could verify the residences in Pikes Peak, the research could not have proceeded further. The census records of 1900 then disclosed another family member, Teofil Brzezinski, living right next door, which led to the discovery of a whole side of the family unknown yet living across the bridge in Plymouth. As each consecutive census named additional children, the name ‘Adam Brzezinski’ turned up on a funeral book of my grandfather (son of Teofil). This led to finding a whole series of cousins (as the Teofil Brzezinski’s had many daughters) that were heretofore unknown but residing and going to school in the same hometown! As families grew, as the mining industry transformed, as the economy changed, so did the movement of individuals out of the community. Church records document this estranged Brzezinski family attending another Catholic Church in town because men often attended the church of the wife’s family. This discovery led to finding documents, which demonstrated the movement of families to New Jersey and other states. One must continuously search from a variety of sources to find clues.
If it were not for this second family, Teofil, the brother of my great grandfather, little would be known. As it turned out, the Naturalization records of my great grandfather were supposedly lost in the 1972 Flood (having been in the basement). Yet, Teofil’s were available which gave an indication of possible hometown (unreadable) and date of arrival (not necessarily exact). This information in mind, it took 5 more years to find the ship’s manifest of grandfather Brzezinski as he arrived in 1886 before Ellis Island began record keeping. The document was found in an obscure list of manifests! In addition, grandfather Ignatius and his wife’s census records of 1890 (which were the most extensive ever done) were lost in the fire, which destroyed most national census records of that year. But if it had not been for Teofil’s documents, none of this would have been found.
The reason for this long involved explanation is that one can become discouraged as a second or third generation US citizen when searching the genealogical umbilical cord. It took patience, time and money. Today, there is so much available online that the job is less of an effort. In addition, there are a plethora of experts up to the task.