Bringing The Past To Life: Two Decades Of Volunteer Work Produce Wealth Of Polish Genealogical Information
October 15, 2006 By JOANN KLIMKIEWICZ, Courant Staff Writer
...They sort through obituaries, birth certificates, marriage licenses and insurance claims culled from donations or copies from various archives, indexing the information into a computerized catalog they're gradually putting on their website, www.pgsctne.org.
And they gather every Wednesday morning for three hours or more - over coffee, conversation and member Wanda Mercier's homemade cookies - to chug along on a project that can never really be completed.
"You have to have some kind of affinity for history to enjoy this kind of work," says Jonathan Shea, archivist, society president and owner of the stuffed New Britain garage where four volunteers shuffle about this recent sunny autumn Wednesday...
...The organization grew from an adult-education course on Polish genealogical research taught by Shea, a professor of foreign languages and co-author of a 2005 book on the history of New Britain's Polish community.
With so many of the area's genealogical resources devoted to the earlier Colonial settlers, Shea and the 20 or so students thought a more specialized resource was needed for ancestors of the Poles who came in waves between the end of the 19th century and World War II to work in the factories and coal mines throughout the Northeast.
The modest local resource swelled to include New England and now stretches to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The society - one of eight regional organizations dedicated to Polish genealogy in the country - has about 500 dues-paying members around the world, publishes a bi-annual newsletter and mounts a genealogical conference every two years, with one held last month at Central Connecticut State University, home of a distinguished Polish studies program. [More]