Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

It's time to make a decision. I can't begin writing up a family history until I decide which branch of my family to write about. I've been giving it some thought. A lot of thought, actually. But I just can't seem to make a decision. I'm mentally drumming my fingers here.

I'm at about the same spot with the research for each of my four grandparents' lines. Which is to say, I've accessed all the vital records back in Poland that I can and unless I want to pay a professional genealogist in Poland to look for some sort of school, military, or real estate records (if there are any) I've pretty much exhausted my research. I've found family in Poland from 3 of my 4 grandparents' lines who have helped me with family stories and such. I've been doing a lot of online reading recently about the villages my ancestors were from and the churches they attended. I'm not sure what else I might look for. When you come from a long line of peasants (as far back as records go), which are about equal to slaves except that they were bought and sold with land instead of individually, you don't find a lot of information written about your ancestors. They might have been outstanding individuals but because of their status as peasants they were valued down there with cattle. Not to be unkind but they were illiterate farmers who lived and died in the little villages were they were born.

With each of my lines I have some information I'm waiting on. But I don't think that situation will ever end. There will always be something more I'm hoping to learn. I can't put off writing the family histories indefinitely though. At some point I have to draw the line and just go with what I've got, right?

I'm thinking I'll end up with 3 family histories in all. My paternal grandparents came from very similar little villages that are only 18 miles apart by road, <10 miles apart as the crow flies. The history of the area is virtually the same for both families so I'm thinking I'll write about both families in one history book. My maternal grandparents, however, came from very different areas of Poland so I think I'll write separate histories for each of them. Since my ancestors came to America just 2 generations before me, and I don't want to write about my still-living relatives, there is a limited amount of information I can write about in the recent past.

So here I am just about ready to dive into the project but I can't make up my mind which pond to dive into. Anybody got any suggestions? Who's already gone this route and written up their family history? How did you decide which branch to start with? Got any advice you'd care to share with me about the project?

I'm hoping to make a decision by the end of this week and start pulling information together next week. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!



  1. Jasia

    I am in the same quandry...except I am also adding to my indecision the format/style I should use... any suggestions on a book or guide to use? I want something that allows you to tell the story and give the names/dates as well.


  2. My two cents...go with your paternal line since you can "kill two birds with one stone" so to speak. But, if you're intending to do all 4 families and your heart is equally invested in each, just roll the dice and start. The key word is START - something I have not quite done myself yet. I have the same problem, going off on searches for all 4 grandparents in random fashion! Good luck, and I look forward to reading about how you pull it all together so I can learn how to get myself motivated to do my own!
    What's Past is Prologue

  3. If you have the stamina to do it, I agree with Donna's "kill two birds with one stone" thinking and say to start with your paternal line. However, if you're like me and get tired of working on the same family for a long time, you might want to pick one of the other two lines. That way you'll finish your book quicker and move to working on another family, all the while knowing that you already have one book "under your belt." Good luck!

  4. I'm in the (bad) habit of having several book projects (family and local history) going on all the time. When I get bored with one, I move on to another - and occasionally get something done.

    Practical suggestion: draft outlines for the books you envision. This is not work that would go to waste, is practical to do for all projects at the same time (ideas to one -> ideas to another) and can clarify your thoughts in terms of which book is best to start with.

  5. Well, we are genealogists... Which in a deep sense means trace your paternal lineage.

    But let me give you another good reason for paternal line. I tell this to many people, that the chain of events that led to you (and I) being here is astronomical that is a fact to write about the paternal line (of course the other lines too contributed to that genetic success). I laugh because my ancestors too were peasants(wloscianie) -- who knew that was an occupation!!! But consider this, many magnate/royal lines died out; But your peasant genes survived and are now thriving. There is a story.

    I'd also take the advice of others. Work one story(chapter) until bored, then move onto to another line and do some there. Also save one chapter or appendix for blacksheep or other oddball or interesting stories of ancestors in the outlying lines.

    Make it visual, bring in pics that illustrate things and break up the text. Use pictures of the churches/cemeteries from the old country when you do not have a picture of the individual.

    Put in your stories related to the difficulty of gathering tough ancestors (former brick walls). Put in the family stories of people whom are lacking in other details.

    Mix in your love and enthusiasm, then you and those who follow you in this genealogy will be thrilled.

  6. Jasia, this describes a lot of us I'm afraid. However, I'm thinking that as long as we're alive the history is continuing to grow. I think getting the thoughts down in story form is the key. With word processing we have the advantage of cutting and pasting later on to merge or separate at will, so I'm thinking we can put the decision off just a bit longer...start writing!

  7. Stories of grandparents are some of the best parts of family history. Start first with the side of the family you have the most stories from. :) And use it to solicit more stories from other family members.

    I'm quite jealous that you could at least jump the ocean with your Polish ancestors. Mine settled in S. Dakota in the 1870s, and I have yet to find any trace that leads to their origin. Stories of my gr-gr-gr-grandmother being raised in a Warsaw orphanage, were diligently checked (along with the 6 or so maiden names for her), once I was able to prove that I had more than a hunch and a story. (Only 2 of the youngest had baptismal records I could find, in a traveling priests' notebook, in a town on the other side of the county, thank goodness the clerks were so nice to look.)

  8. Jasia,

    There are several things that were taught to footnoteMaven and myself while enrolled in the Genealogy and Family History Program here at the University of Washington. One of the most important things is: family history is ALWAYS a work in progress, and if you wait to write until you have everything, then you will have accomplished very little.

    As far as which family to go with, well, which branch tugs at your heartstrings or imagination the most? What branch can you find the most social history for? To begin with, it's much easier writing about people who hold some special interest for you. In my case, I knew which branch of the family to begin with, but I questioned who to make the central focus, until I found that my great great grandmother, Thibertine, touched the lives of all around her.

    I know this kind of sounds like "pick your favorite child," but it will at least provide a starting point. Good luck!

  9. I agree with Chery, pick the one that captures your imagination. Which line was it that you picked for your novel?

  10. I agree with Chery also, i said never to imagine, good person who has good imagination and can applicate it in your world.i wish you luck..