Friday, May 04, 2007

Those Not Honored at Jamestown

The Queen of England is visiting Jamestown, Virginia today. I'm pleased that she was invited here to help celebrate and honor the Jamestown settlers. It makes the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement all the more special for those who are there celebrating this anniversary. The English and those with English roots are no doubt proud of their ancestor's contributions to the founding and settling of America. I can't help but wonder though if those who are attending the celebration realize that the English weren't the only ethnic group represented at Jamestown. No, probably not.

The Jamestown 400th Anniversary Celebration has been getting a lot of press for a couple months now. More correctly, the English settlers at Jamestown have gotten a lot of press attention. The black slaves in Virginia and the Native American Indians from that area have been getting some media attention too though not nearly as much. Their groups were invited to be in on the planning committee for the celebration so at least they're mentioned. There's a whole web site devoted the celebration at But do you know who you won't see mentioned on this wonderful web site representing "America's 400th Anniversary"? You won't see mention of the first non-English people who were recruited by the Jamestown settlers for their craftsmanship and strong work ethic a mere 1 year after the founding of Jamestown. You won't see mentioned the folks who helped establish the democratic process and staged the first labor strike over the right to vote in the colony. These folks landed at Jamestown more than a decade before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, MA in 1620 yet most people have never heard of them. So who are they? Why, the Polish of course.

What? You mean you didn't know there were Poles living in and building the Jamestown settlement? That's no surprise really. Most Americans aren't aware of these facts nor Poles either for that matter. Before I go any further, I need to mention that there were Germans in Jamestown too. But I'll let the German genealogy bloggers sound the trumpet for their kinsmen ;-)

There are a few web sites and books that touch on the subject of the Poles who helped build the settlement at Jamestown, though not many. Just as in the case of the peasants back in Poland, it was the educated/nobles (in this case, English) who kept the records and wrote the history. And they often didn't keep records as accurately for the commoners as they did for themselves. The same was true at Jamestown. I can't list the surnames of the Poles who were brought to Jamestown because thus far no one has come up with records that definitively name them. They are simply but repeatedly referred to as "the Poles". Hey, they might have been my ancestors. Little old Polish me could have ancestors on American soil going farther back than the Mayflower. Imagine that.

Now how about an invitation to the President of Poland for the Jamestown celebration???

Anyway, if you'd like to learn more about the Poles at Jamestown I recommend the following:

Web Sites:
The First Polish Immigrants
Just the Facts... from the Polish American Journal
For Teacher's: A Lesson Plan, The Polish Experience at Jamestown
New Perspectives on Jamestown (radio segment Part 5, Global Jamestown and the Poles) Highly recommended!!!
True Heroes of Jamestown
My Name Is Million: An Illustrated History of the Poles in America
First Seventeen Years: Virginia, 1607-1624 (Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical B)
Envisioning An English Empire: Jamestown And The Making Of The North Atlantic World (Early American Studies)
Captain John Smith: Jamestown and the Birth of the American Dream
A History of US, Book 2: Making Thirteen Colonies (History of US)

OK now boys and girls, who knew about the Poles at Jamestown before reading this post? Let's see a show of han... comments!

If you happen to know of any events honoring the Poles at Jamestown (at Jamestown) any time this year please leave a comment. Thanks!