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Friday, January 08, 2016

It Still Takes a Village: Trace Eastern European Ancestors with New Genealogy Guide

When my Slovak grandparents arrived in America, they settled in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, a "cluster community," where they were surrounded by relatives, friends, and neighbors--all the people who formed the extension of their villages in the New World. They could count on these people for friendship, support and help with life's ups and downs.

Group gathering, Ostur┼ła, Slovakia; photo courtesy of Lisa A. Alzo

Many decades later, I found myself channeling this sense of community while working on The Family Tree Polish, Czech, and Slovak GenealogyGuide. I have been been a freelance writer for FamilyTree Magazine since 2005, and since that time I have written a number of articles on various Eastern European Genealogy topics, so it seemed a natural fit to expand that work for the Ethnic Research Guides series.


This guide will walk you step-by-step through the exciting--and challenging--journey of finding your Polish, Czech, or Slovak roots. You'll learn how to identify immigrant ancestors, find your family's town of origin, locate key genealogical resources, decipher foreign-language records, and untangle the region's complicated history. The guide also includes timelines, sample records, resource lists, and sample record request letters to aid your research. 

In particular, those just beginning the research process will find this guide to be useful starting point for how to discover their Eastern European ancestors and trace their stories from American shores back to the old country. An extensive Appendix lists other books and resources to follow up with for advanced research in each group (including one of my personal favorites, Going Home: A Guide to Polish-American Research by Jonathan Shea).

In the past twenty-five years, I have had the good fortune of working with many skilled research colleagues who were instrumental in helping me navigate the complexities of Eastern European genealogy. My journey back to find my ancestors would not have been possible without the guidance of many others. One of the biggest lessons I learned early on as a genealogist is the importance of collaboration and networking with those researching similar surnames or geographical areas. While researching our individual families, we might have a tendency to hold on tightly to knowledge gleaned from our efforts, but there is a lot to be said for sharing what we learn. Thanks to collaborative efforts with other East European genealogists, I have been able to break down many of my own research brick walls.

In the same collaborative spirit, this guide is designed to teach and inspire others who have an interest in exploring their Polish, Czech, or Slovak heritage.

Writing is often viewed as a solo endeavor, but the truth is it really takes a village to produce a guide of this scope, and I am particularly grateful to my research colleagues (especially Professor Jonathan Shea, Michal Razus, and Jan Ebert), as well as others who contributed photographs or other stories or anecdotes, and of course, the editors and copy editors at Family Tree Magazine.

The book is currently available for pre-order at ShopFamilyTree and Amazon.



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