Friday, February 11, 2011

Russian alphabet key to Polish records

When Irene Landenberger ordered her first films through the Family History Center for the parishes of her Polish ancestors, she discovered all the records were in Russian. “I thought I was lucky to have the parishes and that everything would be easy,” Irene admits. “Not so. If the names were written in Russian, I wouldn’t recognize any of them.”

Irene’s ancestors come from a part of Poland that, from the1800's up to World War I, was under Russian domination. Polish priests had to write their church records in Russian. "Sometimes you could get lucky if they wrote the person’s name in Russian/Polish," says Irene. “That was their little rebellion.”

Lucky for Irene, CCGS Librarian Betsy Ferris took four years of Russian while a French major at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “I was always interested in linguistics, and I managed to work in four years of Russian,” Betsy relates. “I got so I could read Tolstoy pretty well.”

Betsy Ferris and Irene Landenberger review the Cyrillic alphabet

The two CCGS members met recently for a Mentoring Session in the CCGS Genealogy Room at the Dennis Public Library. Mentoring offers CCGS members the chance to share their experiences and areas of expertise with other members one-on-one.

"Let's start with the Cyrillic alphabet and then take it from there," suggests Betsy.

For Irene, taking it from there will mean more study of Russian words and phrases found in Polish civil and church records. "I also want to find my great grandfather," says Irene. "I have his naturalization papers and the ship and voyage he came on, but I can't find him anywhere on that boat. I think he swam across...."

Click to view other recent and upcoming Mentoring Sessions.

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