My 4th great-grandmother was Elenore Bryhsaow, born abt. 1787 in Prussia and died 12 Jun 1853 in Paprotnia, Zduńska Wola, Łódź, Poland. I got this from an old genealogy written by a German researcher in Germany. The problem is, the name Bryhsaow is not a valid surname, or if it is, Eleonore is the only one in the world that has it. I can't contact the author of the genealogy so what do I do?
Searches on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and Google are all negative. Maybe the Soundex will help me figure out what the name might be. The Soundex code for Bryhsaow is B620. Here are the names that have this same code.
BAREIS | BARGY | BARRICK | BARROWS | BARRS | BARRUS | BARWICK | BARWIS | BEARCE | BEARSE | BEERS | BEIERS | BERG | BERGEY | BERGIE | BERKEY | BERRICK | BEYERS | BIERCE | BIRCH | BIRGE | BORIS | BOROWSKI | BOURG | BOURKE | BOWERS | BRACE | BRAGG | BRAKE | BREECH | BREES | BREESE | BREEZE | BRESCH | BRESEE | BREZEE | BRICE | BRICK | BRICKEY | BRIECK | BRIGGS | BRISCOE | BRISKEY | BRIX | BRIXEY | BROACH | BROCK | BROCKWAY | BROKAW | BROOK | BROOKE | BROOKS | BROSCH | BROSSEAU | BROUGH | BRUCE | BRUCH | BRUCK | BRUGH | BRUSH | BRYCE | BRYS | BURAS | BURCH | BURG | BURGE | BURK | BURKE | BURKEY | BURKS | BURRESS | BURRIS | BURROWS | BURSEY | BURSK | BYARS | BYERS
Well, that doesn't look promising. So what would you do in this situation? What do you think my next move should be?
Poland actually has good records. My best chance at figuring this out is to find Eleonore's death record. Europeans love maiden names so it will, most likely, be on her death/burial record. I might luck up and get her parents' full names. I have an exact date and an exact place and I know her married name (she married Daniel Fiege). I could try for her baptismal record but I would have a lot less info to go on. She was born about 1787 in Prussia which just isn't going to get me far. I have two choices. I can write to the Polish Archives and request the record. There are many different archives in Poland but I happen to know this area of Poland so I do know which archives to write to. I would need to write to the state archive in Łódź. The bad news is it costs $55 (minimum) and it takes 2-6 months to get your record. There is one other thing I can try before I go this route. I need to see if the Family History Library (FHL) has microfilmed records. I must mention here that the records the archives has (civil records) is different than what the Family History Library has microfilmed (church records) but both types of records will have the information I need. I tried Łódź first but there is nothing listed there that will help. I then tried Zduńska Wola. This is the county within Łódź where Paprotnia is. Even though my Polish isn't the best, I can see that they do have films for both Catholic and Protestant records. I know that Eleonore's great-granddaughter was protestant so I will assume that her ancestors were also protestant so I would go for those records first. The date range is where I need it so this will be a good start.
HERE is the microfilm I need. HERE is the actual roll I need from the set. You can see that it will cost me $7.50 to order this. That is a lot cheaper than $55. It usually takes about 3-5 weeks to come in which is better than 2-6 months.
If you read the description, you will see that some of these records are in Polish (no problem at all) but some are in Russian (PROBLEM!). Even though I can't read Polish, I can recognize names and I can recognize dates as long as I have a list of the months next to me. So what do I do if they are in Russian? Let's just say I will be doing a lot of copying/photographing of the pages. The trick will be recognizing the dates. If I can find the month of June 1853, I will just copy that entire section. I can spend more time going over the records at home. I do need to know a little Russian though. The first place I check is the Family History Library's wealth of genealogical courses and I find this:
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The Russian Alphabet
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Russian Words and Dates
Reading Russian Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Russian Records
This should teach me enough to recognize dates and type of record (baptismal vs. marriage vs. death/burial). So now I am well on my way.
I would like to mention here that it is VERY important to know a little geography. I need to know WHERE in Poland Paprotnia is as well as the political divisions. In this case I am lucky because I already have all of the levels of jurisdiction but if I didn't, here is how I would figure it out.
First I would get a general overview of the system of political districts in Poland. Here is a Wikipedia Page that explains it. Using a current map of Poland that has the town Paprotnia on is, I could easily compare the two maps and see that Paprotnia is in Łódź Voivodeship. Here is where it will get a little trickier. Take a look at the Wikipedia page for the Łódź Voivodeship. The town Paprotnia is not listed. What I would need to do is look at my current map of Poland and map out all of the county seats listed under "Administrative Division" and see which county seat Paprotnia is the closest to. Yup, you guessed it. It would be Zduńska Wola. Paprotnia is just south of that town and that is the county seat of the county of Zduńska Wola. There are plenty of Polish maps on the internet so no problem there. The one problem that you may run into is when there is more than one town with the same name. The best way to handle that is to list all of the other known places associated with your person of interest, or places that his/her immediate family is associated with, and see which town fits into the big picture. Yes, boundary lines have changed so I might not hit it on the first try but as long as I am close, the officials in that district can lead me to the correct one if need be.
At first this looks like a really big problem but when you think it out it isn't so bad after all. This case has a lot of potential to be resolved. Even if I don't find what I am looking for in the protestant records, I could also order the Catholic records and as a last resort, I could write to the Polish Archives. The coolest part is that I will learn a little Russian along the way.
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis