My blog could probably use a new subtitle. "Reseaching the genealogy of the Prokopowicz, Ruśćik, and Blaszko Families" doesn't tell the whole story anymore. Those three surnames identify all four of my grandparents: paternally, Julian Prokopowicz and Anna Blaszko, and maternally, Aleksandr Prokopowicz and Stefania Ruśćik. When I started this blog, that seemed sufficient. Including my great-grandparents' surnames would have been unwieldy. But now I'd like to introduce the earlier generations.
I'll never be one of those genealogists who, like birders with their life lists, proudly announce they have 37,482 names in their database. Nor do I care about having 945 friends on Facebook or 682 followers of this blog. Frankly, I'm surprised (and honored) that Basia's Polish Family has, at last count, 13 followers. That's a cozy group, small enough to get together for coffee and conversation about Polish genealogy!
In general, I enjoy getting to know people one at a time, more than in groups. One-on-one, there is the opportunity for focus, revelation, truth telling, being real, without interruption or distraction. I feel the same way about meeting my ancestors. When I discover someone new in my research, I want time alone with that person, time to savor our shared name, say it aloud, and claim it. I like to imagine what that person looked like, what their personality was like.
Most often I find new names in the course of reading microfilmed records; sometimes, of course, they appear in documents I receive in the mail or find in databases online. These days, I am doing several hours of research each week at a small Family History Center close to my workplace. It is housed at Godfrey Memorial Library, a gem of a genealogical library in Middletown, Connecticut. When an early-18th-century church record offers up a new name, be it a direct ancestor or someone otherwise related, I can't help but share the good news with the one or two other people in the room. "Oh, wow! I just found ____ !!!" Then I print the record. (There is no scanning equipment at this FHC, and I'd just as soon print as capture the image with my digital camera.)
Celebration and reflection
When I leave, that new name is mine to mull during the 20-minute drive home. If it's a really important person—a brand new great-great-great-grandparent, say—I stop at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and a bagel, which I enjoy in my car in the parking lot. Always in my car, so I can pull the newly printed record out of my tote bag and set it on the front passenger seat alongside a worn, taped working copy of my family tree. This is my little ceremony for getting acquainted with my new ancestor, our own private one-on-one bonding time.
I think about when and where they lived, both locally and in the historic big picture ... their place within that branch of that particular family line ... what I might know already (from other records) of their life experiences, joys and sorrows. I wonder what they looked like, and what traces of them might have made it through the generations to find new life in me. DNA testing makes me even more acutely aware of all the different family lines I embody.
My Lida ancestors
From at least the 1700s, and most likely earlier, all these families lived in the Lida area between Grodno and Wilno. Some were clearly associated with specific villages over the course of several generations; others moved from one village to another, for reasons I don't yet understand. After thinking of myself as a Prokopowicz for all my life, it intrigues me to consider that I am also the following:
Through the ancestry of Julian Prokopowicz, a Bogdan, Janonis, Wieligor, and Kadysz / Chadysz. (Roman Catholic parishes of Ejszyszki, Bieniakonie, Werenów, and Ossów)
Through the ancestry of Anna Blaszko, a Bowszys, Doda, Tumielewicz, Balcewicz, and Rudz. (Roman Catholic parishes of Radun, Ossów, Lida, and possibly Żyrmuny)
Through the ancestry of Aleksandr Prokopowicz, a Zubrzycki, Haydukiewicz, Piwowarczyk, Dubiejko, Chwiedziuk, and Kaczanowna. (Roman Catholic parishes of Iszczolna, Wasiliszki, Szczuczyn, and possibly Różanka)
Through the ancestry of Stefania Ruśćik aka Ruść, a Nowogrodzka, Hayduk, Sobol, Staniejko, and Mickiewicz. (Roman Catholic parishes of Szczuczyn, Wasiliszki, and Lack)
These surnames generally represent ancestors in my great- and great-great-grandparents' generations. My immediate goal is to identify all 16 great-great-grandparents. In a couple lines, I've not yet found the women's family surnames. In the case of my paternal great-grandmother Anna Bogdan, this surname and its variations are rather common; until I find some record identifying her family's village and parish, I cannot reliably trace her line further.