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Delving into my Polish ancestry

Poland Day 19. I have a smidge of Polish blood and worked into my itinerary a day at an archives office to see if I’d be able to add to the information Mum has already collected.

While my make-up is predominantly NZ Euro and English, to provide a bit of variety I also have one-eighth of Polish, Swiss and NZ Maori. Not much but enough to keep it interesting – provides some reasons to travel too :).

My great-great-grandfather arrived in New Zealand in 1876 along with his second wife and four surviving children (first wife and two children having died in the cholera epidemic). Two siblings and families were on the same ship. Two other brothers and families went to the USA. Mum hasn’t been able to account for the remaining brother (did he stay or emigrate?) but he and two sisters who stayed put had children. Several each, being the times they were.

Sunrise from my room

Sunrise from my room

So, chances are there are still Fabich descendants in the motherland, most of whom aren’t likely to carry the name but there are a few according to Google. Communication barriers make it difficult to pursue lines of enquiry so we don’t yet have any identified/validated relations still in Poland.

Mum is very into genealogy and has collated a lot of information but there are plenty of outstanding questions which are hard to answer as not all records have been computerised (and given the language thing).

My time around Gdansk was primarily to connect with this family history. Initially this was to involve just visiting relevant villages, but in exchanging information with the tour guide I’d booked (who also handles genealogy ‘tours’), she suggested it would be worth visiting the diocesan archives held south of Gdansk. My plans were relatively sorted by then but in conferring with Mum I could see how important it was so I swapped a day of Gdansk stuff with a day of driving a computer.

I nipped up the Royal Way to grab some coffee

I nipped up the Royal Way to grab some coffee

My guide Margaret picked me up from the Green Gate and we walked a short distance to the car. There was a hiccup straight off: she advised that the archives were in fact closed – unbeknownst to her when I booked. The alternatives were that we instead go to the villages, and I could either go to the archives without her the following day – not really an option – or with her in a couple of days if I cut short my side trip to the Wolf’s Lair – doable but not desirable given the faffing with train and accommodation bookings. Argh.

The Green Gate at the bottom of the Royal Way

The Green Gate at the bottom of the Royal Way

Given the importance of the day and the frustration of what should have been an avoidable predicament, I was upset. Margaret wasn’t prepared to admit defeat just like that though and shortly the lucky phone call came: in the circumstances the archives lady agreed to let us in for the day. Back on track!

It was a fast drive down to the town of Pelplin where we were duly let in and set up on a couple of workstations. I hadn’t gone through birth, death and marriage archives before let alone with the records in a mixture of Polish and German, but quickly got familiarised with the general formats. Margaret and I split the workload and off we went. Even with the cursive writing, the image resolutions were good and it was usually fairly easy to spot the family name.

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Problem was, it was such a large family! My GGG was one of 10 and I probably didn’t focus enough in the family lines of most relevance but it was easy to get distracted when instances of the family name appeared. As a result, it’s not really research that can be finished – it just goes on and on. I contrasted my all-day effort with a German couple who chanced a visit to the archives, with the help of Margaret struck gold with what they were looking for, and were all done within about 10 minutes!

After the archives closed at 3pm, Margaret took me to see the Pelplin Cathedral. Imposing from the outside, it is full of the usual adornments and designs inside. I have loved the stained glass and wall/ceiling patterns in the churches here.

Pelplin Abbey, now Cathedral, is almost 700 years old. That's a monastery on the side

Pelplin Abbey, now Cathedral, is almost 700 years old. That’s a monastery on the side

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A room where monks were taught to read and write Latin

A room where monks were taught to read and write Latin

One day wasn’t long enough and I really don’t know if I’ve added value and certainly all the key questions are still outstanding, but it was good to get familiarised with the process and we have contact names that Mum can continue to liaise with. The best thing to do would be to bring Mum over for a couple of weeks one day and do the job properly!

Distance walked: next to nothin’

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I really like the churches. So much beauty, And the pic of you is one of the best that you have ever posted. You should crop that one and frame it and, give it to your folks.

    19 October 2015
    • I give mum and dad a framed photo from each country I visit (in a frame with a design for that country) so maybe that’s the one. You’re very kind, thank you. I agree about the churches there – the only time I go to church (so to speak) is when I travel and the ones I saw in Poland were incredible.

      22 October 2015
      • All in all Poland is a beautiful country with those very old cities and churches.

        23 October 2015

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