The CVGS program speaker on Wednesday, 27 July 2011 was John Kracha, who spoke on "Central Europe Genealogy and How to Get There."
John's presentation was about genealogy research and resources in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. He recommended doing all possible research in North American before going to Europe to research, and to try to identify the town and province where your ancestor migrated from to America.
For each country, historical maps showed how the boundaries of these countries changed over historical time. Due to the different religions in these countries, and the different languages used in the records, finding records and translating them is a challenge for researchers.
In each country, surnames can take many forms, and records can be found in local, regional and national archives and repositories. Records in Poland are restricted, and you really need someone to help you research in the country. In the Czech Republic, land records are important when the church records are exhausted. Slovakia is 69% Roman Catholic, and church records are important.
John's one-page handout listed many online resources - especially maps, archives and organizations - that will help the researcher get started and find help to pursue their ancestral family history in these countries. He also did some show-and-tell with documents and artwork from each country, and a published book about his great-grandfather, Johann Carl Schultz of Gdansk.
John's advice for persons starting their research in these countries is to:
* Use genealogical and historical societies (in the USA and in Europe) to learn and get help
* Use maps and websites to find towns and provinces
* Use mailing lists and message boards to get advice and help
* Use email and social network sites to make contacts with knowledgeable people in the USA and Europe
* Hire professional genealogists and translators in Europe to expedite research ($100 a day for a researcher is cheaper and better than doing research on-site yourself)
* Visit your ancestral towns and homelands, learn their history and enjoy their traditions.
* Use Paypal for payments to professionals, translators, archives, etc.