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Genealogy Tours of Poland?

Does anyone have any recommendations on a private guided genealogy tours of Poland? Our families are primarily from the Southern part of Poland near Krakow.
I have found these two tour operators:
https://polishorigins.com
http://ancestralattic.com
Can anyone provide any opinions on these or suggest any other groups we might consider?

Thank you in advance for any help you might offer.

Mark Kukiela

Posted by
5120 posts

Are you looking for a company that will do a lot of research, find documentation or locate relatives, or just someone to physically take you to the places you want to see?

Posted by
20 posts

Stan,

I've done a fair amount of research on this side of the pond, but I would imagine having someone in Poland that has research capabilities would be helpful in this quest.

Then I would like for them to escort us on visits to the towns.

Mark

Posted by
5120 posts

Mark, I have no experience with him, but a Kraków-based tour guide that is frequently mentioned (and recommended by Rick in the book) is Andrew Durman. Do a "Search" using the gray box at the top of this page and his contact info and reviews should pop up in the posts. No experience with genealogy services, but if you've visited the Polish Roots website, there may be some other suggestions. I believe there are several companies that can do custom tours, maybe even recommend genealogy services. StayPoland is one of them.

Posted by
242 posts

I have used Andrew and highly recommend him. I also highly regard Polish Origins. You might be interested in a book I wrote on the exact topic. I learned after my first trip to Poland that there was much more I was capable of doing before I struck out in the hands of a guide or tour company. I even uncovered and visited three sets of cousins in Poland.

Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Travel-Back-Your-Roots-immigrant/dp/1541099982/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512399097&sr=8-2&keywords=donna+Gawell

On Amazon: Travel Back to Your Roots by Donna Gawell, I'm going back next year to do more research for a historical novel and will visit the cousins again. I will update the book in late 2018, but the info is very current. My goal in writing was to inspire others to do their homework before they go. I speak NO Polish, so the book is written for English speaking descendants of immigrants who have no knowledge of the people left behind.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you Donna,

I have ordered your book and am looking forward to reading it. Thank you also for the recommendation.

Mark

Posted by
12121 posts

"southern part of Poland near Krakow." If you mean a little south of Krakow, that tells me that prior to 1914 your families were in Austria-Hungary in the province of Galicia. Then documents pertaining to your families are in German.

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you Fred,

I always remember being told they came from Austria/Poland. My great grandfather's WWI registration card notes Wieprz, Galicia, Austria as the place he was born.

Posted by
106 posts

Mark,

I used Ancestral Attic several years ago, and was very happy with them. We sent them the info that we had on our own beforehand. Based on that, they set us up with personal guides in each city, and helped arrange our itinerary.

We knew my husband's grandmother was born in a small village outside of Warsaw. The guide picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the village. Having her with us was invaluable! Depending on how far back you want to look, the best place to find records in Poland is at the local churches. The priest at the church where my husband's grandmother was born spoke very little English, so we needed her to help translate. We discovered while at the church, that this was a "new" church and that the original building was currently being refurbished. The priest drove us to the old building, unlocked the padlocks on the doors, and let us go in. It still had the wooden benches for pews, and the dirt floor. It even had the original baptismal font which is where she would have been baptized. We were able to find all of the original records of the church, showing births, deaths, baptisms, etc.

We believed my relatives were from the Poznan area, so they also set us up with a tour guide there. We didn't have a lot of luck with that church, but our private guide was equally good.

We enjoyed our time with our guide from Warsaw so much, that she has become a good personal friend, and we visit her every time we go back. She is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever find about Polish history.

It is very difficult to find records in Poland, so don't be disappointed if you go and don't find a lot when you are there. It's an absolutely beautiful country though, so enjoy your time there.

Posted by
12121 posts

@ Mark....It is very possible that the records are no longer available given the horrific history of Galicia since 1914. You could get the Polish name of your great grandfather's birth village and visit it. I assume from your comments that as a native of Galicia he was in WW1 and survived. Given the history of the war waged in Galicia and the record of the Austro-Hungarian Army, that is a wonder.

Posted by
20 posts

Fred,
My great-grandfather Julian Kukiela arrived in the U.S. in 1907. On his WWI draft registration card it stated he was from Wieprz, Galicia, Austria. On his WWII draft registration it simply says Poland.
When he died in 1952 it listed he was survived by two brothers Alex and Stanley and a sister still living in Poland. So I believe some of the family survived there...but I am not certain if they remained in Wieprz.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello,
I have worked with Andrew on my ancestry as well as he acted as our guide when we visited. Our trip and interaction with Andrew was so wonderful we are going back again. I sent him the information I had and he was able to add to it and take us many places. He was able to track down my 5x great grandmother's grave and get us access to the cemetery which was locked. I can't say enough good things about Andrew.

Posted by
12121 posts

@ Mark...I assume you mean Julian's US WW1 draft registration since he came over in 1907. So, he was drafted in 1918, ie at 19 (? ) (the law was passed that year) by the US Army, which at that time his birthplace was officially in Austria-Hungary, ie, in the province of Galicia.

Are you saying the US authorities drafted him again in WW2 when presumably he was in his early 40s? Since most of Galicia went to Poland after WW1, including Lwow, the former Lemberg, the province capital of Galicia, following the dissolution of Austria-Hungary in 1918, his birthplace was officially in inter-war Poland. . West of Krakow you're going into Austrian Silesia, which does not apply to Julian as his WW1 draft registration indicates Galicia.

Posted by
12121 posts

Hi,

The birthplace of Julian , Wiepr is located directly south of Oswiecim (Auschwitz). In a way the village is near Krakow but to the southwest and much closer to Auschwitz. I checked the huge German atlas I have, which includes the 1914 borders and those of 1937, "Andrees Handatlas, achte Auflage." (8th ed), and "Namenverzeichnis (Index of place names)

Posted by
200 posts

@Fred This is moving off topic, but just to clarify: registering for the draft and actually being drafted are two different things. My grandfather, who was born in Poland in the late 1880’s and came to the US in the 1890’s, had to register for both WWI and WWII. He was not drafted and did not serve in either war. Those records, however, are helpful when doing genealogical research. The Polish Genealogy group on Facebook was very helpful to me as I planned a Genealogy tour to Poland in 2016.

Posted by
20 posts

Fred and Kathy

My great grandfather was born in 1887 or 1888 depending on which record is to be believed. He registered for the the drafts in both World Wars but was never actually drafted as far as I can tell.

Posted by
12121 posts

@ Mark and Kathy....thanks for the explanatory information, as always, interesting given the geographic area and time period prior to 1914.

@ Mark....That huge German atlas (published 1930) mentioned above gives names of villages in Polish and German even when the site was in Austria-Hungary or Germany prior to 1914. Pardon, the village name of Wiepr in Galicia prior to WW1 is the Polish name, which makes it easier to track down if you are going to see the place, presumably by rental car or bus. My experience in Poland based on the trip to Torun in 2005 showed me that a city has a good bus network, that's how I got to Chelmno on the Vistula as a day trip from Torun. Both these places are on the Vistula.

Posted by
242 posts

Please don't be discouraged thinking that all of the church or government records were destroyed in the world wars. My grandparents' village and parish of Niwiska is a case in point. The old wooden church burnt down in the 1880's, but the records survived somehow! Then, in WWII, Hitler's forces not only occupied the entire village, but all the people had to be evacuated to other areas and most of the homes were burnt/destroyed. The parish church was emptied of anything valuable and either hidden (windows, bells) or kept in other parishes. The priest took the records to Kolbuszowa and kept them safe there. The old records going back to the 1700's have survived!

For everyone, I have an interesting section on my website about Poland and WWII history in Poland. Go to www.donnagawell.com and look under "History of Niwiska, Blizna, Poland, WWII," etc. I translated a really interesting interview about Operation Wildhorn II from the point of view of the Polish men on the ground. It is usually told from the bragadocious point of view from the English. (I'm part English, too)

Posted by
242 posts

Many folks on here are quite knowledgeable, but some of my best info and friendships have come from Facebook genealogy pages. There are a few dedicated to just Polish genealogy (some will translate documents) and they are so helpful. I am a co-administrator of a new one in my grandparents' region. I also recommend using Polish Origin's forums. There are folks there who will translate as a favor and their staff is Polish but speak and write English extremely well.

Posted by
242 posts

BTW- Andrew Durman is Rick Steve's personal driver whenever he visits the area. I found that out when a poster on this site mentioned that Andrew wasn't available because Rick had booked him.

BTW- Rick's Snapshot of Krakow is being updated and released soon.