Saturday, January 30, 2016

Back to the History Books

My quest for my children’s paternal Filek ancestors has me back to countries with elastic borders. 

The bad news is that I do not know exactly where they lived.  I am trying to narrow it down by using Google Earth to locate ancestral towns of other immigrants named Filek hoping that they will be clustered fairly close to one another.

This particular family emigrated from Bohemia. But exactly where were Bohemia’s borders when they lived there?

Conquests and royal intermarriages seemed to modify borders with each new king, There were dynasties, duchies and kingdoms. In more modern times there was, of course, the Hapsburg Empire, and later the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Small nations like Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia disappeared and reappeared depending on who ruled where.

There’s a great deal of information on the internet but the most comprenhensive I’ve found so far is A History of the Czech Lands edited by Jaroslav Panek and Oldrich Tuma

One of these days, I’ll make some progress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Next stop: Bohemia

My focus is shifting from my Polish ancestors to the Bohemian ancestors of my children’s father. There’s a brick wall here because the usual sources have not, thus far, identified immigration or naturalization information for their Filek ancestors.

The history of the Czech lands of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia shows that boundaries changed fairly often as various kings ruled that part of Europe. US census records show this Filek family’s homeland as Bohemia; but what was the land called when they emigrated?  Other searches for Filek show origins as Austria or Hungary. Some say just Czech.  Yet it is possible that many of these people lived in the same region.

I’m studying the history and maps and getting clues from the Facebook Czech Genealogy Group.  Anyone out there have Filek in their family tree?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Heritage or Lineage?

Is genealogy about heritage or about lineage?  Short answer: Yes.  It is about both. They are related but not the same. My main interest is heritage.

My ancestors were Polish peasants. For most of my lines, I trace ancestors back to the 18th century. (There are still a couple of brick walls in the 19th century.)  I know who they were and how they earned their livelihood.  I study the history of their times to learn what shaped their daily lives. Their lives then helped shape my life now. As much as I’d like to know the names of my more ancient ancestors, that is not necessary to understand how peasants lived in their time.

There are some gaps that need filling; but my current thinking is that I’ll not try to go back any farther in time with my ancestors now.  I will concentrate on the heritage for now and perhaps get back to lineage some time in the future.

There are stories to write and research to do. Life in Prussian Poland.  Traveling steerage class to the USA in the 19th century.  Settling in a new land.  Life in the US at the turn of the 20th century. Subsequent generations and how they/we fared.

My lineage projects will focus on my ex-husband – my children’s father whose paternal ancestors emigrated from Bohemia. I’ve found no passenger lists, no immigration papers, no nothing before they arrived in Chicago in the 1860’s.

2016 will be a challenge.