NEW BRITAIN – For Polish-Americans searching for information about their family history, the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast has a new treasure trove of information on its website.
“Now you can look for grandma’s wedding!” the website proclaims. “The Polish-American Marriage Database is now available on our site. It contains the names of couples of Polish origin who were married in select locations in the Northeast United States. It includes the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. It includes the years 1892-1940.”
It contains 54,000 names, along with towns and marriage dates, according to Diane Szepanski, PGSCN treasurer, who worked on typing up and proofreading all the information. She is a New Britain native and Plantsville resident.
She had help from Carol Kaczmarczyk Carter, a Bristol resident who serves on the PGSCN board of directors, and Jonathan Shea, PGSCN president and professor of modern languages at Central Connecticut State University.
Shea said he came up with the idea for the database about 20 years ago, and many volunteers have helped over the years.
“Information came from multiple sources – town records, civil records, church records, newspaper articles, church histories. When we initiated this project there was zero online. Now there are resources online but our database is better because the names are spelled correctly, whereas if you go to another database the names are often all twisted and you can’t find anything,” he said.
A lot of people had typed up the collected information, but there were errors, Szepanski said. “So I said to Jonathan, ‘Carol and I are proofing this whole thing, all 54,000 names.’ I would call Jonathan on the names I wasn’t sure of and he would tell me the correct way to spell it.”
Shea offered one example of how badly misspelled some of the Polish names he uncovered were: Kobula Ulvtkrzrwz. “There are certain names that you can phonetically analyze and understand where the errors came from, but then there are some names like this, which is just a mess. Kobula is not a real first name and those are just a bunch of consonants. You could never figure out who this person was.”
“The editing part of it took Carol and I almost a year,” she said. “It’s like a full-time job.”
Once they had thoroughly gone over all the information they had and posted it online they decided they were done, at least for now, she said.
“We could expand it, to include more people, more towns, but we don’t have a sufficient number of volunteers to continue,” Shea said.
People who access the database and then seek more information will find other searchable databases on the website as well.
Szepanski said in April the website itself will be completely updated and modernized, to make it easier to search. “If you look at it now and then again later, you’ll say ‘Wow, what a difference!’”
PGSCN was originally established to promote the research of Polish-American families in the Connecticut River Valley, but soon expanded to meet the interest in other parts of New England and in the middle Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, where there were no similar genealogical societies. So the organization became known as the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast Inc.
As its website explains, Polish immigrants entered the northeastern United States in great numbers in the latter part of the 19th Century up until World War II, settling principally in the region’s rapidly developing industrial cities and towns.
For this reason, thriving Polish communities flourished in such cities as New Britain and Bridgeport; in Chicopee, Mass.; in the industrial areas of northern New Jersey; in the coal-mining regions of Pennsylvania, and in central and northern Rhode Island. Polish farmers purchased land in places such as Hatfield and Hadley, Mass.
“Today, as their descendants, we are striving to capture our past and preserve our Polish cultural heritage for the generations which will follow us,” the website says.
To see the marriage database, and the other available databases, visit www.pgsctne.org/Databases/ .
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.