Personal experience

Personal experience with genealogy

Some years ago, when I was was in charge of the public library in a small rural community close to Oslo, one of my tasks was to help local organisations interested in preserving documents from their past. I worked with organizations like the Local History Association (Historielaget) and the local branch of the Norwegian Labour Party (Det norske arbeiderparti). They were invited to use my library as a community archive. Here they could store old protocols, photographs and letters. They could also present local exhibitions in the library.

Now, after I have retired, I have time to occupy myself with genealogy of my own family in Poland. This means I can look at public institutions like archives, mueums and libraries from the other side, as an amateur researcher in genealogy. During the last couple of years I think I have acquired some useful professional experience. A big collection of Polish church registers are now available on the web, and I have spent several hundred hours studying and extracting information from these documents. The earliest entries, from the 17th century, were written in Latin. Afterwards they were written in rather old-fashioned Polish. When my region came under Russian control, after the three divisions of Poland, Russian had to be used. In the 19th century Polish reappeared, fortunately. 

So, what are my experiences? First of all, I can sit comfortably and study Polish church registers on Internet almost everywhere. The documents were scanned and published by Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah. And at this very moment, on June 24th, I am on holiday in Greece, somewhere in the remote south west part of Crete, where Tord (my husband) and I live in a cosy village hotel, with the Libyan sea in front and the mountains at our back. And only the slow internet connection in our flat prevents me from doing genealogical research in my bed. I have to walk some twenty meters to the main house.

Here we have full internet access, so that I can use all the equipment I have carried along: laptop, camera, mobile telephone and my Ipad, all that modern marvellous equipment. I can write this post and put the pictures on Flickr. I do not have to find every little local church or public archive to dig out and read them in the original. In Crete I feel I can communicate with the whole world immediately.

I read scans of handwritten church registers page after page. I can see that many pages are damaged and impossible to read, but I praise those individuals and organizations who made it possible to scan these precious documents, so that I can sit here in remote Agia Paraskeui and read them in comfort.

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