Tracing Your European Ancestors – RootsTech 2016

Speaker BadgeOvernight, the RootsTech team uploaded the syllabi for the various lectures to the website. You will find my RootsTech handout HERE or by searching for RT1137

They also announced the presentations to be live streamed. As my presentation will not be live streamed, I will make a recording of the presentation available at sometime in the coming few weeks.

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Can you help? – Stover & Ilford Park, Newton Abbot

Work is well under way for my book, Newton Abbot’s Polish Community. The cover Newton Abbot's Polish Communitypictures are being worked upon and I am gathering momentum for writing.

I am still though seeking images for the book – can you help? What I am looking for is scenes of:

  • Stover Camp during the Second World War – the following US military were stationed there
    • 316th Stn Hospital
    • 112th Gen Hospital
  • Images of the Polish Community from 1948

All images will be credited to the owner. If you can help please do get in touch and feel free to share via social media!

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Sicily

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is an autonomous region of Italy. The minor islands around it are also considered to be part of Sicily.

Throughout much of its history, Sicily has been considered a crucial strategic location due to its importance for Mediterranean trade routes.

The island was once a city-state in its own right, and as the Kingdom of Sicily ruled from Palermo over southern Italy, Sicily, and Malta. Later it became a part of the Two Sicily’s under the Bourbons, a kingdom which governed from Naples that consisted of both the island itself and most of Southern Italy. The unification of Italy in 1860 led to the dissolution of this kingdom, and Sicily became an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Today, Sicily is still an autonomous region of Italy and covers the largest land area at 25,708 square kilometres and currently has just over five million inhabitants.

Sicily has its own unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, cuisine, architecture and language. The Sicilian economy is largely based on agriculture, much of which is orange and lemon orchards. The agricultural natural beauty has attracted significant tourism. Sicily has many important archaeological and ancient sites such as the Valley of the Temples.

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Spanish Surnames

In Spain children are typically given their first name and have two surnames. The first surname is their father’s first surname and the second is the first of their mother’s surname.

Since 1999, gender equality laws have allowed for some transposition of the surnames and in the cases of parents being unable to decide an order for the surnames, the decision is made by an official who is responsible for the birth registration.

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Bulgarian Research

Bulgaria is the oldest state in Europe to have kept its original name since AD681 and most of the population are descendants of the Bulgarian invasion of the South Danube. On two occasions during the medieval period Bulgarians managed to establish empires. On 22nd September 1908 Bulgaria was proclaimed an independent state.

The history of the Balkans is a complex one due to the invasions, petitions and general chaos in the region. By the 20th Century Bulgaria was ruled by a Monarchy which during the Second World War joined forces with the Axis powers. In 1944 after the death of King Boris the Soviet Union backed the alternative regime and a Republic was declared.

The Republic was Communist and those who were against the Regime or believed to be against the regime were observed, challenged and on many occasions interned into the Labour camps, very similar to those that existed in Russia.

The close proximity of mainland Greece to Bulgaria meant that there was often natural migration between the two countries. Border changes in the region meant that on occasions overnight Greeks became Bulgarians and were asked to change from the Greek Orthodox religion to Muslim. Once the Communist regime was established there was a lack of tolerance to religions, and those who were not comfortable with the regime naturally wanted to cross the border. Those wishing to leave the Country were seen as traitors and if caught fleeing were interned. Those that did make it out were labelled traitors and could never safely return to the Country.

Bulgarian National Archives can be found at www.archives.governement.bg

The state archives of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria was formed on 10th October 1951 and carry out a nationwide policy of collection, storage, organisation and use of archive material. There is very little emphasis on assisting researchers.

In 1839 the Emperor of the Ottoman Empire declared that all subjects in the Empire would be afforded the same rights. It is from this time that we see the formation of Official Registers.

There are also the following repositories which may hold information

  • Bulgarian National Library in Sofia
  • National Library in Plovdiv
  • District State Archives
  • Military Archives in Veliko Tyrnovo
  • Church Archives in Sofia

The district archives use the 28 districts which had divided the Country. Each district had a capital which was responsible for the records in that geographical location. In the 1980’s the 28 districts structure was abandoned and instead 9 larger provinces were established, but the former structure was deeply embedded into the structure of the country and establishment of the provinces merely fragmented the storage of official documents.

The 9 Provinces are:

  • Burgas
  • Khaskovo
  • Lovech
  • Mikhaylo
  • Plovdiv
  • Ruse (Rousse)
  • Sofia (Sofya)
  • Sofrya Region
  • Varna

Documents that can be found are:

  • Birth Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Death Records
  • Index of Funds Records
  • Taxation Records

Because of the historical links to Turkey through the Ottoman Empire there are some Turkish records to be found in Bulgarian records. Documents will be in Bulgarian and some early records in Latin script.

In this region there has always been a Jewish population. In the period of the Second World War whilst there was a complete lack of tolerance to the Jewish religion across the German occupied territories, Bulgaria retained its Jewish population and broadly speaking did not deport them, but did deport around 11,000 of those who were of the Jewish faith during its occupation of Yugoslavia and Greece during this period.

A very useful resource is The Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture (FASSAC) http://www.sephardicstudies.org/

With the demise of the Communist Regime in this region there has been an increased availability of documentation about the Country and individuals and therefore research in the region should not simply be restricted to what is available in Bulgaria. Those who were seen as potential enemies of the regime, whether that was correct or not were observed and records were maintained. The reality is that no one really knows for sure how many more records are potentially available about those who lived in this region during this regime.

Researching in Bulgaria is complex because of being part of the Ottoman Empire, boundary changes with Greece, the alignment with Germany during the Second World War and finally the Communist regime that occurred from 1944. From these few historical facts a whole new set of research opportunities presents themselves.

Top Tips

  • Research Wide – in much of Europe there is a necessity to research generally before drilling down to the details of specific individuals. It is imperative to understand the Country and the social, political and economic stance of the time and how that would have affected individuals.
  • Look at the Surnames and Places. Even through the turbulence of region, religious and political intolerance not everyone left their area or homeland. Some changed faiths and political beliefs and adopted a new way of life.
  • Research the places that your ancestors live. Has the place always been in the Country that it was or is in?
  • What was the dominant religion in that place?
  • Border Countries
  • Other researching in the geographical place
  • Others researching the surname anywhere – where there is a regime of intolerance there is migration – therefore there maybe others researching the same surname in other parts of the world.
    • Identify periods of migration
      • Depending on religion (1930 – 1945) – Whilst the Bulgarian Jewish population were not deported during the Second World War how many fled believing that they were in danger? Potentially someone of Bulgarian Jewish faith living in Greece could have been deported.
      • Migration during the Cold War era. Subjects that left were often subject to interrogation by the Country that they entered – as a way of ensuring that they were genuine and not agents of a Communist Regime.
      • Migration that occurred through border changes (Bulgaria and Greece for example)
    • Understanding the Migration. Those fleeing often did so with very little of anything, in an attempt to hide their impending migration. Did they cross the border into another Country and establish themselves there in order to finance their migration on to the US or other parts of Europe?
      • Where was the nearest port? Which might not have been in the country of origin.
      • Where was the cheapest port?
  • Obtain a history of the Balkans such as:
    • A short history of the Balkans by Mark Mazower, published 2002
    • The Balkans 1804 – 2002: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers by Misha Glenny, published 2012
  • Maps
    • Map of the Balkans showing the border towns with Greece and Romania

Map of Bulgaria showing Provinces and towns.

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Polish in Iran (Persia)

From 1942 until the end of the war there was a population of Polish migrants in Iran. As Iran is outside the remit of Tracing Your European Ancestors I have mentioned it briefly in the book, but wish to share here with you the fascinating details that I have come across during the course of my research.

  • Iranian Documentary, “The Lost Requiem” produced by Khosrow Sinai in 1983. This film took twelve years for the producer to make as he researched, filmed and interviewed as many people as he could locate from the former Polish community which spent the years from 1942 in Iran. The film has been made available by the producer and can be found at YouTube.

Other Links

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Useful Resources – Isle of Man

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Useful Resources – Channel Islands

The Channel Islands is made up of five different islands, each one represented by their own flag, as 1407312087illustrated here. The islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm.

The islands are located in the English Channel close to the Normandy coastline and are a crown dependency. The islands are governed by two Bailiwicks – One representing Jersey and other Guernsey. The Channel Islands was the only territory within the crown dependency to be occupied by Germany in the Second World War.

Whilst the Channel Islands falls outside of the remit for this book, I have nonetheless, provided a set of links and general information for the island to assist you in your research.

General Sites

Genealogical and Historical Sites

Recommended Books & Papers

 

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Useful Resources – Italy

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Newton Abbot’s Polish Community

From the back cover

On the outskirts of Newton Abbot (Devon) sits a residential setting for Polish migrants that is the last of its kind; a legacy of the contribution the Polish people made during the Second World War. After the war, the majority of Polish troops who had fought under British Command were unable to return back to their homeland, which was under Soviet control. The Poles had significantly contributed to the war effort and so Winston Churchill made them a promise to never forget their contributions. In 1947 the Polish Resettlement Act was passed and the residential home near Newton Abbot, that is at the center of this book, was opened the following year.

In this volume Julie Goucher explores the historical facts of Stover Park, from its early beginnings as a United States Military Hospital to the formation of a community; Newton Abbot’s very own ‘Little Poland’.

ISBN 978 1445657332

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