Connecting Data and Family Stories

By far the most valuable purpose of the Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923 is the validity it has given to numerous family stories.

Family Story
• One –at ancestor had five wives.
• Another had four wives.
Fact/Conclusion
“The tendency to marriage…is strongest among widowers: they frequently
remarry.” 1
Family Story
• One –at ancestor did not read or write.
• Another, a tischler, or cabinetmaker, taught his daughter to read as he
made coffins.
• One woman kept programs and church bulletins from Essen, Germany, and German
newspapers in America. She also kept the books on the farms in Michigan, and
sent letters to her sister, who lived nearby. Her daughters helped their
mother answer them.
Fact/Conclusion
“Over 50 % of the inhabitants of the government of Suwalki were illiterate.” 2
Family Story
• One immigrant could speak six languages.
• Another woman could speak five languages: Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, German,
and English.
Fact/Conclusion
Suwalki was peopled by six ethnic groups: Poles, Lithuanians, Germans,
Jews, Ruthenians, and Byleo Russians. 3
Family Story
• Adult children of the immigrants recalled that their parents knew and could
speak Polish, Lithuanian, and Russian. The Lithuanians and Poles were
inhabitants of Suwalki in much larger numbers than the Germans. Note: Being
a minority in their district, they most likely would have had to speak more
than one language in their daily lives.
• One immigrant helped four Jewish girls escape from Russian soldiers.
Suwalki Province was located in the Pale of Settlement where Jews had been
forced to relocate during this time period.
• During WWI one daughter who never immigrated, wrote to her sister that when
they went to school one day, they were not sure which country they would be
in when they came home. She also remembered that they could hear the roar of
the cannons in World War I close to their home.
Fact/Conclusion
Two possibilities: (1) The Russians had promised the French that they would
invade East Prussia. An army of ten divisions advanced into East Prussia from
the East, but they were driven back. Before the campaign season was over, the
Russian army made a second drive into East Prussia. (2) Suwalki province
was also the scene of several battles during World War I from February to July
1915, especially February 7 to 14, 1915. 4

1 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 230.
2 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 230.
3 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 622.
4 Colin McEvedy, The Penguin Atlas of Recent History: Europe Since 1815 (London,
England: Penguin Group, 1982), 51.

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About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
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