Hatching Plans to Chase Family History in Ukraine & Poland

My last post was all about something we did this past summer. THIS post is all about what we’re doing RIGHT NOW! We’re sitting in our shared office/library, figuring out which villages (and colonies) our ancestors came from… so that we can visit these sites ourselves, this summer.

YES! We have decided to visit Ukraine and Poland. It’ll be a first for us. I’d been thinking that we couldn’t visit these places until we knew all the things. But I’ve realized that I just need to get over it. I’m never going to know everything. I’ll always be bumbling my way along. Thank goodness I have Andrew by my side — he’s a little more calculated and mindful and is very good at planning. So, we’re just going to go for it.

Most people join tours, but because we must travel in summer, and there are no summer tours, we’re going to do it on our own… although Andrew’s parents will be joining us for a week in Ukraine! This is particularly important because Andrew’s mother’s family were Russlanders, having immigrated in the 1920’s and the possibility of finding links to their past is much greater than my 1870’s history.

So, the first thing we had to do, is sift through the information available on Grandma Online. We each made a list of place-names, and what had happened in these places that were of significance (i.e. mentioned in the notes in individual entries on Grandma Online). Heck, even if someone was just passing through a village when a census was taken, I recorded that info too. This step took HOURS.

Next, Andrew combined all of our information. This allowed us to see which villages would be priorities for us to visit.

Then comes the task of figuring out what’s there in these villages today. Have they become cities with new names? Or have they vanished entirely, with just empty fields and no markers? These are the things we (okay, Andrew) will be investigating.

Many people have told me that there’s nothing left out there, about the Mennonites, because the Soviets endeavoured to remove it all. Also, because of the passage of time. But honestly, that doesn’t surprise me. I mean, I’ve done enough investigating of ghost villages here in the East Reserve, where there’s absolutely nothing left, that I can’t say I expect to find much evidence of even older abandoned village sites. Anyway, for me, the point will be to set foot where my ancestors once trod.

One more thing. There is a very important tool that we hope to use in this endeavour. Brent Wiebe has created an app that uses GPS technology to tell you what villages used to be in a particular location. But, that’ll be another post for another day!