Overlooked GeneaGem #4 – Ethnic Societies

America is called a melting pot for good reason. Most of us are descended from a mixture of ethnic and/or religious backgrounds. While my maternal grandfather’s family has proven to be solely colonial American and Canadian immigrants from Britain, one side of my maternal grandmother’s family is the same, the other side is Danish with a Swedish line added in. My paternal grandparents’ lines  are all Slovak with their ancestral villages being near Presov, Slovakia.

Why am I mentioning this? Because ethnic societies can often provide a huge amount of information on members of a community at any given time. We want our ancestors to become real people, who are more than just a birth, marriage and death date on a piece of paper. We want to know about their friends and neighbors, cultural traditions and jobs.

Ethnic societies can provide some of this information.

Cyndi’s List

Federation of Genealogical Societies – has many ethnic societies, but database is in ABC order so you will have to scroll.

I suspect that none of these lists is terribly complete because there are so many small organizations across the country in addition to some entities that are only websites.

Since I mentioned my Slovak heritage, I will share a website devoted to the Carpatho-Rusyns who emigrated from Slovakia in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. It includes a large amount of information on the people who emigrated from the villages of Udol and Ujak, which were the ancestral homes of my grandmother Julia’s family, to Passaic, New Jersey, the city where I was born and grew up.

The Carpathian Connection

The section on Passaic has historic photos of people and places, stories from descendants of those early Slovak immigrants, historical information on the churches, shops and neighborhoods where they lived. I recognize many of the family names as those of my grandmother’s friends.

Growing up, I knew that she had a lot of Slovak speaking friends from (today’s) Greek-Catholic Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, but I knew nothing of the mills where they all went to work, the cultural customs continued from the “old country” or that a huge percentage of those immigrants all migrated from Udol or Ujak, two small villages in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains near the Poprad River.

I tell people that if they look at a map of Poland and Slovakia, look due south from Cracow across the border. the mountain range at that border is the Tatras. Udol and Ujak in ancient times only had 500-800 inhabitants. The population was about the same in the 1800’s and remains that way today in spite of all the emigration.

I have learned so much about my grandmother’s way of life in the early 1900’s through information found on The Carpathian Connection. If you have a strong family connection to one or more ethnic groups, check out the directories in this post, but if you don’t find one fitting your heritage, do what we all do today – google it!

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