Don’t chuck “busia” into the dumpster!
By Robert Strybel, "The Polish Answer Man" Don’t chuck “busia” into the dumpster!

Don’t  chuck “busia” into the dumpster!

 By Robert Strybel, Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer

ul. Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland

Often without knowing it, we come face to face with history, our own ancestral annals, when an elderly family member goes on to his or her reward. In addition to the property left behind by loved ones such as homes, furnishings and cars, they often leave a legacy of family souvenirs, keepsakes and mementoes. To some this may be little more than useless clutter, a bunch of junk to be dumped or incinerated as soon as possible. However, before that happens, one thing should be considered. Our ancestor must have considered these things valuable and priceless if he or she decided to hang on to them all these years. Doesn’t their wanton destruction amount to chucking “busia” (granny) into the dumpster?

            Unfortunately, most Polish Americans begin taking an interest in their ancestral roots a bit too late in life when elderly family members are no longer around to ask about things. That “junk” may therefore be one of their last remaining links to their family history. Every effort should therefore me made to safeguard whatever possible for posterity. These may include such keepsakes as Old World documents (baptismal/birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports and steamship-ticket stubs), US naturalization papers, yellowed Old Country letters, funeral cards, Polonian jubilee publications, newspaper cuttings, etc. If possible, an oral narration by the oldest living family member can be recorded or written down for future reference.

Even if your younger set shows little interest in family heritage at present, some day some grandchild or great-grandchild may suddenly start wondering about his or her family roots. Maybe a teacher will assign ancestral history or a family tree as an essay topic or class project. If that occurs, the child will have something to fall back upon. But if these keepsakes are not safeguarded, they will be lost forever.

Other than saving family keepsakes, a good place to start exploring your ancestral ties is your Polish name itself.  For a custom-researched analysis of the meaning and derivation of your surname, how many people use it, where they live and whether a coat of arms goes with it, you may send a $15 check (adding $5 for each additional surname) to the author: Robert Strybel, ul. Kaniowska 24, 01-529 Warsaw, Poland. To help you get started you will also receive a contact list of genealogical leads, institutions, organizations, websites and other resources which many Polish-American root-tracers have found extremely helpful.

Also worth recommending is Rosemary Chorzempa’s book “Polish Roots”. It provides a good background for those getting started in genealogical exploration with plenty of hints, step-by-step instructions and valuable leads to follow up on.  It is available online at