14456. American genealogy research trip to Istebna

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American genealogy research trip to Istebna

Postprzez Carl Morris » 20.08.2011

Hi Everyone,

I recently completed a trip to Poland and wanted to report on our success. I traveled with my mother and sister, with the intention of finding and visiting family in the Istebna area on the southern border of Poland, very close to the point where Poland, Czech, and Slovakia meet. The last communication my family had with relatives in that area was in the 1960s, and the communicators on both sides were now deceased. Thanks to these letters we did have one address that we knew had been owned by family at that time.

In addition to having an old address, one good thing for us was that all of my mother's grandparents were from the same small area, which makes it easier to concentrate our efforts. Their last names were Kawulok, Jalowiczor, Legierski, and Wolny. When searching online these names seem to be strongly associated with the Istebna area, which also made our task easier.

My family has been friends with Marcin Niewalda since the 1980s and we asked for his assistance with this work and he agreed to help us. This was very fortunate for us because his genealogical research skills combined with his translation skills helped us to work far more efficiently than we otherwise could have. At least 10 times more efficiently. Also he was able to get access to the small town's Catholic church records which might have been impossible for us. Unfortunately none of us speak Polish, so we were helpless in that area without him. If anybody reading this is in a similar situation and would like to search for family in Poland I would highly recommend contacting Marcin and hiring him to make the work go more quickly.

After meeting with Marcin and exploring Krakow for a few days while recovering from our flight, we then traveled together to the Istebna area. We rented a house (http://villadorka.com) in the area which also worked very well for our purposes. We would definitely consider renting there again. We started by contacting the few people there that I knew due to internet contact in the past, as well as visiting the one address that I had and visiting the local Catholic church to identify more connections using the names and birthdates of my ancestors that had immigrated to the United States from that area. Thanks to Marcin's skills we quickly were able to identify many more contacts and began meeting people very quickly. Some were cousins of my grandparents and some were more distant relations. In all cases it was wonderful to meet them but we were very dependent on translation. Most of the younger generation spoke English but most of the older generation did not.

During this time of meeting people we also were attending community events and eating local food in the restaurants and getting to know the entire community. Within days going out became very fun because we had met so many people that we were starting to run into people we knew almost everywhere we went. Before the end of our time there Marcin was able to photograph many of the records at the church which we will study for years to come. We also plan to hire him to return to the area at some time without us to complete the work of photographing the records. He also found some leads regarding where the people came from before they populated the Istebna area, which will also be very interesting to learn more about.

Due to my lack of Polish skills it is difficult for me to participate in discussion here on this site, but I have given Marcin permission to edit and add pictures from the trip and to move portions or all of this post to the best places on the site to post them. I wish everyone here the best of luck with your searches. My website that focuses on the genealogy of the Istebna area as it pertains to those who immigrated to the United States is here (http://trojwies.us/). If anyone would like to post there I would be happy to help create an account for you, I had to shut off automatic account creation due to spam.
Carl Morris (Jalowiczor, Kawulok, Legerski, Wolny)
Boulder, CO, USA
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Carl Morris
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Re: American genealogy research trip to Istebna

Postprzez Marcin » 01.11.2014

Thank you Carl for shearing this. Yes - it was wonderful time for me also. Lots of greate adventures!
Finally we start to build English version this genealogical page (at least main pages) to help non-Polish speakers contact with us. English main page is http://www.genealogia.okiem.pl/index_en.php

We've also developed grup of proffesionals which will help to prepare whole Polish trips based to private family genealogy. Information of this is here
"Ateizm - to uparta wiara w bezsensowność wierzenia"
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Re: American genealogy research trip to Istebna

Postprzez RTLegersky » 01.10.2015

Dear Carl,

I would like to know more about your research into your roots. I have been doing genealogy research for a few years on my family, Legersky, on the Slovak side of the border in Skalite with the help of cousins there, but I haven't made the trip to visit yet. It is not far from Istebna. I know that there are many Legersky/Legierski in those Beskid mountain villages. I can trace my family line back in Skalite to 1750, and there were Legersky there by 1730, but there is no record in the census of 1715 of Skalite for any Legersky. Surrounding villages of that region in Slovakia also don't show Legersky in that census of 1715. It leads me to wonder if Legerskys first settled in the villages of the Polish side of the border. Were you able to get any information about that during your trip and your research? Until now I didn't find any resources that might help me answer the question.

I also have Polish in the same lineage from the family Pehulic (that is an American spelling, I need to get the original Polish spelling of my great-grandmother from my great uncle). But that is another research project and they come from farther north in Poland - not in the Beskids.

We are very curious about the origin of the family and the origin of the name. Unless I am missing something or don't understand at all, neither "Leger" nor "Legier" is a word in Polish, Slovak or Czech. I saw some forum posts say that it is from the "lees" (lege) from making wine or beer - the yeast that settles to the bottom. Yes, that is a meaning, among many, which leads to the word lager in beer making, etc. It is also a fortified camp or "tabor" in the slavic languages. However, Leger, lege, lager, etc. are all Germanic or Saxon words. This leads to a couple theories: 1) We are from Transylvania region originally and settled in these Goral villages in the Beskids as a part of the Vlach (Romanian) migration, as many in those villages did. Or we are Belgian (Legersky - "From Leger") - Many Belgians, booth Walloon and Flemish immigrated to Slovakia and settled areas in the mountains that needed miners and other skilled laborers in the late middle ages. At this time, the king of the Polish/Hungarian state that included this region of Slovakia - Poland (Silesia) was the prince of Luxemburg/Belgium. Both Wallonia and Luxemburg have regions named "Leger" where likely some immigrants to Slovakia and Poland in Silesia settled. The original Leger in Belgium (St. Leger) was Germanic and the name Leger is from the ancient German name Leodegar, which means "the spear tribe" or "people of the spear."

Perhaps it is a remnant of a dialect and we were referred to as "people from the camp" - again probably a camp in the mountains to tend the sheep in the winter. But there is no evidence to be found, and no Legersky in Slovakia today whom I've been able to contact knows what the name means.

Any information or evidence you have to support or rule out these theories would be incredibly helpful, and superbly interesting!


Randy Thomas Legersky
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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