We are Polish Genealogy Society of America (PGSA) members; we are acting on behalf of a much larger number of PGSA members and Polish people throughout the world. We are asking the Board to discuss an initiative called “Polish Parish Records” at the August 11th Board meeting; under the agenda item called "Long-term PGSA Projects”.
“Polish Parish Records” in the most basic terms, is the photographing and indexing of Polish parish records in Poland. This initiative is long overdue. Everybody that we have talked to thinks that this project has merit and should be under the leadership of the PGSA organization; it is a natural! We do not want to get into the specifics of the who’s, what, when, and why’s of this project at this time. We are asking the Board to consider accepting the ownership and leadership of this long-term project.
There are other organizations and individuals that have and are still trying to document these records but with very little success. The largest groups are the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the Jewish Records Indexing–Poland (JRI–Poland). The LDS is a Mormon group that is powerful and big enough to do this project. However, they are getting a tremendous amount of pushback from the Vatican and the Catholic parishes within Poland. Though the Catholic Church gave pastors the right to decide whether the LDS are allowed to film church records, many priests see this as an order from the Vatican to cease and desist filming/digitizing. The JRI–Poland is not having better success, for obvious reasons. In addition, they are mainly concerned with Jewish data, concentrating on the Polish-Jewish parishes. There are also smaller organizations and individual people trying to do the same thing. Shouldn’t all of this be captured, organized, and led by one entity?
I visited Poland for the first time in May for two weeks and I came away with the impression that for the most part these people lack trust. I am not a historian or ever plan to be, but these people have been suppressed, forever. They are finally getting their taste of Democracy and freedom; the new generation embraces it and the older generation is skeptical. Before we can do anything, we must come up with a plan to gain their trust. I would be skeptical too; if I were a parish priest or director of an archive with all these different people and organizations, asking to copy the parish’s original Baptismal, Marriage, Death records. After all, if something happens to these records they are gone forever, and the priest have history on their side, it has happened before! PGSA is well known and respected in Poland, and Chicago is their second Warsaw; what could be a better start than this.
The obvious question that keeps coming up is why isn’t this a Polish initiative? Why are we leaving or relying on the Latter-Day Saints and the Jewish Records Indexing–Poland to document these records? We feel strongly that a Polish organization should lead this initiative and we feel it should be the Polish Genealogy Society of America. After all, the PGSA is the biggest and best know genealogy society in the world. According to the PGSA’s website, there are over 2000 members and I am sure there are at least another 2000 active website users that are not members.
We are suggesting that the PGSA take the lead and contact the LDS and JRI-Poland to form an alliance. This would benefit all of the organizations. We could take advantage of PGSA’s respect and leadership in Poland, LDS and JRI-Poland's expertise and history in Poland. There are other smaller organizations like Polish Genius, Poland Roots and other Polish Genealogy Societies that I am sure would want to help.
Mr. Lewandowski you are our president and head Volunteer Coordinator. It has been some years since PGSA had a president who was an activist. We are looking to you to change that, and hope you are not willing to maintain a status quo!
We hope you will have a positive response to this suggestion. Any questions or issues please do not hesitate to contact me.