If you’re lucky, your family has never immigrated. It happens. But since the discovery of the Americas, people have been migrating with increasing frequency. No matter where you live, if you are anything other than indigenous, you can be sure you will find immigrants in your past. People marry outside their traditional cultural and social sets all the time, bringing more groups into the mixture.
While this is usually a good thing, it often makes it difficult to do genealogy. But as my family has found, focusing on one family group at a time helps to organize and focus on the task at hand.
Take a look at my family:
To make it easy, I begin with my father’s parents, and go from male to female, and oldest to youngest by generation. My father’s father is easy. He is is the progeny of Polish-Catholic immigrants, so he is of two family groups: Polish, and Polish-Catholic. Making a distinction of religion is important, because records were often kept separately.
Once we have identified the generation that migrated, we then focus our efforts on understanding the place where they came from. My Polish relatives migrated from Bydgoszcz, one of the larger cities in Poland. It stands to reason that people migrated from rural areas into the cities for economic reasons, and so once we have exhausted the family name in that area, it will be necessary to look into outlying regions. Knowing the family group allows me to follow that group until I get to its origins, and then subdivide each surname in that group so I can do the same.
Many Polish names like mine, are based on places or ‘kowa”; so once we’ve exhaused our search in the Bydgoszcz area, we can start looking for something with a prefix of Kwiat or Kwiatkow, a “place of flowers.” A Google search reveals five possibilities in Poland, including a small town by the name of Kwiatkow just south of Bydgoszcz, but it may not necessarily be the place of origin for all Kwiatkowskis because Kwiatkowski is among the most common names in Poland. Besides that, a “place of flowers” could be just about anywhere, including places not listed on the map. But it’s a good place to start.
On my dad’s mother’s side, we have several groups. We can count the most obvious one as Euro-American. We can narrow that group even further by places of settlement. One group originally settled in the Long Island/New Jersey area. I feel safe in assuming that I still have relatives there.
When parts of the family emigrated from Long Island, another group was created. This one is called Painted Hills.” It covers a strip of land in southwestern New York, and northcentral Pennsylvania. Grandma grew up in Pennsylvania, and Grandpa grew up in New York. They both belong to this one group, which has a genealogical society devoted specifically to research in this area. Click on the photo for access to the Painted Hills Genealogy Society.
We have been able to follow some groups from my father’s matrilineage out of the country, and we know for sure that Sweden and the Netherlands play equal roles in providing ancestors, so that adds two more family groups. as one of those groups through the Wyckoff line.
We can count religious groups too, so we add Dutch Reformed Church to the mix. When doing genealogy, we can look for records in municiple files as well as church files. Counting a church as a group gives us more possibilities for finding family documents. Of course, we cannot count atheists and agnostics, as they are not organized groups maintaining records.
As you can see, the list grows longer, the farther back you search. That is why it is best to focus on one group at a time. Here are my additional family groups that I know of through my mother, my children, my husband, and in-laws. I have tried to order them by generation: