Exciting new resource for Polish research #poland
Susana Leistner Bloch
Polish Declarations of Admiration and Friendship for the United States
Last November (2004) I visited the Library of Congress in Washington DC.
I was looking for some specific material that I thought was to be found
at the L.of C.
After searching the catalogues the librarian on duty suggested that I
speak with Ron Bachman, Area Specialist for Poland - European Division.
She placed a phone call and Ron came up to meet me. The material I was
looking for was not to be found at the L.of C. but,if I were interested
he would tell me about something new he was working on. Don escorted me
to the Library of Congress Manuscript Room where he showed me samples
of the material that would soon be available to the public. I can't
begin to describe the emotions that ran through me when I saw the material.
I wanted to run out and tell everyone about it. But... since the material
was still being catalogued and prepared he asked me to "keep it under my
I received e-mail >from Don Bachman just before Pessach telling me the
project was finished and giving me permission to "spread the word". This
I am doing with great pleasure! To describe this new resource I will
quote >from the Library of Congress press release. The quote is given
with full permission:
<< Polish Declarations of Admiration and Friendship for the United States
is a presentation of the first 13 manuscript volumes of a larger collection
of 111 volumes compiled in Poland in 1926 and delivered to President Calvin
Coolidge at the White House to honor the 150th anniversary of the
Declaration of Independence. Richly illustrated with original works by
prominent Polish graphic artists, the collection includes the greetings and
signatures of national, provincial, and local government officials,
representatives of religious, social, business, academic, and military
institutions, and approximately five-and-a-half million school
children. At President Coolidge's behest, this unique gift was transferred
to the Library of Congress, where it remained largely forgotten for some
seven decades. In 1996 the collection was "rediscovered" serendipitously
during the visit of Polish First Lady Jolanta Kwasniewska and other
dignitaries >from the Embassy of Poland. The collection generated such
intense interest that the Library, in cooperation with the Embassy of
Poland, organized a special program on May 2, 1997 to showcase this symbol
of the enduring friendship between Poland and the United States.
More than an impressive artifact, the collection is an important, largely
unexplored primary source for genealogical, historical, and sociological
research for it includes the signatures of nearly one-sixth of the
population of Poland as it existed in 1926.
This searchable online presentation is a complete facsimile of the six
oversized presentation volumes and the seven volumes of secondary school
signatures. Researchers are now able to search by keyword (English or
Polish without diacritics) and locate information about particular
villages, cities, districts, provinces, institutions, or organizations. >>
What exactly are these books? They represent entries >from hundreds
of elementary and secondary schools throughout Poland, including shtetlach
in former Galicia that were part of Poland in the inter-war years.
Every town, every village, every shtetl that had an elementary school
is represented. Every pupil in every class signed his/her name. I looked,
of course, at the pages for the schools in the shtetlach where my family
came >from and recognized surnames, saw their handwritingand with tears in
my eyes turned the pages to see more.
The digitalized secondary school volumes can be seen at:
Ron Bachman did a heroic amount of work to create the page-level indexing
that is crucial for making these materials work on the Internet.
Only the secondary school volumes are available on line. There are no
plans to digitalize the primary school volumes but they have been
catalogued and indexed and copies for shtetl entries can be ordered.
You can contact Ron Bachman for further details and for help in navigating
the website. His e-mail address is given here with full permission
(please mention my name when contacting him):
"Ronald D Bachman" <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Susana Leistner Bloch
Coordinator, JewishGen ShtetLinks Project
Coordinator, JewishGen International Desk Project
Coordinator, Kolbuszowa Region Research Group
Coordinator, Suchostaw Region Research Group