Exciting new resource for Polish research #poland #ciechanow


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 hat".

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 through out 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 handwriting
and with tears in my eyes turned the pages to see more.

The digitalized secondary school volumes can be seen at:
<http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/egwinv/egwdir.html>http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/egwinv/egwdir.html

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" <rbac@...>.

Susana Leistner Bloch
Coordinator, JewishGen ShtetLinks Project
Coordinator, JewishGen International Desk Project
Coordinator, Kolbuszowa Region Research Group
Coordinator, Suchostaw Region Research Group

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