About 4 to 5 years ago I began the journey to understand my dad’s side of the family. Now, without airing lots of clean and dirty laundry like any family has, it’s hard to explain how complicated this task is. But be annoyingly general – it’s complicated. We’re one of those families that is close but not too close. Some of us haven’t spoken in 10+ years. And I vaguely remember the last times I saw some of my relatives on my father’s side. So attempting to dig is not easy. By far.
However, I got lucky because a gentleman I met online had a daughter that married into my family. His daughter married a son of my grandfather’s brother. (Take a second and trace the tree if you’re like me. LOL) This gentleman had already managed to gather information from documents I had never seen nor would have known how to get. He took a good bit of the foundation and laid it for me. And every time he and I speak, I thank him for it, too.
There were many holes in his information, though. This is to be expected. When you think about the immigrants that came over in masses during the late 1800s and early 1900s, it was insane really. People without any understand of each other’s languages were attempting to communicate. I know their pain. People were spelling names as they sounded, whether it was correct or not. Because of this, I have 4 spelling variations of my great grandmother’s maiden name. Village names are generally close, but not always. And depending on where you’re family came from, the village names probably changed a few times over the last 100 years.
Take my family villages for example. The documents this gentleman had located originally had a few spellings. Holodrifka, Rudki, Poland and Porahca, Austria. And then there was Lysakaw, Austria, too. So me, 5 years ago had no idea what to make of all this. I knew I’d probably need old maps. But Austria-Hungary was MASSIVE. Where would one even begin to look?
I had some friends scattered throughout Ukraine and Poland that would eventually help me with this daunting task. Holodrifka would actually be Holodowka, Rudki, Austria-Hungary. Porahca would end up being Pohorce, Austria-Hungary. Now, since 1912 when my great grandparents landed in the USA, these villages’ names have changed. That’s what made the search even harder.
I stumbled upon a beautiful website of a map one day. I can’t even remember how I found the site. But I didn’t care. I was just happy I found it. This map was an interactive map. You have the ability to flip through 4 different map options – 2 being more current maps, 1 being during Soviet times, and the other being turn the century. Now, let me backtrack for just a second.
I had already found a few options on much older maps of Holodowka, but hadn’t found a Pohorce. I joined a Galician mailing list group where some wonderful gentlemen had access to older maps and found a Pohorce which was located only a couple kilometers from one of the two Holodowka’s I had found.
Now, back to my interactive map. I had searched through the turn of the century map provided, combing for these names I knew. Now, when I first found this website, I didn’t realize what exactly it did. So I found the village names after about an hour of combing the map bit by bit. I clicked on one of the other map options, not realizing what they actually represented – site was in Ukrainian. And there it was… a modern map of the exact area where these villages were. The modern names were listed, too! Holy shit! I was so excited. I can’t even begin to explain how I felt that night. I remember jumping up and hugging my boyfriend and then having to explain it all to him before he thought I was insane.
So that night, I found out that Pohorce and Holodowka still exist as small villages. Their modern names are Pohirtsi (Pohorce) and Zadnistryany (Holodowka). However, this is just the beginning. I had found the villages but knew nothing about them nor how to find out anything about them…