Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eastern European Ancestors

Last Sunday's programme, the sixth episode of the new 'Digging up Your Roots', which is broadcast on 92-95 FM every Sunday at midday until 21 February was about ancestors from Eastern Europe.

Write to: Digging Up Your Roots, BBC Radio Scotland, Beechgrove Terrace, Aberdeen, AB15 5ZT or email them at diggingupyourroots@bbc.co.uk .

If you missed this, it is available as a podcast.

This programme was a complete eye-opener to me, as I had no idea that so many people came from eastern Europe to Scotland.

The first story was about a Polish family sent to a Russian gulag (a slave labour camp) but escaped and made a 6,000 mile roundabout trip journey to join the Polish army in Kazakhstan in 1942; most of the time starving hungry; some of the family died on the way. Father got to Persia, joined the Polish Navy and eventually got to Scotland and became a successful businessman.

Apparently 30,000 Poles were sent to gulags.

Another story was about a Pole from Lvov (now Lviv in the Ukraine), and another about a White Russian volunteer evacuated from southern Russia by a British ship, went to Egypt, was there for 2 years, and then came to Scotland.
More information in the Archives of Ukraine.

The International Council on Archives has a list of archives around the world. During World War II, some Jewish records were  safeguarded by churches.
When looking a Russian records, remember that surnames change according to gender, and that Russians use patronymics as the middle name, which must make identification of the right family a lot easier.
Useful resources are Cyndi's List and the Federation of East European Family History Societies.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled their homes in eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to escape harsh economic conditions and persecution. They went to USA, many arriving at Leith or Dundee, travelling across to Glasgow, and sailing to New York. Some stayed, mostly in London, Glasgow, and other industrial cities. The cost of crossing the North Sea was £1.50 per person, and the transatlantic crossing was £5 or £6, a lot in those days.
The refugees faced lots of fear, there were health scares about disease in eastern Europe, and there were lots of con tricks and scams pulled on them, too.
In Glasgow, many of the Jews filled gaps in tailoring, carpentry, and cigarette making.
The US National Archives have microfilms of concentration camp records, and although they're not online, they will search them for you.
Another very useful site is JewishGen.

Many Lithuanian miners were recruited for Lanarkshire mines by owners at low wages, to the fury of the local workforce; but they, other Lithuanians, and Russians were sent back to Russia to fight in the Russian Army in 1917, under a treaty between Britain and Russia, and never came back to Britain. A useful site is Lithuanian Global Genealogical Society.

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