Most Americans have many family immigration stories. Those of us who are second or more generations Americans have ancestors who left their homelands under unimaginable harsh circumstances but passed on few personal records to tell their story. The typical immigrant was far too busy to keep a journal, and their descendants may have discarded the once treasured naturalization or foreign birth records.
My grandfather’s naturalization records found in the National Archives
Today, Americans whose ancestors came more than a hundred years ago might consider them as the privileged ones, but these immigrant stories are just as dramatic as modern-day people who cross America’s borders illegally or wait years until their visas are approved. The immigrants from long ago didn’t just hop off the boat and get on with their lives. Their situation was often more desperate, and they often sacrificed much more. Continue reading
I am excited to announce the release of “In the Shadow of Salem” (The Redemption of Mehitabel Braybrooke.). After five years of research and writing, my historical novel is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com for a sizeable discount before the official release date of June 18, 2018.
“In the Shadow of Salem” is a historical novel about the life of Mehitabel Braybrooke, a Puritan woman born in 1652 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Mehitabel was accused of crimes−the first for arson and the second for witchcraft. History has not been kind to Mehitabel, but what was the real story behind her scurrilous reputation? Would she ever be redeemed from her lifelong curse? Or was Mehitabel as wicked as her numerous Essex Court Records imply?
This novel is the first time any author has written about Mehitabel’s amazing life from birth to the end of her life. Mehitabel Braybrooke Downing is one of the 200 people accused of witchcraft during the Salem trials, but she found herself in the courts on more than a few other occasions. I’m grateful that she generated so many Essex Country court and town records and that she happens to be my 9th great-grandmother!
Please visit the pages on my website dedicated to Puritan history, articles about the real people who are characters in the novel, and “The ABC’s of Crime and Punishment in Puritan New England.
Link for ordering:
A walk in Poland’s forests with my family
I have just returned from an amazing research trip to Poland and will be writing many articles related to WWII history and travel in Poland and England in the months to come. These will usually be posted as a blog on this website and in the permanent article section.
I will also be completing my historical novel “War in the Wilderness” (working title) this year. The novel is set during WWII in the villages near Blizna and Niwiska in Poland. It tells the story of the villagers’ experiences living amidst the largest SS training camp outside of Germany, working as forced laborers for the Nazis, real villagers’ experiences in German concentration camps such as Magdeburg and Ravensbruck, and also the impact on the locals when Hitler brought his top research V1 and V2 missile program to Blizna in 1943 after the bombing in Peenemunde. So many fascinating people in Poland, Sweden, and the USA have been providing me information.
This story is unique as it is the first time much of this information has been made available to English speaking people. Many of the Polish villagers’ stories have NEVER been revealed because of the brutality of the Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1990. Most feared for their lives if their partisan involvement was discovered. One of my husband’s relatives was executed by the Russians in 1948 because of his AK activity during the war, and his body was recently just discovered in a mass grave. Poland was a harsh place to live for many decades, and WWII didn’t end for them in 1945. The war more correctly ended in 1989 when Poland became a free republic.
This article has been modified from one of the chapters in my book Travel Back to Your Roots which is available on Amazon. The book describes how to begin genealogy for your immigrant ancestors, how to research and find records in Europe, and how to achieve your end goal of traveling to Europe to visit their birthplace and even meet long lost cousins! I did it and want to show others that it isn’t impossible, even if you did not inherit any information about your ancestors.
Three Sets of Cousins Mark and Donna Found and Then Met in Sweden and Poland in 2014 and 2016
Planning a Trip to Europe: Transportation
Choosing a Transatlantic Cruise
Traveling to Europe doesn’t have to be expensive, and the internet allows you to be your own travel agent. For those who are not tech savvy, an agent might be an option, but they typically will provide mainstream and obvious options. Independent travelers will find less expensive alternatives online that will make the trip more customized.
The ideal travel months for inexpensive European travel are just before and after summer vacation months. The prices and weather are likely more favorable, and the traveler has fewer people with whom to compete. Also, many European hotels do not have air-conditioning, and some that do will not allow the guest to control the settings. The popular areas around the Mediterranean in July and August are crowded, warm, and come with premium prices. Also, August is historically the month when many Europeans travel and you will have stiff competition.
You have two options to get to Europe: a round trip flight or a one-way transatlantic cruise with a one-way flight. If you have a flexible schedule and have three to four weeks for your trip, consider booking a transatlantic cruise for your journey to or from Europe.
My father, Stanley Bryk served as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class in the US Navy during the World War II. He participated in four invasions, led the enlisted sailors of the USS Lyon and LST-372, shot down aircraft, and supervised the day-to-day operations of both ships. But, his adventures in New York City were perhaps the most distinctive and noteworthy.
His LST-372 returned to the States to be refitted and rearmed before the Normandy Invasion. While there, the crew made a short stop to New York Harbor where Stanley took the payroll master to Wall Street to fill the payroll slips for the sailors. He was allowed to use a Higgins boat which is a small boat that could carry troops from ships to open beaches. They drove the boat out, docked, took care of the paperwork, and then attempted to return to the LST-372.
A developing fog in the harbor began to pose a problem. Stanley motored around looking for the LST, but gave up and attempted to land back on Manhattan Island. Well, at least they thought they did. To their amazement, they passed a towering figure−The Statue of Liberty. Stanley knew that at least he was in New York City! They finally landed on the adjacent island; Stanley had successfully invaded Ellis Island in that dense fog.
The forgotten story of the Polish Christians who were killed by the Nazis during WWII is one which few people outside of Poland are aware. All of the people in Poland suffered enormously during the Holocaust−both Jews and Christians. Six million Polish people died under the Nazis and half of these were Christians. The German occupation and brutality overwhelmed all Poles during WWII, and this fact needs to illuminate the plight of all the Polish people. Unfortunately, some writers of the Holocaust deliberately distort the tragic circumstances of the typical Polish citizen while others might insert this fact in the last sentence of their article.
Polish women forced to work at a Nazi slave labor camp
The Jewish experience of the Holocaust has been remembered and honored in numerous books, movies, and museums. The movie “Schindler’s List” gave us insight into the valiant efforts of businessman Oskar Schindler’s rescue of eleven hundred Jews. Irena Sendler, a Polish Christian nurse and social worker who served in the Polish Underground in German-occupied Warsaw saved more Jews than any other individual during the Holocaust (besides diplomats who furnished visas.) Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, but it was instead awarded to Al Gore for his work on climate change.
The Fijian Islands are celebrated as a lovely vacation paradise with a friendly population, and it is difficult to imagine that they were once known as the Cannibal Isles. In the 1700 and 1800’s, sea captains sailed far away from the Cannibal Isles for fear of being shipwrecked and therefore victims of the locals who actively practiced cannibalism.
My visit to two islands in Fiji in October 2017 allowed me to meet locals who were amongst the kindest and most hospitable I have met in my travels. Our taxi driver, a very kind young man from Lautoka, invited us to his home for tea and dessert. The next day in Suva we were treated as honored guests of the native Fijian congregation at the Centenary Methodist Church for Sunday services.* Today, the Christian faith of Fijians is strong and fervent, and Sundays are sacred, but their ancestors less than two hundred years ago certainly would not have greeted me in such a hospitable manner.