Tracing Your Family History

Czerwona Wola, Poland is the village where my great-grandmother Eva was born and presumably raised in. In Polish, Czerwona means “red” and wola means “will” so her village’s name is essentially translated as “red will.”  Wikipedia (yes, not the most legitimate source, I know) lists its population today as being just under 500 people. It also mentions about the village having a unique micro climate (pine forests).

There isn’t a whole lot of images on Czerwona Wola but I thought this one was particularly lovely especially with the lush trees and verdant greenery. Since my great-grandmother immigrated to America in 1912.  I wonder though if it looked that nice when she was living there or if it looks exactly the same.


As you can see from the map below, Czerwona Wola isn’t really close to anything and places that do show up near to it are equally small from a population standpoint.

When I zoomed out, now you can make out bigger cities in Poland like Krakow (almost due west of the red dot) and Lublin which is north and and a tad west of Czerwona Wola. You can also see how extremely near the village is to the Ukrainian border. It’s about a two hour drive to Lviv, the Ukrainian city that many have dubbed the “Florence of the East.” (In comparison, it’s about three hours to Krakow and two hours to Lublin.)

While my great-grandmother’s village today is in Poland, when she lived there it was Galicia (not to be confused with the Spanish region of Galicia). Galicia was once a small kingdom that currently straddles the border between Poland and Ukraine. So while my great-grandmother was an ethnic Ukrainian, she was also Galician.

A little history lesson for you-upon the partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, the Kingdom of Galicia became the largest, most populous, and northernmost province of the Austrian Empire where it remained until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I in 1918.

As I’ve mentioned before, I know so little about my great-grandmother so it is my ardent dream to be able to go to Czerwona Wola one day to learn more about her and my ancestors. I know this would be a massive undertaking since first and foremost, I speak neither Polish nor Ukrainian. So my wanting to find out about my great-grandmother’s roots would require the hiring of a genealogist to do research and this is something I know would not be cheap.

When I casually contacted a genealogist before who specialized in Polish/Ukrainian research, she said that non-church records for small villages such as Czerwona Wola are often non-existent which was somewhat disheartening. Compare doing genealogical research in a country like Ireland versus in Poland and they’re total polar opposites (many people have immense success when tracking down their ancestors in a place like Ireland since record keeping there was often meticulous).

My great-grandmother came to America when she was 17. Although at that age I had already flown to Mexico alone, in 1912, the status and place of women, especially young, unmarried girls was totally different. I have no way of knowing who she came to America with since she was neither married nor had children (at least that I know of).  The writing on her ship’s passenger record list which asks the immigrant who will they be joining in America is illegible (at least to my eyes). There is someone listed for my great-grandmother but I just can’t make it out. She didn’t marry my great-grandfather until 1917 so I have no idea where she was, who she was living with for those roughly five years.

While entire families from Europe often immigrated together, many still stayed behind in the Old Country. I wonder if any of my great-grandmother’s siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles did as well. During World War I, the region of Galicia saw heavy fighting between Russian forces and the Central Powers. Was any of her family that stayed behind affected by this?

My dream would be to do this kind of a trip before I am 40 (for the record, I’ll be 29 this year on my great-grandmother’s wedding anniversary no less). I’d love for it to be sooner but it’s one of those things that I think would obviously require a ton of planning and time preparation, significant money most likely, and lastly, the realization that nothing more may be found then what I already know. And yet, even if it’s just to walk on the dirt road in Czerwona Wola, I want to say that I did it.

My great-grandparents on their wedding day-1917

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  • Reply
    Jo Ann M.
    March 17, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    Interesting blog on your great-grandmother! I was surprised to hear that you will only be 29. You have done so much traveling already!

    Hope you get the chance to visit Czerwona Wola. It would be interesting to hear if you discover anything else there.

    • Reply
      Julie Tulba
      March 19, 2014 at 12:41 am

      I’m an old soul in a young body 🙂 I think some of that probably has to due with my nerdy likes and hobbies. Yes, my traveling days started young!

      I’m really hoping to make it there. I’d love to do it with my dad (his grandmother). While Eastern Europe has never been at the top of his list, I know with him being a history major and all he’d find the experience fascinating too.

  • Reply
    Becca Niederkrom
    June 27, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Wow, what an interesting story and indeed about your great-grandmother taking on endeavors which were far from the norm. You def have her spirit!

    • Reply
      June 30, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      I know all immigrant stories have some level of intrigue to them (coming to a new world, crossing the Atlantic Ocean), and yet I think my great grandmother’s takes the cake 🙂 )I feel I also look a tiny bit like her too (in the facial structure). I can’t help but think she had plenty of spirit too!

  • Reply
    Jenn Turnbull
    June 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Lovely wedding photo- photos just aren’t the same nowadays, are they? 😉 Enjoyed this story, your great grandmother sounded like a very interesting lady. Hope you can get to Poland to find out more. I bet there’s even more richness to her story.

    • Reply
      June 30, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      I am always fascinated by old photos, especially wedding ones! It’s just funny to compare my two family’s sides since they are so different (17th century immigrants versus 20th century ones 🙂 ). I hope I’ll be able to make it to Poland too. A genealogical trip seems like the epitome of one of a kind travel experiences!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ tastingpage
    June 30, 2014 at 11:33 am

    What a great adventure for you to be on – trying to trace your roots. I’m rooting for you that you make it happen. Can’t wait to see the story unfold.

    • Reply
      June 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      I also hope it happens! I’d love to find out more about her. I know her life once she got married but anything before that is a black hole, one that I am dying to dive into!

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  • Reply
    Stanley Bogdan
    May 6, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Julie
    My name is Stan Bogdan and live in Flowery Branch, GA. Came across your story about your grandmother’s birth place being Czerwona Wola in Poland. Coincidentally my mother was born in the same village in 1899 and came to the US when she was about 15 years of age. Unfortunately I was never able to learn much about that area, other than her family were farmers and her father was killed by highway robbers on hid way back from selling vegetables at a market place away from town. My grandmother was Polish and grandfather was Ukrainian.My oldest son Jeff may try to visit the village of our ancestors this Summer. If he does I know he will take pictures of the area and may share them with us. If it happens I will in turn send you copies.

    • Reply
      May 7, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      Hi Stanley,

      Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your mother’s history! How fascinating and what a truly small word since if I remember, the population of Czerwona Wola today is only about 500 and I’m guessing was the same if not smaller a century ago.

      The dearth of information available due to there being so little in the way of records does make genealogical research difficult! I hope your son is able to make it there this summer and yes, I would love to see pictures! That is my true dream, to one day make it there myself. Cheers!

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