Adeline Sopa Q & A Interview
I would like to take the opportunity to share a Q & A interview that I have conducted with Adeline Sopa. Adeline Sopa has been a great inspiration for me and anyone who is passionate about Kashubian research. Whenever I start researching my Kashubian ancestry or heritage I find an article written by Adeline. With this Q & A, I hope everyone can gain some insight into Portage County, WI and Kashubian genealogy from Adeline whom I consider a reseaching pioneer.
1. Please provide any background information you may want to share. Ex: Genealogical Society memberships, publications that you may have submitted articles for, books…
Genealogical Society memberships:
Polish Genealogy Society of America, Chicago (PGSA); Kashubian Association of North America, Minneapolis (KANA); Polish Heritage Awareness Society, Stevens Point, WI (PHAS); Bay Area Genealogy Society, Green Bay, WI, (BAG’s)’; Stevens Point Area Genealogy Society, (SPAGS); Polish Museum, Winona, MN; Polish Genealogical Society of Minnesota, Minneapolis (PGS-MN); Portage County Historical Society, Stevens Point; Polish Genealogical Society of Wisconsin, (PGSW); Polish Heritage Society of Northeastern Wisconsin, Green Bay; Subscribe to Polish American Journal. Past long time memberships to: Marathon County Genealogy Society, Wausau, WI; Milwaukee County Genealogy Society, Milwaukee.
Publications to which I have submitted articles include: PGSA, PHAS, KANA, PGS-MN, and the Portage County Gazette (a weekly newspaper), Stevens Point, WI. I have written a family history on my maternal ancestors and my paternal ancestors. Since the families in each lived in very close proximity, I decided to write about them as a “bundle”. I have traced both to at least the 5th generation—all of them from the Kaszuby region.
2. How long have you been researching Kashubian family history or genealogy?
I am a product of the miniseries, Roots. If he could trace his family back to Africa, I could find Grandpa’s home in Poland. So I have been getting acquainted with my Kaszubian heritage of which I knew nothing. I have made three trips to Poland. I was able to locate family and visited them at their farm. I have made three or four trips to Salt Lake and attended numerous workshops designed for Polish research or for German. About 30 years and still much to be done.
3. What interested you in genealogy and/or Kashubian Heritage? Why did you start researching genealogy?
After reaching the “stone wall” in my family lines—and I had created a family book for my many cousins, I turned to collecting evidence to show that central Wisconsin was not only the locale of the first permanent Polish settlement in Wisconsin, but second or third in North America. A significant chain migration of families took place— at times 3 generations on the same ship. They had decided to leave and knew they were not to return. Permission to organize the first rural Polish Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s, was granted. There are some who regard this parish as the first Catholic Church in the state. Prior to the end of the Civil War, very few, if any, of the immigrants were not from the Kaszuby region. Why settle in an area filled with huge stumps left by the lumber companies? Why settle in an area of hilly fields with huge rocks left by a retreating glacier? Land—a farm of their own. This was the driving force behind their decision to leave. Hard work would not deter them. The family joined forces to make the fields ready for planting.
I was fortunate to have my paternal grandfather in my house where I could search his memory of his life in Poland. He was more than happy to do so. He was 21 years old when he came to America. The one bit of information he did not share was the name of his village. He spoke vaguely about Posen. I wanted to know where he had lived. And so I began.
4. What has been the best part of promoting Kashubian heritage? What has been the most difficult part of promoting Kashubian Heritage?
Seeing the pride and joy in their faces as Stanley Frymark enlightened them with stories of Poland or they recognized words or phrases they had not heard since their childhood—to hear about Kaszubes in a positive light. The surprised look at the group of nearly 80 people—willing to be identified with or as a Kaszube. The major difficulty is the attitude of people who are not Kaszubes toward the language. Illiteracy is their thought.
5. What areas or locations have interested you the most? Ex: a Parish or Town
Kobyle gory = the home of my Grandpa. It was a small community of homes and farm buildings. Today only the footings are visible. I was told by a family friend of my Polish relatives that so many of the villagers had left for America, that those who had remained missed having neighbors so they had moved to nearby communities. The abandoned buildings fell into ruin. Today, a ranger station is located in the area and it is called Kobyle gory. The villagers attended the church at Borzyszkowy. A beautiful wooden stave church. The parish was established in the 13th century and is often referred to as a church of the szlachta (minor nobility). Families such as Trzebiatowski, Gliszczynski, Borzyszkowski, and Pradzynski are included in this group.
6. Are there any tools or organizations (societies) that you would recommend joining or using to further some ones Kashubian or Polish research?
If the area to which your ancestors immigrated has a local genealogy society—join it in order to become acquainted with resources that are available. Particularly important if the place has a large population of Poles/Kashubes such as Portage County. Join a statewide Polish group–attend their meetings. Learn to use a computer in order to use the many web sites that are available.
7. Any suggestions or tips for new or current genealogy researchers?
Become acquainted with a pedigree chart and a family group sheet. Use a pencil to facilitate making changes on them. Take the pedigree chart wherever you plan to do research. Document your “finds” so that you can find them at some later time.
Learn the Polish alphabet–it is very consistent. Each letter or combinations such as cz, rz, dz have only one (1) sound.
Use the computer as a tool—confirm the information provided by finding the source.
8. Are people in Portage and/or Poland passionate about Kashubian genealogy?
I was surprised to find that there are several people who have extended their research beyond their direct family liines as I have done. The resources in the county are very good particularly at the UW-Stevens Point Archives.
The message boards are an indication. Most queries receive at least one response if not more.
9. Do people in Portage know and embrace their Kashubian heritage, roots, and culture?
I was at a centennial celebration of the Town of Alban on Saturday. More and more people came up to my large map of Poland and told me where their ancestors lived. More people know there is a Kashuby region and that central Wisconsin has many immigrants from that region and they wonder if they are Kashubes.
A more positive view of the Kashubes seems to have come about—the recent presentations of three well-known Kashubian authors, Stanislaw Frymark, Anne Pellowski, and Shirley Mask Connolly, in Stevens Point, are a factor. The pride and caring in their Kashubian heritage was very apparent and seemed to awaken the memories of their audience. Soon people began to share them—a sense of fellowship had developed.
10. Any closing thoughts?
Little is known about Kashubian culture.—a place to start.
Map of Kashubia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashubians
Map of Portage County, WI – http://www.co.portage.wi.us/Groundwater/undrstnd/pcmap.htm
I would like to thank Adeline Sopa for her insight and taking time out of her schedule to do this interview.