Berkshire Knitting Mills

As I mentioned in my very first blog post, my grandmother worked at the Berkshire Knitting Mills (called the Berky) when she was young (probably in her 20s, sometime in the 1930s). According to the Reading Eagle, Vanity Fair Corporation acquired Berkshire in 1969. Years later, in the late 1980s/early 90s, both my sister and I (around the same age as our grandmother had been) worked at the VF Outlet as cashiers, on the site that had been the mill. Large pictures of women who worked in the mill were displayed in the large buildings housing the outlet goods (the Red Building and the Blue Building), although, disappointingly, I never saw my grandmother’s face in any of those.

Today, I read that part of the former mill and current outlet are to be demolished:

Earlier this year, the VF Outlet buildings and land were acquired by a new owner. There are currently development plans in the works to turn much of the area into a campus for UGI and home to new restaurants and shops. Most of the “Blue” building and the entire “Red” building are set to be demolished late 2017.


Now that I’ve read this, I need to go see the mill/outlet one last time and take some pics. I’ll be planning a trip to Reading, PA soon!



Those Infamous Border Changes: A Crash Course in Polish History

A detailed history of Poland and its partitions. Fascinating!

From Shepherds and Shoemakers

Newcomers to Polish genealogy often start with a few misconceptions.  Many Americans have only a dim understanding of the border changes that occurred in Europe over the centuries, and in fairness, keeping up with all of them can be quite a challenge, as evidenced by this timelapse video that illustrates Europe’s geopolitical map changes since 1000 AD.  So it’s no wonder that I often hear statements like, “Grandma’s family was Polish, but they lived someplace near the Russian border.”  Statements like this presuppose that Grandma’s family lived in “Poland” near the border between “Poland” and Russia.  However, what many people don’t realize is that Poland didn’t exist as an independent nation from 1795-1918.

How did this happen and what were the consequences for our Polish ancestors?  At the risk of vastly oversimplifying the story, I’d like to present a few highlights of Polish history that beginning Polish researchers should be…

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Expanding the family tree

I’m continuing to expand my family tree on I’m having better luck with my female ancestors and the families they married into than my blood relatives. I’m especially interested in immigration records, so I grab those whenever I see them online.

So, I started with the Menets, my great-grandfather being my focus. I remember my grandmother telling me about her father and that he never learned English. Of course, my grandmother was born in the U.S. and was fluent in both Polish and English. I wish she had taught me some Polish words, but other than the words for certain foods, I never heard her speak Polish. My grandmother displayed her parents’ wedding photo in her home, not her own wedding photo. I was struck by the dark clothes worn by her mother, the bride. However, this is from memory, as I have not been in her house since she died in 2001. I hope to get a copy of that photo someday when I am back in Pennsylvania for a visit.

Continue reading “Expanding the family tree”

Old photos, old maps

I’ve been “geeking out” on old family pictures and old maps of Poland (Galicia or Austrian Poland). I’m hoping to get more family photos, but I’m glad of the photos I do have. Meanwhile, the Internet has been a great source of antique maps. I will share a couple here.

First, a photo taken at the time of my maternal grandmother’s First Holy Communion, probably around 1919.

From L-R: Agata (Agnes or Agatha) Menet (née Kolanko), Stanislaw (Stanley) Menet, Frank Menet, Mary Menet (later Uliasz), Anna Menet (later Siatkowski), John Paul Menet, Harriet Menet (later Schneidenwind), and Hieronim (Jerome or Henry) Menet.


Next, a map of Galicia from 1897, around the time my great-grandparents emigrated to America. All or most of my ancestors came from the western part of Galicia, in villages, towns, or parishes named Sanok, Tarnow, Zmigrod, Krosno, and Dembica, among others.


Local genealogy conference

I registered to attend a local family history conference on May 6th:

(Bad timing, in that I *currently* live very close to the conference location but am moving at the end of the month; however, I’m only moving to DC, which is not far. Conference registration is free, and I have a lot to learn about genealogy research, so I’m definitely going!)

Polish geography lesson

Well, I’ve traced back to my 4th great-grandparents on the Polish side. Most of their records list their birthplace as Rogi, Krosno, Poland, which apparently is in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship or Podkarpackie Province (aka Subcarpathian Voivodeship). Thanks, Wikipedia (for help w/my preliminary research). I’m still learning the geography, which seems complex, esp. considering the history of the region and the redrawing of boundaries in central and Eastern Europe. Rogi is not included on the list of towns in that province, which added to my confusion:

Then I realized that it’s a village, not a town!

Other areas referenced in records include Ostrava, which is actually in the Czech Republic; Równe; Poznań; Galicia; and Austria (Austrian Poland, probably).

More to learn, I’m sure …

My great-grandmother’s trip to America

I found the actual ticket for my great-grandmother’s passage to America. Thank you, National Archives!


In the ticket, she lists her birthplace as Galicia and her nationality as Galicia-Austrian! Wow. I read a bit about Galicia on Wikipedia:

The Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, also known as Galicia or Austrian Poland, became a crownland of the Habsburg Monarchy as a result of the First Partition of Poland in 1772, when it became a Kingdom under Habsburg rule. From 1804 to 1918 it was a crownland of the Austrian Empire. After the reforms of 1867, it became an ethnic Pole-administered autonomous unit under the Austrian crown. The country was carved from the entire south-western part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Among the many ceremonial titles of the princes of Hungary was “ruler of Galicia and Lodomeria”.