Thursday, September 9, 2021

A Polish Genealogy Resource Like None Other!

This post was written by SCHS Executive Director Mary Zawacki. It focuses on a database of Polish parish records created by the Jaminy Indexing Team. The database search engine is available at

Despite my surname, which bears the Polish hallmark of unpronouncibility, I've never had a connection to my Polish heritage. This is probably common for third and fourth generation Americans, who have increasingly mixed ancestry, grew up on red milk cartons from the school cafeteria, and can recite at any moment the profound truth of George Washington's cherry tree incident.

Even my father, who had two Polish immigrants as grandparents, didn't have much to say on the matter: "I remember an old lady who couldn't speak English. I believe she had an arranged marriage." Other relatives indicated that the ancestors had come over from Warsaw (no) or were secretly Jewish escapees from the Pogroms (also no). So much for family history!

I visited Poland twice as a young twenty-something and enjoyed my time there immensely, but left both times unconvinced about 'getting in touch' with those elusive Polish roots. The language, I thought, is complicated. Plus the borders of Poland were ever-shifting. Sometimes it was an autonomous state, other times not. Beyond Googling the house of a few great-grandparents in Easthampton, Massachusetts, I thought, what was the point? Even couldn't help beyond confirming that Frank Zawadzki (born 1883) worked in a rubber plant. How industrial of him! I bet the plant is luxury condos now.

Earlier this year, however, during quarantine, a series of events occurred. First, I discovered a marriage record of these Polish great-grandparents which listed their parents' names. Ah, more information! Second, I employed my excellent internet creeping skills to locate the family's immigration records which enabled me to trace ol' Frank Zawadzki and his wife, Stephania Jurewicz, to a very, very small village near Lithuania. Bingo! An email here, an email there, and an email everywhere related to the village in question, and thus I was introduced to the wonderful, incredible world of or the Jaminy Indexing Team (JZI). 

Members of the Jaminy Indexing Team, 2019. Photo from the 8th Meeting of the JZI Photo Gallery.

JZI is a group of dedicated volunteer researchers who have digitized church records from just about every parish throughout northeast Poland. That includes, of course, the Jaminy parish as well as 41 others. The Jaminy Indexing Team eloquently states their mission on the website, and I believe their mission perfectly parallels much of the work we do at SCHS. On the JZI website, they state:

"Who we are? Where did we come from? Where are we heading? These questions and slogans illustrate the essence of things and the reason for our actions. We try to convert and recall once written words into specific actions. Save the past generations from oblivion...the words read and written take the form of specific people, hidden behind dates and letters of the name. People who once lived in these lands among the same roads, rivers, and forests. In this way, we realize the well-known sentence '...the word become flesh.'"

For JZI, and for SCHS, it's a question of translating the deeds and documents of people long dead into flesh; making history come alive.

A map of the parishes documented by JZI.

If your ancestors happen to hail from this region of Poland, the JZI database is the holy grail of genealogy. By utilizing their well-developed search engine, I've been able to trace my family's Polish roots back to the mid-1700s. There's still a lot more work for me to do, like filling in details, and figuring out how/why a few Prussians ended up in the mix. It's a fascinating project that will carry me through winter, and I hope will result in a trip to Poland and Lithuania. The database also holds true to JZI's mission. It's not just names and dates I'm looking at while searching their records. With godparents, professions, and people who attended births and deaths listed, I can begin to see the web of people and families who have been connected to each other for centuries. They know each other and are there for each other through every milestone. The life of a Polish peasant in the 1800s is dramatically different from modern American life, with kinship and family ties being the center of everything they did. A great resource for understanding more about family structures of Polish peasants is The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, a classic sociology book from 1918 that studies Polish immigrants and their families.

I reached out to the Jaminy Indexing Team to try to understand a bit more about their project and to see if similar databases exist in other parts of Poland. Krzysztof Ziecina was happy to help with my queries and his English is excellent. He explained that "there are a couple of similar projects across Poland. None of them index registry books to the level of detail we do. However, I would recommend Lubgens as a group similar to us, which does their job with passion and carefully. They cover [the] area near Lublin. Unfortunately, their page is only in Polish." 

The JZI team is also able to put records from their database into context which helps those of us with a limited understanding of late 19th century Polish history. I asked Krzysztof why there was such an exodus of young people from the region. He explained that it was due to the January Uprising when Poland was part of Russia. In 1863, when the "Russian partition of Poland ended, the Tsar granted each peasant a small piece of land taken from noble landowners. That was fine until the farmers' children grew up. There was not enough land to feed them all, so typically the oldest son inherited the farm, and [the other] children had to find jobs on their own. It was really hard. Some of them decided to emigrate. Very often the first sibling who emigrated and had a good life in America, he/she invited brothers, sisters, and friends to join him/her."

We see this pattern not just in the Jaminy to Massachusetts pipeline, but also in immigration patterns from other parts of Poland (or Italy) to Schenectady. Indeed, the 2015 SCHS "Boomtown" exhibition explored how family connections in the 'old country' meant certain neighborhoods and streets in Schenectady were filled with immigrants from a single European village.

Screenshot of a baptism record for the author's great-grandparent from the JZI database.

As I head back into their extensive database to continue my quest for answers, I'm endlessly grateful to the JZI volunteers for making this resource possible and accessible to English speakers. I'm also personally fascinated by some of the family history I've uncovered thanks to JZI. Apparently, the Zawadzki clan hails from a village very close to an ancient shrine deep in the woods. Perhaps that explains my own draw to nature; it's in my blood, after all. And, above all, I found humor in discovering that Frank Zawadzki wasn't the son of a nobleman or landowner or anything we Americans tend to imagine when we think of our ancestors. Nope, Frank's dad was a beggar. Thanks to those intrepid Poles, making the journey to America in the early 1900s, I can happily say the Zawacki family is no longer known as the village beggars.

Uroczysko Święte Miejsce, the holy shrine near the village where the Zawadzki clan lived. Photo from Gosi Szymańskiej's blog "Po Kraju"

The JZI database search engine is available at

Friday, July 30, 2021

Lucky Lindy Visits Schenectady Airport as Part of National Tour

This post was written by library volunteer Diane Leone.

Photo of Charles Lindbergh wearing flight jacket and smiling for the camera
Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. (1927), photo by Underwood & Underwood. National Portrait Gallery.

Charles Lindbergh’s nonstop solo flight from New York to Paris ranks as one of the greatest achievements in the annals of aviation history. Following this feat, Long Island multimillionaire Harry Guggenheim convinced the aviator to embark on a three-month tour of the United States in his famous Spirit of St. Louis, in an effort to boost the newly developing field of aviation. The trip, financed by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics (named after Harry’s father), began on July 20, 1927 at Long Island’s Mitchel Field and ended on October 23 at the same location. In the end, Lindbergh visited 92 cities in 48 states. Schenectady was fortunate to be included in that roster.

The still unfinished Schenectady Airport, a visible symbol of the growing interest in aviation, was the perfect location for this highly anticipated event.  Only months before, on February 9, the city’s chamber of commerce optioned land for the facility, which was to be funded by interested citizens. Within one week of the June fund drive the considerable sum of $121,000 was raised for the project, promoted in part by a highly visible billboard in the area of Erie Boulevard announcing that “Lindbergh made his goal . . . so can Schenectady.” Construction followed, with the official airport opening occurring on May 26, 1928, ten months after Lindbergh’s visit. Schenectady was the first American city to boast a community-owned airport, now owned by the county.


Lindbergh posing before "Spirit of St. Louis," hangar 16, Curtiss Field (Long Island), May 1927. Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, NY.

Lucky Lindy’s stop in Schenectady followed a number of stops in the New England states as well as Albany.  On July 28, he flew from the New York State capital to Schenectady, detouring up the Hudson, and passing over Troy, Glens Falls and Lake George, before circling back to the Electric City and landing one hour and forty-five minutes after leaving Albany. Preceding the aviator’s highly anticipated visit was his escort plane, arriving at 11:30 am. Ten minutes later, the Spirit of St. Louis approached from the east, looping back over part of the city’s commercial district before arriving at the airport. As the aviator neared the field, the Schenectady Gazette reported that he thrilled the exuberant crowd before landing:

He greeted the waiting multitude with a beautiful executed “zoom” which thrilled everyone. Gliding his plane to within 250 feet of the field he suddenly nosed upwards and raced almost straight into the air for a thousand or more feet. Then he circled, banked, dove and finally glided gracefully down the field to where the reception committee was waiting to extend him an official greeting ("Heroic Flier's Reception” 1).


The city’s leaders had prepared extensively for this event. Almost all city offices closed from 10am to 2pm, and many businesses allowed their employees time to enjoy the occasion. Automobile and pedestrian traffic was directed by a contingent of police, state troopers, National Guard ,and local Officers’ Reserve Corps. In an effort to reach a wide audience, the speeches were broadcast through the WGY radio station. A Schenectady Gazette loudspeaker on State Street transmitted the reception to the downtown area. 


In spite of the sweltering heat, the event attracted a crowd of approximately 25,000 people, streaming in on foot and by car, all eager to see the world-renowned aviator with boyish good looks. As Lindbergh exited his aircraft, clad in an aviator helmet, goggles, and a leather jacket worn over a suit and tie, he was welcomed by several local dignitaries, including some from neighboring cities and towns. Schenectady mayor Alexander T. Blessing opened with a welcoming address, followed by short speeches given by Martin P. Rice, director of publicity and broadcasting for General Electric, and John F. Horman, Schenectady Chamber of Commerce president. Rice spoke about the pivotal role of the city in the fields of transportation and communication, and emphasized the importance of electrical power to the future of aviation. Horman spoke proudly of the city’s airport, expressing his determination to make it a class A facility as defined by the Department of Commerce, and transform it into a regional hub. In fact, he noted that Colonel Lindbergh chose Schenectady as a stopping point “because he knew and recognized that our city is air-minded and alive to the possibilities of commercial aviation, because our citizens have established and own this airport, and that he wanted to congratulate our city in consequence” ("Address of Welcome" 16).

Charles Lindbergh speaks on WGY radio from the Schenectady County Airport, photo by General Electric Company. miSci-Museum of Science and Innovation.

Lindbergh’s speech focused on the need for the US to develop commercial aviation, which required the confidence of the public. He went on to list the four criteria needed to establish that confidence as “airworthy aircraft, adequately maintained; competent pilots; suitably equipped airways and airports; standard air traffic rules” ("Address of Welcome" 16).


Following the addresses, the colonel, standing in the rear of a truck adorned with an American flag, was driven around the field, often saluting in response to the cheers and blaring automobile horns of a wildly exuberant crowd. He then engaged in a fifteen-minute round of hand-shaking and autographing items for the public. Lindbergh also examined specifications for the development of Schenectady’s new airport. During his brief visit, he paid tribute to the city’s contribution to commercial aviation: “Plans for the development of your port are magnificent and now that you are started in the right direction you people here in Schenectady should get behind this airport and make it a prominent place on the airmap. The greatest need in the development of commercial aviation is the setting up of ports such as you have here in Schenectady” (Heroic Flier’s Reception” 1).

The tour’s tightly packed schedule had Lindbergh leaving after about a half hour, heading for Syracuse via the cities of Utica, Little Falls and Rome. Upon departure, Lindbergh once again entertained the crowd with several aerial maneuvers.

Other famous aviators also landed at the airport, including Amelia Earhart, who touched down on March 27, 1929 and gave a radio address on WGY. A little more than two years later Harold Gatty and Wiley Post, who had recently smashed the previous record in an around-the-world flight, were honored by GE after landing their Winnie Mae.

Gatty and Post's plane, Winnie Mae, at the Schenectady Airport. Photo from the Larry Hart Collection, Grems-Doolittle Library.

Having achieved enduring fame as a daring and skilled aviator, Lindbergh later became indelibly linked to the tragic kidnapping and murder of his young son. Perhaps lesser known are his isolationist views prior to World War II, as well as his antisemitism.  In 1927, however, he was America’s golden boy. As Lindbergh living history performer Tim Clark notes, “He came along at an interesting time when the country was looking for a hero. He displayed all the values you want to see in your hero: modesty, courage, sacrifice, and he did all for the advancement of aviation” (Buell).

Lindbergh’s Guggenheim Tour had a significant impact on aviation.  According to Richard P. Hallion, an Air Force historian who wrote a book on the Guggenheims, the use of airmail increased dramatically, as did the public’s perception of the feasibility of air travel. Locally, the visit helped raise funds for the completion of the airport. Bud Matthews, former president of the Empire State Aerosciences Museum, noted that “there were a lot of airports being built in the U.S. around that time. His [Lindbergh’s] visit really helped put Schenectady on the map” (Buell).

For those interested, the Grems-Doolittle Library owns a DVD (DVD Hart 974.744 Fir Ref) which includes brief highlights of this historic event.

Lindbergh, wearing a pilot's flight helmet and overcoat, shakes hands with a man wearing a suit
Lindbergh and Mayor Blessing. Photo from the Larry Hart Collection, Grems-Doolittle Library.

Works Consulted

"Address of Welcome, Speeches to Inform Lindbergh of Airport Here, Flier's Account of Progress in Air." Schenectady Gazette, 29 July 1927, p. 16.

Buell, Bill. "Schenectady County Airport Marks Lindbergh Visit in 1927." Daily Gazette [Schenectady], 23 July 2017.

"Gazette Speaker to Broadcast Sound of Lindbergh Reception." Schenectady Gazette, 28 July 1927, p. 1.

"Guggenheim Tour—48 States, Visited 92 Cities,..." Charles Lindbergh: An American Aviator, Spirit of St. Louis 2 Project, 2014.

Hart, Larry. "Schenectady Caught Aeroplane Fever in 192...and Built Port Schenectady." Schenectady Gazette, 15 Oct. 1971, p. 25.

"Heroic Flier's Reception Here Equals That Given by Other Cities on Route." Schenectady Gazette, 29 July 1927, p. 1.

"Lindbergh in This City Today, Police Plan to Handle a Huge Throng at the New Airport." Schenectady Gazette, 28 July 1927, p. 1.

Wilkin, Jeff. "Lifestyles." Daily Gazette [Schenectady], 25 July 2002, pp. D-01. NewsBank  

Friday, June 25, 2021

Eleanor Dorcas Pond Mann, Schenectady Physician

This post was written by library volunteer Gail Denisoff.  

Many are familiar with the names of two early woman doctors in Schenectady – Dr. Janet Murray opened a medical practice on Jay Street in 1891 and Dr. Elizabeth Gillette, perhaps the best known, began her medical and surgical career on Union Street in 1900. Another woman who began her private practice here in 1903, Dr. Eleanor Mann, is lesser known.

Photo of horse-drawn carriage. An elderly woman wearing a winter coat sits in the carriage next to a male driver.
Dr. Eleanor Mann, in horse-drawn carriage. Photo from Mann Family Photos file, Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.

Born Eleanor Dorcas Pond on November 12, 1867 in Franklin, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of Samuel Willis Pond, a local farmer, and his second wife Dorcas B. Gilman. Her father had a son, Dana, from his first marriage who was 15 at the time of Eleanor’s birth and she also had a younger sister who died in infancy. Sadly, her father died just before her third birthday, at the age of 43, and her mother died less than three years later at only 27, leaving Eleanor an orphan at the age of 5.

Eleanor was taken in by a widowed aunt, Susan Blake, who had two older children, Edward and Mary, and lived in nearby West Medway, Massachusetts. She was a good student, graduating as the valedictorian of Medway High School in 1885. Because of her scholastic achievements, Eleanor was granted a partial scholarship to Boston University to which she commuted by train from Medway during her freshman year. In later years, she rented a room closer to the college in a boarding house in Somerville, borrowing money to continue her studies.

Described as a person of high intellectual ability, Eleanor was also fun-loving and practical. She and her close friend, Ida Shaw, had no interest in joining one of the established Greek societies on campus at the time. However, when they were seniors they decided to start their own society, one which was different from the others, based in fellowship and service to others. As Ida proclaimed, “Let us found a society that shall be kind alike to all and think more of a girl’s inner self and character than of her personal appearance.” They decided to use a triple Greek letter, and by Thanksgiving of 1888, had fully developed a constitution, motto, rituals, emblems, and bylaws for the new society, Delta Delta Delta. Two other unaffiliated seniors, along with several underclassmen became the first 19 women initiated into the society which still flourishes as a nationwide sorority. Eleanor and Ida were both involved in Tri Delta for the rest of their lives and are celebrated each November on the sorority's Founders Day. 

The first members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority at Boston University. Eleanor is seated on a chair in the middle row, second from left in a light-colored dress, 1889.

After graduating from Boston University in 1889, Eleanor hoped to continue her education in medical school despite opposition from most of her friends, but all her applications were rejected. She spent the next four years teaching Latin and science in Webster and Salem, Massachusetts. Finally, in 1893, she was accepted to Tufts Medical College in Boston along with four other women. Several Boston newspapers followed the progress of the five female students as their attendance at Tufts was considered a novelty at that time. In 1896 all five graduated, The Boston Post reporting: “From the medical department of [Tufts College], there will be five young ladies who have passed examinations…. Miss Eleanor Pond of Medway will appear at commencement. The subject of her thesis will be ”Antisepsis from a Modern Point of View." Miss Pond is a particularly bright, ambitious girl and deserves high praise for the obstacles which she has overcome so successfully during her college career.” Years later, Eleanor wrote an article for The Trident, her sorority publication, entitled “The Woman Doctor,” saying that women had unique qualities to contribute to the medical field and “the desire has grown and developed and has been passed on to her sisters of the future generations. They have overcome almost insurmountable obstacles to attain their purpose until now they have made a place for themselves and a worthy one beside their brother physicians.”

Portrait photo of Eleanor, undated.

Not long after graduation, on July 22, 1896, Eleanor married Arthur S. Mann, a childhood friend from Medway. Many of her Tri Delta sorority sisters attended, singing a Delta Delta Delta song instead of the traditional wedding march. The Boston Post reported, “One of the most fashionable home weddings held here for a dozen years was held at the home of Mrs. Susan Blake when her niece, Dr. Eleanor Dorcas Pond, was given in marriage to Mr. Arthur S. Mann of Chicago, formerly of this town.”

Eleanor and Arthur first lived in Chicago where Arthur, a brilliant MIT graduate, worked as a mechanical engineer. Eleanor practiced medicine there, lectured, and completed some post-graduate work at the Chicago Post Graduate College as well. She also founded a Chicago chapter of TriDelta in 1897. Later that year, she and Arthur moved to New York City where she continued to practice and lectured at the Woman’s Medical School. The Manns lived in New York until 1902 when Arthur’s job took them to Australia for a year. Women were not allowed to practice medicine there so Eleanor taught mathematics in the local high school.  

Arthur and Eleanor Mann seated on a porch in Australia, circa 1902.

When they returned to the United States in 1903, they settled in Schenectady where Arthur began a career with General Electric, receiving several patents for his work. They first lived on Glenwood Boulevard where Eleanor began her practice, devoted almost exclusively to obstetrics and children’s health. Not long after, they purchased a home at 2 Lowell Road, on the corner of Rugby, where Eleanor continued her practice and lived until her death.
Having no children, the Manns were able to travel extensively, including a trip around the world. Their home was full of mementos from their travels and the couple also worked to create beautiful gardens surrounding their home. In 1915, their happy life was shattered by Arthur’s illness and death. Eleanor cared for him devotedly and after his passing spent most of her time doing pro bono work for the poor of Schenectady.

Eleanor’s cousins, Edward and Mary Blake, came to live with her after Arthur died. In 1924, her own health began to deteriorate, but she kept up her practice. In August, she left for a rest at the Clifton Springs Sanitarium near Rochester, NY, with her cousin Mary. Eleanor was there only a few days when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died the following day on August 26, 1924, at the age of 56. She is buried with her husband in the Mann family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, West Medway, Massachusetts. A sorority sister, Emma Gleason, recalled “At her death, people thronged to the house, the remark universally made being, ‘We loved her so.' What greater tribute could be given? Such was Eleanor Pond as I remember her – a friend I think of with loyalty and affection.”

Gravestone for Eleanor and Arthur Mann, Evergreen Cemetery.

Applebaum, Beth Dees, "We Loved Her So", Trident, Winter/Spring 2018
Becque, Fran PhD, "Happy 125th Birthday Tri Delta!", Fraternity History and More, 11/27/2013.
Directory of Deceased American Physicians
"History of Delta Delta Delta: Eleanor Dorcas Pond", Tri Delta, Colgate University
New York State Census: 1905, 1915
Schenectady City Directories, 1904-1924
United States Federal Census: 1870, 1880, 1910, 1920

Monday, April 5, 2021

Book Review: America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights by Jerry Mikorenda

This post was written by volunteer Martin Strosberg.

One hundred years before Rosa Parks ignited the modern civil rights movement by refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, Elizabeth Jennings refused to leave a segregated New York City horse-drawn streetcar. She was thrown off and roughed up by the conductor and driver. She sued. Arguing on her behalf was 24 year-old Chester Alan Arthur, future President of the United States. As a result of the landmark 1854 case, Elizabeth Jennings vs. The Third Avenue Railroad, the New York City public transit system was desegregated. Jerry Mikorenda tells this story of this momentous court decision. But it is only a small part of his book: an account of the epic struggle for civil rights and dignity among the African-American population of New York City in the 19th century.

Elizabeth Jennings (1827-1901), 27 years old at the time, was a member of a prominent New York African American family long active in the civil rights and women’s rights movements. Her forcible removal from the streetcar received wide-spread attention in Frederick Douglass’s newspaper. Given the publicity and the prominence of the family, it is not that surprising that her father, Thomas Jennings, filed a lawsuit. What is more surprising is how Chester Arthur became the attorney arguing his very first case.

Chester Arthur (1829-1886), a genteel but impoverished 1848 graduate of Union College, chose the law as his profession. He started at the State and National Law School in Ballston Spa but left because of financial difficulties. Through connections of his father, an ardent abolitionist minister, he received an apprenticeship clerking at the New York law offices of Culver and Parker, a firm specializing in defending African Americans from the Fugitive Slave Act. When Culver, the partner who originally took the Jennings’s case, was elected to a judgeship, young Arthur was thrust into the role as trial attorney before the New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn.

The Third Avenue Railroad argued that it was not responsible for the actions of its employees (i.e., the conductor and driver) albeit they were carrying out racist company policy. The neophyte Arthur won the case by citing an 1824 law that showed that common carriers like the Third Avenue Railroad were in fact responsible for heinous actions of their employees. The court awarded damages to Elizabeth Jennings for her pain and suffering. With that outcome, the Third Avenue Railroad decided to desegregate its line. For years afterward, in the African American community, February 22, 1855 was celebrated as “Elizabeth Jennings Day.” Arthur became a hero to the African American community.

The account of the trial is mostly based on newspaper reports. Unfortunately, two days before his death in 1886, Arthur burned his voluminous collection of private papers. These papers might have given us greater insight into the case. Although his presidential administration was whistle-clean, apparently he did not want his Tammany Hall activities to see the light of day. But that loss to the historical record could only delay but not stop the Elizabeth Jennings story from being told.

In 2007 New York City named a block of Park Row "Elizabeth Jennings Place" because of her many achievements on behalf of the African American Community, as ably documented in Mikorenda’s book. As for President Chester Arthur (1881-1885), a statue of him was erected in 1899 in New York’s Madison Square Park. And, of course, we know of the statue of Arthur on the Union College campus in Schenectady.

Jerry Mikorenda, America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights, Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2020, 241 pages.

Statue of Chester A. Arthur on Union College campus. Union College File, Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.