Lisa Alzo is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and genealogist. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh and is the author of ten books.
In chapter 1, Alzo explains the “scope” (10) of the book and what it will do for genealogists in aiding their research. She accurately describes her book as a “roadmap” (10) that will enable those with Eastern European ancestry to navigate through the complicated history and geography of this region in order to find their ancestors. She begins with Polish immigration and includes an informative timeline of their arrival in the United States in 1608. A timeline for Czech and Slovak immigration is also included; these resources are important for providing context for when a person’s ancestor may have left Europe and traveled to the United States.
Chapter 2 leads researchers on their “first steps” (17) to successfully conducting Eastern European research. It not only includes a helpful flow chart that illustrates how to begin the research in Eastern Europe, but also describes basic genealogical practices to help researchers get started on the right track. Alzo also provides research plan suggestions and provides worksheets to help track progress.
Chapter 3 is all about identification. If you can’t determine your ancestor’s “original” (32) name, then your search may be stalled. Alzo expertly helps make sense of possible name changes and differences in spelling that can hinder the search for immigrant ancestors. Once the ancestors name is determined, research can move on to find the ancestors origin in Eastern Europe. Alzo includes numerous helpful tips and internet links that can aid in a successful ancestor search. Again, worksheets are included, this time to record and to help sort out possible name variations and spellings.
Chapters 4 and 5 are history lessons which are so vital to successful genealogical research. Even if you don’t have Eastern European ancestors, but simply love history, these are fascinating chapters. For example, Chapter Five talks about the “Velvet Divorce,” a term I had never heard before but now know refers to the dissolution of the Czech and Slovak republics in 1993. Not only does this event speak to history, but to geography as well, which is the subject of chapter 6. Genealogists tend to love maps, and this chapter is full of information about how to use old European maps, gazetteers, and atlases, as well as numerous links for online maps. These are three well-researched and well-explicated chapters on subjects that are so necessary to successful genealogical research.
In chapter 7 Alzo returns to the issue of names and naming patters. This time she expands on the topic considerably by the inclusion of a language section. Chapters 8 – 11 are about specific records, such as census and military records. The chapters discuss the various types of records that are available and how to find them. The fluid geography of the region makes finding records a challenge, but Alzo provided enough information and research tips to help with a successful search.
Chapter 12 discusses how to research on-site in Eastern Europe, which she has done, and includes travel tips. In winding down the research narrative, chapter 13 is full of interesting and engaging case studies in Eastern European ancestor research. Chapter 14 concludes the book with a discussion of research strategies for overcoming the inevitable brick wall, a problem that all genealogists can relate to.
The book is rounded out with nine appendices which included Polish, Czech, and Slovak language lessons. Other appendices list United States archives, historical societies, and genealogical societies relating to Eastern European research, as well location of archives and records locations in Eastern Europe.
Alzo’s latest book is much more than a simple genealogy how-to guide. From the beginning of the book, beautiful pictures are included that demonstrate history, culture, and family and how the three are connected. Her own experience in the difficulties of researching her ancestors due to “border changes” and “language difference has provided her with her the knowledge to lead researchers through the intricacies of Eastern European genealogy. The end of each chapter includes a “Keys to Success” section, which include quick, helpful tidbits on how to begin or to proceed with genealogical research of Polish, Czech, or Slovak ancestry. Alzo emphasizes the importance of historical context in understanding your family tree and leaves no research stone unturned. This book is a must-read for those with Eastern European ancestry.
You can visit Lisa's website here: www.lisaalzo.com/