Polish-American Ancestors in World War One

There can be numerous unknown events our ancestors were part of that can only be learned with a little additional research. One fact is that many Americans wanted to fight in Europe beginning in 1914 during the Great War (World War One) because that was their native homeland.  Only problem was that the United States did not enter the war until April 1917. My English great uncles living in Massachusetts, I learned in my research, joined in 1915 the Canadian military (as a member of the U. K. Commonwealth of Nations) to fight overseas.

Another interesting group with similar intentions were Polish immigrates in America.  A major call was sent to America for Polish individuals in 1917 to join the Polish Army to help regain Poland’s independence from the Russians during the Great War. This independent army was led by General Jozef Haller and became known as Haller’s Army (aka Blue Army).

All types of posters and recruitment methods were used and in the end some 25,000 men from North America volunteered to help their homeland in her time of need.  Those from the United States were either recent immigrates or a first generation-born Americas, but each felt it was their duty to serve Poland. Many such individuals died on the battlefield never to return to America.

The Polish Genealogical Society of America has placed on their web site a database of these Polish-Americans who went to Europe to help Poland. It contains information on scanned copies of individuals with their name, address, age and marital status. Additional documents for some of the soldiers included information based on a medical examination and one with their date, place of birth, the parent’s names and address along with a next to kid named.  The site also has four of the main ships with their manifests of returning soldiers from Haller’s Army between 1920 and 1922.

The search engine has you place a surname and a given name. If you are unsure of a name’s spelling, select ‘wildcard’ rather than exact or match first, then the greater variations in spellings will appear. Even with the surname of ‘Smith’ there were a dozen names appearing on the list.

Some of the other possibilities include: Dobkowski with six individuals; Tenerowicz with two names; Niezgoda had four individuals; Grzywinski had five names and Kalinowski had 38 individuals from locations like Illinois, New York, Michigan, Maryland and New Jersey.

Once you locate a possible ancestor, check that the location of where they lived matches approximately the information you had. Next listed will be the volume and page for the documents available. With it is a ‘form’ – letters A, B, C or L.

Those letters represent the type of available documents. Letter A – has the intent to volunteer with name, age and address. Letter B – the medical examination results. Letter C – the completed commitment document with additional family information. The letter L – is a full collection of the papers most which has the same information as Letters A and C.

Finding an ancestor among the names can be quite exciting.  You can request copies of the different form letters (A, B, C, and L) with the order request on the site.   There are also translations of the forms into English.

Look over the other links on the Polish Genealogical Society of America site including the one labeled ’Databases’ for other sources for those who have any Polish ancestors on the family tree.

The photo above was General Józef Haller (touching the flag) and his Blue Army — 1917-1922.

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