CRARG - A Growing Journey
by Daniel Kazez, President, CRARG (Częstochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group)
When I was growing up, I knew very few of our relatives. One grandmother lived 3000 miles away, another lived 5000 miles away; one grandfather died when I was quite young, another died many years before that. I was told, “We didn’t have any cousins.” When I graduated from high school, I honestly didn’t know what the word cousin meant! (Spoiler alert: In fact, we had lots and lots of cousins.)
CRARG had an odd beginning: I visited the city archives in Chicago, found the naturalization record for my great grandfather, and learned that he came from Łódź (a large city in Poland). I went down to the street, got a taxi, learned that the taxi driver was from Poland, and had him teach me how to pronounce “Łódź”!
By this time, I had done quite a bit of traveling related to world music. (I’m a music professor.) Having already done a concert tour of major cities in Western Europe as a solo cellist, I decided to do a concert tour in Eastern Europe, focusing on the towns in Poland where my family lived. Of course, I started in Łódź. It was a big concert, with television cameras, newspaper coverage, and all the rest. The next morning, I went to the archive, looked up my family name, and discovered that my family actually never lived in Łódź! I had a driver/translator, and we drove south, to the town of Częstochowa, where I had my next concert. Why Częstochowa? My research indicated that my great grandmother was from there. As we drove, I saw an exit for the town of Radomsko. I don’t remember why, but I pondered: maybe this is the town where my great grandfather was actually from?
The concert in Częstochowa went very nicely, and the next day of course I hit the archive. Records for Częstochowa indicated… wrong town! Then I began going through a huge collection of books, several dozen in all, each about 3 inches thick. They listed the non-permanent residents of Częstochowa, year by year, and then I found it: a listing for my great grandmother, indicating that she was from a small town near Częstochowa.
A few years back, I had set about to do complete research (finding / translating / typing) for all the Jewish records of each of the places where my great grandparents lived: İstanbul, several small towns in present Ukraine, and several towns in Poland. I pretty much conquered the records of Istanbul and those small towns in Ukraine, and now it was time for Poland. I teamed up with a few other researchers to fund a few days of intensive research from afar. Those few days grew to weeks, and then months and years. Early on, CRARG became a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Next year, CRARG celebrates its 20th birthday.
Along the way, in these various places, I discovered that my parents had 60 first cousins. And now my various family trees go back to the 1700s.
CRARG’s core area, for research back to the 1700s, is the area of Poland that includes Częstochowa and Radomsko (hence our name “Częstochowa-Radomsko Area Research Group”). CRARG research has always focused on all Jewish records and always complete sets of data, rather than just looking for particular family records
We realize that our families could have been anywhere in Poland by the 1940s, so our area of research during the Holocaust era is all of Poland. CRARG’s database of Holocaust-era records now includes more than 350,000 records and is freely searchable. The Poland Holocaust-Era Database can be found at www.crarg.org/polish-holocaust-database
CRARG’s complete database (late 1700s to the 1940s) includes over 1.3 million records. Membership (via a contribution) is necessary for access. You can find information on the towns within this database at www.crarg.org.
[Image below: Page from the 1920s Books of Permanent Residents of Przyrów (a small town near Częstochowa, Poland)]