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The Michigan Genealogical Council and the Archives of Michigan are pleased to present a special Family History Month workshop – Saturday, October 29, 2011, at the Michigan Historical Center in Lansing. For more information click Family History Month Workshop.
Bill Gorski, like many people, developed an interest in genealogy. In 1977, he joined the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan and began researching his Polish ancestors. He discovered that – at that time – Michigan’s libraries had little information on the state’s Poles. Bill decided, then, to gather sources himself. Thus, the J. William Gorski Polish Genealogy and Historical Collection was born.
The Collection Grows
Bill began collecting anything that he could find on the Polish in Michigan. Then, in 1981, he became Editor-in-Chief of The Eaglet, the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan’s official periodical. This further fueled his determination to collect. As a writer and editor for The Eaglet, he traveled throughout Michigan, conducting research and gathering materials in the process.
Bill’s collection became more and more impressive. He collected state and county history books, church anniversary books, and books on Polish and Polish American history. He collected newspapers, atlas books and histories of Polish societies.
He also amassed an impressive number of photographs and slides. He began by photographing all known Polish churches in Michigan. He didn’t stop there. He photographed Polish cemeteries and gravestones therein. He collected photos of the individuals interred.
Bill also turned his camera toward Polish American neighborhoods. His collection includes photos of buildings in Detroit’s east and west sides and in Hamtramck. Most notably, he photographed buildings along Detroit’s Michigan Avenue.
Eventually, Bill even traveled a little beyond Michigan. He documented some Polish communities in Ontario, Canada, as well.
Organizing…And Getting the Word Out
In 1987 – ten years after he starting collecting – Bill began to index his materials. The collection had already become quite extensive, so the indexing greatly facilitated its use.
Bill also spread the word. For years, he has given slide presentations on his collection. He has presented to the Michigan Historical Society, the Grand Rapids Western Michigan Genealogical Society, the Grand Rapids Public Library, the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, and the Burton Historical Collection, to name a few.
A New Home
In 2000, Bill Gorski gifted his collection to the Library of Michigan. Books and other publications were cataloged and placed in the Library of Michigan stacks. Archival materials were transferred to the Archives of Michigan. Now, all researchers can benefit from Bill Gorski’s hard work. Anyone interested in Polish genealogy or history – especially as relates to Michigan or Ontario, Canada – may wish to peruse these materials.