© Milan Šišmiš, 1996, 1999, 2001

Not only America, all our world is a big melting pot in which people of different races, national origins and civilizations are becoming mixed. The same happened on the territory between the Danube River and the Tatra Mountains, in the country now called Slovakia, where in different periods of time members of various ethnic, language and religious groups passed. Those were our common ancestors, many of them our relatives. We, their descendants are asking still more frequently such questions as: who were those people? How and where to search them?

Really, among anonymous historical dwellers of Slovakia we can find our blood relatives and ancestors. Before we set out on a journey to follow them back, it can be useful to know what we can expect of it. Like everywhere in the world, in Slovakia as well, it is obvious that we usually learn much more of the families and individuals who were significant in the society than of the common "people". But still, just a bunch of the lucky, whose ancestors were members of medieval noble families, manage to get back to the 13th century doing their research. Those whose ancestors belonged to the later nobility or they were burghers can trace them to the 15th or 16th century. Most of us, however, come from the common families. Our ancestors were country people, farmers or small craftsmen whose relative's lines can be traced usually from the 17th century. Most of us do not get before this period. However, passing through those four remaining centuries that divide us from our recorded ancestors promises us a sufficient number of exciting findings. 
The general rule applies to genealogical research too - to proceed from the known to the unknown, from the closer to the more distant. Therefore let us start our pilgrimage at present. Just look around how many valuable information you can find in your own household. Family bible, purchase and sale deeds, heritage decrees, entries of registers, correspondence, certificates, identity cards, old photographs and all what was left after our ancestors. Look through these materials very thoroughly and pick up all needed data from them. Many of the acquired data you can check or complete by the gravestone inscriptions study and talks with your relatives. When you classify the acquired information (you can process them to a schematic family tree, data on particular families or individuals record to separate sheets or forms), you find out they form fair heaps.
By thorough "cleaning" in our own archives, in our memory or family we move on a few decades back to the past and we can be satisfied if we get to the last third of the 19th century at least. Since this period a large number of archival sources are at your disposal. Parish registers will be sufficient for now. They are a basic and starting source of all our further research. Those of the 16th till 19th centuries have been preserved. The work by J. Sármányová "Parish Registers in Slovakia from the 16th to the 19th Century" (Bratislava 1991) provides a survey of the parish registers in Slovakia. The registers are preserved at state regional archives where you can study them. There are seven state regional archives in Slovakia and two more at their level. For entrance to any of them is necessary to make familiar with the general rules of study at the archives (you can do so at your first visit to any of them). Fair as well as practical is to arrange your visit in advance, best by telephone (the archives study room can be fully occupied or even closed on the day you plan your visit). This way you can obtain information on actual fees and conrete conditions of the study in proper archives.
By studying in the registers you can search into a network of your family relations back to the 17th century. The scope of your distant ancestors and relatives will extend substantially. You will know their names, when and where they were born, who baptized them, who their grandparents were, whom they married, who performed the ceremony of marriage for them, who their wittnesses were and their partner's parents, what profession or social position the mentioned persons had, when and where they died or were buried, the reason of their death, what religious groups they belonged to, who their parents, brothers, sisters and children were or any other details. Based on this fairly great information package you can substantially extend your genealogical tables or to compile a more or less complete pedigree. At this point, reaching such a scheme most people usually finish with their reseatrch. However, if you still have enough energy, an eager desire for new knowledge in exploring your family history, enough time, taste and money (each fun needs some money), you can get even deeper. There are some other sources at your dispolsal the search of which is much more time-consuming, not only in state regional but also in state district and other archives, less in regional museums and in field. Research becomes more complicated but at the same time more exciting. The basic aid at searching new sources in archives are guides to archival collections. They are issued by each regional and some district archives. Each museum or archives have a great number of various internal aids, therefore it is most appropriate to ask for help those who have best knowlwdge of them - experienced staff. As these people are rather busy with their own work and duties, there is no need to abuse their compliance too much. To other sources of genealogical research belong in general town books (often comprising the wills), various registers of inhabitants, landbooks, guild papers. There exist substantially more sources, their scale and telling ability depends on a particular family we are searching (however, they have not been preserved everywhere). We can learn of our ancestors' property, of their hosehold furnishings, their character qualities, various episodes in their lives etc. 
If we are indolent to do research ouselves but at the same time we are curious and mainly solvent, we can use paid services of archives at tracing our ancestors or professional (private) genealogists. Professional staff in our archives as well as professional genealogists can provide us with needed data or compile an entire pedigree for us. At research contacting our namesakes can be of use for us (their addresses are available in telephone directories) linguists who can help us to explain etymology of our family name and organizations supporting those interested in tracing their ancestors. In Slovakia there is the only association of this kind now - the Slovak Genealogic-Heraldic Society. It issues its own newsletter, various aids, organiyes workshops for beginners as well as advanced in genealogy, provides consultations. Contacting it can inspire you at further research. 
Tracing your ancestors can follow different ways and its results can be also different. Mostly it depends on us. It is also up to us how we deal with the acquired information. We can process them to genealogical tables of family historical monographs, we can let them just "rest" in our drawers, on shelves or in computers. But we can also revive them at family reunions, let them defile in videos or publish them on the pages of family newsletters. Not only America but in Slovakia as well nations, races, religious groups and various civilizations mixed or are becoming mixed. Our families took and still take part in this process. Our families are the result of this mixing. Let us try to rediscover them in the annymity of past centuries. Let us try to understand the colourfulness of this world through it and find our place at present.