Jamestown’s Albanian Community


Contributing Writer
Janet Wahlberg

Until recently, I was unaware that there was an Albanian Community in Jamestown. So, I contacted St. Elial Parish for information on these folks as well as researching them on the Web. They arrived here in the very early 20th Century probably fleeing persecution by the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. Many apparently intended to return to their homeland; however, the upheaval of WWI deterred many of them from doing so.

Those who came to Jamestown took jobs in the furniture and textile industries located here. In addition, some opened restaurants and confectionaries. Their woodworking skills would later be used to build and adorn their churches, St. Elial and St. Nicholas. St. Elial first conducted services in 1911 at the Russell House on Third St. following a visit by Fr. Fan S. Noli who had established the Albania speaking Orthodoxy in America and later became the head the Orthodox church in America. This community of people brought with them their customs and traditions one of which will be celebrated soon, Christmas. Their holiday centers around family and faith as they traditionally attend Christmas Eve services as well as Christmas Day services. On Christmas Day they gather for a large meal topped off with the traditional dessert of Baklava. In Albania gifts are shared and opened on New Years Day rather than Christmas Day. I confess that I do not know what the local community does.

For those of you with Albanian ancestry there are many resources available to trace your family into the old country. You may want to start by typing Albanian Genealogy into Google. The results are a long list of potential resources. For the beginner, I would recommend that you start with Family Search. When you get on the Family Search WIKI, type in Albania. This will open a window that will provide you with a great deal of background information on Albania including How To articles and suggested Web Sites. Ancestry also is listed and if you click on that specific web site, it will take you directly to the records available there. Two of the more interesting sites were http://forebears.io/Albania and www.kindredtrails.com/albania.html. The Forbears site has a list of surnames and if you click on a name it gives you a worldwide distribution of the name.

The Fenton History Center has a membership to Ancestry Library Edition and volunteers willing and able to help you to get started. In addition, we may have some family histories in our Family Files. These are files that contain research done by people just like you who have written down the family history and donated a copy to our files. If you have any research on your family and are willing to share it with us, we would be delighted to place it in our files. We would also welcome stories of your traditions not only for Christmas, but year-round. You might even consider joining us on the last Wednesday of the month at 6:30 at our Genealogy Support Group where we enjoy informative programs and help one another with research challenges. For more information please call 664-6256 and ask for the Research Center.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.