Pole Vault
5/1/2007
Leap over the hurdles of tracing Polish roots—our five-step guide will get you started.

What do Marie Curie, Bobby Vinton and Pope John Paul II have in common? If you know their original monikers - Maria Sklodowska, Stanley Robert Vintula Jr. and Karol Wojtyla - it's easy to tell all three had Polish roots.

Nine million Americans share that heritage, making Polish the eighth-largest ancestry in the United States. Poland's influence on America goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War, when Polish nationalists Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who'd fought unsuccessfully for their homeland's independence, helped lead Colonial forces to victory.