As an administrator for the Polish Genealogy group on Facebook, I like to help people get past whatever “brick walls” they’re facing with their genealogy research. It’s really satisfying when someone comes to the group with maybe one or two documents for an immigrant ancestor, and in real time, the group’s volunteers can determine that immigrant’s place of birth in Poland, and maybe pull up the immigrant’s birth record and his parents’ marriage record while we’re at it. We’re able to do that so often because of all the fantastic Polish vital records databases that are online now. However, English-speakers often find these Polish-language websites intimidating. With that in mind, I hope to occasionally use this blog to post step-by-step guides to using some of these databases, starting with this guide for locating vital records using the site, “Metryki.Genealodzy.pl.” If you’ve come to this blog from the Polish Genealogy group, you may realize that a very similar guide already exists in the group’s files. But, hey, I wrote it, so I figure it’s fair game to post a slightly updated version of it here as well.
Metryki.Genealodzy.pl is more than just a repository of scans for parishes indexed in Geneteka. What many people don’t realize is that the two sites operate independently – that is, there are parishes for which scans are available in Metryki that are not indexed in Geneteka, and there are parishes indexed in Geneteka for which scans are not available in Metryki. Sometimes a parish may be included in both databases, but for different ranges of years. Therefore, both sites should be checked when one is seeking records for an ancestral parish.
To learn to use Metryki, let’s start here: http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/
On the left is an interactive map, so one can begin to explore the resources here by clicking on the name of a province, OR one can select the name of the province from the list at the right. Alternatively, one can enter the name of a parish of interest in the search box at the top. Also note that it’s possible to change the language of the site to English by clicking on the British/American flag icon near the top right corner. As an example, if one is interested in records for Gradzanowo Kościelne parish in Żuromin County, Mazowieckie province, one can start typing “Gradzanowo” into the search box at the top. In this case, by the time there are four letters there, the search engine has found Gradzanowo among the available parishes:
At this point, one could click on that link. However, sometimes one might want to browse from the map, to see all the resources that are available for a particular county. To demonstrate locating records for Gradzanowo this way, let’s pretend we click on “Mazowieckie” on the map. The next screen we come to looks like this:
This shows us a list of counties in the province (“Powiaty województwa,” in the default Polish language) and how many parishes or registry offices – the number in parenthesis – are available for each. If we want to browse to the records for Gradzanowo, we must know that it’s in Żuromin County, and click on item 30 in the list. If someone doesn’t know the county in which his ancestral village is currently located, a quick search on Google or Google.pl should provide that information. Once we click the link that reads, “30 żuromiński – Żuromin (13),” we see this page:
This page shows all 13 records collections that are currently available for Żuromin County, grouped according to denomination. For this particular county, Baptist, Roman Catholic, or civil records(“Urząd Stanu Cywilnego”) are available, although one might also see records from the Lutheran, Jewish, or other faiths. Within each denomination, we see that a collection name is further specified, which is either the name of a parish ( Św. Mateusza or Św. Józefa in this example, meaning St. Matthew’s or St. Joseph’s, respectively) OR the term, “Urząd Stanu Cywilnego” again. The use of this term might be confusing to those who are beginners in Polish research, who might be wondering why civil records would be a category under the heading of religious denominations, and why they might also be mentioned as a collection belonging to a Baptist or a Roman Catholic church. To understand this, we need to realize that clergy acted as civil registrars in Austrian Poland and in Russian Poland, and in Prussian Poland until 1874. Żuromin County was located in the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland, or Russian Poland), where each faith was permitted to keep their own civil records starting in 1826. Prior to that time, Catholic priests acted as civil registrars for people of all faiths. So when we see “Urząd Stanu Cywilnego” under “denomination,” it means that these are records dated before 1826, for which a Catholic priest was acting as civil registrar for people of all faiths living within his jurisdiction. When we see, “Urząd Stanu Cywilnego” mentioned under “Collection Name,” it means that these are civil records recorded after 1826 by either a Baptist minister or a Catholic priest (in this example), acting as a civil registrar for those Baptists or Catholics, respectively, in his particular parish. In practice, the format of the church records and civil records may be identical, depending on the parish and time period, but this at least explains the history behind the grouping of records in this database.
To access the Roman Catholic records for Gradzanowo, click on the code numbers in green (“0619/D-“) in the “Collection” column, shown in the green box in the above image. That brings us to this page:
Let’s say we’re looking for a birth from 1873. We begin by selecting records from 1873 from the list. Now the screen shows this:
This gives the option to view births, marriages, deaths, or appendices. We select “births” and we see:
In this case, we’re fortunate, because the priest created an end-of-year alphabetical index, indicated by the abbreviation “SkU.” The Polish word for “index” is “skorowidz,” and “urodzenia” is “births,” so “SkU-1” is the first page of the birth index. (The marriage and death indexes are labelled SkM and SkZ, respectively.) Our friends at the PTG (Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, or Polish Genealogical Society) who create the Metryki database have done us a favor by highlighting these index pages for us, so we don’t have to hunt and peck through the pages of images to find them.
A word about these indexes: In most cases, indexes are only roughly alphabetical – surnames are grouped by first letter of last name, but not alphabetized within each letter category. Occasionally they’re alphabetized by the first name of the individual, and in some cases, there’s no index at all. Generally speaking, earlier records (first part of the 19th century) are less likely to be indexed than later records. After about 1868, when books from Russian Poland are recorded in Russian, the index is usually in Russian, but occasionally in Polish, and usually alphabetized according to the sequence of letters in the Russian alphabet. However, occasionally one sees indexes written in Russian, but with the names alphabetized according to the Polish alphabet, such that the surname Вишневский (Wiśniewski) is found at the end of the index, rather than the beginning as one would expect. It’s also good to remember that priests sometimes omitted names from the index when they were creating it, and added them back at the end, following all the other alphabetical entries. Furthermore, there may be discrepancies in the way a name is recorded in the index versus the actual record, so researchers should always check the individual records when there’s some doubt.
We’re entering the home stretch now. To find a birth record for Bronisława Krogulska, born in 1873, we check the first index page and see that she is index entry #43 for that year (underlined in red):
Although it’s off-screen in this image, to the far right of Bronisława’s name is the record number that is used to look up the actual document. In this case, it’s #29. To get back to the list of pages from the book, click on the icon circled here, in red:
Now we see the selection of pages from the book (below). The numbers shown refer to the numbers of the records that can be found in that image. Since Bronisława’s birth record is #29 for that year, we click on the link to the page that includes births 28 and 29:
Researchers who aren’t comfortable with Russian records may gain confidence when they realize that the records themselves frequently contain the names of key participants written in both Russian and Polish, which makes it easier to be certain that one has located the desired record. In the portion of Bronisława’s birth record shown here, we see the father’s name, Józef Krogulski, written in Polish. As a bonus, in this particular record, the priest also wrote the name of the village of her birth (Chomęc) in Polish above the Russian, and also extracted her date of birth (16 April 1873).
Assistance with translations can be obtained in both the Polish Genealogy group and in the Genealogy Translations group on Facebook, as well as in some other forums. However, if you have a large number of records needing translations, it’s best to either hire a professional, or learn to do it yourself. There are a number of great translation resources available, both online and in print form, and a list of these can also be found in the group’s files at Polish Genealogy. But that’s really all there is to locating vital records in the Metryki.genealodzy.pl database. Feel free to give me a shout if you have any further questions, and happy researching!
© 2016 Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz