A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Geneteka: Part II

Yesterday I posted the first installment of an updated, more comprehensive tutorial for using the popular Polish vital records database, Geneteka. In that post, I provided an introduction to Geneteka, a walk through the search interface, and some information about how Geneteka’s search algorithms work. Today I’ll discuss searching with two surnames, using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, searching within a specified parish, using the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, and using the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para.”

Searching with two surnames

Let’s return now to our search for my great-grandfather, Józef Zieliński, anywhere in Mazowiecki province. If you recall, there were 29 pages of results from our first attempt to find him by inputting only his given name and surname. Let’s assume that I do a little more research in U.S. records and discover evidence that he was born between 1890 and 1895. That immediately reduces the results down to a mere 3 pages.

Jozef Zielinski range of years

If I do just a bit more research to procure his marriage record or death record from U.S. sources, I can discover his parents’ names: Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota. This is the most powerful bit of information we’ve discovered so far, because it allows me to zoom in immediately on my great-grandfather’s birth record.

Jozef Zielinski birth

Voilà! Instant gratification! If I want to discover all the children born to this couple, I can search again, leaving out Józef’s given name. (For that matter, inclusion of his mother’s given name is not necessary here, so I’ll leave that out, too.) Remember to remove the restriction on the range of years, however, unless you have a very good idea of your ancestor’s position in the birth order in his family.

Zielinski Kalota

Geneteka is a thing of beauty, truly. Even if I never bothered to accurately determine from U.S. records that my great-grandfather Józef Zieliński was from the village of Mistrzewice in gmina Młodzieszyn, in Sochaczew County, I could have discovered that instantly based on indexed records in Geneteka. Of course, it still makes sense to gather all the information that you can from U.S. records first, as further evidence for the soundness of your conclusion, and to guard against the possibility that there were two men named Józef Zieliński, both born in Poland in the same approximate time period to fathers who both happened to be named Stanisław and mothers who both happened to be named Marianna Kalota. Although that seems highly improbable, it might be more possible if the mother also had a very popular surname such as Nowak or Kowalska.

If we click on the “Marriages” tab, we can look for marriage records that involve these two surnames.

Zielinski Kalota marriages

This result illustrates another feature of the basic search: results will include either of the specified surnames in any field. In the first result, the groom had the surname Kalot (discovered by the search algorithm since the final “a” is truncated) and his mother’s maiden name was Zielińska. In the second result, the groom was a Zieliński, and the maiden name of the bride’s mother was Kalota. Since the other names in these records don’t match well with existing evidence for my family, and since these marriages took place in the parishes of Brzóza and Leszno rather than Mistrzewice or Młodzieszyn, we can conclude that neither of these results is relevant to our search.

Moving on to the death records now, we see that all of these results are relevant and correspond to 8 of the 10 children of Stanisław and Marianna Zieliński whose birth records were discovered previously. (If you’re interested, the sad story of the Zieliński family is here.)


There’s one final point I’d like to make about searching with two surnames before we move on, and that is, sometimes less is more. In older Polish records, particularly marriage and death records, it’s not unusual for a woman’s maiden name to be omitted. So if you’re searching for marriage records for all the children of hypothetical couple Jan Kowalski and Jadwiga Lis from the parish of Różan, it’s quite possible that a marriage record will exist for one of their sons (let’s call him Piotr), in which he is described only as “son of Jan and Jadwiga, the spouses Kowalski.” If you restrict your search too much by specifying both surnames, Kowalski and Lis, and both given names, Jan and Jadwiga, you’ll miss Piotr’s marriage record. The search engine won’t find it, because the indexer could not possibly have included Jadwiga’s maiden name in the index since it wasn’t mentioned in the original record. One the other hand, if you search for records containing (1) surname Kowalski, given name Jan, and (2) given name Jagwiga (no surname), Piotr’s marriage record should show up. The other technique that would be helpful here would be to check the box for “Wyszukaj jako para/Relationship search,” but we’ll discuss that further tomorrow.

Using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column

Focusing now on the various buttons in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, we see that the page showing birth records mentioning Zieliński and Kalota has three infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, “i,” “Z”, and “A,” in addition to “Skan.” However, the page showing death records that mention these surnames only has “Z” and “A” infodots, and only two of the records are linked to scans. This is a pretty typical result for Geneteka, and it arises because of the way Geneteka is created. As mentioned in the introduction, Geneteka is an evolving work in progress, and indexing requirements have changed since its inception. Therefore some indexes are more limited than others in the information they provide. In this case, the birth records are as complete as one could wish for, including all information necessary to determine the relevance of a record to one’s research, and a link to the scan. Some of the death entries are slightly less complete, since they’re missing the “i” infodot and the “skan” link, but they’re still pretty good. However, you may encounter indexed entries in Geneteka for which very little information is available beyond the parish, the year of the event, the record number, and the name of the key participants (baptized or deceased in a birth or death record, names of bride and groom in a marriage record). The lack of parents’ names found in some indexes makes it more difficult to determine if a record is relevant to your research or not, but any information online at all is better than nothing, and even such “bare-bones” indexes can be helpful finding aids when going through parish records. If your entry of interest is complete except for a link to a scan, there are often places where these can be found online. (For one example of how to do this, please see this post on using the FamilySearch catalog.)

So what do those infodots tell us? Starting with the “i,” if you hover over it, additional information about the record is revealed. For example, the “i” infodot for Franciszek Zieliński tells us that he was born 16 September 1886 (the little “r” that appears after the year stands for “roku,” the Polish word for year, and is merely an artifact of the translation process.)

i infodot

Other types of information might be available via the “i” as well, such as the towns where the bride and groom lived in a marriage record, whether or not the bride or groom was married previously, or whether the information provided in that entry came only from the sumariusz or skorowidz (internal indexes created by the priest within the book itself), rather than coming from a reading of the actual record. You may also see “i” infodots located in other places in an indexed entry, such as near a name. In such cases they’re usually there to indicate the existence of an alternate name under which the person was known, such as a maiden name in the death record of a married woman, or an alias, usually indicated by “vel” (meaning alias).

The “Z” infodot provides information about the archive that holds the original record which is indexed for a particular entry. In this case, originals are at the Grodzisk branch of the State Archive of Warsaw, and the archive’s address is also provided.

Z infodot

The “Z” button acts not only as an infodot, but also as a link: hovering over it will provide information, but clicking it will take you to the archive’s website. Note that in some cases, the Z will tell you only that the record came from “Archiwum Parafialne,” or the parish archive. That means that these records were indexed because the parish priest permitted the volunteer indexer to go in and index the books on site. In order to get copies of the records, you need to contact the parish, or find a professional researcher in that area. However, in most other cases copies of these records can be obtained in some other way, such as in an online repository like GenBaza, FamilySearch, etc. Just because the information in the “Z” infodot states that a record was obtained from, say, the Archiwum Diecezjalnym w Płocku, doesn’t mean that the only way to obtain a copy is by writing to the archive. Many records from both state and diocesan archives in Poland have been microfilmed or digitized by the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), and are available online or are viewable at your local Mormon Family History Center (FHC). The final infodot, the “A,” reveals the name of the volunteer indexer to whom we owe our debt of gratitude.

Searching within a specific parish

In our ongoing example with the family of Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota, we discovered that all of the births and deaths for their children were recorded in either Mistrzewice or Młodzieszyn. In fact, it’s clear that the family lived in Mistrzewice the entire time, although it appears that the village was transferred to the parish of Młodzieszyn sometime between the baptism of Władysław in 1897 and the baptism of Jan in 1899.


We might predict, then, that Stanisław and Marianna were married in or near Mistrzewice circa 1885, before the birth of their oldest child in 1886. However, no marriage records were found for this couple anywhere in present-day Mazowieckie province when we searched for records mentioning both their surnames. Why might that be? The answer can be found by careful examination of the range of records indexed for each parish. To illustrate, let’s go back and repeat our search for surnames Zieliński and Kalota in Mazowieckie, this time using the drop-down menu in the “Parish/Parafia” search box to limit the search to results from Mistrzewice parish. When we do that, the results are displayed with the handy graphic, shown below, which gives us a timeline of the range of years available for indexed records.

Parish search bar

If we switch over to marriages, we see that marriage records for Mistrzewice are indexed from 1855-1863, with a gap in 1864, then continue from 1865-1893, followed by another one-year gap in 1894, and then finish with 1895-1898. Since we anticipate that Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota were married circa 1885, their marriage record should appear in this index if they married in Mistrzewice, but it does not. So where did they marry? Probably someplace nearby, so let’s repeat the search using the “Include search in nearby parishes (15 km radius)/Wyszukaj również w pobliskich parafiach (15km)” option.

Mistrzewice marriages

When we repeat the search with that box checked, the display will tell us exactly which indexed parishes were searched, and their distance from the target parish.

Nearby parishes

However, there’s still no marriage record. Why? Well, in this case, further research revealed that Marianna Kalota’s family was from the parish of Młodzieszyn. Since it’s customary to marry in the bride’s parish, the answer to the problem is apparent after a quick check on the availability of indexed marriage records for Młodzieszyn.

Mlodzieszyn marriages

Stanisław and Marianna married circa 1885, and marriage records for Młodzieszyn are not indexed until 1889. Unfortunately, the State Archive has no earlier records for this parish beyond what’s indexed in Geneteka, nor does the diocesan archive, and the parish website states that records exist only back to 1945. Apparently, I’m out of luck with that marriage record. However, this example demonstrates the importance of paying attention to the range of years that’s indexed for your parish of interest, because it will absolutely influence your results.

Using the Parish Records Collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych

There’s another handy feature associated with that timeline graphic that’s worth mentioning. This is the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, circled here in red.

Parish records collection

When you click that link, it takes you to a page with information about the selected parish in the Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych, which is one of the sister sites to Geneteka sponsored by the PTG. (You can also access the site directly, without going through Geneteka, here.) Theoretically, this page is only available in Polish, as indicated by the lack of an American/British flag icon.

Mistrzewice in KZM

In fact, you really don’t need to know a whole lot of Polish to be able to use the site as-is. However, if you’re really uncomfortable this way, there are two options for translating the page into English. The first is to use Google Chrome as your browser, then right-click anywhere on the page and select, “Translate to English,” as shown here.

Translate to English

The second is to copy the URL, and then paste that into the “input” box in Google Translate for Polish to English translation. The URL won’t appear to change, but if you click on the URL in the “output” box, the page will appear in English.

Once we do either of those things, we see that this page has some great information about the parish, including the parish name (Sts. Stanisław and Dorothy), the year the parish was founded, and some information about the old Województwo (province) in which the parish was located prior to the administrative reform of 1998, when Poland reorganized its 49 provinces into the 16 provinces that exist today. Knowing the old province can be useful for looking up the parish at sites like Baza PRADZIAD, which use the old administrative designations to distinguish between parishes with the same name. Similarly, information is provided about the new province and powiat (county) in which the parish is located today.

English version for Mistrzewice

We also see a very helpful note about which portal(s) contain indexed records for this parish, as well as which books are available from the archives. In this case, the only records that are available from the State Archive branch in Grodzisk Mazowieckie are already indexed in Geneteka, so no further information is provided in these boxes about available birth, marriage (“oath”) or death records. There’s also a note explaining that the parish ceased to exist in 1915, which isn’t strictly true. As mentioned previously, the parish functions were transferred to Młodzieszyn in 1898, but the church in Mistrzewice was destroyed by a fire in 1915, which is probably what was meant here. In any case, let’s look at another example, the parish in Kowalewo-Opactwo, Wielkopolskie province, to see an example of a Katalog entry for a parish that’s currently active.


The parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo (which translates as Kowalewo Abbey) is in the historical Poznań area, so marriage records from this parish are indexed in the Poznan Project, in addition to being indexed in Geneteka for the range of years noted. The parish itself only has records since 1916 (births) or 1947 (marriages and deaths), as shown here, underlined in green, so you could presumably write to them to request a copy of a recent record, and they might be willing to comply, within the restrictions imposed by Polish privacy laws. (Under current Polish privacy laws, access to birth records is restricted for a period of 100 years from the date of the event, and access to marriage and death records is restricted for 80 years. Only immediate family or direct descendants can request copies of records dated within this interval.) Finally, this tells us that the Archdiocesan Archive in Włocławek has additional marriage records from 1828-1866, which implies that there’s an extra year’s worth of marriage records available that’s not indexed in either Geneteka or the Poznan Project.

While the information available in the Katalog can be extremely helpful in identifying the repositories in which one might find records for a particular parish, it’s important to realize that you should still do your own research. In this case, the entry fails to mention the LDS microfilms/digitized records that cover births, marriages and deaths for the period from 1868-1879 which were created from original records held by the State Archive in Poznań. Additional records (1880-1889, and 1910-1914) are also available online at Szukajwarchiwach. There are also these microfilms of parish records for Kowalewo that go all the way up to 1979, covering births from 1916-1958, with a gap from 1936-1944, as well as marriages from 1947-1956 and deaths from 1947-1979. Since such recent records are clearly protected by the aforementioned Polish privacy laws, it’s unlikely that these will be digitized any time soon but could nonetheless be researched in person or by proxy at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Despite these occasional flaws, it’s convenient to have so much parish information in one place, which is why it’s worth clicking that “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link on the Geneteka search page for your parish of interest.

Using “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para”

The remaining search options that we haven’t discussed in depth include “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para,” “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” To illustrate the first one, let’s give Stanisław Zieliński and Marianna Kalota a break and use the example of Stanisław’s parents, Michał Zieliński and Antonina Ciećwierz. Let’s pretend we have no idea where this family was from, and want to search in all of Mazowiecki province. Since it’s possible that there will be records for this family that don’t mention Antonina’s maiden name, we’ll try searching according to just Michał’s name and Antonina’s given name. As noted previously, Zieliński is a popular name, so that strategy will yield a lot of results to wade through.

Michal and Antonina results

Moreover, as mentioned previously, this search will return results for these names in any field. So for example, the first birth in the list is for Antonina Kucharczyk, daughter of Michał Kucharczyk and Zofia Zielińska — not what we’re searching for at all. However, Geneteka gives us the option to tie Michał Zieliński together with Antonina and search for them as a pair. If we repeat the search with the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para” box checked, our results are much more targeted.

Michal and Antonina as a pair

With this box checked, every birth record that is returned is a child of Michał Zieliński and a mother named Antonina. In all of the instances shown here, the mother’s maiden name was included, so we probably could have narrowed the search just by specifying that piece of information. However, if we switch over to the page of death records from this same search, we see that there is, in fact, one death record we would have missed if we’d specified that maiden name.

Waleria Zielinski death no mother's maiden name

Sure enough, the death record of Waleria Zielińska from 1900 did not mention her mother’s maiden name, and so we might have missed it if we’d been too rigid in our search methods.

Tomorrow, I’ll offer some examples of using the final two search options that require a bit more discussion, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” Then we’ll get into the various options for finding scans, based on the repository to which the “skan” button is linked. See you then!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

7 thoughts on “A Step-By-Step Guide to Using Geneteka: Part II

  1. Thank you so much this is wonderful and very easy to understand. I having been using this site for months and would have loved to have all these instructions before but now I completely understand everything I been seeing and more. Keep up the good work!
    Barbara Murph

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to add my thanks for the first two installments of the Geneteka guide. I have a question. At the end of part 2, you say that part 3 will be available “tomorrow” which would be today April 25. Was its release delayed? I’m hungry for more. 😉
    Jim Gustanski

    Liked by 1 person

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