Using Gazetteers for Polish Genealogy

Every so often, I get feedback from readers of this blog. Sometimes people have general comments about the blog, or they’re interested in recommendations for onsite researchers in Poland. At other times, people have very specific research questions, or questions about methodology or resources. Recently, I received such a query from researcher Mike Cooper, who gave me permission to mention our discussion in this article. Mike wrote,

“So I feel like I tend to be more of a brute force style where I sort of randomly search until I find something.  I know there has to be a better way.

I know part of my family is from Lednogora which is outside of Gniezno.  I tried searching by place with that village name in FamilySearch and it’s not there.  I sort of looked under Wielkopolskie on Geneteka and don’t see it.  I’m guessing that the church was in a city close by.  I feel like I’m struggling to connect the Places in Poznan Project with the Provinces/Locations in Geneteka or with Places in FamilySearch…. Do any of your past blogs help unravel this mystery of how to more effectively use these tools?  I’ve read a bunch but still seem stuck.”

Mike is correct in thinking that there’s a better way to find records besides “brute force searching,” or guessing at the parish which served a particular village. The key is gazetteers, which I think are the most underutilized resource out there among North American researchers who are trying to trace their Polish ancestry. Gazetteers play an important role in the process of locating records from Poland for one’s family, a process which involves three steps:

  1. Use U.S. records to gather evidence for the name and location of your ancestral village.
  2. Use one or more gazetteers to identify the parish and/or registry office that served that village. This part is key, because records were not created in each individual village, they were created at higher administrative levels, e.g. parish, powiat (county), or province.
  3. Identify the repositories for those records. Vital records from parishes or registry offices are typically found in four places:
    1. the parish archives
    2. the local registry office
    3. the diocesan archive
    4. the regional state archive. 

The first step of this three-step process is described in more detail here, so today I’d like to use Mike’s question as a opportunity to examine Step Two more closely.

Choosing a Gazetteer

There are essentially two types of gazetteers for Polish genealogy: phonetic gazetteers, and period gazetteers. Phonetic gazetteers are those which offer some leeway in terms of spelling, and are useful when attempting to identify a place whose name was more or less mangled in the source document. How do you know if the place name was mangled or not? The Google Test will usually tell you that: do an internet search on the place name as it’s spelled in the source document, and see what turns up. If places with that name exist, then you know it’s a valid spelling. If nothing shows up, then a phonetic gazetteer can help you make educated guesses about what the place name should be.

There are two phonetic gazetteers that I use regularly, the JewishGen Gazetteer and the Baza Miejscowości Kresowych [Database of Towns in the Kresy]. The latter is useful if you suspect that your village was located in the Kresy Wschodnie—the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic (interwar Poland), which was excluded from the borders of Poland after World War II and became part of Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania. (For a brief overview of Polish border changes, see here.) The JewishGen Gazetteer is more generally useful, since it includes locations throughout Central Europe. Both gazetteers will allow you to input a misspelled place name, and will return possible phonetic matches, based on various Soundex options.

Period gazetteers were published in a particular time period, and are useful for determining the administrative assignments of a particular location during that time. Administrative assignments include the gubernia [governorate or province), powiat or kreis (county), smaller administrative divisions such as gmina or gemeinde (an administrative level similar to a township, consisting of a number of small villages), as well as local parishes or religious communities, all of which are important to know because the source documents we need for genealogical research were created at these various administrative levels. Some examples of period gazetteers are the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries], which was published between 1880–1902; the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, Volumes I and II, an index of places in the Kingdom of Poland (i.e. Russian Poland), published in 1877; the Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, which is useful for Polish places that were previously located in Germany; and the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, [Index of Towns in the Republic of Poland] which was published circa 1933. In addition to these, there are some gazetteer databases such as Kartenmeister (for Eastprussia, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia) and the Gesher Galicia Town Locator, that contain information extracted from historical sources, but which don’t link directly to the original source material for each entry.

You’ll probably find that some gazetteers are easier to use than others, especially if your foreign-language skills are limited. Many of the search engines for the period gazetteers online will require you to know the exact spelling of the place name, including diacritics. It’s also important to realize that no gazetteer is perfect. Errors exist in (probably) all of them, so you may want to use more than one gazetteer to cross-check the information you find, perhaps in conjunction with a good internet search. (When searching the internet, try Wikipedia.pl for information, as you’re more likely to find articles about small Polish villages written in Polish, rather than English. Despite these caveats, gazetteers are an ideal starting point for locating information about a place. A more complete list of useful gazetteers, with a brief explanation of each, can be found here.

Using a Gazetteer

Kartenmeister

Now let’s see how we can use gazetteers to help Mike determine where records would have been kept for villagers living in “Lednogora.” In this case, his place name passes the Google Test, as there is a place in Poland today called Lednogóra. This means that we don’t need to utilize a phonetic gazetteer, so we can move on to identifying the correct parish and registry office for this location. Since Lednogóra was in the Prussian partition, the first gazetteer I’d consult would be Kartenmeister. Searching for “Lednogora” (diacritics not required) in the “Polish City Name/Ortsname” category produces a number of matches, but drilling down in the results reveals that all of these are alternate names or spellings for the same place, which was previously known as Lettberg (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Search result from Kartenmeister for Lednogora.

Mike mentioned that his ancestors from Lednogóra were Catholic, and this fact is also very important. Civil registration began in Prussia in 1874, but prior to that, church records were recognized as legal documents. As good genealogists, we want to leave no stone unturned, so our initial research plan should include examination of both the Catholic church records and the civil records. Kartenmeister informs us that circa 1905, there were two parishes to which parts of this village were assigned, Dziekanowitze, which is presently known as Dziekanowice, and Wenglewo, which is Węglewo. This situation of having two parish assignments is somewhat unusual, but not unheard of, and it may be that further research into the history of the village reveals some explanation. The entry also notes that the civil registry office was located in Libau/Łubowo. Therefore, Łubowo, Węglewo, and Dziekanowice, not Lednogóra, are the places that one would seek in Geneteka, BaSIA, the Poznań Project, etc. 

The Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs

You could also check the Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs [Meyer’s Gazetteer and Directory of the German Empire] rather than Kartenmeister, in order to identify the parish. A search for “Lednogora” produces a brief entry that directs one to the entry for Lettberg. but it should be noted that this trick does not always work, as this gazetteer typically requires one to search according to the German place names. There are a few different websites that can help with determining former German names of places in Poland today, including this index by Anna Sluszkiewicz, this list, and this additional list, for places in East Prussia, and it might be worthwhile to bookmark them. However, none of these lists are complete, and in this case, none of them are especially helpful since they don’t include Lednogóra. This is where Kartenmeister really shines, since it permits searching according to either the Polish or German place name, depending on what you find in your source documents. The Meyers search results are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Search result from Meyers for Lettberg/Lednogora.

The Meyers gazetteer offers two especially nice features which can be accessed from the menu bar at the top, and are circled in red in this image. The first is the Maps feature, which pinpoints the location on an old historical map (Figure 3). As an added bonus, you can use the “Toggle Historical Map” feature to vary the transparency between the historical map and the modern map. Better still, there’s an option to select administrative jurisdictions, surrounding Standesämter (civil registry offices), Catholic parishes, Protestant parishes, and Jewish synagogues, and any or all of those will be pinpointed on the map for you.

Figure 3: Historical map from the Meyers gazetteer showing Lettburg/Lednogóra and the location of local Catholic parishes (yellow pins marked with “C”) and registry offices (red pin marked with “R”).

Similarly, the “Ecclesiastical” tab will display a list of parishes in tabular form, indicating approximate distance in miles from each parish to the target location (Figure 4). Common sense would suggest that the closest parish was always the one to which a village was assigned, but there are exceptions to every rule, including this present example.

Figure 4: Ecclesiastical assignments for the village of Lettberg/Lednogóra from the Meyers gazetteer.

The Meyers site will often include information about the parish assignment for a village as it’s suggested by the catalog entries in FamilySearch. However, some errors may exist, as in this case, since the Meyers entry correctly states that the Catholic parish for Lednogóra was Wenglewo/Węglewo, but omits the fact that this village was assigned in part to Dziekanowitze/Dziekanowice as well, as evidenced by the “Notes” in the FamilySearch catalog entry for Dziekanowice. (This oversight in the Meyers gazetteer website was probably caused by the historical use of two spellings for the village name, Lednagóra and Lednogóra.)

The Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego

The granddaddy of all Polish gazetteers is the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries], published between 1880–1902. The Słownik geograficzny is renowned for its incredible size—15 volumes— and the wealth of historical information it provides for many of the entries. The entire publication is now searchable online, and you must use Polish spellings with diacritics when you search. In this case, the entry for Lednogóra refers you to the entry for Lednagóra, which suggests that this latter spelling may have been more prevalent in the late 19th century, although the former spelling is the one used today.

Unfortunately, the Słownik may be a bit off-putting for researchers not fluent in Polish, as the entries are filled with abbreviations as well as archaic terms for land measurement, social status, legal arrangements (e.g. krowa żelazna) and more. Fear not, however, because resources are available to assist. The Polish Genealogical Society of America offers a dictionary of unfamiliar terms encountered in the SGKP, a list of commonly-used abbreviations, some translated entries, and more. Similar resources are offered at the Polish Roots website, including a different set of translated entries, located in the drop-down menu under “Geography and Maps.” Armed with these tools, you’ll be able to discover that “krowa żelazna” was an arrangement in which a cow was fed and kept by its owner, while its milk was donated to another designated party. Who knew?

Despite the relatively lengthy entry for Lednagóra provided by the Słownik geograficzny, there is no mention of the reason why the village was divided between two Catholic parishes, nor, in fact, is there any reference to the parish for the village at all. This underscores the importance of checking multiple gazetteers in the course of one’s research: sometimes you just might strike out with the first one you check, but that’s no reason to give up. A more typical entry from the Słownik which indicates the parish is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Entry from the Słownik geograficzny for the village of Kuznocin, which describes two unique places called Kuznocin. The first was located in powiat sochaczewski (Sochaczew County), gmina Kozłów Biskupi, and belonged to the parish in Sochaczew, and the second was in powiat piotrkowski (Piotrków County), gmina Bogusławice, and belonged to the parish in Wolbórz.

The Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej

One final gazetteer I want to mention today is the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z oznaczeniem terytorjalnie im właściwych władz i urzędów oraz urządzeń komunikacyjnych (Index of place names of the Republic of Poland with corresponding governmental agencies and offices, including communication facilities), published circa 1933. This gazetteer is especially useful for identifying places that were located in the Kresy Wschodnie, but are presently located in Belarus, Lithuania, or Ukraine. However, it is also obviously useful for obtaining information about places located anywhere within the borders of Poland between the World Wars, as in this example with Lednogóra (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Entries from the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej for Lednogóra.

One advantage of this gazetteer is its ease of use, thanks to the simple columnar format. The handful of abbreviations which it employs are defined on page 24 of the digital version, within the introduction. From this, we can tell that the “st. kol.” in the top entry for Lednogóra refers to the stacja kolejowa (train station) which was located in Lednogóra, as opposed to the wieś (village) of Lednogóra itself. As one might expect, both the train station and the village of Lednogóra were noted to be located in gmina Lednogóra, the powiat (county) of Gniezno, and the województwo (voivodeship or province) of Poznań. Besides the parish information provided in the last column, these first three columns are the most useful from a genealogical perspective, since it was not uncommon for our immigrant ancestors to reference a larger administrative division (e.g. Gniezno or Poznań) in response to the question, “Where were you born?” In this particular gazetteer, the only Roman Catholic parish (denoted with r) indicated for villagers of Lednogóra is Dziekanowice, suggesting that the village was no longer divided between the parishes of Dziekanowice and Węglewo by 1933. There was a Lutheran parish (denoted with e for ewangielicka) located within the village of Lednogóra itself, which corroborates information found in Kartenmeister and Meyers.

Hopefully this example has illustrated how gazetteers take the guesswork out of finding vital records for your Polish ancestors. With so many great gazetteers readily available online, there’s no need to wonder which local parish might hold the records for your ancestral village, nor will you be puzzled as to why an immigrant from Lednogóra might have said he was from Gniezno or Poznań on various documents. Although this is by no means a complete discussion of every gazetteer that might be useful to Polish research, nor even of every gazetteer that’s useful to those researching Prussian Poles, I hope it’s enough to convince you to add some gazetteers to your genealogical toolbox and use them regularly. In my next post, I’ll walk through Step 3 of the process of finding vital records for one’s Polish ancestors: identifying repositories for records from the parish and registry office which served one’s ancestral village.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

50+ Useful Websites for Polish Genealogy

“Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, and warm woolen mittens….”  Like Maria in The Sound of Music, we all have lists of our favorite things.  For me, there are quite a few Polish genealogy websites that are on my list of favorite things.  With that in mind, and with Christmas right around the corner, here are some of my favorite online resources for Polish genealogy.  Some of these bear futher mention in future blog posts, and I’ll probably get around to discussing them in greater detail at some point.  For now, give it a look, maybe you’ll find something new that will help with your research. (And in case you were wondering, I’m calling it “50+” because some of the links are to related sites, so number them as you wish.) Happy hunting!

Maps, Phonetic Gazetteers, and Period Gazetteers:                            

Jewish Gen Gazetteer (www.jewishgen.org/communities/loctown.asp):

  • An indispensable Soundex-type (phonetic) gazetteer for identifying villages for which the name is spelled incorrectly on a U.S. document. For more hits, try using the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex, rather than Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching.

Kresy Gazetteer (http://www.kami.net.pl/kresy/):

  • This is a fantastic site for determining parish for villages in the eastern border regions (Kresy) that formerly belonged to Poland (Second Polish Republic) but are now located in western Ukraine, western Belarus, and southeastern Lithuania.
  • Soundex-style allows you to search without knowing the exact spelling of the place name, if you select “similar” (Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex) or “rough” as your search method.

Mapa.szukacz.pl (http://mapa.szukacz.pl/):

  • Does not show parish for a village, but does show current administrative divisions including the gmina (useful if you want to write to the USC for a record less than 100 years old).
  • Only shows villages within current borders of Poland.
  • Polish diacritics don’t matter (i.e. a search for “lodz” will give you “Łódź”.)
  • Advanced search allows you to search within a specific Voivodeship; useful when searching for places like “Nowa Wieś.”

Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (http://dir.icm.edu.pl/Slownik_geograficzny/):

  • Coverage includes all localities in the former Polish provinces of Russia, most localities in the former Austrian province of Galicia (now divided between Poland and the Ukraine), Belorussian provinces of the Russian Empire (now in the Republic of Belarus), and also contains significant localities in other Slavic and eastern European nations; Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. While the information is a bit less comprehensive, localities from the provinces of Poznan, West Prussia, East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania are also covered.
  • Published between 1880-1902 in 15 volumes.
  • Contains information on parishes, history, population, etc.
  • Abbreviations are common; assistance can be found at PGSA website (below)
  • Must use proper Polish diacritics (i.e. a search for “lodz” will yield no result, but a search for “Łódź” will give multiple hits)

PGSA Translated Słownik geograficzny entries (http://pgsa.org/polish-history/translated-descriptions-of-polish-villages-and-provinces/ and related pages, http://pgsa.org/polish-history/translated-descriptions-of-polish-villages-and-provinces/glossary-of-unfamiliar-terms/, etc.:

  • Defines abbreviations and explains historical context for Słownik entries; also offers English translations for a limited number of villages.

Polish Roots Translated SGKP entries (https://www.polishroots.com/GeographyMaps/SlownikGeograficzny?PageId=61):

  • Similar to the above site, but different coverage. To access translated entries, hover cursor over “Geography & Maps” option in menu bar at the top of the page, then select a letter of the alphabet to view translated entries for places in the Słownik beginning with that letter.

Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego (https://www.sbc.org.pl/dlibra/publication/11404/edition/10794/content?ref=desc for Volume 1 and https://www.sbc.org.pl/dlibra/show-content/publication/edition/10795?id=10795 for Volume 2):

  • Will need to install a Deja Vu reader onto your computer to read these files. Follow instructions at website for downloading (the site will prompt you) or you can download it here.  Running the most current version of Java is also important. Easy-to-read, tabular format shows name of village, gubernia/governate, powiat/county, gmina/township, parafia/parish, as well as sąd pokoju/courthouse, and poczta/post office.
  • Published in 1877.
  • Includes only the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland, or “Russian Poland”) – not Galicia or Prussian Poland.

Tabella of the Kingdom of Poland (Tabella miast, wsi, osad Królestwa Polskiego z wyrażeniem ich położenia i ludności alfabetycznie ułożona w Biórze Kommissyi Rządowey Spraw Wewnętrznych i Policyi; Volume 1:  http://bc.wbp.lublin.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=7612&from=pubstats and Volume 2: http://www.wbc.poznan.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=110117)

  • The Tabella is similar to the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego in that it covers the same territory (Russian Poland). However, it was published 50 years earlier, in 1827, so may be of value if you need to focus on that earlier time period.

Kartenmeister (http://www.kartenmeister.com/preview/databaseuwe.asp):

  • Includes Eastprussia, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia.
  • Flexible search parameters; can search by German or Polish name of village, or use other methods.
  • Catholic or Evangelical parish for the village is usually included in search results.

Gesher Galicia Town Locator (http://www.geshergalicia.org/galician-town-locator/):

  • If you’ve got the correct spelling of a town, this is a great resource because it includes places of worship for people from all towns and villages in Galicia as of 1900.

Genealogische Orts-Verzeichnis (GOV), The Historic Gazetteer (http://gov.genealogy.net/search/index):

  • This German-language database includes locations around the world. It searches for the character string typed in the search box (truncate by leaving off as many letters as desired). The results list includes the type of location, the higher level jurisdictions, and the current postal code, and includes links to additional articles about this place for further reading.

Meyers gazetteer (https://www.meyersgaz.org/):

  • This is an online, searchable version of the popular Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs The goal of the Meyer’s compilers was to list every place name in the German Empire (1871-1918). It gives the location, i.e. the state and other jurisdictions, where the civil registry office was and parishes if that town had them. It also gives lots of other information about each place. Click the “Ecclesiastical” link in the menu bar at the top to see the distance in miles from the target location to the nearest Catholic, Protestant and Jewish places of worship.

Brian Lenius’s Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia (http://www.lenius.ca/gazetteerorder/gazetteerorderform.htm ):

  • Not an online resource, but this gazetteer is available in print from the author, and is considered to be a superlative resource for those with ancestors from Galicia.

Bigo’s Skorowidz of Galicia, 1914 (Najnowszy skorowidz wszystkich miejscowości z przysiółkami w Królestwie Galicyi, Wielkiem Księstwie Krakowskiem i Księstwie Bukowińskiem z uwzględnieniem wszystkich dotąd zaszłych zmian terytoryalnych kraju) (https://www.pbc.rzeszow.pl/dlibra/publication/5332/edition/4909/content?ref=desc):

  • Like the Skorowidz of 1877, you need a Deja Vu reader to view these files.
  • Tabular format includes columns for village name, the county and district council, district court and tax office, parish office, population, post office, klm distance (from the post office), telegraph office, klm distance (from the telegraph office), and the owner of the “Major estate” in a village, as opposed to the owners of the “minor estates” (commoners).
  • Roman Catholic parishes are distinguished from Greek Catholic by the use of “ł” (abbreviation for “łaciński,”) or “gr” (abbreviation for “grecki”) next to the name of the parish that served that locality. The word “loco” means that there was a parish within that location.

Index of Place Names in the Republic of Poland (Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej) (http://www.wbc.poznan.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=12786&from=publication ):

  • Like the Skorowidz of 1877, you need a Deja Vu reader to view these files.
  • Published circa 1933, it covers locations that were within the borders of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939).
  • Tabular format again, includes villages in the eastern border regions (Kresy) that formerly belonged to Poland but are now located in western Ukraine, western Belarus, and southeastern Lithuania.

3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary (http://lazarus.elte.hu/hun/digkonyv/topo/3felmeres.htm):

  • Contrary to what the name suggests, maps include places that were in Russian Poland and Prussian Poland.
  • Individual maps can be downloaded by right-clicking on them.
  • 1:200,000 scale resolution shows most small villages.
  • Place names may be in Polish or German.
  • Does not cover the northern third (approximately) of modern Poland.

Map Archive of Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny 1919 – 1939 (http://www.mapywig.org/):

  • Mapywig is a treasure-trove of maps in a variety of different scales, time periods, and resolutions.
  • Maps might be in Polish, German or Russian.
  • An overview (in English) can be found here.
  • Clicking on a map quadrant in the index will take you to a page showing all the maps available for that quadrant, which vary in resolution and date of map.
  • Offers full coverage of northern Poland, unlike the maps at the Lazarus site (above).

Mapire:  Historical Maps of the Hapsburg Empire (http://mapire.eu/en/):

  • This is a really fun site if you have ancestors from Galicia.  It includes maps from the first, second and third military surveys of the Austrian Empire and allows you to overlay these maps with modern maps and vary the transparency between the two.

Sources for locating vital records in Poland:

Note:  Sites marked with * are primary sources, at which actual images of the records can be obtained.  Sites marked with § are indexes for records; copies of the records themselves must be obtained from another source.

*LDS FHL microfilms (https://familysearch.org/catalog-search):

  • Not an online source for records, but all researchers should be aware of this option nonetheless. Check back regularly — the FHL has been digitizing more and more of their microfilms and changes are NOT reflected on their “Poland Research” page (below). You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that some of your favorite microfilms are now online.

*§Family Search digitized or indexed collections for Poland: (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/location/1927187):

  • Collections exist for Roman Catholic dioceses of Lublin, Radom, Częstochowa, and Gliwice, with images; index-only records exist for the Diocese of Tarnów.  There’s also a collection of curiously-named “Evangelical” Church records. 1700-2005, that not only includes Baptist and Lutheran records but also Greek Catholic records from Sulmice in the Lublin province.

*Szukajwarchiwach, “Search the Archives” (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/):

  • Use proper Polish diacritics for best results.  Often you’ll get results without them, and it may be an old bug that has since been fixed, but if you get no results without diacritics, repeat the search with them.
  • For best results, search according to parish or gmina name rather than village name. The exception for this is for records from Galicia/Austrian Poland, where separate books were kept for each village within a parish, so you may find villages indexed individually.
  • Check box for “Vital records and civil registers” to limit search results.
  • Detailed instructions for using (with screen shots!) can be found at https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/a/af/Polish_State_Archives.pdf

*Metryki.GenBaza (http://metryki.genbaza.pl/):

  • Must create an account at http://genpol.com/ first in order to access records, and must log in each time.
  • Some overlap with Metryki.Genealodzy.pl in terms of records collections, but contains many parishes not found elsewhere online.
  • Use of site in Polish is recommended; portions of site are not usable in English (am error message will result — although again, this might be an old bug that has since been fixed, as I haven’t had this happen in a while).

*§Genealodzy.pl websites:  Geneszukacz, Geneteka, Metryki, Poczekalnia (http://genealodzy.pl/):

Geneteka: http://geneteka.genealodzy.pl/

  • Surname-indexed records searchable by individual parish or entire province.
  • Can input a second surname to find all children of a given couple; can also limit range of years.
  • Polish diacritics not important, and searches for the masculine version of a surname will return results for both genders (i.e. “Zielinski” à Zieliński and Zielińska).
  • Can be helpful if only some information about an ancestors’ birthplace (e.g. county) is known, but not the precise location; however, only a small fraction of Polish parishes are indexed to date, so there is a risk of chasing down the wrong ancestors if Geneteka is used in an attempt to side-step preliminary research in U.S. documents.
  • Some indexed records are linked to scans of documents within the Metryki.Genealodzy.pl collection or at Szukajwarchiwach.

*Metryki.Genealodzy.pl: http://metryki.genealodzy.pl/

  • More than just a repository of scans for records indexed at Geneteka, Metryki often contains different parishes or different ranges of years for parishes indexed on Geneteka.  See this post for more information.

*Poczekalnia (“Waiting Room”): http://poczekalnia.genealodzy.pl/

  • Scans waiting to be checked and added to Metryki. Click on “Lista” or “Galeria” to get to the directory of parish records, grouped according to the archive from which they were obtained.

*AGAD (Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie, Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw): http://www.agad.gov.pl/inwentarze/testy.html

  • Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant records from parts of Eastern Poland which are now located in Ukraine.

*Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu:  http://www.przemysl.ap.gov.pl/skany/

  • Has Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic records from parishes in the Przemyśl area. Most of these records are also available from Szukajwarchiwarch, but there are a few parishes for which records are only online here, and NOT at that site as well.

*State Archive in Olsztyn: http://www.olsztyn.ap.gov.pl/apnet/wybierz.php

  • Has vital records from some villages in this area formerly located in East Prussia; click “Skan Digitalizacja,” and then use the drop-down menu under “Nazwa zespołu” (name of the collection) to find a town based on current Polish names, or use “Nazwa oryginala” to look up record sets based on former German names.

*State Archive in Szczecin: http://www.szczecin.ap.gov.pl/iCmsModuleArchPublic/showDocuments/nrap/65

  • Has vital records from some villages in this area formerly located in the Prussian province of Pomerania. Scroll down the page to see the available locations, listed in the column on the left.

*Civil Registry Office in Wrocław/Standesamt Breslau:  http://ahnenforscher.pl/?page_id=120

  • Has vital records for Wrocław (Breslau in German) from 1889-1911
  • Viewing records requires the installation of the DjVu plug-in, so the site works best with Internet Explorer and appears to be incompatible with some versions of Google Chrome (like mine).

*Archion: https://www.archion.de/de/browse/?no_cache=1

  • Has Lutheran church records from parishes located in the former German provinces of Posen, West Prussia, East Prussia and Silesia, with over 20 million scans online.
  • Searching is free, but a subscription is required to access scans.

*Matricula: http://data.matricula-online.eu/en/polen/breslau/

  • Has Lutheran church records for four places in Lower Silesian Voivodeship (województwo dolnośląskie), Siedlęcin/Boberröhrsdorf in Jelenia Góra County, 1748-1914; Sobieszów/Hermsdorf in Jelenia Góra County, 1742-1916; St. Elizabeth’s Church in Wrocław, 1750-1945; and St. Bernhard’s Church in Wrocław, 1812-1906.

*Epaveldas:  http://www.epaveldas.lt/vbspi/lang.do?language=lt

  • Has vital records for locations that are in present-day Lithuania.

*Genealogy in the Archive:  https://www.genealogiawarchiwach.pl/

  • Has vital records for locations in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Pomorskie, Wielkopolskie, and Warmińsko-Mazurskie provinces.  A relative newcomer to the Polish vital records scene, this site is somewhat infamous for its awkward and slow user interface.  However, attempts are being made to resolve some of these issues, so there’s hope.

*Górnośląskie Towarszystwo Genealogiczne (Upper Silesian Genealogical Society):   http://siliusradicum.pl/ksiegi-metrykalne/

  • Has some Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish vital records for some locations in Upper Silesia; original records are held by the State Archive in Katowice.
  • Records can be browsed online via Dropbox.

BaSIA (Baza Systemu Indeksacji Archiwalnej, Database of Archival Indexing System): http://www.basia.famula.pl/en/

  • Has indexed vital records (births, marriages and deaths) from the Poznan area, some linked directly to scans from the Polish State Archives
  • Extended search allows you to restrict search to a give range of years, type of document, distance from a specified location.
  • Polish diacritics not important.
  • One can create an account, register surnames of interest, and they will e-mail you when new records for those surnames are added.
  • To view scans, go to archive information in the results column on the right, and click on the line below the archive name that has code numbers and the word “scan.”

*§Lubgens:  http://lubgens.eu/portal.php

  • Has indexed vital records for Lublin area, many with scans attached.
  • Polish diacritics don’t matter (i.e. “Zielinski” yields same result as “Zieliński”) BUT masculine or feminine version of surname DOES matter (i.e. “Zielinski” yields different results from “Zielinska”).

*§Słupca Genealogy:  http://slupcagenealogy.com/

  • Indexed records from parishes in Słupca and Kalisz counties; Jewish records recently added for Słupca.
  • Many results linked to scans from the Polish State Archives.

§Pomeranian Genealogical Society database: http://www.ptg.gda.pl/

  • Indexed civil and church vital records from Pomerania.
  • Go to “PomGenBase” in menu bar at the top of the page and then select “Search PomGenBase” followed by the type of records you wish to search. Alternatively, select “Metrical Book Indexes” followed by “Parish and Registry Offices” to see the full list of parishes and years currently indexed.
  • Polish diacritics DO matter IF you choose “search directly” (i.e. “Wolinski” yields different results than “Woliński”). Can use wildcard characters (“?” replaces one letter, “*” replaces more than one) if you’re not certain of the spelling.

§Poznan Marriage Project: http://poznan-project.psnc.pl/

  • Indexed marriage records from the Poznan region, 1800-1899, currently about 80% complete.
  • One may request a copy of a single record by clicking “original record” and requesting it from the archive, OR it may be requested from the site’s creator, Lukasz Bielecki, with a donation to the project. However, clicking the parish name in which the record was found will yield a list of LDS microfilms for that parish, and by searching these one is likely to find not only that marriage, but also many other vital records for one’s family.

§Katalog Szlachty: http://www.katalogszlachty.com/

  • Click on “indeksy” in menu at left, and then on “indeksy” again to reach the list of indexed parishes.
  • Records for Szlachta (noblemen), primarily from northeastern Poland.

§Szpejankowski and Szpejankowski Family Website: http://szpejankowski.eu/

  • Has indexed vital records for the Dobrzyń region of Poland.

§SGGEE Databases: https://www.sggee.org/research/PublicDatabases.html

  • Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe; public database includes indexed Lutheran vital records for select parishes in Volhynia, Kiev and Podolia, and Lublin.

*§Metryki Wołyń: http://wolyn-metryki.pl/joomla/index.php

  • Has indexed church and civil vital records from 19th century Wołyń/Volhynia (eastern Poland/Belarus/Ukraine).  English-language search portal yields results that are linked to scans at the AGAD site.  Polish diacritics are not required to search this site.

*§Indexed records from Zieluń parish: 

http://www.zielun.pl/metryki.php?parafia=zielun&metryki=b&year=1900

  • Has indexed birth, marriage and death records from Zieluń parish in gmina Lubowidz, Mazowieckie province, from 1822-1912, linked to scans in Metryki. Note that the range of indexed years is broader at this site than what’s available on Geneteka. To navigate between births, marriages and deaths, click on the icons of the star (births), wedding rings (marriages), and cross (deaths) located between the column with the years and the column with the names.

§Jamiński Zespół Indeksacyjny (Jaminy Indexing Team): http://jzi.org.pl/

  • This group is indexing records for the parishes of Jaminy, Krasnybór, Sztabin, Bargłów Kościelny, and others in Augustów county, Podlaskie. The search form for their indexes is found here: http://search.jzi.org.pl/geneo/.

§Databases of the State Archive in Płock: http://plock.ap.gov.pl/p,136,geneaa

  • Has indexed vital records for several Lutheran and Roman Catholic parishes in the Płock area (under “Genea”).

§Częstochowa Genealogical Society database: http://www.genealodzy.czestochowa.pl/index.php

  • Has indexed vital records from a number of parishes in the Częstochowa area.
  • Must create an account in order to search records.

§Strony o Wołyniu Przed Wojennym (Volhynia Before the War): http://wolyn.ovh.org/

  • Pre-WWII era genealogical data for individuals living in the Volhynia region (which straddles eastern Poland, Belarus and Ukraine), grouped by village name.
  • Click on “Alfabetyczny spis miejscowości” at the top of the page for an alphabetical list of villages covered; each listing provides contact information to connect with others researching those families.

§Poland GenWeb Archives: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~polwgw/polandarchives.html

  • Assorted records transcriptions from parishes across Poland.

§Church Registers of Tyniec Mały/Klein Tinz: http://frontiernet.net/~michael6/tinz/

  • Data from Catholic parish registers; village is in Wrocław County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship.

Polish State Archives’ PRADZIAD database search portal:  http://baza.archiwa.gov.pl/sezam/pradziad.php?l=en

  • Enter a parish or gmina/township name for a complete list of the vital records holdings of the Polish State Archives for that location. If records are found, you can write or e-mail the archive to request a search of records for a particular record or records.  See this post on writing to archives in Poland.

Catalog of Metrics in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus:  http://metrics.tilda.ws/  

  • This site is a great finding aid for vital records in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, organized by geographic region within each country, with links to archives, gazetteers (in Russian) and other resources.

FBPGG site: https://sites.google.com/view/polishgenealogygroup/polish-archives-in-a-nutshell?authuser=0

  • The “Internet Tools” list at this site includes a comprehensive collection of web links for Polish genealogy. There is also a helpful collection of addresses for civil and church archives in Poland.

Cyndi’s List, Poland: https://www.cyndislist.com/poland/ 

  • An additional collection of web links for Polish genealogy.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016, updated January 2021.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Have you ever known something about your family for a fact, yet discovered through research that it’s just not true after all?  I’ve had this experience very recently, and it came about as a result of this blog post.  Recently, my mother-in-law’s cousin shared with me this photograph (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Konczal Fabiszewski family circa 1906 lower resolution 001He wondered if I might have any insight into who the people were.  I was excited to see the photo, and believed I could tell him exactly who these people were because Grandma Barth showed me this same photo before she died, and filled me in. I thought this photo would be a nice subject for a blog post, so I started to gather a bit of background documentation to provide some insight into the lives of the people shown here.  In the process,  I’ve discovered that things aren’t really what they seemed, and maybe — just maybe — Grandma might have been wrong about a thing or two.

I admit that I haven’t done much research with Grandma’s family.  She had accumulated so much information on her own, including where her family had come from in Poland, and preliminary research showed her information to be pretty accurate.  So it was easy to accept all her information as fact, and put this on the back burner while working on lines that seemed more challenging.  By way of background, Grandma Barth’s parents were Albert Drajem and Mary Kantowska, both born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants.  Mary Drajem, Grandma’s mother, was the fourth of seven children born to John Kantowski and Mary (née Kończal) Kantowska, who came to Buffalo from Łabiszyn, a small town in what is now Żnin County in the  Kujawsko-Pomorskie province of Poland, but what was at that time part of the Prussian Empire.  According to Grandma Barth, her maternal grandmother, Mary Kantowska, had several siblings who also eventually settled in Buffalo:  a brother, John Kończal, and sisters Katherine and Josephine.  Grandma also reported that Katherine married Constantine Fabiszewski and had seven sons, while Josephine married Teofil Mroziński, and had four children.  It is the Fabiszewski family —  Constantine, Katherine, their children, and an old woman, whom we’ll discuss more closely in a moment — who are shown in this photograph.

The Fabiszewski Family of Buffalo, New York

Figure 2 shows the Fabiszewski family in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census:

Figure 2:  Extract of 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Buffalo, New York, showing the Constantine Fabiszewski family:

Fabiszewski family 1910 census

Based on their heights in this photograph, it seems logical to infer that the oldest son, Peter, is standing in the back row, behind his father, with his brother Casimir to the left in the photo, and Leon to the left again, behind the old woman.  The fourth-oldest son, Frank, appears to the be boy holding the candle and prayer book, both of which suggest that this portrait was taken on the occasion of his First Communion.  The very youngest son, Stanislaus, is standing between his parents, with Joseph and Anthony to the left in the photo of the old woman.  So who is the old woman?

The Mysterious Anna (née WoźniakKończal

Grandma Barth told me that this woman was her own great-grandmother, that her name was Anna (née WoźniakKończal, and that she was the mother of Katherine Fabiszewski, John Kończal, Josephine (née Kończal) Mroziński, and Mary (née Kończal) Kantowska (Grandma’s grandma).  Grandma remembered her vividly, even though Grandma was only six years old when Anna died in 1922.  She’s buried in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, whose records indicate that she was 60 when she died,conflicting with Grandma’s assertion that her great-grandmother died at the age of 70.  In 1920, per both Grandma and the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Anna was living with the family of her daughter Mary Kantowski, in the same house as Grandma Barth’s family (Figure 3):

Figure 3:  Extract of 192o U.S. Federal Census for Buffalo, New York, showing the Kantowski and Drajem families at 221 Clark Street.  Anna Konczal is noted as mother-in-law to head of household, John Kantowski. 1920 Census Kantowski family

Grandma Barth appears in this census as “Jennie,” age 3 years 8 months.  The census indicates that Anna is a 70-year-old widow (Grandma wins on the age question!) and a resident alien who immigrated in 1891.  This immigration year is in contrast to her daughter Mary, who immigrated in 1886 with her husband John.

That 1891 immigration year gave me a good lead in finding her passenger manifest,2 which shows Anna and daughter Josepha Konszal (sic) arriving at the Port of New York on 19 November 1892 (Figure 4).

Figure 4:  Passenger manifestfor Anna and Josepha Konszal (sic), 19 November 1892:Konszal passenger manifest 1892

 

Anna is 40 here and Josepha is 16, which is consistent with their dates of birth from other sources.  They’re from “Clotildowo, Germany,” which fits nicely with the village of Klotyldowo, a village which belonged to the Catholic parish, in Łabiszyn.  They’re headed to Buffalo, New York, which makes sense.  So we know that Anna came over with the then-single Józefa, but was living with her daughter Mary in 1920.  Where was Anna during those intervening years?

Well, ten years earlier, in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Anna Kończal  seems to be found living with her daughter, Józefa Mrozińska, and family (Figure 5):

Figure 5:  Extract from the 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Buffalo, New York, showing the Mroziński family.Teofil Mrozinski family 1910 census

Although we suspect immediately that this is really “our” Anna Kończal and not Teofil’s mother, there are a couple of problems.  Anna’s name is misrendered as “Kończak” instead of “Kończal,” and she is erroneously reported to be Teofil’s mother, and not his mother-in-law.  However, “Kończak” seems pretty close to “Kończal,” and her age and year of immigration match up nicely with the information for “our” Anna that was reported on the 1920 census.  Unfortunately, it can be argued that these latter facts might also be true for Teofil’s mother, so they don’t constitute irrefutable evidence that this Anna is his mother-in-law and not his mother.  Perhaps his mother remarried a man named Kończak after Teofil’s father died, so she was no longer “Mrs. Mrozińska” at the time of the census.  Fair enough.  So how do we resolve this problem?

Next stop, Pennsylvania

Well, Teofil and Josephine’s marriage record should tell us their parents’ names.  Where do well look for that record?  If you’ll notice, the final column on the right in Figure 4 indicates that the oldest two Mroziński children, Stanislaus and Casimir, were born in Pennsylvania, while the younger two were born in New York. Similarly, if you go back to Figure 1, you see that the oldest two Fabiszewski boys, Peter and Casimir, were also born in Pennsylvania.  These data suggest that both the Mrozińskis and the Fabiszewskis might have married in Pennsylvania, prior to the births of their children there.  Sure enough, I found records of marriage for both couples in Shamokin, PA.

The  Mrozińskis’ marriage record  (Figure 6) gave valuable information, but no surprises.

Figure 6:  Marriage certificate for Teofil Mroziński and Józefa Kończal, 1894.Teofil Mrozinski and Jozefa Konczal marriage 1894 crop

Both the bride and groom are from Prussia, consistent with the “German Polish” notation found on census records.  Teofil was living in Shamokin and working as a miner.  His parents were Andreas Mroziński and Rozalia Mrozińska (no maiden name provided).  Josephine was also living in Shamokin, working as a domestic, and her parents’ names are given as Franciszek and Annie Konczal [sic].  Taken together, these facts offer conclusive evidence that the “Anna Kończak” living with the Mroziński family in Buffalo in 1910 really is Teofil’s mother-in-law, and not his mother.

Will the Real Katherine Fabiszewski Please Stand Up?

However, the real surprise came with the marriage record for Josephine’s sister, Katherine, to Constantine (Konstanty, in Polish) Fabiszewski (Figure 7):

Figure 7:  Marriage certificate for Konstanty Fabiszewski and Katarzyna Kubiak, 1894.

Konstanty Fabiszewski and Katherine Konczal 1894 crop marked

Katherine’s name is given as Katarzyna Kubiak, not Kończal, and she’s the daughter of John and Agnieszka Kubiak!  What?  How can that be?  Grandma said that Katherine was sister to John, Mary and Josephine Kończal, and she’s been right about everything else so far!  How could Katherine be a Kubiak?  Could there be two Konstanty Fabiszewskis in Shamokin, both about the same age, both married to women named Katherine?  Well, stranger things have happened, but then where is the marriage record for Katherine Kończal? And didn’t Grandma say that her great-grandmother’s name was Anna (née WoźniakKończal, not Anna (née KubiakKończal?

At this point, I don’t have enough data to resolve this problem.  More work needs to be done. Grandma Barth has proven to be a very reliable source in the past, but this could very well be an instance in which she’s wrong.  I looked back to see where Grandma might have gotten the idea that the surname Woźniak was associated with this family, and found it in Mary Kantowska’s birth certificate, an official copy of which Grandma had carefully preserved (Figure 8):

Figure 8:  Official transcript from 1906 of Mary Kantowska’s 1891 baptismal record from St. Stanislaus Church, Buffalo, New York

Maria Kantowski 1891.jpg

This indicates that Mary Kantowska’s parents were, in fact, John Kantowski and Maria Kończal, and that her godparents were John Kończal and Anna Woźniak. John Kończal is likely to be Mary (née Kończal) Kantowska’s brother, whom Grandma mentioned among the known Kończal siblings. So Woźniaks might indeed be connected to the Kończal-Kantowski family, but this does not explain why Katherine, who was purportedly”née Kończal” Fabiszewska, is actually Katherine, née Kubiak, Fabiszewska.

The Poznań Project Weighs In

Some interesting insight is gained by search results from the Poznań Project. A search for Franciszek Kończal and Anna, no surname specified — which are the names reported for Josephine’s parents on that marriage record — reveals the following (Figure 9):

Figure 9:  Extract of results from Extended Search in the Poznań Project for marriages between grooms with name Franciscus/Franz/Franciszek Konczal and brides named Anna.Franciscus Konczal and Anna Kubiak Poznan Project hit

Here we see Kubiak again, and in Łabiszyn, the home parish of Grandma’s Kończals.  Anna Kubiak’s age in this record suggests a birth year of 1844 –older than what we would expect based on U.S. records, which point to a birth year of 1850-1852, but within the ballpark.  Moreover, a search for Jan Kubiak and Agnieszka, no surname — the names reported for Katherine Fabiszewski’s parents — produces this hit (Figure 10):

Figure 10:  Extract of results from Extended Search in the Poznań Project for marriages between grooms with name Joannes/Jan/Johann Kubiak and brides named Agnes/Agnieszka.

Jan Kubiak and Agnes Konczal

Curiouser and curiouser!  Same parish, and it would seem that Katherine Fabiszewski’s mother was a Kończal.  Taken together, this might suggest a case of siblings marrying siblings — perhaps Joannes Kubiak and Anna Kubiak were siblings, and they married siblings Agnes Kończal and Franciscus Kończal.  The records from Łabiszyn and Buffalo will tell us for sure.

The Mysterious Anna (née Woźniak) (née Kubiak) Kończal

So where does this leave us?  Who IS the woman in the photo, after all?  Is she Grandma Barth’s great-grandmother, Anna (née Kubiak) Kończal?  If so, why is she in a portrait with the family of her probable niece, and not her daughter?  Was Grandma mistaken, and this photo shows Katherine Fabiszewski and her family with her own mother, Agnes (née Kończal) Kubiak?  It appears that Grandma was misinformed about Katherine Fabiszewski being a sister to her own mother, Mary — present data suggest that they were cousins, or perhaps double cousins, but not siblings.  Yet one wonders if it’s even possible that Grandma would misidentify her own great-grandmother in a family photo.  Like Grandma Barth, I was six when one of my great-grandmothers died, and I can easily pick her out in old family photos.  The very fact that this photograph was handed down in Grandma’s family, and not just in the Fabiszewski family, suggests that it was significant to both families, possibly due to the image of a shared great-grandmother.  Moreover, when Anna Kończal died in 1922, her daughter Mary Kantowska was 54, and her granddaughter Mary Drajem (Grandma Barth’s mother) was 31.  Surely they were the ones to pass this photo down to Grandma Barth, and they would have been able to correctly identify their own mother and grandmother.

There are two final bits of information that we can wring out of that 1910 census listing for Anna Kończal in Figure 4.  The “M1” in the column after age tells us that Anna Kończal was married once, and that she’s been married for twenty years.  The next two numbers tell us that she was the mother of six children, three of whom were still living at the time of the census. Starting with those numbers about Anna’s children, the fact that is says three children still living at the time of the census is significant — not four, Katherine, John, Mary and Josephine — as Grandma Barth recollected.  This would make sense if Grandma was wrong about Katherine Fabiszewska being one of the Kończal siblings.   The next bit, about the “M1/20” only adds to the confusion, however.  Josephine Mrozińska is reported to be 36 years old at the time of this 1910 census — making her 16 at the time of her mother’s wedding, if her mother’s only been married 20 years.  So the census-taker appears to have erred with at least some part of that story.  Either this is a second marriage for Anna, or she’s only been married once, but Josephine was born 16 years out of wedlock.

It’s hard to think of a single hypothetical scenario that would resolve all these conflicts in the data. I considered the fact that perhaps Anna Woźniak was married twice — first to a man named Kubiak, with whom she had Katherine, and then to Franciszek Kończal, with whom she had Josephine, John and Mary.  But if that were the case,then the mother’s name reported on Katherine Fabiszewska’s marriage record should be Anna, and not Agnieszka, and we would expect to see two marriage records for Anna in the Poznań Project.  It’s possible that mistakes were made in recording the census, and also possible (though it seems less likely) that a mistake was made in the marriage record.  Further research should be able to resolve these conflicts and reveal the full story.  In the meantime, we’re left with something of a mystery, and questions today where I thought I had answers yesterday.

Sources:

Note:  Where possible, links are provided to sources online.  Other sources are summarized below.  

1St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Cemetery (Buffalo, Erie, New York, USA) to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Phone Call, Inquired about a burial for Anna Konczal.  Was informed that she died on April 23, 1922 at age 60 and was buried April 26, 1922  in Sec. K, Lot 79, Grave 7.  Her funeral was at Corpus Christi Church and Urban Funeral Home.

2Anna Konszal, 19 Nov 1892; citing departure port Rotterdam, arrival port New York, ship name Werkendam, NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), accessed on 30 August 2016.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016