Please note: These tips were originally written as part of a daily series called the “Polish Genealogy Tip of the Day” which I wrote for the Polish Genealogy group on Facebook. I’m no longer offering this series currently, but this page contains the archive of all those previous tips. I’ll update it from time to time as I discover new sites or resources worthy of sharing, but updates will be sporadic. Since tips are arranged chronologically rather than by topic, the best way to find tips for a specific topic of interest might be to use “CTRL + F” (or “Command + F” on a Mac) to search for terms like “vital records,” “passenger manifest,” “translation,” “Galicia,” etc. Happy browsing!
From 25 September 2019
From 27 May 2018:
Many of us are disappointed by the disappearance of the popular Moikrewni site for searching geographic distribution of Polish surnames. The site was purchased by MyHeritage, which appears to have discontinued it, and plans for its return are unknown. However, a great site which serves the same purpose is Nazwiska Polskie. This site is actually better in many ways, because it allows you to drill down to find the number of people with a given surname who live in a particular village, and it also allows you to compare 2 surnames to see where both names are prominent. The site cautions that the numbers are approximate because the source data are from 10 years ago, and it’s unclear exactly what data they’re using. However, all of that was also true for Moikrewni, which was based on data from 2002, yet it was still useful. If you’re not comfortable with Polish, you can translate the site using Google Translate, it’s best to do that briefly, just to gain familiarity with the site, and then switch back to Polish, since Google will also attempt to translate place names.
From 7 May 2018:
I think most of you find this page via the Polish Genealogy group on Facebook, so this might be redundant. However, if you’ve arrived here via some other means, it’s worth noting that the group has created a very helpful webpage called Polish Archives in a Nutshell. This page summarizes information from archives in Poland, and includes links to each archive’s website, information about online digital collections and online indexed records from that archive, cost of scans, ordering instructions, and more. Since it’s a relatively new site, it’s not yet complete, but it’s being updated regularly, and the organizational concept can’t be beat. Check it out!
From 6 May 2018:
Here’s a really cool website that you might find worthy of further exploration. The site was created by Dennis.G. Bender of Canada and it serves to identify German settlements in the former Russian Empire, as well as in the Galicia region. Those of you researching in other areas of Poland besides Galicia might want to check out the list of Polish (Vistula) towns with German settlements as well. There’s a PDF on the home page at the right where you can search the list for your villages of interest. Historical names are provided in Polish and German, as well as current place names with GPS coordinates. Complete instructions for using the site are provided in the menu on the left. The spreadsheet of villages contains source information as well as some historical background (for example, primary religions practiced by inhabitants of a village, or a note about a particular village being absorbed by a neighboring village). A direct link to the map of German settlements in Galicia can be found here.
From 16 March 2018:
When it comes to translating vital records, records from Galicia (Austrian Poland) are among the simplest for most English-speakers. Records from Galicia are typically in a columnar format, and a relatively small amount of Latin is required to make sense of them. Matthew Bielawa’s HalGal site, which is a wonderful resource in general, offers some examples of column headings typically found in records from Galicia. He also provides a list of Latin words commonly found in these records, along with their English translations, and as an added bonus, if your ancestors were Ukrainian, there are examples of column headings in Cyrillic and a Ukrainian word list. FamilySearch offers another Latin word list here, and the Online Translation Aids document in the files contains even more Latin translation resources.
From 15 March 2018:
Group members who post translation requests for vital records written in Polish or Russian may be disappointed sometimes when a volunteer translator provides only the essentials, such as names and ages of key participants, dates, locations, names of godparents, witnesses, etc. You might look at such a record and think that, surely, there must be more information contained in the record, since it covers an entire paragraph (in the case of a birth or death record) or an entire page (for a marriage record). However, vital records created between 1808-1918 from the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland (“Russian Poland”) — and even later — are very formulaic, containing a lot of boilerplate language surrounding those essential elements provided by the translator. The prescribed format for records from 1808-1825 was very ornate (e.g. “the party of the first part,”) and I’m unaware of any good translation templates for these records that are online. The prescribed format was simplified in 1826, and numerous translation examples exist online for records using this format. Two very good sites that show examples of the Polish text alongside the English translation are this one, from the Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe, which uses Polish translation aids originally developed by Jack Bowman, and the FamilySearch Polish Civil Registration guide. The SGGEE site also provides assistance with Russian and German translations, and Zofia Federowicz developed some additional Russian translation models here. Further online translation aids are linked in this document from the group’s files (shared by the Genealogy Translations group). Of course, the very best translation guides for Polish, Russian, German and Latin documents are the four-volume “In Their Words” series of genealogical translation guides by William F. Hoffman and Jonathan D. Shea. Their Polish translation guide includes translated examples of those Napoleonic-format records created between 1808 and 1825, as well as pretty much every other type of document of genealogical significance that you’re likely to encounter in the course of Polish research. More information about these books can be obtained from the authors’ website.
From 14 March 2018:
When researching our ancestral parishes, we sometimes come across a town with more than one Catholic church. It’s often useful to determine which parish was the first to be established in a particular town or village. In Polish, the oldest or original parish in the town is called “fara” (from the German word “Pfarre,” meaning “parish”). Even if you don’t speak Polish, you can Google simple words like “parafia,” “fara,” and the name of the town where the parish is located. This will often lead you to parish websites with some history of the local parishes, for which you can obtain a rough translation via Google Translate. Another tool which can be useful when researching parishes in a particular area is this map, developed by Małgorzata Lissowska in collaboration with Krystyna Domańska-Bzdak and Alan Jakman, which depicts the location of Roman Catholic parishes in Poland today. Red pins indicate parishes already in existence prior to 1750, yellow pins indicate parishes built between 1751 and 1945, and blue pins mark parishes established since 1946. Please note that this map is not complete, but may nonetheless be useful in conjunction with internet research. Additionally, Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych (Catalog of Metrical Resources), is a helpful tool discussed previously, which summarizes information on parishes in Poland including links to databases containing indexed records for each parish where available. Finally, a graphic display of parishes for which scans are available in Metryki can be found here. While there is no single resource that identifies every parish that was ever in existence in Poland, it should be possible to research your area of interest quite thoroughly when you employ multiple strategies and tools such as these.
From 13 March 2018:
Matricula is a German website which offers scans of vital records from places that are currently in Germany, Austria, Serbia, and Poland. At present, their offerings from Poland consist of Lutheran church records from 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. Although images are freely browsable, it’s currently not possible to download a high-resolution image. Instead, users are requested to contact the appropriate branch of the State Archive of Wrocław that holds the records of interest. The address for the main archive in Wrocław can be found here, and the address for the branch in Jelenia Góra is here.
From 12 March 2018:
Family Search has finally updated their Poland Research page to reflect all their recently digitized catalog material! Now it’s easy to see what records they offer for Polish research online, all in one place. New additions include notarial records, land records, census records, and more. Scroll down to “Catalog Material Available Online” and check it out!
From 7 March 2018:
Do you have a story in your family about an immigrant who traveled under another person’s name, or changed his name substantially after immigration? When an immigrant’s new name no longer matched that shown on their official immigration record (ship passenger list), he or she might face difficulties voting, in legal proceedings, or naturalization. If such trouble arose, the immigrant might have written to the Bureau of Naturalization in an attempt to resolve it. All this correspondence has been preserved by the National Archives, and a nominal index to these documents was created. This Name Index to Bureau of Naturalization Correspondence Files, 1906-1944, spans 19 rolls of microfilm, and examples of the kinds of correspondence that can be discovered from this index can be found here. There’s only one catch: none of this has been digitized, so this name index can only be viewed in person (or via a hired researcher) at the National Archives facilities in Washington, D.C. or in Chicago (see here for details; search for microfilm publication number A3388). Nonetheless, you might find that it’s well worth the extra effort to have someone do the search for you, or plan a research trip so you can search this index, and other gems from the National Archives, for yourself. Additional information about using the name index can be found here.
From 6 March 2018:
It’s important not to rush into research in Poland simply because you’ve found one document that states place of origin, and it’s especially advisable to be suspicious if that place of origin is a large city. For example, the World War II draft registration for Joseph Zielinski, shown below, states that he was born in Warsaw.
(Source: U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (index and images), record for Joseph Zielinski, accessed 6 March 2018, Ancestry, subscription database, https://search.ancestry.com , citing The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for New York State, 04/27/1942 – 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 2555973; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147.)
However, his naturalization record reports that he was born in “Sochaczen, (sic) Russia Poland,” consistent with family stories that he was born in Sochaczew.
(Source: Niagara, New York, Naturalization Records, Declaration of Intent to Naturalize for Joseph Zielinski, No. 4244, 18 March 1919; Niagara County Historian’s Office, Civil Defense Building, 139 Niagara Street, Lockport, New York.)
On the other hand, his World War I draft card reveals that he was born in “Mistrzowice, Polland (sic).”
(Source: World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, record for Joseph Zielinski, born 16 March 1893, registered Precinct 1, Niagara County, New York, Ancestry (subscription database), http://www.ancestry.com, accessed 6 March 2018.)
How do we reconcile these apparent conflicts in the data? Consult a gazetteer! The Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, which is an index of places in the Kingdom of Poland (“Russian Poland”) published in 1877, indicates that the village of Mistrzewice was in the Warsaw gubernia (province), Sochaczew County, gmina Młodzieszyn ( a gmina is similar to a township, made up of several small villages), and that there was a Catholic parish located in Mistrzewice itself.
(Source: Zinberg, I. Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego czyli Spis alfabetyczny miast, wsi, folwarków, kolonii i wszystkich nomenklatur w guberniach Królestwa Polskiego, z wykazaniem: gubernii, powiatu, gminy, parafii, sądu pokoju lub gminnego, oraz najbliższej stacyi pocztowej, wraz z oddzielnym spisem gmin podług najświeższej ich liczby i nazwy ułożony, wykazujący: odległość każdej danej gminy od miasta powiatowego i sądu swojego gminnego; czy i jakie znajdują się w gminie zakłady fabryczne lub przemysłowe, szkoły itp. oraz ludność każdej gminy, obejmujący także podział sądownictwa krajowego świeżo urządzonego. T. 1, Warsaw: W Drukarni I. J. Ałapina, 1877, “Mistrzewice kol.,” p. 390, Śląska Biblioteka Cyfrowa, https://sbc.org.pl/dlibra, accessed 6 March 2018.)
From 5 March 2018:
Kathy Trager asked about Lutheran church records from Poland. Although some of these are available from Metryki and other sources, another online repository is Archion. https://www.archion.de/de/das-portal/ The focus of this digital archive is Protestant church records, and it contains over 20 million digital images of parish registers from areas of Poland that were formerly located in the provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, Posen, and Silesia, as well as from other areas in Germany. A list of participating archives can be found here: https://www.archion.de/de/archive-in-archion/, but the archive of primary interest to Polish researchers will be the Evangelisches Zentralarchiv in Berlin, which holds records from the above-mentioned areas in Poland today. The list of parish records held by this archive can be found here: http://www.ezab.de/kirchenbuecher/kirchenbuch-suche.php, or you can choose “Evangelisches Zentralarchiv in Berlin” from the menu on the left on this page: https://www.archion.de/de/browse/… Once that archive is selected, counties for which records are available online are highlighted in green. Alternatively, you can search directly for locations of interest by using the search interface here: https://www.archion.de/de/suche/…
Although the search itself is free at this site, a subscription is required in order to obtain scans. Details can be found here: https://www.archion.de/de/kosten/ Note that these web pages are in German, but as always, if you’re not comfortable working with foreign-language websites, you can use Google Chrome to translate the page into English, or copy the URL into the “input” window in Google Translate. Happy hunting!
From 4 March 2018:
Group members researching in Pomerania should be aware of the resources offered by the Archiwum Diecezji Pelplińskiej (Diocesan Archive in Pelplin), which is the repository for archival books from parishes within the diocese. In some cases these books date back to the 1600s, and a list of archival holdings can be found on the Archive’s website: http://www.diecezja-pelplin.pl/instytu…/archiwum-diecezjalne. Many (but not all) of these parish books have been indexed by the Pomeranian Genealogical Society, and these indexes can be searched on their website: http://www.ptg.gda.pl/ Records from some of these parishes have also been microfilmed by the LDS and can be searched in the Family History Library catalog. https://www.familysearch.org/catalog/searchHowever, the Diocesan Archive typically has records for a broader range of years than what is available on microfilm, and they will provide copies of individual records for 10 zlotys each.
From 3 March 2018:
When it comes to locating vital records in Poland, for every village, there are basically four options where records might be found: the parish, the diocesan archive, the local registry office, and the regional state archive. You may find it helpful to determine the range of years held by each repository for each type of vital record, for each of your villages of interest. An example is shown here for the village of Kołaczyce in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship. As you can see from this table, there’s quite a bit of overlap in the coverage, which is nice, but there are also a few gaps. The Archdiocesan Archive’s collection only includes births through 1782, which suggests that birth records from 1783 are missing, since the parish collection of birth records begins in 1784. Similarly, there’s a 4-year gap from 1780-1783 in both marriage records and death records. It’s not clear why the State Archive in Sanok has relatively few records and such a disparate range of years for the different vital events, but the fact that there’s so much overlap in coverage means that researchers interested in this parish won’t lack for material.
To determine the holdings of the State Archives, you can check Baza PRADZIAD (http://baza.archiwa.gov.pl/sezam/pradziad.php?l=en) or Szukajwarchiwach (http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/). The holdings of a particular parish might be listed on the parish website, or you might need to contact an onsite researcher to investigate this for you. Similarly, some diocesan archives have more information about their holdings available on their websites than others. Finally, the USCs can generally be presumed to hold only the most recent 100 years’ worth of records. Polish privacy laws restrict access to birth records for a period of 100 years and access to marriage and death records is restricted for 80 years, so anything beyond those ranges is considered archival and accessible to anyone.
From 2 March 2018:
The LDS Family History Library is a great source of image-only (unindexed) vital records from Poland, but there are different ways to access those records, and some methods are better than others. For example, the Poland Research page shows a collection called “Poland, Evangelical Church Books, 1700-2005,” which you might skip over if your ancestors were Greek Catholic and not Protestant. But if you click on that collection, you’ll see that Greek Catholic records from Sulmice near Lublin are included. Another disadvantage to approaching the records through the Poland Research page is that you might be left with the impression that the Family History Library only has records from the areas around Gliwice, Częstochowa, Lublin, and Radom. In reality, there are images from parishes throughout Poland, so a better way to discover what is available for your parish of interest is by searching the catalog. Do a place search for the name of the parish or registry office that served your ancestral village, and see what’s available. If they don’t have anything, don’t despair! The Family History Library is just one of a number of digital repositories for Polish vital records. If you need help finding records for your ancestral parish, ask us — we’re here to help.
From 1 March 2018:
Group members who are just starting out with genealogy in general, or Polish genealogy in particular, might find it useful to work through the various steps and learning modules presented by the Family History Guide to Poland.
17 January 2018:
If any group members happen to be researching Roman Catholic church records in the parish of Tyniec Mały (Klein Tinz) in Wrocław County, Lower Silesia/dolnośłaskie province, some Roman Catholic church records have been indexed by Michael Mayer-Kielmann. Data are provided in the form of a surname list, with clickable links to individual entries for people with these surnames, rather than in the form of a Geneteka-style birth, marriage and death index. However, his data are not currently available in Geneteka, so be sure to check out his site if you’re researching in this area.
From 16 January 2018:
FamilySearch has recently developed a new tool called FamilySearch Places which is designed to facilitate location research for family historians. It’s a work in progress, and hopefully it will become more useful over time to those of us who are engaged in researching Polish ancestors. You can read more about using this tool here.
I test-drove FamilySearch Places for a few locations in Poland, and my feeling is that, at present, a good historical gazetteer such as the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego is far superior. The good news is that the tool has the potential to be quite useful. It has built-in capabilities to link search results to indexed historical records for a particular location, family trees which mention that location, and sites containing historical photos and local history. Unfortunately, these English-language sites contain no information at all on the places in Poland that I checked, unsurprisingly. Moreover, a search for my ancestral parish of Kowalewo (also known as Kowalewo Opactwo) failed to produce any hits for the right location unless one searched for “Kowalewo Opactwo” specifically. Using the “tilda” search feature to find names similar to Kowalewo resulted in 233 hits for places as far away as Africa and Thailand, but still did not produce a hit for Kowalewo Opactwo. Presumably this is a matter of fine-tuning the search algorithms, and this problem will be overcome in time.
One fundamental problem with the FamilySearch tool is that it doesn’t indicate the parish or registry office to which a particular village belonged. While it’s nice to know that there are 109 results for “Places Within 5 Miles” of the village of Mistrzewice in Sochaczew County, and 201 results for “Places Within the Same Jurisdiction” (Sochaczew County), these results don’t tell me that Mistrzewice is located in gmina Młodzieszyn and currently belongs to the parish in Młodzieszyn. The gmina and parish matter because these are where the vital records for my family were created. If I did not already know where the parishes were located that served my ancestral villages, I suspect I would find ‘FamilySearch Places” to be more confusing than helpful. I give them an “A” for the concept, but at the moment, I can’t recommend this tool for Polish research.
From 15 January 2018:
Have you ever researched any alegata or aneksy for your ancestors? Alegata and aneksy can be defined as addenda — legal documents appended to vital records, which were provided as supporting evidence. They’re most often found with marriage records, and for this reason you may also find archival collections of these documents under the title, “Dowody do małżeństw.” Alegata may include birth records for the bride and groom, death certificates for any previous spouses, and possibly other documents as well. In cases where an official birth record was not available for the bride or groom, an affidavit of identity called an “Akt znania” (literally, “Act of Knowing”) was provided. In an Akt znania, testimony regarding age, place of residence and marital status was provided by witnesses who were well acquainted with the individual. Alegata or aneksy are typically associated with places that were in Russian Poland, and examples from locations in Austrian or Prussian Poland are much less common. Alegata are especially valuable in situations where parish books for some periods did not survive. Some researchers have been able to find an ancestor’s birth record in the alegata, even though the original book was destroyed in which that ancestor’s birth was recorded. For some parishes or registry offices, alegata or aneksy are even available online. You can find them in Szukajwarchiwach by examining the series of subcollections within the collection for a particular parish, as in the example shown below for the parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County. GenBaza offers alegata for many parishes as well, usually noted in the form, “Parish Name_al,” or “Parish Name_a” or simply, “Parish Name_alegata.” Iwona Dakiniewicz offers a nice discussion of alegata, for further reading and examples.
There were no Tips of the Day for the period from January 9-14 due to family travel for my son’s graduation from Air Force Basic Military Training. (Well done, Jeremy!)
From 8 January 2018:
Do you have ancestors who lived in the city (not just the province) of Poznań between 1870 and 1931? Then the database Indeks Osobowy Kartoteki Ewidencji Ludności Miasta Poznania z lat 1870-1931, offered by the State Archive in Poznań, is something you’ll want to check. This is a nominal index to all residents of the city during this time period, created from digitized scans of census cards. The cards contain the names of Individuals and family groups and include such information as occupation, dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths, addresses, military service, etc. At this time, a search of the index will produce results for your surname and given name of interest but not all results are linked directly to scans in Szukajwarchiwach yet. This is an ongoing project, and eventually each name will be linked directly to the corresponding census card image. However, even in cases where there is no direct link, you can still use the search results as a finding aid for locating scans in Szukajwarchiwach. For example, a search for “Grzesiak, Józef” tells me that Grzesiaks are located in group 14466, which is the group of surnames Grzelak-Grzeszkowiak. If I scan down through the highlighted results for “Grzesiak, Józef,” and hover my cursor over the name, in the bottom left corner of my screen, it tells me the image number for the record in the collection at Szukajwarchiwach. In this example, one record for Grzesiak, Józef is found in group 14466/563.jpg. With this information in hand, I can click on “Indeksy” in the menu at the top of the page on the left, which takes me here. From this list, I select record group 14466, click on it, and then find image 563.
From 7 January 2018:
Group members with ancestry in places that are presently in Lithuania may be interested in the Lithuanian digital cultural heritage site, Epaveldas. The site includes some metrical books (vital records), a list of which can be found here.
From 6 January 2018:
This excellent discussion, originally shared by Agnieszka Matysiuk, explains in detail how passenger manifests were created and offers some insight into the documentation required by the passengers, as well as reasons why some manifests might never be found for some of our ancestors.
From 5 January 2018:
Seasoned family historians know the value of a good gazetteer for obtaining historical data about a town or village, and especially for identifying the parish to which the village belonged. Those group members with roots in Galicia might find Jan Bigo’s gazetteer (with its very lengthy title) to be of interest. The tabular format makes it easy to look up locations quickly, and it can be downloaded to your desktop for access when you’re not online. One caveat is that it was published in 1904. Since vital record-keepers in Galicia maintained separate books for each village within a parish, you should always double-check information from any historic gazetteer by conducting an internet search to ascertain whether your village of interest presently has its own parish church, or has been similarly reassigned, before concluding that the parish data is still accurate.
From 4 January 2018:
The State Archive in Płock offers some indexed records online for several Lutheran and Roman Catholic parishes in that area. While there is some overlap with indexed records in Geneteka, some of their indexes are unique. Available parishes can be viewed here and indexed records can be searched by clicking on the name of the parish of interest. In addition, the site offers a database of war memorials, monuments, and commemorative plaques that are located within the borders of the Płock province as it existed between 1975-1998. You can search by location to find photos of these commemorative sites and memorials.
New Year’s hiatus from 31 December 2017 – 3 January 2018.
From 30 December 2017:
The Kresy-Siberia Foundation seeks to preserve the stories of the survivors of the forced Soviet annexation of Poland’s eastern borderlands region (the Kresy), where entire towns were liquidated during and after World War II, as Polish citizens were imprisoned, executed, or brutally deported to forced labor camps. In addition to sponsoring the Kresy-Siberia Virtual Musuem, the Foundation maintains a Reference Center with links and addresses for useful records repositories, as well as a database with names of about 1.2 million individuals who suffered during this time.
From 29 December 2017:
The State Archive in Olsztyn offers vital records from some villages in this area formerly located in East Prussia. 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.
From 28 December 2017:
The German Genealogy Group offers a variety of searchable databases for those with roots in the New York City area, including church records and civil vital records, military, cemetery, and naturalization records, and more. Those with ancestors from Prussian Poland who immigrated to New York may find their collection of indexed church records especially helpful, as many of these records specify immigrants’ place of origin.
From 27 December 2017:
Do you have ancestors from parishes in present day łódzkie or mazowieckie provinces that are within the Diocese of Łowicz? Then the website for the Diocesan Archive might be of interest to you. Thanks to the efforts of a few hard-working volunteers, many of the archive’s metrical records have been digitized and indexed. Parishes whose records have currently been digitized can be found here, while parishes whose records are indexed in Geneteka are listed here. Copies of indexed records which are found in Geneteka can be ordered from the Archive for 20 PLN each and instructions for ordering are provided. Alternatively, you can hire a researcher to visit the archive in person for a fee of 50 PLN to the archive, plus whatever hourly fee the researcher charges for his or her time.
From 26 December 2017:
The Polish Order of the Virtuti Militari is an award given for valor in military service. The Order was established in 1792 by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, and over 24,000 individuals have received this honor, which is comparable to the U.S. Medal of Honor. Professor Dr. Zdzisław P. Wesołowski has compiled a list of all these recipients, and his index is available here.
There were no Tips of the Day from December 24 and December 25 because the Polish Genealogy group was archived during this time due to the Christmas holiday.
From 23 December 2017:
Family stories are the starting point for most of us when it comes to preserving and extending our family history. During this holiday season, while spending time with family, why not take the opportunity to interview your oldest relatives? If you’re among the oldest generation in your family, make a point of asking your cousins what they remember about your common grandparents. Their memories will be different from yours and might offer some new clues for research. Here are some tips for making the most of those interviews.
From 22 December 2017:
Do you have ancestors from the parish in Zieluń or in that vicinity? If so, please check out Zielun.pl, a site dedicated to preserving the history and genealogy of families from that area. The site offers indexed vital records from 1822-1912, which is a broader range of years than what is covered in Geneteka for this parish. To view the vital records, select “Parafia –> Metryki” from the menu bar at the top of the page. Navigate between births, deaths and marriages by selecting one of the three icons (star, wedding rings, or cross) in the column between the range of years and the names. The site also offers some great photos and a timeline of the history of the town.
From 21 December 2017:
Most of us who are experienced genealogists can point to at least a few things we wish we’d done differently when we started. The good news for those of you who are just starting, is that you have the chance to learn from our “rookie mistakes,” some of which are described here. Experienced researchers in the group, feel free to add to the list, if you can think of additional mistakes you made when you were just starting! (Special thanks to Joanne Balon Kennedy for suggesting today’s tip!)
From 20 December 2017:
Beginning researchers are often puzzled as to why the dates of birth reported by their Polish ancestors on U.S. documents often vary, and why these dates may differ from the ancestor’s actual birth date, once a birth record from Poland has been located. There are many reasons for this, including the fact that it simply wasn’t as necessary in the late 19th and early 20th century to know one’s birth date accurately. It’s also important to recognize that in Polish culture, name days (imieniny) are more important than birthdays. A name day is the feast of the patron saint for whom one is named, and in some cases, our Polish ancestors reported their name day on documents in lieu of their birth date. Sometimes the name day calendar influenced the parents’ choice of name for their child, but there was no strict requirement to give a child the name of a saint whose feast was being celebrated the day that child was born. This calendar shows name days for various given names.
Recently in this group we’ve discussed the fact that a significant percentage of men named Wojciech chose to adopt the name George upon immigration to an English-speaking country, rather than using the name Adalbert, which is a more accurate translation of Wojciech into English (św, Wojciech = St. Adalbert, and św. Jerzy = St. George). While it’s true that there were no rules dictating an immigrant’s choice of name used in English, it’s nonetheless a little surprising that so many Wojciechs became George since there’s no phonetic or etymological connection between those names. The reason behind this choice lies in the fact that St. Wojciech and St. George share a feast day — April 23, which underscores the importance of name days to our Polish immigrant ancestors.
(Thanks to Ela Krupinska for reminding me of the link between Wojciech and George, since I’d heard it before, but forgot what it was, and it’s been driving me crazy ever since. )
From 19 December 2017:
If you have Polish or Ukrainian ancestors from the former Galicia region, the State Archive in Przemyśl (Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu) may have records that are of interest to you. While some of their collection can be searched through Szukajwarchiwach, they also have some digitized collections that are available exclusively through their own website. In addition to vital records, the site contains digitized notary records, land records and cadastral maps, school records, municipal records, and more. There are several ways to search their collections. First, you can browse through the drop-down menu in the “Nazwa zespolu” (“band name,” if you’re using the page with machine translation) for the name of your parish of interest. Vital records collections will be called “Akta stanu cywilnego…” followed by the name of the parish in genitive (possessive) grammatical case. Alternatively, you can type a keyword, such as a parish name, in the box that reads “opis jednostki” ( “unit description”). This method is especially useful because parish records are sometimes part of a larger collection. For example, from the “Nazwa zespolu” drop-down menu, it’s impossible to know if records for your place of interest are contained within a large collection like “Zespół 142: Archiwum Greckokatolickiego Biskupstwa w Przemyślu” or “Zespół 126: Archiwum Geodezyjne.” However, if you type a parish or village name in “opis jednostki,” you will see each collection in which this place is mentioned. You can also do both: select one collection at a time from the “Nr zespołu” drop-down menu (e.g. 142, that collection from the Archives of the Greek Catholic Bishopric of Przemyśl) and also type a village name in “opis jednostki.” This will allow you to zero in on the records for a particular location that are found in that one single archival collection. Finally, an easy way to “cheat” and see a list of all the parish vital records contained in that particular collection (Zespół 142) is to select 142 from the “Nr zespołu” drop-down menu, and then type “parafii” in the “opis jednostki” box. Have fun!
From 18 December 2017:
Learning to read vital records for your ancestors can be challenging, but there are some strategies that can help, regardless of what language the record is written in. Some great tips can be found here.
From 17 December 2017:
Are you the third, fourth, or even fifth generation descended from a Polish immigrant? Would you like to gain a better understanding of cultural traditions (Wigilia, Święconka, Zaduszki, etc.) that were important to our ancestors, many of which are still practiced in Poland today? Then you might be interested in joining our sister group, Polish Culture, Food and Traditions. While we don’t allow general discussions of general Polish culture and traditions in this group, it’s not because they’re unimportant to us as genealogists. Rather, the topic is significant enough to merit its own group. The holiday season is upon us, and this may be a great time to reclaim some of your Polish heritage for yourself and your family. Learn some new kolędy (Christmas carols) in Polish, try a new recipe, or learn to make a Polish paper star ornament. Babcia would be proud.
From 16 December 2017:
Were your ancestors from Garwolin County in present-day Mazowieckie province? The Garwolin Indexing Group, under the leadership of Sebastian Jędrych, has indexed vital records from a number of parishes in Garwolin County, which can be searched at their website. To view indexes for a particular parish, click on the name of that parish from the list, and then click the link to download the indexed records as a PDF file. They also have a virtual cemetery index for cemeteries in this area.
From 15 December 2017:
From 14 December 2017:
Do you have a family story about noble ancestors? Several works containing genealogical and heraldic information for Polish noble families (szlachta) have been microfilmed by the LDS, and these microfilms have been indexed by John Cakers. Original sources include such works as the 5-volume, Polska szlachta i jej herby published by Słowomir Leitgeber in the 1970s, Herbarz Polski : wiadomości historyczno-genealogiczne o rodach szlacheckich, by Adam Boniecki, Rodzina : herbarz szlachty Polskiej by Seweryn Uruski, and more. John Caker’s index can be used to identify surnames of noble families included in these books, and then the orginal microfilms can be consulted for more information. In some cases, the microfilms have been digitized and can be viewed at your local FHC. In other cases, you may need to obtain the original source work via other means. Some of these works (e.g. Uruski’s Rodzina : herbarz szlachty Polskiej may be available through Polish digital libraries. Please note that John Caker’s index may include errors. In particular, in several cases he used the plural forms (Chmielewscy, Dowiakowscy) of some Polish surnames, rather than the nominative, masculine forms (Chmielewski, Dowiakowski). Additional background information on the Polish nobility can be found in FamilySearch’s Wiki article.
From 13 December 2017:
Photos can really breathe life into your family history, helping you connect with your ancestors’ time and culture. A great source of historic photos from Poland is the Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, or National Digital Archive. You can search for photos of your ancestral villages according to place name using the site’s search form, which can be translated into English, if you prefer, by using Google Chrome as your browser and right-clicking on the page. Individual photos can be downloaded and used free of charge (with appropriate source attribution), but additional services are also available per the archive’s price list.
From 12 December 2017:
Are you seeking the grave of an ancestor who died in Poland? It’s important to realize that you’re unlikely to find very old graves in Poland. In the cities and even in some rural areas, term burials are common, meaning that a gravesite is reused after a period of time (say, 25 years), and the old grave marker is removed. In the countryside, wooden or iron grave markers were commonly used, and these deteriorate over time. You can read a discussion of this in an old Rootsweb mailing list post from way back in 2005, by our very own Dennis Benarz. In some cases, more recent graves may still contain inscriptions regarding older burials, as shown in this photograph. Barbara (née Kalota) Mikołajewska was sister to my great-great-grandmother, and hers was the only grave of a known relative that I was able to discover during the duration of my visit to Poland. So where can you find grave photos or indexed cemetery records from Poland? Our admin Valerie Warunek put together a nice list of websites, which is found in the files of the Polish Genealogy group. Additionally, group member Maciej Adam Markowski also wrote an informative blog post (with translation assistance from Bridget Kozak-McLellan) which offers additional insights and web links. If you have additional suggestions, please feel free to add them to the user-editable document in the group’s files.
From 11 December 2017:
Following up with resources for those of you whose Polish ancestors settled in Minnesota, John Rys has some great indexed church records for Polish Catholic churches in Minneapolis-St. Paul which are hosted on James Czuchra’s website, “Polish Family Information.” John’s indexes are searchable free of charge. In addition, James offers some additional indexes, including death notices for two of Chicago’s Polish-language newspapers, vital records indexes for the parish of Mędrzechów in Dąbrowa County, as well as some other interesting maps and databases, some of which are free and some of which require a $10 annual subscription.
From 10 December 2017:
Do you have Polish ancestors who settled in Minnesota? If so, check out the Minnesota Historical Society’s wonderful webpage. Their People Records Search engine enables you to find birth, death, and state census records, as well as veterans’ graves and Gold Star Roll servicemen (those who died during WWI), and they also have a digital newspaper archive. Check it out!
From 9 December 2017:
Those group members with roots in the Częstochowa area will want to check out the website of the Towarzystwo Genealogiczne Ziemi Częstochowskiej (Częstochowa Genealogical Society). This site offers indexed vital records from parishes in this area, which can be searched once you register for the site and are logged into your account. A list of indexed parishes can be found here. Digital images of vital records from some of these same parishes can be found in the FHL’s Katowice collection.
From 8 December 2017:
Baza PRADZIAD, or the PRADZIAD database, is the vital records search portal for the Polish State Archives. Although most (or all?) of the data from PRADZIAD can currently be found in Szukajwarchiwach, the different search interface and visual layout of the results give Baza PRADZIAD an enduring appeal. Baza PRADZIAD can be searched in English to quickly determine what records exist in the collections of the state archives for a given location. Since vital records were created at the level of the parish or registry office, it’s important to input the name of this place, rather than the name of one’s ancestral village, in the search box. While it’s possible that the holdings of some diocesan archives may appear in the results, this is the exception, rather than the rule. If you do not find records for your parish of interest in PRADZIAD, don’t lose hope. It’s possible that records still exist in a diocesan archive, at the parish itself, or at the present-day civil registry office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, or USC). If you find records for your parish of interest in PRADZIAD, be sure to check online sources (e.g. Szukajwarchiwach, Metryki.genealodzy.pl, Metryki.GenBaza, Genealogiawarchiwach, the LDS catalog, etc.) before writing to the archive, as PRADZIAD will tell you what records exist, but will not tell you if they’re already digitized and at what digital repository.
From 7 December 2017:
Researchers interested in in the former Galicia region are sometimes disappointed to discover that records for their parishes were never microfilmed by the LDS, nor do these parishes seem to be well-represented in the collections of the Polish State Archives. The answers may lie in the collections of the Archdiocesan Archive of Przemyśl, which holds Roman Catholic church records from parishes within the historical borders of the Archdiocese of Przemyśl. Due to the changing diocesan borders over the years, some of the parishes whose records are held by this archive are now located within the Dioceses of Rzeszów or Tarnów. One resource to check to determine whether the Archive holds records for your parish is Jan Kwolek’s Ekstrakty metrykalne w Archiwum Diecezjalnem Przemyskiem, published in 1928. This brief work contains 12 pages of historical background in Polish regarding the archive and its collections, but English-speakers should not be put off, because the “Katalog Ekstraktów” which follows that text is simply a list of parishes for which the archive holds records, followed by the range of years available. For some parishes, additional collections are available that are not mentioned here. These may be more recent records, or in some cases, older, 18th-century records. It is also worth noting that records for a few of the parishes mentioned in the Ekstrakty are no longer available at the Archive. This is because these parish churches and their records were destroyed during World War II. When the churches were rebuilt, the Archdiocese transfered the bishop’s transcripts from these parishes from the Archive back to the parishes themselves. The Archive is not generally receptive to genealogical inquiries, and the best option is to hire an on-site researcher to obtain records from the Archive’s collections. The Polish Genealogy group maintains a list of professional researchers in Poland, any of whom might be contacted for assistance with research in this Archive. From this list, many of our group members have been especially pleased with the work of Lucjan Cichocki, Maciej Orzechowski, Tadeusz Pilat, Zbigniew Stettner, or any of the researchers in Zen Znamirowski’s team at PolishOrigins, all of whom are based in the southeast of Poland, within reasonable traveling distance from the archive.
From 6 December 2017:
Group members with Polish ancestors from places that are presently in northeastern Poland, Belarus and Lithuania may be interested in Radzima.net. This site contains some administrative designations and parish information for villages in this area which are somewhat limited, but more information is available with a $5 membership fee. It’s also possible to register your surnames on the site, connect with others researching in the same villages, view old and current photos from these places, and view historical maps. Additional photos can be found on their parent site, Radzima.org.
From 5 December 2017:
As we’ve alluded to frequently in the past, gazetteers are a genealogist’s best friend. Once you identify the village in which your ancestor was born, you need to determine which parish served that village, since that is where the vital records were created. There are many gazetteers which are commonly used to identify places in Poland, and you can search this archive of previous Tips of the Day for a number of suggestions. In addition to these, the Tabella miast, wsi, osad, Królestwa Polskiego : z wyrażeniem ich położenia i ludności alfabetycznie ułożona is a useful gazetteer for locations that were within the Kingdom of Poland (Russian Poland). This gazetteer was published in two volumes in 1827, 50 years before the publication of the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, so it offers us a snapshot of places in Russian Poland during this earlier time period. Volume 1 can be found here, and Volume 2 is found here. Note that you may need to install a (free) DjVu reader onto your computer in order to access these files.
From 4 December 2017:
Mamma Mia! Why would a Polish Genealogy group be promoting the webpage of the Italian Genealogy Group? Because their databases include millions of indexed records for people of ALL ethnicities, from locations throughout New York State and New Jersey, with an emphasis is on the New York City area. So if you are researching Polish immigrants to New York City, be sure to check out their databases of Alien Statements, civil birth records, NYC marriage records, and naturalization records, which may help you track down documents for your ancestors.
From 3 December 2017:
Genealogia w Archiwach, “Genealogy in the Archives,” is a search portal from which one can obtain scans of vital records from four different state archives (Bydgoszcz, Inowrocław, Toruń, and Włocławek) representing locations in four different provinces (kujawsko-pomorskie, pomorskie, wielkopolskie and warmińsko-mazurksie). This site is a relatively new star in the digital archive universe, and can be a little slow and buggy, but it’s worth taking the time to learn how to use it. A good tutorial can be found here. Note that it’s easier to save scans now than it once was — there’s a “download” icon where one can save a relatively low resolution scan without creating an account. Alternatively, create an account and log in, to download a high resolution scan. Another fun feature of the site is the capability to type in a surname in the “Enter the name of the place/name” box at the top, and this name will be searched within the digital images. For example, a search for “Grzesiak” returned 29 scans from 2 locations (Brześć Kujawski and Żałe). Enlarging the scans brought up the internal index page where the name “Grzesiak” was mentioned in Russian or Polish. Other languages such as German may be supported as well, I just haven’t played around with this feature enough to know. I am not familiar enough with this feature to know if these hits are being generated through optical character recognition, or through links to databases of records indexed by humans, so your mileage may vary and results returned may not be complete. The most reliable strategy is always to determine your ancestor’s place of origin by documentary research, and then go through the available metrical books for that parish or registry office.
From 2 December 2017:
If you have ancestors in Słupca or Kalisz County, you should get to know the Słupca Genealogy site. The site is a labor of love brought to us by Alisa Loeper, and includes indexed birth, marriage and death records from 10 parishes in Słupca County and 7 parishes in Kalisz County, many of which are linked to scans in Szukajwarchiwach. (Also, if you do have ancestors from this area, you may be interested in the FB group, “My Poznań-Słupca-Lądek-Konin DNA Cousins“)
From 1 December 2017:
Do you have ancestors from the Dobrzyń Land region of Poland, roughly corresponding to the present-day counties of Lipno, Rypin, and Gołub-Dobrzyń? Then be sure to check out the Szpejankowski Family Portal! This website is a labor of love begun by descendants of Marcin Szpejankowski, but its focus is broader than just that family. The site containts indexed vital records, lists of residents, homeowner lists, land records, and more, from parishes throughout the Dobrzyń area. A rough English translation can be obtained by using Google Chrome as your browser and right-clicking on the page. I suggest starting your exploration with the “Metryki, wykazy osób/Metrics, lists of people” link in the column “Dla Genealogów amatorów/For Amateur Genealogists” on the left. From there, select “Indeksowane parafie/Indexed parishes” if you’re interested in viewing the vital records indexes, many of which are unique to this site, and not found in Geneteka.
From 30 November 2017:
Geneszukacz is another “sister site” to Geneteka, which permits a search for a given surname across all provinces of Poland simultaneously. In addition to providing an overview of the prevalence of a particular surname (and phonetic variants, per Geneteka’s search algorithm), the menu on the right reports the instances of the surname in indexed parish registers (displayed on a map), other indexed registers (e.g. Meldunkowe), Polish Declarations of Admiration and Friendship for the U.S., the list of casualties in the Polish Army from 1918-1920, and the index of soldiers in the Polish Legions from 1918-1920. Each of these databases can also be searched separately from the homepage of the PTG (https://genealodzy.pl/) in the main menu column on the left.
From 29 November 2017:
The National Archives (U.S.) Catalog contains archival descriptions for 85% of the holdings of the National Archives, authority files, and over 2 million digitized copies of records. The Catalog searches across archival descriptions, digitized and electronic records, authority records, and web pages from Archives.gov and the Presidential Libraries. Nominal searches for your ancestor in the catalog may reveal naturalization records, alien registration files, military records, and more. However, while the catalog is a valuable resource, it’s important to understand what it does NOT include. For example, if your ancestor naturalized in a county court and not a federal district court, you will not find his naturalization papers in the catalog. For more information on searching the catalog, check out these search tips.
From 28 November 2017:
Projekt Podlasieis a cooperative effort by a dedicated group of volunteer genealogists focused on digitizing and indexing metrical records (vital records) from locations within the historic Podlasie/Podlachia region of Poland, which is partly contained within the Podlaskie Province today. You can register to use the site free of charge here, and then search indexed records. The search interface can be translated into a variety of languages by selecting the appropriate flag icon from the panel in the top right. A list of parishes which have been indexed to date can be found here. If you have ancestors from the nobility (szlachta) in this region, you may be interested in their szlachta page. They also have an ongoing project for indexing surnames found in judicial books and court records. As always, the project is in need of volunteers as well as financial support. If you are able to assist with indexing, you can contact them, and donations can be made via the PayPal link at the bottom right corner of any page on the site.
From 27 November 2017:
The Małopolska Genealogical Society has a wonderful website with many links to helpful resources for researchers in this area. The site is in Polish, but you can view the site in English or German by clicking the appropriate flag icon in the upper right corner under the banner. Of particular value are the metrical book indexes (Księgi Metrykalne) for various parishes in the Małopolska region, and the digital library (Biblioteka Cyfrowa) which offers various gazetteers, remembrance books, directories, and much more. Note that you may need to install a free DjVu viewer in order to read some of these files, but there’s a link right on the page that will allow you to do that.
From 26 November 2017
English-speakers may be relieved to know that fluency in Polish is not required in order to make progress with research into Polish ancestors. Vital records are very formulaic, and with a little time and practice, anyone can learn to read enough Polish to trace a family tree. To help researchers understand the format of the paragraph-style, Polish-language vital records that were created between 1808 and 1868 (approximately) in parishes and registry offices throughout the Duchy of Warsaw and the Kingdom of Poland, our friends at PolishOrigins have created these tutorials which offer translations of Polish birth,, marriage, and death records. Additional Polish translation aids can be found in the group’s Online Translation Aids document, which is in the group’s files (along with a large number of other useful documents and helpful links).
From 25 November 2017:
In addition to the ever-popular Geneteka and Metryki, another great resource offered by the PTG is Poczekalnia, or “Waiting Room.” This is a repository for archival records that have been digitized, but are awaiting final verification and editing prior to placement in Metryki. The images can be accessed through a series of directories and sub-directories based on the archives which hold the original records, by choosing “Lista” from the options on the right side of the page. Alternatively, the images can be browsed from a series of thumbnail images by choosing “Galeria.” One collection in Poczekalnia that’s especially popular is the church records from various parishes in the Archdiocesan Archive of Białystok from 1808-1864. To access these, use this direct link. Once you click on a particular year, you’ll have an option to select a parish from which to view records from that year. Happy hunting!
From 24 November 2017:
Another great gazetteer is the Genealogische Orts-Verzeichnis (GOV), The Historic Gazetteer. This German database can be searched in English, and 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; diacritics are not necessary). 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.
Note: I took a break for cooking, travel, and celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday with my family, so there were no posts from 21 November – 23 November.
From 20 November 2017:
Group members researching in the former Galicia region will enjoy the site Spuścizna (Heritage). This website is an “oldie but a goodie,” hosted by our very own Dennis Benarz. In addition to a number of fun cultural links, the site features a parish index as well as a series of interactive maps, all of which link to pages with detailed information about each parish, including the villages which belonged to the parish, photos, and additional links.
From 19 November 2017:
One of the most popular sites for locating digitized records from Poland is Szukajwarchiwach, “Search [in the] Archives.” This site contains digitized records from state archives throughout Poland and has over 27 million scans online. Since vital records comprise the backbone of the family tree, most people start with those. However, SzwA contains many other types of digitized records as well, including census, land records, court records, notary records, and more. To locate vital records, search according to the name of the parish or registry office to which the village belonged, NOT the surname of the person you seek. Complete instructions for using this site can be found her: https://s3.amazonaws.com/…/i…/a/af/Polish_State_Archives.pdf and in C Michael Eliasz-Solomon’s tutorial, here: https://mikeeliasz.wordpress.com/…/a-guide-for-using-szuka…/
From 18 November 2017:
Wildcard searches are immensely helpful in locating ancestors in indexed databases, and most databases permit at least limited use of them. Typically, * is used to replace 1 or more charcters, while ? is used to replace 0-1 character. Many databases require you to input a minimum of 3 characters before the wildcard, so for example, “Fran*” can be used to search Franciszek, Frank, Franek, Francis, Franciscus, etc. Geneteka also offers wildcard searching, through the option called “exact search.” An “exact search” in Geneteka does not imply that diacritics are important, however, as the search algorithm is still designed to ignore them. An exact search for “Grzes*” with given name Pelagia in all of Mazowieckie province will produce birth results for surnames Grzesiuk, Grzesiński, Grzeszkowicz and Grześkiewicz, which is useful in instances where the priest got creative in recording variant surnames with the same root for the same family. For more information and examples of using wildcards effectively at Family Search, check out this blog article.
From 17 November 2017:
The Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie (Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw), or AGAD, is one of four national archives in Poland, with a focus on collections dating from the 12th century to the creation of the Second Polish Republic in 1918. However, of particular interest to genealogists is their collection of digitized vital records from Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities in the Kresy (eastern borderlands regions that were part of the Second Polish Republic), some of which go up to 1945. To search one of these collections, click on the link of interest to get to a page with a detailed description of each collection. To determine if records exist for a particular parish or community, do a “ctrl-F” search for the place name on that page. (Alternatively, check Baza PRADZIAD for the parish name, and if AGAD holds records for that parish, the search result will state that, and also specify the particular fond to check). To access scans, use the arrow keys to move through the results from your “ctrl-F” search. When you reach a result that has a link for “galeria z skanami,” just click to access that particular batch of scans. For example, if I am interested in Roman Catholic records for the village of Jampol, formerly in Wołyńska province, I can select “Księgi metrykalne parafii wyznania rzymskokatolickiego z diecezji łuckiej i wileńskiej” from the main menu (link below) then use “ctrl-F” to search for Jampol. There are 9 mentions of “Jampol” on that page, representing vital records books from 1840-1846 and 1853.
From 16 November 2017:
You may have heard that the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library has millions of digitized vital records from Polish parishes and civil registry offices, but do you know how to locate them? The key is to search the Catalog! Once you have identified the village or parish where your target ancestor was born, you can do a place search on that location. For example, this could be Buffalo, New York (which shows up in the catalog as “United States, New York, Erie, Buffalo”) or Kowalewo-Opactwo (which shows up in the catalog as “Poland, Poznań, Kowalewo (Słupca)” or anywhere else in the world. The catalog will tell you the types of records available and you can select individual entries for further examination. For example, church records are available for Kowalewo-Opactwo, both original (Księgi metrykalne) and duplicate copies created for the civil authorities (Kopie księg metrykalnych). If this is an option for your parish of interest, plan to research both versions of the records, as one version may contain information that the other does not have.
Various icons are used to indicate the accessibility of the records. If you see the “camera” icon, the records are available online to anyone with internet access. If you see the “camera and key” icon, you must visit a Family History Center to view these images (locations of Family History Centers worldwide can be found here. If you see a “roll of film” icon, these records are only available on microfilm, which means that they are currently only available for research in person at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, although they may be scheduled for digitization within the next few years.
A few key points to remember:
1. The catalog does not use the most current administrative designations for locations in Poland. Places in Poland with names that are not unique (for example, Kowalewo) are distinguished by a parenthetical reference to another nearby location, e.g. Kowalewo (Słupca) vs. Kowalewo (Golub-Dobrzyń). You may need to consult a map to help determine which one is yours.
2. Places are sometimes referenced with both an historical designation and a contemporary one. For example, the parish of Szczucin in Dąbrowa County is referenced as both “Austria, Galizien, Szczucin” and “Poland, Kraków, Szczucin (Dąbrowa Tarnowska).
3. In most cases, it’s necessary to search the name of the parish or registry office that served a particular village, rather than the name of the village itself. The exception to this rule is for locations that were formerly in Austrian Poland. In Austrian Poland, parishes were required to keep a separate record book for each village within the parish. Consequently, the LDS catalog sometimes identifies these collections according to the village name, rather than the name of the parish where they were recorded. Therefore you’ll find “Maniów (Dąbrow Tarnowska)” in the catalog as a separate entry, even though the village of Maniów belonged historically to the parish in Szczucin. When in doubt, search under both the village name and the parish name.
4. Searching by keyword instead of by place will sometimes work even if you’re not sure which parish served a particular village. This is because the film notes in some entries mention all the villages that were served by a particular parish. So for example, a place search for “Wola Koszutska” will return no result, but a keyword search will reveal that the village of Wola Koszutska was served by the parish in Kowalewo.
For more information, please check out this Introduction to the FamilySearch catalog.
From 15 November 0217:
The Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, or Index of Place Names in the Republic of Poland, published circa 1933, is another great gazetteer that provides full administrative designations and parishes for locations that were within the borders of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939). Its tabular format makes it easy to use, although you will need a DjVu reader to view the file, as is true for most content from Polish digital libraries. (Hint: there’s an option to download the whole gazetteer onto your desktop, which is really useful for those times when you might want to look up a location while offline. 🙂 )
From 14 November 2017:
Do you have ancestors in Augustów county, Podlaskie? The Jamiński Zespół Indeksacyjny (Jamiński Indexing Team) is actively indexing records for the parishes of Jaminy, Krasnybór, Sztabin, Bargłów Kościelny, and others in this area. Select from the drop-down menu of parishes (“Parafie”) on their home page to get to the indexes. As always, if you prefer to navigate the site in English, you can use Google Chrome as your browser and right-click on the page to translate.
From 13 November 2017:
Do you have relatives who were in Poland during World War II, whose fate is uncertain?The database “Personal losses and victims of repression under German occupation” includes 4.5 million soldiers, prisoners of war, forced laborers, Holocaust victims, displaced persons, civilian casualties, and others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. All records show information about the origin of data, and in many cases, more detailed information can be obtained by requesting copies of the original documents.
From 12 November 2017:
English-speakers who are struggling to correspond in Polish with parishes or archives in Poland may be pleased to discover that assistance is available in the form of letter-writing templates that allow you to string together basic phrases. The following sites all offer letter-writing guides: https://pgsa.org/…/f…/polish-letter-writing-guide-for-forms/ https://www.familysearch.org/…/…/Poland_Letter_Writing_Guide,
http://polishroots.org/…/letters_pol…/tabid/294/Default.aspx (Note that one disadvantage to using this last guide is the lack of diacritics).
From 11 November 2017:
Military service records can be quite informative when researching one’s Polish ancestors, and can even reveal place of origin in Poland for Polish immigrants, in some cases. For example, the burial records file for my great-granduncle, Frank Zielinski, contained correspondence between the War Department and my great-grandfather regarding the Gold Star Mothers Program, in which my great-grandfather provided the full name and complete address in Poland of his mother, Marianna (née Kalota) Zielińska. An overview of records from the U.S. National Archives relating to military service can be found here.
From 10 November 2017:
The Polish Army in France, often known as Haller’s Army or the Blue Army, was an army of over 20,000 Polish-American volunteers, organized in 1917 to fight for Poland’s freedom and independence. The Polish Genealogical Society of America offers a database in which you can search for the names of your ancestors who may have been participants in this effort. If you find a family member in the index, additional information about his service can be obtained from the PGSA for a nominal fee.
From 9 November 2017:
Do you have a Polish-American ancestor who was killed in World Wars I or II, and is buried overseas? The American Battle Monuments Commission has a searchable database for those burials where you can determine grave location, as well as date of death, rank, and the unit with which your ancestor served. Grave photos can also be downloaded from the site.
From 8 November 2017:
Newcomers to Polish research might be unfamiliar with the site PolishRoots, which is chock full of information, links, and resources to help you understand Poland’s history, geography, culture, and language. The site also offers a free electronic newsletter, Gen Dobry!, edited by William F Hoffman, which will keep you abreast of happenings and new resources in the American Polish genealogical community. You can sign up here to be added to the mailing list.
From 7 November 2017:
Do you have ancestors from the historic Wołyń (Volhynia) region that is presently divided between Poland, Ukraine and Belarus? Then Danuta Wojtowicz has a website you should check out. This site offers indexed parish records from the Roman Catholic dioceses of Łuck and Lwów, many of which are linked to scans in AGAD. There are also transcriptions of “spisy parafian” (parish census records) for a variety of parishes in that area. You can view the site in English by selecting “English” from the menu bar on the left.
From 6 November 2017:
Since Polish is an inflected language, word endings will change depending on grammatical usage and this applies to given names and surnames as well as other words. Learning to convert inflected forms of surnames and given names back to their nominative forms is an important skill for genealogists who are learning to research in Polish documents. This article contains some information that will help explain these concepts.
From 5 November 2017:
Are you wondering where your surname can be found in Poland today, and how popular it is? You might want to check it out at MoiKrewni, a database which offers geographic surname distributions based on Polish PESEL data from 2002. Before you jump in, there are a couple things you need to know about using this site: 1. Diacritics matter, so if you type “Wolinski,” you’ll find that only 11 men in Poland today bear this name, but if you type “Woliński,” the number of bearers increases dramatically. 2. Surnames like “Woliński,” which exhibit both masculine and feminine forms, must be searched separately, and the results added together, to obtain the total number of bearers. The site’s discussion forum may also be of interest. As always, if you’re not comfortable with using the site in Polish, you can view it in English if you use Chrome as your browser and right-click on the page to translate. Have fun!
From November 4, 2017:
While on the subject of Galicia research, another great site is Gesher Galicia, which offers one-stop shopping for those researching Jewish ancestors in Galicia. However, the site offers much to those researching Roman Catholics or Greek Catholics from Galicia as well. The Galician Town Locator includes every village and town found in Galicia in 1900, and identifies the administrative district and judicial district for a village, as well as the location of the Roman Catholic parish, Greek Catholic parish, or Jewish synagogue that served that village. Moreover, Gesher Galicia’s Map Room offers some great maps from different time periods, as well as a catalog of cadastral maps available from various archives.
From 3 November 2017:
If you’re researching in the historic Galicia region of southeastern Poland/western Ukraine and you want to contact a parish to request records, it’s important to identify the parish to which your ancestral village belongs CURRENTLY, rather than historically. This is because parishes in the Austrian Empire were required to keep a separate vital register for each village within the parish, rather than keeping all the parish records in one book, and simply noting within the record itself the name of the village where the event took place, as was the practice in other parts of Poland. As new parishes are created in Poland today in the areas that were formerly under Austrian control, and villages are reassigned, registers are transferred from the old parish to the new parish. As an example, the village of Maniów in gmina Szczucin belonged to St. Mary Magdalene parish in Szczucin at the time my great-great-grandfather was baptized there in 1865. However, in 1981, a new parish was founded in Borki, and the village of Maniów was transferred to this parish, so this is the parish that now holds the book with my ancestor’s 1865 baptism. Parish websites often contain a brief history of the parish and can be used to determine current parish assignments. And of course, if records were microfilmed by the LDS, the parish that matters is the historical one, not the current one.
From 2 November 2017:
Death notices from Polish-language newspapers can be very informative, offering insight into names of surviving family members and their relationships to the deceased. In some cases, place of birth in Poland may be mentioned for an immigrant ancestor. Depending on where your ancestors settled, these death notices may be indexed online. Death notices for the Dziennik Dla Wszystkich, published in Buffalo, NY, can be searched at the website of the PGSNYS (below). If you find your ancestor in the index, you can request a copy of the death notice for a small fee. Similarly, if your ancestor was from the Chicago area, death notices from the Dziennik Chicagoski (1890-1971) can be searched online at the website of the PGSA or at James J. Czuchra’s site, Polish Family Information. Group member and professional researcher Nick Gombash added that, “The Dziennik Związkowy (“Polish Daily News”) from Chicago, which began publication in 1908 and continues to this day, is a great resource for death notices or obituaries. The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in Chicago is one place they can be accessed in-person. They have digitized 1908-1917 and they are freely browseable on their website. (Thanks, Nick!)
From 1 November 2017:
In addition to the popular Kartenmeister database discussed previously, group members researching in Prussian Poland should be aware of the historic Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, or, the Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire, which has come online in a searchable form relatively recently. The goal of the compilers was to list every place name in the German Empire (1871-1918). This gazetteer will provide a complete administrative designation for a location, as well as stating where the civil registry office (Standesamt) was, and will note parishes if that town had them. The only drawback to Meyer’s is that if a town did not have a parish, it does not specifically state which parish a village belonged to. If you click the “Ecclesiastical” tab at the top, it WILL give you a list of other nearby towns where Catholic and Protestant parishes and Jewish synagogues were located, as well as the distance between the target location and these other places. However, it’s not safe to assume that the village always belonged to the parish that was geographically closest, making reference to other works necessary. Nonetheless, it’s a great starting point!
From 31 October 2017:
Baffled by Russian-language vital records for your Polish ancestors? Zofia Federowicz-Bolczak’s website is a great place to start. She offers examples of birth, marriage and death records that are transcribed and translated to help you learn to decipher these records for yourself. Start with this page, then click through her links at the top to obtain the full benefit of her site.
From 30 October 2017:
Since new members are added all the time, there may be some group members who are unfamiliar with Geneteka, which is an incredible gift to worldwide Polonia brought to us by the PTG (Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne). Geneteka is a database of indexed vital records from parishes and civil registries located throughout Poland today, as well as in a few areas that had a significant Polish presence historically. Geneteka is an ongoing work in progress, created entirely by volunteers, and it is not complete, so if you don’t find a vital record for your family there, you should not assume that the record does not exist. However, with just over 23 million indexed records, it’s such an impressive database that it’s a logical first step for many of us in finding records for our families, especially those who were very mobile within Poland. It’s still important to do your homework in records from whatever country your Polish ancestor settled in before jumping into Geneteka, however, especially if you’re researching a very popular surname. Ideally, you should know at least your ancestor’s approximate date of birth, general region of birth, and parents’ names, before you jump in. If you’re able to read records in Polish, German, Russian, or Latin, Geneteka is always looking for volunteer indexers, and if you’re not comfortable with reading those languages, you can support the project by making a donation via PayPal, in English, if you prefer. Even though indexing is done by volunteers, it costs money to put these records online.
From 29 October 2017:
Cemetery office records (not just grave markers) can be a great source of information about our Polish immigrant ancestors. Even if there is no grave marker for a particular ancestor, a single phone call to the cemetery may reveal details such as the person’s date of death, date of burial, age at death, specific location of the grave, the names of others buried in the same plot, the name of the person who purchased the plot, the name of the funeral parlor which arranged services, and more. If you are researching Jewish ancestors in the U.S., cemetery records can often reveal the name of the Jewish burial society or Landsmannschaft which purchased the cemetery section in which your ancestor was buried. These burial society records can often point to the specific town in the Old Country where your ancestor was from. The Jewish Genealogical Society of New York maintains a database which reports the name of the town associated with each individual burial society whose members are buried in New York City-area cemeteries.
From 28 October 2017:
Lack of familiarity with the Polish language is a common problem for English-speakers researching their Polish roots. If you’re not ready to invest in a more comprehensive translation guide (e.g. Hoffman and Shea’s “In Their Words” series of genealogical translation guides), you can get some basic assistance with Polish translations from Family Search’s Polish genealogical word list. In addition to common words and phrases used in Polish vital records, there are specific sections dedicated to dealing with numbers (both cardinal and ordinal), dates and time.
From 27 October 2017:
Another sister site to Geneteka, also offered by the PTG, is Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych, or Catalog of Metrical Records. (“Metryki,” or “metrical records,” is the Polish term for vital records.) This page allows you to search by location for a particular parish, and results include detailed information about the parish and the available records, including links to online indexes, contact information for the parish, and information on what record books are available onsite. Although there is no English language option offered via the American/British flag that often appears at the top of pages hosted by the PTG, you can nevertheless translate this page into English if you use Chrome as your browser and right-click anywhere on the page.
From 26 October 2017:
A less well-known “sister site” to Geneteka is Meldunkowe, or “Reports.” These are census-type population lists, most of which come from Księgi Ludności Stałej, or Books of the Permanent Population, although there are some parish census (status animarum) lists included too. At present, there aren’t too many of these lists available online, and they’re mainly for Kujawsko-Pomorskie province, with a few from locations in Wielkopolskie province and Ukraine. But if your family comes from one of those regions, this may be your lucky day.
From 25 October 2017:
Steve Morse has another popular site for those of us researching Polish immigrant ancestors. Per the site’s descrption, “This site contains tools for finding immigration records, census records, vital records, and for dealing with calendars, maps, foreign alphabets, and numerous other applications. Some of these tools fetch data from other websites but do so in more versatile ways than the search tools provided on those websites.” Many researchers find this site to be especially helpful in finding passenger manifests for all immigrants who reported a particular place of origin on their manifests.
From 24 October 2017:
One of the most common regrets expressed by experienced genealogists is the lack of good source citations attached to events they included in their family trees back when they first began. Source citations don’t need to be scholarly, but the reason those scholarly formats have evolved is because they’re proven to be the most useful and complete. A good source citation will allow you (and others) to reproduce your work and understand where your data came from. Without a source citation, how will anyone know whether that birth date for Jan Nowak came only from Grandma’s recollection, a census record, or something more definitive, like his birth certificate from Poland? The “bible” for creating genealogical source citations is Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills, and her website is very informative as well. In addition, many desktop software programs (like Family Tree Maker) offer templates for creating source citations based on Mills’ models. The templates prompt you to fill in various fields, based on the document you’re working with, and you can attach a digital image of the document directly to the citation. Remember that one document can be used to support several different facts. For example, a typical baptismal record for Jan Nowak from the parish of Mława-Wólka in 1908 can be used as evidence for Jan’s name, his date of birth, his place of birth, his date and place of baptism, his father’s name, his father’s occupation, his father’s date of birth (based on his age at the time of his son’s birth), his mother’s name, his mother’s age, and the family’s place of residence.
From 23 October 2017:
If you’re just starting your research into your Polish ancestry, some basic advice can be found here.
From 22 October 2017:
Do you have roots in Pomerania? The Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne has a site that you’ll want to learn to use. To start searching, click “PomGenBase,” then select “Search PomGenBase,” and choose baptisms, marriages, deaths, cemeteries, or monuments. Although the original focus of the site was on Pomerania, the database has come to include some registry offices in Mazovia and perhaps a few other places. To view the list of places, choose “PomGenBase,” then “Metrical Book Indexes,” and then, “Parishes and Registry Offices.” As always, if you use these records and you’re able to make a donation to support the PTG and help defray the cost of putting these records online, please do so!
From 21 October 2017:
Another great indexing project for the Wielkoposkie area is BaSIA. This database is complementary to the Poznań Project in that it covers much of the same part of Poland, but includes birth and death records in addition to marriages, and often includes links to scans. On the main page, click “extended search” (in small blue letters near the top, just below the search box) to access a powerful, flexible search engine which allows you to specify a target individual’s surname and given name, as well as the percent similarity to the surname as written, range of years, type of vital event, location, etc. Click “Contents” at the top to see an interactive map of the parishes covered, or choose to view the contents as an alphabetical list.
From 20 October 2017:
One of the best-known indexes for Polish genealogy is the Poznań Project, originally known as the Poznań Marriage Project. Begun in 2000 by Łukasz Bielecki, this database includes about 75% of existing marriage records from 1800-1899 from the historic Poznań region of Poland. Data include not only parishes and registry offices from the Posen province of Prussia, but also some adjacent areas that were in other Prussian provinces or in Russian Poland. Today these locations can be found in the modern-day Wielkopolskie (primarily) and Kujawsko-Pomorskie provinces, with a few stray parishes in Lubuskie or Łódzkie provinces (and maybe elsewhere?). If you find a marriage record of interest, you can obtain a copy by sending a donation for the Project to Łukasz Bielecki. However, since it’s likely that there are other events in that parish that may be of interest to you (births, deaths, other marriages), it makes sense to click the name of the parish, which will take you to further information about the availability of records. Many parishes indexed by the Poznań Project have also been microfilmed/digitized by the LDS, so by consulting the film or images yourself, you’ll find additional records beyond just the original marriage record.
From 19 October 2017:
Genealogy Indexer is a popular site created by Logan Kleinwaks, which offers a searchable database of historical directories (business, address, telephone, etc., mostly from Central and Eastern Europe), yizkor books (memorials to Jewish communities destroyed in the Holocaust), military lists (officers, casualties, etc., mostly from the Russian Empire and Poland), community and personal histories, and Polish secondary school annual reports and other school sources. Most of the indexed material is linked to scans from source material held by digital libraries.
From 18 October 2017:
Those of us who are researching ancestors in Galicia will enjoy the historical map portal at Mapire, which offers historical maps of the Austrian Empire (including Galicia). You can choose a map (e.g. the Third Military Survey 1869-1887), then enter a location in the search box (e.g. Kołaczyce) and click “Options” to explore options for viewing the map. For example, you can zoom in using the +/- buttons in the upper left corner, then vary the transparency of the overlay between the modern map (road or satellite) and historical map by sliding the blue bar in the “historical layers” box. Have fun!
From 17 October 2017:
DNA testing is valuable tool that can be used to validate and extend one’s documentary research. However, it’s important to recognize that the real value of DNA testing is not in the ethnicity estimates, which can be inaccurate and vary tremendously between test companies. Rather, it’s the DNA matches that are most revealing and can lead you to new discoveries. It’s also important to realize that DNA testing is not a magic bullet. In order to understand your matches, it helps to have a well-documented family tree to begin with. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy has a very informative Wiki site where you can find articles to help you understand the science behind DNA testing and how to apply it to your research. In addition, there are a number of Facebook groups that may be useful, such as the ISOGG Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques, DNA Detectives, and the GEDmatch Users Group. Additional groups of interest to our members are Polish Autosomal DNA, Lemko Ancestry and DNA, and the Polish-language group, Genealogia Genetyczna.
From 16 October 2017:
If you’re researching in Upper Silesia, the Górnośląskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Upper Silesian Genealogical Society) offers Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish vital records from collections held by the State Archive in Katowice. Digitized images can be browsed via links to Dropbox, and a portion of these records are also indexed on Geneteka. As with many such digitizing operations in Poland today, financial support is needed, so if you use these records, please consider making a donation — any amount is appreciated. Group members with an interest in genetic genealogy in this region should be sure to check out the Society’s Silesia DNA Project as well.
From 15 October 2017:
Are you researching family in the Lublin area of Poland? Then one of the best websites for your research will be Lubelskie Korzenie (Lublin Roots), otherwise known as Lubgens. This is an indexing project with some indexed entries linked to scans, similar to Geneteka. The list of indexed parishes appears on the left, and by clicking the name of a parish, you can see which years are indexed for births, marriages and deaths.
From 14 October 2017:
If you’re researching ancestors from Russian Poland, and are looking for a simple, tabular index of villages with their corresponding parish, the Skorowidz Królestwa Polskiego, published in 1877, should be included in your list of go-to resources. This gazetteer was published in two volumes, Volume 1 and Volume 2. Column headings show the place name, the gubernia (province), powiat (county), gmina (municipality), parafia (parish), sąd pokoju (courthouse) and poczta (post office) for places within the Kingdom of Poland (e.g. Congress Poland or Russian Poland).
From 13 October 2017:
We’ve had a lot of questions recently about variant forms of Polish surnames that might be seen in old records. It’s important to remember that surname spelling was not standardized until as recently as the 1930s, so in earlier records, you need to keep an eye out for variant forms of a name. While it’s very common to see phonetic substitutions within a name (e.g. Bartoszewicz rather than Bartosiewicz) you may also see more dramatic variations on a surname based on the etymological origin. For example, 19th century records exist for my Grzesiak family in which the name is spelled Grzeszak, Grzeszczak, Grześczak, and even Grześkiewicz. The priest creating these records felt very comfortable doing this because all of these surnames derive from the Polish given name Grzegorz (Gregory). So how can you be sure you’re looking at records for the same family when the surnames can change so much? Pay attention to the details, such as ages, occupations, names of witnesses and godparents, house addresses, etc. A wonderful resource for understanding the etymology of Polish surnames is the book, Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings by William F Hoffman.
From 12 October 2017:
While we’re on the subject of obtaining church records, it’s important to understand that not all church records are created equal. Frequently, if you request a copy of a church record, the church will only provide a typed extract of the original entry in the parish register, shown here for the marriage of Genevieve Klaus and Joseph Zielinski.
These transcriptions are NOT ideal, because they do little more than offer proof that the marriage occurred in the parish on a particular date. As you can see, it provides no parents’ names, and we’re at the mercy of the secretary’s ability to transcribe the names of those involved. Ideally, what you should request is a clear digital photo of the original parish record book, an example of which is shown here, for the marriage of Genevieve’s parents, Andrzej Klaus and Marya Łącka.
This provides a great deal of information not found in the transcript, including parents’ names and place of birth of the bride and groom. Many parishes cite privacy as a reason not to provide digital photos of the parish register, so you can try suggesting that they cover up the other entries (but NOT the column headings!) on the page with a sheet of paper before taking the photo. That said, there are still plenty of parishes that staunchly refuse to provide copies of their records. If that’s the case, all you can do is take the long view and keep trying periodically. Pastors change, and you might get lucky and find that a new one is more receptive to sharing the parish records.
From 11 October 2017:
While on the subject of great map resources, another favorite is this site containing maps from the 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary. Most of these maps were published circa 1910, but the dates reported in the lower left or right corner may be even earlier (e.g. the map of Łódź dated 1894), so they’re a little earlier than the maps from the WIG (yesterday’s tip). If you find a map of interest that you refer to frequently, you can right-click on it and save it to your desktop. (This is also true of the WIG maps.) Unfortunately, these maps only extend to 53 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude, so the northern part of Poland is excluded.
From 10 October 2017:
Recent vital records (birth records less than 100 years old, marriage and death records less than 80 years old) can be obtained by an individual’s direct descendants by writing to the USC (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego, civil registry office) in the gmina (municipality, community) where the village is located. An easy way to determine the gmina for a particular village, as well as the complete present-day administrative designations for the village, is to use Mapa Szukacz. This site is also helpful in identifying all places within the borders of Poland today that have the same name. Diacritics aren’t necessary for the search. You can search within one particular voivodeship using advanced search (Szukanie zaawansowane), which is very helpful if you’re searching for an especially common place name, like “Nowa Wieś.” Results will also tell you the population of a particular village (osoby). Since the site only shows places within Poland today, the biggest drawback is that it’s not helpful in identifying locations that were formerly in Poland, but are no longer.
From 9 October 2017:
Group members researching in the Galicia area — especially eastern Galicia, which is now a part of Ukraine — should consider starting their search with a thorough investigation of Matthew Bielawa’s popular HalGal website. His site is the perfect introduction to genealogy in this region, offering research tips and historical background information, as well as links to maps, gazetteers, vital records databases, photos, and more.
From 8 October 2017:
Looking for great historical maps that are of a sufficient map scale to include even small villages? Then look no further than the Map Archive of the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny, or Military Geographical Institute. This site offers a plethora of maps at a variety of map scales, as well as town plans, and can be searched in English or in Polish. Choose an “Active Index” from the bar on the left (e.g. WIG 1:300,000) and click on a map quadrant to explore available maps for that area, or search for maps that show a particular location by inputting the place name in the search box. Most (or all) of the maps are from the period 1919-1939.
From 7 October 2017:
Newcomers to genealogy research often make the mistake of focusing their research efforts solely on their direct line. However, experienced researchers know that cluster research is always a better approach. Cluster research involves research into our ancestors’ FANs (Friends, Neighbors, and Associates), which provides historical context for our ancestors’ lives and can often lead to those critical breakthroughs. It is especially valuable when attempting to determine the place of origin for one’s immigrant Polish ancestors, in cases where direct evidence is lacking. For more information, check out these links compiled by Cyndi Ingle.
From 6 October 2017:
The Polish digital archive GenBaza, administered by Tomasz Nitsch, is familiar to many of us as a top go-to source for vital records. If you’ve never used this site before, you need to create an account first at GenPol. Complete instructions for using the site can be found in C Michael Eliasz-Solomon’s excellent blog post.
Currently there’s an exciting project underway involving the photographing and indexing of vital registers from USCs in the Mazovian region of Poland. Waldemar Chorążewicz has been providing us with regular reports on this project, and he is the indexing coordinator, while image processing is handled by Leszek Ćwikliński. Wawrzyniec Myśliński negotiates access to the books at the various USCs, as well as photographing them and paying for travel expenses out of his own pocket. The project is under the patronage of the Pomeranian Genealogical Society, which will allow the scans to be made available at Metryki.GenBaza.pl once they are indexed. Thanks to the efforts of these amazing volunteers, new scans are appearing in GenBaza regularly, offering us the luxury of researching our family heritage from the comfort of our favorite armchair. If you use these records and would like to give something back to support this very worthwhile project, you can make a donation. Please be sure to then SEND A NOTE to the PTG, asking them to credit your donation toward the Mazovian USC Project. Thank you for your support, and happy hunting!
From 5 October 2017:
Do you have difficulty identifying your ancestor’s place of origin within the Kresy (lands once contained within the Second Polish Republic that are east of Poland’s border today)? Then this phonetic gazetteer, developed by Ewa and Adam Kamiński, is perfect for your needs. Choose the “similar” or “rough” search option, and the results will include a comprehensive list of potential matches, indicating the former administrative designations for each place as well as parishes that served it. Map links are provided in most cases.
From 4 October 2017:
In the early days of civil vital registration in Poland, priests and other religious officials acted as civil registrars, so it’s important to determine not only one’s ancestral village, but also the parish that served that village. The tool we use for determining this is a gazetteer, and there are a variety of good ones out there. The most comprehensive of these is the Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, or Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries, which we sometimes refer to in this group as the SGKP. It was originally published between 1880-1902 in a mammoth collection of 15 volumes. To search for a town or village, you must use correct Polish spelling, including diacritics. Each entry typically includes information about the number of homes and residents, place of worship, and other interesting historical information. If you find the dense paragraphs and numerous abbreviations to be a bit daunting, assistance is available from both the Polish Genealogical Soceity of America and the popular Polish Roots websites, in the form of town entries that have already been translated, lists of abbreviations, and glossaries of unfamiliar terms.
From 3 October 2017:
As the 8th-largest city in the U.S. in 1900, Buffalo, New York attracted many Polish immigrants and is home to a large number of Polish-Americans to this day. If you have ancestors who lived there, be sure to check out Kasia Dane‘s phenomenal indexes for baptism and marriage records from St. Stanislaus, the mother church of Buffalo Polonia. St. Stanislaus’ records are a favorite with researchers because they almost invariably provide the crucial place of origin for Polish immigrants. Thanks to a collaboration between Kasia and Waldemar Chorążewicz, St. Stan’s marriage records can also be searched at Geneteka under the heading, “Pozostałe” at the bottom of the province list on the main page. If you find your ancestors in these indexes, you can obtain copies of the records via the digitized images available through the Family History Library.
From 2 October 2017:
Many of us are familiar with the vital records database Metryki, but may think of it only as a repository for scans that are indexed in Geneteka. It’s important to realize that these two databases are quite distinct: there are indexes in Geneteka for which no scans exist in Metryki, but there are also scans in Metryki for which there are no indexes in Geneteka. For example, Roman Catholic births in the parish of Ciechanów are indexed in Geneteka from 1807-1913, but with gaps from 1823-1826, 1839, 1851-1858, 1860, and 1863-1879. Metryki has scans for civil records from Ciechanów from 1810-1825, with one gap from 1814-1815, and additional Roman Catholic records from from Ciechanów from 1826-1913 with NO gaps. So it’s important to check both of these databases when assessing coverage for your ancestral parishes, and to understand that a gap in indexed records for a parish in Geneteka, does not mean that the records no longer exist.
From 1 October 2017:
Those with Polish-American roots in the New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, as well as some locations in New Jersey and Delaware, might want to check out this database of marriage records indexed by the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast. Addtional documentation can be requested for some of these marriages, for a very modest fee.
From 30 September 2017:
Many beginners are aware of the indexed records available from Family Search, which can be accessed through their main search page. However, what many don’t realize is that the indexed records represent only a fraction of what is available from the Family History Library. A “place” search in the FamilySearch catalog, using the names of ancestral parishes (from Poland or from the U.S., Canada, etc.) will often produce digitized records that are not indexed, that can nonetheless be searched within the images for evidence of one’s family. For example, this page of baptismal records from St. Adalbert’s Church in Buffalo, New York, is image-only, so these records will NOT show up in a surname search at the main search page. However, many of these records provide that all-important place of origin for the parents of the baptized child.
From 29 September 2017:
Did you have an Uncle Chester or Stanley, or an Aunt Lottie or Pearl in your Polish family? It’s nearly certain that these were not their original names. When Poles migrated to English-speaking countries, they tended to use the English equivalent of their names (Peter rather than Piotr), or to choose a name that had at least a passing phonetic similarily to their Polish name, if their Polish name had no English equivalent, or had an English equivalent that wasn’t especially popular (e.g. Jadwiga –> Hedwig). Traditional Polish names with no English equivalent include names like Władysław/Władysława, Stanisław/Stanisława, Czesław/Czesława, and Pelagia, and many immigrants with these names adopted English names like Walter, Stanley, Chester, and Pearl, even though these names have no etymological similarity to the original Polish names. A great list of common Polish given names and their English equivalents can be found here. As a bonus, this list also includes the most popular Polish diminutives for each name, in case you have family correspondence that mentions Ciocia Janka, and you’re trying to determine what name that should be.
From 28 September 2017:
Did your Polish-American ancestor take out a life insurance policy? If so, the death claim file might be a goldmine of information for you. The Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA) is one of many fraternal aid societies that sold insurance policies to Polish immigrants and their families, but it’s an easy one to check because their records have all been compiled into a searchable database, courtesy of the Polish Genealogical Society of America. https://pgsa.org/societies-of-the-polish-roman-catholic-…/…/. The application for insurance, in particular, might reveal your ancestor’s place of origin, as well as information such as parents’ names, and their ages at death. Happy hunting!
From 27 September 2017:
How many of us use online family tree programs (e.g. Ancestry) or desktop genealogy software (e.g. Family Tree Maker) that have a drop-down menu that’s supposed to assist in identifying the place for an event? Probably a lot. How many of us take the time (or have the expertise) to accurately identify locations in that family tree program or online tree? Not nearly so many!
This is really important, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen family trees where the poster just grabbed the first location from the list, unintentionally misleading DNA matches and others who might view the tree. It’s like stating that your ancestors were from Springfield, Massachusetts, rather than Springfield, Illinois. I understand that it’s really confusing, since administrative designations have changed over time, but most genealogy software looks for contemporary designations, rather than historic ones. A great resource for identifying current administrative designations is http://mapa.szukacz.pl/. Type in a place name in the search box that says, “Miejscowość” and presto! You can see all the locations in Poland today by this name, as well as the current administrative designations (województwo/province, powiat/county, and gmina/”township”) for each. Note: This is only helpful if the location is within the borders of Poland today. If you need further assistance in determining which is the correct present-day location, based on your data from documents pertaining to your ancestor, please post in the group!
From 26 September 2017:
A common problem we face when tracing our Polish ancestors is misspelled place names on documents originating in the U.S. or other English-speaking countries. A great tool to help you get around that problem is this phonetic gazetteer at JewishGen. I like to begin with the second search option, Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex, rather than the default Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching, because it generates more search hits. Once you identify the correct place, you can use a different gazetteer to determine the correct parish or registry office for this location. (Those other gazetteers will be the subject of future “Tips of the Day,” so stay tuned. ) Contrary to what the name suggests, this is useful for identifying all locations with a given name,, whether those locations had a significant Jewish presence or not. If your research focus includes Jewish ancestors, an additional database is offered with information about communities that were specifically Jewish.
From 25 September 2017:
If your family stories say that Grandma was from Poznań and Grandpa was from Warsaw, chances are good that it’s not time to rush into research in Polish records just yet. Most of our ancestors came from small villages, whose names would be unrecognizable to those unfamiliar with the area. Therefore our ancestors often approximated their place of origin to the closest large city, or perhaps the capital of the province (e.g. Kalisz, Radom, Lublin, Płock, etc.). In these cases, it’s necessary to do further research in U.S. records (or records from the immigrant’s adopted home country) to determine each immigrant’s precise place of birth before attempting research in European records. This map shows the names of the provinces of Russian Poland circa 1907, but if your ancestors were from Prussian or Austrian Poland, this won’t apply.
From 24 September 2017:
In old documents cursive S is sometimes mistaken for cursive L, so there are quite a few Ellis Island passengers whose surnames were mistranscribed as beginning with “Lz” instead of “Sz,” e.g. “Lzczerba,” “Lzcrepaniak,” and “Lzcsepansky.” In these examples, when I checked the original image of the manifest, those names were clearly Szczerba, Szczepaniak, and Szczepansky. Similarly, the Polish ł is often mistaken for a “t” in indexes created by those unfamiliar with the Polish alphabet. You can get around these problems by doing wildcard searches. Check out Ancestry’s blog for more information. Also be aware that Ellis Island and Ancestry index passengers differently. The same passenger, Marcjanna Szczepankiewicz, was indexed on Ellis Island as “Marcyanna Sezezefsankiewiez” and on Ancestry as ““Marcyanna Sczezyoankiemg,” so if you can’t find a passenger readily on one site, try checking the other. In many cases, the documents are right there in the database — it’s a matter of knowing how to tease them out. 🙂
From 23 September 2017:
Group members who are Americans come from a historical perspective in which church and state are separate. So it may be surprising to realize that in all three partitions of Poland, church records were recognized as legal documents, and parish priests, ministers, and rabbis were authorized to be civil registrars. That’s why it’s important to know the religion that your ancestors practiced, because civil records were kept by each religion separately. (The dates at which this began will vary according to partition). Hence, you’ll see collections of vital records with names like, “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Młodzieszynie” (civil records of the Roman Catholic parish of Młodzieszyn), which may seem like an oxymoron. 🙂 In some cases, it may be possible to find both civil and church records for a particular vital event, as shown in these Latin (church) and Polish (civil) birth records from 1843 for Marianna Krawczyńska from Zagórów, Słupca County, Russian Poland. For more information about the history of vital records keeping in Poland, see https://fromshepherdsandshoemakers.wordpress.com/…/overvie…/, especially the links for further reading, at the bottom of the page.
From 22 September 2017:
Researching documents for one’s Polish ancestors becomes easier as one becomes more familiar with the Polish language. If fluency in Polish seems unattainable, don’t panic — many of us have made great progress in our research with just a little time spent on the basics. The Polish Grammar in a Nutshell document linked here (suggested by Agnieszka Matysiuk) is an excellent way to start, and even Wikipedia has a number of entries that might be useful. Finally, if you’d like to hear your Polish surname or any Polish text pronounced with a reasonable degree of authenticity and accuracy, try typing it into Google Translate and clicking the “sound” icon on the INPUT side (NOT on the English results side). Have fun! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_alphabet, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_language, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_grammar
From 21 September 2017:
If you’re struggling with deciphering a Polish surname in a document, try playing with it in this site, http://herby.com.pl/. Complete instructions for using it can be found here. So, for example, if a name appears to be Bart????ski, and you can’t read the bit in the middle, enter “Bart*ski” and it will tell you what the valid options are for Polish surnames that begin and end that way. Another option: if your parish is indexed in Geneteka, use the wildcard search there to see what surnames are known to exist in that parish that begin with “Bart.” 😉
From 20 September 2017:
Finally found great-grandpa’s passenger manifest? Be sure to check for a second page. Some manifests covered two pages, and the Ancestry link will only take you to the first page. The second page may contain valuable information such as precise place of birth (as opposed to last foreign residence), the name and address of the immigrant’s sponsor in the U.S., etc., so you’ll want to download that page for your records, too.
From 19 September 2017:
Wondering why you can’t find Grandma’s naturalization records, when the 1920 census says that she naturalized in 1911? Try looking for her husband’s records. Prior to 1922, most women did not naturalize on their own. They obtained derivative citizenship from their husbands. The Expatriation Act of 1907 took this one step further, declaring that U.S.-born women who married immigrant aliens would lose their citizenship, even if they never left the country. It wasn’t until 1922, when Congress passed the Cable Act, that a woman’s citizenship was declared to be independent of her husband’s. Consequently, a man’s naturalization records, dated after 1906 and before 1922, will likely contain not only his own place and date of birth, but also his wife’s, and the places and dates of birth of all of his children (foreign-born or U.S.-born.) Further reading: https://www.archives.gov/…/…/women-and-naturalization-1.html and https://www.archives.gov/…/prol…/2014/spring/citizenship.pdf
© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017