This week we will continue to look at Polish research records. Have you taken time to understand your ancestor’s name and spellings? Did you dip your toe into the history of Poland, ensuring that you have identified the correct person and village/town to research? This week we will look at vital records and census records.
When searching for vital records, you will need to keep in mind the history of Poland to ensure that you are searching in the correct area. Church records are where you are will find vital information including births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths. This is because Poland did not collect Civil registration in a consistent way throughout the regions. Often copies of the records collected by the various religions were sent to the government, rather than the government collecting them. Depending on which country was ruling which area of Poland, your ability to find records will vary.
According to Lisa A Alzo in her book, “The Family Tree Polish, Czech & Slovak Genealogy Guide”, the first place to start is to see what is available online. Two resources to try are:
www.szukajwarchiwach.pl – The Polish State Archives has digitized many of its available records.
www.opoka.org.pl/struktury_kosciola/diecezje/index.html. This site allows you to look at parish and diocese directories.
We love our census records in the United States. It becomes such a wonderful way to ensure that we have the correct family group, helping us identify names of children, ages, and other trivia such as immigration dates, depending on the census year.
When we look at census records in Poland, we will find that most have not be preserved for the 19th century or are missing. There are some records such as household tax registers, population counts and parish censuses. These may only have head of household or only counts. The information available varies widely, depending on the area of Poland that you are researching. Two places you can search is FamilySearch to see what is available for your area and on Ancestry for 1939 Jewish census records. One area of hope is the family registers which lists family members of a household and changes as they occur over time. These records are found in the Polish National Archives. According to Lisa, try searching by locality at <baza.archiwa.gov.pl/sezam/ela.php?l=en>
In my case, I was fortunate to have the place of origin on the ship passenger records. This too might be a clue for you as you research. Although I think it was probably the only relative of mine that listed an actual village on the ship passenger list! I should give thanks the clerk who recorded this information.
Here is a brief case study on how I found birth and death records for my Polish ancestors. Because I knew the village of origin was called Suleczyno located in the Pomeranian region of Poland, I started my search at the Pomeranian Genealogical Association. This site allows you to search by event, location (village) and surname. Once I found Nicolas Tryba and Stanislawa Krefft marriage record in the index, I could then start to look for their births and identify their parents and potential siblings to further research. The index was helpful but seeing the original digitized record is even better. Researching in the Metrics Books area, I scrolled to the parish of Suleczyno where I could easily see what has been indexed and what is available for various years. If I choose this parish, I see a map with its location along with additional details related to the records including the diocese information. All information that is timesaving when looking for records.
FamilySearch has digitized copies of the Kirchenbuch, 1706-938 including catholic records in Pomerania, Poland. As with many of these old records, the readability depends on the priest but knowing the dates and the names made it much easier to search. Taufen means birth/baptism, Tote means death and Heiraten means marriage. Sadly, for me, these marriage records are only available at a Family History center so I will need to wait until they are open again. However, there are birth and death records available view and I have found both Nicholas and Anna* and their parents.
As an aside, Stanislawa Krefft*was known as Anastasia Craft in America and went by “Anna. In Poland “Stacy” would be a typical nickname for Stanislawa. My point is to not dismiss names that seem unfamiliar when everything else like dates, location and related people line up correctly. As always proceed with caution but be aware of the naming quirks.
Lisa A. Alzo has written a “Tracing Your Ancestors Eastern European Research A Practical Guide from the Publishers of Your Genealogy Today & Internet Genealogy”. Both her book and this magazine format are excellent resources to help you navigate your research in Poland.
There are other sites that offer more links and information on researching your Polish ancestors. Here are a few:
Poland Genealogy at FamilySearch
Polish Genealogy Databases Online - ThoughtCo
Polish Research Guide from American Ancestors
It has been rewarding to find more information available to research our Polish ancestors online. I hope this brief dive into Polish records helps you discover your ancestors. Good luck exploring your Eastern European ancestors.
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.