Obtaining Polish Records
Records of Emigration
Displaced Persons Records
PolandGenWeb Records Transcription Project
State Archives in Warsaw
Correspondence must be in Polish and the following information must be included: Christian or first names, surnames, date and place of the event (birth, marriage, death, etc.) Keep in mind that they charge by the hour for research and the cost of the search can add up quickly! It is suggested that you set a cost limit, so specify that you will pay a maximum of whatever your limit is. Ask how payment may be made, so you will send the correct type of payment. Your request for research will be assigned a number (Nasz znak -----). Include it on all correspondence.
The Piast Genealogical Research Center
Specializes in nobility research. They handle archival research and library research. They will travel to the appropriate archives to do the research. The report will be in Polish or, at an extra charge, they will reply in English. Warning: this service can take quite a bit of time to respond. You can obtain a brochure, available in Polish or English, which explains their services and fees, at the following address:
The College of Heraldry
Also does research. This service can take a long time to send a reply.
Roman Catholic Church
Polish parishes began recording births, marriages, and deaths in the late 1500s and early 1600s as dictated by the Council of Trent in 1563. The Council required baptismal registers be kept, which were necessary to prove couples were baptized Catholics before they could be married. In 1614, a formal mandate required that all baptisms, marriages, and deaths be recorded. However, some parishes kept records before the Council established the requirement, and some parish registers kept communion and confirmation lists and marriage banns.
There was often more than one original copy of the registers. At the end of the year, the priest was required to copy all entries and send them to the local bishop or to the local civil records office. So, if you don't find the record you seek in the local parish, try the diocesan or archdiocesan archives and the state provincial archives for civil records. Some registers were taken to Germany during World War II and are still there.
Registers were usually written in Latin until Poland was partitioned, when they began being recorded in the language of the rulers of the partition (Austrian, German, and Russian).
See Finding Parish Addresses to help you locate the name of the parish to which your ancestor belonged, or you can write to the following address to find the name and address of the Roman Catholic parish for a specific village or town:
Greek Catholic Church
Record began being kept in the early 1600s. The registers were written in Old Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, Polish, or Latin. The information contained is nearly the same as that recorded in the Roman Catholic registers. Recent records (those less than 100 years old) can be found at the parish or local civil records offices. The state provincial archives and the Main Archives of Ancient Documents also keep these church records. Some have been microfilmed by the LDS.
Russian Orthodox Church
Record keeping began in the 1600s. The registers were in Old Church Slavonic or Russian. The information contained is about the same as the Roman Catholic registers. Recent records are held at parishes or local civil records offices. They also can be found at the Main Archives of Ancient Documents and state provincial archives. Some have been filmed by the LDS.
Evangelical (Lutheran) Church
The church began keeping records in the early 1600s. Births, marriages, deaths, and some confirmations were recorded. The information recorded was much the same as that of the Roman Catholic Church. Some of the registers were indexed. The entries were written in the language of the people: thus, German for the German-speaking inhabitants, etc. The records can be found in the parish if it is still active, in the local civil records offices, and also may be found in the state provincial archives or Protestant or Catholic archives in Poland and Germany. Many registers have been microfilmed by the LDS.
For a map of the diocesan boundaries and links to each diocese's web site, visit the Poland's Evangelical-Augsburg (Lutheran) Dioceses page.
A church-book information center was founded by the Society of Eastern German Family Researchers. They may be able to assist you in finding the present location of the church for which you are searching:
If your ancestors were from Pommerania, you can write to the Pomeranian Evangelical Church Archives in Greifswald, Germany:
Records for East Prussia were sent to the Central Archives of the Evangelical Church in Berlin:
Large numbers of Mennonites immigrated to Poland after 1642. Most settled in the Gdansk area. Records began being kept of birth and adult baptisms after 1772 and most are recorded in German. Some of the early records are in Dutch. These records can be found in state and church archives in Poland and Germany. Some records were brought to America and are in Mennonite archives or are kept by the individual churches.
Reformed (Protestant) Church
These records can be found in the parishes or in state or provincial archives. Those for Silesia can be found at the Central Archives of the Protestant Church (see above address).
Jews were allowed to practice their faith and to keep their language and culture until 1795 when Polish laws ceased to exist with the partitioning of Poland. Jews were then persecuted and severely limited in their civil rights. Births, marriages, and deaths were not recorded consistently, but Jewish congregations kept marriage contracts, death memorial books, and circumcision records. Many of these records were destroyed. However, many records from Europe are now in the United States. Several organizations around the world have been preserving Jewish records for many years:
Civil registration, introduced by Napoleon in 1808, was continued by the Russian administration after the partitioning of Poland. Birth, marriage, and death registers were written in Polish and most have been indexed for each year. In 1864, records were required to be kept in Russian. Since the Russians did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1918, you may find two dates (12 days apart) on a vital record or in a register from the Russian-occupied areas. The earlier date is the Russian date and the later date is the Gregorian date. Records less that 100 years old can be found at the local civil records offices. The older records are kept at the state provincial archives. Many records have been filmed by the LDS.
Prussian law dictated that civil records be kept in 1874. The records were almost always kept in German, but occasionally are found to be in Polish. People of all religions were recorded in one register. Records can be found in local civil records offices in Poland; some are in archives in Germany and some have been microfilmed by the LDS (reportedly, only for the years 1874 to 1882, and these are far from comprehensive).
Civil registration began in 1784. Catholic parish registers were used as the civil records, and duplicates were made for administration purposes (there may have been errors made in the copying process. After 1869, non-Catholics were responsible for keeping their own vital records. Recent records are kept at the local civil records office. The originals can be found at local parishes or church archives, and the duplicates can be found at the state provincial archives. Many records have been microfilmed by the LDS.
The Main Archives of Ancient Documents, as it it called, is the equivalent of the national records office. Those documents that originate before 1945 are referred to as "Ancient Documents." Judicial records, naturalizations, records of ennoblements, awards of coats of arms, and genealogies and family histories are found here.
The archives also holds the older records (100 years or older) of the Zabuzanski ("the territory of the Bug River") collection of birth, marriage, and death records from 522 Roman Catholic parishes in Polish territories that were turned over to the Soviet Union after W.W.II. These parishes were located in the East Galician districts of Tarnopol, Lwów, and Stanislawów. Some records from Volhynia are also included. More recent records of the Zabuzanski collection are found at the National Workers Council in Warsaw:
The Main Archives of New Records holds the records from 1945 to the present:
State Provincial Archives and Regional Archives
Civil records more than 100 years old are housed at the various state archives. More recent registers and transcripts are found at local civil records offices. Records are divided at the year 1874 for the former German territories. Until 1975, provincial administrations were divided into the following provinces (województwa): Białystok, Bydgoszcz, Gdańsk, Katowice, Kielce, Koszalin, Kraków, Łód, Lublin, Olsztyn, Opole, Poznań, Rzeszów, Szczecin, Warszawa, Wrocław, and Zielona Góra. In 1975, these provinces were divided up into 49 smaller administrative areas. And in 1999, the province boundaries were once again reconstructed to form 16 larger provinces.
See our State Archives page to find their mailing addresses.
Local Records Offices
Most towns and large villages have (or had) an Office of Civil Records. They are similar to county courthouses in the U.S. The records kept here are those that are less than 100 years old. The National Library in Poland can determine the correct local civil records office for the village in which you are researching. Give them as much information as possible, including the name of the parish, province, powiat, kreis, gubernia, or gmina if known:
You may also write to the local civil records office (Urzad stanu cywilnego) this way:
Major ports of embarkation for those from Poland were Hamburg and Bremen in Germany, Antwerp in Belgium, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Some Poles from Little Poland left from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Few records for Amsterdam and Antwerp remain. The passenger lists for Bremen spanning the years 1832-1907 were destroyed by the German government because of lack of storage space, and the more current lists were destroyed during World War II.
Vienna Passport Registers (Wien-Konskriptionsemt) were microfilmed by the LDS, and indexes are available for the years 1792 to 1901 for those emigrants who left by that route. The Hamburg passenger lists, from 1845 to 1934, are also available on microfilm. Many facilities have at least some of the lists and indexes, including the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., the Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library in Indiana. The LDS also has the lists and indexes for 1850 to 1934.
The Historic Emigration Office can supply a certificate containing an individual's age, marital status, number of children, occupation, city of origin, date of departure, and name of the ship if your ancestor passed through Hamburg from 1845 to 1934. However, you must supply the exact year of emigration. Write to:
URL: BallinStadt Hamburg - site in English and German
Other records from Hamburg that may contain an emigrant's name if he/she passed through the city are: travel passport records (Reisepassprotokolle) from 1852 to 1929 and general out-of-town arrivals (Allgemeine Fremden Meldeprotokolle) for male and female laborers and servants from the years 1843 to 1890 and male and female transients from 1868 to 1899. These are available through the LDS. Most lists are indexed. Keep in mind that not all persons passing through Hamburg appear on these lists.
What are Displaced Persons?
Diplaced Persons were forced laborers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) for the Nazis who had been deported to Germany during World War Two. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1945, there were as many as seven million uprooted and homeless people classified as displaced persons (DPs). While planning for the postwar refugee crisis, the Allies coined the term displaced persons to identify the uprooted people who were eligible for Allied care.
Here are some online resources pertaining to Displace Persons:
The draft into the military services of all three partitions began shortly after the new territories were acquired. Many of these records were microfilmed by the LDS.
Members of all classes were subject to military draft at age twenty-one, beginning in 1874. Some 1700s and 1800s military records are available through the LDS library. The LDS have also microfilmed some casualty records from WW2. Be sure to check their catalog - and look under both Poland and Russia!
Military service became mandatory in 1816. Many men served in German or Prussian military units up to and including World War I. The Prussian government used parish baptismal registers to enlist conscripts. In these registers, notes were made to attest to service.
Men of certain occupations were exempt from service, including nobility, government officials, and clergymen. Many Austrian military records have been microfilmed by the LDS.
Hundreds of free transcribed records available. Visit our Transcribed Records page to view these records. A search feature is available.
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