Researching Your Polish Ancestors
Poland is an Central European country with a complex history and frequently changing borders. Until 1999, there were 49 provinces (now 16). The last border change was as late as the end of World War II. At one time Polish borders encompassed parts of the present day Baltic states. Your Russian, Austrian and German/Prussian ancestors may have Polish roots. Records may be in Russian, Polish, German or Latin. The primary records you will use for your research include church records (and civil transcriptions of church records) and civil registration. The first civil registration of vital events began in 1808. Civil registrations were used mainly for non Christians, so will be especially important if you have Jewish ancestry in Poland, although prior to 1826 these records may also be found in the Catholicparish registers. You will first want to identify the village in which your ancestor lived, next the religion of the family.
Books, articles, CD's, Tapes etc.
On the Web.
NEW! 2008 Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research by Jonathan D. Shea.
Poland maps available from Ancestry.com
Audiotapes of lectures given at genealogy conferences with the word "Polish" in the title.
Use the catalog at the FHL to find out what has been filmed covering Poland ; Click View Related Places in the upper right to find sources that have been filmed for the area you are researching and once there click View Related Places in the upper right to find sources that have been filmed for the smaller subdivisions in that area. Areas no longer a part of Poland and not found under Poland may be under Germany, Preussan, Austria, Hungary or Poland.
You will want to check for resources in all three jurisdictions. Civil records in Poland (including civil transcriptions of church records) are kept at the local level for about 100 years, then turned over to the Polish State Archives, where most are filmed and acquired by the FHL. Thus most such available records are those created previous to the 20th century. The availablity and span of church records varies greatly, but some have been filmed well into the 20th century. It can be more difficult to locate records of protestant churches, few of which still function in present day Poland.
Maps Between 1795 and 1918 the country of Poland didn't exist as such on a map. The country was divied among Austria, Prussia and Russia.
Historical Georgrapy of Poland contains good description of boundary changes, with illustrative maps.
There are several maps on the Poand GenWeb site.
Look for information at the World Gen Web: Poland (it's in the Central European Gen Web)
Polish Roots.Org is another volunteer driven site, whose goal " is to make maps, gazetteers, obituary indexes, cemetery listings, headstone listings, etc. available through online access for individuals conducting Polish research."
The Polish Geneaology Project -- a blog featuring a combination of advice, links and recipes. Contains a substantial amount of information.
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This page last updated: November 28, 2008
Links checked 4/24/2007