Poland Church Records

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Church Records

For information about records for non-Christian religions in Poland, go to the Religious Records page.

Definition

Church records (Księgi metrykalne), called parish records or church books, are vital records made by church officials, pastors, or priests. They include records of births and christenings, marriages, and deaths and burials. In addition, church records may include account books, confirmations, and lists of members. Virtually all Christian people who lived in Poland were recorded in a church record.

Time Coverage

  • In general, church records in Poland have been kept since the mid-1600s, although a few parishes have records dating from about 1548. Most parishes have records dating from at least the early 1700s.
  • Catholics were the first to maintain church vital records, but Protestants followed soon after.

Civil Transcripts of Church Records

In 1704, because of concerns about destruction, some parishes began making copies of their church books. Civil transcripts were made of most church records in Poland after the 1790s. These records were a form of civil registration and included non-Catholics entries. You can use these duplicates where available to supplement parish registers that are missing or illegible.

In the Austrian Partition (1784-1918)

Austria took possession of the southern part of Poland in 1772. Austria introduced laws in 1782 establishing Catholic priests as civil registrars. Then, in 1784, an edict by the emperor Joseph II required the Catholic clergy to make civil transcripts of church records. Catholic parish registers were designated as state records and a standardized Latin columnar form was issued. The parish register thus became the official register of births, marriages, and deaths. A transcript (duplicate) was made for state purposes. Separate registers were required for each village in the parish. Greek-Catholic and Roman-Catholic clergy were responsible for the registration of all vital records for all religions; Protestants were permitted to keep their own registers under the direction of the Catholic priest. Jews were allowed the same privilege in 1789. In the mid 1800s non-Catholics, including Jews and Protestants, were made responsible for their own vital records transcripts.

in the Russian Partition (1808-1918)

Napoleon established the Duchy of Warsaw in 1806. The French Empire introduced a system of civil transcripts under the control of the Catholic clergy. Most of the Duchy of Warsaw came under Russian administration after 1815. The Napoleonic practice of civil transcripts continued in areas governed by Russia until the creation of the new Polish Republic in 1918. Catholic clergy were responsible for recording all births, marriages, and deaths until 1826, when the non-Catholic community was allowed to keep its own separate official registers. After 1826, clergy of other religions (Evangelical, Orthodox, Jewish) were required to maintain civil transcripts of their church record. These records, then, are essentially civil transcripts of the various denominational registers, except in the case of Jews where these civil records were usually the only record kept. The early records were kept in Polish, but usually in Russian from 1868.

In Prussian Poland (1794-1874)

Prussia gained a sizable portion of Poland until the settlement of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 reduced Prussia’s share of Poland. Church registration of births, marriages, and deaths was mandatory by Prussian law from the 1794-1874. Clergy were required to make exact records of births, marriages, and deaths. For civil purposes the Prussian government required transcripts (duplicates) of the church record which were to be sent to local courts. In 1808 the practice was reinforced and expanded. In accordance with this law, Mennonites, Jews, and others who did not keep christening registers had their births, deaths, and marriages recorded by the Lutheran minister. The practice of civil transcripts was replaced by actual civil registration in 1874.

Information Recorded in Church Registers

The most important church records for genealogical research are christening, marriage, and burial registers. Some church books include confirmation records. The later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones. Catholic records were generally kept in Latin, Protestant records in German, Orthodox records in Russian. Greek Catholic (Uniate) records were kept in Latin, Ukrainian, or sometimes Polish. Birth, marriage, and death records of minority groups such as Mennonites, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Orthodox Schismatics, Independents, and others would be with those of recognized churches, such as the Catholic or Lutheran Church, until they had to prepare their own transcripts of vital records.

Records of Birth and Baptism (akta urodzeń i chrztów)

Children were generally christened within a few days of birth. Christening registers usually give:

  • the infant’s and parents’ names,
  • legitimacy,
  • names of witnesses or godparents,
  • and the christening date.

You may also find:

  • the child’s birth date,
  • father’s occupation, and
  • the family’s place of residence.

Death information has sometimes been added as a note. Until the 1790s the pastors of many communities failed to give the name of the mother in the birth records or may have written only her given name.

Marriage Intentions (zapowiedź )

Marriage intentions (banns) were announced a few weeks before a couple planned to marry. The couple were required to announce their intentions two or three times so other community members could raise any objections to the marriage. Marriage registers sometimes give the two or three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced in addition to the marriage date.

Marriage Records (akta małżeństwo)

Marriage registers give:

  • the date of the marriage
  • the names of the bride and groom.
  • whether they were single or widowed
  • the names of witnesses.

They often include other information about the bride and groom such as:

  • their ages,
  • residences,
  • occupations,
  • names of parents, and
  • sometimes birthplaces.

In cases of second and later marriages, they may include:

  • the names of previous partners and
  • their death dates.

Early marriage records give little information about the couples’ parents. In most cases before the beginning of the 19th century, marriage registers recorded only the names of the bride’s parents. Some later marriage registers give the birthplaces of the groom and bride. Couples were often married in the home parish of the bride.

Records of Deaths and Burials (akta zgonów i pogrzebów)

Burials were recorded in the church record of the parish where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a few days of the death. Burial registers give:

  • the name of the deceased person and
  • the date and place of death or burial
  • the age,
  • place of residence,
  • cause of death, and
  • names of survivors are given.

Occasionally included are:

  • the date and place of birth and
  • the parents’ names

Early death registers usually do not indicate the date and place of birth. The birth date and place of the deceased person and information about parents in a burial record may not be accurate. Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before birth and marriage records were kept. Burial records often start later than christening and marriage records of the same parish.

Locating Church Records

  • Original Catholic records are usually found in individual parish or diocesan archives.
  • Protestant records are often in state archives; some are in the possession of Evangelical Church archives or officials.
  • Civil transcripts are generally kept in the local civil registration offices (Urząd Stanu Ciwilnego) for 100 years; then they are transferred to state archives.

Determining the Parish

To use church records, you must know the town and religion of your ancestor. You must also determine the parish that your ancestor’s town belonged to so that you will know which parish registers to search. Your ancestor may have lived in village that was part of a parish located in a nearby larger town. Over time, some villages may have belonged to more than one parish as jurisdictions changed.

  • Use Kartenmeister to find the Polish and German province, county, Catholic parish, Lutheran parish, and Standesamt (civil registration office), if the town was in the area of Poland once controlled by Prussia.
  • Use Meyer's 1871 Gazetteer Online to find information on towns in the area of Poland once controlled by Prussia. Click on the "Map" option to see the 1871 map of the town inits region with parishes indicated, and the current Google map.
  • If the town was in the area of Poland once controlled by Russia or Austria, look it up in Skorowidz Gazetteer Online to find the parishes of various religions. Here are the instructions. Use the second option, "Viewing anywhere via the Digital Library of Wielkopolska".

Finding Aids

Poland finding aids have been created by a variety of state, church, society, and private organizations. Their goal is to inform what records exist and the repositories that hold them. Each finding aid has a different focus--a particular religion or geographical area or archive or collection. Be sure to search all that apply to your ancestors. Remember that churches often produced civil registration records. The church records might have been destroyed, but copies had been sent to the government and still exist. So we search for both church records and civil registration records.

Catholic Diocese Parish Inventories

(Numbers match diocese map below.)

2. Drohiczyn Diocese
7. Tarnow Diocese
8. Częstochowa Archdiocese
9. Radom Diocese
11. Gdańsk Archdiocese
12. Pelplin Diocese Another list
15. Bydgoszcz Diocese
16. Włocławek Diocese

Click on "Katalog".
Click on "Akta dekanalne i parafialne".
Click on "Akta parafialne".
Click on "Księgi metrykalne".

17. Katowice Archdiocese Clickable map
18. Gliwice Diocese
21. Łowicz Diocese
22. Lublin Archdiocese
23. Sandomierz Diocese
25. Poznań Archdiocese
28.Rzeszów Diocese
30. Szczecin-Kamień Archdiocese
31. Koszalin-Kołobrzeg Diocese
32. Zielona Góra-Gorzów Diocese
34. Elbląg Diocese
35. Ełk Diocese
36. Warsaw Archdiocese
37. Płock Diocese

Online Searchable Databases

Ancestry.com

Online Indexed Records

FamilySearch Historical Records

Regional Databases

Online Browsable Images Databases

Go to Forschung > Famillienforschung > Standesamt online or Kirchenbuch online > Find your Kreis >Parish

Records at the FamilySearch Library

The Family History Library has church records on microfilm from many parishes throughout Poland, some to 1875, some to the 1880s, and some as late as the 1960s. Look in the catalog under the name of the town where the parish was, not necessarily the town where your ancestor lived: POLAND, (COUNTY), (TOWN) - CHURCH RECORDS New records are continually added to the library’s collection from several sources. Do not give up if records are not available yet. Check the FamilySearch Catalog every two or three years for the records you need.

Writing for Records

Local Parishes

Most Catholic church records are still maintained by the parish, which will generally answer correspondence in Polish. You can write directly to the parish with a nonspecific address (Catholic parish, Town name with postal code, Poland), but using the specific parish address is better. If the records you need have been moved to a diocese or state archive, your request may be forwarded to that archive.

Parish Addresses

How to Write the Letter

Write your request in Polish whenever possible. Information about how to write to local parishes in Poland is given in Poland Letter Writing Guide.

Diocese Archives

Some parish registers are collected in diocesan archives. Generally the very old records (before 1800) are in diocesan archives. Some dioceses have parishes archive their records after 100 years. Protestants also maintain church archives, although their records are likely to be in a state archive. Church archives are often unable to handle genealogical requests, but they can tell you if specific records are available.

Major Religious Dioceses

800px-CatholicDiocesesPoland2004Numbered.svg.png

Lutheran Dioceses: Use Luteranie.pl to find the diocese and parish for your town.
Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 00.41.13.png

Catholic Dioceses

Catholic Diocese names are clickable to lists of parish records held by the archive.

1. Białystok Archdiocese
2. Drohiczyn Diocese
3. Łomża Diocese
4. Craców Archdiocese
5. Bielsko–Żywiec Diocese
6. Kielce Diocese
7. Tarnow Diocese
8. Częstochowa Archdiocese
9. Radom Diocese
10. Sosnowiec Diocese
11. Gdańsk Archdiocese
12. Pelplin Diocese Another list
13. Toruń Diocese
14. Gniezno Archdiocese
15. Bydgoszcz Diocese
16. Włocławek Diocese

Click on "Katalog".
Click on "Akta dekanalne i parafialne".
Click on "Akta parafialne".
Click on "Księgi metrykalne".


17. Katowice Archdiocese Clickable map

18. Gliwice Diocese
19. Opole Diocese
20. Łódź Archdiocese
21. Łowicz Diocese
22. Lublin Archdiocese
23. Sandomierz Diocese
24. Siedlce Diocese
25. Poznań Archdiocese
26. Kalisz Diocese
27. Przemyś Archdiocese
28.Rzeszów Diocese
29. Zamość-Lubaczów Diocese
30. Szczecin-Kamień Archdiocese
31. Koszalin-Kołobrzeg Diocese
32. Zielona Góra-Gorzów Diocese
33. Warmia Archdiocese
34. Elbląg Diocese
35. Ełk Diocese
36. Warsaw Archdiocese
37. Płock Diocese
38. Warsaw-Praga Diocese
39. Wrocław Archdiocese
40. Legnica Diocese
41. Świdnica Diocese

Catholic Archives Addresses

  • Catholic Church Archives Bialystok
  • Archives of Archives in Białystok, 15-087 Białystok, ul. Kościelna 1
  • Częstochowa: Archdiocesan Archives in Częstochowa, 42-200 Częstochowa, Al. Sacred. Virgin Mary 54
Old Records (prior to 1945): ul. Saint Barbara's 41
  • Drohiczyn: Diocesan Archives in Drohiczyn, 17-312 Drohiczyn n. Bug, ul. Church 10
  • Gdańsk: Archdiocesan Archives in Gdańsk, 80-330 Gdańsk-Oliwa, ul. Cystersów 15
  • Gniezno: Archdiocesan Archives in Gniezno, 62-200 Gniezno, Cathedral
  • Katowice: Archdiocesan Archives in Katowice, 40-043 Katowice, ul. Wita Stwosza 16
  • Kielce: Archive of the Kielce Diocese, 25-013 Kielce, ul. Jana Pawła II 3
  • Krakow: Archives of the Metropolitan Curia in Kraków, 31-004 Kraków, ul. Franciszkańska 3
  • Lubaczów: Archdiocesan Archives in Lubaczów, 37-600 Lubaczów, ul. Mickiewicza 85
  • Lublin: Archdiocesan Archives in Lublin, 20-950 Lublin, ul. Prym. Wyszyńskiego 2
  • Łódż: Diocesan Archives in Łódż , 90-458 Ł ódż, ul. Ks. Shells 1
  • Łomża: Diocesan Archives in Łomża, 18-400 Łżża, ul. Sadowa 3
  • Olsztyn ( Warmiński): Archives of the Diocese of Warmińska, 10-512 Olsztyn, ul. Copernicus 47
  • Opole: Diocesan Archives in Opole, 45-032 Opole, ul. Cardinal Kominek 1
  • Pelplin: Diocesan Archives in Pelplin, 83-130 Pelplin, ul. Bishop K. Dominika 11
  • Płock: Diocesan Archives in Płock, 09-400 Płock, ul. Abpa AJ Nowowiejskiego 2
  • Poznań: Archdiocesan Archives in Poznań, 61-108 Poznań 22, ul. Lubrański 1
  • Przemyśl: Metropolitan Archives in Przemyśl, 37-700 Przemyśl, pl. Cathedral 4a
  • Sandomierz: Diocesan Archives in Sandomierz, 27-600 Sandomierz, ul. Siennial 2
  • Siedlce: Diocesan Archives in Siedlce, 08-100 Siedlce, ul. Piłsudskiego 62
  • Szczecin: Archives of the Szczecin-Kamieńska Diocese, 72-400 Kamień Pomorski, pl. Cathedral 8
  • Tarnów: Diocesan Archives in Tarnów, 33-100 Tarnów, ul. Katedralna 3
  • Warsaw: Archidieczjalne Archives in Warsaw, 00-278 Warsaw, ul. Kanonia 6
    • Archives of the Metropolitan Curia in Warsaw, 00-246 Warsaw, ul. Midowa 17/19
  • Włocławek: Diocesan Archives in Włocławek, 87-800 Włocławek, ul. Gdańska 2/4
  • Wrocław: Archdiocesan Archives in Wrocław, 50-328 Wrocław, ul. Kanonia 12
  • Zielona Góra: Diocesan Archives in Zielona Góra, 65-075 Zielona Góra, pl. Powstańców Wielkopolskich 1

State Archives

Many parish records and transcripts are in state archives.

  • PRADZIAD This website can be searched by location (town or parish). It will then tell you which archives hold what records for the location. On the entry for the records you want, click on "More" at the far right, and it will give you the contact information for the archive.

Civil Registration Offices

Transcripts (copies) and sometimes originals of church records or Jewish records may be deposited in local civil registration offices. These are generally sent to state archives after 100 years. See Poland Civil Registration- Vital Records.

Search Strategies

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies:

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you have selected. When you find the ancestor’s birth record, search for the birth records of brothers and sisters.
  • Search for the marriage of the ancestor’s parents. The marriage record will often give clues for locating their birth records.
  • Estimate the ages of the parents and search for their birth records, repeating the process for both the father and mother.
  • If earlier generations are not in the parish records, search the records of neighboring parishes.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.
  • Many genealogical societies have the resources to help you find parish information when all the usual sources fail. A good society is worth the membership fee for the support it can offer you.