|Poland Wiki Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
Most materials used in Polish research are written in Polish. You do not need to speak or read Polish to do research in Polish records, but you should know some key words and phrases to understand the records. Because the Roman Catholic Church was the predominant religion in Poland, many records are in Latin. Other languages in Polish records include German, Russian, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Old Church Slavonic.
For word lists and help researching in Polish records, see:
- Polish Genealogical Word List
- German Genealogical Word List
- Russian Genealogical Word List
- Latin Genealogical Word List
- Reading Polish Handwritten Records
- Lesson 1: Polish Letters
- Lesson 2: Polish Words and Dates
- Lesson 3: Reading Polish Records
- Reading Russian Handwriting
- Reading German Handwritten Records
- Old German Script
- Latin for Genealogists
Polish grammar may affect the way names appear in genealogical records. For example, names of your ancestors will vary from record to record in Polish.
For help in understanding name variations, see Names, Personal.
Aa Ąą Bb Cc Ćć Dd Ee Ęę Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Łł Mm Nn Ńń Oo Óó Pp Rr Ss Śś Tt Uu Ww Yy Zz Źź Żż
The letters q, v and x are also used, but only for foreign names or words.
c = ts
ch,h = kh
ć,cz,ci = ch
ś,sz,si = sh
ż,zi,rz = zh
ą = om, on
ę = em, en
j = y
dz = j
ł = w
w = v
The Family History Library has genealogical word lists for Polish (34098), German (34067), and Latin (34077). The following books and English-Polish dictionaries can also aid you in your research. You can find these and similar material at many research libraries:
Kierst, W. English-Polish/Polish-English Dictionary. New York, New York: Saphograph Co., 1956. (FHL book 491.85321 K847e.)
Pogonowski, Iwo Cyprian. Practical Polish-English, English-Polish Dictionary. New York, New York: Hippocrene Books, 1985. (FHL book 491.85321P751p.)
Another valuable research tool for reading records of the former Russian territories of Poland is:
Frazin, Judith R. A Translation Guide to the 19-century Polish-language Civil-registration Documents: (Birth, Marriage and Death Records). 2nd ed. Northbrook, Illinois: The Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois, 1989. (FHL book 943.8 V27.) This book is now online at Google Books: http://books.google.de/books?id=qSEBjYeyUpAC&pg=PA154&lpg=PA# .
To read the Russian language records of this same area after 1868 use:
Shea, Jonathan D. Russian Language Documents from Russian Poland: a Translation Manual for Genealogists. 2nd ed. Buffalo Grove, Illinois: Genun, 1989. (FHL book 943.8 D27.)
The Polish genealogical Word List published by the Family History Library is available at this link: https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Poland_Genealogical_Word_List
Learning: Polish Language, Common Word Translations is available online.
This list contains Polish words with their English translations. The words included here are those that you are likely to find in genealogical sources. If the word you are looking for is not on this list, please consult a Polish-English dictionary.
Polish is a Slavic language related to Russian and Slovak. It is used in genealogical sources throughout Poland. Before 1918, Polish-speaking territories were divided between Russia, Germany, and Austria. Records written before 1918 may be in German, Russian, Latin, or Polish.
- In Russian Poland, Polish was the official language for vital records from 1808 to 1868. From 1868 to 1917, Russian was the official language.
- In German Poland, most records were kept in German or Latin, though some were kept in Polish.
- In Austrian Poland, most records were kept in Latin. Some records were kept in German and some in Polish.
Polish is also used in the records kept in some Polish communities in the United States.
Polish records often contain Latin and German words. See the German Genealogical Word List, and the Latin Genealogical Word List. Or at the following link:http://188.8.131.52/eng/Search/rg/frameset_rhelps.asp?Page=./research/type/Word_List.asp
Polish words for persons, places, and things (nouns) are classified as masculine, feminine, or neuter. Adjectives used to describe them must have the proper masculine, feminine, or neuter endings, for example:
stary mąż-- old man
stara kobieta-- old woman
stare miasto-- old city
The endings of past tense verbs also change depending on the gender of the person or thing being described or performing the action. For example:
umarł -- he died
umarła-- she died
umarło-- it [the child] died
Variant Forms of Words
In Polish, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who-whose-whom or marry-marries- married are examples of words in English with variant forms. In Polish any word may change, depending on usage. This word list gives the standard form of each Polish word. As you read Polish records, you will need to be aware that most words vary with usage.
The endings of words in a document will often differ from what you find in this list. For example, the document may use the word starego (old), but you will find it in this word list as stary (old).
Certain endings, called genitive, give the meaning "of" to a word. The following endings are typical:
Nouns Endings Adjectives
-a (masculine) -ego
-y or -i (feminine) -ej
-ów (plural) -ich or -ych
Thus, ojciec zmarłego means "father of the deceased."
Plural forms of Polish words usually change the singular word as follows:
Words ending in -a change to -y
Words ending in -o change to -a
A -y or -i is added to form the plural
The plural form may change the basic word, for example:
|miasto =city||miasta= cities|
|powiat =district||powiaty =districts|
|brat= brother||bracia =brothers|
This word list includes words most commonly found in genealogical sources. For further help, use a Polish-English dictionary. Several Polish-English dictionaries are available at the Family History Library in the European collection. Their call numbers begin with 491.85321. See Poland Encyclopedias and Dictionaries.
The following dictionary is available on microfilm for use in Family History Centers:
Stanisławski, Jan. English-Polish and Polish-English Dictionary. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: David McKay, 1946. (FHL film 1,045,473, item 1)
Additional dictionaries are listed in the Subject section of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
POLISH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES
Other dictionaries and language helps, such as Polish grammar books, are listed in the Locality section under:
POLAND - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES
To find and use specific types of Polish records, you will need to know some key words in Polish. This section gives key genealogical terms in English and the Polish words with the same or similar meanings.
For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find Polish words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, legitimate, joined, and other words used to indicate marriage.
For a full genealogical word list, visit Polish Genealogical Word List.
|birth||urodzin, urodzony, urodził się, zrodzony|
|christening||chrzest, chrzciny, ochrzczone|
|death(s)||zgon(ów), zejść, umarł , zmarł , śmierć (śmierci)|
|index||indeks, skorowidz, register, spis|
|Jewish||żydowski, starozakonny, izraelici, mojżeszowy|
|marriage||małżenstw(o), ślub(ów), zaślubionych|
|name, given||imię, imion|
|Protestant||ewangelicki, reformowany, protestancki, luterański|
|wife||żona, małżonka, zamęża, kobieta|
In many genealogical records, numbers— especially dates—are spelled out. The following list gives the cardinal (1, 2, 3) and ordinal (1st, 2nd, 3rd) numbers. Dates are written in ordinal form. In dates, ordinal numbers usually end with -ego, for example:
|pierwszego||on the first (of the month)|
| jeden, jedna
| pierwszy |
Dates and Time
In Polish records, dates are usually written out, for example:
- roku tysiąc osemset trzydziestego szóstego dnia dwódziestego trzeciego marca [in the year one thousand eight hundredth thirtieth and sixth on the day twentieth third of March (23 March 1836] In some records, two dates are recorded:
- dnia piątego/siedemnastego Maja [on the day 5th/17th of May] The two dates are usually 12 days apart. The first date is based on the Julian calendar (used by the Russian Empire). The second date is based on the present-day Gregorian calendar.
To understand Polish dates, use the following lists as well as the preceding "Numbers" section.
Polish often abbreviates dates by using a Roman numeral for the month. For example, 13 June 1864 could be written as 13.VI.1864 instead of 13.czerwca.1864.
| stycznia |
Days of the Week
| Polish |
Times of the Day
Polish birth and death records often indicate the exact time of day when the birth or death occurred. This is usually written out.
o godzinie drugiej
o godzinie siódmej
| English |
at the 2nd hour
at the 7th hour
in the morning
in the evening