Poland Civil Registration
Civil registration is the vital records made by the government. Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly referred to as vital records because they refer to events in a person’s life. Civil registration records (zapisy cywilne) are an excellent source for information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths.
- 1 Historical Background
- 2 Language of the Records
- 3 Indexes
- 4 Translation Resources
- 5 Polish Civil Registration Reading Aid
- 5.1 Using the Reading Aid
- 5.2 Notes on Polish Grammar
- 5.3 Format of a Napoleonic Record in Polish
- 5.4 Information Recorded in Civil Registers
- 5.5 Austrian Civil Transcripts in Latin / Click on image to enlarge
- 5.6 Locating Civil Registration Records
- 5.7 Indexes to Civil Registration Records
- 6 Records at the Family History Library
- 7 Locating Records Not at the Family History Library
- 8 Search Strategies
- 9 Web Sites
In 1795, the old Kingdom of Poland was conquered and divided among
Russia, Austria, and Prussia. The state of Poland ceased to exist.
In 1807 Napoleon created a new Polish state, the Duchy of Warsaw, as a protectorate of the French Empire. It was fashioned out of territories previously seized by Prussia. In 1809 Napoleon’s forces won additional Polish territory from Austria, and the enlarged Polish state was called the Duchy of Warsaw.
Napoleon was finally defeated in 1813, and with his defeat, most of the Duchy of Warsaw came under Imperial Russian administration in 1815. However, his short-lived Polish duchy left behind a legacy of progressive social and economic reforms, including the beginning of civil registration. Civil registration of births, marriages, deaths, and sometimes of marriage intentions was initiated according to the Code of Napoleon in the territory of the Duchy of Warsaw on May 1st, 1808. This French civil code established a specific format for vital records. This was an absolute revolution in metrical registration, inasmuch as since the mid-16th century, metrical registers had been purely ecclesiastical in nature, written in Latin, kept by parish priests, controlled by bishops. Metrical entries before that time had been limited only to basic data, usually in two or three small lines of text; but civil records from the time of the Napoleonic Code were half a page long for birth and death texts, and a full page long in the case of marriages.
Therefore, the wording of a birth record in France, in the Netherlands, or in French-controlled Germany would be essentially the same as the wording of a birth record in the Duchy of Warsaw. After the Russian government assumed control, the practice of maintaining civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths continued according to the format prescribed by Napoleonic law; and it continued even after Poland became an independent republic in 1918.
Civil registers in the Napoleonic format are found in all of Russian Poland, in Kraków and in parts of the Prussian province of Posen, which are all formerly part of the old Grand Duchy of Warsaw.
In accordance with the law, metrical books were to be kept by state officials. Because there were not enough state officials to perform the duties, the clergy were frequently appointed as civil registers. Catholic clergy were responsible for all civil registration from 1808 until 1825. Beginning in 1826, Jews, Evangelical Lutherans, Protestants, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc.) were allowed to maintain separate civil registers. From 1826 on, metrical documents were once more church records in nature, but their form remained true to that of the Napoleonic Code. Records were recorded in the Polish language from 1808 until 1868, and were kept thereafter in the Russian language, until 1918, when Poland regained its independence.
Civil registration started when the clergy were required to make civil copies of birth, marriage, and death records. These are known as civil transcripts of church records (see Poland Church Records). Because the church was involved in early civil registration, it is difficult to clearly distinguish between civil registration and church records.
Starting in the 19th century, churches quit making civil transcripts, and the people were required to report all births, marriages, and deaths to a civil registrar (Standesamt). Civil authorities in the German territories of Poland began registering births, marriages, and deaths in 1874. After this date all individuals who lived in Prussian German territories were to be listed in civil records. For birth, death, and marriage records in these areas before 1874, see Poland Church Records.
In the former Russian and Austrian territories, conventional civil registration did not begin until after the establishment of the Republic of Poland in 1918.
Note: The Napoleonic Code is a true masterpiece of legislative law that became the model for future metrical registration. The whole Code numbers 2,281 paragraphs, and only some of them dealt with records of the civil registry, with marriages and divorces (previously unknown in Europe!). Other sections dealt with questions of, for instance, paternity, minors, residence, deprivation of free will, the mentally ill, personal freedom, the inviolability of private property, freedom to make contracts, and freedom of religion and work.
Language of the Records
From the beginning in 1808, the civil registers were kept in the Polish language. However, an unsuccessful Polish uprising in 1865 led to reprisals by the Russian government. Among these was a requirement to keep public records, including civil registration books, in the Russian language as of April 1868. Nevertheless, the format of the records did not change. The standardized format of the records remained unchanged until at least into the 1930s, with only minor changes in wording in 1826 and again in 1919.
Most of the records available through the Family History Library cover the time period prior to 1880. Only a few of the accessible records are in post-1868 Russian. Therefore, most of the records available through the Family History Library are in Polish. The Polish and Russian languages have complex grammar, which makes them difficult to learn. Russian is further complicated by an alphabet quite unfamiliar to most English speaking people. Fortunately, the standard format of these civil records makes it possible, in most cases, to read the Polish language records with the help of the reading aid included in this paper. This reading aid includes an explanation and literal translation of typical register entries for birth, marriage, and death. It should be used together with the Poland Genealogical Word List or a Polish dictionary.
The use of the Polish civil registers is further simplified by the indexes that usually accompany them. Indexes were prepared on a yearly basis. The birth, marriage, and death records were each indexed separately. The index is usually found immediately after the records indexed. In some cases the separate birth, marriage, and death indexes are grouped together at the end of the year’s records.
The indexes vary in quality. In some cases they are incomplete or missing entirely. Usually they are alphabetical by surname, but in some cases, they are alphabetized by first name or they may be chronological rather than alphabetical. Spellings in the indexes may differ from those in the actual entries. The indexes usually refer the reader to an entry number – sometimes to a page number. Researchers should realize that, although these indexes are a great help, one should not rely on them completely because some entries may be inaccurately indexed or not indexed at all.
Translating Napoleonic style Polish records (typically in Polish before 1867 but also Russian Cyrillic between 1867 and WW I) can be daunting for the average person. A number of resources are available to help with this, both on line and in books.
- Refer to the reading aid in the section below for Polish -> English.
- The Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe offers translation aids for Russian and Polish -> English.
- In Their Words: A Genealogist's Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin and Russian Documents. Volumes I & II by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman. See LangLine for ordering information. (Volume I is Polish -> English; Volume II is Russian -> English; both contain a lot more translation resources than just the church records.)
- A Translation Guide to 19th Century Polish Language Civil Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin. Samples are available on line.
Polish Civil Registration Reading Aid
The following reading aid is designed to help you read a typical birth, marriage, or death entry in Polish civil registration. Since the wording of these records was standardized, it is possible to learn the format and, with careful effort, to read Polish records. Study this reading aid carefully.
Using the Reading Aid
When using the reading aid, please note the following:
- Be flexible. Terms and spellings may vary. Information may not always be presented in the exact order shown in the examples. For example, the year may be given before the day of the month or the age may follow the occupation, etc. You must thoroughly familiarize yourself with the format, not just the words.
- It is not uncommon to find double dates given in the entries. When this occurs, the first is the Julian date according to the old Julian calendar. The second is the Gregorian date according to the modern Gregorian calendar used in the world today.
- The Russian language records after 1868 use the same wording as the Polish language records. This means that, by mastering the pre-1868 Polish records, it is possible (with some additional effort) to read the essential data contained in the Russian language records. To do this requires familiarity with the Russian alphabet and learning several key words in Russian. Because the format is the same, the names, dates, ages, occupations, etc., will appear in approximately the same position in the entry as in the Polish language.
Notes on Polish Grammar
The Polish language is highly inflective. This means that words may have different grammatical endings, depending on their usage. Personal names and name of places, like other words, are inflected. Polish has six grammatical inflections, called cases, only four of which are commonly encountered in Napoleonic records.
- Nominative case: This is the standard, non-inflected form as would be used on genealogical forms or as would be found on a map.
- Genitive case: This is the possessive case, meaning “of.” Example: John’s child, the child of John. Generally, it is an –a ending on male names and a –y ending on female names.
- Instrumental case: this case is most often used with the preposition między, meaning “with.” It is commonly seen in marriage records. Generally, it is an –m ending on male names and an –a ending on female names.
- Prepositional case: This case is most often used with place names, especially in connection with the preposition w, meaning “in.” There are many different prepositional endings, depending on the nature of the standard nominative ending of the place name. It is best to check a gazetteer or map to determine the nominative form.
Format of a Napoleonic Record in Polish
Birth records contain data on the parents' age, profession, social standing, full place of residence, full date of birth and registration (down to the hour), and witnesses' ages, professions, and places of residence.
A. Place and date of registration of birth. (Place is given with grammatical ending and the date and time of day are written out in Polish.) USE WORD LIST TO READ DATE. Following are translations of the Polish entries:
Dzialo się w wsi Oporowie dnia trzeciego
It came to pass in village (of) Oporów (on) day third (of)
lutego tyziąc ośmset pięćdziesiątego drugiego roku
February thousand eight-hundred fiftieth – second year (1852),
o godzinie dziewiątego z rana. . . .
at hour ninth in the morning. . . .
►(Prior to the mid-1810s records will start with Roku. This earlier format gives year first, date, time of day, and then the title and often the name of the registrar.)
Roku tysiąc osemsetnego czternastego dnia trzeciego
(of) Year thousand eight-hundred fourteen (1814) (on) day third (of)
lutego o godzinie dziewiątego z rana przed Nami Augustynem
February at hour ninth in the morning before us Augustyn
Walęckiem proboszcz parafii Oporowskiej sprawuającym obowiązki
Walęcki priest (of) parish (of) Oporów discharging duties (of)
urzędnika stanu cywilnego gminy Oporowskiej powiatu
civil registrar (of) township (of) Oporów district (of)
Orlowskiej w Departmencie Warszawskim.
Orlów in Department (of) Warsaw
B. The father of the child presents himself (or the midwife if the child is illegitimate) to report the birth.
Stawil się Marcin Gorecki okupnik rolnik, lat cztyrdziesciści
Presented himself Marcin Gorecki tenant farmer, years forty
mający / liczący w Czyzeminie zamieszkaly.
having / counting in Czyzemiń residing.
C. Two witnesses are named with genitive grammatical inflection. Their occupations, ages, and residences are given. (This is sometimes omitted in earlier records.)
w obecności Macieja Nowaka lat trzydzieści pięć mający i
in presence (of) Maciej Nowak years thirty- five having and (of)
Jana Grabowskiego lat pięćdziesiąt liczący, obydwóch rolników w
Jan Grabowski years fifty counting, both farmers in
D. The child is presented and the sex is indicated.
i okazał Nam dziecię, płci męskiej /źeńskiej. . . .
and showed us child, (of) sex male / female. . . .
E. Place of birth is given with date and time of day. USE WORD LIST TO READ DATE.
urodzone w Czyzemienie w domu pod numerem trzynastym, . . . .
born in Czyzemiń in house (under) number thirteen, . . . .
na dniu dzisiejszym / wczorajszym / onegdajszym /
on day today / yesterday / day before yesterday /
trzydziestym grudnia / miesiąca bieźącego. . . .
thirtieth (of) December / month current. . . .
roku bieźącego/ przeszłego o godzinie szóstej wieczorem.
(of) year current / preceding at hour sixth in the evening.
F. The mother of the child is given in genitive grammatical inflection with her age. The record will state if she is the wife of the one presenting himself. If not, the record will state whether she is unmarried. When the mother is married but the father is merely not present, then his name is usually given between the birth date and the name of the mother.
(Urodzone) z jego małźonki Maryanny z Grabowskich / Nowaków
(Born) of his wife Maryanna Grabowska / Nowak
lat trzydzieści trzy mającej.
years thirty- three having.
►(Earlier records, prior to the mid-1820s will usually read differently.)
cświadczając, iź jest spłodzone z niego i Maryanny
testifying that (it) is begotten of him and (of) Maryanna
z / z domu Mazurków lat trzydzieści trzy mającej jego małźonki.
(maiden name) Mazurek years thirty- three having, his wife.
'G. Some records will indicate that on this day the christening was performed.
Dziecieciu temu na Chrzcie Świętym w dniu dzisiejszym odbytym.
(for) child this Christening Holy on day today performed.
H. The child is given a name.
nadane jest Imię Jan Marcin / zyczeniem jego jest nadać mu Imię Ewa
given is name Jan Marcin / desire his is give it name Ewa
I. The Godparents are named.
jego Rodzicami Chrzestnymi byli Alojzy Kowalski i Elźbieta Adamska.
his Godparents were Alojzy Kowalski and Elźbieta Adamska.
J. The entry was read and signed by the witnesses or by the priest/rabbi if the witnesses could not write.
Akt ten stawającemu i świadkom przeczytany został,
Entry this (to the one) present and witnesses read was,
Ojciec i świadkowie pisać nie umieją.
Father and witnesses (to) write not know how.
Marriage entries are the most informative. Marrying was subject to specific conditions. A male below the age of 18 or a female below the age of 15 could not contract marriage. (The emperor could give dispensations in exceptional, important situations). A son under 25 and a daughter under 21 had to have their parents' consent; in case of parental disagreement, the father's consent sufficed. If the parents were no longer alive or could not be present, then consent was given by grandfathers or, if applicable, brothers or uncles. Finally, it was impossible to marry a second time without dissolution of the first marriage, and the wedding had to take place publicly before the civil registrar in the place of residence of one of the newlyweds.
The Code also set forth the obligations proceeding from marriage. Newlyweds were obligated to, among other things, live together and support themselves together and to raise children jointly. The husband was to protect his wife, his wife was to obey her husband, the wife could not appear in court without her husband's consent (criminal cases were exceptions) except with support of the court, and the wife could not enter into a second marriage until after 10 months had passed since the previous marriage was dissolved. Children did not have the right to demand any estate from their parents, and in accases of parental poverty, were obligated give them support.
The majority of records from the period of the Napoleonic Code gave exact birth dates for the couple according to entries from the registers of their home parishes.
A. Place and date of registration of marriage. (Place is given with grammatical ending and the date and time of day are written out in Polish.) Use the Polish Word List to read the date.
Dzialo się w mieście Olbierzowicach dnia dwódzięstego
It came to pass in place Olbierzowice (on) day twentieth-
siódmego listopadu roku tysiąc osiemset sześcdziesiątego
seventh (of) November year thousand eight-hundred sixtieth-
czwartego, o godzinie dziewiątej rano. . . .
fourth (1864) at hour ninth (in) morning. . . .
►(Prior to the mid-1820s, records will start with Roku. This earlier format gives year first, date, time of day, and then the title and often name of the registrar. See birth format for an example.)
B. In most records after the mid-1820s two witnesses are named, usually with genitive grammatical inflection. Their occupations, ages, and residences are given. (Caution: In some cases the groom and bride present themselves at this point in the entry. In such cases the witnesses will be noted in the Summation.)
Wiadomo czyniemy źe w przytomności świadków Tomasza
Knowingly (we) affirm that in presence (of) witnesses Tomasz
Kolczaka mularz lat trzydzieści i Piotra Studzińskiego
Kolczak bricklayer years thirty and Piotr Studzińki
szewca lat trzydzieści sześć mających, obydwóch w Olbierzowicach
shoemaker years thirty- six having, both in Olbierzowice
zamięskałych. . . .
residing. . . .
Stawiłi się. . .(Names of witnesses as above, without grammatical endings.)
They appeared. . .
C. In most records prior to the mid-1820s and sometimes later, the groom and bride will present themselves. Information will be given as in D below, usually without the instrumental grammatical inflection. If the couple appear together with a witness or official, then the instrument inflection may be required because of the preposition z.
Stawiłi się Ludwik Jan Kowalski, lat. . . . etc., a
(They) presented themselves Ludwik Jan Kowalski, age. . . .etc., and
Panna Tekla Tokarska, lat. . . . etc.
Maiden Tekla Tokarska, age. . . . etc.
Stawil się Rabin Hersz Sztajn wraz z Starozakonami
(He) presented himself Rabbi Hersz Sztajn together with Jews
Szmulem Litmanem, lat. . . . , a Panna Ruchlą Dawidowiczowną, lat. . . .
Szmul Litman, age. . . . , and maiden Ruchla Dawidowiczowna, age. . . .
D. Statement of marriage. If marriage took place on a day different than the day of registration, it will be stated here.
Na dniu dzisiejszym / wczorajszym zawarte zostało Religijne
On day today / yesterday accomplished was Religious
Małźenstwo między. . . .
Marriage between. . . .
E. Names of bridegroom and bride are given. Because the preposition międzyrequires instrumental grammatical inflection, their names and all words describing them will have grammatical endings. For the groom, everything will end with –m. For the bride, everything will end with –ą.Information given will vary. Age, previous marital status and residence are almost always given. Very often the entry will also give place of birth. (In early records prior to the mid-1820s this is often accompanied by a statement that the age and birthplace are confirmed by an extract from the parish register of the birthplace.) Most records give the names and residence of parents of the bride and groom. Other information that may be given would be exact birth date, names of previous marriage partners, etc. The order in which information is given can vary, but the groom is always first with information pertaining to him, followed by the bride and all information pertaining to her.
między Ludwikiem Janem Orlikiem / Kowalskim młodzianem / kawalerem /
between Ludwik Jan Orlik / Kowalski bachelor / bachelor /
wdowcem kowalem / profeszyi kowalskiej w Kaczkowiznie zamieszkałym. . .
widower smith / profession smith in Kaczkowizna residing. . .
urodzonym w Gostynie z / synem niegdyś / zmarłego Tomasza i
born in Gostyn of / son (of) the late / deceased Tomasz and (of)
Justyny z Pinkowskich małźonków Orlików podług
Justyna Pinkowska a married couple (named) the Orliks according to
złoźonej przed Nami metryko wyjęty z Ksiąg kościoła
submitted before us certificate extracted from book (of) church at
Gostyńskiego lat. . . . etc. a Panna Tekla Tokarska / wdowa po Józefie
Gostyn age . . . etc. and maiden Tekla Tokarska / widow of Józef
Gadzińskim zmarłym dnia. . / przy matce zostającą, Córka. . .
Gadziński deceased (on) day. . ./ with mother staying, Daughter (of). . .
►(Information is given for the bride similar to that given for the groom.)
F. As marriages must be preceded by three banns (announcements in the church) the dates of the banns are given, written out in Polish. Some records also state who gave permission for the marriage.
Małźenstwo to poprzedzily trzy zapowiedzie w dniach
Marriage this preceded (by) three announcements on days
dziesiątym, siedmnastym, i dwódziestym czwartym listopadu roku
tenth, seventeenth, and twenty- fourth (of) November year
bieźącego w parafia. Zezwolenie małźenstwa Ojca
current in parish. Permission (for) marriage (by) father (of)
nowozaślubionego i rodziców nowozaślubionej.
groom (newlywed) and parents (of) bride (newlywed).
G. Summation: This includes a statement that there were no objections to the marriage. Sometimes it includes a renaming of the witnesses with an occasional mention of relationship to the bride or groom. Finally, it concludes with a statement, as in birth and death records, that the entry was read to witnesses and that they signed or did not sign, depending on their ability to write.
Death records contain description of the family relationships of the witnesses appearing, exact time and place of death, place of birth and parent's names. If the deceased was married, then the names of his or her spouse and of all living children were given. The cause of death was usually omitted if the person died of natural causes; it was given if the person died as a result of an accident, e.g., drowning, a fall, or fire. Information given in the death record depended on the knowledge of the witnesses who came to report the death.
A. Place and date of registration of death. (Place is given with grammatical ending and the date and time of day are written out in Polish.) USE WORD LIST TO READ DATE.
Działo się w parafii Źychlińskiej w roku tysiąc osemset
It came to pass in parish Źychlin in year thousand eight-hundred
czterdziestiego dnia trzeciego marca o godzinie. . . . etc.
forty (1840) (on) day third (of) March at hour. . . . etc.
►(Prior to the mid-1820s records will start with Roku. This earlier format gives year first, date, time of day, and then the title and often name of the registrar. See birth format for an example.)
B. Two witnesses present themselves to report the death. Their occupations, ages, and residences are given.
Stawiłi się Marcin Cieślak, parobek lat. . . . i
(They) presented themselves Marcin Cieślak, farmhand age. . . . and
Mateusz Czerwiński, formal lat. . . .
Mateusz Czerwiński, farm-wagon driver age. . . .
C. The witnesses testify concerning the death, including the place (given with grammatical ending) and the date and time of day when the death occurred. USE WORD LIST TO READ DATE.
i oświadczyłi iz dnia pierwszego marca / wczorajszego
and (they) testified that (on) day first (of) March / yesterday
roku bieźącego, o godzinie ósmej w wieczor, w wśi Dębicach. . . .
(of) year current, at hour eight in evening, in village Dębice. . . .
D. Name of deceased is given with varying amounts of information. Age and occupation are almost always given. Other information often given would be parents, birthplace, survivors, etc.
Umarł / Umarła Józef Cieślak lat . . . . licząc[y/a], syn /
(He) died / (she) died Józef Cieślak years . . . . counting, son /
córka niegdyś / wspomianego Marcina i Wiktoriyi z
daughter (of) deceased / forementioned Marcin and Wiktorya
Czerwińskich małonków Cieślaków; urodzony w
Czerwińska a married couple (named) the Cieślaks; born in
Prusach / w tej wśi roku . . . . gdziei i z kogo urodzony
Prussia / in this village (in) year. . . . when and of whom born
niewiadomo. Zostawił / zostawiwszy po sobie owdowiałą źonę
unknown. (He) has left / leaving after himself widowed wife
Agatę / owdowiałego meźa Mikołajo / etc.
Agata / widowed husband Mikołaj / etc.
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
Information recorded in Prussian civil registration records was quite standardized. German forms were used, which required specific details. Translations of terms in the headings, listed in parentheses, are given in German and Polish.
The following descriptions pertain mostly to Prussian records. Civil registration in Poland after 1918 followed the civil transcript format of the former controlling government and was gradually standardized to a format similar to the Napoleonic records of the Congress Poland.
Birth Records (Geburten, akta urodzeń)
Birth records usually give the child’s name, sex, date and place of birth, and parents’ names. They sometimes give additional details, such as the age of the parents, occupation of the father, and marital status of mother. Births were generally registered within a day of the child’s birth by the father, a neighbor of the family, or the midwife. Corrections to a birth record may have been added as a marginal note, sometimes years later.
Example of Polish Birth Record in Russian
Marriage Records (Heiraten, akta małżeństw)
Marriages were often recorded in the parish where the bride lived. After 1874 Prussian law required a civil marriage ceremony in addition to a church ceremony. There may be records for both. Civil marriage records may include more information than the church records. When church and civil records are available, search both.
Marriage registers give the date of the marriage, the names of the bride and groom, and the names of witnesses. They often include the bride’s and groom’s ages, birthplaces, residences, occupations, and parents’ names. In cases of second and later marriages, the records may include names of previous partners and their death dates. Often a note is made whether a parent or other party gave permission for the marriage.
Supporting documents were often filed by the bride or groom in support of their request to be married. Records proving their birth may have been required at the time, although these papers were probably not kept in the marriage register. Information obtained from supporting documents was often written into the actual marriage record. These documents are usually not microfilmed but might be obtained from a civil registration office.
Example of Polish Marriage Record in Russian
Divorce Records (Ehescheidungen, akta rozwodowe)
Divorces before the mid-20th century were uncommon. The Catholic Church did not allow divorces, and divorces were discouraged in protestant religions, although some marriages may have been annulled. Civil officials began keeping divorce records with the beginning of civil registration. Records of divorces may contain information on family members, marital history, property, residences, and dates of other important events such as the children’s births. Often a record of divorce was inserted later as a marginal note in the marriage register.
The Family History Library has almost no divorce records in its Polish collection. You may be able to obtain information from divorce records by contacting the courthouse of the town where the divorce took place or the archives serving the area.
Death Records (Tote, akta zgonów)
Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information on a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records may exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records. Deaths were usually registered within a few days of the death in the town or city where the person died.
Early death records generally give the name, date, and place of death. After 1874 they usually included the age or date of birth and sometimes the birthplace, residence, occupation, cause of death, burial information, informant’s name (often a relative), and the name of a spouse or parents. Information about parents and birthplace and date of the deceased and other information in a death record may be inaccurate since the informant may not have had complete information.
Example of Polish Death Record in Russian
Austrian Civil Transcripts in Latin / Click on image to enlarge
Austria took possession of the southern part of Poland in 1772. In 1784 the Emperor Joseph, recognizing the need for valid vital records for public use, designated Catholic parish registers as state records and standardized Latin columnar forms were issued. Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic clergy were made responsible for the registration of all vital records for all religions and recorded these in their parish registers. Civil transcripts of these registers were prepared for state use. Most of these are now in State Archives where many have been microfilmed.
The column headings and translations below should simplify the reading of these records. Several modifications were made in the forms, but the basic format remained the same. Earlier forms simply required less information; thus, many forms will not be exactly the same as those presented here nor will all the information be given in all cases. In reading the records, remember that Latin grammatical forms may change the endings on given names.
Locating Civil Registration Records
Civil registration records are kept at the local civil registration office (Urzd stanu Cywilnego) in each town or city. You must therefore determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records.
Your ancestor may have lived in a village that was part of the civil district of a nearby larger town. In large cities there may be many civil districts. You may need to use gazetteers and other geographic references to identify the place your ancestor lived and the civil registration office that served it (see the “Gazetteers” section in this outline). In addition to the town, you need to know at least an approximate year in which the birth, marriage, divorce, or death occurred.
To request a civil registration certificate of Birth, marriage or death you can use this form which is in German and Polish.
Indexes to Civil Registration Records
Births, marriages, and deaths were written in the civil registration records as they occurred and thus are arranged chronologically. Where available, indexes can help you find your ancestor more easily. Although registration took place in local towns, copies of the records may have been sent to archives. Some records include a yearly index at the end.
If searching for a Jewish ancestor, select the database "Jewish Records Indexing - Poland" which is a good starting point. The database has approximately four million records and can be searched in several ways, such as entering a surname and a town name. Due to spelling errors, a "Sounds Like" search is usually more productive than an "is Exactly" search. The results are sorted by the location of the event and by the source of the data. "LDS" indicates that the records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. For these records, the database frequently contains the record number and film number, so the records can be found easily. "PSA" indicates that the records are available from a branch of the Polish State Archives.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilmed the civil registration records of many towns in the former Prussian areas of Poland. They are rarely available more recently than about 1890 because the microfilming of records less than 110 years old is restricted. The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. To find civil registration records in the Family History Library, search in the Place section under:
POLAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION
POLAND, (COUNTY) - CIVIL REGISTRATION
POLAND, (COUNTY), (CITY) - CIVIL REGISTRATION
The library’s collection continues to grow. Do not give up if records are not available yet. The Family History Library Catalog is updated annually. Check it again every year for the records you need.
Locating Records Not at the Family History Library
Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be found by contacting local civil registration offices or archives in Poland. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access.
The present location of records depends on the age of the record book. Records older than 100 years are generally in local civil registration offices, and older ones are in state archives. If you write to the Directorate of the Polish State archives, they will forward your request to the appropriate archive or civil registration office. When writing to the Polish state archives, do not send money. They will bill you for services.
The strategies for using civil registration records are essentially the same as for church records. Since civil registration began quite late in Poland, research in civil records will usually lead back to church registers within one or two generations.
Internet sites for Poland Civil Registration: