Poland Finding Your Ancestor in the Records

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Learn about the types of records used for Polish research. Several factors can affect your choice of which records to search. Factors such as: record contents, availability, ease of use, time period covered, and reliability of the records, as well as the likelihood that your ancestor will be listed in them must be considered.

To do effective research you should:

  • Begin by obtaining some background information.
  • Look for any research that may have been previously done on the individual or family of interest.
  • Search original records.

Remember to search from the known to the unknown, building evidence as you go. Let’s look at each of these steps more closely.

Obtaining Background Information

  • You may need some geographical and historical information. This can save you time and effort by helping you focus your research in the correct place and time period. Many localities in Poland have the same name.
  • Locate the town or place of residence.

Examine maps, gazetteers, postal guides, and other place-finding aids to learn as much as you can about each of the places where your ancestors lived. Identify the major migration routes, nearby cities, county boundaries, other geographical features, and government or ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Place-finding aids are described in the "Gazetteers," "History," and "Maps," sections through the Poland: Portal of the FamilySearch Wiki.

  • Review local history.

It will help to understand Poland's history. If possible, study a history of the areas where your ancestors lived. Look for clues about the people, places, and events that may have affected their lives and the records about them. Records with information about county boundaries, governmental jurisdictions, and local historical events may be described in periodicals from the area.

  • Learn about Polish jurisdictions and boundary changes.

You will need to know how Poland was divided and ruled historically and how each area is divided into parishes and civil jurisdictions.

  • Use language helps.

The records and histories of Polish places will be written in Polish, German, Latin and Russian. You do not need to know the each language to search the records, but you will need to learn some key words and phrases. Some helpful sources are described in the "Language and Languages" section on the Poland portal page.

Check Research Done By Other Researchers

Most genealogists evaluate the research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information. You may want to look in:

Remember that the information in these sources might contain researcher errors. Therefore, you need to analyze and verify the information you find from these secondary sources.

Search Original Records

After surveying previous records you will be ready to begin original research. Original research is the process of searching through original records (often copied on microfilm, or available online), which are usually handwritten in the native language. The documents can provide primary information about your family because they were generally recorded near the time of an event by a reliable witness. To do thorough research, you should search each place where your ancestor lived, during the time period he or she lived there. You need to search all the jurisdictions that kept records which might mention your ancestor (town, parish, province, and nation). You will be most successful with your research if you can examine the original records on microfilm or online, if available.