Gazetteers are dictionaries of place-names. They describe towns, villages, counties, provinces, and population sizes; parishes; and rivers, mountains, and other geographical features. They usually include only places that existed at the time of publication.
The place-names are generally listed in alphabetical order.
Gazetteers may also provide the following information about towns:
- Local religious denominations and parishes
- Postal facilities and other communication facilities (telephone, telegraph, and so on)
- Local commerce, agriculture, manufacturing works, canals, docks, and railroad stations
- Schools, colleges, and universities
You can use gazetteers to locate places where your family lived and determine the civil and church jurisdictions over those places. For example, Sarnów in Gliwice County is a small village that belongs to the Catholic parish of Toszek.
Because many places in Poland have the same or similar names, you will need to use a gazetteer to identify the specific town your ancestor lived in, the civil district it was in, and the jurisdictions where records about your ancestor were kept.
Gazetteers can also help you determine the county jurisdictions used in the Family History Library Catalog.
Finding Place-Names in the Family History Library Catalog
The Family History Library Catalog lists place-names under county (wojewódzstwo) jurisdictions used in the 1960s and 70s. Names are also listed under the German-Prussian province (Provinz) as of 1871–1914 or the Austrian province (Provinz) as of 1850–1915. To find the province that a town is filed under in the Family History Library Catalog, use the “see” references on the catalog’s first locality microfiche of each state. If you have the catalog on compact disc, use the “Locality Browse” search.
Each town is listed in the catalog with its district (powiat or Kreis) jurisdiction to distinquish it from other places of the same name.
Because of the many changes in place-names, the Family History Library uses one gazetteer as the standard guide for listing places in the Family History Library Catalog. Regardless of the names a place may have had at various times, all Polish places are listed in the catalog by the name they are listed under in:
Spis miejscowości Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej(Gazetteer of the Polish People’s Republic). Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Komunikacji I Łaczności, 1967. (FHL book 943.8E5s; film 0844922.) This gazetteer lists locality names as they existed from the 1950s to the 1980s. Locality names are listed alphabetically in column 1; column 3 indicates district; column 4, province; column 5, post office location; and column 7 the location of the current vital records office. For former Polish towns that are now part of Russia, see the 1934 Listing of Localities of the Polish Republic by Bystrzycki listed below.
For research purposes such as correspondence, learn which jurisdictions your ancestral town was under at various times. Current jurisdictions can help you find the ancestral town on modern maps. The following modern gazetteers are at most large libraries and archives:
Wykaz urz.dowych nazw miejscowości w Polsce (List of official place-names in Poland). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Akcydensowe, 1980. (FHL book 943.8 E5wu; fiche 6053522.) This gazetteer lists the jurisdictions as they were from the 1980s to 1998. Towns are listed alphabetically, giving the distict and province they are located in and the post office location. No parishes jurisdictions are listed.
Bystrzycki, Tadeusz. Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej(Listing of localities of the Polish Republic). 3 vols. Przemyśl: Wydawnictwo Książnicy Naukowej, 1934. (FHL book 943.8 E5sm; film 11343868.) This gazetteer, of the republic of Poland from 1918–1939, is the most accurate gazetteer for the territory. It is arranged alphabetically in the first column. Other columns include townships, districts, provinces, post offices, and railways.
The last column gives parish jurisdictions but not synagogues. It does not include towns in western Poland that were part of Prussia in 1934 (for these towns, see the 1967 gazetteer mentioned previously).
Similar national sources are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
POLAND - POSTAL AND SHIPPING GUIDES
With changes in national boundaries and governments, many place names and jurisdictions in Poland have changed. The following gazetteers identify Polish localities as they existed under Austrian, German, and Russian administrations:
“Gemeindelexikon von Galizien” (Gazetteer of Galicia) Gemeindelexikon der in Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder (Gazetteer of the crown lands and territories represented in the imperial council). Vol. 12. Vienna: K. K. Statistischen Zentralkommission, 1907. (FHL book 943.6 E5g; film 1187928.)
To use, find the village in the index, which gives the page number in the gazetteer. This will help locate the district given at the top of the page. In the appendix section, using the name of the district and the village, you can determine the parish town where the church records were kept for your village.
Uetrecht, E., Meyers Orts und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs (Meyer’s gazetteer and directory of the German Empire). Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut, 1912–. (FHL book 943.E5mo; film 496640–41; fiche 6000001– 29.) This gazetteer lists places alphabetically, gives their former German province, and states whether a place has its own parish or synagogue. It also indicates the location of the vital records office.
Gemeindelexikon für das Königreich Preussen (Gazetteer for the Kingdom of Prussia). 13 vols. Berlin: Verlag des Königlichen Statistischen Landesamts, 1907–09. (FHL book 943.E5kp; film 1186701, 0806633–35.) Volumes for each Prussian province are arranged by district with an index at the end. The gazetteer is in German Gothic print. Information is given in columns and includes population figures as well as civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions.
Russia (and many places in Austria and Germany)
Sulimierski, Filip, ed.Slownik geograficzny królestwa polskiego i innych krajów slowiańskich (Geographical dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic countries). 15 vols. Warsaw: Sulimierski i Walewski, 1880–1902. (FHL book 943.8 E5c; film 920957–72.) These locations are listed alphabetically with Polish text.
The following book gives name changes after World War I:
Kredel, Otto, and Franz Thierfelder, Deutsch-fremdsprachiges Ortnamenverzeichnis (German-foreign gazetteer). 3 vols. Berlin: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1931. (FHL book 940 E5kt; film 0950387.) The purpose of this gazetteer is to locate place-name changes after World War I.
These sources are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
POLAND - GAZETTEERS
Spis miejschowości Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej. Polish gazetteer for 1967 (2 volumes). (FHL book 943.8 E5s; film 2037058 or fiche 6000369-6000383.)
Slownik geograficzny królestwa polskiego i innych krajów slowiańskych. Geographical dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland prior to WWI (15 volumes), Warszawa, 1880. (FHL book 943.8 E5c; film 920957-72.)
Skorowidz miejscowości rzeczypospolitej polskiej. A gazetteer of Poland between WWI and II (2 volumes). 1934. (FHL book 943.8 E5sm; films 2037057-8.)
Gemeindelexikon Der Im Reichsrate Vertretenen Königreiche and Länder. V. 12 (1900). (FHL book 943.6 E5g.)
Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia. Lenius, Brian, Anola, Manitoba, Canada (1999). (FHL book 943.65 E5L.)
Gemeindelexikon für das Königreich Preußen. Königlichen Statistischen Landesamts. Ostpreussen, Westpreussen, Brandenburg, Posen, Schlesien, Pommern. (6 volumes) (1907). (FHL book 943 E5kp.)
Wykaz urzędowych nazw miejscowści w Polsce. V. 1. (FHL book 943.8 E5wu.)
Słownik nazw geograficznych Polski zachódniej i pólnocnej. Place name change dictionary of places taken from Germany after WW II and that were incorporated into Poland and Russia. V. 1. (FHL book 943.8 E5sn; film 847874.)
Roman Catholic parishes in the Polish People's Republic in 1984. Lidia Müllerowa, Chicago, Illinois. 1995. (FHL book 943.8 K24m.)
Alphabetisches Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Deutschen Ostgebiete unter fremder Verwaltung, Band 11. V. 1. 1955. (FHL book 943.8 E5b.)
Jewish Roots in Poland. Miriam Weiner, Secaucus, New Jersey. 1997. A listing of Jewish archival holdings. (FHL book 943.8 F2wm.)
Oficjalny Spis Pocztowych Numerów Adresowych, Warszawa 1993. Polish Postal Guide. (FHL book 943.8 E80.)
Slownik Geograficzny- Poland and Eastern Europe Gazetteer
Slownik Geograficzny is a Polish language gazetteer. Its full title translated is “Geographic Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Lands.” It was published in Warsaw between 1880 and 1903 in a series of 16 volumes, 14 alphabetical and two additional volumes with supplemental material.
Slownik Geograficzny has 15 to 20 thousand entries about regions, cities, and towns of Eastern Europe. The description starts by giving the geographic setting of the village in relation to nearby rivers or larger towns. It also describes local features of importance such as schools, churches, telegraph offices, industries, and fortifications. Other important information sometimes included is population count broken down by religion, and history of warfare in the area.At times this information is given for multiple years in the village, giving a picture of how the village changed over time.
Slownik Geograficzny also often traces the ownership of the village. These villages were usually owned by a Polish or Russian noble family. Sometimes the owners of these villages kept censuses of the residents of their lands. The papers of some of these large landowners have ended up in archival collections. AVOTAYNU ( http://www.avotaynu.com/ a Jewish Genealogy Organization) has a list of where known collections of such papers are located.
Slownik Geograficzny is available in printed form in libraries with specialized Polish collections. It is available on films 9209957-9209971 at the Family History Library. The Polish Genealogical Society of America also produced a CD-ROM containing images from a limited production facsimile edition created in 1986-1987.
Although the Polish in Slownik Geograficzny is over 100 years old and contains some obscure vocabulary and abbreviations, websites of the organizations AVOTAYNU, PolishRoots, and the PGSA have created helper lists for a large number of these terms. Another important note is that the sources Slownik Geograficzny drew upon to create this work were not always accurate.
What can we learn from Slownik Geograficzny?
Richard M. Spector
Call Number: US 296.05 AV 79
Spring 2006 V. XXII Number 1
ShtetlSeeker is a major search resource for place names throughout eastern Europe. The biggest advantage of this search is that it uses a specialized soundex system to find places. This can be very helpful if your spelling is not quite accurate. Keep in mind that not all the results will be of value. A soundex result is not intended to provide sounds-like results. You have to be judicious in selecting the correct place from the display page.
Kartenmeister only covers those parts of Poland formerly ruled by Prussia. It is especially useful because it is based on the Germanic place names that existed in that era. It does not have a soundex system but will allow searches with starting letters, or combinations of middle and ending letters. It provides current equivalent Polish place names where known.
The following sites allow for a variety of search options.