Poland Jewish Records

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Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The history of Jews in Poland dates back at least 1,000 years. For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in 1025 until the early years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was one of the most tolerant countries in Europe, and became a shelter for Jews persecuted from various European countries.

Between 1772 and 1795, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was divided between three of the surrounding major powers: the Habsburg Monarchy (Austria), Kingdom of Prussia (Germany), and Russian Empires.

Prior to World War II, over 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland, the largest Jewish population in Europe. Over the course of WWII, nearly all of Poland's Jews were murdered during the holocaust. Only close to 11% of Poland's Jews (about 369,000 people), survived the war. Today, just over 3,000 Jews remain in Poland.[1]

For more information about the history of Jews in Poland, consider the following sources.

Importance of and Locating the Town[edit | edit source]

In order to research your family in Poland, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. It is not enough to only know 'Poland;' you must know the shtetl, or town, they came from. It will also be useful to determine which partition of Poland your ancestors came from as genealogical research in each of these three areas or partitions of Poland is a bit different. This Wiki page includes general records that can be used for research in Poland as a whole, while the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian Jewish records pages contain resource and information specific to research in that area. Use the map and the links below to access the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian Jewish records pages. If you aren't sure which partition of Poland your ancestors came from, see the heading How do I know which partition of Poland my ancestors came from? below.

Austrian Poland Jewish RecordsRussian Poland Jewish RecordsPrussian Poland Jewish RecordsPoland 1815-1918.png
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How do I know which partition of Poland my ancestors came from?[edit | edit source]

JewishGen Gazetteer[edit | edit source]
  • The JewishGen Gazetteer can help you determine which partition of Poland your ancestor came from. To view an entry page, search for your town name, then click on the Jewish star to the left of the town name. Pay special attention to the jurisdictions Before WWI. The Country column will let you know which partition of Poland. If there are multiple towns with the same name in different parts of Poland, see the heading below for more information.
Records in Country of Immigration[edit | edit source]

One of the best ways to determine information about your ancestor's pre-immigration origins is to investigate records in the country of immigration. Records that might give clues about your ancestor's birthplace include vital records like marriage or death, vital records of children or spouses, census, church records, obituaries, naturalization/immigration and so on. Find a Wiki page for the country, state, or county that your ancestor immigrated to in order to discover what types of records might be available for the area they lived in.

As you locate your ancestor in records in their country of immigration, you might notice some variation in their birthplace. The list below illustrates some of the commonalities you might encounter that will help you determine which partition of Poland your ancestor was from.

  • Austrian Poland: Austria, Austro-Hungary, Galicia, Poland
  • Prussian Poland: Germany, Poland, Prussia, names of provinces including:
    • Brandenburg, East Prussia (Ostpreußen), Pomerania (Pommern), Posen (Poznan), Silesia (Schlesien) West Prussia (Westpreußen)
  • Russian Poland: Poland, Russia, names of provinces including:
    • Grodno, Kalisz, Kielce, Łomża, Lublin, Piotrków, Plock, Radom, Suwałki, Warszawa

Jewish Records [Akta żydowskie][edit | edit source]

  • Chiefly these consist of transcript records created in accordance with the laws of each of the governments that controlled Poland after the partitioning.
  • Prior to the introduction of civil transcript laws (and occasionally after), Jews were sometimes included in Christian church books. In Russian Poland, for example, between 1808 and 1826, Jews may have been recorded in the records of the Roman Catholic Church. By 1826, Jewish congregations kept their own records.
  • By the 1820s and 1830s many Jewish congregations were keeping their own distinct civil transcript records.
  • Other types of Jewish records include circumcision records, marriage contracts, as well as holocaust memorial records, There was little consistency to the keeping of birth, marriage, and death records which was by the whim of the local religious Jewish leaders until the introduction of civil transcript laws. See below for more information about record types and content.
    • Civil transcripts and/or civil registration: record contents are similar to Christian civil transcripts.
    • Circumcision records (Mohalim books): given Hebrew male names of children, circumcision date (Hebrew calendar), father’s given Hebrew name, sometimes surname.
    • Marriage contracts (Ketubbot): marriage date, names of groom and bride, contractual agreements.
    • Divorce records (Get or Gett): a document in Jewish religious law which effectuates a divorce between a Jewish couple. The document frees the woman from the marriage, and consequently, she is free to marry another.
    • Death memorial records: names of deceased individuals and death date in Hebrew calendar with month and day but sometimes not year.
    • Kahal records: Records of the Jewish governing bodies, including lists of those who voted for the head rabbi, lists of community inhabitants, etc.

Read through the sections below for information about accessing some of these records.

JRI Poland[edit | edit source]

JRI-Poland has indexed over 6.1 million Jewish birth, marriage, and death records from current and former territories of Poland. Search the free database using information such as surname, given name, or any field. Search results are displayed according to historical region (gubernia, wojewodztwo, etc.). For additional help in searching the database see the article, How to Search Our Database. You may also wish to view the free, virtual class Doing Jewish Research in Poland Records to find more information about the resources available through JRI-Poland.

Indexes were taken from a variety of different places including FamilySearch microfilms, digital images housed on the Polish State Archives and other genealogical/archival sites, or from originals located in Poland.

  • To locate original images on FamilySearch using a microfilm number, look for a number found in the microfilm column (usually the last column on the right). If there is not a blue hyperlink on the number, copy the microfilm number and then go to the FamilySearch Catalog. Paste the microfilm number in the Film/Fiche Number box and select Search (you may need to remove commas). One, or several result may appear. Look for a result with the the Author as the town listed on JRI-Poland. Scroll down to the portion of the page entitled Film/Digital Notes. Look for your film number in the Film Column. Pay attention to the item number (if one is listed). Next, look in the Format column.
    • A camera icon indicates the digital images of the records are accessible online. Click on the camera and then locate the correct item number within the film.
    • A camera icon with a key indicates that the item has viewing restrictions and may be accessible at a Family History Center or on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. To locate a Family History Center near you, click here.
    • A magnifying glass indicates that at least a portion of the film has been indexed. Click on the magnifying glass to search through the indexes.
    • A wheel icon indicates that the item has viewing restrictions and is only accessible on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • To locate original images on the Polish State Archives
  • To locate additional source information scroll down to the bottom of your search page on JRI-Poland to the Datafile section. Locate the collection of interest from the index and then look at the final column, LDS films/contact information.

JewishGen Resources[edit | edit source]

JewishGen is one of the most important sources in Jewish genealogical research worldwide. The site is free and easy to use, but requires registration. For video tutorials on many of the resources of JewishGen, see the following free, virtual classes:

JewishGen Family Finder[edit | edit source]

The Family Finder is a database of both ancestral hometowns and surnames that have been researched by their descendants world wide. The Family Finder allows you to connect with others who are researching similar ancestors and origins and collaborate your research.

To add the surnames and locations you are researching:

  • Click on Modify (Edit your existing entries) or Enter (Add new entries).
  • Type in the surnames and/or locations of interest and hit Submit.

To search the database and see if you can connect to family members and other researchers:

  • Choose Search (Search the database) from the Town Finder home page. You can search for a surname and/or a town.
  • Search results will appear in a chart format giving you the surname, town, country, and researcher information (often includes contact information) and the date they last logged into JewishGen.

JewishGen Gazetteer[edit | edit source]

  • The JewishGen Gazetteer, also known as the Communities Database, is a useful online gazetteer for locations in Eastern Europe. Note that wild card searches are not supported. To view an entry page, click on the Jewish star to the left of the town name. Entry pages provide jurisdictions for before WWI, the interwar period, after WWII and modern-day. Alternate names and Yiddish and Russian spellings are also included. In the center, you'll find a map and a list of additional Jewish communities located nearby. Finally, under Additional Information and in the green box at the top, you'll find links to references and additional resources that may help you in your research. For help using this resource, see the free virtual class, 8 Ways to Get the Most Out of JewishGen's Communities Database.

JewishGen Poland Database[edit | edit source]

The JewishGen Poland database includes indexes of vital records, ghetto records, business directories, voters lists and more. You may also find it useful to browse other JewishGen databases.

JewishGen Given Names Database (GNDB)[edit | edit source]

The Given Names Database explains the various types of given names, and the variations. The site also includes a database for searching Jewish given names.

Polish State Archives[edit | edit source]

The Polish archive system consists of many regional archives throughout Poland which are under the umbrella of the main Polish State Archive in Warsaw. Their website incorporates the holdings of all regional archives to help users find and locate records and documents. Note that some records are digitized and accessible online, while other records simply provide an inventory and an indication of which archive they are presently stored in. To access the new version of the Polish State Archives, click here. To access the old version of the Polish State Archives website, click here. To learn how to use the website, see the Szukaj w Archiwach - The Polish State Archives Website "How to" Guide.

FamilySearch[edit | edit source]

There may be records available for your town through FamilySearch. To find records for your location, go to the FamilySearch Catalog. In the place box, type in the name of your town and click the appropriate entry from the drop-down box. Keep in mind that records are often listed using multiple levels of jurisdictions from largest (country) to smallest (town), as well as varying jurisdictions over time.

Alternatively, you can click here to access catalog entries for Poland. Click on Places within Poland and a list of places will appear. Click on your desired location(s). A list of record topics will then appear. Jewish records are most commonly catalogued under the headings Jewish Records or Jewish History. You may also find record under Church Records (for Jews recorded in records of other denominations), Civil Registration, Concentration Camps, Genealogy, Holocaust, and Minorities.

To open a topic, click on it and then a list of the records included in that topic will appear. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles. As you scroll down on the catalog entry page, look for the Film/Digital Notes section. The column on the left explains the types of records/years that are contained on the film. The final Format column indicates accessibility.

  • A magnifying glass indicates that at least part of the film is indexed, and clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index.
  • A camera indicates records are available online in a digital format.
  • A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable digitally but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at a Family History Center, FamilySearch affiliate library, or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.
  • A wheel icon indicates the record is only available on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For more information about using FamilySearch in your research, see the class Using FamilySearch for Jewish Research from RootsTech.

Ancestry.com[edit | edit source]

The following record collections relate to Jewish records in Poland:

The Knowles Collection: Jews of Europe[edit | edit source]

The Knowles Collection, now available through FamilySearch Genealogies, consists of the genealogies of many Jews who appear in the records of the countries of Europe. The great advantage of the Knowles Collection is that it links together into family groups thousands of individual Jews (over 380,000 for this database as of Jan 2015). Use the above link to search the collection. To view a description of the collection, click here, or read about it on the Knowles Collection Blog.

Miriam Weiner: Routes to Roots Foundation[edit | edit source]

Surname Database[edit | edit source]

Using the Surname Database on Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots Foundation website can help narrow down a more specific location for where individuals lived who shared your ancestor's surname.

  • Use the Standard Surname Database if you know your ancestor's given name, surname, or town name. This database is comprised of name lists from local historians and heads of Jewish communities, name lists from books, and name lists from various archives.
  • Use the OCR Surname Database (optical character recognition) to search for your ancestor's surname in either the Latin alphabet or in Cyrillic. This database is comprised of information from business directories, address calendars, telephone books, typed name lists, and name lists from books and from archives.

Archive Database[edit | edit source]

In some cases, records might not be available online and you'll need to visit or contact an archive for more information. Archival finding aids help you determine what kinds of records are available and what archive(s) they are currently housed in. Use the Archive Database to locate what records exist for your ancestor's town, and where to find them. Search for the name of your ancestor's locality, and the database will provide results for known surviving records from that location, and where the records are held. (Remember to adjust the search criteria for Soundex options or spelling variations).

This database contains documents such as army/recruit lists, family lists and census records, Jewish vital records (birth, marriage, death, divorce), immigration documents, voter and tax lists, property and notary records, Holocaust documents, police files, and pogrom documents (school records, occupation lists, local government and hospital records).

  • See Routes to Roots Foundation and hover over Poland for a Genealogical and Family History guide to Jewish and civil records in Eastern Europe.

Maps[edit | edit source]

Miriam Weiner's website offers select historical maps of Poland, as well as a variety of historical images from towns in Poland that may prove useful in your family history.

Yad Vashem Shoah Database[edit | edit source]

The YadVashem.org Central Database of Shoah (Holocaust) Victims’ Names is searchable by name and by community with “synonym” or “Soundex” options.

Shabbat Goy[edit | edit source]

Shabbat Goy provides information on more than 200 concentration camps, Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in Poland. The site is in French, but if you are using the Google Chrome browser, you can right click anywhere on the page and select Translate to English. The list of localities is not in alphabetical order, so an alphabetical list appears below:

  • Annopol, Auschwitz, Bedzin, Belzyce, Biala, Biala Podlaska, Biala, Bialystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Blechhammer, Bochnia, Bojanowo, Buk, Byczyna-Biskupice, Chelm, Chelmno, Chrzanow, Czeladz, Czerniejewo, Czestochowa, Dabrowa Tarnowska, Debica, Drawsko Pomorskie, Elk, Gdansk, Gliwice, Glogowek, Glubczyce, Gogolin, Goleniow, Gryfice, Jarocin, Jaworzno, Jedwabne, Karczew, Katowice, Kazimierz Dolny, Kedzierzyn-Kozle, Kepno, Klimontow, Konin, Kornik, Koscian, Koszalin, Kozmin, Krakow, Krapkowice, KraSnik, Krasnystaw, Krotoszyn, Kuznica, Lancut, Leczna, LeSnica, Leszno, Lodz, Lomza, Lublin, Majdanek, Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Mikolajki, Milowka, Miroslawiec, Mosina, Mszczonow, Niezdrowice, Nisko, Nowy Dwor, Nowy Sacz, Opatow, Opole Lubelskie, Orla, Ostrow Wielkopolski, Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski, Oswiecim, Otwock, Ozarow, Piaski, Piotrkow Trybunalski, Plaszow, Pobiedziska, Pogorzela, Polczyn Zdroj, Poznan, Prudnik, Przeworsk, Przysucha, Pszczyna, Pyskowice, Radymno, Radzyn Podlaski, Ropczyce, Rozwadow, Rymanow, Rzeszow, Sandomierz, Sanok, Sawin, Sedziszow Malopolski, Sejny, Skoczow, Slomniki, Slupca, Smigiel, Sobibor, Sokolow Malopolski, Sosnowiec, Stary Sacz, Strzegom, Strzegom, Strzelce Opolskie, Stutthof, Sulawki (sic), Swarzedz, Swidnica, Swidwin, Szczebrzeszyn, Szczucin, Szczuczyn, Szydlow, Tarnobrzeg, Tarnow, Tarnowskie Gory, Toszek, Toszek, Treblinka, Trzebinia, Tuczno, Tyczyn, Tykocin, Ujazd, Ulanow, Uzarzewo, Warszawa, Wieliczka, Wlodawa, Zabrze, Zamosc, Zary, Zator, Ziebice, Zyrardow.

The International Tracing Service[edit | edit source]

International Tracing Service was established at the end of World War I to help people in Europe to find family and friends who had been lost as a result of the war. The archives of the ITS were opened to the public in November 2007. The collections of the ITS are written in German. Two of the collections of the ITS have information of particular value for researching Jewish families. These records are the T/D files, and the Central Name Index.

T/D Files

The T/D (Tracing Document) files contain inquiries made by individuals after the war seeking to know the fate of their friends or relatives. The writer often provides valuable information such as family relationships ages, birthplaces, and locations where the family lived. Any documents or future correspondence related to the initial inquiry are included in the file. Even if the missing person was never found, the inquiry and associated documents may provide valuable information and lead the researcher to other relatives.

Central Name Index

This file indexes the over 17 million names found in the collections of the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen. Most of the documents in the ITS are World War II era documents such as arrest papers and concentration camp lists. Names from these lists, along with the those in the T/D, are contained in the Central Name Index. Genealogists with a rare surname may even want to do a general search in the Central Name Index, as this may provide a more complete picture of the family.

Overlaps and Differences between ITS and Yad Vashem Databases

Read The International Tracing Service (ITS) and Yad Vashem to fully understand the relationships between the two. Most of ITS holdings may be found at Yad Vashem.

ITS Contact Information

The Address for the International Tracing Service is as follows:
International Tracing Service
Grosse Allee 5-9
34454 Bad Arolsen
Germany

E-mail: email@its-arolsen.org

The German Red Cross Tracing Service[edit | edit source]

The GRC Tracing Service supports people who have become separated from their family due to armed conflicts, natural disasters, escape, displacement or migration. It helps to trace family members, to put them back in contact and to reunite families.

Select region and branch office to find contact information.

The PRADZIAD Database[edit | edit source]

PRADZIAD stands for "Database Registration Program Vital Records and Civil Status." It is a catalog of record sets found in Polish archives. Search by name of town, denomination “mojżeszowe,” etc. Here is a fast link to all Jewish records found in the PRAZIAD database (over 3000 record sets). However Jews will also be found in other historical and civil record sets not designated as "Jewish" record sets. You may wish to search through all the record sets for your towns.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "History of Jews in Poland," Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org, accessed May 2021.