- Time Coverage
- Civil Transcripts of Church Records
- Information Recorded in Church Registers
- Locating Church Records
- Online Searchable Databases
- Writing For Records
- Search Strategies
Church records (Księgi metrykalne), called parish records or church books, are vital records made by church officials, pastors, or priests. They include records of births and christenings, marriages, and deaths and burials. In addition, church records may include account books, confirmations, and lists of members. Virtually all Christian people who lived in Poland were recorded in a church record.In general, church records in Poland have been kept since the mid-1600s, although a few parishes have records dating from about 1548. Most parishes have records dating from at least the early 1700s.Catholics were the first to maintain church vital records, but Protestants followed soon after.
In 1704, because of concerns about destruction, some parishes began making copies of their church books. Civil transcripts were made of most church records in Poland after the 1790s. These records were a form of civil registration and included non-Catholics entries. You can use these duplicates where available to supplement parish registers that are missing or illegible.
The most important church records for genealogical research are christening, marriage, and burial registers. Some church books include confirmation records. The later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones. Catholic records were generally kept in Latin, Protestant records in German, Orthodox records in Russian. Greek Catholic (Uniate) records were kept in Latin, Ukrainian, or sometimes Polish. Birth, marriage, and death records of minority groups such as Mennonites, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Orthodox Schismatics, Independents, and others would be with those of recognized churches, such as the Catholic or Lutheran Church, until they had to prepare their own transcripts of vital records.Original Catholic records are usually found in individual parish or diocesan archives.Protestant records are often in state archives; some are in the possession of Evangelical Church archives or officials.Civil transcripts are generally kept in the local civil registration offices (Urząd Stanu Ciwilnego) for 100 years; then they are transferred to state archives.
Most Catholic church records are still maintained by the parish, which will generally answer correspondence in Polish. You can write directly to the parish with a nonspecific address (Catholic parish, Town name with postal code, Poland), but using the specific parish address is better. If the records you need have been moved to a diocese or state archive, your request may be forwarded to that archive.
Some parish registers are collected in diocesan archives. Generally the very old records (before 1800) are in diocesan archives. Some dioceses have parishes archive their records after 100 years. Protestants also maintain church archives, although their records are likely to be in a state archive. Church archives are often unable to handle genealogical requests, but they can tell you if specific records are available. 1. See Catholic Vital Records of Galicia/Halychyna
Many parish records and transcripts are in state archives. 1. PRADZIADThis website can be searched by location (town or parish). It will then tell you which archives hold what records for the location. On the entry for the records you want, click on "More" at the far right, and it will give you the contact information for the archive.
Effective use of church records includes the following strategies: 1. Search for the relative or ancestor you have selected. When you find the ancestor’s birth record, search for the birth records of brothers and sisters. 2. Search for the marriage of the ancestor’s parents. The marriage record will often give clues for locating their birth records. 3. Estimate the ages of the parents and search for their birth records, repeating the process for both the father and mother. 4. If earlier generations are not in the parish records, search the records of neighboring parishes. 5. Search the death registers for all known family members. 6. Many genealogical societies have the resources to help you find parish information when all the usual sources fail. A good society is worth the membership fee for the support it can offer you.
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