Family archives inform about the situation of the family, and they very often consist of genealogical registers. Also information about leaseholders and serfs can be found there. In addition, the following materials can be used in genealogical research: metrics, censuses, judicial and notarial documents, acts from universities, parties, associations, various organizations and institutions.
Oldest Polish registers date back to XVI century. Keeping metrical books in Poland became obligatory after the Council of Trent (1545-1563). All births and marriages were registered, and also information about deaths started to be noted. Since XVII century 5 kinds of metrical books were obligatory to keep for parsons: birth, confirmation, marriage, death and the list of parishioners. In XVI and XVII centuries the dates of baptism were also added to metrical documents. Since XVII entries were completed with dates of birth, death and funeral, information about cause of death were more frequently added too. The way of keeping registers was changed during the partitions of Poland. Metrics became public legitimate documents and the way of keeping it was regulated by rules of the particular occupying country – together with the language. In Interwar Poland all regulations about keeping registers were unified. After World War II the general secular registration of marital status was established and new organs of national administration were created in all Poland. The offices of civil status create and keep documents for 100 years then passes it to the national archives (80 years in case of marriages and deaths). Parishes still have their own metrics and do not have to pass them to national archives, instead they are gathered in diocesan ones. More and more record are being digitalized by Polish State Archives – more in the next chapter.
Much valuable genealogical data can be found in registers kept in parishes and monasteries. Typical pieces of information that are stored in parish books are lists of: parishioners, banns, parish announcements, confirmands, charity organizations and others. Monastery books can also be very useful in genealogical research. They consist of information about monks as well as local nobility. Some of the parish records (as well as the acts of a civil status) can be found in an online database SZUKAJ W ARCHIWACH (eng. Search in the archives). Here’s the link to the Website (available in English as well). Nevertheless – once you find the parish/institution you are looking for, you have to be prepared that the documents are written in either Polish, Russian, Latin or German.
Other important pieces of information can be kept in various kind of censuses. The first census conducted in Poland took place in 1791. The data stored in censuses are: birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, parents’ names, place of residence etc. Since 1861 communal offices were obligated to kept censuses in 2 copies. The first census in Independent Poland was conducted in 1921. Tax registers might also be useful while proceeding genealogical research they provide data such as: material status and place of residence and are stored in separate archives. Specific data about entire families are kept in registration books they consist of: first and last names, parents’ names, profession and current position, date of birth, confession, nationality, place of residence etc. Valuable source of information are forms that have to be filled during census as well as those filled for ID cards and passports.
Acts of Justice Institutions
These documents consist of many useful pieces of information such as: personal data about owners and family members, their debts, testaments and short term obligations. They might be a great help whilst searching especially for a long lost relatives and ancestors.