Polish Genealogical Society of America Members Log in/Log out

Header Left  Genealogical Sources - Poland and Lithuanian Header Right

Presented in October 1995 - Poland/Lithuania Seminar at Balzekas Institute

How To Approach Your Polish Genealogical Research Problem

Research in Poland and Lithuania is really no harder than that of any other European country. Both countries have excellent church records and civil registration that covers nearly 100% of the population.

  • Determine who was the immigrant ancestor.
  • Determine the specific town the ancestor came from.
  • Find the ancestral home using gazetteers and maps.
  • Determine the record keeping jurisdiction.
  • Find the records.

Historical Background

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland unified under the Lublin agreement of 1569 to form a single state-the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania.

After 1795 Poland no longer existed as a sovereign nation. It was divided between Prussia (Germany), Austria, and Russia. In 1805 Napoleon's Empire acquired parts of Poland and created the Duchy of Warsaw. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna redistributed the territories of former Poland between Russia, Austria, and Prussia and created a the Kingdom of Poland under the jurisdiction of Russia which consisted of most of the former duchy. Thus the records of genealogical value differ somewhat in each of these three areas.

Find The Ancestral Home And Record Keeping Jurisdictions

To find the records needed to search out the genealogy of your Polish ancestor, you must know both his religion and the town where he lived since the most useful records were kept locally by churches and synagogues. Gazetteers can provide information about correct spelling of towns, what county or district they were in, and the location of the parish, synagogue, or civil registration office responsible for record keeping. Gazetteers are listed at the end of this paper.

Find The Records

The necessary records may be available through the Family History Library or it may be necessary to write for information.

Poland – The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many Polish church records, civil transcripts of church records, and Jewish records from towns in all areas of Poland. Records have also been acquired from some towns in areas of former Galicia, Austria, which are now in Ukraine. In most cases, privacy restrictions have prevented the microfilming of records more recent than about 1875. Available records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the town where they were produced. You can search the computer version of the catalog without knowing the province. These records are listed in the microfiche version of the catalog under POLAND, (PROVINCE), (TOWN) - CHURCH RECORDS or JEWISH RECORDS. Some civil registration records from the Prussian area starting in 1874 are available through the Family History Library but in most cases no later than about 1880. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under POLAND, (PROVINCE), (TOWN) - CIVIL REGISTRATION. Many church records, Jewish records and civil registration records have not yet been microfilmed.

Lithuania - Recently the library has acquired Protestant and Old Believer Orthodox records from Lithuania. These records do not appear in the 1995 edition of the catalog but should appear in the next edition. The process of microfilming, processing, and cataloging can sometimes take considerable time. Because of this, it is not possible to provide you with access to materials that are currently being filmed or that have been recently filmed until they appear in our catalog. The catalog is updated approximately every six months. If the materials you need are not listed in our current catalog, periodically check newer editions of our catalog as they become available at your family history center.

When The Records You Need Haven't Been Microfilmed

If the records you need have not been filmed or do not cover the years you need, you can try to obtain information by writing to or visiting record repositories in Poland and Lithuania. The Polish Genealogical Society of America can provide you with a "Polish Letter Writing Guide" for writing to Catholic churches in Poland or you can write to the Polish State Archives:

Naczelna Dyreckja Archiwow Panstwowych
Skr. Poczt. 1005
00-950 Warszawa

For Lithuanian research, if the Family History Library doesn't have the records for the locality or religion you need, write to the Lithuanian State Historical Archives at:

Lietuvos Valstybinis Archyvas
Gerosios Vilties, 10
2015 Vilnius


Join a genealogical society for the ethnic group your ancestor belonged to. There are several genealogical societies and organization that can help with Polish, Lithuanian and Jewish research. You should also seriously consider sharing what you know about your Polish or Lithuanian family as well as information about any procedures that have proven successful for you with these organizations. The newsletters and journals of these societies are always seeking good information to share with their members. The following are the national organizations. There are also numerous local Polish and Jewish genealogical societies.

Polish Genealogical Society of America
984 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622

Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture
Immigration History and Genealogy Department
6500 South Pulaski Road
Chicago, Illinois 60629


German Empire

Uetrecht, E., comp. Meyers Orts und Verkehrs - Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs [Meyer's gazetteer and directory of the German Empire]. Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut, 1912. (Family History Library call number: European Collection Ref. 943 E5mo; also on microfilm, Film 496640 - for places A-K, Film 496641 - for places L-Z; also on Fiche 6,000,001 - 6,000029)].

Towns are listed alphabetically. This gazetteer is written in the old Gothic script. This gazetteer gives the 1871–1918 political jurisdictions and indicates whether the locality had its own parish or synagogue.


Gemeindelexikon fur das Konigreich Preussen [Gazetteer for the Kingdom of Prussia]. Berlin: Verlag des Koniglichen statistischen Landesamts, 1907-1909. (Family History Library call number: European Collection Ref. 943 E5kp; also on microfilms listed below).

  • Vol 1 Ostpreussen (Film 1186701 item 3)
  • Vol 2 Westpreussen (Film 1186701 item 4)
  • Vol 3 Brandenburg (Film 806635 item 1)
  • Vol 4 Pommern (Film 806634 item 4)
  • Vol 5 Posen (Film 806635 item 3)
  • Vol 6 Schlesien (Film 806633 item 4)

Each volume has an index at the end listing in alphabetical order all localities in the province. In the index, there are two numbers given after each place name. The first number refers to the Kreis (district) to which the locality belonged. These numbers can be found at the top of the page in the body of the book. The second number refers to the town. Thus 21 17 refers to the 17th town listed in district 21. The parish is given in the columns marked as Kirchspiel; Evangelisch (Lutheran) in column 25 and Katolisch (Catholic) in column 26. Note: If the town in question is not listed in column two, refer to the footnotes in the gazetteer.

Russian Empire (Including localities now in Poland and in Lithuania)

Sulimierski, Filip, ed. Slownik geograficzny krolestwa polskiego i innych krajow slowianskich [Geographical dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic countries]. 15 Vol. Warsaw: Sulimierski i Walewski, 1880-1902. (Family History Library call number: European Collection 943.8 E5c; also on microfilm.) Film numbers are as follows:

920,957 vol. 1 Aa-Dereneczna 920,967 vol. 11 Sochaczew-Szlurbowska Wola
920,958 vol. 2 Derenek-Gzack 920,968 vol. 12 Szlurpkiszki–Warlynka
920,959 vol. 3 Haag-Kepy 920,969 vol. 13 Warmbrunn–Worowo
920,960 vol. 4 Kes-Kutno 920,970 vol. 14 Worowo–zyzyn
920,961 vol. 5 Kutowa-Malczyce 920,971 vol. 15 Ababi–Januszowo
920,962 vol. 6 Malczyce-Netreba (addendum)
920,963 vol. 7 Netreba-Perepiat 920,972 vol.15 Januszpol–Sniatyn
920,964 vol. 8 Perepiatycha-Pozajscie (addendum)
920,965 vol. 9 Pozajscie-Rukszenice
920,966 vol. 10 Rukszenice-Sochaczew Arranged alphabetically with text in Polish.

Austrian Empire

Gemeindelexikon der in Reichsrate vertretenen Konigreiche und Lander [Gazetteer of the crownlands and territories represented in the imperial council]. Vienna: K.K. Statistisches Zentralkommission, 1903-1908. (Family History Library call number: European Collection Ref Q 943.6 E5g; also on microfilm). Film numbers are as follows:

  • 1187927 item 2 Vol 11 Schlesien
  • 1187928 item 1 Vol 12 Galizien
  • 1187928 item 2 Vol 13 Bukowina

Based on the 1900 census. The volume for each province is arranged by district with an index to both German and local place names. If you do not find the town on the page listed in the index check the footnotes. The parish or synagogue location is not listed in the main text but is given in an appendix, located between the main text and the index of each volume. The appendix is arranged alphabetically by district and subdistrict. The parish and synagogue are given in the last column: Standort der rom- kath., gr-kath. und isr. Matrikelstellen.


Sprogis, Ivan Jakovlevich. Indeks alpfabetyczny miejscowosci dawnego wielkiego Ksiestwa Litewskiego [Alphabetical Index of Localities of the Former Grand Duchy of Lithuania]. Vilnius, 1929. (on set of 37 microfiche, Family History Library number 6002146)

Text in Russian and Polish.

Poland between WW1 and WW2 (Including areas now in Lithuania)

Bystrzycki, Tadeusz. Skorowidz miejscowosci rzecrypospolitej polskiej [Listing of Localities of the Polish Republic]. Przemysl: Wydawnictwa ksiaznicy naukowej, 1934. (Family History Library book 943.8 E5sm; also on microfilm 1343868).

This is a gazetteer of the early republic of Poland as it existed from 1918 to 1939. Poland at that time extended far into the east, including areas which after World War II were ceded to the Soviet republics of Lithuania, Belorussia, and the Ukraine. These are areas which had a substantial Jewish population. This is the most accurate gazetteer available for that territory. It is arranged alphabetically with information in columns. Localities are listed alphabetically down the page in the first column. Township, district, province (voivodship), post office, railway station, bus station, local and regional courts, and Christian parish for the locality are listed in successive columns to the right. The nearest synagogue is not listed.

Modern Poland

Spis Miejscowosci Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej [Gazetteer of Polish People's Republic Localities]. Warsaw: Wydawnictwa komunikacj i lacznosci. 1968. (Family History Library call number: European Collection Ref. 943.8 E5s; also on microfilm 844922).

Localities are listed alphabetically down the page in the first column. Township, district, province (voivodship), post office, railway station and vital records office for the locality are listed in successive columns to the right.

Top of Page


Home | Directory | About Us | Membership | PGSA Store | Contact Us | Site Map
© 1978-2015 Polish Genealogical Society of America, All rights reserved.
Website questions: webmaster@pgsa.org