Yesterday I mentioned my “easy” online find of a 19th century Polish marriage record via a site called Geneteka. In this post, I’ll provide more information on the site, what’s available, and how to navigate. But first, a word on various Polish sites that offer genealogical records or indexes.
It’s becoming more and more common to find genealogical records online in the United States thanks to both “free” sites, such as FamilySearch, and paid subscription sites like Ancestry and Footnote. Although FamilySearch and Ancestry both have some international records, not many are from Poland – which is where most of my ancestors are from. But, there are Polish records available online – the only problem is knowing where to look. There are several web sites and genealogical societies in Poland that are in the process of indexing millions of vital records, but most of the sites are in Polish (a notable exception to the language issue is the Poznan Project, which is in English). There doesn’t seem to be one central online repository for these records, so finding them required some sleuthing and a heavy use of online translators to understand the Polish instructions.
Your first stop to check on availability of Polish records or indexes online should be the Indeks Indesków <EDITOR’S NOTE 10/2015 – the site this article referred to no longer exists; another site uses the same name but does not offer the same content>, which means the Index of Indexes. It is in Polish, but it’s not too hard to figure out. The site lists updated indexes in chronological order starting with the most recent. But to see the entire list of what is available for each province, simply click on the name of the province (woj.) at the top of the page. The column on the far left shows the Parafia/USC or the name of the town parish/civil registration office. Next, the list will show what years are available online for chrzty/urodziny (christenings/births), małżeństwa (marriages), and zgony (deaths). The final column, strona www, provides the link to the site or sites that have these indexes or records. There are a dozen different sites!
Many of my Polish ancestors come from the mazowieckie provice and I was fortunate to discover that several of my main towns (Żyrardów, Mszczonów, and Warszawa) all have either indexes or the actual records available via Geneteka.
A full and very detailed explanation of the Geneteka site has already been written by Al of Al’s Polish-American Genealogy Research in June, 2009. Please read his series of posts starting with Indexing Project – Geneteka Part One. When you’re finished reading Al’s posts, come back here and I’ll explain my search.
Using this Geneteka search page, I entered my surname Piątkowski without the diacritical (entered as Piatkowski) in the box that says Nazwisko and clicked on the Wyszukaj button.
Next, I chose to view the 93 marriage records listed under Warszawa to see the following results:
Scrolling down to find “Stanisław”, I see the names of my great-great-grandparents:
The first column is merely the number of the record within the total number of records found. Next is the year the marriage took place, followed by the number of the record in the actual record book. Next is the name of the groom, then the bride, and the church name. The icon that looks like the letter “i” is included with some lines. If you hold your mouse over the “i” you will see additional information (have an online translation tool handy). The “A” icon will tell you who indexed the record. Finally, the most important part of the line is the icon that reads “SKAN” at the end of the line. This is not available for all of the indexed records, but if it is shown you are in luck – click it and you will see a scanned copy of the image. (Note: some of the scanned images are located on the Geneteka site and others link to Polish Archives – my sample for this post links to one of the Archives so if you click on “skan” for another image it may look different than the images that follow.) First you will see the record group that the image is in, such as the following:
I knew from the indexed information that I needed record number 194, so I clicked on the first image on this page. It opens up a larger view of the records, and you can clearly read the number. Then I used the navigation buttons on the side to find #194.
Once you find the correct image, you can save it to your computer. It’s FREE! Then all you need is either your trusty copy of In Their Words: A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin and Russian Documents. Volume I: Polish by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman or your favorite Polish translator to help you uncover the details found in your record!
What if you find a name, but there is no “skan” at the end of the line? That means they have not (yet?) scanned the record. However, you now have both the year and the akt (act) number, which means you can contact the archives in that region to get a copy. There will be a fee to obtain it, but it will be less than if you required them to research the name in the indexes themselves to find the correct year and act number.
This isn’t a full explanation of the Geneteka site – I am still figuring it all out myself. Al already gave a very good primer on how to use the site, and I highly recommend his series that I linked to above. My main goal in writing this post was to let others who are researching Polish ancestry know that the records are out there (to borrow a phrase from the television show X-Files). Unfortunately, the records are being indexed by over a dozen different groups, and there is no one central site for this information. Check the Index of Indexes to see if your ancestors’ parishes have been indexed yet. If they haven’t – keep checking the site! It is updated frequently. All of the indexing sites appear to be quite active. This marriage record only appeared in the last month. If anyone else has good luck in finding a record on one of the many Polish sites, I’d love to hear more so leave a comment.