Austrian Poland Civil Registration

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Revision as of 09:31, 25 August 2020 by CamilleAndrus (talk | contribs) (→‎To find the address of the civil registration office:: added link to official list of Polish civil registry offices and their contact info.)
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Definition[edit | edit source]

  • Civil registration is the vital records (records of births, marriages, and deaths) made by the government. Civil registration records (zapisy cywilne) are an excellent source for information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths.
  • Legally, civil records were to be kept by state officials. Because there were not enough state officials, the clergy were frequently appointed as civil registrars. The clergy were required to make civil copies of birth, marriage, and death records. These are known as "civil transcripts of church records" (see Poland Church Records).
  • Because the church was involved in early civil registration, it is difficult to clearly distinguish between civil registration and church records.

In 1795, the old Kingdom of Poland was conquered and divided among Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Civil registration coverage varied for each part of Poland controlled by Russia, Prussia, or Austria. This article covers information on civil registration for Austrian-controlled Poland, which was known as Galicia. For the other parts of Poland, see:

West Prussia (Westpreussen)Pomerania (Pommern)East Prussia (Oustpreussen)BrandenburgPosenGalicia (Austrian PolandSilesia (Schlesien)Russian PolandPoland 1815-1918.png

Time Coverage[edit | edit source]

  • Austria took possession of the southern part of Poland in 1772. In 1784 the Emperor Joseph, recognizing the need for valid vital records for public use, designated Catholic parish registers as state records and standardized Latin columnar forms were issued. Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic clergy were made responsible for the registration of all vital records for all religions and recorded these in their parish registers.
  • Civil transcripts of these registers were prepared for state use. So essentially, the church records functioned as civil registration until 1918. Most of these are now in State Archives where many have been microfilmed.
  • In the former Austrian territories, conventional civil registration did not begin until after the establishment of the Republic of Poland in 1918.
  • Two areas from Russian Poland are exceptions: some areas of the Duchy of Warsaw that were annexed in 1815, and the independent city of Kraków, annexed in 1846.

Language of the Records[edit | edit source]

Because the records were technically Catholic church records, they were written in Latin until 1918. After that, they are in Polish.

Information Recorded in Austrian (Galician) Civil Registers (1784-1918)[edit | edit source]

Records were written in Latin on pre-printed or pre-determined forms. They contained the following information:

Birth Records[edit | edit source]

  • Date and month of birth and baptism
  • House address
  • Name of baptized
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Legitimacy status
  • Names of parents, and sometimes their profession, birthplace, current residence or death information.
  • Names and profession of godparents

Marriage Records[edit | edit source]

  • Date of marriage
  • Name of the bride and groom
  • Names of their parents, occupations, and residences
  • Age, religion, and marital status of bride and groom
  • Sometimes birthplace, residence and occupation of bride and groom
  • Names and occupations of the witnesses
  • Permission of the father, if needed
  • Dates the banns were read

Death Records[edit | edit source]

  • Date of death and burial
  • Address of place of death
  • Name of the deceased
  • Maiden name of women
  • If married, the name of the spouse
  • If a child, the name of the parents
  • Age of the deceased
  • Sometimes the birthplace of the deceased

Indexes[edit | edit source]

The use of the Polish civil registers is further simplified by the indexes that usually accompany them. Indexes were prepared on a yearly basis. The birth, marriage, and death records were each indexed separately. The index is usually found immediately after the records indexed. In some cases the separate birth, marriage, and death indexes are grouped together at the end of the year’s records.

The indexes vary in quality. In some cases they are incomplete or missing entirely. Usually they are alphabetical by surname, but in some cases, they are alphabetized by first name or they may be chronological rather than alphabetical. Spellings in the indexes may differ from those in the actual entries. The indexes usually refer the reader to an entry number – sometimes to a page number. Researchers should realize that, although these indexes are a great help, one should not rely on them completely because some entries may be inaccurately indexed or not indexed at all.

Locating Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

Civil registration records are kept at the local civil registration office (Urzad Stanu Cywilnego) in each town or city. You must therefore determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. Your ancestor may have lived in a village that was part of the civil district of a nearby larger town. In large cities there may be many civil districts.

To find the town for the civil registration office:[edit | edit source]

  • Use mapa.szukacz to find the province, area, commune, and postal code of the town. Enter the town name in the "place" field in the right sidebar and click "Show". All information will appear at the bottom of the right sidebar.
  • If the town was in the area of Poland once controlled by Russia or Austria, look it up in Skorowidz Gazetteer Online to find the parishes of various religions. Here are the instructions. Use the second option, "Viewing anywhere via the Digital Library of Wielkopolska".

Online Indexes to Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

Jewish Record Indexes[edit | edit source]

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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.


If searching for a Jewish ancestor, select the database "Jewish Records Indexing - Poland" which is a good starting point.  The database has approximately four million records and can be searched in several ways, such as entering a surname and a town name.  Due to spelling errors, a "Sounds Like" search is usually more productive than an "is Exactly" search.  The results are sorted by the location of the event and by the source of the data.  "LDS" indicates that the records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library.  For these records, the database frequently contains the record number and film number, so the records can be found easily.  "PSA" indicates that the records are available from a branch of the Polish State Archives. 

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Finding Aids[edit | edit source]

Poland finding aids have been created by a variety of state, church, society, and private organizations. Their goal is to inform what records exist and the repositories that hold them. Each finding aid has a different focus--a particular religion or geographical area or archive or collection. Be sure to search all that apply to your ancestors. Remember that churches often produced civil registration records. The church records might have been destroyed, but copies had been sent to the government and still exist. So we search for both church records and civil registration records.

Records at the FamilySearch Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has microfilmed records of many towns in Poland. The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog. To find civil registration records in the Family History Library, search in the Place section under:

POLAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION

POLAND, (COUNTY) - CIVIL REGISTRATION

POLAND, (COUNTY), (CITY) - CIVIL REGISTRATION

The library’s collection continues to grow. Do not give up if records are not available yet.

Writing for Records[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be found by contacting local civil registration offices or archives in Poland. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access. You may have to prove you relationship to the person in the record, and that they are deceased.

The present location of records depends on the age of the record book. Records more recent than 100 years are generally in local civil registration offices, and older ones are in state archives.

To find the address of the civil registration office:[edit | edit source]

Addresses and contact information for Polish Civil Registry Offices can be found here. Enter the name of the commune or filter by the województwo and powiat to see a list of all the civil registry offices in the area.


Another option is to do a google search:

1. Google: urzad stanu cywilnego
with the name of the commune.

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2. From the list of hits,
find the official page of the
URC (urzad stanu cywilnego).
Click on the link.

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3. Find the e-mail address.

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How to Write the E-mail[edit | edit source]

Write your request in Polish whenever possible. Information about how to write to local civil registration offices in Poland is given in Poland Letter Writing Guide.

Writing to Archives[edit | edit source]

  • Use PRADZIAD to see which archive might have copies of the civil registers or parish registers. Archive addresses are given by clicking on "More" under AKCJA.

Reading the Language of the Records[edit | edit source]

Word Lists[edit | edit source]

The language of the records depends on the controlling government. Most of Poland was part of Austria until 1918, and church records are in Latin. The parts of Poland which belonged to Prussia (Germany) used German until they were ceded back to Poland (after World War I or II). Records in parts of Poland controlled by Russia can be in either Russian or Polish.

Word-by-Word Reading Aids[edit | edit source]

How-to Guides[edit | edit source]

For areas of Poland that were once part of Russia:

Lessons[edit | edit source]

Other Translation Resources[edit | edit source]

Translating Napoleonic style Polish records (typically in Polish before 1867 but also Russian Cyrillic between 1867 and WW I) can be daunting for the average person. A number of resources are available to help with this, both on line and in books.

  • In Their Words: A Genealogist's Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin and Russian Documents. Volumes I & II by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman. See LangLine for ordering information. (Volume I is Polish -> English; Volume II is Russian -> English; both contain a lot more translation resources than just the church records.)
  • A Translation Guide to 19th Century Polish Language Civil Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin.