Russian Poland Jewish Records

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Beginning Research
Original Records
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Finding Aids

Russian Partition of Poland.

Find the Town[edit | edit source]

In order to research your family in Russian Poland, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. It is not enough to only know 'Poland' or 'Russia;' you must know the shtetl, or town, they came from. For a great overview on ways to identify your Jewish ancestral hometown, see the free, virtual class Crossing the Ocean. In addition to research in the records of the country they immigrated to, you may also want to examine the following sources to help you determine possible town locations.

JewishGen Family Finder[edit | edit source]

The Family Finder is a database of both ancestral hometowns and surnames that have been researched by their descendants world wide. The Family Finder allows you to connect with others who are researching similar ancestors and origins and collaborate your research. To add the surnames and locations you are researching:

  • click on Modify (Edit your existing entries) or Enter (Add new entries).
  • Type in the surnames and/or locations of interest and hit Submit.
  • To search the database and see if you can connect to family members and other researchers, choose Search (Search the database) from the Town Finder home page. You can search for a surname and/or a town. Search results will appear in a chart format giving you the surname, town, country, and researcher information (often includes contact information) and the date they last logged into JewishGen.

Miriam Weiner's Surname Database[edit | edit source]

Over her 30+ years of working in Eastern European archives, Miriam Weiner collected vast amounts of material and can be searched using the Surname Database.

  • Use the Standard Surname Database if you know your ancestor's given name, surname, or town name. This database is comprised of name lists from local historians and heads of Jewish communities, name lists from books, and name lists from various archives.
  • Use the OCR Surname Database (optical character recognition) to search for your ancestor's surname. The search of the database is done using Cyrillic spellings, but the search form allows you to enter the name in Latin letters and automatically transliterates it into Cyrillic for you. This database is comprised of information from business directories, address calendars, telephone books, typed name lists, and name lists from books and from archives.

You may also be able to use the database to help narrow down a more specific location for where individuals lived who shared your ancestor's surname.

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Once you have determined the town your ancestor came from, the next step is locating the town in a map or a gazetteer. This will help you to identify political boundaries, place names, alternate spellings, etc. Gazetteers and historical maps are especially useful for understanding boundary changes or finding communities that no longer exist. In addition to these sources, explore the Poland Gazetteers page.

JewishGen Gazetteer[edit | edit source]

  • The JewishGen Gazetteer is a useful online gazetteer for locations in Eastern Europe. Note that wild card searches are not supported. To view an entry page, click on the Jewish star to the left of the town name. Entry pages provide jurisdictions for before WWI, the interwar period, after WWII and modern-day. Alternate names and Yiddish and Russian spellings are also included. In the center, you'll find a map and a list of additional Jewish communities located nearby. Finally, under Additional Information and in the green box at the top, you'll find links to references and additional resources that may help you in your research.

Maps of your Ancestor's Town[edit | edit source]

1897 Census[edit | edit source]

The 1897 Russian Imperial Census was the first and only census carried out in the Russian Empire. The census enumerated the entire population of the Empire (excluding Finland), but after statistical data was gathered, many of the census returns were destroyed. Most Russian Poland census returns were destroyed; however, some original returns still exist for Łomża and surrounding areas. Use the resources below to help you locate existing Łomża census information. Use the Reading the 1897 Census "How to" Guide to learn how to read census records.

JRI Poland[edit | edit source]

JRI-Poland has compiled a surname list of family names that appeared in the surviving Łomża 1897 Census returns. To find records for any of the surnames mentioned on the list, search the JRI-Poland database for the exact spelling of the surname (for help using the database, click here). In the search results, select List [number] records from Łomża Gubernia. Look for the collection title called Łomża District Census.

Polish State Archives[edit | edit source]

Indexes to census records can be found on JRI-Poland, but the originals are still located in Poland, in the Archiwum Państwowe w Białymstoku Oddział w Łomży. Digital images are not yet available online, but you can access information about the records here on the Polish State Archive's new website, or here on the old version of the site.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

In the former Russian territory, rabbis were designated as official registrars of Jewish civil transcripts after 1826.

Between 1808 and 1826 Jews may have been recorded in the Roman Catholic Church. For more information see the article Jews Found in Records of Other Denominations. In 1826, Jewish congregations were required to keep their own vital statistics records and will not commonly be found in the records of the Roman Catholic Church. Some Roman Catholic church records that include Jewish individuals have been indexed on JRI-Poland - see the section below for more information about this website.

JRI Poland (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

JRI-Poland has indexed over 6.1 million Jewish birth, marriage, and death records from current and former territories of Poland. Search the free database using information such as surname, given name, or any field. Search results are displayed according to historical region (gubernia, wojewodztwo, etc.). For additional help in searching the database see the article, How to Search Our Database.

Indexes were taken from a variety of different places including FamilySearch microfilms, digital images housed on the Polish State Archives and other genealogical/archival sites, or from originals located in Poland.

  • To locate original images on FamilySearch using a microfilm number, look for a number found in the microfilm column (usually the last column on the right). If there is not a blue hyperlink on the number, copy the microfilm number and then go to the FamilySearch Catalog. Paste the microfilm number in the Film/Fiche Number box and select Search (you may need to remove commas). One, or several result may appear. Look for a result with the the Author as the town listed on JRI-Poland. Scroll down to the portion of the page entitled Film/Digital Notes. Look for your film number in the Film Column. Pay attention to the item number (if one is listed). Next, look in the Format column.
    • A camera icon indicates the digital images of the records are accessible online. Click on the camera and then locate the correct item number within the film.
    • A camera icon with a key indicates that the item has viewing restrictions and may be accessible at a Family History Center or on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. To locate a Family History Center near you, click here.
    • A magnifying glass indicates that at least a portion of the film has been indexed. Click on the magnifying glass to search through the indexes.
    • A wheel icon indicates that the item has viewing restrictions and is only accessible on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • To locate original images on the Polish State Archives
  • To locate additional source information scroll down to the bottom of your search page on JRI-Poland to the Datafile section. Locate the collection of interest from the index and then look at the final column, LDS films/contact information.

Polish State Archives (digital images or archival references)[edit | edit source]

The Polish archive system consists of many regional archives throughout Poland which are under the umbrella of the main Polish State Archive in Warsaw. Their website incorporates the holdings of all regional archives to help users find and locate records and documents. Note that some records are digitized and accessible online, while other records simply provide an inventory and an indication of which archive they are presently stored in. To access the new version of the Polish State Archives, click here. To access the old version of the Polish State Archives website, click here. To learn how to use the website see below. For more detailed information, see the Szukaj w Archiwach - The Polish State Archives Website "How to" Guide.

Click here to begin your search.

  • Change the language by clicking on the flag in the upper right hand corner (unfortunately, not everything will be translated into English - if you are using the Google Chrome browser, you can right-click anywhere on the page and select translate to English, to get translations for anything the website didn't automatically translate).
  • Enter desired search terms (typically, you'll want to search for a place name rather than a personal name). Keep in mind the following:
    • The Polish word used on the site to identify Jewish records is mojżeszowe.
    • urodzenia = birth
    • małżeństwa = marriage
    • zgony = death
    • alegata = marriage banns
  • Choose your search options by clicking on the tabs above the search box - you can choose to search Everything, Files, or Vital Records and Civil Registers.
  • If you find an entry that interests you, click on it, and then select the option See units from this period. After opening the entry, look for Digital Copies in the upper right hand corner of each individual entry. If scans of the records have been made, then the Digital Copies number will be greater than zero. If scans are not available then contact the archive that holds the records. Reference the archival information found in the entry. This will help the archive locate your record faster.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

There may also be records available through FamilySearch. To find records for your location, go to the FamilySearch Catalog. In the place box, type in the name of your town and click the appropriate entry from the drop-down box. Keep in mind that records are often listed using multiple levels of jurisdictions from largest (country) to smallest (town), as well as varying jurisdictions over time.

Alternatively, you can click here to access catalog entries for Poland. Click on Places within Poland and a list of places will appear. Click on your desired location(s). A list of record topics will then appear. Jewish records are most commonly catalogued under the headings Jewish Records or Jewish History. You may also find record under Church Records (for Jews recorded in records of other denominations), Civil Registration, Concentration Camps, Genealogy, Holocaust, and Minorities.

To open a topic, click on it and then a list of the records included in that topic will appear. Click on the blue links to view specific record titles. As you scroll down on the catalog entry page, look for the Film/Digital Notes section. The column on the left explains the types of records/years that are contained on the film. The final Format column indicates accessibility.

  • A magnifying glass indicates that at least part of the film is indexed, and clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index.
  • A camera indicates records are available online in a digital format.
  • A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable digitally but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at a Family History Center, FamilySearch affiliate library, or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.
  • A wheel icon indicates the record is only available on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The following two sources focus primarily on records of other religious denominations, but you may still find them useful.

Metryki Genealodzy (Genealogical Records Indexing Project)[edit | edit source]

Metryki Genealodzy is a source for finding scans of Polish vital records. Click on the current Administrative Division for your community, then the county (info from your community page). Look for “Denomination: mojżeszowe” and/or “Urząd Stanu Cywilnego” meaning “Civil Registry Office,” and then follow the links to browse the online images.

Geneteka[edit | edit source]

Geneteka indexes Polish vital records, and you can search indexed records by name, place, event, and date. Keep in mind that this site focuses primarily on Catholic records.

Holocaust[edit | edit source]

Holocaust Lists Database at Routes to Roots[edit | edit source]

Use the new Holocaust Lists Database at Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots to determine the location of Holocaust documents such as victim and survivor lists, survival testimonials and more. Holocaust Collections included in this database are from select towns in Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, and Ukraine.

Database entries include information about archive the records are stored in and the archival file number. This information will help you locate the original record in the archive.

To determine what holocaust lists may survive, simply search the database by town. Click on an entry to view additional information about the record and its location. After you have determined that Holocaust documents for your town are available, consider searching your surname in the Surname Database. Miriam Weiner has digitized many Holocaust lists and they are accessible through the Surname Database. Keep in mind that this is an ongoing project, so check back often for new information and updates.

Additional Websites[edit | edit source]

Yizkor Books[edit | edit source]

Yizkor books are memorial books commemorating a Jewish community that was destroyed during the Holocaust. Books are usually published by former residents and records the remembrance of homes, people and ways of life lost during World War II. Most books are written in Yiddish or Hebrew, but in recent years, many have been translated and made available online. You may wish to refer to the Glossary of Yizkor Book Terms list to help you.

Historical Photos[edit | edit source]

The Image Database on Miriam Weiner's website contains photographs and postcard views of many towns and cities throughout Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, and other select countries dating back to the early 1900s. These include pre-WWI and current town views, photos of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and Holocaust memorials. Even if you are unable to find a picture of your ancestor's town, it may still be interesting to see what other towns in the area looked like, which will allow you to a get a feel of what life may have been like for your ancestor.

City Directories and Other Records[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Indexer[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Indexer is a free database that provides access to thousands of records including city directories from the Russian Empire, Yizkor books, WWI casualty lists and other military records, as well as school records. Links to the original records are included.

Finding Aids/Record Inventories[edit | edit source]

Additional records such as city directories, school records, additional tax records, etc. may exist for your locality. Use some of the sources listed below to help you locate those records. Many of these records may be located in an archive. To learn more about archives in Eastern Europe, read the YIVO article, Archives, by Miriam Weiner.

Genealogy Indexer[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Indexer is a free database that provides access to thousands of records including city directories from the Russian Empire, Yizkor books, WWI casualty lists and other military records, as well as school records. Links to the original records are included.

Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation[edit | edit source]

Use the Archive Database to locate what records exist for your ancestor's town, and where to find them. Search for the name of your ancestor's locality, and the database will provide results for known surviving records from that location, and where the records are held. (Remember to adjust the search criteria for Soundex options or spelling variations).

This database contains documents such as army/recruit lists, family lists and census records, Jewish vital records (birth, marriage, death, divorce), immigration documents, voter and tax lists, property and notary records, Holocaust documents, police files, and pogrom documents (school records, occupation lists, local government and hospital records).

  • See Routes to Roots Foundation and hover over Poland for a Genealogical and Family History guide to Jewish and civil records in Eastern Europe.

Jewish Roots[edit | edit source]

The Еврейские Корни (Jewish Roots) site is an excellent resource to help you locate archival documents. The website is in Russian, but if you are using the Google Chrome browser, simply right click anywhere on the page and select Translate to English. Search using the name of the town (find the Cyrillic spelling of the town on JewishGen Town Finder) to see what archival records might be available for your location. In addition to the database, use the Forum to connect with other researchers and find other potential resources for your location.

Reading Records[edit | edit source]

Polish Jewish records are most commonly written in Polish or Russian. Use the resources in this list to help you learn how to read the records. You may also consider using a free translation service such as the FamilySearch Community (Be sure to post in the Poland or Russian Empire Genealogy Research group or tag @PolandGenealogyResearch or@RussianEmpireGenealogyResearch in your question) or JewishGen View Mate.

Polish[edit | edit source]

Russian[edit | edit source]

Additional Resources and Special Interest Groups (SIGS)[edit | edit source]

Białystok Region SIG The city of Białystok and nearby towns and villages, currently in Poland, formerly in the Russian Empire's Grodno Gubernia.

  • Łódź area SIG The city of Łódź, Poland, and localities within a 40-mile radius – in Congress Poland's gubernias of Piotrków, Płock, Warszawa, or Kalisz.
  • Suwalk-Łomza SIGPublisher of Landsmen, covering these two northeastern gubernias of Russian Poland, now in northeast Poland and southwest Lithuania.
  • Warszawa SIGThe capital city of Poland, Warszawa (Warsaw).
  • Kielce-Radom SIG Journal a link to a list of indexed towns from the Kielce-RAdom area. For many years, the Kielce-Radom Special Interest Group has indexed Jewish vital records from that area of Poland, and published the data in their printed journal. These indexes are now merged into the JRI Poland database.