Polish Genealogy

Jean Maguire

Poland before WWI, Library of Congress.Introduction

Polish genealogy—like any other genealogical research area—offers its own set of unique challenges. For example, tracing the place of origin for a Polish ancestor can sometimes be challenging for two reasons: 1) the changing politics of the region meant that a person’s country of origin could be listed in one of a variety of ways other than Poland (e.g., Austria, Prussia, or Russia), and 2) people from Poland often gave the nearest city as their place of origin instead of the actual village or town, or they gave a village or town name, but there is more than one place in Poland with that name. There are ways of dealing with these research challenges and there are resources that will explain these methods to you. This guide provides a listing of essential resources for anyone delving into their Polish ancestry. Many of these resources can be found or accessed at the library at NEHGS.

How-To and Other Guides at NEHGS

The Borders of Integration: Polish Migrants in Germany and the United States, 1870-1924 by Brian McCook
NEHGS, International Collection – 5th Floor E184.P7 M33 2011

A History of the Polish Americans by John J. Bukowczyk
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.P7 B84 2008

The Polish Peasant in Europe and America by William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki
NEHGS, 5th Floor E184.P7 T48 1996

Polish Roots, 2nd ed. by Rosemary A. Chorzempa
NEHGS, International Collection – 1st Floor CS873 .C56 2014

Sto Lat: A Modern Guide to Polish Genealogy by Cecile Wendt Jensen
NEHGS, International Collection – 1st Floor CS873 .J46 2010

Going Home: A Guide to Polish-American Family History Research by Jonathan D. Shea
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks E184.P7 S54 2008

Guide to Chicago and Midwestern Polish-American Genealogy by Jason Kruski
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F548.9.P7 K78 2012

In Their Words: A Genealogist's Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference CS871 .S54 2000

Roman Catholic Parishes in the Polish People’s Republic in 1984 by Lidia Müllerowa
NEHGS, International Collection—1st Floor CS873 .M85 1995

A Translation guide to 19th-century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents by Judith R. Frazin
NEHGS, International Collection—1st Floor CS871 .F73 2009

Polish ChurchChurch Records

Various date ranges from 1587 to 1976 for Częstochowa, Gliwice, Lublin, Radom, and Tarnow, Poland. Records are available for free. Information on how to use them can be found here.

Poznan Project
Searchable marriage indexes for the 19th century within the former Prussian province of Posen (now Poznań, Poland) and neighboring districts.

Vital Records

Family History Library
The FHL has microfilmed the civil registration records of many towns in the former Prussian areas of Poland. They are rarely available more recently than about 1890 because the microfilming of records less than 110 years old is restricted. To find which civil registration records the Family History Library holds, search its library catalog for the keywords Poland and civil. This film can be ordered from FamilySearch.org and used at NEHGS.

Jewish vital records of Poland: births, 1550–1993; marriages, 1798–1939; deaths, 1808–1942. Available at NEHGS.

Poznan Project
Searchable marriage indexes for the 19th century within the former Prussian province of Posen (now Poznań, Poland) and neighboring districts.


Biuletyn Korzenie: Newsletter of the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F74.P7 B58

Pathways & Passages: Official Publication of the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F93 .P28

Rodziny: The Journal of the Polish Genealogical Society of America
NEHGS, International Collection—1st Floor CS870 .R63

Polish White CrossPolish Genealogy Organizations

Polish Genealogical Society of America
Polish Genealogical Society of California
Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast
Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts

General Polish Genealogy Websites

FamilySearch - Poland, familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Poland
This is a wiki (or community website) which covers many topics related to Polish genealogical research, including various record types, language tools, and geography guides.

JewishGen, jewishgen.org
Affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, this site features thousands of databases, research tools, and other genealogical resources on Jewish ancestry.

PolishOrigins, polishorigins.com
Offers one place to search various databases and websites by name, place, or other keyword. Also provides a forum for discussion of research and sharing of tips.

PolishRoots, polishroots.com
Provides links to online resources for immigration, geography, research tips, and more.

Polish State Archives, archiwa.gov.pl/en/for-archive-users/genealogy.html
Information on the holdings of state and church archives.

Need help?

Want to maximize your research? The experts at NEHGS can help! We offer a number of services that can help you break down brick walls and expand your research.

Meet one-on-one with our genealogists

Want research guidance from a professional genealogist? Our experts provide 30-minute to two-hour consultations in person or by phone.

  • Find elusive ancestors—Whether you are searching in the U.S. or abroad, in the 17th or 20th century, our genealogists have the knowledge to assist you.
  • Locate and use records—Vital records, military records, deeds, probate, and more—if you’re wondering where to look for them, how to read them, or what data you can find in them, we can guide you.
  • Get more out of technology—Feel like you could be making better use of your genealogy software? Curious about websites and databases that might be relevant to your research? Let us help!

Schedule your consultation today or contact consultations@nehgs.org.

Hire our experts in Research Services

Whether you are just beginning your family research or have been researching for years, NEHGS Research Services is here to assist you. Our team of experts can:

  • Conduct hourly research
  • Break down “brick walls”
  • Retrieve manuscript materials
  • Obtain probate records
  • Research and prepare your lineage society application
  • Organize your materials and files
  • Write narrative biographies about your ancestors
  • Create customized family charts

Hire Research Services today or contact research@nehgs.org, 617-226-1233.