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How can I research for polish ancestors?

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When searching for roots, many people start by studying genealogy, or researching their family history. 

Novice genealogists, who are interested in the history of their ancestors or simply want to create a family tree, often do not know how to start their search. In Poland, sources of information about ancestors can include metrics, which are stored in state and church archives.

However, these are not the only ways to get to the necessary information. Below we will try to give you some tips for beginner genealogists that will greatly improve your search for your Polish ancestors.

How can I research for polish ancestors

Gather information from your relatives

The first step in searching for your ancestors is to gather information from your relatives. You can start by talking to your closest and distant family members. Ask for names, surnames, dates of birth, marriage and death of your ancestors.

Ask for copies of documents, such as birth, marriage and death certificates. This can help you pinpoint the exact dates and places you will need for further research.

Find information on the internet

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In the search for information about your ancestors, especially in the early stages, it is worth using the Internet. There are many websites that offer genealogical databases.

In Poland, such databases include the National Archives, which allows you to search for metrics online, however, only part of it has been digitised and is available as scans.

You can also use other genealogical websites which offer access to genealogical databases and tools.

Check the state archives

State archives are an important source of information about ancestors. There are more than 30 of state archives in Poland, which store documents related to the country’s history and personal documents such as birth certificates.

To find an archive that can help you in your search, you may want to use the National Digital Archive. NAC provides access to many digital sources, such as metrics, court records and maps.

Search in church archives

If your ancestors were Catholic, it’s a good idea to check church archives. In Poland, churches have kept metric books since the 15th century. 

Churches store information such as baptism, confirmation, marriage and death. It is notable that information in metric books can be written in different languages: Latin, German, Russian – depending on which partition the parish was in, and the records can often be difficult to read due to old spelling. 

When looking for information in church archives, it is worth noting names, places of residence and dates, which can help identify the relevant record.

Use the services of professional genealogists

If searching for your ancestors seems too complicated or your methods have not been effective, you can use the services of a professional genealogist.

Such specialists have the knowledge and skills to make a successful search. Genealogists can read old handwriting, read metrics and identify family connections.

However, the services of a professional genealogist are expensive, so it is worth trying to search for information on your own first.

Search data in address books and censuses

Address books and censuses can help you find information about your ancestors. Address books contain a list of residents of a particular city or town, along with their addresses and occupations. 

Censuses contain detailed information about the population, such as names, surnames, dates of birth, places of birth, occupations, education and number of children. Population censuses began to be conducted in the 18th century and are kept in state archives.

Search in places your ancestors were connected with

Krakow - Poland

If you know what region of Poland your ancestors came from, it is a good idea to use local sources of information.

You can contact local archives, libraries, churches or historical societies. In some cities there are also genealogical associations that offer assistance in your search.           

What if we are not sure if our ancestor was Polish?

It’s one thing to find our ancestors, but it’s another thing to make sure that a person close to us who lived tens of years ago definitely had Polish citizenship. Poland’s territory has changed its borders several times.

During the war, many documents and archives were destroyed, and files were moved from place to place.

What formerly was part of Poland is now included in the borders of Ukraine, Belarus or Lithuania. Therefore, we often can’t be sure if our ancestor was officially Polish, or maybe he held two citizenships?

If we have such doubts, we encourage you to read the site:, where not only were approximated ways to check the citizenship of our ancestors, but also through the above article we can get help in finding the necessary documents confirming citizenship.

In many cases, this can be helpful when applying for a Polish passport.

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