Please click on a question below to view the answer:
- What is JRI-Poland?
- What is the relationship between JRI-Poland and JewishGen?
- What is the JRI-Poland Database?
- How Do I Find Out What Records Exist for My Town?
- How Do I Search the JRI-Poland Database?
- How Do I Search for Spelling Variations of Surnames?
- How Do I Limit My Search to a Specific Town or Area?
- What Information is Included in the Search Results?
- Where Did the Data in the Database Come From?
- How Do I Obtain Indexed Records from PSA Projects?
- How Do I Obtain LDS Microfilmed Records?
- What if I Can't Find My Family on the JRI-Poland Database?
- How Do I Obtain Records 100 Years Old or Less?
- How Can I Obtain a Spreadsheet for My Town?
- How Can I Contribute to the JRI-Poland Project?
- How Can I Volunteer for the JRI-Poland Project?
What is JRI-Poland?
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (JRI-Poland) at http://jri-poland.org is an independent non-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland is a comprehensive Internet searchable database containing indices of Jewish records from current and former territories of Poland. The vast majority of indices are from the current country of Poland and the part of Ukraine that was once Galicia. Where records are available, the database may also include towns that are presently located in Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus.
Founded in 1995, the project was an outgrowth of Stanley Diamond's need for broad-based access to Jewish vital records for genetic research purposes. Steven Zedeck of New Hampshire and Michael Tobias of Scotland contributed their technical skills to bring the project to life. Stanley Diamond became Executive Director of JRI-Poland in 1997. Today JRI-Poland is a registered not-for-profit organization, directed by an international board of directors from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Israel. Hundreds of volunteers from around the world work together to build this ever-growing resource.
What is the relationship between JRI-Poland and JewishGen?
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland is a totally independent non-profit organization with its own administration, volunteers and fundraising. JRI-Poland fundraising is "shtetl-specific" so that you can direct your donations to the support of indexing records for your town or towns.
To best serve those newly discovering their Jewish roots in Poland, JRI-Poland allows its data to be displayed on JewishGen and Ancestry.com.
As a result, JRI-Poland data can be accessed from both the unique JRI-Poland search page and the JewishGen All-Poland database.
While some JRI-Poland data is available on Ancestry.com, it is limited to a span of years in LDS films only. Thus Ancestry.com is not the place to do a complete search for Polish Jewish records.
The JRI-Poland search page offers many free search capabilities not available with searches of the All Poland database including the new Surname Distributon Mapper.
Read more about what makes JRI-Poland unique.
What is the JRI-Poland Database?
The Jewish Records Indexing-Poland Database contains a collection of index entries from the vital registers of birth, marriage, and death from Jewish records in Poland from the 19th and early 20th century. The JRI-Poland database does NOT contain actual documents, but is an Internet-searchable index of original records. The actual records are available on microfilm through the LDS Family History Centers or can be ordered directly from the Polish State Archives.
In addition to the indices of vital records, the JRI-Poland database includes indices to many other types of records, including Books of Residents for various Polish towns, census records, army draft lists, indices to burials in cemeteries and gravestone files, Polish passports, ghetto death records, newspaper announcements of births, marriages, and deaths, court and legal announcements in official newspapers (Monitor Polski), and other resources to assist researchers in their quest for documentation about their ancestors.
The JRI-Poland database, the largest online database of Jewish vital records, includes indices to five million records from more than 550 towns.
How Do I Find Out What Records Exist for My Town?
Before you begin searching, it can be helpful to find out what records have survived for your towns and the ways in which you can gain access to them. A simple, one-stop way to do this is to click on the JRI-Poland "Your Town" page at jri-poland.org/town/index.htm. The town page will first identify the town, the alternative name, if applicable, the name of the former gubernia (province) where the town was located, and the geographical coordinates of the town. Clicking on the name of the town will show which records have been microfilmed by the LDS (Mormons) and which records are located in Polish State Archive branches. In addition to the location of the records, this page will provide the years, types of records, and the status of the JRI-Poland indexing project for that particular town. This information will help you determine how to gain access to family records if you find them in the JRI-Poland database. Contact links to the people connected to the JRI-Poland indexing efforts for a particular town are at the top of "Your Town" pages. These volunteers have knowledge of their towns and regions and can be a source of guidance for you in your research.
How Do I Search the JRI-Poland Database?
Go to the Jewish Records Indexing - Poland website at jri-poland.org. On the left side of the page, or near the top, right below the JRI-Poland banner, select "search database." To optimize your results read the explanatory information provided on the page. Scroll down to the database entry form. You will see several dialogue boxes that provide options to help you search your family names and towns. Under "Search Options," there are a number of links. Clicking on these will help researchers better understand how to use the JRI-Poland search engine.
Because the acknowledged value of this database is so high, JRI-Poland has permitted other organizations to have licensed access to its data. While it is possible to discover matches in the JRI-Poland database through a portal at these other sites, the best way to search is by using JRI-Poland's own database -- both because of the additional search tools available there and JRI-Poland's own database contains data that that has not been included in data licensed to Ancestry.com.
How Do I Search for Spelling Variations of Surnames?
In the 19th century, spelling was not as fixed and precise as it is today. Often, events (births, marriages and deaths) were recorded for the same individual or same family with variations in spelling on multiple documents. When researching your family surnames, it is important to think creatively about possible spellings.
One way to identify possible spelling variants for your family name in a particular town is to check that town's listing in the JRI-Poland's "Your Town" page at jri-poland.org/town/index.htm. In many cases, there will be a link to a surname list for the indices created by JRI-Poland directly from the records that have been indexed. If you make a list of all possible variants, then you can search for each one, or look for each one in the search results. Not all towns' listings contain surname lists, however.
Surname searches can be conducted by selecting options from the drop-down menu including "sounds like," "phonetically like," "starts with," and "is exactly."
"Sounds like" is the default and relies on the Daitch-Mokotoff soundex system (created by Randy Daitch and Gary Mokotoff). It is an extremely effective system for interpreting the variety of spellings used in Eastern Europe and correlating them with modern Anglicized versions we use today. The Daitch-Mokotoff soundex search converts the phonetic sound of a name (or town) into a numeric code. The system reflects the Polish "Sz" sounding like "Sh," the "J" being used in place of the "I," the "W" sounding like the letter "V" and "C" sounding like "S" or "TS"
For example, if you are searching the name KAPLAN, entering the surname in the D-M mode will produce results including Kaplan, Kaplon, Kaplun, Gavlin, Goglin, Gejblyum etc. The variations in spelling using soundex are often useful to help locate ancestors. However, soundex searches can sometimes produce false positives. To force the appearance of a specific letter or letters in the search results, place square brackets [ ] around the letter or letters. Using the Kaplan example, an entry [K]aplan would limit the results to all surnames sounding like Kaplan and beginning with the letter "K". To read an in-depth description of this useful search tool, click on http://www.avotaynu.com/soundex.htm.
"Phonetically like" is a search mechanism using the Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching (BMPM) system. This system, developed by Alexander Beider and Stephen Morse, is based not only on spelling, but also on linguistic properties of various languages. To read an in-depth description of this useful search tool, click on http://www.stevemorse.org/phonetics/bmpm.htm.
"Starts with" is a way of searching for your names by entering at least the first three letters of a name to retrieve results that may reflect very similar names with different endings.
"Is Exactly" utilizes the precise spelling of a name. It is important to note that surnames of males and females were often spelled differently in the Polish language. For example, the suffix 'ski' pertained to males and 'ska' was used for females. Using the "Is Exactly" option might not produce gender related variations in spelling.
How Do I Limit My Search to a Specific Town or Area?
Focusing your search to a reasonable geographic area is desirable when you are researching a commonly used surname. Even if you are sure your family originated in a specific town, it is helpful to widen your surname search to include the province or gubernia in which the town was located. Use the "Geographical Region" pull-down menu to select the appropriate province or gubernia It is possible that other branches of your family resided in nearby towns in the same area. You can also search by a radius from a town's geographical coordinates, which can still give you focused results, as well as possible search results that contain towns from more than one province or gubernia.
Each search result table contains a heading that identifies that town as a Town of Registration. If you search for a town as the only search parameter, you will only receive search results that list the name of the town in another town's records. You will not receive results from records registered in that town itself.
If you search for a town in combination with another field, such as surname or given name, you will receive results from both the town of registration and other towns' records in which the town is mentioned.
What Information is Included in the Search Results?
A search of the database will usually produce results that include the surname and first name of an individual, the year of registration of the event, the type of event (birth, marriage, death designated by the abbreviations B, M, or D), the town or village where the event occurred, and the AKT (certificate) number for the year of registration. For some towns/years the search results will include additional information such as father's name, mother's name, mother's maiden name, age at death, etc.
It is important to note that many life-cycle events - particularly births - often were not registered during the actual year the event occurred. Registration for births, for example, could have taken place years or decades after the actual birth. In addition, families sometimes registered several or all of their children at one time. The database search results might indicate an abundance of births in the same year for the same family. Be mindful that multiple same-year registrations for a family did not necessarily indicate the birth of twins, triplets, or quadruplets.
Where Did the Data in the Database Come From?
The information contained in the JRI-Poland database comes from an array of sources, including the LDS microfilms of Jewish birth, marriage, and death records beginning in 1826. Volunteers participating in Shtetl CO-OP projects enter into spreadsheets the information found in the original index pages microfilmed by the Mormons for specific towns. The town index usually lists the name of an individual, year of registration, type of document, and AKT (certificate) number for the particular event. This information becomes part of the JRI-Poland database and a corresponding Mormon microfilm number is included so that researchers can order specific microfilms at their local Latter Day Saints (LDS) Family History Centers to examine documents pertaining to their family.
In some cases, exceptionally dedicated volunteers often spend many hours examining each record in the microfilms and may extract the actual date of events, names of parents and witnesses, ages, survivors, etc. listed in a specific document. This supplemental information is added to the spreadsheets and becomes part of the JRI-Poland database. The database search results for a particular surname or town will vary depending on the information included in a particular index and whether or not additional information has been extracted from a record by a volunteer. To learn more about the Shtetl CO-OP Initiative, click on jri-poland.org/shtetl/status.htm.
The other major source of information in the JRI-Poland database comes from the JRI-Poland Polish State Archives Project. This initiative includes vital records NOT filmed by the Mormons.
The Polish State Archives, which includes more than 80 repositories in Poland, is the governmental body responsible for storing civil record registers that are more than 100 years old. Generally, the years not filmed by the LDS and included in the PSA indices range from the 1860s to 1905. The database search results for PSA records reflect exactly what was written in the index pages created by registrars at the time the records were created. However, researchers for some towns have contributed generously to a project, so that archivists can examine individual documents to extract additional information, such as names of parents and maiden names of mothers. When this occurs, the new information is added to the JRI-Poland database.
In some towns, particularly those in the area that was formerly Galicia, most records had no internal index pages, so that indices for the JRI-Poland database are created from the original records, making it possible to include additional data in the index. In Galicia, many couples were married in Jewish religious ceremonies that were not recognized or documented by the government, so there will not be a registration found for these events. In some cases official civil marriages were performed much later in order to establish legal surnames, for instance when a child was immigrating. In these cases you may find a marriage registration many years after the couple was married in their religious ceremony.
The JRI-Poland database includes indices to other types of records, including Books of Residents for various Polish towns, census records, newspaper announcements of births, marriages, and deaths, and court and legal announcements in official newspapers (Monitor Polski). At the bottom of each search results page is a table that shows the name of the datafile that holds the index entries in each record group along with information about that file or a link to more information. In most cases this information will explain the source of the records and/or how to obtain copies.
Dedicated Archive Coordinators and Town Leaders from all over the world volunteer their time to raise funds and act as a networking hub for the hundreds of towns in the JRI-Poland Polish State Archives projects now underway. To view a list of the volunteers for PSA projects and the status of your town, click on jri-poland.org/psa/status.htm.
How Do I Obtain Indexed Records from PSA Projects?
If the results table in your JRI-Poland database search indicates "PSA" in the title of the table, then the table heading will also include "Fond" and "Archive" where the records can be found. "Fond" refers to the control number given the Jewish records for the town by the Archives. This information is important in ordering documents from the Polish State Archives. Click on jri-poland.org/psa/neworder.htm to learn about the procedure for ordering documents from the Polish State Archives.
How Do I Obtain LDS Microfilmed Records?
If the results table in your JRI-Poland database search does NOT indicate "PSA" in the title of the table, then the source of the index is likely in LDS (Mormon) microfilms. The name of the town, type of record, AKT (certificate) number, and the film number will be included in your results. With this information, you can order the film at your nearest LDS Family History Center. To locate a Family History Center, visit https://familysearch.org/locations/.
For those researchers living in Israel, Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, holds approximately half of the Polish LDS microfilms.
What if I Can't Find My Family on the JRI-Poland Database?
It is possible that the record you are seeking did not survive, or that the birth, marriage or death wasn't registered at all or not in a timely fashion, or the record might not have been indexed yet by JRI-Poland. If a record is from the PSA project, the record might have been indexed, but if the cost of indexing for the town hasn't been fully funded, the information is not searchable on the JRI-Poland database. Also, your family might have lived in a different town, and you might consider searching a broader geographic area.
Be sure to check the surname lists on the "Your Town" page, so that you can search the database using other possible spelling variants. If your family lived in a small village that did not have many Jews, the Jewish residents would have been considered part of a nearby larger Jewish community. Thus the records of births, marriages and deaths for Jews from the village would have been kept in the vital record registers of the larger town. A search for the surname in a province or relatively broad radius from geographical coordinates might yield the index for that family in a larger town's records.
How Do I Obtain Records 100 Years Old or Less?
Civil records 100 years old or less are held in the Civil Records Office of each town. The name of these repositories is "Urzad Stanu Cywilnego", abbreviated "USC."
For more information about records in the Civil Records Office of your town, please write to [town name]@jri-poland.org (example: Lodz@jri-poland.org).
For general information about records in Poland, click on Warren Blatt's excellent description of Vital Records at http://www.jewishgen.org/InfoFiles/polandv.html.
How Can I Obtain a Spreadsheet for My Town?
PSA project Excel spreadsheets are created by JRI-Poland professionals from index pages purchased from branches of the Polish State Archives or directly from the record registers. The spreadsheets are indices of all births, marriages, and deaths that occur in a particular town. In order to fund the process of creating these indices, JRI-Poland asks researchers with an interest in a particular town to make qualifying contributions to the JRI-Poland Polish State Archive (PSA) project. These donations help pay for the cost of creating the spreadsheets, data entry, and translation of names.
JRI-Poland fundraising is shtetl-specific, so that donations are directed to the indexing of records for the town of interest of the contributor. If a researcher contributes a qualifying amount for a particular town, that researcher is eligible to obtain a copy of the Excel file for that town. For specific information about qualifying contributions for your town, contact the volunteer Town Leader or volunteer Archive Coordinator overseeing your town. A list of Town Leaders and Archive Coordinators can be found at the JRI-Poland status page at jri-poland.org/psa/status.htm.
Many of the towns listed on the status page indicate that they are "funded". Do not be misled and think that further contributions are unnecessary. Even though a town might appear to be funded, additional donations will help support the indexing of more records for a town, expand the scope of the projects, help build the JRI-Poland database for records for the Shtetl CO-OP initiative, and pay for the work of professional translators in transliterating records.
How Can I Contribute to the JRI-Poland Project?
Contributions to Jewish Records Indexing-Poland can be made by check, bank draft, money order, or Visa or MasterCard. The site for credit card contributions is jri-poland.org/support.htm.
Send your contributions to:
Jewish Records Indexing-Poland Inc.
c/o Dennis Gries, Treasurer
5262 Far Oak Circle
Sarasota, Florida 34238-3304
Credit card contributions may also be telephoned to Dennis Gries.
Note the name of the indexing project (usually a town name) to which your contribution should be applied. Or indicate "general indexing" if you do not have a specific town of interest.
Jewish Records Indexing-Poland Inc. is an independent U.S. non-profit 501©(3) organization. Contributions to JRI-Poland are tax-deductible in the U.S. to the extent permitted by law.
How Can I Volunteer for the JRI-Poland Project?
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland is a prime example of the power of cooperative effort by volunteers and contributors with a common interest. Success to date is due to the boundless energy, dedication and generosity of researchers around the world. Volunteers include Archive Coordinators, Town Leaders, Shtetl CO-OP Coordinators, Data Entry Persons, Web Designers, Technical Experts, etc. Virtually all volunteer work can be done from the comfort of your home. To volunteer, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.