Understanding Pre-1826 Polish Jewish Vital Records
Aside from the occasional surviving Kahal (Jewish Community) Registers such as Bychawa (1797-1808), Jewish vital events (births, deaths, marriages & divorces) generally went unrecorded in Poland before the Napoleanic Period (1808-1825). However, Jews do appear in the pre-1808 civil registers for some parts of Poland that were formerly part of the Galician Province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to the third partition of Poland.
Prior to 1826, Roman Catholic and Greek/Russian Orthodox parish churches and cathedrals served as the "civil registrars" in towns and villages across Poland. Depending on the region, Jews first appear in these records alongside people of other religions between 1808 and 1810 - with Jews appearing earlier in the West and later in the East.
Family names (permanent surnames) were not mandated for Jews until 1821 in the Kingdom of Poland ("Russian Poland"). Some communities began recording Jews with permanent surnames prior to 1821 while others began after that date. Non-Jews appear with surnames in these pre-1821 records, but Jews usually appear with a "patronymic" name instead - using their father or grandfather's given name in a prescribed format in Polish.
As a result, it has been impractical to include the indices to such records in the JRI-Poland database – a database that is based on surname searches.
JRI-Poland addresses the challenge of searching these early "patronymic" records in several ways:
- Providing Excel spreadsheets on this webpage for the researcher to download and analyze;
- Allowing searches on the JRI-Poland database using two "given names" (i.e., both parents) rather than requiring a surname for a search;
- Providing suggested/deduced surnames in [brackets] so these early records can appear in search results for further analysis by the researcher.
Using Patronymic Records
Because the indexes during this period contain few, if any Jewish surnames, it is necessary to look at each registration (the entire record) in detail to determine possible relationships. By utilizing the ages, occupations, house numbers, and the given names of the parents and grandparents, researchers may be able to deduce eventual surnames adopted by their families and both expand their family tree and extend their roots back another generation of two.
Death records in this period are particularly invaluable because they can be for an elderly ancestor born early in the 18th century and provide the patronymic of his or her father.
Patronymic names are created by adding one or more suffixes to a father or grandfather's name such as:
- Ow = of
- Owicz = son of
- Owna = daughter of
- Owa = wife of
- Owiczowna = daughter of the son of
- Owiczowa = wife of the son of
Click on the Parish's link below to download an Excel spreadsheet submitted by JRI-Poland volunteers. There may be more than one parish register (multiple churches) in any given town.
If you have a question about the town's data or can suggest a surname derived from the information provided, email the volunteer listed below.
You may also need to download an Eastern Europe Roman font to properly view some of the older files.