Indexing Techniques

The Jewish Vital Records of Poland
As background for indexing Jewish vital records of Poland, we recommend that volunteers review Warren Blatt's PolandV Infofile on Jewishgen. Blatt refers to several books and articles which are excellent companions for all researchers interested in these records.

  • A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents, by Judith R. Frazin. 3rd ed. (Northbrook, IL: JGS of Illinois, 2009). 463 pp. ISBN 978-0-9613512-2-9. {Helps to locate ancestral towns and records from the towns and to translate Napoleonic format vital records microfilmed by the LDS for 1808-1868},  $35 plus mailing.

    Examples of post-1826 Birth, Marriage and Death Records from Judith Frazin's Book can be found at the Frazin Book Samples page.

    For additional information and sample pages go to http://www.jewishgen.org/jgsi/theguide.html

  • Russian-Language Documents from Russian Poland: A Translation Manual for Genealogists, by Jonathan Shea. (Orem, UT: Genealogy Unlimited, 1989). 73 pp. ISBN 0-921811-05-6. {Helps translate documents such as vital records from Russian Poland for 1868-1918}. (out of print)
  • Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Transliteration Guide, by Jonathan D. Shea & William F. Hoffman. (Avotaynu, Inc 1994). 256 pp. ISBN 0-9626373-4-3. {Covers over a dozen different languages}. Available from Avotaynu, Inc, P.O. Box 900, Teaneck, NJ 07666. $29.
  • Extracting information from Polish records. Read Lauren B. Eisenberg Davis' articles from the Kielce-Radom SIG Journal, "The Power of Extracts" and "Don't Let a Little Extraction Scare You".
  • In Their Words A Genealogist's Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents Volume I, by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman. (Language & Lineage Press, 2000). 392 pp. ISBN 0-9631579-3-0.  Available from http://www.langline.com
  • In Their Words A Genealogist's Translation Guide to Russian, Volume I, by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman. (Language & Lineage Press, 2002). 486pp. ISBN 0-9631579-4-9. Available from http://www.langline.com


Data Entry Software (Spreadsheet or Database Program)

While the data can be entered into a variety of software programs we strongly recommend a database or spreadsheet program rather than a word-processing system. We will accept data in virtually any format, but prefer the following:

  • Excel or Lotus spreadsheets
  • ASCII files (comma or tab delimited)

Technical Guide to Data Entry

  • Enter the data into one line per record, one field per item. Create TWO entries for each marriage record - one line for the groom and one line for the bride.
  • Enter all surnames in upper case. For example do not enter 'Dawid Tobiasz' in one field, but under separate fields enter 'Dawid' and 'TOBIASZ'.
  • The fields you will use most often are:

    YEAR, AKT, TYPE (BMD), SURNAME, GIVENNAME, AGE, FATHER, MOTHER, SPOUSE, TOWN

    If additional data is provided then add appropriate fields. For example, if the mother's surname is given use- a separate field for that.

    The record types are Birth, Marriage and Death.

  • Keep Polish/German language data in separate files from the Russian (Cyrillic) data.
  • It can be difficult to read the indexes (and records) because of the quality of the photocopy/microfilm/register etc. Also, even on good quality indexes it is sometimes difficult to make out the letters because often the scribes would use an ornate writing style which makes the letters difficult to read. This ornate style often occurs on the first letter of names. Since the indexes are usually in semi-alphabetical order (all surnames starting with the same letter are together though the names are not in order within that letter) you can at last have a reasonable guess at the starting letter.
  • If you still cannot make out the surname at all, then simply enter "?" under the surname field. If you can almost make it out but you are not 100% sure then you can enter several possible surnames in the surname field, separated by '/' and indicating the uncertainty by marking them with '?' also. For example if the surname is either LEWIT or LEWIN then enter the surname as 'LEWIT ? / LEWIN ?'.
  • You may also come across cases where the surnames are clearly written, but more than one surname was used by the family (alternate surnames). You can sometimes find these in the indexes marked as 'A vel B', or 'A v B' or 'A / B' or 'A albo B'. The 'v' is short for 'vel' which is Latin for 'or'. Similarly 'albo' is Polish for 'or'. In these cases enter both (or however many versions there are!) in the one field and use the same method as above, for example 'MANELA / KWART'.

Interpreting the Index Pages

  • Often the Father's name is not given directly but through the use of 'Patronymics'. For example a birth record might refer to the birth of 'Ick Dawidowicz KAGAN'. Here the 'Dawidowicz' means that Ick was the son of Dawid KAGAN. Please enter Dawid under a separate field called FATHER. For the births of girls you will see a slightly different patronymic ending, for example 'Sora Dawidowna KAGAN'. Here the 'Dawidowna' means the Sora was the daughter of Dawid KAGAN. When converting these patronymics to father field entries you may wish to amend the spellings slightly. There are several givennames where you cannot simply remove the 'owicz' or 'owna' endings. For example 'Mendlowicz' = Mendel, 'Janklowicz' = Jankiel.
  • On death records (and sometimes on detailed birth and marriage records too) you will often see another Patronymic ending 'owa', for example 'Rochla Herszkowa FINKIELSZTEJN'. This means that Rochla was the WIFE of Herszk FINKIELSZTEJN. You may wish to create a SPOUSE field to store this data. Note, often the 'owa' and 'owna' endings were used by the scribes inaccurately.
  • Convert surnames with feminine endings (SKA) to the masculine ending (SKI) (eg. WARSZAWSKA to WARZSAWSKI)
  • If there is no surname given on the entry but you are sure you know what it is (from other records, or a complete extract of records from that town) then enter that surname in the surname field, but surround it with parenthesis. For example if no surname is given but you are sure it is actually GOLDBERG then enter '[GOLDBERG]'. The '[]' indicates a hypothesised surname.
  • Accents: Please retain all the accented characters used in the original indexes. To do this you will probably need to use a special font - see our transliteration page. For Cyrillic records enter the data exactly as written using a Cyrillic font (again see our transliteration page). We are developing our own computerised system to transliterate into the 'equivalent' Polish.
  • Difficult to read letters: There are several letters in Polish and Russian (Cyrillic) that can be very difficult to distinguish between on the indexes and records. For some information about these letters and some hints about transliterating them please see our page on transliteration.
  • Surname check: If you are doing both Polish and Russian (Cyrillic) language records for the same town you will find it useful to check the the awkward surnames / givennames from both sets of data. The 'tricky' letters in Polish are different from the tricky letters in Cyrillic. You should find that Polish language records will shed light on your questionable Cyrillic records and vice versa.
  • Contents Check: Once you have completed entering all the records for a year, sort the different categories of record by akt number. Then examine the records to ensure that all akt numbers are present and that there are no gaps. It is not unusual to find some records missing and to have some duplicate akt numbers in the indexes. If you find some duplicates please re-examine the original index copies to see if you were mistaken with one of the versions. For example it is easy to confuse '1' and '7' in the index entries. If there are genuinely some akt numbers missing from the index and if you still have access to the original microfilms of records please consider looking up the relevany record type/year/akt to extract the relevant details for inclusion in our data. If you do not feel comfortable with this task and the number of records is small then please consider photocopying the relevant records so that other volunteers can finish that task.
  • Identifying Jewish records in pre-1826 records: You will find that in pre-1826 records, where the Jewish records were registered along with the non-Jewish records of the town, that it can be difficult to identify the Jewish records in the indexes. Sometimes the records are marked as Jewish in the index margins by the use of one of several expressions - Starozakonny, Moyzesziego or Zyd. You may also have to rely on typical Jewish givennames (though often the non-Jewish Poles used those givennames too). Usually you will need to examine the records themselves to get enough information to make them useful. The records can be spotted by the same comments in the margins as above, but you can also look for Yiddish or Hebrew signatures at the foot of the records. You can also examine the givennames of the fathers and mothers to see if they too are 'typically Jewish'.

Index Pages without family SURNAMES (Patronymics only)

  • Indices from the the Mixed Religion Civil records (1808 to 1825) and in the Jewish Records (town dependent) from 1826-1830 may contain a patronymic name which may not necessarily be the family surname. In the early years families did not have established surnames and were referred to by their father's name. There are three paths to follow in entering this type of data.
    1. Review the actual record and confirm that it is a surname and enter it in the SURNAME field. When reviewing the record, it is also an opportunity to make a full extract which may be of future use to you or your fellow researchers.
    2. Review the actual record, confirm that it is a patronymic and convert the name as described in the paragraph above; enter the information in the FATHER'S NAME field.
    3. The name can not be confirmed because the record is unclear or the extract is not available; in this case enter the information in the PATRONYMIC field.

A few words from the JRI-Poland Transliteration Coordinator

  • You will find that as you do more years for the same town that you become familiar with the surnames of the families from that town. Soon you will find that even with poor writing you can identify the surnames. You may want to revisit some of your earlier work to ensure that it meets the same standards as your later, more accurate, work. You may find you can now identify some of the earlier questionable records.
  • If you have access to the microfilms and there are some years and/or record types not indexed on film then please consider examining those sections of the film and extracting the relevant details. If you do not feel comfortable with this task and the number of records is small then please consider photocopying the relevant records so that other volunteers can finish that task.

Copyright 1999-2004  by Jewish Records Indexing - Poland, Inc