Tag Archives: poland

The problem of borders…

One of the problems one runs into when researching their family, particularly those researching family from continental Europe and farther east, is how often the borders changed. The video below is a great visualization of that problem – it shows the borders of Europe over the past thousand years.

I don’t know who put together the original video, and exactly where the data came from, but it’s a very impressive video. I do know that the years being shown at the bottom were added later by someone else, so they probably don’t match up exactly to the map changes, but you can take them as an estimate.

One very interesting thing to watch in the video (it helps to focus on one area when you watch) is Poland. A little before half-way through when the years shown are in the late 1500s Poland is massive. It later disappears completely, later emerging again in a much smaller form.

So what do you think? Learn anything that can help your family research?

A Major Breakthough for Jewish Polish Records

JRI-Poland and the Polish State Archives have announced a new agreement to expand the availability of Jewish records from Poland. An earlier agreement which was in effect between 1997 and 2006 resulted in the indexing of more than 4 million records which make up the bulk of the JRI-Poland database. The cancellation of that agreement in 2006 was a major blow to Jewish genealogy. There have been ongoing discussions since 2007, but the resumption of cooperation did not materialize until now. This announcement, made on Friday, is much more than most expected, and well worth the wait.

The first major component of the announcement is that JRI-Poland will be able to add an additional million records to its database within the next year. That is in addition to the 4 million existing records already in their database that originate from the Polish State Archives.

JRI-Poland Executive Director Stanley Diamond signing the agreement in the
presence of Polish Consul General Andrzej Szydło in Montreal, Quebec.

The second major component is that JRI-Poland will launch a new Order Processing System, which will allow people searching for records on the site to click on a record they want and order it directly on the JRI-Poland site using a credit card. JRI-Poland will handle the credit card processing and the archives in Poland will copy the records. For anyone who has dealt with ordering records from Polish archives directly, this is a major breakthrough.

While my Finding and getting copies of Jewish records in Poland article is still one of the most popular on this site, and was published in print as well, it is my hope that this announcement means that in the future that article will not be needed.

Polish State Archives General Director Władysław Stępniak signing the agreement,
with JRI-Poland representative 
Krzysztof Malczewski (on left) looking on.

The third major component of the announcement is that the Polish State Archives is starting a major effort to digitize all of their records in all 30 Regional Archives, and make them available for free online. As these digital scans come online, JRI-Poland will link directly to the images from their database search results. As the images come online, the new Order Processing System will be phased out.

The announcement is available on the JRI-Poland site (in English) as well as the Polish State Archives site (in Polish).

I’d like to congratulate Stanley Diamond, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of JRI-Poland, as well as the other JRI-Poland board members, staff and volunteers who made this agreement possible.

I look forward to seeing the different elements of this agreement come to fruition, and will let readers of this blog know about things as they happen.

Database of Polish Victims of the Nazis

There’s an interesting database listing Polish victims of the Nazis, organized by a group of Polish government and non-government organizations, and sponsored mainly by Polish media organizations.

The site is connected to three Polish organizations: the Institute of National Remembrance, the Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation, and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. It is also sponsored by a number of Polish media organizations, including the Polish Press Agency and several Polish TV stations.
The site, Straty.pl, is unfortunately only available in Polish. Luckily, it’s not too hard to use without knowledge of Polish, especially if you use Google Chrome and the built-in Translate feature. Even without Translate, you can get around the site. This is what the search page looks like:
Straty.pl Search Page
A quick translation of the fields:
Nazwisko (Surname)
Imię (Given name)
Imię ojca (Father’s name)
Imię matki (Mother’s name)
Miejsce urodzenia (Place of birth)
Data urodzenia (Day of birth)
Data śmierci (Day of death)
dzień (day)
miesiąc (month)
rok (year)
SZUKAJ is Search, and CZYSC is Clear.
You can search for a surname alone, but apparently not a town alone. If a surname has too many hits, it will force you to fill in additional search fields to help pare down the umber of results.
Victims listed in the database include Polish soldiers who were killed, prisoners of war, resistance fighters, concentration camp prisoners, those persecuted for reasons of race (aka Jews and Gypsies), those executed by the Nazis, those sentenced to death by German courts, slave laborers, displaced persons, children, civilian casualties (such as from bombing raids), etc.
This list is not exclusively, nor even predominately, Jewish. The site was not set up as a memorial to Jewish victims of the Nazis, but rather as a database of Polish victims of the Nazis, some of which happened to be Jewish. In fact, one looking at the site might wonder if Jewish names in the database are more of an afterthought than a primary section of the database.
There are many sources of data in the database, and each listing will tell you which source they came from, which can help you track down further information. Data sources I’ve noticed include:
International Tracing Service (Bad Arolsen) (http://www.its-arolsen.org/)
Jewish Historical Institute (http://www.jhi.pl/)
Polish Red Cross (http://www.pck.pl/)
State Archive in Krakow (http://www.ank.gov.pl/)
Obviously this database is not complete, and it’s not going to be 100% accurate (and certainly not complete when it comes to Jewish names). It is still useful to supplement the other existing databases out there, and to give you some direction on possible research routes. For example, if you see records from the International Tracing Service, you can contact them to get more information on the person you find.
You can also contribute data to the database, although I have not tried to do this. They have a questionnaire that you can fill out on individuals, listing their name, parents’ names, birth date and location, nationality, religion, place of residence before the war, education, occupation, political organization membership, social activities, etc. This is, unfortunately like the rest of the site, only available in Polish. I’m not sure what would happen if you filled out the form in English.
Of course, when searching for information on Jewish victims of the Nazis, the most important database is the Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. One important distinction between these databases, beside Straty.pl’s focus on Poles and Yad Vashem’s focus on Jews (with obvious overlap), is that Straty.pl’s database contains victims who are not necessarily people who were killed. Prisoners of camps, etc. even if they were not murdered, are contained in their database.

For example, the database includes two people with the surname Trauring, the couple Ferdynand and Stefania Trauring, who I know to appear on Shindler’s lists. They show up in the Straty.pl database as prisoners of the Gross-Rosen sub-camp in Brunnlitz, which happens to be where prisoners working in Oskar Schindler’s factory were interned. Whether this couple survived the war or not, they are listed in the Straty.pl database as having been prisoners. That’s an important distinction.