The Galician Archival Records Project (GARP)

Overview and Frequently Asked Questions

Announcing The Galician Archival Records Project (GARP) – the new “umbrella” project under which all other Gesher Galicia research projects will now exist. Our extensive “Cadastral Map & Landowner Records Project” will be included, but the availability and desirability of other types of records required the expansion of the scope of our projects. This list is not finite; we are committed to growth, and new projects can be suggested and added at any time by our members.

The GARP Project currently includes:

Click on a project name to link to a detailed page with information about that project or read below for an FAQ on the project, the records, and our funding models.

How is the Galician Archival Records Project organized? What it its focus?

Most of these projects are town-centric. We focus our research specific Galician towns in an attempt to acquire many different types of records containing genealogically relevant data. While our focus is not specifically with vital records — because many of the Galician vital records held in Polish archives have already been indexed by JRI-Poland — we are committed to indexing Galician records that are not in AGAD or the Polish State Archives, but rather reside in Ukrainian archives and are not included in JRI’s databases. We are also acquiring “province-wide” documents, which contain details on every Jewish community in Galicia, including lists of religious community and Kahal leaders and lists of teachers in Jewish religious and state-mandated schools throughout Galicia. We also deal in more esoteric regards, like those held by Kollel Galicia – a charity fund established in Eretz Yisrael in 1830 that has records of Galician donors from the 1920s and 30s.

Where does Gesher Galicia conduct this research?

We engage professional researchers in archives, repositories and libraries in Austria, Poland, Ukraine, Israel and the United States. (In addition to European and Eastern European archives, Galician records are found at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Library of Congress, the LDS Family History Libraries, the Center for Jewish History in New York, and at a variety of colleges and universities.) While our focus for the past five years has been primarily in Ukrainian archives we will be expanding our research to the Polish State Archives starting in March 2013. Towns that are currently in Poland that have been fully funded will be the first ones on the list for record and cadastral map acquisition. As new Polish towns are funded, they will be added to the list. Remember that we are only covering towns that were in Galicia and not in Congress Poland. Research in the Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano Frankivsk archives will also continue in 2013.

How do you choose the towns that are part of this project?

The 150 towns which are currently part of GARP are driven by member interest and funding, as well as historical relevance. We have records from the mid-18th century through the Holocaust era and into modern-day Ukraine and Poland wherever a Jewish community still thrives. The list of towns can be found at the bottom of this page and on our Inventory page. The town projects are funded by our members, with matching funds provided by the Gesher Galicia general fund. Our general fund also funds our province-wide projects.

What is the funding model for these projects? Where does the money go?

Gesher Galicia has established a very generous matching grant program for GARP. Once a total of $250 has been donated to one town, GG will match that amount with $250 so there is a $500 starting balance in the account. This enables us to hire a researcher, do a card catalog inventory (sometimes this will be required in more than one archive) and then review, digitize and index records and maps.

As with all genealogical research it is impossible to determine costs in advance. A lot depends on size and population. Because we are getting community records (voter, tax, school, property) and not just Jewish records, a larger town will mean more pages, more names, and more data entry, driving up costs. Each record book must be brought to the reading room where it is reviewed by our researcher. The ordering and reviewing process takes time and we are billed on an hourly basis. If five books are requested and none of them is appropriate, we start again. Sometimes there are only a few books that are quickly digitized and the cost is not as high. We keep an accounting for each town and let contributors know how the town fund is doing relative to record acquisition. We have found that a starting balance of $500 is necessary to research the inventory and acquire a map and one or two record books, but based on the availability of more records, donors may decide to continue funding.

I’m really only interested in my family’s surnames in my town. Why should I fund a town project to get all the records?

Hiring your own researcher to search through record books for a few relevant surnames can often cost as much as funding a complete town project. Instead of meticulously going over each record, our researchers are copying everything – sometimes a speedier, more cost-efficient way of doing research. In some cases we also do on-site indexing and the indexes are fully searchable once completed. Also consider that your female relatives married and acquired new surnames and by funding research for all the town’s residents you may discover relatives you never knew about. You are also are giving back to the entire Jewish genealogical community by thinking on a larger scale than just your personal research. And because your ancestors often moved from town to town in the same districts you benefit from research others have funded for nearby towns. Some of our members have even started such “district” projects, realizing that our ancestors often did not live in just one place over their lifetime. If you really want to get a picture of the lives your ancestors lead, who they did business with and who their neighbors were, acquiring a multitude of different types of records is the best way possible to understand Galician life through many centuries

Who directs the research? Are their town leaders for these projects?

If a single person initially establishes a town project and wants to indicate a preference for record type or years covered, we will accept those recommendations. Project research is coordinated by Gesher Galicia president Pamela Weisberger, but she consults with the town leaders and provides progress reports and guidance.

What other types of records are part of these projects? Why are they useful to genealogists?

Although vital records – birth, death, marriage, divorce – are the best starting off point for building a family tree, in many cases they cannot be located for your towns or your relatives. Even if the records exist there are often gaps in type or yearly coverage. By indexing other records that can place a person in a particular town in a particular year and in a particular house you can add immeasurably to your tree and confirm the connections between individuals.

Voter records can be found for the 19th and early 20th centuries and contain information on men and women. Usually the house number, occupation, date and place of birth are listed. Researchers are often surprised to learn that a family originally comes from another town and this leads you to locate relatives you never knew about. School records contain information about children for whom birth records can’t be found. Polish magnates owned many of the towns – and businesses – where our ancestors earned their livings. There are contracts and rental agreements with many of your relatives’ names that we can locate, full of insights into the economics of the town.

Names in many of these lists are found nowhere else and will often be the missing link in your research. We have many tax lists from the 1920s and 30s and such esoteric items as lists of children born between 1925-1936 required by a Polish school commission. Landowner records place families in a town and can let you know if your relatives were beekeepers, owned livestock, or tilled the fields. Tabula registers provide notary and inheritance records, with the same level of detail found in probate records today. Community “complaints” found in the Austrian State Archives have signed lists of community leaders and details about Kahal disputes, and offer the chance to see your ancestors’ signatures. Passport applications provide voluminous pages of a families history and photographs of the applicants. Census records offer a snapshot of a community in time. All are true windows to the past.

How did you choose the towns to be part of GARP?

In most cases Gesher Galicia did not choose the towns – our members did. We put out a call in 2007 for members who were researching towns for which there were no vital records or for which vital records were very sparse. Based on their initial information we began the “Cadastral Map & Landowner Records Project” as a way to use these alternate records to flesh out the details about the Jewish population of villages and shtetls in Galicia. The cadastral maps helped to identify exactly where in a town your relatives had lived. The roads and streets have not changed much over the years, so if you were traveling back on an ancestral roots trip you would be able to stand in the exact spot where your ancestors lived. Often the names of the towns’ residents were written on these maps. And by acquiring landowner records we could also identify the occupants of a house over a hundred years or more – and “house numbers projects” were born.

As we learned more about the riches of archival documents where genealogical data appeared, it became clear that there were countless records that would prove useful to our members, and we set out to create projects to acquire them. Hiring researchers overseas takes funding and so members who were able to contribute to these projects were the determining factor in establishing them going forward. Nevertheless, many of our “global” (or province-wide) projects, which collect lists of Jewish teachers, rabbis and officials throughout all of Galicia, add province-side data for every Galician Jewish community to our database.

Where does all the information end up so it is useful to me?

Once the data has been indexed from the records it appears in the All Galicia Database, Gesher Galicia’s free search engine. If, however, you are a contributor ($50 minimum) to a town project, you can also view the original documents – or get a copy of the entire Excel file for the town – via our password-protected server.

How do I know if my town already is part of this project?

As of February 2013, there are 150 town projects in GARP. (Any town that was part of the Cadastral Map & Landowner Records Project has now become a GARP project.) Click here to see the list of town projects already established. You can also check our Archival Inventory Page, which has a list of towns at the very bottom. To find out what records exist for that town, enter the town name – spelled exactly as it is on the list – in the search box. The inventory provides you with the status of the records, whether examined, rejected or acquired. With additional funding more records are acquired. Many of these record groups have been indexed and the data is searchable on the All Galicia Database: search.geshergalicia.org.

How do I view records that have been acquired for my town?

If you were an original contributor to a town project for which we have records you should have received a log-in and password to our record image database. If not, please contact Shelley Pollero at geshergalicia@comcast.net for assistance. If you are not yet a donor but you want to view the digital images, a minimum contribution of $50 per town is required. (Additional amounts are welcomed to enable us to acquire and index more records.) Click here to donate – which can be done on PayPal or by check/money order. Once your donation is received you will be emailed log-in and password instructions.

What happens when you get a cadastral map?

Most of our cadastral maps are now being scanned on site. These maps are incredibly detailed and large in size, so the high-resolution scans, done in very small sections, are numerous. To get them online, Jay Osborn, our Map Room coordinator, take time to digitally “stitch” them together. This is a time-consuming effort, so it can take weeks or months after acquisition to get the maps online. Once a map is online, we announce it to our members, but donors can access the individual map images (and even try their hands at stitching) once we upload them to our server – usually a few weeks after the scans are completed. In some archives, especially in Poland, the archive may do the scanning and photography. Some of our maps find their way to the map room from a variety of other sources, but there are still costs involved in getting them online.

My town is listed, but the inventory shows no records yet acquired. Why is that?

There are two possible reasons. In some cases, no members have stepped forward to fund a town so Gesher Galicia has sponsored the inventory to spur research interest. Until the town is fully funded ($250 total) we cannot hire a researcher to get records. In other cases, the town is funded but the research is still ongoing, or we have reviewed records, but not yet found any with genealogically-relevant information in them. Please check with Gesher Galicia president Pamela Weisberger at pamela@geshergalicia.org for an update.

My town is not listed. How do I start a new project?

Gesher Galicia has established a very generous matching grant program for GARP town projects. Once a total of $250 has been donated to one town, GG will match that amount with $250 so there is a $500 starting balance in the account. This enables us to hire a researcher, do a card catalog inventory (sometimes this will be required in more than one archive in Ukraine, Poland and even in the Central Archives in Israel) and then start reviewing, digitizing or indexing records. Not every project is alike, so the best way to learn about existing projects is to check our inventory page.

I don’t have $250 to contribute, but would like to start a project. What can I do?

Many town projects have been successful by networking with other researchers and acquiring many smaller donations to generate the $250. (Ten researchers x $25 is very do-able.) You can find researchers through the Gesher Galicia Family Finder list and can announce the project on our discussion group so anyone interested can join in. GG will also provide you with a fundraising letter, which explains our project. Reaching out to interested relatives is also another great way to get donations. If you are attending the IAJGS conference and have a birds-of-a-feather meeting planned, you can also raise the idea of funding a GARP project there, or have us make an announcement about it at the Gesher Galicia SIG meeting or luncheon. You can also write a short article in The Galitzianer about the project you want to start.

Do I need to belong to Gesher Galicia to contribute or start a town project? Why should I join?

To establish a GARP town project you need to be a current member of Gesher Galicia or to join our group. If you want to solicit contributions from others, we prefer that they join as well, but it is not required. (We know that many people ask relatives to chip in for this research, but the relatives are not genealogists and don’t want to join a group.) Because it is our members’ dues that help fund our programs, research and our matching grant program, however, we prefer if everyone participating in our projects is a member, so consider “gifting” membership to others. (Any member who wants to remain anonymous, certainly has that option, but remember that a perk of membership is receiving our quarterly journal, “The Galitzianer,” and access to our “Members Only” portal which will offer the searchable Gesher Galicia Family Finder and 20 years of “Galitzianer” issues only and keyword searchable. To join click here.

Anything else?

If your questions about the Galician Archival Records Project have not been answered on this page, please email Pamela Weisberger at: pamela@geshergalicia.org. We urge you to first read up on each project on its dedicated page, which provide additional information and record examples.

Gesher Galicia is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people research their Jewish family roots in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire province of Galicia, which is today southeastern Poland and southwestern Ukraine. Our organization's primary focus is researching Jewish roots in Galicia, but the diverse community records in our databases contain names that span all the ethnic and religious groups who once lived in this region.

Search our free All Galicia Database, Map Room, and Archival Inventory today, and learn about our terrific member benefits for genealogists, researchers, and families, starting at just $25/year. You can join online!