This article appeared in The Galitzianer, (November, 2006) ·

Visiting the Polish State Archives

by Mark Halpern, JRI-Poland

The JRI-Poland database of almost 3 million indices of Jewish vital records derives from two main sources. The first source is the many microfilms of Jewish records of Poland filmed by the LDS Church. The second is the indices created from the Jewish holdings of the Polish State Archives that were not previously microfilmed. Both sources originate from the vital record registers at about 50 branches of the Polish State Archives.

The Polish State Archives has an English Language website at www.archiwa.gov.pl/?CIDA=43. Click on “State Archives in Poland” and then “List of Archives” to get a list of these Archive branches. Many of the Archives also have English language websites.

The JRI-Poland Town Index at www.jripoland.org/town/index.htm identifies the Archive or Archives where records for your Polish or Ukrainian Galician town will be found. These index entries also list the records (types and years) that were microfilmed by the LDS Church. There are very few Jewish vital records that were microfilmed for Galician towns. As of July 2006, the only Galician vital record indices in the JRI-Poland online database are for the towns of Krakow and Tarnow.

The Polish State Archives are very open and hospitable for foreigners. If you travel to Poland, you should visit the Archives of interest to you. There is no special authorization needed to visit any branch of the Polish State Archives or use any of their collection that is available to the public. However, since you have limited time at the Archive, you should contact the Archive branch you plan to visit and tell them when you are coming and what record collections (Fond, Sygnatura) you plan to use. Many of the Archive branches do not have adequate room to store all their collection on site. To make sure the records will be available to you, it is definitely best to plan ahead and let the Archive know what you want to see and when.

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JRI-Poland has indexed mainly the Jewish civil records housed at the branches of the Polish State Archives. However, other “Jewish” records are also available at these repositories. To determine what Jewish records are available for your town, visit Miriam Weiner’s Routes to Roots Foundation website at www.rtrfoundation.org/. Click on “Archive Database” and then “Search Database.” For any given collection of records, the search results will show the Archive, the Fond (or Zespol), and other identifying information (Sygnatura).

The Galician vital records up to 1905 available at the Archives (as well as the other records identified in Miriam Weiner’s Archive Database) are written in either German or Polish. You can find samples of the headings of the Jewish vital record forms, along with a translation of these headings to English at www.jri-poland.org/galicia/GalicianVitalRecords_Titles_Nov20 02.pdf.

It is best to visit the Archive with a translator experienced with these records. Also, in some of the smaller Archives, the staff may not speak English. If you do go without a translator, the information in the JRI-Poland database (Town, Fond, Signature, Year, Type, AKT) will be sufficient for you to order the register or microfilm and find the record.

You can definitely acquire copies of Jewish vital records that are indexed in the JRI-Poland database when you visit the Archive. The cost of a record acquired through JRI-Poland order processing system (only for records not previously microfilmed by the LDS Church) is $10 US per record, which includes the cost of the copies, the cost of registered airmail delivery, and the cost to convert US Dollar payments to Polish Zloty. Each Archive branch sets their cost for record copies (they charge by the page), but the cost of walking in and acquiring copies will be less than $10 for records that are one or two pages.

JRI-Poland volunteers run the order process for the benefit of the Polish State Archives and the researcher. Fees for copies are set to equal the actual cost of the process as closely as possible. The Polish State Archives benefit by receiving payment in Polish Zloty by direct bank-to-bank transfer and by dealing only with JRI-Poland. The researcher benefits by being able to pay in US$ using personal checks or credit cards and having JRI-Poland intercede when problems occur (which is seldom).

For records that have been microfilmed by the LDS Church, the JRI-Poland website contains a list of LDS microfilms at www.jri-poland.org/jri-lds.htm for Polish Jewish vital records. This will show the town, the type, and the film number. The index entry from the JRI-Poland online database shows the AKT number. With this information you can order the film and then copy the appropriate record at your nearest LDS Family History Center (www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp). Or, you can order copies by mail from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Instructions for ordering copies by mail can be found at www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHL/frameset_library.asp? PAGE=library_services.asp.

Furthermore, many Polish LDS microfilms are available through Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, in Tel Aviv. Their website has a list of available films at www.bh.org.il/Genealogy/ldsbyname.aspx. If they have the film, you can go to Beth Hatefutsoth and search the microfilm yourself or use their copy service form by clicking on the link “Order LDS Records.”

If you plan to visit the Rzeszow Archive, please refer to their website at www.rzeszow.ap.gov.pl/ for contact information. Click “Osrodek Badania Historii Zydow” from the menu. This is the webpage for “The Jewish History Research Centre.” E-mail addresses can be found by clicking “Kontact” from the menu. The Rzeszow Archive website is only in Polish, but many other Archives have English language websites. The Rzeszow branch of the Polish State Archives is housed in the former headquarters of the Jewish Community and just next to the “mala” or small Synagogue of Rzeszow. For Rzeszow, the cost of walk-in copies can be found by clicking on “Cennik” from homepage to see their schedule of fees.

If you plan to visit the AGAD Archive, please refer to their English language website at www.agad.archiwa.gov.pl/eng/index.eng.html. Click on “About Archives” for contact information and hours of operation. Click “Genealogy” and then “Prices” for schedule of cost of copies. Please note that the schedule shows a higher price for genealogical records. The Krakow Archive has an English language website at www.archiwum.krakow.pl/menueng.php. The Przemysl Archive has an English language website at www.przemysl.ap.gov.pl/ev/index.html.
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Gesher Galicia is a non-profit organization carrying out Jewish genealogical and historical research on Galicia, formerly a province of Austria-Hungary and today divided between southeastern Poland and western Ukraine. The research work includes the indexing of archival vital records and census books, Holocaust-period records, Josephine and Franciscan cadastral surveys, lists of Jewish taxpayers, and records of Galician medical students and doctors - all added to our searchable online database. In addition, we reproduce regional and cadastral maps for our online Map Room. We conduct educational research and publish a quarterly research journal, the Galitzianer.

You can search our free All Galicia Database, Map Room, and archival inventories, and read about member benefits starting at $36 per year. You can also join online.

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