Where can I find vital records?
Vital records are not centralized in Poland, registration takes place locally. The records issued less than approximately 100 years ago are kept in local civil registry offices (USC — Urząd Stanu Cywilnego). After 100 years records are sent to local Polish State Archives. Prewar vital records have been issued and kept separately for each religion. In result, Jewish records (księgi mojżeszowe), Catholic or Protestant records are today kept separate too.
What if my family comes from Kresy, Eastern Borderlands, which have been detached from Poland? What and where are Księgi Zabużańskie?
Księgi Zabużańskie are vital records from regions that are now Poland’s Eastern Borderlend and not longer within its territories. Some of the records have been sent to Warsaw Civil Registry Office and to the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw. The Central Archives of Historical Records holds 2.516 archival units from years 1814–1939 from East Galicia, particularly from the pre-war Lviv, Tarnopol and Stanislawow voivodeships. All of the records have been issued locally by administrators, mainly in Polish, although some of the earlier registrations were in German.
Why can't I find vital records?
Keep in mind that not all of the vital records have preserved. Before you begin your research at the archives or in registry office, find out what books have preserved. It may also happen that requested records do not fall under „Jewish records” category because for some time in Prussia civil registration was enforced. In such cases, we should not search for Jewish (mojżeszowe) books but in civil registry office books at the Polish State Archives.
I am interested in the circumstances of the death of my grandparents Dawid Schiff (b. 1877) & Lea Weichselbaum (b. 1880) who lived in Rudnik n. Sanem.
There are many questions we would like to ask you to clarify what we are searching for and to make the search efficient. It is always good to know more about the family to try to locate them. However, in the case of Rudnik the search would be difficult as few records have preserved the war and the Jewish cemeteries have been both devastated during the war. That being said, we any information you may gather would be helpful to make sure we check all possibilities. Do you know if Dawid and Lea may have died before the war? When was it that other members of the family last remembered them? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with more information and we will try to help or direct you to institutions or researchers that may help you further.
Hi I am looking for any information regarding Aron (mybe Aron) and Gitla Berman from Bilgoraj. They were deported in 1939 to sibiria. thanks. Daniel
With questions regarding deportations to Siberia and fates of Polish citizens, contact The Karta Center Foundation (http://www.karta.org.pl/). In the Jewish Historical Institute Archives we have records of Aron and Gitla’s son from right after the war. To get these records and to learn more, email us at email@example.com
I don’t know how to check my origins. My situation is difficult because my family is silent and does not want to admit their Jewish origins.
We recommend our article Searching for roots, there are a few tips on how to look, especially in the case where the origins are not certain. The surest way to search for information about the origin of our ancestors is through finding their pre-war vital records. Pre-war records were created and are kept in separate religious books. In most regions of pre-war Poland it was impossible to conclude a mixed-religion or civil marriage, which means when someone wanted to marry a person of another religion, one of the partners had to convert. The vast majority of these conversions were to one of the Christian denominations.
Hi, I wonder if i can send you my parents names and you'll be able to find any related certifcates? Thanks, Shlomo
It depends what certificates you have in mind. The Jewish Historical Institute’s archives hold various kinds of records, yet vital records are kept locally in the Polish State Archives and civil registy offices. That means that additionally to names and dates, the place is one of the most important data. Vital records are a very good source of information, but there are many other ways for learning more about your family. When you email us your family information, try to speak broadly about what you know about the family –as much as you may know.For example: if you know names of the siblings of your parents and grandparents, make sure to share them with us; also if you know any of your relatives‘ profession in Poland – it may be helpful to know. The more information we have to work with, the bigger chance we come across additional data for you. A lot depends on what you know and what data preserved. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
At first glance my surname seems typically Polish...
There are no typically Polish surnames. Each of the seemingly Polish names could have appeared in Jewish families. Read our article about Jewish surnames.
Can you send me the certificate of birth I am looking for if you have it?
Unfortunately we do not have vital records. In Poland, vital records are registered and kept for the first 100 years in local civil registry offices and then in local branches of the Polish State Archives. That’s the general rule, however there may be some exceptions, when Jewish records up until 1939  have been moved to local branch of the Polish State Archives (e.g. in Lodz). In these cases however, the records that are less than 100 years old can still be access via the registry office, too.
My parents said that all records have been lost during the war and that no documents have preserved.
All original records are kept in the registry office or in the state archives as long as books holding these particular records have preserved the war. Records that your family have had were not original documents but they were copies of the original records. Families owned copies of individual documents that have been issued for various reasons. Similarly as today, when we file for issuing a certificate of birth, marriage or death, we receive a copy — full or shortened — with information from the metrical book.
Why can't I find shtetl Lemberg on the map?
Lemberg was a German name of Lwów, today Lviv in Ukraine. Polish borders shifted during the World War II and many Polish towns got to the borders of neighboring countries, which in turn changed their names. Lemberg was not a shtetl either, but a significant city.