Saturday at PGSA – Gazetteers and Geographic Finding Aids in Polish Genealogical Research

Matthew Bielawa’s second lecture on Saturday dealt with Gazetteers and Geographic Finding Aids for Poland.

Matthew defined “gazetteer” as any reference or finding aid that deals with geography or localities. Gazetteer can help identify the parish for a particular locaility, can help find alternate spellings of village names and equivalents in other languages, can help find neighboring villages and parishes to help locate “missing” relatives, and can provide facts about ancestral villages to help flesh out a family history.

Different gazetteers are needed for different time periods and for different regions. Before World War I, Poland was partitioned among three empires: the Russian Empire, the Prussian or German Empire, and the Austrian or Austro-Hungarian Empire (the region commonly referred to as Galicia).

The king of all Polish gazetteers is the Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i Innych Krajów Słowiańskich (The Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavonic Countries). This gazetteer includes 15 volumes and covers all three partitions of Poland. It is available online, on CD, on microfilm, or in book form.

The Słownik, however, is challenging to use. The text is in paragraph format and is written in Polish with archaic terminology. Descriptions of places are sometimes detailed, sometimes sketchy. Online instructions on using the Słownik can be found at

The best gazetteer for the Austrian Partition of Poland is the Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia by Brian Lenius. This work compikes the information of over twenty gazetteers into one, easy to use version in English, and includes pertinent information for research in any religion.

Volume 10 of the Gemeindelexikon der im Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder (Gazetteer of the Crown Lands and Territories Represented in the Imperial Council) was published in 1910 and describes Galicia. The Gemeindelexikon is written in an easy to use columnar format and instructions can be forund at

The Gemeindelexicon is available on microfilm through the Family History Library and online through the Brigham Young University Library.

The Gemeindelexicon für das Königreich Preussen covers the entire empire and is based on the 1905 census. The inforation is provided in a columnar format and lists both the parish center (for church records) and the administrative center (for civil registration). The gazetteer is written in old style fraktur.

Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs Lexikon des Deutschen Reich (Meyer’s Gazetteer and Directory of the German Empire) is another useful gazetteer of the Prussian Partition. Meyer’s Ort is written in fraktur and includes many abbreviations.

Kartenmeister at includes information on areas east of the Oder and Neisse rivers.

In the Russian Partition, the Spiski naselennyh mest Rossiiskoi imperii (Gazetteer of  Populated Places of the Russian Empire) was published in 1861 and is on 420 microfiche at the Family History Library. This gazetteer is in Russian, but is written in a columnar format. Information is arranged by Russian province then by volost. some volumes are missing.

After Polish independence, the Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z oznaczeniem terytorjalnie im właściwych władz i urzędów oraz urządzeń komunikacyjnych (Index of Placenames of the Republic of Poland with corresponding governmental agencies and offices, including communication facilities) is the gazetteer of the Second Polish Republic and is useful for the period from 1918-1945. It is available online.

The Spis miejscowości Polskiej Rzeczypospolitej Ludowej (List of Official Names of Localitites in the Polish People’s Reublic) provides information about Polish provinces between 1945-1975.

Księgi metrykalne i stanu cywilnego w archiwach państwowych w Polsce: Informator (Metrical Books for the State Archives in Poland) published in 1998 and 1990 lists thousands of parishes for which there are vital records in the Polish National Archive System. More information is available at

The Josephinian and Franciscan Metric (the first land cadastres of Galicia) was published in 1965 lists locations in Galicia and is written in Ukrainian.

Other resources include A History of Cities and Villages of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Alphabetical Index of Localities of the Former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Short Toponymic Dictionary in Belrus, and Gazetteer of Polulated Place in Belarussian Societ Socialist Republic.

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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