Thursday, January 24, 2013

Polish Vital Records and My Family History

A couple weeks ago I read the following excerpt in the PGSA Notebook (Newsletter from the Polish Genealogical Society of America, January 2013).

RI-Poland and Polish State Archives Plan New Agreement
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (JRI-P) and the Polish State Archives (PSA) plan to sign an agreement that will define future cooperation between the two groups. It includes:
  • Access to data that will allow JRI-P to index all vital records that are more than  100-years old which have been transferred to PSA branches in the last six years
  • During the next four to five years, PSA will digitize all vital records (Jewish and non-Jewish) and make them available on the PSA National Digital Archives (NDA) or Regional Archives website.  There will be no charge for directly accessing the records.
  • As these records are added to the PSA site, JRI-P will be provided with the information necessary to enable it to link its search results to digital images of Jewish records.  JRI-P currently has 4.5 million records indexed.  This will be done by volunteers or paid professionals.  Currently the one town that is complete is Gora Kalwaria.
  • JRI-Poland will re-launch its Order Processing System that operated from 2003 to 2006, which simplified the process of getting copies of records from PSA.  During that period, JRI-P had a shopping cart system where clicking on a button next to one of their index entries would create an order to the PSA to provide a copy of the record.  This system will phase out as digitized records become available online but the total project will take a good number of years.
The indexing/linking of the records is a massive project that will include towns in Poland and the former Galician towns that were part of Poland between the wars.  Donations are being accepted at  Click on "support/donations" toward the top of the page.
From Nu?What's New? - Vol. 13, No. 52 - December 30, 2012

Upon reading this I said to myself, "Self, this is the best news we've heard in a long time!" I was particularly excited about the second bullet point... During the next four to five years, PSA will digitize all vital records (Jewish and non-Jewish) and make them available on the PSA National Digital Archives (NDA) or Regional Archives website. The will be no charge for directly accessing the records.

My heart rate accelerated a bit on learning about this project and I had to remind myself not to get too excited about it yet. After all, this is an agreement yet to be signed by the parties involved. But still, it holds such promise!

I've tried to be patient in waiting for to get the vital records for my ancestral villages in Poland uploaded. I've checked their list of indexing projects from time to time in hopes of helping out the cause. But is trying to get records uploaded for, well, a gazillion villages in hundreds of countries. It will be a while before they get around to mine. Some baptismal indexes for two of my ancestral villages are available but I have no idea when the actual images for those indexes will be made available online. If they ever are. There are no marriage or death records available online for those two ancestral villages. And it's anyone's guess when the images for my other ancestral villages will be made available. Patience, I tell myself. Patience.

Now it appears there may be another source option for online Polish vital records in the future. That's a really nice thought!

I've been toying around with the idea of writing a family history for a least one branch of my family this year. I'm basically done with my research (have been for a while) except for a few names here and there that I need to search for in neighboring villages. I wonder if I should just put a hold on that idea for another 4-5 years and see what becomes available online. Or am I just procrastinating? Perhaps the thing to do is write a history now and add an addendum when I'm able to fill in the few missing names and dates. Decision, decisions. I'm glad I have found as many of my ancestors as I have but at the same time I miss the days of research, discovery, and happy dancing.

Can I possibly think of enough things to say about my family history research to keep this blog going for another 4-5 years? Doubtful. Hmmm.

[[ Update: The agreement I referenced above was officially signed on February 15, 2013. ]]