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Genealogy Guide: Poland

Brief History

In the second half of the 18th century, the Kingdom of Poland also included what are now Lithuania, Belarus, and part of Ukraine. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, Poland ceased to be an independent nation. Prussia annexed the northern and western sections: Bialystok, Kalisz, Lomza, and Poznan. Russia annexed the eastern areas: Brest, Grodno, and Vilna. Austria annexed the southern areas as part of the gubernia, or province, of Western Galicia: Kielce, Lublin, Radom, and Siedlce. In 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, a semi-autonomous Kingdom of Poland, was established within the Russian Empire. The Kingdom of Poland, also known as Congress Poland, did not include Galicia, Poznan, Silesia, Pomerania, most of Lithuania, or Belarus. At the end of World War I, Poland was reestablished at three-fifths of prepartition size with the addition of Galicia, Poznan, Pomerania, and sections of Silesia. Borders were again redrawn after World War II.

Finding Your Ancestral Town

Once you have identified the name of your ancestral town, you can locate it on a map with the following sources. It is also very helpful to identify the district and province in which the town was located when your relatives lived there, as well as the current district and province, using historical atlases and/or the websites listed at the end of this fact sheet.

Mokotoff, Gary, Sallyann Amdur Sack, and Alexander Sharon. Where Once We Walked: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust—Revised Edition (Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2002). This gazetteer lists towns according to variant spellings and provides the map coordinates of the town, as well as an estimate of the pre-World War II Jewish population. Genealogy Institute   DS 135 .E83 M65 2002

The Jewish Communities Database and JewishGen Gazetteer

The JewishGen Communities Database contains information about 6,000 Jewish communities in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. This database contains each community's name in various languages and political jurisdictions during different time periods -

JewishGen KehilaLinks (formerly "ShtetLinks") is a project facilitating web pages commemorating the places where
Jews have lived. These web pages may contain information, pictures, databases, and links to other sources providing data about that place.
The JewishGen Gazetteer contains the names of one million localities in 54 countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. The data is based on the U.S. Board on Geographic Names databases.  

For each locality, the search results will display:

  • The place's name(s), with the native name in bold.
  • Coordinates — latitude and longitude.
  • Links to maps.
  • Country in which the locality is located today.
  • Distance and direction from reference point.
  • Link to display all places within a 10 mile radius.