Finding records in Poland and neighbouring countries about your Polish ancestors can be a life-changing experience, but it is also notoriously difficult because of the passage of time, lack of reliable information and shifts of geographical borders.
Available resources are painstakingly being digitalised by state archivists. Some of these archives are now online and can be accessed for free.
Here, we have put together a list of the most relevant archives or websites where you can look for information about your family history. They can offer you a great starting point in the search for your Polish roots.
- National Archives of Australia – www.naa.gov.au
If your ancestors immigrated to Australia, the records kept by the National Archives of Australia are well-preserved and aplenty. This is one of the most comprehensive archives globally, as they have a great number of documents digitalised. You can put in keywords such as surnames and find information about arrival dates, naturalisation dates, etc. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find Polish passports your ancestors arrived on (if they arrived before 1945).
- Institute of National Remembrance – ipn.gov.pl/en
This is a Polish website where you can find information related to the persecution of the Polish people by the Soviets or the Nazis. Most of the information kept on this site is post 1939. It’s not a very comprehensive website, but it has good records of anyone whose family was in Poland during the war, or of those who were taken to Germany as PoW or slave labourers.
- Index of Repressed – Indeksrepresjonowanych.pl
In this database managed by the Polish government you will find records of people who were deported to Siberia. Most of these records are from people who, before the war, lived in what today is Ukraine and Belarus or in the Eastern part of Poland.
- ITS Arolsen Archives in Germany – https://arolsen-archives.org/en/
The ITS website is an excellent source of information about people who ended up in Germany during or just after the war. Most of the records kept here are post-war, but some are dating from about 1933. These records have been made available quite recently and are now digitalised. Here, you can find displaced people’s records, vital records and immigration records.
- Genealogy files – https://geneteka.genealodzy.pl/
This database is managed by the Polish Genealogical Society. Here, you can look for birth, marriage and death records thanks to a precise search function of the website. These records date back more than 100 years and if you aren’t sure where your family might come from, you can search within 15 kilometres of the place region that you think they may hail from. Many of these records are digitalised so you’ll be able to see them straight away.
- Polish schools census in 1926 – http://www.polska1926.pl/
This website is a presentation of one of the largest personal censuses of the society of interwar Poland. The US Library of Congress collected and made available 5.5 million signatures of Poles, Jews, Ukrainians and Germans, accounted for nearly 20 percent of the country’s population in 1926. This initiative was created on the 150th anniversary of US’s gaining independence and the commemorative books were given as special gifts to the US government.
Do you want to know more about how to navigate these sites? Watch this video chat with the director of Polaron, Eva Hussain, and our research coordinator, Paulina Skurczynska.