Why You Are Not Finding a Record


  • They have not been filmed or indexed. The priest, parish archive or other source has not allowed access to the records, or a recording team has yet to visit. Time will tell.
  • They were moved. Records can change location due to a consolidation of parishes; a change in diocesan or civil administrative district borders; a transfer to another Polish archive; the partitioning power taking records after Poland regained nationhood so your records are now in Austria, Germany or Russia; etc.
  • The village is not the parish. The village you have can be the village of your ancestor but it is not the village of the parish church they attended. You need to identify the location of the parish that holds the records.
  • They never were. It is possible an event was overlooked, the priest was very busy and forgot to make the entry, or for some other reason it was never recorded.
  • They are no more. Yes, this is a possibility. Not as many as most people think, but some records and their copies actually are lost or destroyed.

  • You have the wrong village with that name. Far more than in the US, the same name and its variants can be used by many villages across Poland. You need to be sure you have the correct local area for that village.
  • Village or parish changed its name. During the partition period, many Polish villages, towns and some cities had German or Russian forms. Even if similar when transposed phonetically to the other language, the spelling is different (Człopa = Schloppe); and in some cases it is completely different, as in Breslau = Wrocław.
  • Village or parish is incorrectly spelled. The village name could have been altered when heard by a non-native speaker (or heard incorrectly by a native speaker), or due to regional spelling conventions, such as writing EN for Ń or W for Ł. Even a Polish speaker, depending on their level of education, has been known to write H for CH or CZ for CI; etc. Furthermore, if in the Russian partition there can be alternate conversions from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabets. Plus, there are occassional misreadings and typos during transcription to a database.

  • Surname is not an exact match. If an exact search does not find a result, turn off the “exact match” setting and also try alternative spellings. For example, Pieńczykowski has also been rendered as Pięczykowski, Pięcikowski and Pieńtrzykowski.
  • Surname is altered. Possibilities include: In a small village with a large, extended family, cousins could decide to vary their surname (typically by the ending) to better identify the various branches. The government could require a change in the surname (as done in Tsarist Russia to my great-grandfather). An individual could simply decide to go by another surname.
  • Surname is spelled phonetically. Particularly during the partition period, the same as happened with village names, a Polish name could have been written phonetically in German or Russian (in Cyrillic). More often, a brick wall can be the result of the Polonization of a surname. German examples are Schultz > Szulc and Teske > Teski. This might lead you to the fact that a Polish ancestor at some point was a German colonist.
  • Surname is spelled incorrectly or differently. Once again, the indexer could have entered the surname incorrectly due to a typing error, difficulty in reading a smudged or poor penmanship record, etc.