JRI-Poland/Polish State Archives project mission:
In July 1997, Jewish Records Indexing - Poland (JRI-Poland) entered into a milestone agreement with the Polish State Archives (PSA), to index their holdings of Jewish vital records that were not microfilmed by the Mormons (LDS). While the LDS microfilms contain approximately two million Jewish vital records, it is estimated that there are at least another five million 19th century Jewish vital records that are not accessible on microfilm. Generally, these are from the years 1866 to 1902, a time when many of our grandparents and great-grandparents were living in Poland. (See chart below.)
Until now, these vital records from the last decades of the 19th century have not been available outside of Poland. To find records for your family has meant sending search requests to the Polish State Archives and paying an hourly fee for their efforts. On the other hand, no one will research as thoroughly as we ourselves, and without exact name spellings and dates, we might not get what we paid for.
The creation of indices is being done on an archive by archive basis and to date records have been indexed for late 19th century records in registers held in eighteen branches of the Polish State Archives. For projects underway, view the Project Status page.
Work can only start on a specific archive after a volunteer has agreed to become "Archive Coordinator." There are 75 branches of the Polish State Archives. Click here for a list of which branch of the Archives holds which town's records. For details of specific birth, marriage and death records available for each town, consult Miriam Weiner's Jewish Roots in Poland. (Note, however, that many reference are now out of date as additional registers have been transferred from town civil records offices, often up to and including records for the year 1900.)
How the project works
Inventorying the LDS microfilms for each town
The process starts with the creation of an inventory of the microfilmed records for all the towns in the branch archive. This ensures that index pages for all years/types not previously filmed by the LDS are ordered and the records will become part of the database. Inventorying is done by "Town Leaders" and their work is coordinated by the Archive Coordinator.
The process of indexing
JRI-Poland will purchase the index pages for the non-microfilmed years for all towns in the branch archive. As funds are raised, the records for each town will be indexed by the JRI-Poland team in Warsaw. The post-1867 records are in Russian and the data entry is done in Cyrillic. JRI-Poland Database Manager Michael Tobias has developed a program to convert the entries to Latin character spelling. When released, the indices for a town will be added to the JRI-Poland database.
Searching the resulting data / Ordering records of interest
Once the data has been added to the JRI-Poland database, you will be able to search for your family surnames using Daitch-Mokotoff soundex, and for every name you will find the year of the document, document type (birth, marriage or death) and record (akt) number. You may then easily order a copy of the document at US$ 10. each from the Polish State Archives. A special order form is provided on the JRI-Poland web site. (The order form is also linked from the search results page.) This process is much quicker, simpler and far less expensive than having the archive conduct a fishing expedition for you.
The cost of indexing
While every town is different, JRI-Poland has built up some experience during the indexing of the first three archives. It is estimated that the cost to index each town's Jewish vital records for these 20 to 30 years will range from $200 to $1,000, depending upon the size of the towns Jewish population. This estimate includes the cost of purchasing the photocopies of the index pages and the entering of all the entries into the database by experienced Russian-speaking professionals in Poland. If every researcher listed in the JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) with an interest in a town makes a (U.S.) tax-deductible contribution in the range of $30, each town's goal could easily be achieved. As a special bonus, all those contributing a pre-specified amount to the indexing of their town's records will be eligible to receive a complete copy of the entire database. This amount is typically US $50 but may vary according to the size of the database.
Support will typically come from researchers with an interest in the records for each town or nearby towns. Town Leaders, with the help of Archive Coordinators, reach out to these researchers through direct contacts, posts on JRI-Polands mailing list and JewishGen, and PSA Project Status Reports.
It is important to remember that JRI-Poland has two components: the indexing of the records in the LDS microfilms and the Polish State Archives project to index those records not filmed. If you cannot volunteer for one, participate in the other. Help us meet the challenges:
Participation is the key word; JRI-Poland welcomes individuals from every country. Your town or the towns near yours will not be indexed without your/someones participation. If you want to see your town's records indexed, then volunteer to be an "Archive Coordinator" or "Town Leader".
To volunteer, contact: Stanley Diamond, Executive Director, Jewish Records Indexing Poland at SMSDiamond@aol.com
* Starting in 1868, records are in the Russian language.