About the Microfilms Collection
The Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center of Beit Hatfutsot houses an important collection of microfilms courtesy of the late Prof. Yitzhak Halbrecht.
The films in this collection are duplicates of the microfilms prepared by LDS of original population records from Poland.
Although relatively rich, this collection contains only part of the material that was originally copied by LDS during the 1960s and early 1970s, which in itself is far from covering all former Jewish communities in the historic territory of Poland. Moreover, the films in the Beit Hatfutsot collection generally cover only intermittent periods primarily concentrating on the middle years of the 19th century.
There are no regular records for the years proceeding the first decade of the 19th century.
Registering each individual is a relatively modern development of the administrative functions of the state that began in Western Europe and the USA at the end of the 18th century and became accepted in Central and Eastern European countries by the mid-19th century. In certain cases, documents compiled during the 1820s or 1830s contain information about individuals who were born previously, since by then Jews were required to register all their family members. However, it is important to keep in mind that throughout the 19th century, Poland was divided among its neighbors, and as a result, there are some differences in the registration procedures employed by the various administrations.
Reading the population records could be incredibly challenging for contemporary researchers. Written as they are in condensed cursive handwriting by various hands in Polish and sometimes in Russian, for records covering the eastern provinces of Poland, or in German, used occasionally by the Austrian administration in Galicia, along with frequent remarks and signatures in Yiddish, some of the original documents either have been damaged or are incomplete. Over the past few years, a team of experts, mostly volunteers, has endeavored to read and translate the original documents into English.
Researchers worldwide may order a copy of any record in the museum’s collection of LDS microfilms, as long as the exact number of the microfilm and the document (“akt”) is included in the request. Please note that for the time being Beit Hatfutsot cannot provide a translation service for any of the documents in its collection.
Many of the films in the Beit Hatfutsot collection have been indexed by the independent Jewish Records Indexing – Poland project. Click here for a link to the JRI-Poland website and “search database” for your family surnames. After completing your search, refer to the “(LDS Films / contact information)” table at the bottom of the search results page. Make a note of the microfilm number and then check the Beit Hatfutsot list to see if the film is available in our collection. If the film is available at Beit Hatfutsot , you may order a copy of the record using this order form.
Documents may be scanned as follows:
- NIS 5.00 per page, minimum NIS 10.00 per order
- There is a non-refundable fee of NIS 10.00 per order.
Prices include postage and VAT, where applicable. Delivery is by e-mail within 14 business days. Please be sure to include your complete mailing address in your order.
The State Archives of Poland
The State Archives of Poland hold Jewish vital records of Jewish communities in Poland that are not covered by the collection of LDS microfilms in Beit Hatfutsot . For an explanation about the vital Jewish records in the State Archives of Poland and the way to access them please click here.
A Guide to the Polish State Archives
The Polish State Archives managed by The Head Office of State Archives (Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwow Panstwowych) includes three main central collections and 29 Regional State Archives with 53 branches and five local offices.
The Website of the Polish State Archives offers access to a number of searchable databases, including the database of the Program for the Registration of Records from Parish and Public (civil) Registers PRADZIAD (Program Rejestracji Akt Metrykalnych i Stanu Cywilnego PRADZIAD). The database of the PRADZIAD program contains information on parish and civil registers preserved in all branches of the Polish State Archives, various Church archives and other archives and libraries in Poland, including material from the former Polish territories situated to the east of the River Bug that are now in Lithuania, Belarus, and the Ukraine (“Zabuzanskie” Archive). The database has details on specific holdings of Jewish vital records in those archives, but does not contain lists of individuals.
Searches must be conducted by the name of the town, one of the following five fields that need to be filled out for launching a database search:
Name of the town: must be entered according to its current Polish place name or, for names of towns that were not located within the pre WW2 borders of Poland or are now situated outside the current borders of Poland have to entered according to their either former Polish or foreign name.
Name of a larger town: To narrow the search for small towns and villages it is recommended to fill out the name of the bigger town or other administrative division to which the town belonged before WW2.
District/Province/Region Name: For towns within the current borders of Poland select the name of the province according to the administrative divisions of Poland from 1975 to 1998; for towns that are now in Lithuania or the Ukraine, by county and/or province; and for towns that were within the borders of Germany and are now in Germany or Russia, by county and/or districts.
Creed or Religion: In this field select mojzeszowe (“Jewish”) to access Jewish records only.
Type of event: It is highly recommended to select “all”; however, there is an option of choosing specific types of documents by the following categories:
Ksiega rodzin, Familienbuch (German)= Family register
Other types of documents refer mainly to non-Jewish inhabitants; however selecting “all” will list all documents of Jewish interest.
Names of towns must be entered with a capital letter. Use either Polish fonts (with diacritical signs) or plain Latin characters, but not a combination of them. Example: enter either Lodz or Łódź.
Ordering documents from the Polish State Archives
Permission to use certain genealogical records by non-Polish citizens is granted by the director of each branch of the State Archives. Access to archival material is free of charge and searches can be conducted on the premises during the business days and hours of each branch. Genealogy inquiries and search requests by private persons are subject to the payment of a charge in accordance to the price list of each branch of the State Archives. Separate charges are required for the reproduction of material on microfilms, photocopies or Xerox copies.
To order specific documents or a genealogical search you may use either the service system of JRI-Poland, or contact directly the relevant branch of the Polish State Archives.
List of Polish State Archives (Central and Regional)
For more details about the LDS collection at Beit Hatfutsot, please contact the Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center of Beit Hatfutsot: