Monday, March 28, 2016

Administrative Divisions of Poland: Why Knowing Is Important

In order to research in the government archives of a country for which I do not speak the language, I need to understand how the country organized for administrative and legal purposes. Often, the archives are organized in an identical or similar manner. My mother's ancestors lived in eastern Europe in what is today Poland and Ukraine. Many of the civil records about her ancestors are housed in the archives of those two countries. So I needed to get smarter about how those countries are administratively organized.

When we enter a place name into our family tree for an ancestor who lived in the United States, we would enter it [Municipality, County, State, Country] if we followed genealogical standards, for example:

Raleigh, Wake, North Carolina, United States

Poland is actually organized in a very similar fashion.

Gminas are municipalities or communes. Powiats are counties. Voivodeships are provinces (similar to states). Administrative authority at the voivodeship, or province level, is shared between a governor appointed by the central government, an elected assembly (similar to state legislatures), and an executive chosen by that assembly.

The 16 voivodeships of Poland; map courtesy of Wikipedia

My great grandfather was born in:

Maliniec, Kolo, Wielkopolskie, Polska

Now when I am searching the Polish archives, I know how to navigate.

Polish Roots (links and descriptions of archive holdings)
Central Archives of Historical Records

Ukraine is a little more complicated so I will save that for another day.

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