♦ Resources - Poland ♦
Traditional histories of Poland begin with the Polanian tribe ruled by Duke Mieszko I, who became duke of the Polanian tribes around 963 and adopted Christianity in 966 following his marriage to the Czech princess Dubrawka.
The first sign of the Jewish people in Poland also occurs about this time, in 960 when Ibrahim Ibn Jaqub, a merchant from Spain, traveled to Poland and wrote the first description of the country.
The first extensive Jewish emigration from Western Europe to Poland occurred at the time of the First Crusade (1098). Under Boleslaw III Krzywousty (1102-1139), the Jews, encouraged by the tolerant régime of this ruler, settled throughout Poland, including over the border into Lithuanian territory as far as Kiev. At the same time Poland saw immigration of Khazars, a Turkic tribe that had converted to Judaism. Boleslaw on his part recognized the utility of the Jews it the development of the commercial interests of his country. The Jews came to form the back-bone of the Polish economy and the coins minted by Mieszko III even bear Hebraic markings.
In 1343, persecuted in Western European countries, the Jews were invited to Poland by Casimir the Great, beginning several centuries of Jewish immigration.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became one of the most notable examples of democracy (limited to the noble citizens) in the history of Europe from 1572-1795.
By 1648, the Jewish population of Poland had reached 450,000 or 4.5% of the whole population. The worldwide population of the Jews was estimated at 750,000, placing more than half of all Jews in the world within Poland. 1750 saw the Jewish population of Poland at 750,000 or 8% of the total, while the total population of Jews was estimated at 1.2 million.
Polish independence ended in a series of partitions (1772, 1793 and 1795) undertaken by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. A Polish state was set up in 1807 as the Duchy of Warsaw under French administration after Napoleon I's defeat of Prussia. After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the Kingdom of Poland was ruled by the Russian Tsar.
The first Russian census in 1897 revealed 5.2 million Jews, 1.3 million in the Kingdom of Poland, or 14% of the population.
Following World War I, Poland finally reclaimed its independence in 1918. But that independence was short-lived when, in 1939, German and Soviet troops moved in to Poland. During the Holocaust, 3 to 3.5 million Polish Jews died of starvation in ghettos and labor camps or were killed in concentration camps.
The People's Republic of Poland was established in 1945. Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors began leaving Poland in 1948 for the United States and Israel. With the Anti-Zionist campaign in Poland in 1968, most of the remaining Jews of Poland emigrated.
Polish Genealogy Research
Jews were required to take surnames in West Galicia in 1805 and in the Kingdom of Poland in 1821. Civil registration began in 1808 under the Duchy of Warsaw. Separate registers for each religious community began in 1826.
Polish vital records were recorded in the Russian language from 1868 to 1918, and in Polish before and after that time period.
The LDS Church has been filming Polish vital records since the 1960s. Many of the records available begin anywhere from 1800 to 1835.
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