Keeping the Records in Polish

The civil registers that Napoleon instituted were kept in the Polish language. Fortunately, the format of these records was standardized so that with the help of a reading aid, these records could be translated according to this standard format.[i] Additionally, the records usually had an index, prepared on a yearly basis. The pastor recorded the event and assigned it a number in chronological order. At the end of each year, he made a numbered index, wrote the name of the newly-born, the married couple, or the deceased, and the number of the record to the right of the name or names. The length of the index varied according to the number of events recorded. Birth, marriage, and death records were often indexed separately. Most of the time the index was alphabetical by surname, but sometimes it was alphabetized by first names. Sometimes the first names were spelled differently in the records than in the index. Sometimes the index was missing or not completed at the end of the year. Sometimes two dates appeared: the first in the older Julian calendar, the other in the newer Gregorian calendar, twelve days apart in the 19th century.[ii] The Gregorian calendar, the one used today, was not adopted in Russia until 1918.

 Here is an excerpt from the 1861 Alphabetical Register of Marriages from Wylkowiszki which shows the marriage of Mateusz (Mathäus) Spurgat and Minna Keller (See a future post for the actual marriage record in the Napoleonic format and its translation.)  Other examples of indices use these alphabetical and chronological numbers.

 Alphabetical Register of Marriages in Wylkowiszki in 1861

Alphabetical Register of Marriages in Wylkowiszki in 1861

As is true of all the indices, the number in the left-hand column (in this example 12) shows the alphabetical listing of marriages in 1861 made at the end of the year. The number in the right- hand column (in this example entry 2) indicates that the marriage was the second one recorded that year. The entire index listed 21 marriages for 1861.

As is true of all the indices, the number in the left-hand column (in this example 12) shows the alphabetical listing of marriages in 1861 made at the end of the year. The number in the right- hand column (in this example entry 2) indicates that the marriage was the second one recorded that year. The entire index listed 21 marriages for 1861.

The records of the German people were kept in Polish, and the first names of Germans were spelled in Polish. The surnames were most often kept intact although spelling variations did occur. The German language was used at home, but the major events of their lives—births, marriages, and deaths— were recorded in the Polish language.


[i] Civil Registers in Russian-Ruled Poland, 1.

[ii] Civil Registers in Russian-Ruled Poland, 2.

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About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
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