Friday, October 19, 2012

Researching in Other Countries

Public Service Announcement: Governor Deal of the state of Georgia has restored funding to the Georgia Archives so the Archives will remain open for the time being. You can read the press release HERE.

Question from Sabine:
"My 2nd great grandfather from Poland. I don’t know a thing about Poland. I am not sure what I should do first."

There are 5 things you need to know when you are researching in a new country. You need to have a basic knowledge of their history, geography, culture, language and what records are available. If I was just starting out with the country of Poland, here are the resources I would consult.

When you are looking at the history of Poland, you need to understand that several countries were intertwined with them in history, namely Germany/Prussia, Russia, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia/Czechoslovakia. You will need to understand the history of the entire area. Poland has a very tumultuous history. Knowing what was going on will help you understand WHY people did certain things like emmigrate to other areas. This is something you can read up on easily at any library.

You need a good present day map of Poland so that you have a reference point. I like to have a paper map that I can look at but you can use online maps such as Google Maps. Most genealogy database programs will let you plot out points on a map so that you can view movement/migration. This is very helpful. There is a program called Centennia that will show you country boundary changes over time. It includes quite a bit of history for you to read as well.

Understanding the day to day life of the country and time period you are studying helps you understand why your person of interest did the things that he did. Birth, marriage, death, and burial customs, festivals, religion, food, music, literature etc. Again, this is research that can be easily done at your local library.

You need to at least know the words you will find in genealogical records. If you are really ambitious, you can learn the rudiments of the language itself. Here are a couple of resources that will help you.

What records exist? Where are they housed? How do you get copies? Here are some FamilySearch courses that will help you with that.

Here are some other pages that will teach you what you need to know about Polish Records.

No matter what country you need to do research in, you will have better success if you take the time to learn about the history, geography, culture, language and what records are available.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Just wanted to let you know that your blog is listed on today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!