The 3 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Using the JRI-Poland Website

The New JRI-Poland website features a “chat widget” which looks like a cartoon dialogue bubble with a smile on it.  It can be found at the bottom right-hand corner of most of our webpages.  The chat widget is meant for Technical Support – not Personal Research help. It is staffed by a couple of hardworking volunteers and is not answered on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, so it may take a day or two for a response.

Whether you are new to the website or a long-time user, you may be interested in the three most frequently asked questions posed to our Chat widget… They are:

  1. How Do I Search My Family on Your Website?
  2. If I Become a Member, Do I Get Access to Additional Data?
  3. Do You Have a Birth Record for a Person Named ___ from a town called ____?

Please read on to find the answers to these popular questions!

1. How Do I Search My Family on Your Website?

Usually, when we see this question, the chat widget shows that the requester has been using the TOWN EXPLORER rather than the SEARCH feature on our website. These are two of the options on the Menu Bar at the top of most pages of our website, including the Home Page at On the Town Explorer, one can learn more about the town, including viewing a list of common surnames found in the documents that JRI-Poland has extracted from town records. However, this is only informational. 

To search for one’s family from that town, go to the SEARCH option on the main menu and choose LEGACY SEARCH to get the search screen where you can enter your family surname and the town in which you are most interested.  If you begin with only a surname search, without specifying a town, the search screen also provides additional options to narrow your search to a geographic area near a town you may be interested in, such as results in towns that fall within a certain number of miles from your target town. 

2. If I Become a Member, Do I Get Access to Additional Data?

Membership is a relatively new program for JRI-Poland and that may be why it seems to stir so many similar questions. JRI-Poland’s database is “free” to everyone who creates a user account on our new system. We do not require membership (which is $54 US annually) to use the database. Membership does not unlock any data that is hidden from other users.  We are not a subscription service. 

Membership was implemented to help cover our computer services and accounting services costs as donating to specific town projects does not provide the funds needed to run our organization. JRI-Poland has seen a dramatic expansion over the years requiring increased computer services, an annual audit and other accounting reporting needs, all of which cost money.

We do not place data online in our database until the project has been paid for and the data has been quality assured and put into the needed format – which can take significant time as it is done by volunteers as they are able to get to it. But once online, it is freely available to every user and that has always been our promise to our users – and to the Polish State Archives. We do not arbitrarily restrict access to our information, most of which comes from their vast collections.

While membership has other benefits, the only data that a membership “unlocks” is the ability to download an entire spreadsheet for those towns that have such data for pre-1826 years, most of which do not contain permanent surnames, so they are challenging to research using our Legacy Database. Therefore, we allow annual members to download the entire spreadsheet, the majority of which are searchable in our database and makes it possible to analyze the data more thoroughly. Our collection is growing. There are currently about 50 pre-1826 spreadsheets online: they are visible from the associated Town Card in the Town Explorer application.

3. Do you Have a Birth Record for a Person Named ____ from a town called ____?

We do understand that it is very tempting to simply write to a JRI-Poland volunteer and ask one’s most pressing family search question; however, such questions should be directed to the town volunteer via  the Town Explorer card on the website. The town volunteer typically is the person who knows the town best and has agreed to help people with a search. The town volunteer has access to any data that is online. In addition, the town volunteer may also have access to data that is currently under development or for which fundraising is ongoing  – so that they may have access to data that is not yet online.  

Please note that we are often asked about records for people who were born in the 20th century – and so, it’s important to understand that just as is the case for many countries of the world, Poland keeps birth records “private” for 100 years to protect against identity theft. Particularly when looking for 20th century records, one should ask the appropriate town volunteer what is possible as there may be creative alternatives when it is not possible to view a birth record online.