Books of Residents and Census Records
Books of Residents
In Congress Poland and Galicia, each community was required to maintain an ongoing census-like record of all legal residents of the community. The information was recorded in huge volumes called Księgi/Spis Ludności [Books of Residents], organized by house number. A new series was begun whenever the old volumes were filled up. The books were kept in the Polish language except for the period 1868 to 1914, when they were written in Russian.
Although many of these books were destroyed during the World War II, a surprising number have survived and are available in various archives.[i] In some communities, books from the mid-19th century have survived [Łodź from 1827], though for the most part, books are available for later dates, and there are many gaps.
The Księgi Ludności were maintained until 1932, when a new type of registration was mandated that kept information on all those residing in the community, not just those who had their formal legal residence there. These books were called Księgi Kontroli Ruchu Ludności [Books for Population Mobility Control], or sometimes Karty Meldunkowe [Registration Cards] or Rejestr Mieszkańcow [Register of Residents]. For all practical purposes, however, these, too, can be described as being Books of Residents.[ii]
Click on images below to see sample of Belchatow Book of Residents
Prior to 1932, information was kept on persons whose permanent legal residence was in that community even though they may no longer have lived there. This occurred when people moving to a different community did not go through the rather complicated procedure of formally changing their legal residence. Thus, if your ancestors do not appear in Księgi Ludności for towns where you might have expected them, it is possible they were registered in a nearby community.
In Congress Poland, the following information was usually recorded: name, names of parents, date and place of birth, marital status, official place of residence, means of support, religion, social status, and previous residence. In the “notes” column, one can find such information as the house or town to which a person had moved; when a daughter married, the date and record number of the marriage, as well as the name of the husband; the date of death, if someone had died; and the military status for men (in the reserves, exempt from service, etc.).
In Galicia the records contained similar information, but the parents names were usually not recorded nor was the maiden name of the woman.
Since the books were organized by house number (later by address), a ledger containing an alphabetical index of the names recorded was created for each series. However, such index volumes did not always survive and often were not maintained to the same degree as the Books of Residents registers.
In the books after 1932, more precise information was recorded–the act number of the birth or marriage certificate, the draft registration number, the I.D. card number of an individual, etc.
These records are very important for genealogical research, because, on one page, they show the birth, marriage, and death information for everyone in the household and often include information never recorded in metrical (vital) records – particularly birth information.
In addition to Books of Residents, JRI-Poland has indexed Census records from a number of towns. Unlike the Books of Residents which were kept on an ongoing basis, each Census was a snapshot of the families living in the town at a specific time. In general, Census records did not survive to the same degree as Books of Residents.
Click on images below to see samples of Oświęcim census records:
The following table indicates most but not all of the JRI-Poland Books of Residents and Census projects. Not all the data is online because of lack of funding for certain towns or, in some cases, where the data is less than 100 years old and subject to privacy laws.
Please contact the town leader by following the link to the Town page in question. There you will be able to request additional information on projects of interest.
Links to town names are for surname lists from the source documents.
Table update in progress.
[i] To see what is available for your town, go to the Polish State Archives website. Click on “Databases. ” On pull-down menu, choose “Registers of Population-ELA.” Click on “Database.” Put in name of town for “Tytuł spisu” [Title of record] and click on “Szukaj” [Search], “Miejscowość” [Location] lists the town name. Under “nazwa spisu” [title of record], choose “księgi ludności stałej” [books of permanent residents]. For Krakow, choose “spis ludności” [list of residents]. Click on either, and under “Daty” [Dates] will appear the years for which these volumes are available.
[ii] For more information on Books of Residents, see Bussgang, Fay and Julian, “Polish Books of Residents and Other Lesser-Known Sources“; Bussgang, Fay, “More About Polish Books of Residents’ Registration,” Avotaynu 16, no. 3 (Fall 2000): 14-15 [in conjunction with Bussgang, Julian, “The Polish Concept of Permanent Place of Residence,” Avotaynu 16, no. 3 (Fall 2000): 12-14.]