Practicing Genealogy

Housekeeping for ”Practicing Genealogy” page

An introduction to ”Practicing Genealogy” is in the blog post (link here).

Besides the articles posted on this page you may be interested to use two other pages on this site even though only one of them is in English. They are:

’Taryfa domów dla Warszawy 1877” (link here) which provides property numbers versus street numbers for Warsaw from 1877  – still not finished. It is run as a bilingual (PL, ENG) page. It allows to locate Warsaw street addresses which in the early 19th century records were given as property numbers only or locate where the street number for the street and property number is. Names of Warsaw districts and streets which belonged to the districts are given in a blog spot (link here).

”Genealogia Marii Skłodowskiej” (link here) is a page with an incomplete but representative genealogy of Madame Curie (under her maiden name: Maria Skłodowska).” It is all in Polish but nevertheless may be a source of information to some who are interested in the subject. There is a link to her birth record there as well. It is my own research and for the moment I did not consult any of her published or unpublished biographies or family archive etc.

”Practicing Genealogy” page is planned to be a collection of articles on various aspects of research of ancestry form Poland. Below is a list of titles of the articles on this site which is intended to grow every month or so. They will be posted in chronological order – the most recent on top of the page.

List for abbreviations and source citation template used on the entire site is at the very end of this page.

Articles on this page

Honorata, my 2x great grandfather’s second wife. An attempt to temporarily hide the identity or a sequence of errors in records? (published 20 August 2017)

Why we can’t always find our ancestors in the electronic data bases on-line from Poland? (published 20 August 2017)


Honorata, my 2x great grandfather’s second wife. An attempt to temporarily hide the identity or a sequence of errors in records?

I returned to answering the question about the identity of my 2x great grandfather’s second wife when the search engine of ”Geneteka” data base offered more search fields. I still don’t know „the whole truth” but at least I could confirm Honorata’s maiden name.

My 2x great grandfather Marcelli Kaliński (the name evolved over the years starting from Koleński and via Kaleński it became Kaliński) married again in 1880 – after his first wife (my 2x great grandmother, my direct female line ancestor) had died. The record of second marriage was located by me long time ago but from the time I read it I was suspicious of the correctness of the information given in it. It says that Marcelli married „Honorata Szczęsna, widow of Andrzej Szczęsny, daughter of the deceased [both] Andrzej and Antonina (-) Szczęsny, sheep keepers from Gralewo, there born.” My concern was about Honorata’s maiden name being identical with her married name. It did happen, but Szczęsny was not a very common name in the area so whereas she could have had both (maiden and married) names identical, it would have been very unusual. But at that time I could not locate record of Honorata’s first marriage so I just left it at that.

About that time – by chance since I had not applied for the certificate myself for I had not known that Honorata and Marcelli both died in Zawiercie (a place miles away from Bonisław where Marcelli married Honorata in 1880) – I received Honorata’s death certificate which stated that her maiden name was Jędrychowska. So now there were two possibilities: Szczęsna or Jędrychowska. But since each name was different I was wondering whether any of these two names was her original maiden name. I even did some search for her birth record, because Honorata is such a rare name, but not being sure of who her parents were, I just left it at that, hoping that one day I will find the answer.

Then – as it happens to many of us who research their ancestors – I was located by a cousin from Germany who in the meantime was located by a cousin from the U.S. We were all descendants of Marcelli Kaliński’s children from his first marriage but it turned out that there may have been children from Marcelli’s second marriage with Honorata. I quite easily located in my notes potential children, sibling boys, whose births were registred in Bielsk in 1881. In their birth records Honorata’s maiden name was ”Więckoska” – the contemporary spelling being Więckowska. Now, I had three possibilities for her maiden name: Szczęsna, Jędrychowska and Więckowska.

Search in ”Geneteka” with its up-graded search engine and lots of new indexed records since with two clicks of the mouse returned the sought for record of Honorata’s first marriage. It took place in Proboszczewice and the document states that the bride, Honorata Więckowska, was a maid and daughter of Andrzej (by then deceased) and Antonina (Krakowska), the married couple Więckowski. Interestingly, given names of her parents from the record of first marriage were identical with those given in the record of her second marriage. The marriage record provided information about Honorata’s place of birth: Niedarzyn, located in Gralewo parish. Her birth record is also indexed so I just opened it and read that she was indeed a daughter of Andrzej and Antonina (Krakowska) Więckowski. This confirmed beyond doubt that her maiden name was Więckowski (Więckowska – if female ending is applied).

So maybe it was an error of the priest taking the record which caused that Honorata’s maiden name was incorrectly written into her marriage record in 1880. But was it really? Now with all these records being indexed I found another interesting record: record of birth of Antonina Szczęsna, born in 1872 to Honorata Szczęsna, maid. So it looks like it was a non-paternal event since Honorata had been married since 1862 and yet no father of the child was named in the record. It seems pretty obvious that it was not a child of her first husband, yet this possibility can’t be completely ruled out either. Honorata could have been widowed by then, but in such cases the record would state so. This makes me wonder whether there was something about Honorata’s first husband which was making her provide incorrect information about her identity or simply these were all errors. I have not yet come across Honorata’s first husband’s death record. If found, it may provide if not the answer, then maybe some clues to understanding this genealogical puzzle. Right now I don’t know either if Antonina Szczęsna born in 1872 lived to adulthood and whether her line of descent continues until the present time. The answer may be in those indexed records, but for the moment I leave it as it is.

Sources, all from the collections of the National Archive in Płock, Poland
Civ RC Gralewo, B 1 / 1842 Honorata Więckowska.
Civ RC Proboszczewice, M 16 / 1862 Andrzej Szczęsny and Honorata Więckowska.
Civ RC Żmijewo Kościelne, B 27 / 1872 Antonina Szczęsna.
Civ RC Bonisław, M 11 / 1880 Marcelli Kaliński and Honorata (Szczęsna) Szczęsna.
Civ RC Bielsk, B 50 / 1881 Zygmunt Kaliński.
Civ RC Bielsk, B 51 / 1881 Bolesław Kaliński.
USC Zawiercie, Abbridged Certificate, Zawiercie D 75 / 1914 Marceli Kaliński.
USC Zawiercie, Abbridged Certificate, Zawiercie D 77 / 1918 Honorata Kalińska.

All above villages except for town Zawiercie are located in relatively close neighborhood. The above list shows, though, that no two vital events were registered in the same public records office/parish. This is a feature of family histories from northern Mazovia. This is why ”Geneteka” data base is so handy because sometimes we know only one location where sometimes only one record will be found and much wider an area has to be searched to put together genealogy of a researched family.


Why we can’t always find our ancestors in the eletronic data bases on-line from Poland?

Researching genealogies from Poland is getting easier and easier for two reasons: more and more records from the National Archive of Poland (Archiwum Państwowe) go on-line and more and more vital records are indexed. Also, with the microfilm collection of the Family History Library (Family Search) going on-line searching records from some of diocesan archives is possible without going there. Also, there are lots of digital libraries right now where both records (some but not a lot) and reference material can be found and researched on-line. Most of web sites where either copies of records are available or electronic indexes can be worked with are listed and described in my book Praktykowanie genealogii. Pieniążkowie z Jedlińska XVIII – XIX w. and also on the site listed by the Polish Genealogical Society of America: Lost Shoebox Genealogy (link here).

Working with the on-line resources whether in Poland or internationally has its shortcomings and here are some thoughts on those which relate to the research in the resources from Poland.

Indexed year range for various vital events. I have already come across genealogists who search data bases of indexed records and access only these records which are both indexed and linked to a digital image of the record available on-line. It is not always checked which records types for which year range were indexed and which were not. Sometimes there are more records to be searched, but they are not electronically indexed and manual search needs to be done. But the fact that the records are not indexed does not mean that they don’t exist. Also, the fact that there is no link do the digital image of record provided does not meant that this digital image is not available on-line or not available at all either.

Missing books of records. It happens that some records are incomplete. Sometimes in the Catalogue of the Family Search we can see two separate records collections for the same location in Poland. In such cases usually one collection is from a diocesan archive and the other from a branch of the National Archive. Sometimes these two collections don’t have the identical set of records and some years of interest to our research may be only in one of these collections. There is no site which shows what is available in the parish archives so this can be only checked during an on-site research unless someone has already done research in the parish of interest to us and can share this information.
”Geneteka’s” gray area is the fact that some indexers index records from the parishes to which they were granted access, but permission has not been granted to publish the digital images of these records somewhere on-line and sometimes those indexers are not easy to contact to enquire whether they could share (and on what terms) a digital image of the record. So in some cases we can end up with having the whole genealogy worked out on the basis of the information from the index but we can’t see the images of actual records which could confirm and prove research results.

Too narrow search. This is a common problem in searching all data bases of indexed records. Here the additional problem is the spelling of family names. To an English speaker some differences are invisible, in Polish one or two different letters in an apparently similar name can create a completely different name. So exact searches have to be done with caution. One of the examples of such names is given in one of the above articles. My great grandmother’s maiden name was Kalińska but as it turned out in the early 19th century the name was spelt Koleński. Koleński name could derive from the word koło (wheel) and Kaliński from kalina (type of small tree (viburnum)). It may look all right as the stages of the evolution of the spelling of the name but if a Polish speaker saw these two names separately, he/she would not necessarily see them as close or deriving from the same root name.

Technical problems hard to identify. Once I worked with civil vital records of one particular parish which were fully electronically indexed. When I searched the actual books I found there records which had not been found in that electronic index. I never learned why this occurred. Maybe it was to do with some error in data input, I don’t know. But this shows that some limited liability approach needs to be adopted when working with electronic indexes. As it is, a record may be in the book, records from that book are electronically indexed, and the record does not show in the electronic index.

Errors in the indexes at the end of the book. In many cases electronically indexed records repeat what is in the index at the end of the book and it is not verified with the content of every record on the assumption that index must be correct. It usually is, but it does – very rarely but nevertheless – happen that a record is indexed under a different number or a record is not indexed at all, or the name was indexed incorrectly etc. If the number is wrong we can try various options to locate the correct record, but sometimes the whole set of records has to be searched to find the record in question.

Name changes and other unpredictable circumstances. Once I was searching for a marriage record. The bride had lived in one place since birth till marriage but yet her marriage record was not there (marriages are always registered in the civil offices relevant for the place of residence of the bride). I came to conclusion that this must have been the case where for some reason this marriage record was not listed in the index at the end of the book. I started reading the records one by one and I found the marriage record, only the groom’s family name was different even though he was one and the same person. In this particular case it was possible to identify the bride by her parents’ names but it is not always as simple as that.

Also, it is worth remembering that sometimes, especially in earlier books of records, records were not numbered. Then sometimes records are indexed under the page number, but there is usually no indication of that.

To sum up. There is a number of reasons why a record is missing from the electronic index (if of course the record was created in the first place and the information about the place and time of its creation was given correctly to help locate it):

  • the obvious: it has not been indexed (the entire collection has not been indexed or this particular year and or record type was not)
  • book of records where it was logged did not survive or is missing from the known collections (or the indexed collection)
  • it was created in a different place at a different time – unless records from that other place and time were indexed, then we should find it anyway
  • for some technical reason it does not show in the search returns even though it is indexed
  • the search is too narrow
  • electronic index repeat errors from the index in the book of records and there is an error in the index regarding this record.

For all these reasons we should always verify what records are available (types and year range) for the particular location and what portion of them was indexed so that we can at least eliminate making an error of trusting indexed records as being all records available.


Civ – civil record
RC – Roman-Catholic
B, M, D – Birth record, Marriage record, Death record
USC – stands for public records office

Source citation patterns on this site

For civil-religious vital records from the Polish Kingdom (roughly speaking all of central Poland, or the territory of Poland under the Russian rule including the territories incorporated into the Russian Empire on the basis of the Treaty of Tilsit of 7 July 1807) after 1825:

Civil record marked * religious denomination of the civil records office (in case of Warsaw or other large cities where there was more than one parish / community within the same religious denomination the indication of the parish or district number is given) * village/town where civil records office/parish is located * record number / year when record was taken (not necessarily the year when vital event occurred) * name of the individual(s) for whom the record was created.

Honorata Więckowska’s birth record: Civ RC Gralewo, B 1 / 1842 Honorata Więckowska.

For samples of citations of vital (and other) records from Poland (first (full) reference note format) you can refer to Citation Samples of Polish Genealogical Sources section of my article in the APG Quarterly from June 2017 ”Understanding Genealogical Research in Poland. The Most Popular Resources and How to Cite Them.”