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South Poland Catholic Records Microfilms

by Peter Gwozdz

7 July 2007

This document describes the contents of LDS microfilms of Roman Catholic records for the south part of Poland.   Most of the records are from the 19th century. Quite a few are older. Very few are early 20th century records.

There is an introduction document that describes the microfilms for Poland as a whole.  You many consider reading that document before this one.  Many of the links in this document jump to bookmarks in that introduction.  Use the Back button on your browser to jump back to where you were reading.

There is a 3rd document in this set of 3.  The 3rd is for Northeast Poland.

I understand that much of the information in this document applies to Catholic records from the south part of Poland that was dominated by Austria during the 19th century. This region of Poland was called Galicia.  My experience is with the LDS microfilms from the region between Tarnow and Rzeszow.  Much of my experience is with microfilms that are copies of books that are kept at the Tarnow Diocese Archive.

Gerald Ortell wrote a book on this same subject:  “Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church”.  Ortell’s book has a lot more details, with emphasis on south Poland.  The book can be purchased online from PGSA.

These are my notes. I originally wrote this as a reminder document for my use. Here, I post my notes to others with similar genealogy interest. I hope they save you time getting started. Send comments to pete2g@comcast.net.

Time Line



First Partition.  Austria takes south Poland including the Tarnow - Rzeszow area



Few records have survived.  Very few from the 1600’s.  Most of those that survived are now on microfilm.  Latin records.  Short paragraph format



Records switch to Austrian style table format



Introduction of a standard printed form, “178_” on top.  Slight change of table format.  1784 + many records survive



Second Partition.  No change in south Poland



Third Partition.  The remainder of Poland is conquered.  Austria takes more of south central Poland.  No change in south Poland records format



Duplicate civil copies of records.  Very few are available today on microfilm from before 1800, with progressively more for later years in the early 1800’s.  Many parishes have duplicate records from about 1810.



“178” printed form still widely used, with the “78” crossed out.  Gradual introduction of many slightly different printed forms, but no major changes in format throughout the 19th century


< 1830

Gradual increase in information.  Marriage records sometimes name a father.  Birth records rarely name grandparents


> 1835

Marriage records usually name both parents including maiden name of mother.  Birth records usually name all four grandparents eventually including maiden names of grandmothers



End of World War I. Poland emerges as an independent country.


The basic unit of information is a record. Before 1777, a record is a short paragraph. The Old Latin Paragraph format is described in my introductory document.  In mid 1777 the format changes to a table.  From mid 1777 to modern times the basic table format changes very little.  The amount of information in each record does increase significantly through time, from 1777 to about 1850.  Each record is a few lines in the table.  Some books use a ruled line between records, but even when there is no line it is obvious where each record starts because the date number is always there as an alignment.  There is more discussion coming below on the Table Format.

Latin vs Polish

Most records are in Latin, including given names.  Family names are in Polish.  See Translation Tips.  Some of the records are in Polish, although I see no pattern to why Polish was used from time to time.  In one case that I studied, the parish priest made his own forms, with Polish instead of Latin column headings.  Perhaps he ran out of printed forms for a few years?


South Poland records do not usually have indexes.  (In contrast, northeast Poland records usually have annual alphabetical indexes.)  Some microfilms for parishes in the south do have indexes, for groups of many years combined.  I suppose these were the results of projects in which only some parishes invested the time and effort.  The indexes when they do exist are alphabetical only by the first letter of the family name.  It seems the indexer went through the record books and copied the names and dates to separate sections of the index for each first letter, so within each letter you still need to scan the entire section for the name of interest to you.  When they are available, these indexes are very helpful.

Austria vs Poland

Many towns in south Poland come up duplicate on a Place Search of the LDS microfilms.  That is because south Poland was part of the Austrian Empire during the 19th century.  LDS has catalogued the towns twice, once under Poland and once under Austria.  Clicking on either one gets the same information.  Not all south Poland towns have this double entry, many have only Poland, so I guess LDS is no longer adding the Austria indexing links.

Table Format

Here is an oversimplified sketch of a baptismal record table, in English, to give you a gist of what they look like;  I hope the script font shows up on your display:

178  7






Joseph Szymanski




John Kupiec




Stanley Wojcich




John Szymanski


Here is an oversimplified sketch of a birth table with more information.  It may not show on your display the way I intended, but I did use random line breaks, in the south Poland style:

18  48







Joseph son of Jo
hn Szymanski and
Maryann Kogutka
full serf

Frances daugh
ter of Walter Samo
rajski and Mar
yann  Wiluszka  quarter serf




John  son of Adalb
ert Kupiec and  Eve
Tokarcionka     far

Maryann  daught
er of Stanley Szym
anski and Cathe
rine  Gucionka blacksmith

Both tables have a form with printed column headers.  The data is in script.  I made up the data as an example.  Notice that I used the same two names in January for both tables, Maryann Szymanski and Joseph Kupiec.  In 1787 the information about the parents is minimal.  In 1848 the grandparent names are included.  Notice that Maryann was born on 2 January and baptized on 3 January.

There are excellent books to help you learn more about the south Poland tables.  Translation Tips are available in books and on the web.  This document is not a translation tutorial.  I concentrate on the details that are not available elsewhere on the web, to my knowledge.

The actual tables have a lot more columns than the sketches above.  The amount of information varies from place to place and from time to time.  In general, there is progressively more information from 1777 to about 1850, but there are many exceptions.  My impression is that the fastest increase of information per record was during the 1830’s.

Format Details;  (click to background information for general comments about births, marriages, banns, deaths):

Sequence number.  After about 1850 most printed forms have a column for numbering the records for the year, on the far left.  Between 1830 and 1850 some record books add the sequence number in the left margin even though there is no printed column.

Day.  Far left column (after any sequence column).  For the day numeral.  (The northeast Poland Napoleonic format uses script for dates, but I have never seen script days or years in south Poland.)  Only one date before about 1835, baptism date not birth date;  after about 1835 two columns for birth and baptism dates.  Only one date before about 1835, death date not burial date;  after about 1835 two columns for death and burial dates.

Year.  Numeral, not script.  Usually at the top left of each page.  Sometimes the year is added in the middle of the page when a new year starts.  Other times the scribe crosses out the blank bottom of a page and starts a new year on the next page.

Month.  Script.  Usually, not always, added to the top left of each page.  As in my first sketch above, it was standard to add the name of the month into the date column when the month changed in a page.

Village.  After about 1850 some record books squeeze the name of the village in the left margin.  Most books do not do this.  More comments about the village below.

House number.  Before 1784, a column on the far right.  After 1783, a column just to the right of the date.  After about 1835 some marriage records provide 2 house number columns for both groom and bride.  More house number discussion below.

Religion.  There are always 2 narrow check mark columns for religion, Catholic vs Non-Catholic.  All the records that I study are 100% Catholic.  I have read that the Catholic priests kept civil records for all religions for most of the 19th century.  I have seen microfilm Items for other Religions, but have not checked to see if they use this same form.

Male vs Female.  Always 2 narrow check mark columns for births and deaths.

Witnesses.  Birth and marriage records have two witnesses, full names.  They are one male and one female (godparents) for births, usually two males for marriages.  Usually, not always, status or profession is given for witnesses.  The witness columns are on the far right.

Births.  The sketches above show the 3 important information columns:  name of the child, father, mother.  Also 2 check columns for legitimate vs illegitimate.

Marriages.  Two main information columns:  groom and bride.  The names are entered in a format very similar to the father and mother in my example sketches above.  Again, the amount of information increases with the year of the records.  The older records only name the couple, by about 1850 the parents are fully named.  Two columns for age of bride and groom, but not in the tables before 1784.  Widows and widowers are always indicated, with 4 check mark columns starting in 1784:  2 each for groom and bride, single vs previously married.

Deaths.  Name of deceased column.  Minimum is only the full name.  For children the usual minimum format would be like “Joseph son of John Szymanski”.  Again, the information increases with the year in a format similar to the Father column above.  A column for age at death.  A column for cause of death.  After about 1835 a column on the far right for sacraments administered at time of death.

1777 Change From Paragraph to Table

It looks like the order went out in 1777 to change format.  Galicia, the region of South Poland of interest to me, was incorporated into the Austrian Empire in 1772.  I guess it took 5 years to give the orders to switch from the paragraph style to the Austrian table record style.  I have seen the 1777 switch to table format in the middle of a page.  In other cases it is a new book.  The month of change varies from parish to parish. 

Printed Forms

I have read in books and on the web that 1784 was a special year.  That is the year the Catholic Church in Galicia (south Poland) was officially charged with the responsibility of keeping records by the government of the empire of Austria.  The record books do not actually say this, but my experience with the microfilms certainly confirms that everything changed about 1784.  Before 1784 there are no printed forms.  The forms before 1784 are made by handwriting for the column titles on each page;  page to page variations make it clear these were not mass produced from a master.  The forms with printed column headers do not appear until 1784.  There are not even slight printing variations between parishes, so these were all printed from a single master copy.

The format of the table changes slightly with each new style of printed form.

I have seen quite a few sections of record books that revert to hand made forms after 1784, apparently when the scribe ran out of printed copies.  In these cases, the format of the hand form is identical to the then current format of the printed form.

For many (not all) parishes, the oldest record books start in the 1780’s.  For most (not 100%) of parishes, these oldest 1780’s record books are script records onto printed forms.  If you do a web search of the LDS microfilms, you will notice that the oldest year for a parish may be 1784 or 1785 or 1787 but you may not find 1783 or 1782 as the oldest.  (I suppose there may be a parish with oldest record 1782, but I bet it would not be a printed form.)  For those parishes that start in 1784, the actual month of first record varies from parish to parish.

“178__” Printed Forms

“178” is printed at the top left corner of the page.  For 1784 - 1789, the scribe adds one digit to complete the year.  From 1790 to 1799, the scribe crosses out the 8 and adds two digits.  For 1800 +, the scribe crosses out the 78 and adds 3 digits, although a few clever scribes only cross out the 7 and use the 8, adding only 2 digits.  It looks to me like the authorities had grand plans to change the print master every decade, then they got too busy fighting wars and did not change the format until 1820.

Many of these films start with a funny looking unique page.  I never would have figured out what it is from the microfilms, but I have seen it in a parish where the priest let me study the 1784 books.  That first page is a folded oversized form.  It is designed for a statistics tally of the entire book.  It is always folded, so in a microfilm image it comes out variable depending on where it is folded.  Anyway, very, very few of these are filled it out, in my experience.  I guess they thought it was too much trouble, and the authorities did not enforce the plan. 

Some books, in addition to that funny tally sheet, start with a page that has an elaborate header.  The column headings are the same;  just an additional title on top that says, in Latin, Baptisms or Marriages or Deaths.  For example, the death records first page, on top in a fancy typeface font, has printed “REGESTRUM MORTUORUM”.  Only on the first page.  I like it when I see this page, because this assures me that the first few pages of this book have not been lost to sunlight and moisture, as is often the case.

Sometimes (Wadowice Gorne deaths, for example) the first page with that fancy header has data starting January 1787, so not all parishes started this format in 1784.

A final tidbit:  Some books have a printed instruction page in front, usually tattered.

Those 1784 books that I studied with my own hands (in the parish of Niewodna) had all 3 of these tidbits:  instructions, folded tally sheet, fancy header.  There was a separate book for each major village of the parish.  Each book had 3 sections:  births, marriages, deaths, with the fancy header for each section.  All this leads me to conclude that the books were printed in this form and distributed to the parishes, but I do not know for certain if they were printed as books, or bound later.  (It is very common for records from more than one book to be bound together;  you can sometimes tell by a sudden change of water stains.)

In a few microfilms, I have seen some records in the 1900’s using this old “178” form;  apparently someone found some loose copies in a drawer, and I guess did not want to throw them away.

Other Printed Forms

About 1820 most parishes switch to forms, with “18” printed in the upper left.  I have noticed 3 different birth versions and 2 each for marriages and deaths with “18” on top.  The year is completed with 2 digits.  I have noticed what I call the “182” and the “183” printings, which use 1 digit completion.  After about 1850 there are several different printing versions.  All these versions differ from each other and from the original “178” version only slightly, for example by using 2 date columns.  A few “versions” differ only in font change.  Apparently the printers reset their masters more often after 1820.

Town and Village

For many parishes in south Poland, the 18th and 19th century records were kept in more than one book.  Let me please use the word “village” here to mean a small town or village or hamlet.  There are usually one or a few villages included in each book.  Sometimes, not always, the LDS Catalogue listing will specify which villages are in each Item.

(A large town, of course may not have any villages in the parish.  A city is often divided into more than one parish.  This discussion topic applies to most 19th century Polish parishes, which had multiple villages.)

I read in Diocese books that parishes had chapels at various villages.  In Poland, people explained to me that the priest would travel to the chapels for masses.  I visited one parish that even today has an outlying chapel.  I did not think to ask if the old record books correspond to the chapels of the time.  It would make sense that they kept separate record books by chapel.  I am not sure this was always (or even sometimes) true.

There are a number of ways that the village is indicated for the individual of record.  This is important to us for identification purposes.  There may be a few individuals with the same name as our ancestor, but they may live in different villages.  Even when there is no confusion, it is reassuring to see the same village named for each ancestor record.

The village is not always indicated.  Again, the trend is village indicated more consistently with the passing years.  Again, there are many exceptions to the trend.

The village may be added in the left margin.  This is very common for records after about 1870.

The village may be indicated in the information column.  That is, in the column for the father, or groom, or bride, or deceased name.  The village is usually one of the last words in that column.  With this style, each record has the village, most of them the same 1 or 2 or 3 villages.

If a bride or a groom comes from another parish, the village name will stand out as unusual, or as the only village mentioned in a section of records.  It is nice if the village and parish are named.

There is another format:  Instead of separate books, or in addition to separate books, some parishes split the book by village.  The village is written at the top of each page, or at the first page of a new sequence of records by date.  Within each section are the records for only one village.  Let me make this clear:  I am not talking here about all cases of an identification at the top of each page.  Quite often the top of each page has written the names of the 2 or 3 villages in the book.  Here I am describing something entirely different:  For some books there are actual sections by village, usually with blank pages between them.  Each section has the same few years of records.  Some sections, for small villages, only have a dozen or so records.  Once you get a picture in your head of the layout of the entire book, only then is it obvious to you that all the records in each section are for that one village.

House Number

I am still a little confused about house numbers.  Let me tell what I know, what I infer, and what I am told about house numbers in the region between Tarnow and Rzeszow that I study.

House numbers are used for almost all the records of this region.

I asked for descriptions of house numbers for before 1900.  I asked at parish rectories in Poland.  I asked at government registration offices.  No one has such descriptions.

A number of people in Poland have told me that the house numbers were not necessarily sequential by location in Polish villages before 1900.  In some villages, the house number may have been assigned by the order of construction.  In most cases, I am told, it was just a jumble, where the numbers were merely identification tags.

In some cases, I notice that almost all the records for a particular ancestor family have the same house number.  In one case this went on for 4 generations.  This is very assuring.  In other cases, all the records jump around in house number.  In most cases there are at least a few records for a family that do not have the same house number.

I am sure it was common for multiple families to share a house number.  That is, at least among my many ancestral families that I studied.  I did a number of studies where I listed all the families for one house number, in record books that gave the village for each record.  I found not just cousins with the same family name, but other family names.  I suppose it is possible they were all related, because I did not work out all the in-law family names from the previous generations.

I cannot rule out the possibility that one house number was used for a group of 2 or more houses.  No evidence yes or no.

In many cases, my extended ancestral family used 2 or 3 numbers in sequence, hinting that a cluster of cottages were numbered sequentially for the cousins who lived in a group.

Birth house numbers are most consistent.  Deaths of children tend to be the same house number as birth.

House numbers for death of old folks are least consistent.  I suppose deaths were recorded at most recent residence, and an old person may die at the home of a daughter or cousin whose family name I do not know yet, so the death inconsistencies are not a surprise.

Marriages are sometimes at the house number of the groom, sometimes at the house number of the bride, sometimes at another number.  I wonder if the young person is living at a house of temporary employment.

It makes sense that that if a house is crowded with multiple families, then some births, marriages, and deaths may occur at a relative’s or friend’s house if that house is less crowded.  We don’t know if it was in fact the practice at a particular time and place to record the house where an event took place even if it was known to not be the usual house of residence.  In my research I have taken the time quite a few times, when a strange house number turns up in my family line, to search for more records with that house number.  Sometimes I discover that the strange house is an in-law house.  More often this type of house number study does not provide any useful hints.  Even with an in-law identification, that does not determine if my family moved there temporarily, or just used the house for a few days for an event.  To prove this event number interpretation, it would take a lot of work to study house number variations for several families, all in the same parish at the same time.  I have not done this.  To make a general statement about this region of south Poland, such a study would need to be done for several parishes at several time periods.

Summary:  House numbers are very helpful feedback.  For records with uncertain identification, a house number the same as other records can offer reassurance that the identification is correct.  On the other hand, a house number match by itself is not a certain ID.  A house number mismatch is not proof that a record does not belong to a family.

The Region Between Tarnow and Rzeszow

I have interest in two towns.  My paternal grandfather came from Wadowice Gorne.  He met his wife in the US;  she came from Wisniowa.  Each of these towns is a “gmina”.  Wadowice Gorne is also a parish, in the county or powiat called Mielec.  Wisniowa belongs to the parish of Niewodna, in the county or powiat called Strzyzow.  Both are in the modern province or viviodship of Podkarpackie.

On early 1990’s maps, both counties are included in the former Rzeszow province.  Both counties were also in the Rzeszow province in the 1960’s arrangement of provinces used by the LDS Library catalogue.

My 3-great grandfather’s wedding record is missing.  I figured maybe he was married in a neighboring parish.  For that reason, I checked the marriage records of all the parishes within a 10 km radius, and most of the parishes within a radius of 20 km.  So far I have checked 32 parishes.  I have not found my man, but I can assure the reader that the comments of this web page apply to all 32 parishes.

In other words, most of my south Poland LDS microfilms experience is in towns just west of Rzeszow.  I also researched a few towns farther to the west, toward the city of Tarnow.  I intend this web document as a reference for genealogy research in the region between Tarnow and Rzeszow.  I suppose most if not everything in this document is true for all of the Podkarpackie and Malopolskie provinces.  Much of this web document is surely true for all of south Poland. I suppose there is no exact border where this is mostly valid. I suppose it becomes progressively less valid for towns farther from Wadowice Gorne and Wisniowa.

The records for Wadowice Gorne are stored at the diocese archives in Tarnow.  There are very many LDS Microfilms that were filmed at the diocese archives in Tarnow.  The librarian at the archives told me that LDS filmed everything of genealogical interest to us.  I only found one minor exception, a few 1880’s records that were not filmed.  Wisniowa belongs to the diocese of Rzeszow, but before 1994 it belonged to the diocese of Przemysl.  It seems to me that LDS has not filmed at archives in Rzeszow and Przemysl, because very few records are available on film for that region to the east.

Click here for a map of the Podkarpackie province:  http://www.tovegin.com.au/podkarpackie/.  My interest is in the region on the west side of this map.  Click here for a map of the Malopolskie province:  https://sites.rootsweb.com/~polczest/.  My interest also extends to east side of that map.

I did a lot of work on the Wadowice Gorne records. Check out http://Gwozdz.org/WadowiceGorne.

My family tree findings, without data for living people, are at http://Gwozdz.org.  From time to time I submit my family tree results to the LDS online data base.

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Reminder: The links without www address just jump around in this document. Use the Back button on your browser to jump back to where you were reading before you came here.

South Poland

Many of the comments in these notes apply, I am sure, to all the microfilms of Roman Catholic books from the region of Poland that was dominated by Austria during the 19th century. During the 19th century, Poland did not exist as a country. It was divided into three parts: Prussian (German), Austrian, and Russian. For details, consult Web Sites for Poland General Information and Maps.

Pete Gwozdz

Hi. I'm the author of this web document. I live in the so called Silicon Valley in California. My father's parents come from Wadowice Gorne and Wisniowa, near Mielec, between Tarnow and Rzeszow. My mother's parents come from Sypniewo, near Gasewo and Szelkow, just north of Warsaw. I have a university home page.

Send comments to pete2g@comcast.net.

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© Copyright 2000, 2001, 2003. 2004, 2006, 2007 Peter Gwozdz.  All Rights Reserved.
Permission for reproduction of this article was granted PolandGenWeb by Peter Gwozdz
originally Feb 2000, and again for the update July 2007.  Thank you, Peter!

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