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Archival Research in Ukraine and Poland


You can research the archives in Ukraine and Poland by three methods:

The records can be in one of many repositories, either in Poland or in Ukraine, whether or not you think your ancestor was either an ethnic Ukrainian or Pole.  Such ethnicity does not necessarily determine the best archive for you.

You may have to write to some or all of the archives below:

In Ukraine

Due to the state structure of the Soviet Union, older vital records became a part of the state archival system.  I've not known an archive of either an archdiocese or archeparchy, such as the ones in Lviv, to have such records.  Older records were transferred to any of the following archives.  A general rule is the nearest archive.  By far, TsDIAL has the largest collection.  More recent records may still be held at the parish level with the priest or in the local registry office.

  • TsDIAL - Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine, city of Lviv

  • Oblast archive of Lviv

  • Oblast Archive of Ternopil

  • Oblast Archive of Ivano-Frankivsk (formerly known as Stanislaviv)

In Poland

Polish repositories may be run either by the state or by the archdiocese.  For territories once controlled by Poland before World War II but transferred to the USSR, many records were often moved to the either the Zabużanski Collection or AGAD Collections in Warsaw.  (Zabużanski is a Polish adjective form for "za Bugiem", meaning "beyond the Bug River", which is part of a natural border between Poland and Ukraine.

  • Zabużanski Collection in Warsaw

  • AGAD - State Archive of Older Records in Warsaw

  • State Archives in Przemyśl
  • State Archives in Rzeszów

  • Diocesan Archives in Lubaczów
  • Diocesan Archives in Przemyśl

You can check the availability of parish and civil records housed at the various Polish Regional State Archives and the Zabuzanski Collection right on-line yourself!  Visit the Polish State Archive webiste's searchable database PRADZIAD.  Read the explanation and instructions first, then click "database" at the bottom of the screen to search for your own ancestral parishes' registers!  (Note, not found in this database are records from archdiocesan, diocesan, USC, or individual parish archives.)

An important point regarding vital records' registration in Galicia to be kept in mind is the existence of a second copy, called the Bishop's Copy.  Priests were required to produce a duplicate copy of his vital records registry book to be sent to the Bishop's office.  Sometimes only one copy still exists, other times both copies still exist.  You may find one archive has both copies or that the two copies may be in two separate archives.  If you are able to view both copies, you may find the Bishop's Copy differs from the original.   The priest may have made a mistake copying the second version, or he may have corrected information more obviously in the Bishop's Copy.  You may find the Bishop's Copy illegible because the priest hurried to make the copy, or you may find the second copy cleaner and neater than the original because the scribe took extra time and care in producing a duplicate.

Some of these archives have detailed descriptions of its holdings while others do not.  One should then write directly to the archives.  Your first letter should not be incredibly detailed.  It should rather be a "fact finding" mission.  Archivists are professional busy people and do not consider hunting down old records for your ancestors a necessary part of their job.  Your first letter should be a general one inquiring about the types of documents available, if the archivist would do the researching him/herself and what the cost of such searching and photocopies be.  You should include general information on your research, namely the town/village and parish with a rough idea of years you're interested in.  If you send names of an ancestor, send only one or two at a time.  Give as much specific information you know about the person keeping to areas of interest.  Don't include long biographies on the person's life.  Rather, include as much of the following information you know:

Name of person (ethnic name, "uncle Joe" won't help you in the search)
Date of birth, marriage or death.  If exact date isn't known, give an approximation
Place of birth, marriage or death.  Include a parish name to help the archivist know for which registries to look.

Put in a statement that you're researching your own family ancestors.  Don't forget to include your name and address clearly written.  You should write the letter in the native language of the archives, either Polish for Polish archives or Ukrainian for Ukrainian archives.  (Russian and Polish may be an option for Ukrainian archives since these were popular languages to be studied by professional archivists in western Ukraine.)  TsDIAL (Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine, city of Lviv) will accept letters in English because some of the staff knows the language.  However, it may take longer to wait for a response since your letter would have to be first translated from English.  Even though the director of TsDIAL, Dr. Diana Pelts states that this is possible, I would still prefer to use Ukrainian, Russian or Polish.

No matter what language you write in, the response will always be in the native language.    These are professional offices in these is only logical that they write in only their native language.  (I am amazed at how many genealogists have been shocked when they receive a letter in a foreign language from a foreign country!)

In order to assist writing a letter to the archives, I am including generic letter guides which you can download, print out and fill in before sending to the foreign archives.

  • Ukrainian letter writing guide   (still under construction)

  • Polish letter writing guide   (still under construction) 

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