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The PUR Collection:
Finding the Location of Resettlement


Here are a number of specific steps you can take to lead to finding the location of the resettlement:

Ask any of your relatives, especially those who have kept contact with family and friends in Poland, where the family moved to. In my own experience, I found the location of one of my resettled families by finding the name of the village on a watermark from a stamp that was given to me by my great-grandmother years ago. Although the letter and address were lost, I had the name of the village. I then wrote one letter to the priest in that village and one letter to the gmina (local government office) inquiring about relatives. Within two weeks I received several letters from long-lost relatives. This reconnection was the impetus to travel to Poland where I visited cousins and researched the PUR Collection in the State Archives of Wrocław and Opole...all from a simple watermark on a stamp.

Check obituaries and funeral home records. Sometimes the location of relatives in Poland is listed as next of kin.

If you know any relatives, or even close friends of the family, who came to the US after WWII, you should check passenger lists and naturalization records. Often, these documents contain specific places where the person came from directly. One could even go through passenger lists name by name for ships originating in Polish ports, namely Gdańsk. The same "sweeping" research can be applied to naturalization records. Of course, these steps should be taken as a last resort since they are time consuming and comparable to searching for "a needle in a haystack."

Write to the priest or someone in your ancestral village in today’s Ukraine, Belarus or Lithuania. In the letter, inquire about the place the ethnic Poles moved to after the war. Of course, you should only write in the native language of the village, i.e., Ukrainian, Belarusian or Lithuanian. In many cases, some people from the original village may still be in contact with ethnic Poles who relocated to western Poland. Often these people will be relatives as I’ve discussed above, as before the war of intermarrying between ethnic groups was common. Again, in my own case, many residents of the Ukrainian village of Czeremosznia knew that most Poles moved to a place called Kurznie. Please keep in mind that this will work better for villages and smaller towns. This will not work for larger cities for obvious reasons. For those people researching Resettlers, you can still write to the ancestor’s native Polish village.

For general checking, you should consult Kazimierz Rymut’s book Słownik nazwisk współczesnie w Polsce używanych (Dictionary of Surnames Currently Used in Poland). "It was compiled from a 1990 database maintained by a Polish government agency, with data on about 94% of the population of Poland as of that year. It gave a total of all Poles by each name, along with a breakdown of where they lived by province." (Written by William F. Hoffman. Published by Gen Dobry!, Volume III, Number 8, 31 August 2002. PolishRoots ™: This database is online at

Search on the last name. If you search on a common surname, your results will not be as useful. Keep in mind this is a Polish resource, so you must remember proper Polish spelling and proper Polish alphabet order. The result will yield the number of people found in Poland with that name in each province as it was in 1990. First, the Słownik nazwisk will only give you the province statistics, and not the powiat. Secondly, it uses the old provincial borders, which are different than today’s provinces. However, it may help give you an idea of the popularity of a certain name in a certain province in Poland in 1990. You’ll still need to go down one more political the powiat level, in order to use the records of PUR.

Phone books can help you locate ancestors or prevalent surnames from your ancestral village. To obtain Polish phonebooks, contact Polish genealogical societies or the phone company. The Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast has many phonebooks from regions across Poland. However, you’ll have to keep some points in mind. Due to the fewer number of phones in Poland as compared to in North America, you’ll find Polish phonebooks cover a greater range of territory, but have fewer names for each village and town. The searching isn’t easy since you’ll have to go town by town, village by village, looking for surnames as this is how the phonebooks are usually sorted. Also, due to less popularity of telephones in Poland, the absence of a phone listing in a village does not necessarily mean the absence of an ancestor!

Conduct a search on the Internet. Try both US based search engines and Polish ones. Type in surnames of your ancestors and popular ancestral village names that are generally uncommon throughout Poland. When using Polish search engines, try searching both with Polish diacritical marks* (accents and hooks on the letters) and without. You may get links to places where the name is prevalent. Again, this works with less popular names in smaller towns and villages. However, I found one of my ancestral names "Gieża” in a few pages pertaining the town of Brzeg and the villages of Karłowice and Kurznie. During my recent trip to Poland, I discovered that each of these people I found on the Internet originally came from Kurznie, and before WWII from my ancestral village Czeremosznia.

US search engines:

Polish search engines:

*For getting your computer to type and recognize Polish characters, download the Polish character set in Windows or use the ALT keys. (For the Polish character set in Windows, click on START > Control Panel > Keyboard > Language > Click "add" and choose "Polish")

Once you find the town or village of your resettled relatives, you’ll still have to find the powiat of that village as it was in the period immediately following the war. This is not the easiest task since the best post-war gazetteer is the Spis miejscowości polskiej rzeczypospolitej ludowej (List of Localities in the Polish People’s Republic), which was published in Warsaw in 1967. (Family History Library microfilm number: 2,037,058) PGS-CT/NE also has a copy of this book. Due to the 22 year difference between the end of the war and the publication of this gazetteer, you may still have difficulties. However, it will at least give a good first choice place to look. If you can’t find the village or gmina in that powiat, try a neighboring one. In such a case, you’ll simply have to be creative! In my own experience, I was looking for information on the village Kurznie in Popielów gmina, which today is located in Opole powiat. The first place I naturally looked in the State Archives was the PUR documents for Opole powiat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything pertaining to Kurznie. So, looking at a map of Poland, I saw that Kurznie is very close to the town of Brzeg. I decided to look at the PUR files pertaining to Brzeg powiat. And sure enough, there were all of the village lists with Repatriates and Resettlers for the village of Kurznie, which was at the time right after the war not in Popielów gmina, but in Karłowice gmina, and not in Opole powiat but in Brzeg powiat. No gazetteer was able to tell me this. Only good deductive reasoning and a map helped!

Finally, there is the difficulty of the name of the village. When the records were created in the years immediately following the war, the names of places in the newly acquired western territories were not yet formalized or made official. Of course, the first place to look is for the name of the village as it is today. If you can’t find it, you may need to look for a different name. Sometimes another Polish name was used, either based on the previous German name, or on a Polish name used long ago. Sometimes you still find the German name listed. When researching the PUR records, look for any memos or business documents pertaining to the names of the villages and gminy in the powiat. Again, I will refer to my own research. While at the Opole State Archives I was not able to find the village name Kurznie. I studied all the village lists for the powiat and matched them up to the villages listed on my contemporary map. Although I saw Kurznie on my map, I couldn’t find it in the records. But I did find a village in the records called Kuchary, which wasn’t located on my map. Upon closer study of the village lists of Kuchary, I noticed that a majority of the people came from my Eastern Territory ancestral village of Czeremosznia. I concluded that this Kuchary must be today’s Kurznie. Later, while visiting the village of Kurznie, I learned that the village’s old name was Kuchary, and that still today some of the older relatives refer to it as such. To show how prevalent this problem can be, I had a similar case with my other relocated village in the Wrocław State Archives. The village of Domaniów was often referred to as Domajowice in the PUR collection. I found a memo in the PUR files that stated that Domajowice was an old Polish term for the village, but that the new Polish government officially changed the name to Domaniów. A third case further illustrates the point. I have cousins who live today in Skrzypnik. However, in the PUR collection the same village is referred to as Rumieniec. Later, the Polish government settled on officially calling the place Skrzypnik.

Therefore, as is always the case with Polish genealogy, you should be fully aware of your region of research. Learn any alternate names of your village, learn the German name of your village in western and northern Poland, obtain as much gazetteer information as you can about these places and find good detailed maps of the region. In Wrocław I found some excellent reproductions of pre-WWII German maps, which gave me all the German names of the surrounding villages.

Of course, if you’re using the Registration Lists of Repatriates and Resettlers, your only concern is the powiat. In these lists, you’ll find that people are listed in the order in which they were processed. The name of the village they were going to will be listed. You’ll still need a good map and information from a gazetteer to determine if that name changed since then. But if you’re using the Ewidencje (Town/Village Records of Repatriates and Resettlers), you’ll need to know the gmina and village/town ahead of time as those records are sorted and kept in that order.


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