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The PUR Collection:
Finding the Records


The records discussed above can be found today in the various Polish State Archives. You should contact the state archive for the region in which you’re looking. Again, you must keep in mind the border changes of the powiat and the województwo over the years. To help locate the proper state archive, I consult an excellent source: Migracje ludności na ziemiach zachodnich i północnych w latach 1945-1950: Informator o źródłach przechowywanych w terenowych archiwach państwowych (The Migration of People to the Western and Northern Lands in the Years 1945-1950: Guide to Sources Kept at the Country’s State Archives). This source was published by Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwów Państwowych in Warsaw in 1998. This book was referred to me by a colleague and fellow researcher of the Kresy/Western Ukraine, John Pihach of Saskatchewan, Canada, to whom I’m extremely greatful. The book is broken down by each state archive. Within each state archive, there is a further breakdown of type of document. You should concentrate on the group heading Państwowy Urząd Repatriacyjny (PUR), as it contains the best material related to genealogical research. This Guide lists all of the information found in PUR in only a general listing. I have found that the particular state archives’ own Inventory (Inwentarz) will give a detailed description of each file (in Polish sygnatura) of the PUR collection.

You may also consult other documents and records found in other file groups outside of PUR. For example, file groups (zespoły) such as Starostwo Powiatowe and Zarząd Miejski may be helpful. These collections hold random memos and statistics regarding the repatriation and resettlement. Statistics such as the number of people coming in, the number of Germans leaving, the number of Germans still remaining, the number of trains coming through and the number of families and livestock in each train can be found. In addition, you can find important information such as name variations of towns and villages and border changes of powiaty and gminy.

Memos may include names of people needing financial or medical assistance, names of people newly appointed to local government positions, lists of people needing to prove Polish ethnicity. All of this information is incredibly interesting and informative. However, a knowledge of Polish is required to read the documents. Additionally, it’s all "hit or miss" regarding your own particular ancestors and family history. The types of records vary from file to file and powiat to powiat. There’s no telling exactly what you’ll find without opening the file yourself!

The records are not complete and are not for every powiat or village. Furthermore, due to different terminology across the different State Archives, it is impossible to tell what exact types of documents exist at each archive for each powiat. You may need extra time to investigate the many files and documents.

Also, keep in mind that due to the redrawing of the boundaries of maps and counties and provinces, you may find some information has been moved. For example, information for Brzeg powiat is found listed in both Wrocław and Opole State Archives. However, upon consulting the PUR Inventory in Wrocław, I discovered that the records for Brzeg powiat were transferred from Wrocław to Opole in 1972. Do as much planning ahead of time before making plans to visit Poland. As always, build in a flexible travel schedule in case you come across any unforeseen road blocks.

Conducting research of the PUR collection is possible both in person and through the mail. Of course, it is much easier to do the research yourself right on sight. If one particular strategy proves unsuccessful, you’ll then be able to immediately take appropriate action. This may not be possible through the mail. As I wrote earlier, I was searching for the village of Kurznie, which is located today in Popielów gmina in Opole powiat. While at the Opole State Archives I couldn’t find the PUR records for this location. I was creative enough to use maps and memos found in PUR to search the neighboring powiaty in order to find that the village name was listed as Kuchary, and that the gmina at the end of the war was Karłowice and that this was in Brzeg powiat. I saw that PUR records for Brzeg powiat were listed as being housed in both Wrocław and Opole State Archives. I am not sure if all of this would have been found by the archival staff through mail correspondence as easy as it was for me to do the searching myself right there in the reading room of the State Archives.

For conducting research on site, you should first write a letter to the State Archives announcing your visit and giving your intentions (that you are interested in the PUR collection for a particular powiat). Your letter and visit should be conducted in Polish. Don’t assume that there will be an English speaker on hand to help you. Of course, if you need, you can hire a translator to assist you in the archives. Plan several days of research in the archives. You’ll first have to get permission to work in the archives. If you send a letter ahead of time, your permission will be granted quicker, though you’ll still need to fill out the initial form to conduct research. Then ask to see the Inventory (Inwentarz) for the PUR collection. Once you request documents, you’ll have to wait for the documents to be delivered to you. Depending on the number of patrons and staff, this could take an hour or two. Be patient. Use your time wisely by writing a journal or making research notes.

For conducting research through the mail, you’ll have to write a letter in Polish. You should include your name, address, the fact that you are a genealogist researching your own family, and that you’re interested in the records of PUR (Państwowy Urząd Repatriacyjny). You must, of course, give the village, gmina (if known) and powiat for the location and the name and birth date for the person(s) you’re researching. Ask about research fees and the possibility of photocopies. (Though due to the large size and condition of some of the records, photocopies may not always be available.) Finally, remember that the size and contents of the PUR collection varies greatly from powiat to powiat.

The papers and documents from the State Office of Repatriation, known in Polish as Państwowy Urząd Repatriacyjny, or commonly abbreviated PUR, represents a massive collection of research material available to genealogists interested in Polish and neighboring ethnic groups. Its wealth, though varying in content from region to region, can be an important bridge from 19th century church records to the present. The PUR Collection is especially critical to researchers of ancestors affected by the chaos and turmoil of forced migration and ethnic cleansing following World War II.


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