Sometimes when researching my Polish ancestors I find that parish records have been lost. In one case, I have reconstructed the parish by searching neighboring parishes for ancestral names and recording the birth, marriage, death, and witness information I find. Let me illustrate with the following example.
For many years I have been trying to find some evidence or clue about Francisca, my Polish 3rd great-grandmother. My biggest problem was that I had no maiden name for her. The parish she was from, Jaryszow, had been destroyed in World War II and all records were lost, so I began searching for Jaryszow parishioners in other parish and civil registration records in the county. In all the reconstructing and area searching that I had been doing, however, I had not found one entry for my ancestors, Bernhard and Francisca Palus. They were the parents of Eva, born 1833, in Nogawczyce a small village in the parish of Jaryszow. Yet I had found many births, deaths and marriages of other Jaryszow citizens in many neighboring towns. These were all added to my reconstruction project in an Excel database.
After much searching, I decided to check church records in the parish of Kotulin. The first page on the film listed my Bernhard as a witness to a birth in 1826. I copied that page and kept searching through the records, especially the witnesses in the birth records, and then I found Francisca Palus serving as a witness, but using her married name. She and Bernhard continued serving as sponsors to baptisms for the same three couples, and I followed them as they moved through three different towns, Sieronowitz, Balzarowitz, and finally in the year 1833 to Nogawczyce.
I was most fortunate to find a birth of one child of Bernhard and Francisca in the Kotulin parish. That was my biggest surprise and the exact find I needed to find her family name. She was listed on this record as Francisca Kalus. I had already found many Kalus names in my reconstruction project that I could tie her into. I found Bernhard and Francisca in the records of Kotulin during the years 1823-1845, mainly serving as sponsors.
I also found Bernhard’s father, Gregor, his brother, Jacob and two of his sisters who married in Kotulin and had many children there. Unfortunately, Bernhard and Francisca did not marry there, but regardless, the records had proved that they were alive and in the area during this time. I had found Francisca’s maiden name, Kalus, and could then connect her to the Kalus families that I had found. Plus, I found many new Palus family members that I had not found before.
So if you are searching burnt-out counties or parishes, I encourage you to do area searches for evidences of your ancestors. You may be really surprised at what you are able to find!