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Censuses (counts and descriptions of populations) have been taken by the various governments of Poland, primarily for population studies, taxation, or military purposes.
The prime value of census records is for grouping families together. Poland has better sources for research, such as church records and civil registration.
The different types of population counts in Polish history have been lustrums (lustracje), household tax registers (rejestry podatkowe: 1675), Prussian population surveys (przeglądy: 1789, 1793, 1797), and municipal revisions (spisy ludności: 1619, 1765, 1792). The Russian area of Poland, called Kingdom of Poland, had a government statistical institution called the Statistical Department with the General Administration Department (Oddział Statystyczny przy Wydziale Administracji Ogólnej), which was founded in 1847 to oversee the collection of statistical reports.
Earliest censuses were taken in 1567, 1676, 1775 (parish census). Contents vary according to the censuses and their purposes. For example, the census of 1793 for the region of South Prussia (area taken by Prussia in the 1793 partition) includes names of adult males and widows, number of people in each household, professions of the householders, but no ages.
In 1772-1773, Prussia did a land tax census of all the Polish lands that they acquired in the partition of West Prussia. This land tax census, Marburger Auszüge, was for the purpose of finding out the heads of household and a count of family members and taxing the new households. The paper census was held in the Herder Institut, Marburg, Germany. Microfilm copies are held in Scientific Institute, Turin, Poland. The Odessa, Texas Library has acquired a micorfilm copy from Marburg, Germany. Odessa Library created a a digital index of the Polish heads of household ennumerated in the West Prussia land tax census. Anyone can access this index from the Odessa Library collections at : http://www.odessa3.org/collections/land/wprussia/
The census of 1790–92 for areas of Poznan (Posen) and Kraków includes school-age children as well as adults and has dates of birth, marriage, and death.
Later census records are more standard and include names of heads of families and their children in chronological order, sex, ages or dates and places of birth, civil status, occupations, duration of residency, and so on.
Many original census returns were destroyed, and only compiled information remains. Some census records still exist in archives but are usually not available to researchers. Some censuses are in the Main Archives of Ancient Documents (Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych - AGAD) in Warsaw; various district and municipal archives, such as Płock and Kraków; or even local parishes. It is uncertain where most Polish census records are kept, so you may have to contact various archives in the vicinity of the town where your ancestor lived.
The Family History Library has copies of census records for very few towns in Poland. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
POLAND, (PROVINCE), (TOWN) CENSUS
Census records can provide information when other records are missing. Use the information with caution, however, since it may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or a neighbor and could be incorrect.
Finding your ancestor in the census records of a large city, and learning the street where the family lived, will help you search records such as church records and civil registration. Sources that give street addresses for large cities in Poland include:
- City, occupational, or business directories.
- Civil certificates of birth, marriages, and deaths.
- Church records of christenings, burials, and marriages.
- Taxation records.