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
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 ™:
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 level...to the powiat level, in order to use the records of
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.
*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
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.
Return to Table of Contents for
Repatriation, Resettlement and the PUR Collection