Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers from across the globe to access records for our clients. We asked Adam, onsite in Poland, to share his experiences researching at the Archdiocesan Archives of Białystok, Poland.
The city of Białystok became a temporary seat of the Vilnius Roman Catholic Archdiocese in 1945 when the Archbishop Romuald Jałbrzykowski was forced to leave the city of Vilnius once it was incorporated into the Soviet Union. After World War II, Białystok became the home of the church offices as well as of organizations such as the Archbishop’s Court, the Archbishop’s Curia, and the Theological Faculty of the Stefan Batory University, which were located previously in Vilnius. Today, the Archdiocesan Archives of Białystok (Archiwum Archidiecezjalne w Białymstoku) houses historical manuscript material in the Department of History (Dział Historyczny) and transcripts of historical baptism certificates, marriages records, and death records from the entire diocese and, even more interesting, from some areas of Belarus and Lithuania, within the Department of Metrics (Dział Metryczny).
The Metrical (Sacramental) Book Collection
The Metrical Archive has copies of the parish registers (1,041 volumes in total) from 1865 to the present. However, the general public can only access the records prior to the last 100 year due to privacy laws. The documents are organized according to deanery jurisdiction:*
- Białystok Deanery – 430 record books
- Koryciny Deanery – 64 record books
- Krynsk Deanery – 81 record books
- Knyszyn Deanery – 93 record books
- Dąbrowa Białostocka Deanery – 74 record books
- Sokółka Deanery – 182 record books
- Grodno Deanery (1865-1937) 92 record books
- Łunna Deanery (1922-1937) 25 record books
Today, parishes continue the 19th century practice of sending copies of their records from the previous year to the archive by the end of March, annually. These duplicates, more commonly called Bishop’s copies, are arranged by deanery, and bound into one register. The vicars are also responsible for filing the documents with annotations about contracted marriages, ordinations, confirmations, and annulled marriages.
All records from 1865 to at least 1916 are written in Russian, so it is much easier to use the archive if you have at least some knowledge of Russian script. The documents contain indexes for easy reference. Although the archive is open from 07:30 to 15:30 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as from 10:00 to 18:00 on Wednesday, genealogists can work with documents only during a four-hour time slot from 09:00 to 13:30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and from 13:00 to 17:00 on Wednesday. It is forbidden to take photos of the records or to photocopy documents, but the access to the archive is free of charge, and you are able to take notes about information that is found. The institution is closed during various church and state holidays.
Department of History
The oldest archival materials can be found in the Archive’s History Section. It is a collection of documents donated by various church institutions and parish archives.
Among other things, one can find there:
- Documents from the beginning of the 16th century
- Parish records
- Records from the monastery in Klimówka (17th-19th century)
- Documents left by late bishops
- Some records from parishes that are now in the territory of Lithuania and Belarus (mostly memoirs, photos, maps)
Before Your Visit
As with visiting any archive, it is always a good idea to make a phone call prior to the visit to ensure the archive will be open, as from time to time they may be closed to the public. Because of the ban on pictures and photocopies, it is also useful to bring something to take notes on, as well as the names of ancestors and places in Russian Cyrillic so that it will be easier to find them in the vital records. Before beginning your genealogy research, it is also good to talk to the Ecclesiastical Archivist, who may give you another tip for where exactly to look for the particular records you need. Be sure to check out our article, 4 Steps for Finding Your Polish Ancestors for additional tips in tracing your Polish family history.
*Deanery: A subdivision of a diocese, consisting of a number parishes, over which presides a dean appointed by a bishop.
If you have Polish ancestry and need help obtaining records, we would love to assist you! Our professional genealogists and onsite agents have the language and research skills needed to find your ancestors in records all over the world. Contact us to discuss your research goal(s) and which of our project options would work best for you.