Russian Poland 1867-1875

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk, was traipsing through some archives this week for the Suwalki gubernia. In particular, the parish records for Wizajny . One thing I noticed was how complete the church records are. It was very complete (the Roman Catholic records) from 1808-1884. It is too bad that my ancestors did not come from this parish !   However, if your surname is Narkiewicz, your ancestors do — how fortunate for you.

So I was reading the church books (or the microfilm anyway) for 1867-1875. Well as you may or may not know 1868 is the year the Czar proclaimed that the Polish records in Vistula Land gubernias (formerly Congress Kingdom of Poland and  Grand Duchy of Warsaw before that) be written in Russian forever more (or at least until 1918 which signaled the end of Russian occupation of Poland — and the records returned to being kept in Polish). So this multi-lingual,  genealogical jester was reading Polish in 1867. As the calendar year flipped over, I was wondering if the next year (1868) would be in Polish or Russian — i.e. how fast did the Czar’s ukase get implemented. I was surprised twice. 1868 started off being written in Polish, but about half way along, the church records swithced over to be written in Russian.

So 1867 was all Polish. Then 1868 was about a half year in  Polish and half year in Russian. By 1869, all of the records were in Russian. I was always curious about this. because in the ancestral parishes of my grandparents, there were no records available from this era (only 1875-1884 on LDS microfilm). In case, you were wondering, the format was paragraph format, still written in the manner prescribed by Napoleon’s Codex. Let me point out a not so obvious bonus to American Polonia.

Because you can read the Polish records for the period immediately before 1868, you can learn the family surnames and village names of your parish as they were in Polish and this will help you translate the Russian surnames. Having a familiarity of the village names means you need not struggle with the transliteration from Russian/Cyrillic to Polish/Latin before making your best attempt to “translate” the proper nouns.

Have a Happy October, which is the National Month of Polish Heritage in the United States.

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