#Polish #Genealogy – Kodexu Napoleon

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Click to Enlarge Image -- to see "Kodexu Napoleon"

A few times before, I have spoken about the Codex Napoleon. Why does Stanczyk speak of Napoleon? Well, he (or his army) did discover the Rosetta Stone, leading to the understanding of Hieroglyphics and also while he was in Egypt he also uncovered the Sphinx which had lain buried in sand for centuries. He commissioned the Arc de Triomphe too. His military exploits reshaped the European borders. Finally, his progressive laws  embodied in the corpus: Codex Napoleon gave personal and property rights to the individual and abolished feudalism. But did you know those codes in the Kodexu Napoleon (see Polish does have the letter ‘x’, at least for foreign words), also designated how to record vital records?

Most European Church Records after 1806 followed this format and it was this code that required the two witnesses in vital records. The image at left/above is from Biechow parish church book in 1811, noting (above the yellow line) that they now follow the Kodexu Napoleon –Biechow now a part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.  From LDS MF # 936660, it appears to me that starting with August 15th, 1810 the vital records in the Catholic Church in the parish of Biechow switched to the “Napoleonic Form”  — a long paragraph narrative in a standard form, with two witnesses, written in the local language (Polish, not Latin).

This blog’s meme is really about how History/Law shape the discipline of genealogical research.  I am not merely thinking about border changes — although that is certainly a part of this meme. Today’s thread in the meme is certainly about the border changes and the shifting administrative units (Departement vs Wojewodztwo vs Gubernia, etc.), but also the data changes required by the law. For instance, the requirement for two witnesses means we have two more names in the record for our research. One of the witnesses may also be a God Parent or possibly just another family member. Does that indicate a new relationship (i.e. another sibling)? Perhaps a witness or declarant is a mid-wife. Does that indicate an illegitimate birth or that the father is away, serving in the military? More data, means more information or clues/mysteries for further research. Prior to Napoleon and the Codex that bears his name, we did not have this  information, afterwards we do.

Napoleon was beneficial to genealogical research — who knew?

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2 Comments to “#Polish #Genealogy – Kodexu Napoleon”

  1. You beat me to it on this one…I’ve been meaning to write a post about what Napoleon has to do with genealogy for months now! Napoleon did a lot of “bad” things in his live, but I sure am glad he imposed his code for vital records on most of Europe.

  2. Donna, thanks for the comment. I guess great Polish minds think along the same lines.

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