September 1st is such an inauspicious day for Polish genealogists. Stanczyk recognizes the memory of WWII starting today in 1939. That being said, it is a good day when the Gen Dobry! newsletter (uh, e-zine) comes in the email box. I was perusing the e-zine and when I got to “More Useful Web Addresses”, one of my favorite sections.
I noticed a link (URL) to the Internet Polish Genealogical Source, their 1907 atlas, also known as, “Atlas Geograficzny Illustrowany Królestwa Polskiego” [ Illustrated Geographic Index of the Polish Kingdom]. Now this is a gazetteer/atlas that I have long enjoyed for its beauty as well as its usefulness for locating the parishes.
It took this jester back about 5-6 years to when I volunteered for the PGSA and helped them partially index the very same gazetteer. The PGSA has built a searchable database on their project. So having worked on that effort, I thought I would compare the two web resources. For the record, this jester worked on the STOPNICA (Stopnicki) powiat of the PGSA project. I would recommend my readers volunteer for genealogy projects as they are a great way to meet other expert genealogists and to further become acquainted with some resource that may help you in your research. So it was for me — I was able to locate all of the parishes near my ancestral villages.
As I noted above this is a 1907 map, so it reflects the Kingdom of Poland as an occupied territory of the Russian Empire. So we see the provinces (województwo) are called “gubernia”, the Russian term. My ancestors were predominantly from Kielce gubernia, Stopnica powiat. So I will use that to compare since that is my area of expertise. That would be map number 28 (from the main index map).
The iPGS has done a nice job on presentation and navigation. They provide 1907 names vs 2005 names of villages/towns. They have a nice index to each powiat map and show other info like today’s powiat. Their project also looked to be complete. Now I did not work on the iPGS project, so I hate to be nitpicky, but they were not complete and accurate. On map #28, STOPNICA, I noticed that Piasek Wielki was not marked as having a parish, yet the map image clearly indicates a cross on the circle that represents Piasek Wielki. When I compared it to my work on PGSA, it did in fact list a parish. So now I had to know which was correct. So I went to FamilySearch.org and used their library catalog to do a place name search for Piasek (choose the one for Kielce) . Clicking on all links to expand upon results leads you to this page, which shows there are two microfilm for the parish spanning the years from 1875-1884 – so indeed it is/was a parish and therefore the PGSA was the correct project.
The PGSA project of which I was a member was a substantial effort. Yet, this project was not complete. The PGSA built a small database look-up web-app. That is nice if you want to see a list towns that begin with ‘Bialy’ so you can compare if you do not quite know which ‘Bialy’ town you need. The PGSA also has a powiat map list page listing the volunteers. The navigation probably should be more like iPGS, but the iPGS should probably implement a search form like PGSA.
I cannot offer a comparison of which web site has more accurate data / complete data; The effort would simply be too great for one person. I can only recommend that you look at the map and see if you see a cross on the circle of a town, then you should see a plus in the data results. Of course, the final resolution if you see difference is to look at FamilySearch.org and see if they have microfilm or not. You could look at a Polish web site for a listing of Polish Catholic parishes — but there again parishes may have closed or towns vanished, so there is not one complete index anywhere. Even the FamilySearch.org may not have a microfilm for a perfectly valid parish. PRADZIAD, the Polish National Archive web site for parish / civil records may not have data if data was lost (like in WWII), so it may not be possible to ever really have a complete list of parishes of all time nor know which data is missing/lost. Absence of data does not mean anything (or possibly could mean any of a few things). Never forget that there may be diocesan data in the church archives. Also please note that most sources are CHURCH oriented, so if you are looking for synagogues you are limited to PRADZIAD or to the use of an excellent gazetteer like Brian Lenius’ Galicia Gazetteer.
But at least this new iPGS gazetteer is online and available for all of us to use. Keep in mind there may be limitations on the data you see, but you must not have limitations upon your reasoning ability. Do not assume because you do not see something that it does not exist. Keep looking. Also, verify what you think you know.