Silesian Genealogy 101 (English)

This page serves as an introduction to (Prussian) Silesian genealogy and is not related to the rest of this website. It will deal not only with the basics of genealogy in Silesia, but also the most important sources, archives and all those little tools that will make your search easier. In addition, I will talk about important secondary sources (newspapers, land records etc.) and the remaining files of various institutions of the former German Reich (town administration, courts, etc.). Translations of certain terms will be provided in parentheses (with DE and PL to differentiate between German and Polish terms). These terms can be used as search terms to help your search.

I will continually update this page as new resources or information become available and as I develop new methodologies or materials. Last update: 20 January 2020



Your go-to place for all Silesian genealgoy should be (featuring an own page for Breslau/Wrocław). This page primarily lists all churchbooks and civil registers that are known to still exist, and provides links to freely accessible records. Place-specific databases (DE Ortsfamilienbücher, OFBs) and indexes are listed as well. There are some things that you should know:

  • “KB” stands for Kirchenbücher, or churchbooks.
  • If the place you are looking for is not mentioned, then it most certainly did not have an own church or register office (see subchapter “Search for places”).
  • If “Mormonenfilm” is mentioned anywhere, then it means that the LDS Church has taken pictures of records for that place. You can search for those digitalised records here.
  • If “Standesamt I Berlin” or “Landesarchiv Berlin” is mentioned anywhere, then it means that the civil records for that place are most likely available in this collection on Ancestry ($) and can be searched (according to German data protection laws – 110 years for births, 80 years for marriages, 30 years for deaths).
  • If “Evangelisches Landesarchiv Berlin” (ELAB) or “Evangelisches Zentralarchiv Berlin” (EZAB) is mentioned anywhere, then these records are most likely online on ($). You can check for yourself whether or not the records are online – online records are shaded green.
  • Until ca. 1758, BMD events of Evangelical (Lutheran) people in Silesia were also recorded in Catholic churchbooks, so don’t fret if there are no early churchbooks available for your place.
  • The website does not claim to be complete. Especially more recent Catholic churchbooks are often still stored at the local Catholic parish offices. However, the page is constantly updated as new information becomes available. If you have any information not known to the author of the page, let them know.
  • The website is not always up-to-date. The information on what civil registers are still stored at the local register offices (DE Standesamt | PL Urząd stanu cywilnego (USC)) comes from a decade-old book. Especially marriage and death registers have since been transferred to state archives – Poland recently changed its data protection laws to 100 years for births and 80 years for marriage and death records. The registers said to be held centrally by the state archive in Warsaw (DE Staatsarchiv Warschau) have since been returned to the local state archives.

Boosting your search speed through indexes

Genealogists new to the game often make the mistake of not searching indexes first. This slows down your research and risks searching in vain in the wrong place. Therefore, a search in indexed records is recommended. As you can see in this map, there are already indexes, local databases (OFBs) and regional databases for many places in Silesia. You should search the following places:

  • Geneteka: is a user-submitted index website for all of Poland. In Silesia, the main focus lies on indexing marriage records. You can either search a certain region by clicking on the map or all regions at once by clicking on the magnifying glass. Caution: usually, the German letters äöüß are indexed as ae oe ue ss. Make sure to search for both variants because the search algorithm does not know that these letter pairs are equivalents. By clicking on SKAN to the right of the search results, you will be forwarded to the source record, which is not always online, however.
  • Compgen / is the website of the German association for digital genealogy. It not only offers local genealogical databases (DE Ortsfamilienbücher/OFBs) and WWI loss lists, but also a database of user-submitted family trees (GEDBAS), which you should submit your GEDCOM to if you want to connect to German genealogists, as well as indexed city directories.
  • Poznan Project / Posen-Projekt: The Poznan Project indexes marriages that took place in the province of Posen in the years 1800-1899. Since the database also accepts indexes from places in Silesia bordering Posen province, searching this database may turn out to be useful if your ancestors hail from northern Silesia.
  • BaSIA: Similarly to Poznan Project, BaSIA is primarily concerned with Posen province. However, as you can see here, the website also indexes records from various places in Silesia. The website is not limited to BMD records, but indexes all kinds of records available online in the Polish state archives.
  • Ancestry ($): Ancestry has made a large number of civil registers stored at the state archive in Berlin available and searchable in its collection “Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945”.
  • Schlesische Provinzialblätter: The Schlesische Provinzialblätter used to be a monthly newspaper for the Silesian elites. It was published from 1785 to 1849. If there are any noblemen, Lutheran clerics, higher officials, or rich merchants among your ancestors, searching the database above (only births and marriages so far) might be useful to you. For the actual entries in the newspaper or the death notices, you have to search manually. BMD events are recorded in the “Historische Chronik”, of which there was one every month.
  • Other newspapers: You can also search other newspapers that have been scanned with OCR. See here (German).

Holdings of the Polish state archives (also (also is the Polish state archives’ website. The state archives list all their holdings on this website and offer digitalised records as well. More than 35 million Scans are online, mostly churchbooks and civil registers. It is recommended to search for place names – both in German and in Polish – as well as the surnames you are interested in. You can limit the search results e.g. to certain archives on the left. That way, you can check if there are any files for the surnames or places you are interested in. is the website of Wrocław state archive. It has the same function as szukajwarchiwach, but its search function is very bad. You also need to have a way to view DJVU in order to view any materials hosted there. The archive is currently in the process of transferring its materials to szukajwarchiwach, and many things online on Archeion can already be viewed there.


State archives

State archives (PL Archiwum Państwowe) store mainly civil registers that no longer fall under data protection rules, churchbook duplicates and files of the Prussian administration, and can be written to in Polish, German, or even English. The following archives are relevant for Silesia:

  • State archive of Wrocław (Breslau)
    • Branch archive Bolesławiec (Bunzlau)
    • Branch archive Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg)
    • Branch archive Kamieniec Zabkowicki (Kamenz)
    • Branch archive Legnica (Liegnitz)
  • State archive Zielona Góra (Grünberg)
  • State archive Katowice (Kattowitz)
    • Branch archive Gliwice (Gleiwitz)
    • Branch archive Pszczyna (Pless)
    • Branch archive Cieszyn (Teschen)
  • State archive Opole (Oppeln)
  • State archive Częstochowa (Tschenstochau)
  • On the border to Posen, the Leszno (Lissa) and Kalisz (Kalisch) archives are of interest as well

Diocesan archives

Diocesan archives (PL archiwum (archi)diecezjalne) store mainly Catholic churchbook originals. Polish Diocesan archives should be addressed in (formal) Polish. Mind that the area around Leobschütz (Głubczyce) historically belonged to the Diocese of Olmütz  in Austria-Hungary (now Olomouc in Czech Republic). The duplicates of the Olomouc churchbooks are held by the state archive of Troppau (Opava) and are online there.

Civil register offices

Civil register offices (DE Standesamt | PL urząd stanu cywilnego (USC)) store those civil registers to which data protection laws still apply. Normally, the register office is located at the municipality (“gmina”) to which the place hosting the historical register office belongs nowadays. Polish register offices should be addressed in (formal) Polish.

Parish archives

Many parishes (PL parafia) still store (Catholic) churchbooks to this day, especially from the 20th century. Polish parishes should be addressed in (formal) Polish. Writing by snail mail may be more successful.

Primary sources

Civil registers

Civil registers were introduced in Prussia on 1 October 1874 and are usually stored by state archives and register offices, in accordance with the data protection laws. You can differentiate between five important types:

  • Births (DE Geburten | PL księgi urodzeń)
  • Marriages (DE Heiraten | PL księgi małżeństw)
  • Deaths (DE Tote | PL księgi zgonów)
  • Banns registers / supplementary registers (DE Aufgebotsregister, Belegakten | PL alegata, akta zbiorowe): In banns registers, civil weddings were registered before taking place. Banns registers contain all documents necessary for marriage (birth/baptism certificates of non-locals, residence registration certificates, servants’ ID cards, certificates of good standing, death and marriage records of previous partners, letter of parental consent or parents’ death certificates if a person was underage). The supplementary registers for births and deaths contain documents such as written notices of birth/death, letters ordering the correction of the records, and medical certificates of death. HOWEVER, these types of registers have rarely, if ever survived in Silesia. The further east you go, the better are your chances that at least the banns registers have survived.
  • Indexes (DE Index | PL indeks, skordwidz): Historically, paper indexes of civil registers were not a common thing. However, especially in the area covered by the state archive of Katowice, indexes have been created in the decades after WWII.

Mind that BMD civil records also had identical copies: the original is called “Hauptregister”, the duplicate is called “Nebenregister”. Ancestry generally has duplicates, while the originals are held by state archives in Poland. You can recognise duplicates by what is written at the end of the record: If it says: “Die Übereinstimmung mit dem Hauptregister beglaubigt” somewhere, you are looking at a duplicate record, and the signature of the reporting person, the witnesses and the engaged couple will not be their own. It is always better to have the original record. Why? Because while corrections, name changes and divorces were usually also routinely entered into the duplicate register, notes such as the births or marriages of a couple’s children, as well as the death or marriage of a newborn or newly-married person were often only recorded in the original register.


Churchbooks are the single most important source for the time before October 1874. Catholic are mostly stored by Diocesan archives and (for younger books) at the local parishes, while Evangelical churchbooks (if they have survived) are mostly found at state archives. Military churchbooks for Evangelical soldiers and churchbooks attached to specific units usually survived at the GStA PK archive in Berlin, while Catholic military churchbooks have survived at the Archiv des katholischen Militärbischofs der Bundeswehr, also located in Berlin. The former are often online on Ancestry ($) or Familysearch, while the latter have been published on Matricula-Online.

The three main types are baptisms (DE Taufen | PL chrzty), weddings (DE Heiraten | PL śluby, małżeństw), and burials (DE Tote, Beerdigungen | PL zgony). Additionally, you can find banns registers (DE Aufgebote), lists of children being confirmed (DE Firmlinge, Konfirmanden), as well as lists of all parishioners (DE Seelenlisten, Kommunikanten).

In many places, churchbooks have only survived starting from 1765/1766. In addition to original churchbooks, which cover the entire period until WWII, there are also churchbook duplicates, which are identical to the churchbook originals (with the exception of notes in the margins added later). Creating duplicates was mandatory for the period of 1794 to end of September 1874, but in many places, duplicates were only created for 1800-1874 or even shorter periods.

NOTE: People generally got married at the bridge’s place of living. Until ca. 1758, BMD events of Evangelical (Lutheran) people in Silesia were also recorded in Catholic churchbooks.


Mind that there is a difference between mainstream protestant (DE evangelisch) and Lutheran, or Old Lutheran (DE lutherisch, altlutherisch) denominations. Each had its own churches, although the Old Lutherans were a very small minority and were far more spread out. In addition, Silesia had a few Baptist and Christian Catholic (DE christkatholisch) communities for which next to no records survive. In Hussinetz, Reinerz, Friedrichsthabor, Friedrichsgrätz and Petersgrätz, you will also find reformed (DE reformiert) communities of Bohemian origin; they were exilees whose names and surnames often switched between Czech and German variants. Other reformed Silesians often had Swiss roots.

Military churchbooks

The Prussian military had separate churchbooks for BMD events of people employed by the military. While these BMD events were also commonly included in the civil churchbooks, military churchbooks can provide additional information and be a useful resource for areas where other records are sparse.

Military churchbooks usually exist both for specific towns and their garrisons (DE Garnison) and for specific units, usually at the regimental level (DE Regiment). While garrison churchbooks mostly recorded the BMD events of military people who were part of the garrison or who happened to be in that town when the BMD event took place, the regimental churchbooks only recorded the BMD events of people attached to these regiments.

NB 1: Regiments were often stationed in multiple garrison towns at the same time, and the towns they were stationed in changed quite often in some cases. Further, soldiers were often transfered between the different towns. In order to cope with the inconsistent nature of regiments and the geographical distance between the garrison towns, each regiment had separate churchbooks for each garrison town. Further, BMD events were usually recorded not only in the churchbooks of the town where they took place, but also in the churchbooks of all the other towns where the regiment was stationed. For example, the baptism of a child born in Ostrowo was not only recorded there, but also in Posen, Lüben and Militsch, as the father belonged to the Ulanenregiment 1, which was stationed in those towns. Of course, it is always best to get the record from the place of birth first.

NB 2: All Old Prussian infantry regiments had specific Cantons (DE Kantone), usually consisting of 2-4 districts, from which all their recruits were sourced. This only changed in 1813, when the Old Prussian army was reformed and the Kantonsystem was replaced with universal conscription. In the New Prussian army, infantry and Landwehr regiments were replenished from the so-called Ersatzbezirke instead, which changed over the years. Volunteers, by contrast, went to the closest regiment. As a result, if you are stuck at a brick wall or really want to make sure that you have tapped all the sources, you might want to consider looking at the military churchbooks of the infantry or Landwehr regiment that used your area to replenish its troop numbers – even if the regiment was very far away. For example, if you are looking for people from Steinau, Wohlau and Militsch districts, you can look at the churchbooks of the Old Prussian Infantry Regiment no. 43.

Secondary sources

City Directories

City directories (DE Adressbücher) were mostly created on a district level, and were published starting from 1850, but often only much later. This page gives you a good overview of where you can find city directories physically and online. You may be able to find more city directories online in this collection on Ancestry ($) (choose Poland to the right to see what places are available or to go through them manually). Some city directories have also been indexed on City directories often start off with the district capital in the first section, followed by all other places in the district. Some city directories for big cities also have a chapter listing inhabitants by street and house number, which may help you find relatives living in the same building.

Newspapers, local histories, parish histories, school histories

Newspapers, local histories, parish histories, school histories are another interesting secondary source and often contain information interesting to genealogists, although never to the same extent as the gossip columns and detailed obituaries of American newspapers. BMD events were sometimes reported in local newspapers of the 1800s, but obituaries only took off in the early 1900s. Read more about how to search these sources here (German).

Land records

Land records (DE Grundakten | PL akta gruntowe) and land registers / cadastres (DE Kataster | PL księga katastralna) have survived for many places in Silesia. A simple search for the German or Polish name of the place on should turn up results. However, these records are never online and are often not indexed in detail, so it is usually impossible to find out which records are relevant to your search without heading to the state archive and searching the files yourself. Further, the existence of land records cannot always be assessed properly, as these files are often stored as bundles of files in the records of the local district court (DE Amtsgericht | PL sąd obwodowy) – see the subchapter “Files of the Prussian administration”. Generally speaking, land records are often the only surviving type of record for certain places. They may contain last wills, death records, deeds, etc. – a large range of documents that may help you get further with your research.


Urbaria (DE Urbarium) are a type of register of inhabitants and exist for the 1700s. These records are spread over many different file units at the state archives.

Caroline cadastre

The Caroline cadastre (DE Karolinisches SteuerkatasterPL Kataster Karoliński) was created from 1722 to 1726 by order of Emperor Charles VI in order to replace the old tax cadastre and modernise the tax system. Similarly to urbaria, the Caroline cadastre lists the inhabitants of all Silesian villages. The surviving cadastres are stored at the state archive of Wrocław, file unit 82/164/0.

Records regarding the abolition of serfdom

Serfdom was only slowly abolished in Prussia over the course of the 1800s. Before that, farmers often had to give tithes to their local lords, or perform services such as threshing. The General Commission for Silesia (DE Generalkommission für Schlesien | PL Komisja Generalna dla Śląska) was in charge of making the change and allocating land to the newly-freed farmers. This was usually done in the form of recesses (DE Rezess, Recess (old spelling), Ablösung | PL recesy). Again, these records are basically lists of inhabitants.

The Commission was based in Wrocław, and its records are nowadays stored at the state archive in Wrocław, file unit 82/192/0The only exception are the records for the districts of Glogau (Głogów), Freystadt (Kozuchów), Grünberg (Zielona Góra) and Sagan (Żagań), which are stored at the state archive in Zielona Góra, file unit 89/950/0.

Lastenausgleichsarchiv / Ostdokumentation

The state archive of Bayreuth has two relevant file units in its holdings.

  • Lastenausgleichsarchiv (restitution archive): People who fled or were displaced to West Germany (FRG) could file for restitution for all their lost property after 1952 (East Germany (GDR) did not have such a process). They were then granted a certain sum of money so as to make up for their lost lives’ work. The applications, which contain personal information on the applicants, fellow members of the aggrieved party, names of witnesses, as well as household inventories, are stored in the “Lastenausgleichsarchiv” file unit. Even if you end up not having access to these files for data protection reasons, you can still infer from the metadata where a person went after the War. See the subpoint “German Federal Archives” for more information on how to search these files.
  • Ostdokumentation: Following WWII, the FRG strived to document the events of the Nazi reign and the last moments of WWII. The Ostdokumentation contains eyewitness testimonies, hand-drawn maps of places showing where which family lived before the escape and expulsion of the German population, lists of inhabitants of the eastern provinces, etc.

Mind that due to data protection laws, access to these files may not always be easy. Waiting times may be long.

Residence registration cards

Residence registration cards (DE Meldekarten, Melderegister | PL karta meldunkowe) from Silesia have barely, if ever survived WWII. Personally, I know only of the residence registration cards of Legnica (Liegnitz), stored by the state archive in Legnica, as well as the cards of Racibórz (Ratibor), stored by the state archive in Racibórz. Residence registration cards contain information such as the names and dates and places of birth of each member of the household, their address(es), as well as their moving dates (including new addresses).

Last wills

Last wills (DE Testament) can usually found in state archives’ holdings of district court files (DE Amtsgericht | PL sąd obwodowy) – see the subchapter “Files of the Prussian administration”. Last wills usually mention the names and places of living of the heirs, as well as their alloted inheritances. Searching for the surname you are looking for may yield results, although not all district court holdings have been inventorised to a degree where each last will is listed separately. Further, many state archives still have the files of local notaries in their holdings (PL akta notariusza), but I do not know whether these files contain further wills.

Guild files

Historically, guilds (DE Gilde, Zunft, Innung, Mittel | PL cech) played a huge importants for all crafts. You will often find that your craftsmen ancestors were Lehrlinge (apprentices), Gesellen (journeymen) or Meister (masters) of their profession. Not much is known about the genealogical value of guild files, but they do exist for some Silesian towns, as a search for “cech” on indicates.


Censuses were conducted in Prussia, but the questionnaires were all destroyed following statistical evaluation. As such, there are no actual censuses for Silesia.

Other lists of inhabitants

The town records for some Silesian towns sometimes contain voter lists, lists of new or leaving inhabitants, lists of watchmen, lists of brewers, and the like.

Special case Breslau / Wrocław: Tax records

Tax records were typically destroyed, but they have survived for Breslau / Wrocław, which is the only known exception. Tax records for the period 1881-1906 have survived. They are a formidable source for Breslau, as they listed both place and date of birth of the taxpayer, in earlier years also the names and ages of all other members of the household. Find out how to search these lists here (German). Generally speaking, you need to find out the address of your person in a city directory closest to the tax year (text lists were created towards the end of the year, the year before the tax was collected), match it with the tax district (DE Steuerbezirk) listed in a table in one of the subchapters of the city directory, and then look up the tax lists for your tax district, find the address and your person.

German Federal Archives

The German Federal Archives play a special role in the former eastern territories, as they store not the only personal files of various National Socialist organisations (Nazi Party (NSDAP), SA, SS, Organisation Todt), court files, and the personal files of the cental immigration authority, but also Lastenausgleich files (see subpoint “Lastenausgleichsarchiv / Ostdokumentation” for an explanation). The personal files of the National Socialist Organisations can contain Aryan certificates with family trees attached, which is an incredibly valuable resource for genealogists (this is usually limited to SS files, though). In what follows, the search strategy for the German Federal Archives will be explained.

The search engine Invenio forms the centrepiece of any research in the German Federal Archives. Sadly, the search engine is quite buggy – if you only get errors, try again some other time. First, click on “Ihre Recherche mit invenio starten”, then on “Suche” at the top, followed by a click on “Personensuche” in the line below. This will open the search mask. Depending on the type of files, there are different search strategies. However, using the surname, name and/or birthdate (DE Name, Vorname, Geburtsdatum; dates in DD MM YYYY format) works for all files.

  • Personal files of the National Socialist organisations: Knowing the place of birth (DE Geburtsort) is often helpful.
  • Lastenausgleich: There are three parameters that you can select from the dropdown menu “Personeninformation” that are helpful: “Kreis” (district) and “Gemeinde” (municipality)  refer to the place of living before the War, “Produzierendes Amt” (producing authority) refers to the place where the application for Lastenausgleich was filed after the war. That way, you can restrict the post-War place of living to a place close to the producing authority.

Please note: Place and district names have to be precise – use “Hindenburg O.S.” instead of only “Hindenburg” or “Hindenburg O. S.” with a space, “Sorau (Lausitz)” instead of only “Sorau”. Also, you should try both the old place names and the new place names introduced in the 1930s in some areas. Nothing is known about the degree of completeness of Invenio. However, it can be assumed that more files will be registered in the system over time.

Other sources

Of course, the resources listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. The state archives feature tons of other useful resources, it may just be hard to find them.


Finding places and determining which church or register office was in charge of them

Kartenmeister is a database of places that even records the smallest places in Silesia. It also lists the Catholic and Evangelical churches and register offices in charge of each place. Mind that place names with prefixes like “Alt” or “Neu” should be written with a space in between (“Alt Tarnowitz”, not “Alt-Tarnowitz” or “Alttarnowitz”). You can also register the names you are looking for by clicking on the button on the site for each place and see if there are any other researchers interested in that place. Mind that the website is often offline and that places with Slavic names often had new names imposed upon them by the Nazis in the 1930s.

AGOFF, GOV, Meyer’s Gazetteer

It also possible to check AGOFF, GOV or Meyer’s Gazetteer in case you don’t find anything on Kartenmeister.

Historical maps offers a 19th-century map superimposed over a modern map, based on the “Messtischblätter”, which are maps scaled 1:25,000. If you require a map for a different point in time, check

Maps of villages and towns

See subchapter “Lastenausgleichsarchiv / Ostdokumentation”.


Historical pictures of places can be found on and on

Files of the Prussian administration

The Prussian administration created and collected a lot of invaluable primary and secondary sources of the years. Of special interest are town records (PL akta miasto, akta gminy), district courts (DE Amtsgericht | PL sąd obwodowy), regional courts (DE Landgericht | PL sąd krajowe), administrative district offices (DE Landratsamt | PL starostwo powiatowe), and land registry offices (DE Katasteramt | PL urząd katastralny). Using these search terms, you can look up many of these repositories on

Administrative district offices were in charge of matters pertaining to e.g. citizenship, land registry offices of the land registers and division of land (but not the land records themselves, which were maintained by the district courts). Below, you will find more information on town records and district courts.

Town records

Town records (PL akta miasto, akta gminy) contain all what is left of a place’s civil administration. While a large part of the files pertains to orders of the local government, invoicing and accounting, there are nonetheless treasures to be found in these files. Among other things, town records may contain

  • Voters’ lists
  • Church accounts (the invoicing for burials is especially relevant)
  • Guild records
  • Lists of new persons in town
  • Lists of people moving away
  • Lists of Jews who were granted citizen’s rights
  • Lists of members of certain associations
  • Lists of members of the guard
  • Police files

Additionally, any other files found in a certain place may be bundled up with the town records if they were not identified early. For example, the town records of Brieg / Brzeg contain banns registers and churchbook indexes from Brieg, as well as urbaria and land records from the entire district of Brieg.

So far, only three Silesian towns have had a large percentage of their records published on szukajwarchiwach. You can find records for other places by typing in “akta miasto” or “akta gminy” in conjunction with the Polish place name into the search field on

District courts

District courts (DE Amtsgericht | PL sąd obwodowy) are extremely relevant for genealogy since they were in charge of some of the most important resources for Silesian genealogy. On the one hand, district courts stored churchbook duplicates, on the other hand, these courts were in charge of the land records. In addition, district courts set up and stored last wills. If you have an illegitimate ancestor, the so-called “Pflegschaftsakten” held by the district courts may give you the name of the father (it was not common practice to give the name of the assumed father in church records, and it was never given in civil records unless the father legitimised the child as his).

District courts were located in almost every medium-sized town. However, it seems that the courts were increasingly centralised at district level over the years. You can check Meyer’s Gazetteer to see which district court was in charge of your place (abbreviation for Amtsgericht used by the Gazetteer: AG). Often, district court holdings have not been inventorised in full by the Polish state archives, meaning that the future may hold many surprises for us – and that you may need to check the files in person in order to see what has and what has not survived. The following is a list of all district courts for which records are known to survive.