Notarial documents – worth of research?

One of the most underestimated group of documents in genealogical researches are notarial documents. While most of us focus on vital records, cemeteries, census lists, etc., notarial records seem to be something useless, or at least hard to obtain.

It is not true. Most of notarial documents, if preserved, are kept by State Archives in Poland and are available for researchers. Of course, to be useful for research, they have to be indexed by surname, if not additionally by place. Imagine research in one yearly book of notarial office documents with about thousand documents written in russian Cyrillic, without knowledge about surnames and places. It is work for months, if not for years!

I am focusing mainly on XIXth century russian partition of Poland, but the same rule works in other parts of Poland.

Still many notarial documents are not indexed, and they have not been touched by genealogists’ hands for years. I saw such yearly books in State Archive in Elk and Suwalki, which are waiting for indexing team.

But some notarial documents have been indexed already. I mean notarial documents of Grodno Gubernia kept by State Archive in Bialystok. The are known under the name “Older notary of Regional Court in Grodno” (Starszy Notariusz Sądu Okręgowego w Grodnie) and contain preserved notarial documents mainly from 1883-1915 period from Bialystok, Sokolka and Bielsk counties. These documents have been indexed by surname and place, so before visit to State Archive in Białystok, you can check if documents containing your surname of interest are there. They were conducted in Cyrillic russian.

I have had several possibilites of research in these documents and can say that even simple real estate sale document contains important information from genealogy point of view. First, you nearly always get the information about father’s name of given person participating in sale act. This information was part of russian transcription of names. Father’s name was part of it!

Second, very often you will get the information about addresses of people participating in sale act. In many cases, detailed description of parcel, neighbouring parcels and their owners, dimension and buildings will be given.

Sometimes I have found more interesting documents among notarial ones, like wills, which very often give detailed information about structure of given family, their members and relationships.

But the most interesting one, I have ever found, was the property divison document between members of the family. That 10-pages counting document gave very detailed infomation about two generations of given family, who lived in Bialystok in second half of XIXTh century. What was the most important, my customer did not have knowledge about these two generations before.

First page of mentioned notarial document of property division

Summarizing, it is really worth to look into notarial documents.

If you are interested in, my services contain translation of russian text of original notarial document into english.

Lutheran cemeteries in Lublin and Chełm areas

I have had an opportunity to tour to Lublin and Chełm area in eastern Poland lately. One of the main purposes has been to look for existing lutheran cemeteries in villages, where ancestors of my guests – german colonists settled in second half of XIXth century. The end of german colonists history in Lublin and Chełm areas was year 1940, when Nazis resettled them to Poznan area and in reverse resettled Poles from Poznan area incorporated to third Reich to abandoned houses of german colonists. At the end of WWII most of them escaped from incoming Soviet Red Army to Germany and after the war left to Canada and other countries.

Today most of the cemeteries abandoned and deteriorated over passing time nearly disappeared. Only some typical plants, like periwinkle or acacia trees mark the place where cemetery existed. In this article, I would like to provide information about lutheran cemeteries, where any gravestones remained.

1. Bielany Małe.

German colony in Bielany Duże and neighbouring Bielany Małe was established in 1869. It was not large – 3 families lived in Bielany Duże and 4 in Bielany Małe before WWII.

Remnants of the lutheran cemetery in Bielany Małe can be found at the southern side of the main local road in the bushes.

15 cemetery on the left side

Only one cast-iron cross, parts of base and fence commemorating August Klenke (1851-1904) can be found there.

10 inscription board of August Klenke tombstone

2. Cyców.

Lutheran cemetery in Cyców, where german colony was established in 1880/1881 can be found at Nowa street.  All remained gravestones were placed near the street forming lapidarium.

11 cemetery

Following names can be found at existing gravestones:

Sigismunt Gefrejter (1897-1909 ?), Emma Gefrejter (1899 ?-1901), Adolfine Gefrejter (1899?-1903);

Ema? Rolkows…;

Adolf Bartsch (1860-1904);

Matildo Reichwald (1899-1909), Wanda Reichwald (1909-1912), Arthur Fenske (1909-1909), Michael Fenske (1883-1911);

Ema Fenske (1925-1938);

Adolf Klingbeil (1870-1919);

Rozamunda Jetzke (1883-1911);

Adelaide Harke ?


3. Bukowa Wielka.

German colony in Bukowa Wielka was establlished in 1871. Remnants of lutheran cemetery can be found on a forested hill near Piaski village on eastern side of the road Piaski-Bukowa Wielka.

Only one gravestone of Olga Krause (1905-1930) remained.

13 cemetery (2)
16 Olga Krause gravestone

4. Bukowski Las.

German colony in Bukowski Las was established in 1873/1875. Remnants of the cemetery can be found in a forest on a left side of a road from Rudka Łowiecka to Bukowski Las, just near the first turn right. It is however very hard to find.

We found three gravestones, but it is possible probably to find more under the layer of leaves and forest cover:

Juliana ? Scholl;

Emma Pachal;

Ferdinand Lehmann;

30 Emma Pachal

5. Malinówka.

German colony in Malinówka was established in 1876. 30 german families lived there. Remnants of the cemetery can be found inside the open field in a forest behind fire brigade building. We have found three gravestones there, two with surname information:


Edward Rossnagel – cantor and teacher in Malinówka (1883-1934). Inscription on this gravestone was written in german and polish languages!

23 Edward Rossnagel gravestone

6. Radawczyk.

German colony in Radawczyk was established in 1878. It was a baptist colony. On a sothern side of a road from Radawczyk to Radawczyk Drugi, remnants of baptist cemetery can be found in bushes with only one legible gravestone mark, which commemorated Andreas Schmidt.

15. Andreas Schmidt