Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

One of the challenges of Polish family history research is shifting borders. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was repeatedly divided and taken over by the Russian, Prussian, and Austrian Empires in 1772, 1793, and 1795. For an easy to understand overview, see Those Infamous Border Changes: A Crash Course in Polish History by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz in her blog From Shepherds and Shoemakers.

Although the latitude and longitude do not change, the answer to “where” our ancestors were born can depend on when you ask. As a general rule, birth places are identified as they were at the time of the birth. Therefore, our Polish immigrant ancestors often reported being born in Russia, Prussia, or Austria (Galicia).

The three partitions of Poland (the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth). The Russian Partition (red), the Austrian Partition (green), and the Prussian Partition (blue) (Wikipedia)

Second Polish Republic

After the Great War (World War I), the country of Poland was recreated and became the Second Republic of Poland.

Partitioned Poland overlaid with the outline of the Second Republic. Most territories annexed by the Russian Empire (in shades of green) remained in the Soviet Union, and became the scene of genocide of Poles in 1938. (Wikipedia)

While the places themselves did not change, the governmental and administrative boundaries changed. So someone who had been born in the Prussian, Russian or Austrian partition in the 1800s could tell an American census worker in 1920 that they had been born in Poland. When asked for more detail, they might name the former administrative division or the current one; either would be correct.

Administrative division of Second Polish Republic, 1930. Colors denote voivodeships, division into powiats visible on the lower level (Wikipedia)

Kielce Province

My mother’s parents and most of their relations had been born near Sandomierz and Opatów in the Russian Radom province in the 1800s. After World War I, these areas became part of the Kielce Voivodeship. In Polish, it was the województwo kieleckie. This Kielce Voivodeship covered the northern counties of the historic province of Małopolska (Lesser Poland), including the cities of Radom, Częstochowa, and Sosnowiec.

Kielce Province of Poland between World War I and World War II (Wikipedia excerpt) Sosnowiec in southwestern Kielce Province, Sandomierz in southeastern Kielce Province

When my grandfather, his sister, his mother, and their families returned to Poland in 1920 and 1921, they lived in Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa (Górnicza) in the industrialized area of Będzin and Katowice called the Dąbrowa Basin (Zagłębie Dąbrowskie). While Sosnowiec is almost 120 miles away from Sandomierz, it is only 20 miles from the Oświęcim district where Michał Mastykarz lived with his family.

My uncle Tadeusz Skrok and his cousins Wacław and Stefania Kiec were born in Sosnowiec in the Kielce Province in the 1920s. After World War II, Sosnowiec was part of Katowice Voivodeship, and since 1999, the city of Sosnowiec has been in the Silesian Voivodeship of Poland. So, depending on the timeframe, the place of their birth could be called Sosnowiec in Małopolska (Lesser Poland), Kieleckie (Kielce), Katowice, or Śląsk (Silesia).

Historic Regions of Poland

I live in the state of Rhode Island in the northeastern United States. Rhode Island was one of the original New England colonies, and this region today is called New England.

The historical regions of Poland have similar designations. These names were often used to identify provinces, but the provincial borders may not exactly match the historically recognized regions.

Polish historical regions in current borders (Wikipedia)

So if you ever have trouble identifying the exact places where in Poland your ancestors were from because of the different names listed in different records, know that you are not alone!


Comments on: "Kielce Voivodeship 1921-1939" (3)

  1. […] My mother’s father had died when she was just a little girl, and my grandmother, who died in 1977, did not speak English well. I never asked her questions about her childhood home. There was even some confusion about where it was, because my grandparents had gone back to Poland and lived in a different place before returning to the United States. My second cousin Neil and I had tried to make sense of what I later learned was the interwar Kielce Voivodeship of Poland. […]


  2. […] the devastation of their hometowns, they took up residence in Sosnowiec, in the western edge of the Kielce Voivodeship. That was where my uncle and his cousins were born, before my grandparents and the Kiec families […]


  3. […] to the United States 2 Feb 1923. My Uncle Ted—Tadeusz Wincenty Skrok–was born in Sosnowiec, Kieleckie, Polska on 11 February 1923. Three children–Helena, Czesław, and Tadeusz–were with my […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

The DNA Geek

Mixing science and genealogy.

From Shepherds and Shoemakers

Sharing musings, insights, resources and strategies as I discover my family history.

Steve's Genealogy Blog

Documenting My Family History

 Stanczyk - Internet Muse™

... A Muse — ing                                                

DNAeXplained - Genetic Genealogy

Discovering Your Ancestors - One Gene at a Time


incorporating DNA in genealogy research

%d bloggers like this: