Polish Town Name Changes
7/27/2011
I've been trying to research a town in Poland that had a name change. How do I find the new name?
Q. I've been trying to research a town in Poland that had a name change. (I seem to remember a Family Tree Magazine article on this topic.) I have two different spellings for this town and just can't seem to find the new name.

A. The June 2004 Family Tree Magazine had a Now What? Q&A about Prussian place-name changes—including once-German towns that are now in Poland due to fluctuating national boundaries.

If that's true of your mystery town, you'll need to "translate" the old German name into the modern Polish name. Use the 1912 Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs (also called Meyers Gazetteer) to confirm the old name. Look for it at large genealogy libraries and on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL).
 
Then, says Jim Beidler in the aforementioned Family Tree Magazine article, "For towns that became Polish after World War I, consult Deutsch-Fremdsprachiges Ortsnamenverzeichnis. For territories ceded after World War II, use Amtliches Gemeinde- und Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Deutschen Ostgebiete unter Fremder Verwaltung." Both of these gazetteers also are available on FHL microfilm.

Also see the online index at www.atsnotes.com/other/gerpol.html, which contains names of places in Poland and Russia, along with their previous German names, and search JewishGen's Shtetlseeker, an online gazetteer of towns in Central and Eastern Europe.

Then you can use historical maps and gazetteers to trace the town's name changes. Do a Google search for gazetteer or map plus poland, and check map sites such as www.maphistory.info/family.html, www.pgsa.org/geomaps.htm and www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/poland.html.
 
To learn more about your Polish heritage, see Family Tree Magazine's Polish Genealogy Guide Digital Download, available from ShopFamilyTree.com. 

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