Lemko Genealogy
Case Studies
Emphasizing Procedures & Pitfalls
Lecture Handout 1996
Thomas A. Peters
Certified Genealogical Records Specialist
59 Tracy Avenue
Totowa, NJ 07512-2041 USA
e-mail: Tapeters@aol.com
copyright © 1996 by T.A. Peters and used here with permission. All Rights Reserved.



The Lemko Region is located in Southeastern Poland in the former province of Galicia, Austria-Hungary. The area extends from the Poprad River to the San River. It is entirely within the boundaries of present day Poland. While the area is best described as being near the district cities of : Nowy Sacz; Grybow; Gorlice; Jaslo; Krosno; Sanok and Lesko, the Lemko territory does not extend to these cities with the exceptions of : Sanok and Lesko. The region is defined on the basis of ethnolinguistic characteristics.

The Lemkos or Lemko Rusyns are an East Slavic People who live on the northrn side of the Carpathian Mountain crests. They speak an East Slavic language called Lemko or Rusyn which uses the Cyrillic alphabet and is similar to, but distinct from: Ukrainian, Russian and Byelorussian. The Lemkos are members of the Orthodox or Greek Catholic religions.

Beginning Your Genealogical Research

This lecture presumes that you know that you are of Lemko descent. With this presumption in mind, how does one begin the ancestry research? The basics of genealogy proscrible that you gather every document available within your home as a first step in determining what you really know. You must also gather any documents available to you from the U.S. governmental sources and fro U.S. ethnic church resources. It is always a good idea to interview older members of your family: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Ask them what they know about your family. In particular, you are interested in the immigrant ancestors and their family. You should also ask within your extended family if there are any photographs of the immigrant's family. You will be surprised that distant cousins may have the only known photographs of the immigrant and his family. The most important pieces of information that you need to ascertain before making the jump across the ocean to the "old country" are the following:
  • Name of the Immigrant Ancestor (as recorded at birth); e.g. Vasyl' Boreczky, not "Bill" Boreczky.
  • Date of Birth of the Immigrant Ancestor (at least the year)
  • Names of the Immigrant's Parents (if available)
  • Religion of the Immigrant (for the vast majority, this will be Greek Catholic)
  • Ancestral Village of Origin (this is the most important piece of information needed)
  • Names of Siblings of the Immigrant (can often sort out related families in the village). You will be surprised how rare your surname is in the United States and how common it is in the ancestral village
It is most important that all of this information be known to you before you expend time, effort, and money to trace your ancestry. Your success will depend upon this. Let's assume that you have now ascertained all of the information cited above. You now know the name of the ancestral village. How can you obtain information concerning your ancestors? There are a few basic approaches:
  • Go to your nearest LDS (Mormon) Family History Center. You can check the yellow pages of your telephone directory under: Churches: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Call them and ask if their church has an associated Family History Center. These Family History Centers are available to anyone. Indeed, most people using these centers are not LDS Church members. Access their CD-ROM version of the Family History Library Catalogue. Enter the village name. For example: Milik, POLAND. If the catalog indicates that there are Greek Catholic Church Records for the time frame you need, you should them order the microfilm(s) at $3 per roll. It will take a few weeks to arrive at the center. You then have 3 weeks to review the film and to make copies of any entries concerning your families of interest. You must remember to use the current POLISH name for the ancestral village.

  • If the records you need are not available via the Family History Center or if the years you need are not available, you can write to local vital statistic offices:
      Urzad Stanu Cywilnego
      [zip code], [village name]

    If you need to write to the USC, contact me and I will give you the proper zip code and location of the USC.

  • You can write to the Polish State Archive in Warsaw at the address indicated below. Give them all of the pertinent information regarding your immigrant ancestor. If they have records available to them within their archival system, they will perform the research and bill you for their research services. If they do not have any of the records that can help you, they will forward your request to another archive in their system, or to the appropriate USC office. Many records are still maintained on the local or regional level (in this case, the vital records offices). The USC will attempt to provide you with the information (usually by means of a certificate of birth, marriage or death) but some provide the information withing the body of the letter they send to you. Never believe the statement by your friends or relatives that the church records and civil records were destroyed during the various wars, etc. These are myths!

  • Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych
    ul. Dluga 7
    00-263 - Warszawa

Some examples of handwriting you are likely to encounter in old church documents.

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