How to obtain a birth, marriage, or death certificate from a Polish registry office

 

On the 1st March  2015, a new electronic system in registry offices was launched. It means that every birth, marriage, or death certificate created after this date will be available in every registry office, not only in the one it was issued in. Also, the offices work on adding older documents to the system as well. But what about very old documents? Can we obtain them as well? And what if you don’t live in Poland and don’t have Polish citizenship? Can you receive, for example, your grandparents’ marriage certificate? The answer is YES. And below we describe how to do it.

Registry offices in Poland keep vital records for 100 (births) or 80 (marriages and deaths) years. After that time they send all the documents to the local national archives. So if the document you’re looking for is within those dates, then the registry office is the institution you should contact.

The first thing is to find the right registry office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego). Usually, each municipality (gmina) has one, however, the biggest ones may have even a few of them. If you are looking for documents registered in a city, then all you have to do is to find the address of the registry office. All the data including the phone number and email address you can find on this website: https://www.gov.pl/web/mswia/urzedy-stanu-cywilnego. Just write the name of the town in the searching bar.

But what if my ancestors lived in a small village that was too small to have its own registry office? Then find the gmina it belonged to. Here is the current list of gminas in Poland: http://www.gminy.pl/. Use the map and starting from the voivodeship, through the counties (powiats), you can find the municipality.

So now, when you have the right gmina, and the contact to the registry office, you can write them an email to verify if they have the record of your interest. Especially when the date of the event you’re looking for is close to the mentioned threshold of 100 or 80 years. Your email should have all the information that can be useful while searching for documents, such as first name, surname, maiden name, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names.

Writing such an email in Polish will be more efficient. Not every clerk in the registry office can speak English. Below you have an example for obtaining a birth certificate (you can modify it for your purposes):

“Urząd Stanu Cywilnego [here you write the name of the town/city, where the seat of the registry office is],

Zwracam się z uprzejmą prośbą o potwierdzenie, że są Państwo w posiadaniu aktu urodzenia następującej osoby:

[first name and surname], urodzony (urodzona in case of a female relative) w miejsowości [place of birth] on (date dd/mm/yyyy). Imiona rodziców: [parents’ names]

Akt jest potrzebny do genealogii mojej rodziny.

Z poważaniem,
[your first name and surname, adress]

 

Therefore, your email asking for a birth certificate could look like this:

“Urząd Stanu Cywilnego Bydgoszcz,

Zwracam się z uprzejmą prośbą o potwierdzenie, że są Państwo w posiadaniu aktu urodzenia następującej osoby:

Adam Nowak, urodzony w miejscowości Bydgoszcz dnia 25.11.1956. Imiona rodziców: Paweł i Weronika.

Akt jest potrzebny do genealogii mojej rodziny.

Z poważaniem,
Jane Doe

 

The one asking for the marriage certificate could look like this:

“Urząd Stanu Cywilnego Bydgoszcz, 

Zwracam się z uprzejmą prośbą o potwierdzenie, że są Państwo w posiadaniu aktu urodzenia następującej osoby.

Adam Nowak, ślub w miejscowości Bydgoszcz dnia 25.11.1956. Imiona rodziców: Paweł i Weronika.

Akt jest potrzebny do genealogii mojej rodziny.

Z poważaniem,
Jane Doe

In case of a death record, just change the word “ślub” with “zgon”.

 

Of course not always we can provide all that information. If you don’t know the exact date, then just write the year, or use the word “około”, which means “around”. With a little bit of luck, the office will be able to find it. On the other hand giving a wide option, like “born between 1880 and 1890 somewhere near Białystok” can be too much. The offices do not conduct genealogy research. In this case, they will probably just check whether such a name is in their database, but if it’s not, then it’s rather unlikely they will check all the metrical books for 10 years in all those parishes. Try to be as specific as possible.

After receiving the confirmation that the office has the document you are looking for, there are two possibilities:

        you can order the documents personally,

        through an authorized person.

Which option is better? It depends on your preferences. If you don’t speak Polish and have someone living in Poland you can trust, then it’s easier to do it this way. Below you have the description of both ways.

Order documents personally

Documents that you will need is:

1) a filled out form;

2) payment confirmation;

3) any documents confirming your relation with the person whose documents you want to obtain.

Fill out the form

Unfortunately, each Registry Office has its own form. They are available on their website.

It can look like this (from Kraków Registry Office):

Like this (from Czosnów Registry Office):

Or like this one (from Lublin Registry Office):

As you can see they are all different. But for sure they contain few main points:

On the top right corner you may see the name of the town. After that, there is a place for the current date. Please remember about the date format used in Poland. 3.12.2021 is the 3rd of December 2021.

Then there is usually your name. Wherever you see any version of the word “wnioskodawca” (the applicant), that means it’s about you. So as you can see in the form from Kraków and Czosnów, the place for your data (first name, surname – “imię I nazwisko”, address – “adres zamieszkania” or “adres do korespondencji”, sometimes you may be asked for your phone number as well – “numer telefonu”. Usually it’s not required, but if you can speak Polish it can be helpful.

If you see that the form requires PESEL, then just leave it blank. PESEL is a number that every Polish citizen gets just after being born. If you don’t have it, then you leave it empty.

In the form from Lublin you can also see “typ wnioskodawcy”. You issue the document as “osoba prywatna”, which means you’re not an office or organization (a private person).

The next will be your request: “Proszę o wydanie odpisu…”. Now there are three options:

1) short copy – regular document with the most important information

2) full copy – contains more details

3) multilingual short copy – you may need this copy to use it in foreign offices. It doesn’t require translation or any other proof that it’s legitimate. However, you can use it in several countries only: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Moldova, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria.

Here is an example how the short copy looks like:

And below you have an example of the full copy:

As you can see, the short copy contains only the most important information.

The next step will be to choose the document we’re obtaining: birth, marriage, or death certificate. But read the documents closely. The form from Czosnów is a form for issuing birth certificates only:

Some offices will have specific forms for each kind of document, others will have just one form for every kind of document. Some of them will not have a template at all and it will be up to you to create one. 

Usually, the next thing is your ancestor’s data: first name and surname, birth/marriage/death date, place, and date.

Also, you may be asked to describe who this person is to you. Not everyone can ask for anyone’s documents. We can receive documents containing our data, our spouse’s, our children’s and grandchildren’s, our parents’, siblings’, grandparents’, great grandparents’, etc. But for example, some offices can disagree to issue our uncle’s birth certificate, because he doesn’t belong to our direct line. Each registry office can interpret the law differently and while some are helpful and go out their way to assist us, others can be very bureaucratic.
We usually have to write how are we related to the person of interest. In the form from Kraków, you can see the text: “Odpis dotyczy:” – the copy concerns. And the options are as above.

The forms also ask about the reason for obtaining the document. There can be several reasons: marriage abroad, divorce, for work, for insurance, for citizenship, etc. Also, it can be for private matters. If you won’t use this document for any official reason, you can just write “do celów prywatnych” or “do celów genealogicznych” – for genealogy matters.

What else you can find in the form:

“Sposób odbioru dokumentu” – how you want to receive the document. Using post office “listownie” or “pocztą”.

“Liczba odpisów” – the amount of copies.

Make sure there is your signature on the form.

After you fill out the form, now it’s time to prove that you are the person who has the right to receive it. So for example when you ask for your great grandfather’s death certificate, then you should also provide a copy of your passport, ID or birth certificate, your father’s birth certificate (if that’s your father’s line), and your grandfather’s birth certificate.

Note: it’s worth checking the preferred documents with the office while exchanging emails. Each office may have a little bit different requirements.

The last thing will be the payment. You have to prove that you already paid for the documents, so that the copies can be sent to you. Some of the forms already contain the bank account number, where you have to send the money (look at the example from Lublin, page 2). But in other cases, you will have to find the bank account number on the registry office’s web page or ask for it in your email correspondence. What doesn’t change is the cost. Each short copy costs 22 PLN and each full copy costs 33 PLN.

Our advice would be to check the costs of payments before you send any money. Wire transfers can be very costly especially when you send small amounts of money. 

If you already gathered those documents, then pack them together in an envelope and send them to the chosen registry office.

Now it’s time to wait. How long? If the document is already in the electronic database, up to 7 days. If it’s not, up to 10 days. The above doesn’t include the time to send you the documents, so add this to your calculations.

You can also receive a decline with the reason why the office refuses to issue you the documents. If you don’t agree with this decision you can appeal within 14 days.

Obtain through an authorized person

If you know someone you trust, who lives in Poland and speaks Polish it may be more efficient to ask such a person for help. In this case, all you need to do is to send this person a document authorizing them to represent you in obtaining the documents of your interest. It has to be in Polish. It usually doesn’t have to be printed out or written according to a template but it is also best to confirm it first. Some registry officers also require the authorization form to be notarized. 

The document can look like this:

Here is the translation:

 

Note: in some Registry Offices scan of such documents may be enough, but usually the original is required.

The additional cost for having a proxy who acts on your behalf is 17 PLN.

The rest of the documents stay the same: you will have to prove how you are related and proof of payment has to be added as well. But in this case, your representative will fill out the form.

Also, your representative will receive the documents and it will be their responsibility to send you either scans or the originals. 

This is the general procedure to receive copies of the documents in Polish registry offices. If I was to add any final advice here, it would probably be: remember that on the other side of the line or email there is a living person, who can have a bad day, not to be aware of something, didn’t ever deal with such a case as yours. Ask questions, and if you still have doubts – ask again. Check if someone had the same issue. Double-check the data you’re sending. And stay positive. If you have the right to receive the document you’re asking for, then you’ll receive it.

 

Aleksandra Matłaszewska
PolishOrigins Team

4 comments

  1. Does Libzburge , Poland still exist?. My great grandmother,Josephine S.Litznerski, born 1859, Died 1929 in Cook,Illinois USA,is supposed to have been born there,but I can’t find any record of it anywhere!. There are 2 spellings of her husband’s name,Anton Seamone ,and Antoni Zyman ,born in Poland,1853-1966,died in Cook Illinois,USA. After leaving Poland,they immigrated to New Canada ,Lunenburg County,Nova Scotia,Canada,,then moved to Illinois,USA. Don’t know the date they moved to the USA?.

  2. Thank you for a date of passing for my grandfather Anthony Kolodziejski . I still would like to find data about his return to Lodz about 1920 and if there is any record of what he did during the some 13 years until his death
    Thank you

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