Iwona's Sources - Baptists in Poland

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Baptists in Poland

Baptists belonged to a religious minority originating from Anabaptism and comprising a splinter group of the Protestant faith. The trait that most clearly distinguished them was their questioning the practice of baptizing children, dooming them to passive acceptance of Christianity "from birth." They felt baptism should be accepted by adults aware of their faith, not infants.

They came from East Prussia to the territory of the Congress Kingdom in the mid-19th century. The first group baptism took place on 28 November 1858 at Adamów, near Pultusk. Among those baptized was the movement's leader, Gotfryd Alf, the first teacher of the local Sunday school and organizer of courses in theology. Over the next five years, 541 persons were baptized there.

.Baptists did not have an easy life for the first two decades. They were rejected and repressed by both the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches; and at the instigation of the local spiritual heirarchy, they were also persecuted by civil authorities.

The Baptist movement was treated as an illegal sect. During frequent raids, edu­cational materials were confiscated, pastors were arrested, practicing the religion was forbidden, and metrical records they kept were outlawed. Gotfryd Alf was compelled to leave Adamów and in 1864 moved to Kiciny, where a new Baptist center arose.

Despite intense persecution, during the years 1858-1864, Baptists distributed nearly 2,000 copies of the Bible and New Testament, and about 16,000 brochures and flyers. Over the next 10 years, they published over 40,000 brochures. New cogregations arose in Kurówek (1870), Zezulin (1873), Żyrardow (1875), and Łódź (1878).

During a period of increasing repression, many Baptists, mainly farmers, left for Volhynia, the eastern borderlands of the Russian partition. Not until a decree of Empress Catherine II in 1879/80 did Baptists experience any relief, gaining the right to religious freedom. This tolerance was not for all, however, as the decree applied only to foreigners. And although Baptists came from various ethnic groups, German Lutherans made up the most dynamic and extensive group. Among religious groups, the Lutherans and Mennonites (with a similar approach to baptism) were foremost.

The period of religious freedom did not last very long; by 1891, a new wave of persecutions had begun. The Czarist authorities and the Orthodox Church regarded Baptists as socially harmful. Especially painful punishment was given to Baptists who came from the Orthodox Church. They were imprisoned, exiled to Siberia, and deprived of the right to acquire and lease land. Repeat offenders received prison sentences of up to 40 years.

Despite this harsh repression, the Baptist movement continued to develop. By the turning point of the 19th and 20th centuries, its greatest concentration in Polish territory was in the very highly industrialized region of Łódź, led by the city of Łódź itself.

The next thaw came in 1903 and resulted in the creation of new centers within the Congress Kingdom. By the time of World War I, there were 17 congregations and some 5,000 active adherents. In Volhynia, the number was over 10,000.

The wave of emigration to America did not pass by the Baptists. Their pioneeron American soil was Józef Antoszowski (1853-1934), who emigrated to Chicago in 1887 and then moved to Buffalo, New York, where he founded the first Polish Baptist congregation. The fruit of his missionary work was the monthly Żrodlo [The Source], Podręcznik: dla baptystów polskich [Hand­ book for Polish Baptists], and Śpieumik: Pieśni Religijnych [Songbook of Religious Songs]. Due to increased agitation among Polish communities, the following congregations came into existence: Pound (1901), Chicago (1902), Philadelphia (1905), Milwaukee (1909), Cleveland (1911), Rochester (1912), New York (1919). By 1929, 36 congregations existed.

Baptist Records in Polish State Archives
(A = alegata, B = births, M = marriages, D = deaths)

Aleksandrów Łódzki - A, 1920; B, 1905; M,1903-1905; D, 1905

Barlinek - B, 1851-1874; D, 1859-1874

Betchatów - B, M, D, 1904-1906

Czermno - A, 1928-1929

Drzewce - B, 1903-1920; M, 1905-1930; D, 1903

Dzbanki - A, 1891, 1894, 1896-1901,1903-1905; B, 1891, 1894-1902, 1904-1906; M, 1891, 1894-1901, 1904-1906; D, 1891, 1894-1901, 1904-1906

Głusk - A, 1895, 1898-1900, 1902, 1904-1907; B, 1892-1895, 1897-1902, 1904-1907; M, 1892- 1895,1897-1902, 1904-1907; D,1892-1895, 1897 -1902, 1904-1907

Gorzów Wielkopolski - B, 1858-1874; M, 1851- 1863, 1865-1874

Górka Pabianicka - B, M, D, 1882-1940

Gradzanowo Kościelne* - B, 1880-1881, 1883, 1885-1887,1901-1905; M, 1880, 1887, 1905; D, 1885, 1901-1905

Jastków - A, 1890-1900, 1904-1905; B, 1890-1908; M, 1890-1908; D, 1890-1908

Kolo - B, M, D, 1870-1896

Kożninek - B, 1888-1901; D, 1893-1898

Lipno - B, 1883-1892; D, 1890-1908

Łódź - B, 1870-1900; M, 1870-1900; D, 1870-1872,1874-1900

Lublin - B, M, D, 1885

Majaczewice - B, 1873, 1876 Mlock - B, 1890-1907; M, 1890-1898, 1900-1902, 1904; D, 1891-1905

Naramice - B, 1889

Niedrzwica Duza - A, 1907-1908; B, 1876-1906, 1908; M, 1876-1906, 1908; D, 1876-1906, 1908

Nowe Miasto - B, M, D,1875-1882, 1889-1890

Osowa - A, 1892, 1895, 1897, 1899, 1902-1904; B, M, D, 1891-1908

Osówka - D, 1880

Plock- B, D, 1874-1875

Raciąź - B, 1880-1881, 1883-1887, 1889-1896, 1899, 1902-1907; M, 1881, 1883-1884, 1886- 1887,1889-1893,1898-1907; D, 1881-1887, 1889-1893,1896,1899-1905,1907

Rypin - B, M, D, 1888

Rzgów - B, M, D, 1897

Sierpc - B, M, D,1870-1880, 1886

Szydlów - A, 1874; B, M, D, 1874-1877

Tomaszów Mazowiecki - B, 1900-1902, 1904-1905,1907,1910-1911,1913,1921; D, 1899, 1902, 1905-1906, 1908, 1911

Turek - B, 1877-1882, 1902, 1904-1906; M, 1902, 1904-1906; D, 1902, 1904-1906

Tuszyn - B, M, D, 1874-1880

Uniejów - D, 1876-1934

Wlodawek - B, M, D, 1886-1903

Wolbórz - A, 1889-1890, 1893, 1901, 1906, 1929,1933; B, 1890-1940; M, 1890-1937; D, 1892-1937

Zduńska Wola - A, 1871; B, M, D, 1871-1884, 1886-1889, 1892-1895, 1897-1907

Zgierz - A, B, M, D, 1898-1905

Zloczew - B, 1873-1875, 1892-1897, 1900-1901, 1911,1917

Zyrardów - B, M, D 1870-1887

* Baptist families in Gradzanowo, Sierpc powiat: Berger, Bonkowski, Brajer, Daede, Dede, Dier, Fender, Gomdel, Guzowski, Hertman, Jads, Jobs, Kiersz, Klamer, Knoper, Liedke, Nass, Palnoch, Piszcz, Plec, Polnay, Putz, Roks, Rossol, Rozental, Rychter, Schinke, Szatginajder, Szulc, Szinke, Szynke, Teske, Wise, Wize

Also, Baptist records in the Archiwum Zabuzanski (USC Warszawa) include Kolowert in Równe powiat and Rozyszcze in Łuck powiat (regions now in western Ukraine).

Iwona Dakiniewicz, Lodz, Poland <genealogy@pro.onet.pl>

[with translation assistance from William F. Hoffman]

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Last Updated on July 5, 2017