Iwona's Sources - The Database ELA

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The Database ELA

ELA-short for Ewidencja Ludności w Archiwaliach [Population Records in Archival Materials] - is one of the three main databases of the Polish State Archives, along with Pradziad and Sezam. Its usefulness for genealogical research is invaluable, particularly when metrical records for a given locality have not been preserved or are hard to access.

The database gives information on available lists, registers, and files. We can find here primarily such archival sources as:
1) population registers;
2) registers of inhabitants, emigrants, repatriates, foreigners, houses, lands, and taxes;
3) censuses, property owners grouped by profession, craftsmen of various guilds, laborers, voters, conscripts, taxpayers, students, children, ethnic minorities, and colonists;
4) liquidation tables (tables listing the assessed value of property taken from nobles and given to peasants when serfdom was abolished in the 19th century);
5) various other registers (among them, lists of nobles, marriage licenses, change of citizenship, weapons per­ mits, the unemployed, those travel­ ing on business, those who died as a result of epidemics, and Gypsies).

The oldest units date from the 14th century: lists of rents in Torun from 1322- 1351, and a list of town officials from 1349.

The database does not contain names of all localities; it deals first and foremost with administrative territorial units. The smallest unit is the gromada, followed by the gmina, then the powiat, and finally, the województwo. Localities with parish churches do not always correspond to gminas, so it is worthwhile to check for information on a given locality in the Slownik geograjiczny. One must also take note of changes in territorial divisions, for there are gminas that no longer exist. A list of old gminas is available at <http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kategoria:Dawne_gminy>.

Let us enter the database: <http://baza.archiwa.gov.pl/sezam/ela.php>.

The first box under "Baza danych ELA" is for entering the name of the miejscouiość, locality. A practical tip: it can happen that after entering, for instance, Augustow, we get no results. So input the name without the last letter, that is, Augusto. We do not have to use diacritical marks.

The second box is for tytuł spisu, the title or name of the register. We enter key words, such as spis, ewidencja, podatki - or we can use one of the many abbreviation>s given in the lastbox, symbol.

That third box is for entering abbreviations, among them: areszt - convicts, arrested persons, wanted persons, etc.; cudz - foreigners; czas - temporary inhabitants; gosp - households; jen - prisoners of war; lst - permanent inhabitants; meld - registration books; metr - metrical records; pob - conscripts, recruits; pod - taxpayers; sp - census; skor - indexes to registration books of permanent and temporary inhabitants; wyb -electors' lists; and x - Jews.

As an example, let us input the locality name Lipno to see all the registers. The result is 33 records presented as follows:

- miejscoioość, the geographic name of the locality;
- obszar, description of the applicable administrative unit, gromada, gmina, etc.
- tytuł spisu, name of the archival collection (for example, księga mełdunkowa, residents' registration book; spis poborowych, list of conscripts; ewidencja, files on persons, and so on);
- daty, the range of dates covered; - więcej (more); the last column is active, that, is, clicking on it brings up a page with information on the location of the records in question, the archive address, the number of units, signature numbers, and sometimes, a detailed description of the set.

There are many identical names of localities in various regions of Poland; to avoid mistakes, check the location of the specific regional archive in the last column. In the case of Lipno, five localities were listed; 1) in Leszno powiat, Wielkopolskie woj.; 2) in Plock powiat; 3) in .Jedrzejów powiat, Swietckrzyskie woj.; 4) in Skiernie­ wice powiat; and 4) the village of Pesy-Lipno in Łomża powiat.

It happens that for one locality there may be hundreds of different registers, and none for another. The larger the locality, the richer the offerings in the ELA database.

One can view the base without specifying a geographical name by using a key word entered in the second column. Take, for instance, paszport, a subject consis­ tently relevant in genealogical research. ELA displays a great many records, but I have chosen only those for the period 1890-1920, that is, during the height of emigration:

Chelmźa, town, 1912-1930, Toruń archive
Czarnocin, gmina, 1902, Kielce archive
Kamienica Polska, gmina, 1903-1914, Czestochowa archive
Kock, town, 1903-1912, Radzyn Podlaski archive
Koźmin, gmina, 1918, Konin archive
Kutno, powiat, 1920-1921, Kutno archive
Pszczyna, powiat, 1911, Pszczyna archive
Radzymin, powiat, 1919-1920, Grodzisk Mazowiecki archive
Rzeszów, powiat, 1920-1921, Rzeszów archive
Sanok, powiat, 1919-1936, Przemyśl archive
Tarnobrzeg, powiat, 1916-1917, Przernyśl archive
Toruń, powiat, 1814-1917, Toruń archive
Zakrzów, gmina, 1880-192ó, Radom archive

I wrote about passports earlier, and I remember that many forms and passport applications are found in various different sets of administrative records and are not included in the sets' titles. So one can come upon these materials only by studying the inventories of archival materials.

There is a much longer list in the ELA database on conscript records, 684 entries. Under "Ameryka" is a list of recruits for the Polish Army from America in the years 1918-1919, a set accessible in the Archiwum Akt Nowych or Central Archive of Modern Records, in Warsaw

. At the end is an interesting register of "lists of names of persons who voluntarily went to America" during the 1890s for the following localities: Czarne, Dobrzejewice, Dobrzyń, Jastrzebie, Kikoł, Kłokock, Lipno, Mazowsze, Nowogród, Obrowo, Oleszno, Osiek, Skempe, and Szpetal. These lists are found in the set of the Chancellery of the Plock Gubemator [administrative head of a gubemia] in the State Archive in Plock.

The one inconvenience of the ELA database is that there's no English version. But I believe that the description above will make it easier to use and will encourage researchers to expand their knowledge of their ancestors.

Iwona Dakiniewicz, Lodz, Poland <genealogy@pro.onet.pl>
[with translation assistance from William F. Hoffman]

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Last Updated on April 5, 2014