Iwona's Sources - Pelnomocnictwo, or "Power of Attorney"

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The Pelnomocnictwo, or "Power of Attorney," and Permission to Use Polish Archives

When we make use of the services of Polish genealogical researchers, we cannot avoid the necessity of creating a legal document that authorizes a given researcher to act in our name. This is an iron clad legal requirement in Poland that is meant to protect personal data, and in particular records 100 years old or less. According to regulations of the national administration, 100-year-old records are preserved in local Civil Registrar offices (USC's), and access to these records is not allowed. Older documents are kept in regional branches of the State Archives. Both institutions demand from every applicant a personal declaration explaining research goals and degree of kinship. Anyone who appears in the name of a third party must present an official letter of authorization from a person who is related. This letter must be certified by a notary, and if it is in a foreign language, a sworn translation is to be attached.

Here is a simple example:

Do archiw6w państwowych i kościelnych w Polsce, Ja niżej podpisany upoważniam Jana Kowalskiego / zamieszkalego w  . . . . . . . . / do przeprowadzenia badań genealogicznych o moich przodkach:

         1. dziadek . . . . . . . . , urodzony okolo . . . . . . . . , w miejscowosci . . . . . . . . .         

         2. babcia . . . . . . . . , urodzona okolo. . . . . . . . , w . . . . . . . . .         

         Data, podpis . . . . . . . .

[To State and church archives in Poland, I, the undersigned, authorize Jan Kowalski (residing in .... ) to conduct genealogical research on my ancestors:          

         1. grandfather. . . . . . . . , born circa . . . . . . . . in the locality of . . . . . . . . .         

         2. grandmother. . . . . . . . , born circa. . . . . . . . in . . . . . . . . .         

         Date, signature . . . . . . . .

If we wish to seek out living relatives, this must be spelled out.

In the heading you are supposed to give your data: first name, surname, and address of your place of residence. If we are interested in documents other than metrical, this must be emphasized in the letter-for instance, dealing with education, military service, grants of ownership, taxes, etc.

There is no cause to fear that an utterly untrustworthy researcher will use such a letter against our interests. We are authorizing the researcher to do genealogical research in the institutions specified in the letter, and every instance of access to records other than metrical demands a separate permit from the director of the archive, and what's more, proof of justification for making use of these holdings. Permits to look at the records in Polish archives are valid for one calendar year, and in every instance require the signature of all those using them to the following statement:

"Ja nizej podpisany, oświadczam, że informacje o osobach zawarte w udostępnionych mi materiałach archiwalnych wykorzystam zgodnie z celem wskazanym w drugostronnym zgłoszeniu, w sposób nie naruszający prawnej ochrony dóbr osobistych lub danych osobowych. W szczegolności zobowiązuje się, że . . . . . . . . dane jednostkowe wykorzystam za zgodą osób, których one dotyczą."

["I, the undersigned, certify that I will use information on persons contained in the archival materials to which I am allowed access for the purpose specified on the back of this application, in a manner that does not infringe upon the legal protection of private property or personal data. In particular I pledge that I . . . . . . . . will use the data on individuals with the agreement of the persons affected by them."]

Furthermore, all those who use archives are obligated to observe the regulations regarding access to archival materials. Any infraction of the rules and statements in force can have legal consequences.

Iwona Dakiniewicz, Lodz, Poland; e-mail: genealogy@pro.onet.pl

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Last Updated on February 19, 2012