Church Directories

Church directories should also be consulted to glean information about our ancestral parishes.  Each Polish diocese publishes a list of churches within the diocese, which minimally provides the name and address of each church, the principal figures in the church hierarchy, plus a list of the priests serving in that diocese.  However, many go well beyond such a bare-bones listing, although the depth and quality will vary from diocese to diocese and publication to publication.  Many of the directories will list which villages belong to the parish or, in the case of urban areas, which streets fell under the jurisdiction of a given church.   The number of parishioners is also provided.  Some directories will feature a photo of the parish church and others will provide a list of baptism, marriage, and death records located at the parish archive.

 A history of the parish also appears in many directories, and can range from a few sentences to a page or two.  Researchers should read the histories carefully.  They may provide information on the mother parish of your parish of interest, or data on parish closures, transfers of territory to other parishes, and other information that will point you in the right direction if your parish was closed, redistricted or resurrected later in history.

The directories have various titles which often contain words or phrases such as schematyzm, elencus (Latin for "list"), or spis kościołów (List of Churches).  Some dioceses published a directory annually, while others did so on an intermittent basis.  The language of most pre-World War II church directories is Latin.  In more recent times they have been in Polish.

Several listings of parishes for the entire country exist as well, but these provide much less information than the individual diocesan and archdiocesan compilations.  Of note is a 1925 work entitled Schematyzm kościola rzymsko-katolickiego w Rzeczypospolitej Polski. A more recent 1996 publication, Wzkay parafii w Polsce, reflects more current ecclesiastical divisions of the country.

The borders of dioceses changed frequently throughout Polish history.  When geopolitical changes reshaped the country's borders, ecclesiastical borders also were modified.  Names of dioceses changed as well to reflect the location of the diocesan see.  To locate parish records effectively, therefore, it is necessary to be aware of diocesan name and border changes.  Most of the church directories contain brief histories of the diocese and its predecessors, which should help in this regard.

The Roman Catholic Church was not the only denomination to publish such directories.  Similar publications exist for Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox dioceses as well.  Websites for all the major denominations have been designed which will provide you with addresses of churches and, in many cases, contemporary photos as well.  While useful, they lack the detail and many of the features of the printed guides.  Information on Roman Catholic churches can be found at Details on the six dioceses of the Lutheran Church can be obtained at  Likewise, information on the three dioceses of the Polish National Church in Poland can be found at

Click here for a list of Directories.


Taken with permission from Going Home:  A Guide to Polish American Family History Research by Jonathan D. Shea.