Archival Resources for the Interwar Years (1918-1939) in Western Ukraine by Alex Dunai
[ Presentation made by Alex Dunai to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Conference in Boston, 2013 ]
In 1918 after falling of Russian and Austrian Empires there was created a Polish Republic which has been completely formed by 1923. The territory of Galicia and western counties of the former Volynian Gubernia of Russian empire became part of the newly established Polish Republic.The new government has established new administrative division. Western Ukraine as part of Poland was divided into Provinces called Wojewodstwo: Lwow Wojewodstwo , Tarnopol Wojewodstwo, Stansilawow Wojewodstwo, which farther on I will call Provinces, with the capitals in the respective cities and Volyn Province with the capital in Lutsk. The supreme body of the Province has become a Province Government. Provinces were divided into counties called Poviats. Lwow Woiwodstwo had 19 counties, Stanislawow – 16 counties, Tarnopol-18 counties, Volyn -11 conties. As a result of several administrative reforms the number of counties in Provinces has been changing. The government in the counties was represented by county counsels called “powiatowe starostwo”. In the counties there were also municipalities of the local communities that were collecting local taxes, municipal building construction, management of municipal property. Magistracies and city councils were traditionally managing the cities. In the rural area the authorities were represented by community councils. A community would include several settlements, in Volyn a community would often consist of a town, or better to say a little city that had no Magistracy, and of several neighboring villages.Like in every country, in Poland there were courts of different jurisdiction.
Local circuit courts (each circuit would cover several counties) would submit to the Court of Appeal in Lwow. Besides there were Powiat(County) Courts and Grodskie (Municipal) Courts. At the circuit courts there operated prosecutors’ offices, financial departments, land departments, education departments, school councils and school circuit boards that used to operate on the territory of Lwow, Tarnopol and Stanislawow Provinces, and Volynian school circuit board that functioned on the territory of Volyn Province. Also, there were operating various religious communities, societies, etc. All these institutions issued a huge number of documents concerning different areas of their activity and those documents became a basement of the so-called Fonds, that are currently stored in the archives of Western Ukraine. The Fonds are titled after the names of the institutions whose documents they consist of.Since all the areas of Western Ukraine share same history from the interwar period, naturally the archives of Lviv, Ternopil , Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivne and Lutsk have the same structure ,however with one particular specifics: the documents of Volynian Province are splitted between Ternopil, Lutsk and Rivne archives.
Let’s start with the funds of Province government. They include huge collections of documents. The fund of Stanislawow Province Government that is stored in the State Archive of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast counts 15812 files, Tarnopol Province Government in the State Archive of Ternopil Oblast counts 24079 files, Volyn Province Government in the State Archive of Volyn Oblast in Lutsk counts 24236 files. The documents of the Lwow Province Government are stored in the State Archive of Lviv Oblast, but the number of files is unknown, however the inventory for the fond consists of 60 volumes. A big amount of the above documents has a general cultural, social and historical value, however a good deal of files are important for genealogists and family historians, as follows:
1. Applications for making changes in the vital records, permissions for marriage and divorce. In the Fond of the Lwow Province Government those files are listed in inventories that consist of huge 2 volumes.
2. Documents of the Jewish communities, societies and organizations all of which had to be registered by the Province Government. Budgets, elections documents, especially numerous are lists of taxpayers organized by communities.
3. Registration of businesses, especially those that functioned on the territory of several counties.
However one can find also documents on small workshops that would employ only one person who frequently was also the owner of the business.
4. It may sound strange, but the documents concerning the activity of the Communist Party of the Western Ukraine (KPZU) include a lot of valuable personal information on its members, very many of whom were Jewish.
5. The most interesting and valuable in terms of genealogy and family research are the Fonds of county councils, city magistracies and city councils. One can find there the following documents:
Passport and ID applications. Those are very informative documents, which often besides the name, address, profession, date and place of birth, names of parents include also photographs of the applicants. The applications are often enclosed by original documents like passports, invitations for studying at Universities, etc. Most often such applications can be found in the documents of counties’ governments, the biggest collection is in the Fond of Stanislawow County Government, that includes several thousand of such documents. Also such applications can be found in the Fonds of the following counties: Kolomyia, Bohorodchany, Sudova Vyshnia, Stryi, Lutsk, Dubno, Ternopil, Chortkiv, Berezhany, Zbarazh.
Next group of very valuable documents are Census records (Spis Ludnosci in Polish) and Books of Registration called in Polish Ksiegi Rejestru.
The only real Census known in the archives of the Western Ukraine is the Census 1939 for the city of Stanislawow, organized in the end of August 1939, a week before the second world war started and a few weeks before the Soviet troops occupied that part of Poland. The Census is organized in street order, every and entire family at every address is listed.
The books of registration are lists of inhabitants arranged in 1925-1929.Books of Registration are known only for the Volyn Province .Those documents list only adults, no children. Sometimes they are organized in alphabetical order, sometimes without any order. Usually there is indicated name, surname, date and place of birth, occupation, property of the person and his/her parents, place of registration in the Tax Census of Russian Empire. The Books of Registration are known to be available for the city of Rowne, Olyka, Kremenets and for many communities of Kremenets and Lutsk counties.
Another big group of documents are Recruits’ Lists that were arranged for men of 21 years old and more in order to determine their fitness for the military service in terms of health as well as their political reliability. Usually the lists are organized by communities and in the year of birth order. Those documents always contain the name and date of birth of the recruit, place of residence, names of the parents, but also there may be additional information.
Next group of documents that are located in the Fonds of all the above mentioned institutions which I call, to make it brief, Local Government, are Lists of Voters for the elections to the the two houses of Polish Parliament called Sejm and Senat. The elections took place in 1922, 1928, 1930, 1935, 1938. Its necessary to indicate that the biggest collections of the voters’ lists are stored in the State Archives in Ternopil and in Lutsk..There are such documents for all the towns of Tarnopol Province and Volyn Province. What can be frequently found in the Local Government records are various business and trade permits. In the documents of building construction departments of magistracies and counties’ governments we can often find documents on building construction, that usually include plans and description of the houses, correspondence between the house owners and the official authorities on various subjects.
These are the main types of documents that can be found in the Fonds of the Local Government records.
Now let’s get to the Fonds of the Courts, Prosecutors and Police offices. Those are usually big collections of documents. In those documents one should look for the files concerning inheritance cases and wills.
The inheritance cases are often enclosed by the lists of assets. The contracts on purchase and sale of realty, especially land.
It is necessary to indicate that mortgage registers were also kept by courts. I know only one big collection of mortgage files which is located in the State Archive in Rivne and concerns Rovno, Dubno, Zdolbunov and Ostrog counties of the former Volyn Gubernia. The court documents usually contain personal files on various court officials, judges, lawyers, experts.
A separate big and diverse group of documents are the records of various educational institutions. First of all these are the documents of major educational administrations of the school circuits, so-called Kuratorium. There used to be two major educational administrations: one for Lwow circuit ,that covered three provinces-Lwow, Tarnopol and Stanislawow; the second one was for Volyn school circuit. Especially interesting are the documents concerning the establishment of new bi-lingual education system starting 1924 one of the main goals of the law was elimination of Ukrainian language from the schools. In order to calculate the percentage of the Polish and other population there were arranged lists of students with indication of their native language and parents were filling out special declarations. Usually those documents contain the names of the parents and their children as well as dates of birth. Those documents, both lists and declarations, are organized in the town order. They have survived for most of the towns of the Western Ukraine and it’s a very valuable source of information.
Archives also have separate Fonds for some schools, colleges and gymnasiums. Documents on finishing gymnasiums or high schools and passing the final exam are often enclosed by photographs.Its necessary to tell separately about the University documents that are stored in the State Regional archive in Lviv. The Lviv University is over 350 years old and has very extensive documentation. I will mention only the documents that have direct relation to the family research. Those are personal files on students and students’ catalogues. A personal file may contain certificate on finishing a Gymnasium, birth certificate, frequently student’s photo.Catalogues of students were kept in the interwar period and had a unified form for all the faculties.
Now I’d like to say separately about the interwar documents of the Jewish community of Lwow. They are stored in the Lviv State Historical Archive in Lviv, in the Fond# 701.One can get there lists of the taxpayers of the Lwow Jewish community from 1930, voters lists, numerous applications for decreasing of the community tax from 1936-1938.These are very interesting documents where people frequently provide a description of their family and financial situation. To resume the presentation, I have two general recommendations on dealing with such documents:
-the regional archives don’t have detailed catalogues , therefore it is necessary to work using the Fonds’ inventories. So you need either to speak/read the local language or to have an interpreter who would assist you.
-the results of the research of the above documents are more unpredictable than studying, e.g. birth, marriage, death vital records. Sometimes I could compare it with gold mining: you know that by all the indications there should be gold in that soil, but if you find it or not, and how much you will find, there is no guarantee…