I've been helping a friend to research his Polish ancestors and we have a lingering mystery to solve.

Friend's grandmother, Lillian, was born in 1902 in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region of Poland (German side of Poland). According to older family members, no one knows who her father is. I found Lillian's birth record online and her father is nowhere to be found on it. Her mother, Mary, was 19 at the time of the birth and the birth record indicates Mary gave birth at her mother's house. Because of her young age, we assume Mary became pregnant with Lillian out of wedlock, and this is why the father's identity was kept secret. The only marriage I found for Mary is in 1905, at age 22, to a man named John, who is not Lillian's biological father and who became her stepfather. One year after they married, all 3 immigrated to the US.

My friend hasn't taken a DNA test yet which I'm sure would help greatly. So for now, we are relying on research to try to find out.

Are there any other Polish documents I could research that might reveal or give us a clue as to who Lillian's father is?

  • 2
    With "birth record", do you mean the one from Standesamt (register office)? There might be baptism records, which sometimes contain complementary information. Can you tell us the place in Kujawsko-Pomorskie?
    – jadepx
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 8:19
  • 2
    Thank you. Yes, it's the Standesamt. Her birth took place in Sehlen (now called Zalno) and was registered 4 days later and 4 miles away in Reetz (now called Raciaz). Both are located in the northwest part of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region. I found the document on this site: genealogiawarchiwach.pl/# I didn't think to check baptism records since her father isn't on the birth record. Where can I find Polish baptism records online?
    – Cristina
    Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 5:51
  • Another thought, or rather question that I had: Is Lillian her true given name, or is it some adaptation or nickname? Because I would consider it rather rare for turn-of-century Germany (but possible, nonetheless).
    – jadepx
    Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 8:14
  • Lillian was Leokadia at birth. Her mother and stepfather also used a variation for their names too. Mary for Marianna, John for Johann. My friend didn't even know about these name variations until we started to research the family.
    – Cristina
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 18:53

1 Answer 1


For this area, the German-language-only website Westpreussen.de has a comprehensive overview of register office and church record sites. You can find the respective page on Sehlen (Zalno) here. Now depending on whether you ancestor was Protestant or Catholic, the respective local church would be Tuchel or Reetz.

The Protestant church books of Tuchel are available on Archion (requires payment, including 1902 and 1903, I just checked), see here.

Church books of former German Catholic congregations are typically still located in Poland, in this case in the archive of Pelplin. The FamilySearch digital versions seem to cover only the period up to 1890. The Pomeranian Genealogical Society has a large index, which might help you (see here).

In addition, one of the main entry points to Polish archives and records is Szukaj w Archiwach (in case you don't know this already). Alas, the site is currently (2022-11-24) down due to technical reasons.

From my own experience: sometimes biological fathers that are missing from the birth record appear in later documents (confirmation, civil or church marriage), and sometimes information on illegitimate childs (or their fathers) can be mentioned in the death records of either parent. And in same cases information might also be "hidden" in the records of siblings (depending on the pastor's style). Be sure to gather as many records as you can around the whole family (which you have begun, as I gather from your post).

  • Thank you! This is very helpful. I clicked on the links you posted and was able to translate those pages using Google translate. Today is the end of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the US and I will now have time this coming week to look at these websites in more detail.
    – Cristina
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 5:23
  • Yes, they were Catholic. Lillian was married in the US and as far as we know only had half siblings who were born here too. We have her marriage and death information. It should be easy to find a US marriage or death record for her that will hopefully reveal who her father is.
    – Cristina
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 5:58

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