The Magnate Landowner Records of Eastern Europe
Washington DC Convention 2003
Gayle Schlissel Riley
612 E. Live Oak #A,
San Gabriel, California 91776
The magnates (Magnacy)
were feudal lords who lived on large estates, owned castles, towns,
and villages. They wielded great
political influence. Their chief income came from taxes and the produce
from lands the peasants (serfs) worked. Some magnates held private armies.
This talk will illustrate
the value of the Magnate Landowner records as an alternate source of
The Landowners consisted
of several groups. They were the
known as Szlachta (gentry), the Nobility, sometimes land poor but titled.
The Catholic Church also became landowners. The church at that point
could create Jewish free towns.
of Poland were composed of about 18 to 20 families who inter-married
to keep the land in the families, if the family produced no male heir
they could loose there land.
There are many ways
one could find out if their town was owned by a magnate;
Krolestwa Polskiego I Innych Krajow Slowianskich” in English known at Geographic Dictionary of the
Kingdom of Poland
and other Slavic Countries also available in a name index for this dictionary.
(show two magnates of magnate towns)
The “Sezam” database created by the Polish National Archives,
useful but not complete
The Galician 1891
Business Directory available online
Town web pages and
postcards (show postcard)
I have created two
databases, one of 340+ towns and the Magnates who owned them and another
database containing almost 200 towns and their magnates, available in
the resource room, also a (show pages
of databases) finding aid listing many magnates with sources
of information on each.
Once you have discovered
whether your town was governed by a magnate, you can then go to the
Avotaynu web (show webpage
overhead) page to locate the address
of your magnate's records.
At this point, the
great debate begins. Should one write the archives and hope the archivist
will know exactly what you are hunting for. This is not going to happen.
You must know exactly what record you want along with its corresponding
page number. These records do not contain birth, death and marriage
records. You should plan to go to the archive of your magnate yourself
or hire someone.
Even before travel
on your trip of a life time there are many books which can provide you
with information which are not birth, death and marriage records but
One of those books
which will provide you with an insight into Magnate Landowner records
is called, "The Jews in a Polish (overhead)
Private Town, by Gershon Hundert a professor at Mc Gill University.
This book deals with the Lubomirski family and towns in the Vistula River area. One of the most interesting lists lists cobblers,
(shoe makers) and the number of Poles on the list which lack Jewish
cobbler’s for the years 1721 and 1788. The Jews were the buyers of the
hides that the Poles needed and so there were a lot which resulted in
In the May/June issue
of Heritage Quest you will find an article I wrote speaking about,
"One of the most widely known magnate landowner's the Sieniawski-Czartoryski
family. Their union established one of the largest landowner's
families written about of its time. Their archive contains one of the
largest collections of 1764/5 Polish censuses of the Jewish population,
written about in M.J. Roseman's book, "The Lord's Jews Magnate-Jewish
Relations in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the 18th Century." (Overhead) In this book, I found a list concerning the
special "Honey Tax" placed on Christians and the "Liquor
Tax" on the Jews called "czopowy." The collection mentioned
a tax list called "Czynsz" for both the Jews and Christians
who lived in their private towns. Orders of "protekcja" dealt
with protection of its citizen, so they could travel freely and were
free from marauders. There were lists of cloth merchants for Sieniawskis
and list of those who hauled freight between their town's and Gdansk.
Many different kinds of loans agreements and lists of those who defaulted
on their loans and how these problems were settled as well as, loans
to rebuild a community when the towns were destroyed, or when the crops
failed, were also included. Its
bibliography, indexes and archival sources will help you locate the
collections you desire. The book is available from many University libraries
and can be purchased though Barnes and Noble, online, in paper back
for eighteen dollars.
Another book which
got me started on this quest was a Polish book called, "Zydzi w
miastach wojewodztwa Sandomierzkiego I Lubelskiego w XVIII wieku. (show list overhead) In English the Jews of Sandomierzc
and Lublin counties in the 17th century. In it I found
the 1772 census for Tarnobrzeg, which was quite interesting, but the
records lacked last names for many of the town’s residents. This book
lists census type documents for many other towns in Sandomierzc and
Lublin counties (powiats).
In the summer of
2001 I visited the Tarnowski family archives located at the Wawel in
Months before I visited I wrote and ask many questions concerning the
Tarnowski collection. I did not ask for family records, just for physical
description of the collection. You may write them in English but expect
them to answer in Polish. This archive, also hold the records for the
following families Potocki, Sanguszko, Dzieduszycki and the Lobomirski,
perhaps other as well.
What to expect? The
Tarnowski collection was indexed, in a type written, 900 page book,
many others are also indexed. How difficult
are they to use? If you can read a handful of words in Polish, you can
manage the index. You will need to fill out user forms to use the records
at any Polish archives. (show user forms) At the Wawel there is a staff member
who spoke English. Please make sure the archives are not close when
you plan to go. Refer to the Avotaynu
web site for addresses.
On my trip I found
many types of records. You must also understand that these records were
mostly composed of business records. I also found some land deeds, record
number 944 dealt with the brewery. The Jews' right to sell liquor was
located in record group number 296. Record number 449 dealt with a proclamation
signed by the Jews for the year 1853.
Types of documents
one would find among the magnates records were;
1. Business records
of the estates (overheads)
2. Tax lists i.e.
honey tax and tax on sellers of liquor
3. Inventories of
people and animals
4. Guild records
5. Court documents
6. Land deeds, plat
maps, maps of the magnates' holdings
8. Some contain the
1764/5 census (see Ms.Muszynska's book for lists of other censuses available
in Sandomierzc and Lublin powiat)
9. The magnates provided
protection for its citizens, relief when the crops failed and loans
One document I particular
found interesting was a court case (overhead)
about two Jews who were required to bring the Torah scrolls into court
so they could swear on them, as was formerly done in US courts. The
title page requesting the Torah was written in Polish the rest in German,
and difficult to read.
The law suit takes
place in Tarnobrzeg, in 1811 & 1814 but the defendants were from
other towns. Marew Goldhamer, a wine merchant was from Lesko, in Sanoker
county and Samuel Gottlieb, from Santoro, Kamkam county, Hungary. Both worked for the Duchy of Warsaw. They were in town
to collect grain to make alcohol. Some of the documents presented in
this case; were “Documents of Safe Passage” which contained physical
description of the men. The whole business of alcohol, generates one
the largest taxes items among the Magnate records.
The Magnate Landowner
records subject is an exciting, new source of genealogical information,
different but so useful. I highly recommend giving it a try.
Archeion digest and article, “Konferencja W Lancucie
Archiwalia Rodu Potockich”
Brigham Young University Library; Provo, Utah
1531 1985 Ac901.Ala no. 2014
Special Collection in Polish
Poczet polskich rodow arystokratcznych
Teresa Zielinska Warszawa 1997
Z49 1997 in Polish
Zydowskie Okregi metrykalne I Zydowskie Gminy Wyznaniowe
W Galicji Doby Autonomicznej, by Jerzy Michalewicz, Ksiegarnia Akademicka,
Krakow 1999, in Polish
success using www.google.com
on some magnate families on the internet;
www.poloniatoday.com/history1.htm (htm 1 though 5)
and Palaces of Poland; www.poland.net/castles/little_poland
of the Jews in Poland www.tbns.net/poljs/history2.htm
Gayle Schlissel Riley Copyright 2003