The Magnate Landowners Records of Poland
Gayle Schlissel Riley
612 E. Live Oak #A San Gabriel, California
USA 91776 626 287-7980
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
This talk will illustrate the value of these of types of records as
a valuable source.
The researcher must first figure out if the town being researched was
owned by Magnate. This can be accomplished with the aid of "Slownik
Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego I Innych Krajow Slowianskich," known
in English as a Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other
Slavonic Countries. This set of books can be found in major libraries,
at the Family History Library and online1
Once you have discovered whether your town was governed by a magnate,
you can then go to the Avotaynu web page2 to locate the address of your
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.
What, I did was write and ask the archivist, to describe, the collection,
for the Tarnowski family. I found that the archive3 had records covering
the period from 1310-1951, with 4,027 archival units and 122 linear meters
of shelf space. This sounded like a lot of records to me.
My best advice is to hire a named researcher in Poland, or go yourself.
The later is the one I favor. Even then I recommend a translator or an
In July 2001, I went to Krakow. I was very lucky to have with me Barbara,
a librarian at Jagiellonian University. She acted as my translator and
advocate, even though one of the archivists spoke English.
This is what I found. The records were inventoried in a nine hundred page
typed book, written between 1952 and 1968 by Franciszka Zacnego. The inventory
book was very easy to use, providing you read Polish. It contained columns
for the record numbers, a description of the records, their dates and
whether the items were in book form or just loose pages. Although the
book is not organized by years, type of records or alphabetization, it
is easy enough to thumb though the pages and identify each topic.
This article contains excerpts from my article in Heritage Quest. When
I entered the archives I first noticed how cool it was inside. As my eyes
got used to the dim light, I saw six desks, a photocopier, three microfilm
readers, and a map table. On my left was a room lined with bookshelves
and very large books. Barbara spoke to the Archivist in Polish. He, said
"No," and my heart sank. But as we moved to the outer room and
sat down, he brought the nine hundred paged inventory book. I began to
thumb through it as Barbara filled out three required forms.
One document I particular found interesting was about two Jews who were
required to bring the Torah scrolls into court so they could swear on
them, as was formerly in US courts. Records number's 194 to 246 dealt
with the village of Dzikow for the years 1772-1793. I located record number
194, my census for 1772, and began ordering manuscripts. There were separate
lists for the town of Tarnobrzeg with each page sealed with a wax stamp.
The documents came to me as bundles wrapped in brown sack-like paper,
enclosed within two hard cardboard sheets the size of the pages, and tied
with string or pieces of material. There were five bundles, each over
two hundred years old. Lists of names of the Jews and Christians from
Tarnobrzeg/Dzikow were included.
Before we knew it, it was closing time. Tomorrow I would return alone.
The next day, I found many types of records. Some were 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
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 provide protection for its citizens, relief when the
crops failed and loans to rebuild.
In the May/June issue of Heritage4 Quest you will find an article I wrote
speaking about, "One of the most widely known magnate landowner's
is the Sieniawski- Czartoryski Family. Their union established one of
the largest landowner's 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."5 In this book, I found a list concerning the special
"Honey Tax" placed on Christians or 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 of 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.
It's 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
Another book, also labeled as a Jewish book, but dealing with another
magnate landowner is called. "The Jews in a Polish Private Town,6"
by Gershon Hundert a professor at Mc Gill University. This deals with
the Lubomirski family and towns in the Vistula River area. One of the
most interesting lists tabulates cobblers, (shoe makers) and the number
of Poles. Not many Jews were on the list. For the years 1721 and 1788.
The Jews were the buyers of the hides the Poles needed and so there were
a lot problems. This book, like the previous one has an outstanding index
and many notes worth a closer look.
The book that got me started on this quest was a Polish book called, "
Zydzi w miastach wojewodztwa Sandomierzkiego I Lubelskiego w XVIII wieku.7
In it I found the 1772 census for Tarnobrzeg, which was quite interesting,
but the records lacked last names for many of the towns resident's. This
book lists census type documents for many other towns in Sandomierzc and
Lublin counties (powiats).
For the Potocki family, I recommend an article, "Konferencja w Lancucie
Archiwalia Rodu Potockich," which is a microfilm copy. It can be
found at Brigham Young University8 and at Jagiellonian University.
Another source book, found at the Library of Congress, is "Poczet
poliskich rodow arstokratcznych,"9 which has chapters on many of
the magnate families. The footnotes list books on the family genealogies
and the archives where these records can be found.
Off topic somewhat, I recommend "Zydowskie Okregi metrykalne I Zydowskie
Gminy Wyznaniowe W Galicija Doby Autonomicznej10" a book, in Polish,
as many of these are, which is useful to locate document's of many kinds
of records for Galicia.
In conclusion, I recommend that one take a look at the search engine Google
for some interesting articles on various Magnates11 Here are some suggestion.12
The magnate landowner source has given me many additional pieces of the
puzzle concerning the Jews of Tarnobrzeg, the Tarnowski family and who
were the other residents of that town. If you are lucky enough to have
your town owned by a magnate, you will be very pleased.
1 http://www.pgsa.org/slownik_eng.htm, http://www.polishroots.com/slownik
3 The Wawel Archive contains records for the following families Potocki,
Sanguszko, Dzieduszycki and Lobomirski.
The archives, for the Czartoryski family is in the Church at 17 St Marka
Street, Krakow 31-018.
Data for the Radziwillow and Sapiehow at the head archives 7 Dluga Street
Warsaw 00-263. The house, where the leader, (Mordechai Anilevich) of Warsaw
Ghetto rebellion died.
4 Heritage Quest May/June 2002 issue The Tarnowski Family Archives at
the Wawel by Gayle Schlissel Riley in English
5 The Lords' Jews Magnate-Jewish Relations in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
during the 18th Century, by M. J. Roseman Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
and the Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University 1990 ISBN0-916458-18-0
6 The Jews in a Private Town, The Case of Opatow in the 18th Century,
by Gershon Hundert, John Hopkins University Press 1992 English
7 Zydzi w miastach wojewodztwa Sandomierskiego I Lubelskiego w XVIII wieku,
by Jadwiga Muszynska, published by Wyzsza Szkola Pedagogiczna im. Jana
Kochanowskiego, Kielce 1998 in Polish
8 Archeion digest and article, "Konferencja W Lancucie Archiwalia
Brigham Young University Library; Provo, Utah
Mss 1531 1985 Ac901.Ala no. 2014 Special Collection in Polish
9 Poczet polskich rodow arystokratcznych
Teresa Zielinska Warszawa 1997
Cs879.A2 Z49 1997 in Polish
Library of Congress
10Zydowskie Okregi metrykalne I Zydowskie Gminy Wyznaniowe W Galicji Doby
Autonomicznej, by Jerzy Michalewicz, Ksiegarnia Akademicka, Krakow 1999,
11 Best success using www.google.com
12 Information on some magnate families on the internet;
(htm 1 though 5)
Castles and Palaces of Poland; www.poland.net/castles/little_poland
History of the Jews in Poland
Copyright 2002 by Gayle Schlissel Riley
Based on a presentation at the 22nd IAJGS International Conference on
Toronto 2002 All rights reserved