Property Inventories. P.2. What Were The Property Inventories and Why They Were Created.

Author: Piotr Zelny

Manuscript of inventory of the economy of Krakow,
Manuscript of inventory of the economy of Krakow, 1725. AGAD Warsaw

Property inventories were documents of an economic, financial, and legal character. The documents achieved a level of standardisation in the 17th century. However, when dealing with such a great amount of documentation dispersed over such a large area and which occurred over such a long period of time, frequently we encounter a problem in the sense that the contents of individual documents may differ considerably one from another.

Property inventories may present a more or less accurate picture of particular lands, villages and towns. They may contain descriptions of buildings, lands and crops. They may contain registers of feudal obligations which list inhabitants of particular villages and cities along with information concerning their property status and obligations towards the landlord. Eventually, they may contain a detailed description of the system of feudal duties of the particular village being described.

On the one hand, they could sanction the existing regulations, norms and relations between subjects (peasants or townspeople) and the feudal lord, or, on the other hand, they could invalidate the existing rules and introduce new ones. The inventories served as the basis for controlling the condition as well as for estimating the profitability and valuation of individual land properties.

Often the property inventories were prepared for various types of transactions, such as purchase, sale, lease, pledge etc. On other occasions the inventories dealt with the circumstances related to the inheritance of property, i.e. the takeover of the inheritance as well as the division of property between the heirs. The inventories provided a database for estimating the profitability and valuation of the property which affected the amount of lease obligations and property divisions between the heirs. They also appeared due to border disputes arising between the owners of neighbouring properties.

The inventories were produced by clerks managing the farm, the property or the entire complex of properties when the supervisor was to be changed. In such circumstances the property inventory was produced to illustrate the state of the property at the time when it was to be taken over by a new official. Sometimes this documentation could have been created as a result of the official controls carried out by supervisory authorities. The audits were usually conducted by commissioners travelling around their territories. In this way, the activity of the managers of individual farms and entire properties was controlled on site.

The reorganization and reform of property management was another reason why the inventories were created. The goal of this activity was to present an actual picture and description of the condition of the property or to introduce the intensification of agricultural production. In the latter case, the inventory did not present the actual state of affairs, but presented and sanctioned the newly introduced and binding changes in the amount of peasants’ obligations towards their landlord.

Register of subjects and their feudal obligations of the village of Słomki, 1765. AGAD Warsaw

The persons responsible for the compilation of property inventories were various types of officials reporting to the landowner. They were workers of administrative and economic departments. Depending on their individual function and position, they were called officials, economists or commissioners. These officials were assisted by scribes who manually drew up the relevant documentation. In general, each inventory was to be made on-site in the form of a site visit. However, it sometimes happened that officials simply copied data from older documents or introduced new regulations not based on the site visit, but on the basis of the data from older inventories. In addition to the site inspection, old inventories and the other documents, an important source of information was the local population, which made declarations to the official regarding the property status, the size of the cultivated land, the amount of livestock and the size of the family as well as the type and amount of feudal obligations.

Part 3. WHAT THE PROPERTY INVENTORIES CONTAIN 

13 comments

  1. Thank you for this information. I am curious regarding land ownership maintained over 200 years of my Srokosz family through many years of Poland’s invaders in the village of Ryczow. I look forward
    to added historical information..Lucyna Srokosz-Thomas/USA

  2. Very interesting and informative..!

    Can the register headings be translated into English, to help give a sense
    of what the recorded information says about each “subject” and their obligations ?

    1. If you click twice on the image of the page it enlarges so you can easily read the headings, which are legible. You can then use DeepL Translate ( deepl.com ) or Google Translate.

    2. Chet, here is the translation of register headings (from left):
      1. peasants
      2. land (non-moveable)
      – quarters
      – fields
      – ridges
      3. moveable (animals)
      – oxen
      – horses
      4. (the main column) Property of the village Słomki, continuation. Transportation
      5. cattle
      – cows
      – heifers
      6. tributes
      – hens
      – eggs
      7. oat
      – korzec (volume unit, approx. 120 liters)
      – quarters
      – garniec (volume unit, approx. 3,75 liters. 1 korzec=32 garniec)
      8. rent
      – zlotys
      – grosze (monetary unit, 1 zloty=100 grosze)
      9. the fee for not spinning skeins
      – zlotys
      – grosze
      10. apiaries
      – trunks (beehives)

    3. Hi Chet,
      I was wondering if I should provided translation of every picture of a particular register (there will be more of them in next parts of the text) or just give general description of their content and explanation of the most frequent headings in the main text of the article. For, many of the registers differ considerably, I decided on the second variant. It’ll be provided in the third (the next one) part of the article. As polskamom suggests, it’s possible to try to use a translator to translate a particular document.
      However, it may be good idea to provide the complete translation as well as interpretation of one exemplary inventory.
      Meanwhile the translation of the above one register:
      1st heading: gospodarze n – hosts no.
      2: gronta osiadłe (ćwierci, zagony, skiby) – settled plots (quarters, beds, furrow slices)
      3: ciągło (woły, konie) – draft (oxen, horses)
      4: osiadłość wsi Sołomki – settlers of the village of Sołomki
      5: bydło (krowy, jałówki) – cattle (cows, heifers)
      6: daniny (kury n, jajca n) – tributes (hens no., eggs no.)
      7: owies osepny (korce, cwierci, garce) – oat’s tribute [tribute in form of the oat or other crops] (modiuses, quarters, pots)
      8: czynsz (złoty, grosze) – rent (zloty, grosze – polish monetary units)
      9: za nieprzędzenie motków (złoty, grosze) – the fee for not spinning skeins (zloty, grosze – polish monetary units)
      10: pasieki (pnie) – bee yards (beehives)
      11: tkacz – a weaver

      Best regards
      Piotr

    1. Hi George,
      There is no such collection which would gather all inventories (there are dozens of thousands of such documents). They are scattered in hundreds or rather thousands of archival collections in archives, libraries, museums, scientific institutions in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, Russia, Germany. The one, I’d found even in Romania. The fifth and the last part of the article is about ‘where to find the inventories’. I hope, you’ll find there an answer on your question as well as explanation of how to search for them. If not, you may attend the lecture ‘Property Inventories – a Valuable 16th-19th Century Genealogical Resource’ during the PGSA annual conference on the September 17, 18, 19. https://pgsa.org/pgsa-2021-conference/

      Best regards
      Piotr

  3. Lovely to see how careful the administrators were and how neat they were with the handwriting.
    What a shame it appears to be a dying art now.
    As above, my limited Polish does not allow me to interpret the titles and I’d love to know more.

    1. If you click twice on the image of the page it enlarges so you can easily read the headings, which are legible. You can then use DeepL Translate ( deepl.com ) or Google Translate.

    2. Hi Michael,
      I was wondering if I should provided translation of every picture of a particular register (there will be more of them in next parts of the text) or just give general description of their content and explanation of the most frequent headings in the main text of the article. For, many of the registers differ considerably, I decided on the second variant. It’ll be provided in the third (the next one) part of the article. As polskamom suggests, it’s possible to try to use a translator to translate a particular document.
      However, it may be good idea to provide the complete translation as well as interpretation of one exemplary inventory.
      Meanwhile the translation of the above one register:
      1st heading: gospodarze n – hosts no.
      2: gronta osiadłe (ćwierci, zagony, skiby) – settled plots (quarters, beds, furrow slices)
      3: ciągło (woły, konie) – draft (oxen, horses)
      4: osiadłość wsi Sołomki – settlers of the village of Sołomki
      5: bydło (krowy, jałówki) – cattle (cows, heifers)
      6: daniny (kury n, jajca n) – tributes (hens no., eggs no.)
      7: owies osepny (korce, cwierci, garce) – oat’s tribute [tribute in form of the oat or other crops] (modiuses, quarters, pots)
      8: czynsz (złoty, grosze) – rent (zloty, grosze – polish monetary units)
      9: za nieprzędzenie motków (złoty, grosze) – the fee for not spinning skeins (zloty, grosze – polish monetary units)
      10: pasieki (pnie) – bee yards (beehives)
      11: tkacz – a weaver

      Best regards
      Piotr

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