Property Inventories. P.5. Where to Find the Inventories

Property inventories from the period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and then during the Partitions of Poland (until the 1860s) are found in hundreds if not thousands of archival collections scattered around almost all the state archives in the areas of contemporary Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, and Russia. These countries, or only some of their current territories, used to be the part of the Polish-Lithuanian state. A very significant number of inventories is also stored in libraries, archives of scientific institutes, museum archives, diocesan archives as well as monastery archives…

In order to find the property inventories relating to the areas of  research interest (villages, towns), first it is necessary to determine the category of the land property, whether it belonged to the royal, the ecclesiastical or the noble domain. Then it is necessary to determine the specific owner or tenant. Depending on the owner or tenant of the area, as well as the purpose of drawing up the document, the property inventories may be kept in the archival collections of individual families, bishoprics, monasteries or central and county, fiscal and court state offices. Unfortunately, in the old Polish administration the division between private and state affairs was not strictly observed. Therefore, a huge number of state documents (e.g. inventories of various royal properties), which theoretically had to be kept in the appropriate state offices, remained in private hands. That is why today many of them can be found in the archival collections of individual families instead of the archival collections of state royal offices.

Inventory of the town of Bukowsko. Register of Jews, 1758. AP Przemysl

The biggest collections of property inventories are kept in the following collections: The Archive of Royal Treasury ‘Archiwum Skarbu Koronnego’, The Archive of Camera ‘Archiwum Kameralne’ (The Commission of His Royal Highness in The Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw); The Tribunal of Treasury of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania ‘Trybunał Skarbowy Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego’, The Commission of Treasury of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania ‘Komisja Skarbowa Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego’ in The Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius; The Collection of Aleksander Czolowski in The Stefanyk National Science Library in Lviv, collections of The Library of Ossolineum in Wroclaw, collections of The Library of Princes of Czartoryski in Krakow, collections of Polish Academy of Science, collections of The Kornik Library and many more; collections of court books of county ‘grodzki’ and land ‘ziemski’ courts can be in the state archives in Gdansk, Krakow, Lodz, Lublin, Poznan, Torun and Warsaw in Poland, Kyiv and Lviv in Ukraine, Vilnius in Lithuania, Minsk in Belarus, Riga in Latvia, Moscow in Russia and Berlin in Germany; collections of the greatest houses of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – the houses of Branicki, Chodkiewicz, Czartoryski, Lubomirski, Potocki, Radziwill, Sanguszko and many more; archives of every bishopric, monastery and parish which existed prior to the mid-19th century; papers of every noble family which possessed manorial estates prior to the mid-19th century; collections of individual collectors…

This is just an illustrative list which is intended to give a general overview of the issue. In searching for such files a certain type of specialization is definitely very useful. The researcher simply must know the local history where the research is to be conducted and be acquainted with the main collections of central archives (as in regard to Poland,  in Warsaw, Krakow and Lviv) and main libraries as well as the archives and libraries which are important to the region being researched. There are tens of thousands of inventories from the 15th/16th to the mid-19th centuries to be found.

Register of subjects and their feudal obligations of the village of Niechworów, 1786, 1787, 1788. AGAD Warsaw (2)

 

CONCLUSION

Property inventories have been created since the middle of the 17th century in mass quantities, though some of them date back almost to the Middle Ages. They are documents containing census lists from a particular village or city. From the genealogical point of view, the register of population is the most important part of the presented source. However, we must emphasize that it is almost never a complete census. It contains selected categories of the population. These are usually the families which had their own houses and cultivated parcels of farmland or at least a plot for a garden. That makes up the majority of the population. The families are listed by the name and the surname of the main representative or representatives of the family. The feudal world was predominantly patriarchal. Other members of the family infrequently are found in the registers.

On the other hand, the documents provide invaluable information regarding the family’s property, social status, position within rural society, everyday work, the type and number of days required for providing feudal service, rental rates, tributes rates and the other duties. The feudal peasant society was predominantly personal serfdom which meant that  change of place of residence by individual families was highly restricted. Taking this fact into consideration, we can assume, with a dose of reserve, that  families of the same surname appearing in different years in the same settlement in documents from the feudal period until the beginning of the 19th/middle of the-19th centuries are the sequential generations of the same extended family.

Despite their shortcomings, property inventories remain a valuable historical source for genealogical research. These are the documents that allow genealogical research on peasant and burgher families into the depths of the eighteenth and sometimes even seventeenth centuries. Properly analysed they can provide invaluable data. They allow us to paint a kind of ‘background’ and to see the shadows of our ancestors on this canvas. These are names and surnames from the distant past which provide a snapshot of their daily work and their daily life.

 

The article was written by Piotr Zelny – a genealogist, a historian, an archivist, a mountain guide and a staff member of the Historical Museum in Sanok; a researcher and a genealogy guide in the PolishOrigins. 

© 2021 Copyright Piotr Zelny

Proofreading and valuable suggestions: David Nowicki

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

„Akta skarbowe jako źródła do dziejów pierwszej Rzeczpospolitej”; Miscellanea Historico-Archivistica, Vol. XII, NDAP, AGAD, DIG Warsaw 2000
Michał Kopczyński, „Studia nad rodziną chłopską w Koronie w XVII-XVIII wieku”; Wydawnictwo Krupski i S-ka 1998

Józef Kość (University of Maria Curie-Skłodowska in Lublin) „Standaryzacja tekstowa inwentarzy wiejskich z XVII wieku”; Poznańskie Studia Polonistyczne, Seria Językoznawcza, Vol. 20 (40), no. 2

J. Leskiewicz „Znaczenie inwentarzy dóbr ziemskich dla badań historii wsi w Polsce w XVIII wieku”; Kwartalnik Historyczny Vol. 60, no. 4, Warsaw 1953, pp. 363-378

Błażej Osowski (University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan; Institute of Polish Philology in Poznan) „Czeladź dworska i ludzie służący. Nazwy osób związanych z funkcjonowaniem gospodarstwa w XVIII-wiecznych inwentarzach z Wielkopolski”; Gwary Dziś, Vol. 8, 2016, pp. 167 – 174

Błażej Osowski (University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan; Institute of Polish Philology in Poznan) „Nazwy wykonawców zawodów i rzemieślników w XVIII-wiecznych inwentarzach dóbr szlacheckich z terenu Wielkopolski”

Błażej Osowski (University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan; Institute of Polish Philology in Poznan) „Układ nadawczo-odbiorczy w wielkopolskich inwentarzach z 2. połowy XVIII wieku”; Gwary Dziś, Vol. 10, 2018, pp. 153 – 162

Stanisław Płaza „Źródła drukowane do dziejów wsi w dawnej Polsce. Studium bibliograficzno-źródłoznawcze”; PWN Krakow 1974, Zeszyty Naukowe UJ, Prace Prawnicze, Vol. 66, pp. 198 – 221

Krzysztof Syta (University of Mikołaj Kopernik in Torun) „Dokumentacja gospodarczo-finansowa w administracji latyfundium Branickich h. Gryf w XVIII w. – kilka uwag na marginesie procesu aktotwórczego”; Wschodni Rocznik Humanistyczny, Vol. XV, 2018, no. 3, pp. 23 – 34

Aleksander Zajda (Jagiellonian University in Krakow) „O geografii nazw staropolskich powinności feudalnych, danin i opłat i jej uwarunkowaniach”; „LingVaria”, Vol. II (2007), no. 1 (3)

16 comments

  1. For all who might be interested in learning more about property inventories in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Piotr will be giving a lecture on this subject at this year’s (2021) virtual Polish Genealogical Society of America conference in September: https://pgsa.org/pgsa-2021-conference/ . He will present there practical steps with examples of how to look for the resources in one of the three domains you read about in the article.

    We are also thinking about preparing tutorials and live video sessions for those of you who would be interested in finding out more about how to use the inventories in your genealogy search. We will see if there is an interest in this kind of sessions.

  2. I want to give special thanks to Dave Nowicki who did the proofreading of the whole Property Inventories article and shared his valuable hints about how to structure the topic to be most useful for readers. Those of you who use our Forum: https://forum.polishorigins.com/ know Dave very well for his extensive and deep knowledge of the Latin language and history of Poland. Some time ago we even prepared a special blog post presenting a few extracts of Dave’s posts which we entitled “Not all priests are saint“ . You can find the article here: https://polishorigins.com/blog/what-i-have-learned-from-latin-records-translations/

    1. Thanks for your message. I am interested in the Commonwealth period. It is my belief that my family became seperated as a result of the boundry change with Austrian Galicia and thereafter under Russian occupation. My village of Podkamien is on the border of Gallicia but surrounding areas became inaccessible over time and over the border are same surnames I would like to trace. John Skibicki

    1. John,

      I highly recommend you, as well as to anyone interested in life in a Galician village, the memoirs of the mayor of the village of Dzików Jan Słomka entitled “From Serfdom to Self-Government: Memoirs of a Polish Village Mayor.”

      Dzików is a village located once at the border between Galicia and the Kingdom of Poland (Russian Partition).

      The value of the book for people interested in the life of their peasant ancestors is enormous.

      The book is old enough to be available for free in the public domain and you can find its pdf (or probably other file formats) version online. There is also an old thread in our Forum dedicated to the book: https://forum.polishorigins.com/viewtopic.php?t=334

      Actually, inspired by your post I just downloaded the book to my kindle and re-read it.

      As I mentioned in the recent newsletter: https://polishorigins.com/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=44&wysijap=subscriptions we are going to help you in getting access to the inventories, however, it will be time-consuming and we will have to thoroughly analyze each request for a given village separately. We will try to give you some specifics within the next few months.

      Now if you wish, you can send us your concrete request for us to prepare: https://polishorigins.com/genealogy-request .

  3. Zenon, I would be interested in tutorials and live video sessions to find out more about how to use the inventories in my genealogy search.
    FYI I am particularly interested in:
    Poznań woj. (Bierzglinek, paraf Września) circa 1700
    Włocławek woj (Poddębice, paraf. Kruszyn) circa 1860
    Rzeszów woj. (Bukowsko) circa 1780
    Rzeszów woj. (Ropczyce) circa 1780

  4. Debbie,

    Thank you for letting us know about your interest in learning more about the property inventories.

    Aside from the tutorials/video sessions we are also planning to publish list of locations where we can have access to the property inventories without the necessity of performing thorough preparation work.

    We will inform about the list here on the blog.

    1. I AM INTERESTED IN PROPERTIES THAT WERE CALLED POLAND AND ARE NOT POLAND TODAY.
      THOSE PROPERTIES ARE NOW CALLED PART OF THE UKRAINE. THOSE PROPERTIES HAVE MANY
      POLISH CASTLES AND HOMES THAT BELONGED TO POLISH RESIDENTS. HAVE YOU ADDED INFORMATION ABOUT THEM?

  5. Greetings!
    Recently a research group in western Ukraine found the Josephine land survey documents of 1786-1788 for Zawidowice, Grodek Jagiellonski, Ukraine for me. I think they found this information in Lwow Archives. My ancestors were Jan Zabierzewski and wife Anna Wasylkowska. They owned and managed property in this area in the 1770’s and maybe earlier. Can more information about my ancestors be found in the Warsaw Archives? I hope to hear from you. Thank you very much. Marcia Feinberg

  6. Hi Marcia.
    We’ve got scans of four registers of peasants of the village of Zawidowice from 1532, 1541, 1545 and 1547. Unfortunately, all the peasants listed in the documents have no surnames yet, it’s too early period, they’ve got only names. So, the records have great historical value but not genealogical for the village of Zawidowice.
    In the 18th c. the village was a part of the royal domain and belonged to the county of Gródek Jagielloński. There is an ‘Inventory of the county of Gródek from 1743’. So, the inventory relates to all the villages of the county of Gródek which belonged then to the royal domain (noble and ecclesiastical villages were excluded). That means that Zawidowice along with register of subjects living then there, should be listed in this inventory. However, I can’t affirm that there is the register of subjects of the village until I see and check it. There are no scans.The document is kept in Lviv in Ukraine.
    There is also Franciscan land survey from 1819-20 for Zawidowice and should be the third land survey from 1844-54, the both in Lviv.
    Here, you can find information about our genealogical services
    https://polishorigins.com/genealogy/
    All the best
    Piotr

    1. Hello Piotr,
      Thank you for the wealth of information….
      I have some information like the 1786-1788 Josephine land survey for Zawidowice (I hired a Ukrainian research team to find it) . This 1786 landowners list did not list who lived in the various houses….what a disappointment….My ancestors lived there in house #1, from 1780-1786, at least….after that, maybe they moved…I also have the Franciscan land survey of 1819-20 for Zawidowice. I know my ancestors lived there during the 1st survey for sure…
      I am looking for perhaps a cadastral map of Zawidowice which lists the individual house with their house numbers..I know that would be very expensive. So I think about it for now. Marcia

    2. I’ve found another two manuscripts referring to Zawidowice. This is a book of inspection and an inventory from 1765. There are very precious descriptions of settlements and registers of their peasant and townsfolk families as well as priests of the villages and the town of Gródek belonging to royal domain of the county of Gródek. There is description and register of subjects of Zawidowice. However, I see that Zabierzewski family is not of peasantry but of nobility origin, so, that means that they won’t be listed in the above registers of peasants. Of course, they might be mentioned there if they had been a tenants or some officials but I wouldn’t expect it here.
      There may be listed the family of Anna Wasylkowska if she had been of peasant origin.
      To find more information on your noble family of Zabierzewski you ought to research the books of county (grodzki) and land (ziemski) courts for nobles of the Land of Lviv and check collections of tax testimonies from the 1770’s. The research of the noble family is much more tough as there are much more sources and much more information to obtain. Thus, I listed here not the all but only the most important sources.

      Piotr

  7. Hello Piotr,
    Thank you for the wealth of information….
    I have some information like the 1786-1788 Josephine land survey for Zawidowice (I hired a Ukrainian research team to find it) . This 1786 landowners list did not list who lived in the various houses….what a disappointment….My ancestors lived there in house #1, from 1780-1786, at least….after that, maybe they moved…I also have the Franciscan land survey of 1819-20 for Zawidowice. I know my ancestors lived there during the 1st survey for sure…
    I am looking for perhaps a cadastral map of Zawidowice which lists the individual house with their house numbers..I know that would be very expensive. So I think about it for now. Marcia

  8. Remember, that along with the cadastral map you need to find also the list of owners of buildings and plots of Zawidowice if you wont to find the family house or the place where it used to stand. For, numbers of houses on the cadastral map are not the same as these noted by a priest in vital books.
    The third land survey consists of several different documents, the cadastral map and the list of building and plots owners are two of them.
    Piotr

  9. Hello Piotr,
    Yes, I am aware of all that you say. Through http://www.geshergalicia.org, I was able to obtain land owner/cadastral maps of two villages in the past…but they do not offer this service anymore….on their website, however, are a number of villages that they do present cadastral maps…..free, online…..if you wish to see the associated list of landowners, you must pay geshergalicia a fee….

    Even if I try to seek a cadastral map for my Zabierzewski ancestors of the 1770’s and 1780’s, their names may not be listed if they owned the land a short time and then moved away….I am also looking for their son Jan’s birth/baptism record, as he was born about 1792-93…but not in Zawidowice…somewhere else….he was my ggg grandfather….This Jan later married in 1809 to a lady Magdalena Chechlowska of Horodnica (Husiatyn parish)……and then he died in 1833 so that is how I know his approximate birth year…..
    Well again I thank you very very much for all you the information you have sent me. Marcia
    So it is a gamble and I have spent enough money on risky ventures….

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