Category: Polish Nobility

Categories: European Noble Houses | European Nobility | Poland | Poland Project


Part of the European Aristocrats Project. See a list of all of the European Noble Houses here. Wikipedia: Princely Houses of Poland

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"Nobility was for both men and women, they inherited through the male line. Polish nobility is not like English nobility where there is one coat of arms per family. In Poland many families share the same coat of arms. It would have been very unusual for a noble to marry a non noble, almost was never done. When I did my translations, many times I omitted the title noble because in order to be in the court records they were all nobles, marriages were all arranged by both families. This was even done in the 1900s. I had spoken to a distant cousin in Warsaw who married in the 1950s and he said that he met his wife the day of the wedding. But he said that they were happy. The girl's family gave the groom a dowry, that had a monetary value but could be money, land, jewelry, etc. Of this amount , he had to put a percentage into a dowry lien for his wife. When he died, before his estate could be settled this dowry lien had to be paid to the widow. Had a few cases in my own family where the sons did not want to give their mother this dowry lien and she went to court.

  • "Illegitimate children - if a noble girl had an illegitimate child, she could keep the child until it was 10 yrs old and then the state took the child to work somewhere, this was because that child could not inherit, as the nobility comes from the male line. That child could neither be a peasant or a noble so the state took over.
  • Poland formed as a nation in the 10th Century. In the beginning, members of the same clan were neighbours and fought together in battle. Each clan had one motto or war cry and one coat-of-arms that stayed much the same throughout the centuries. Polish Heraldry was based on the Herb (Polish word meaning Clan Badge, Armorial Shield, Coat-of-Arms or Family Crest). The Ród (Polish word meaning Clan or Tribe) was not blood or territory based, as were the Scottish Clans. Polish Clans were originally based on Warrior Groups or Knight Brotherhoods. Therefore many different and unrelated families were entitled to use the same Herb.
  • Membersof the Szlachta/Nobility in Poland were all considered to be equals “Golden Liberty”. Within the Diet (Polish Parliament) each Nobleman had an equal speaking voice throughout the proceedings. There was no distinction between the richest Magnate and the poorest Noble. Only the Nobility were permitted to bear a coat-of-arms. The Polish Nobility was a power elite caste, not a social class & was not rigidly exclusive. Many low born individuals such as townsfolk, peasants and Jews received official ennoblement. Nobility Status & entitlement to the Herb were passed on by direct in heritance. Lineal females (unmarried Daughters) were also entitled. In the beginning Nobles were identified by the name of the Herb that they belonged to.
  • Surnames appeared much later & Nobility was reflected in the suffix tagged to the end of the surname - cki or ski- denoting ownership of a particular village, farm or homestead. There were 17 Great Noble Families in the 10th Century when Poland was formed as a nation. There were 34,000 Polish Families of Noble descent 24 generations later, in the second half of the 16thCentury. Mazovia/Mazowsze had twice as many as Małopolska &Wielkopolsa combined. Over the years the families grew & became more & more impoverished. The wealth of the 1600’s turned to poverty for most by the end of the 19thCentury.
  • In 1836 Tsar Nicholas I enacted a legitimation process for the nobility of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He established “The Bureau of Heraldry”, a special office empowered with strict imperatives to examine submitted evidence. The bureau was permitted to retract all rights and privileges of the noble estate from nobles it declared illegitimate. In this manner the Tsar reduced 64,000 Szlachta to commoner status. Few Szlachta families had the appropriate papers & documents to prove their status. Massive numbers of the nobility were left with the impossible task of providing credentials. Few knew much about the irrecent ancestors, let alone where to search for proof of descent, or how to identify their families’ original properties. Documents also perished through sheer neglect & as a result of wars where a large number of archives were totally destroyed. This was the desperate situation in which the nobility of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth suddenly found itself. They were abruptly told that they had to legitimize themselves, were required to produce archival documents & had to present a network of affiliations to accommodate narrow bureaucratic scrutiny. “The Bureau of Heraldry” soon became a farce. The officials had little interest or knowledge of the unique system of nobility in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
  • The bureau was soon overwhelmed with pleas, correspondences, and applications. The bureaucrats successfully processed falsified applications from scrupulous non-nobles whereas the majority of true nobles did not receive legitimation. Then there were the poor members of the drobna szlachta. Many were barely surviving in their family nests in their tiny farming villages. Manydid not know about the legitimation process. A legitimation process in 1863 further reduced the number of Nobility by nearly 73%. The privileges of the Nobility were lawfully abolished by the Polish Republic in 1921.
  • The social structure of the nobility fell into these 3 basic groups. Karmazynska Szlachta Crimson Nobility or Magnates. These were the wealthiest Nobles. They were owners of vast lands, towns, villages & thousands of peasants. This class consisted of forty to fifty families who lived in palaces, maintained private armies and directed national affairs.
  • Średnia Szlachta Middle Nobility": They were owners of one or more villages, often possessing official titles. They maintained a prominent role in the government, bureaucracy and the army.
  • Drobna Szlachta Minor Nobility -They were owners of part of a village or owned no land at all.Those who owned their own land worked it themselves & frequently became paid retainers for the Magnate Families. They represented almost half of the Noble Class. This unique group were mainly descendants of Warrior Knights of the 13th& 14thcenturies. In the region of Mazowsze/Mazovia the Warrior Knights hadbeen endowed with land by the Princes of Mazowsze/Mazovia. Unlike Western Knights, Polish Knights did not swear fealty to an overlord but regarded themselves as Defenders of the Commonwealth, the People and Christendom. These Knights founded Villages in their own names, became Farmers and prospered through the 15th& 16thCenturies. The descendants of the Knights sank to lower socio-economic levels as their land was divided amongst ever increasing family members. The Drobna Szlachta Minor Nobility retained all of the rights and privileges of the Nobility but lacked the economic resources to exercise many of their prerogatives. [1] [Jozef Taran, Polish Genealogist, Szelkow area or Poland; hired to do Glazewski research, April 2014, by Sandra Paris. Starting with Szelkow Parirish on line index Records Geneteka & Plock Archives nd on Glazewski's. y Sandra Paris. TID 0 Footnote Jozef Taran, Polish Genealogist, Szelkow area or Poland; hired to do Glazewski research, April 2014, by Sandra Paris.]

Subcategories (18)


Pages (1)


Person Profiles (66)

B

abt 1683 Warszawa, Mazowieckie, Polska - 08 Oct 1766 photo
abt 1796 - 20 Jan 1872

C

30 Sep 1780 Korzec - 02 Mar 1852 photo
abt 30 Nov 1777 Korzec, pow. Nowogród Wołyński - 01 Jul 1856
15 Oct 1778 Warszawa, Polska - 27 Feb 1837 photo
21 Nov 1740 Brin - 15 Feb 1810 photo
26 Apr 1696 Klewań - 13 Aug 1775 photo

D

1715 Nakło - 13 May 1759 photo
aft 1687 - 1735
24 Oct 1756 Konarzewo, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth - 13 Mar 1819 photo
25 Dec 1797 Poznań, Polska - 12 Apr 1861 photo

J

18 Oct 1523 Krakow, Poland - 09 Sep 1596 photo

K

1816 Retowo, Słupsk, Pomerania, Poland - 1844
1741 Szyły, Zbaraż, Galicia, Austria - 25 Apr 1794

K cont.

06 Oct 1924 Lida County, Nowogródek, Poland - 10 Dec 2023 photo
abt 1842 - 14 Sep 1922
08 Feb 1878 shabastivka, Lypovets, Kiev, Russian Empire - 20 Feb 1935
08 Apr 1831 Mogilev, Russian Empire - 02 Dec 1877
1800 - 1872
1844 - 02 Dec 1878

L

M

abt 967 Poznan, Poland - 17 Jun 1025 photo
26 Aug 1671 Warszawa - 24 Feb 1758 photo
24 Jun 1621 Raciborsko, Kraków, Kraków, Poland - 08 Jan 1693 photo
abt 1670 - abt 1728

N

P

15 Sep 1866 Lypovets, Kiev, Russian Empire - 12 Sep 1938
02 Jan 1904 Kiev, Russian Empire - abt 24 Nov 1998
15 Aug 1873 Uman, Kiev, Russian Empire - 23 Nov 1954
abt 29 Jul 1817 Łańcut, Kaiserthum Österreich, Deutscher Bund - 18 May 1889 photo
abt 1630 Kamianets-Podilskyi - abt 30 Aug 1691 photo
14 Jun 1850 Krzeszowice, Chrzanów, Königreich Galizien und Lodomerien, Erzherzogtum Österreich - 26 Mar 1890 photo
08 Mar 1761 Leżajsk, Bezirk Łańcut, Galicia, Austria - 23 Dec 1815 photo
24 Jun 1776 - 25 May 1854
29 Apr 1867 Oleszyce - 13 Mar 1943 photo

P cont.

abt 1670 - abt 1747
08 Sep 1862 - 25 Aug 1922 photo
23 Aug 1868 Oleszyce - 25 Jan 1918

R

abt 1640 photo
29 Oct 1706 Rozdół, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth - 27 Oct 1779

S

25 Sep 1768 Radzyń Podlaski - 02 Dec 1844 photo
05 May 1800 Tarnów - 26 Mar 1881 photo
17 Dec 1905 Kupiansk, Kharkov, Russian Empire - 30 Nov 1973 photo
1834 - aft 1900
17 Dec 1880 Elisavetgrad, Yelisavetgrad Uyezd, Kherson Guberniya, Russian Empire - 10 Aug 1955 photo
01 May 1908 Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland - 15 Jun 1952 photo
08 Jan 1857 Czerniejew, Poland

V

19 Sep 1551 Château de Fontainebleau, France - 02 Aug 1589 photo

W

18 Jul 1825 - 17 Oct 1875

Z

25 Jan 1794 - 28 Nov 1845
28 Apr 1787 Lwów, Galicja, Austria - 18 Sep 1835




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