1784 Census

Complete Lyakhovichi Records Catalog (Google Docs Spreadsheet)

The 1784 Grand Duchy of Lithuania Poll Tax List
Introduction by Deborah G. Glassman, copyright 2008

Each line in the record is a single family. In the town of Lachowicze whose inhabitants cover 4 pages, most heads of family are listed with a patronymic with an interesting set of exceptions. There are no patronymics for two men designated as Rabbi (rabbin), 1 man designated as Teacher (szkolnik), and several men whose occupations are listed. The heads of family are listed, then their wives, and then sons and daughters who are living in their houses. Unlike what the folks at the Jewish Family History Foundation have noted in other places, there are no non-Jews included in this list. No noblemen, no owners of property leased to Jews, - the enumeration entirely separates the Jews from other inhabitants of the area. Unlike nineteenth-century property records of Russian Lyakhovichi, which shows Jews, Poles, Russian Orthodox, and Tatars, all in the same documents, this set of documents about the Lyakhovichi kahal has no overlaps with the surrounding community.

The tally is of people who can be strongly identified with a person with the same first name and the same patronymic in a later document of Lyakhovichi. If the person is designated a head of household in 1784, the information from the later document must indicate an age of at least 21 in 1784. If the person is designated a child in 1784, then the age in the later document must claim a birth before 1782, as repeated tries found no one with an age that would be less than 2 years old. Back calculation from the later documents can put adult men as sons in their fathers’ houses, but women are assumed to be minors in their fathers’ households unless they are married. For these first sixty people, there are no multiple choices – each of these people in a later document (i.e. 1805 Tavern List, 1816 and 1819 Revision Lists), corresponds to only one person in the 1784 census.

All of the information is constructed around the name data in the 1784 Grand Duchy of Lithuania Census. There is no analysis of the order of the listings although it is interesting that the possible identification of the head of household #1 and the positive identification of head of household #3 indicates that they are the households of Rabbis. The in-between household, household #2, is possibly connected to two different families (through 2 sons) but is especially noteworthy because the sequencing of those families in the 1816 Revision List puts them not just in the second household in 1784 but in the first and third household in 1816.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania Poll Tax Lists (Censuses)
of 1765 and 1784
By Deborah Glassman, copyright 2008

Jews entered the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by the fourteenth century. All settlement on Grand Duchy lands was controlled by the nobility or by the highest noble, the Grand Duke. There were no separately incorporated cities as was common in the rest of Europe, and in Lithuania that worked to the Jews advantage. The first hard-won privilege for every European city had been the Magdeburg law, which included the right to exclude Jews. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania set its precedents in the century in which the Jews arrived. While neighboring Poland’s king, first cousin and contestant to the Grand Duke of Lithuania’s crown, was enticing his capital’s townsmen to his cause by offering them the right to exclude Jews, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great, was offering Jews the rights to settle in capital city, unconditionally.

Lithuania had long established laws regulating the transfer of property for consideration including money, service, and assignable military obligation. It acknowledged the right of the nobility to transfer real property, movable property, rights of development, rights of usage, and leases of entailed property, to parties of their choice including Jews. All of this was codified in a series of statutes that dated back to the early fifteenth century, but in the sixteenth century, a long-standing personal union with the Crown of Poland was made official, and the Grand Duchy and Poland became a joint-commonwealth. The extensive holdings of the Grand Duchy including all of Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, were now joined with the holdings of Poland. But though for many purposes the country was administered as a single Polish-dominated union, the Grand Duchy continued a great-deal of de jure autonomy. Though it participated in the Polish Parliament (called the sejm) it maintained a matching one of its own. Though the Chancellery of Krakow regulated taxes and monetary payments to the Crown, the Chancellery in Vilna managed similar operations for the Grand Duchy.

The second half of the eighteenth century was a time of increasing pressure on both the united and separate governments of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Ukrainian holdings had never rebuilt their ability to pay their noble landlords after the great seventeenth century upheavals. Polish and Lithuanian nobles disputed in court over control of those once rich colonies and what had once been Lithuanian territories in Ukraine, became Polish. The Eastern Ukraine had become entirely separate after the seventeenth century and Moscow looked for every opportunity to move in on the border provinces with the Grand Duchy - Vitebsk to the east of Minsk, and Volhynia which touched the Grand Duchy’s southern border in the Pripet marshes. The first decades of the eighteenth century had seen a war between Sweden and the Grand Duchy fought almost entirely on the soils of Belarus and Lithuania, while Polish cities watched, largely unscathed. Wars were not cheap to run and nobles across Poland and Lithuania were often more interested in their personal interests and the security of their own holdings than in the nation as a whole. Corruption charges were filed against every level of noble and community. The Jewish communities were not immune, and they were more vulnerable to actions decided by others. When the Polish sejm decided that the reason the Jews were not turning in a sufficient sum of money to prosecute all of the military endeavors the crown desired, they found that the reason was corruption in the Jewish government and in 1764 they committed to abolishing Jewish national government in Poland and Lithuania.

The Jewish government had largely mirrored the larger government units around it. There had been a Polish sejm and a Lithuanian sejm, the Jews divided their councils similarly. The Council of Four Lands had been the Jewish governing body for four regions in what we might recognize as Poland, Galicia, and the Ukrainian provinces of Podolia and Volhynnia, all of which in the 1760s were secularly Polish territories. There was also a separate Lithuanian Council that regulated Jewish communities from Vilna to Minsk to Vitebsk, which similarly coincided with lands still administered from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The sejm in 1764, took a “have your cake and eat it too approach.” The Jewish national councils’ functions for the Jewish people were irrelevant to the parliaments. They only valued the tax collecting operations of those bodies. Tax assessments were handed out by the Chancelleries, they were apportioned between communities at annual meetings of the Councils, and they were collected by local government entities of each Jewish community. A Jewish community might be made up of a number of small communities with only one central tax collecting authority. The Hebrew word for a Jewish community was a kehillah, and the word for the organization that administered taxes, debt collection, debt payment, distribution to the poor, the operation of mandated Jewish schools, et al –entered the Polish and later Russian languages as kahal and kagal. Determined to rid themselves of the Councils, the sejm nevertheless wanted to preserve the kahals, they just wanted them to turn the taxes over directly to the Crown without going through the Jewish councils.

So in 1764, a Poll Tax on each person over a stated age was declared. We don’t have clear information on the age of obligation for the 1764 Census but in 1784 it is specifically stated that the age was reduced to 1 year to increase crown revenues. To make sure that the tax was fully realized, the sejm ordered a census held in 1765 which would list every Jew. Since the obligation was on the community and not on the individual Jew, there was no incentive to the Polish officials to keep poor Jews off the rolls, though there is some anecdotal evidence that widows, orphans, and others were left off by Jewish communities wherever possible.

The tax lists were organized by powiat and then by kahal. A kahal, as mentioned previously, was responsible for collecting taxes from every Jew in the small surrounding communities as well as those in the main community. Many small villages and towns held just one or two Jewish families, but dozens of such communities were reported for Lyakovichi in the 1784 census.

The pages are with and without page numbers, and sometimes there are numbers that reflect household order, sometimes not. The translators for the 1784 Census have provided a uniform system of household numbering that allows you to have a quick image of where families were recorded in relation to other families. We do not know how the census was conducted. We do not know if the Jews were called to a central place. We do not know if a local official knowledgeable in the Jews of his area, took part in the counting.

Most of the original ledgers show the name of a head of household with his name and patronymic, then the name of his wife, and those of his children. The relationships of others in the household are usually stated in relation to the head of household, we find someone is the head’s son-in-law, brother, or sister. For a small percentage, occupation is given, and it is interesting that in at least three or four of those cases, people who shared those particular names, example, Nisen son of Ion the krawiec (tailor) appear in later Russian documents with those occupations as surnames – Nisen son of Yevna Khait.

There are no ages in these documents. There are no patronymics for females who are not living in their father’s houses. There are no patronyms provided for heads of family who do not reside in “Lachowicze” (the Polish name for Lyakhovichi).

But the wealth of names, over 740 people not counting their patronyms, is a tremendous asset to research. We can investigate hundreds of people who appear with patronyms in Lyakhovichi proper. There are hundreds of children listed in their father’s house and therefore have a patronym even when their father does not. Women who were married in 1784 may still turn up in documents of 1805 and 1816 still married to that same man, but we find many more who are in a narrow range of females who were minors in 1784 and can be traced into documents of 1816 and 1819 with since-acquired spouses.