Property Records

Complete Lyakhovichi Records Catalog (Google Docs Spreadsheet)

Research Tools - Manorial Jurisdictions
from a 2004 article by Deborah G. Glassman

Knowing the manorial jurisdictions of a particular community accomplishes several purposes. It allows you to locate records of a special type – records created about the residents of a given area from the perspective of their landlord, business partner, and employer. These are the estate management records of the land-owning nobility, who controlled such fundamental details as: the rights of Jews to settle or to trade, and what Jews could do to support themselves. The height of a building, the permission to have a vegetable garden, permission to participate in a public marketplace, – these were some of the details in their tenants’ lives, which the nobles controlled. The estate records created by the nobles were created for two purposes – to document the title claims of the owning family, and as business documents for the land owner to manage his land and people resources. The records created by other jurisdictions about those nobles had different goals in mind –documentation of disputes in law, appointments to crown offices, claims of heraldry and noble standing, disputes about the historical record, enhancing the status of the family, et al.

Understanding why the records were created, where they were likely to be stored or why a copy was likely to be found in another location helps us determine both what to pursue and where to search.

Typical Estate Records created by the nobles include:

  • All title documents including deeds, wills, coats of arms, easements, privileges, plats, declarations related to the property
  • Records relating to income from leases; lessee lists; lessor agreements; payments to transfer a lease from one holder to another
  • Records related to income from sales of estate property including seasonal inventories
  • Records related to income from taxes
  • Records related to obligations of military service or military supply
  • Records related to discharge of obligation by lord or his subject
  • Evidence in support of tax relief
  • Records of loans given or received
  • Records of employees
  • Lists of merchants resident on the estate; protection documentation for travelers from estate
  • Records related to legal disputes to which the estate was an interested party
  • Typical Estate Records created about the nobles include:
  • Charters
  • Coats of Arms
  • Appointments
  • Guardianships
  • Declaration of Extinct Lines
  • The records of the treasuries (of the State, of the King)
  • Records Related to Estate Disposition – Wills, Sureties, Bonds, Estate Inventories
  • Records Related to Court Proceedings – Affidavits,
  • Church records related to Donations, Mausoleums, Memorial Masses,
  • Memoirs, diaries, historical reminisces
  • Artwork including portraits and paintings of real estate and personal property

Manorial Jurisdictions and Records Related to Lyakhovichi
(extracted from an article By Deborah G. Glassman, copyright 2004)

When I started this research, I couldn’t find Lyakhovichi on any manor lists and assumed we were dealing with a possession of a lower level nobleman, or that its constituent parts were owned by a number of small gentry. It might have eventually become part of a large estate (of the level often called “magnates”), somehow connected to the Radziwills of Slutsk, let’s say, but short of that, a great deal of investigation seemed likely to be required to find its roots. That turns out not to be the case. Lyakhovichi occupies a very unusual position in the history of Poland and Lithuania and the records of the nobility that might be found. Most small towns have been owned by a lower level nobleman or by a single upper-level szlachta (noble) family for centuries. Little Lyakhovichi has been in the center of Lithuanian and then Polish politics from the 1400s and has been owned by the most important individuals and their powerful families.

We know that in the 1430s the Lithuanian nobleman Jan Gostautas (called in some places John Gasztold) owned the city of Lyakhovichi. This was a period in which he acquired a good number of properties that had been previously owned by the family of the Grand Duke Vitaut who died in 1430. We have not yet found a document transferring these properties to him, so we do not know if there is a title document that might include Lyakhovichi. It is also possible that Gostautas acquired it by inheritance or marriage. Jan Gostautas was the most powerful noble in Lithuania for decades. His choices determined rulers in Poland and Muscovy. He was the Head of Government both de facto (and during his regency for the brother of the Grand Duke) and de jure. Jan died in Vilna in 1458. He passed his estate to his son Marcin Jan Gostautas who was again an important man in the Duchy of Lithuania, Palatine of Troki and Novogrodek. It was Jan’s grandson who was the first to be listed in the history of Lyakhovichi, Albrecht Marcin Gostautas. He was such an important and powerful man in Lithuanian history, that the chronicler of Lyakhovichi just refers to him as “the magnate A.M. Gostautas”, he needed little elucidation. He ran most things in Lithuanian government for decades. Before he died in Vilna in 1539 and was buried in the Vilna Cathedral (where a son was Bishop and in a family mausoleum he commissioned), he passed Lyakhovichi to his son Stanislas Gostautas.

The Gostautas family owned the property at least from the 1430s to 1537, the year that Stanislas Gostautas was married to Barbara Radziwill in a dynastic marriage designed to reconcile the two largest most powerful noble families in the land. Barbara had grown up in the area; her family estate in Nesvizh was a stone castle just built in the 1500s to replace an older wooden palace of the 1400s. She grew up in a home that combined castle, fort, and court functions for Nesvizh and the Radziwill family. It is not clear why her husband Stanislas conveyed his properties including Lyakhovichi to her after their marriage, but when he died and was also buried in Vilna Cathedral, they had no children as claimants on the estate and it belonged to Barbara alone. Barbara Radziwill went down in history as the great love of her second husband’s life King Sigismund Augustus, (he became king shortly after their marriage). Within weeks of the wedding, this young Protestant Queen died under suspicious circumstances and her estate passed to her husband who held onto it and then traded it to the Head of his Armies, twenty some years later.

What does what we know so far suggest for records?

  • For at least 120 years the property was in the hands of a single family, the Gostautas family of Vilna Lithuania.

  • The records of many old Lithuanian noble families are in the Lithuanian State Archives in Vilna. Even if we don’t have a single fond number, we know the name of the family and the time period. Gostautas 1430s-1542.

  • The Gostautas family members that we do know had strong ties to the Cathedral of Vilna and some records may remain in those created in that jurisdiction. The Cathedral of Vilna has been since its inception a Roman Catholic sanctuary.

  • The Gostautas family allowed the transfer of the property to a Radziwill while the powerful Albrecht Marstin Gostautas was still living in 1537. This had to require active intervention on her family’s part and the documents of the Radziwills might include:

  • Inventories of Gostautas property as of 1537; Maps; Plats; Title Records; some statement of income from various resources; a catalog of real property included in the transfer or excluded; deeds; tax records; notes related to military censuses; a notarized prenuptial agreement;

  • Documents related to Lyakhovichi that might have been stored originally at Nesvizh Castle by the Radziwills

Tracking down records may be as simple a process as writing a letter to an archive but knowing where to write and in what fonds the records might be found is important. We can start our record survey in many different places but beginning first with the national jurisdictions would quickly uncover the announcement by The Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius that they have the documents of the most prominent families of the former “Grand Duchy of Lithuania” from the fifteenth century. They specifically note the Radziwill and Sapieha families. Go back to the Title Chain document in our History Section and you will see that we are searching for a small group of noble families: Gostautas (also called Gasztold); Radziwill; Chodkewicz; Sapieha or Sapiega; Massalsky, and Kossowski. I hope to report here in a few months, on what the inquiries to the Lithuanian State Archives uncover. But I doubt we will be so lucky as to find all we need there. Tracking down other possible repositories requires us to find out what other properties were owned by the title holders and what if any of those records have survived and where. A property in western Lithuania and Eastern Belarus may have been owned by the same family, and records related to one may have survived tragedies that the other did not. Identifying the noble family’s administrative center may lead to an archive or library not first thought of. . Doing search-engine searches on each of the known holdings may turn up museum exhibits, archival notes, artifacts, and relevant dissertations. All help and input is welcome!

A Town Survey

This first examination is of towns known to be in manorial estates of the families just mentioned – the Gostautas; Radziwill; Chodkiewicz; Sapieha or Sapiega; Massalsky, and Kossowski families. The sources most often referred to were “Guide to the Central State Archives of the Ukraine” by Patricia Grimsted (called here Grimsted) and Central and Eastern European Magnates and Their Archives compiled by Edward David Luft for Avotaynu Magazine (called here Magnate List). Individual towns uncovered in an internet survey with search engines were also added. A town owned by more than one family is listed with all of its known owners as the transfers were often in-family, even if the surname changed. Even with totally new owners, documentation from an earlier time may have been maintained by a later holder.

This first survey is just that, a cursory look at some of the info available about these six families and their holdings.

Gostautas (aka Gasztold) - In a retelling of Lithuanian history for his own purposes in the early sixteenth century Albrecht Gostautas claimed that his ancestor Gostautas Gostautas had ruled the city of Kamanetz in Podolia as a “starosta” during the reign of Grand Duke Algirdas (grandfather or grandfather’s brother of Vitautas/Witold) in the earliest 1300s. Albrecht maintained that his ancestor converted to the Roman Catholic faith and received the name Peter Gostautas when he married the daughter of a Polish nobleman in Ukraine. He also says that Algirdas made Peter Gostautas “vovoida” governor of Vilna and “gave” Vilna to him (not clear if he meant as holding or to be governed.) Albrecht Gostautas’ storytelling is seen by historians in the light of trying to claim an older tie to the Catholic religion than to the Orthodox, but the land claims of his family are not disputed. The family was the most prominent in Vilna in the time they owned Lyakhovichi. Albrecht and his son Stanislas are buried in Vilna Cathedral in a family crypt that was begun in Albrecht’s life. A famous chalice donated to the Vilna Cathedral in this time period was long counted among the state treasures of Lithuania.

Other Gostautas holdings - They were said in the fifteenth and sixteenth century to have owned lands southeast of Vilna between Oszmiana and Geranainys, both of which cities they had received from Vitaut the Great. Dziewieniszki is the only town owned by them listed in the Magnate list possibly because the family owned no lands after 1537 when the noble name-carrying line died out. Słownik Geograficzny also notes a town, Traby, just a few miles from Dziewieniszki and in the Oszmania district as having a church built by Albrecht Gostautas in 1534. He had inherited Traby from his grandmother Elizabeth, wife of Jan Gostautas. Elizabeth had inherited it from her sister in 1496. On 18 September 1529, Pope Clement VII granted the title of count to the Gasztold family, which became extinct in the 16th century (Directory of Extinct Nobility). City of Visaginas/ Vinsknupai 1526 presented by nobleman Vaitiekus Gostautas to the Naujasis (New) Daugeliskis parish (Litua Enc.). Dziewieniszki is listed in Słownik Geograficzny in Ozmania district (just 8 miles from Subotniki/Gernainys) saying “it was once the possession of the famous Gasztold family, on the strength of rights and privileges granted by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Zygmunt Mejstut in 1433.” It goes on to add that in the 1880s there was still an estate based on this grant. “Upon the death of Stanislaus, the last Gasztold, Dziewieniszki was donated to King Sigismund in 1542 and Dziewieniszki became a sheriff's domain.”It also adds that the Jews of this town have been here since time immemorial. The town of Volozhin, later of Yeshiva fame, was first owned by a noble named Wolozynski, then from his own heirs first to Prince Holzansk, later to the Gasztold family. In 1614 it was part of Slucka family then at end of the 17th Century Marian Denhoff the Voivod of Polotsk; Prince Czartoryski; in 1803 to Count Joseph Tyszkiewicz (Sheriff of Wielaty) then to his sons Count Michael (Polish regiment commander; died 1839) and Count Joseph (died 1844), and later Count Jan (Marshal of Wilno province; died 1892);1894 Count Michael Tyszkiewicz.

Radziwill (aka Radvila) - There is a very long list of Radziwill properties in the Magnates List: Annopol; Balice; Berdyczow; Biala; Bierze; Biala (Biała Podlaska ) Bielica; Birze; Chycza; Czarkowy; Czarnawczyca; Chalcz; Dawidgródek; Dubinki; Gieranomy; Goniadz; Husaki; Ivye/Iwje (owned by Kiszka then Sluzkas then Radziwill then Sapieha then Zamoyska) Kiejdany; Kiernow; Kleck; Knyszyn; Kopyl; Kopys; Krewno; Kroszyn; Kroza; Lachwa; L~azduny (owned by Jozef Wołodkiewicz then Samuel Laniewski Wolk then Prince Dominic-Radziwill); Medele (Miadziol); Mikolajów; Molodeczno (owned by Tadeusz and Anne(Radziwill )Oginski then Oscikow then Radzwill); Mir (owned by Radzwill then Sirotka) Musniki; Naglowice; Naliboki; Nesvizh aka Nieswiez (Janusz Milewski-Radziwill ; Newel; Nieborow; Niehniewicze; Oksa; Olyka –Pawezow; Podluzne; Poloneczka; Poniewiez; Pozecz; Rajgrod; Siebiez; Sichow; Slutsk aka Sluck Minsk (owned by Sophie Olelkovich then Prince Janusz Radzivill ); Slupia; Soleczniki; Soly; Wizuny; Stara Wies; Subotniki - (owned by Dominick Radzwill ); Szpanow; Szydlowiec; Szyrwinty; Towiany; Upniki; Uszpole; Waniew; Wegrow; Zdzieciol; Zegrze; Zejmy; Zowka (owned by Sobieski then Radziwill); Zuprany (See Magnate List). There is a short list in Grimsted: Balicze; Tarnopol; Zagorze. Note 2007 - there is no evidence that a Radziwill other than Barbara wife of Stanislas Gostautas (and possibly some Sapieha spouses from the Radziwill family) ever owned Lyakhovichi. The Radziwill family may have had an inventory or valuation done when it thought it was about to acquire the estate in the time of Barbara Radziwill, and in the early 1700s when the young heiress Krystyna Rose Sapieha, owned the estate.

We need to comb through all of the towns that have an internet presence as those many towns listed above are just the tip of the iceberg for the Radziwills. Miscellaneous articles note that Vilna in the 1770s was a Radziwill property (according to Jewish Encyclopedia article on Samuel ben Avigdor) and an article Raigardas/Raizai notes that it was given by King Sigismund I to Mykoies Radvila in 1509 and that in the 1300s it had been part of the patrimony of Vitaut/Witold the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania. Kletsk is the subject of an article in Jewish Encyclopedia saying that the large synagogue there was built by Prince Radziwill in 1796. Subotniki is listed in Slownik Geograficzny as formerly Gernainys or “Old Gieranony” in Ozmiana Province. Gernainys or Subotniki's history is traced from its passage from Sofia Monwid (sister of Elizabeth Gasztold) to her husband Nicholas Radziwill and it stayed in the Radziwill family for more than three hundred years until 1805. Note that earlier we mentioned the connections of this property to Grand Duke Vitaut and to the Gostautas family.

Chodkiewicz (aka Katskevicz)- This family does not appear in the Magnates List so information is from miscellaneous sources on individual towns. Skuodas was a town purchased the same year the Chodkiewicz family acquired Lyakhovichi and by the same parties (maintained today as a large scale museum); Svisloch was the town that the Chodkiewicz traded to Sigismund Augustus, King of Poland in exchange for the town of Lyakhovichi. The library of Jan Karol Chodkiewicz who owned Lyakhovichi until his death in 1621, was passed with his estate first to his daughter Anna, then to her husband, then with the remainder of her husband’s estate, to Kazimir Leo Sapieha. In 1655, A year before Kazimir Leo’s death, he bequeathed his library including the part which had belonged to Chodkiewicz to the University of Vilna and both are today in its library. According to “Arhitektura Belarusi. Encyklapedychny davednik” the fortifications that were built in Lyakhovichi by Hetman Jan Karol Chodkewicz included a palace in which, presumably his family resided. There is a print of the castle, elsewhere on this web page that is supposed to date from 1660 before the castle was destroyed in the Great Northern War in the early 1700s. There were no descendants carrying the name Chodkiewicz after the Hetman’s death in 1621, so the titled family that lived in the palace at the time that print was made were the Sapieha family.

Sapieha (aka Sapega) - The Magnate list notes two towns owned by the Sapiehas - Telsiai Lithuania (owned by Jerome and John Carol Sapieha; Michael Casimir Radziwill) and the town of Oszmiana (Gregory Chodkiewicz (1544); Nicholas Radziwill (1557); Paul Stephen Sapieha- Lis (1598); Alexander Sapieha (1622) Wincenty Gasiewski (1651); Christian Sapieha (1662); Hilary Alexander Polubinski (1667); Cyprian Paul Brzostowski (1668-74); Michael Sapieha (1683); Casimir Michael Pac (1685); Michael Kopec (1727); Ludwig Jacob Chominski (1734-36); Bogdan Narbut, & Tadeusz Oginski, his own person (1740-55); Andreus Ignaz Oginski son of Tadeusz(1755-62); Jerome & Michael Brzostowski (1765-72); Tadeusz Kociell (elected 1764-88) ; Adam Matthew no dates). Ozmiana is listed in Lithuanian histories as property owned by Kestutias the father of Vitaut the Great (14th cent) and later by his son Vitaut.

Towns listed in Grimsted include: Bilcze; Bilka; Cygany; Dachnow; Gaje; Hrebenne; Hnilce; Hluboczek; Jezierzany; Korytniki; Krasiczyn; Kupna; Lanowce; Milkow; Oleszyce; Pustkow; Rawa; Ruska; Siedliska; Staresiolo; Suchawola; Szlach; Tarnawec; Ujkowice; Wapowce; Wielkie; Zurawica.

Articles by the Belarus State Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation about the castles built by the Sapiehas at Ruzhany, Kosava, and in Osmiany (all in Grodno, Belarus) give title information as well as pictures and diagrams. Rhuzhany Palace in Ruzhany, Grodno region is the castle that was built first for Leo Sapieha, the father-in-law of Anna Chodkewicz. It was rebuilt in the 1780s. Was severely damaged in the WWs but is on the Belarussian national treasures list as a National Cultural Heritage Object (2nd category). It was studied in the 1970s. More information is available also from the Belarusian State Archive-Museum of Literature & Art. Holshany castle (also called Golshany Castle) in Osmiany was built by P. Sapieha in the earliest part of the 17th century. In addition to the technical renderings from the Belarus government, there were beautiful paintings of it and other Belarus castles by Belarus artist Vazep Drazdovich (1888-1954) created in the 1920s and displayed in Belarus museums, with some on-line. Kosava’s ownership is given in its description as a private town given as a gift by (Grand Duke Alexander to Lithuanian Marshall Ian Hraptovich (1494); by Sanhushka/Sangushka (1570-77); Sapeha family (1611); Isabella Czartorska (“much later”). The documents note that the palace was built later than Isabella’s ownership. These castles can be seen at which contains extracts from the Belrussian Encyclopedia. An article on Bereza in Grodno in the Jewish Encyclopedia also claims it for the Sapieha family in the time of Leo Sapieha. An art gallery of Sapieha princes of the 18th century is among the holdings of the Polish National Museum of the Przemysl region. The Vilnius University Library seems to list that it has the archives of the Sapieha, Radivilus, Balinskis, and Daugela families in the English version of its website. It also has the books donated from the Sapieha and Chodkiewicz collections. A title of an article in Spis Tresci is “The History and the Content of the Fonds of the Sapieha” by Andrzej Rakuba in the section of the magazine titled "Family and Office Records of the First Republic in Poland and Abroad"

Lyakhovichi and its variant spellings do not appear in these lists. The town “Lachowicze” does come up in Grimsted but that appears to be one in the Ukraine, probably Lechowitz Volin. That Lachowicze was subject to the Dzieduszyck family along with the towns: Beniucha; Boratyn; Chodoczkow Wielkie; Czepiel; Gwodzdiec Stary; Holubica; Jarczowce; Jezupol; Klubowce; Lachowice; Lutowisko; Pieniaki; Podrozne; Podzimierz; Pohorce; Pturzyca; Radwance; Reniow; Siechow; Skomorochy; Toki; Załącze; Żelechów Wielki; Zurawiczki Male. We will be adding more information as it is uncovered on towns, repositories, and specific search attempts. Please write with any new information about these nobles, their landholdings, and records related to them!

Lyakhovichi Castle in 1654
(From the Belarus State Archive of Scientific and Technical Documentation)

For more details on this castle and its wooden predecessor, go to our article Title Chain of Lyakhovichi.