The Polish / Lithuanian Period



Topics on this page: Earliest Ancestors, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Khmelnytsky Uprising


There is not much published in English about Jewish life in Mlynov (or Mervits) before the Russian period which began between 1792–1795 with the Second Partition of Poland. This is in part because Mlynov and Mervits were such small places off the beaten track. More is written about the cities closer to them, like Dubno, Rivne and Lutsk, and we can sometimes learn more about what life might have been like by reading about those cities nearby.

We don’t know if any of Jewish families that today we associate with Mlynov or Mervits were already present in the towns by then or moved into the area later. The now available translation of Russian census documents from Mlynov, the 1850 Revision List and the 1858 Revision List indicate that a number of the families we know of as "from Mlynov" and "from Mervits" were already there by the 1830s, and probably when the area became part of Russia.

The Earliest Ancestors

In fact, the earliest individuals we know about from family memories and oral traditions, typically great or “great great” grandparents of those living today in 2019, were born in Mlynov and Mervits in the mid-19th century, sometime around 1845–1860. In several cases, those ancestors who were known only by their names and perhaps a photo, appear in the censuses ("revision lists") for 1850 and 1858, which have now been translated. We see that a number of families known later from Mlynov or Mervits later were already there by 1850 (e.g. Bergers, Fishmans, Gelbergs, Grubers, Schuchmans, and others). Some families had not yet arrived (e.g. the Goldsekers, Schwartzes). We also find names of families that are not known from descendants or later sources and may have migrated away.

Below is a list of the ancestors that families still recall today and their estimated dates of birth, based on the Russian censuses ("revision lists"), birthdate of their eldest child, or their immigration papers.[1]


Approximate Date of Births of Known Ancestors and link if available to their family in the revision lists.
*Note: An asterisk by the name indicates they appear in one of the revision lists .[2]

*Berger, Nuta Bir – 1825.
The name Nuta-Bir Berger is remembered by descendants as the ancestor of the Berger family line in Mlynov. There is a Nuta-Bir Berger who appears in the 1858 revision list as age 33. He is the head of household, and born in 1825. He is married with three daughters. It is not certain if this is the same Nuta-Bir Berger remembered by Berger descendants since none of the sons of Nuta-Bir we know about (Wolf, Tevel, Ben Zion) are born yet in this 1858 census. We do know that one son, Ben Zion Berger, was born in about 1865, so it is plausible this Nuta Bir (born in 1825) was his father. However, we don't know with certainty the birth years of the other sons (Wolf and Tevel). In any case, it seems plausible that this Nuta Bir in the 1858 revision is either the same ancestor remembered by Berger descendants or an earlier ancestor of in the line of the Berger descendants who ended up in Chicago (descendants of Ben Zion and Wolf) and in Israel (descendants of Wolf and Tevel).

Demb, Israel Jacob – ~1849.
Was brought to Mlynov from Ludmir to marry Rivka (Gruber) according to the memoir of Clara Fram, one of his granddaughters. Consistently with that memory, he does not appear in the 1850 or 1858 revision lists. He was in Mlynov by 1864 when they had their first daughter.

Fax Getzel– ~1862 married Ida (Chaya) Rivitz.
Getzel and Ida were the pioneers to Baltimore from Mlynov. Getzel's US census records suggest he was born in 1862-1864. His wife Ida (Chaya's) records suggests she was born in 1863. They do not appear in the Mlynov census records. According to descendants, Getzel was from Demydivka but married Ida Rivitz who was living with her family outside Mlynov according to the memoir of Clara Fram.

*Fishman, Berel Dov – ~1844.
It appears that the patriarch of the Fishman line who is remembered as Berel Dov Fishman is the man listed as "Ber" Fishman born in 1844 in the 1858 revision list. (See discussion there.) His son Fishman, Moishe – ~1873

Gelberg, Labish and *Eta Leah (Schuchman)– 1856
Eta Leah Schuchman married Labish Gelberg sometime before 1874 when their first child Pinchus Gelberg was born. Eta Leah appears in the 1858 revision list as "Itta-Leia" under the family name Hehman/Lehman/Shehman at the age of 1 and 1/2 and a birth year of 1856. It is assumed Labish was about the same age.

Gelberg, Pinchas Meir– ~1829
Pinchas Meir is the name of the ancestor in the Gelberg family from Mlynov, some of whom landed in New York in the first decades of the 20th century and one survivor who made his way to Israel. "Pinchas Maar Gelbarg" appears as the eldest son in the Gelbarg family in the 1858 census. He is the eldest son in the household, age 29, married to a woman named Sima, with a daughter Gitlya age 4. He appears in the 1850 census with his father, but no wife or sisters. It seems plausible that he and his father came before 1850, settled, before the rest of his siblings joined them. He probably married around 1853 a year before his daughter Gitlya was born. There is no final proof that the descendants of Labish Gelberg are related but see the discussion of the possible connection. The Gelberg descendants who came to America include Nissen (Nathan) Gelberg, Abraham Gelberg, and Gedale Joe Gelberg. A son Yossel (or Joseph) Gelberg stayed behind in Mlynov and became a wealthy man as a mill owner. One of Yossel's grandsons, Yitzhak, survived the Shoah and eventually came to Israel.

Goldseker, Avraham– ~1852.
Ancestor of the Goldseker family. Does not appear in the 1850 or 1858 census. Originally from Dubno and came to a logging town, Slobada, near Mlynov in about 1870. After the law forbidding Jews to live outside towns, Avraham with his five sons and a daughter came to Mlynov in about 1891 according to an essay in Memorial book by Moshe Fishman whose sister Anna married the Goldseker son named Shimon.

*Gruber, Moshe – ~1824.
Ancestor of the Demb family line in Mlynov. Appears as Moshko-Leib in the 1850 revision and 1858 revision list along with his daughter, Rivka Gruber, who is listed with a birthdate of 1842. Rivka married Israel Jacob Demb and the Demb family is descended from them.

*?Gruber, Mordechai –1846?.
Ancestor in the Teitelman family, Wurtzel, Kleinberg, Alman, and Steinberg families, among others. It seems possible, but not provable, that the young boy named Mordko Gruber, who was son of Moshe Gruber (see previous entry) and born in 1846, is this ancestor. This Mordko Gruber is listed as having died in 1855 at the age of 9. However, we we know from the Mlynov revision lists that a number of young men were in hiding, on the run and fleeing conscription. It seems plausible that the Gruber family was pretending he had died to avoid his conscription in the Russian military. This is speculation but possible. If it is correct, then the Teitelman descendants and Demb descendants share an ancestor: Moshe Gruber.[3]

*Hirsch, Aron and Liba – ~1826 and 1828 respectively.
Ancestors of the Hirsch family. Descendants also in the Berger, Halperin, Katz and Newman lines. Aron and Liba both appear in the "Irsch" family in the 1858 revision list but not in the 1850 revision list, suggesting they came to Mlynov between those years. Their children included: Efraim Hirsch, who migrated to Jersey City with his children, Zelda (Hirsch) Berger who migrated to Chicago, Annie (Hirsch) Katz, mother of Aleph Katz, Clara (Hirsch) Newman who migrated to Providence, and Pessia (Hirsch) Halperin who stayed in Mlynov.

Rivitz, Mordechai and Zecil – ~1840.
Parents of Ida Fax (née Rivitz) and David Hurwitz (née Rivitz). Do not appear in the 1850 or 1858 census. According to the memoir of Clara Fram, her grandfather Mordechai was conscripted into the Russian military at age 7 and was released after fifteen years at the age of 22 near Simferopol in the Crimea. He then married a local orphan, Zecil, and traveled back to Mlynov. Their daughter Ida (Chaya) was born on the way back. Ida's 1900 census in the US indicates she was thirty-seven, suggesting she was born in about 1863. Her mother Zecil came to the US in 1909 and her passenger manifest suggests she was 58 suggesting her birthdate in 1851, which is not likely since she would have been 13 when she became Ida's mother. We can Zecil was probably born earlier.

*Schuchman, Gershon –1826 and *Sheindel Bluma Schuchman (1830) and eldest daughter *Eta Leah Schuchman
are all listed in the 1858 revision list under the family name Hehman/Lehman/Shehman. Eta Leah appears as "Itta-Leia" age of 1 and 1/2 and a birth year of 1856. Gershon is listed as "Chaim-Zus, aka Chaim-Gershon" born in 1826 and "Scheindel-Blum" is listed as born in 1830. She was not in the 1850 census and thus the couple may have married between 1850 and 1858 and she may have come from another town. Descendants of theirs include Gelbergs/Goldbergs descendended from Ita Leah who married Labish Gelberg, Schechman descendants from their son Noach Moshe Schuchman, Sherman descendants from their daughter Hanah (Schuchman) who married Moshe Sherman.

Schwartz, Peretz – ~1843
Ancestor of the Schwartz descendants from Mlynov. While there is a Schwartzman family in the 1858 census, there is no Peretz listed, suggesting the family arrived sometime after this 1858. Peretz is named on the tombstones of his four sons from Mlynov who migrated to Baltimore and three grandsons named Paul Schwartz" after him. Chaim (Hyman) (b 1863), Michael (b 1867), Morris (b. 1873) and Israel (b. 1874). It is believed a fifth brother remained in Mlynov and was father of several Schwartzes who died in the Shoah.

*Lerner, Yitzhak Yisrael.
Known as ancestor via the tombstone of his son Joseph (Abram Yosel) Lerner who came to the US in Aug 1913 via Canada. Joseph was born in 1866. In the 1858 census, there is an Itsko-Srul (=Yitzhak Israel) listed as age 40, the head of the household, with implied birth year of 1818. This appears to be the father of Joseph Lerner. Joseph's son is named Itzik (Isadore) Lerner probably after this ancestor. In the 1858 census, Joseph is not yet born but there is an older brother (Leib)who is married and has a 1 year old daughter. There are other Lerners (Chaya Malka Lerner) and Golda (Lerner) who may be part of this same family though it is not certain.[3b]


Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

We can speculate that like many other Jews in the area, their predecessors may have arrived in the area when Mlynov was part of the Duchy of Lithuania or later the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The kingdom of Poland, for its part, which was founded in 1025 and only became part of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569, has been considered by historians as a paradise for the Jews at the time. During the period, Poland became a shelter for persecuted and expelled European Jewish communities and the home to the world's largest Jewish community. According to some sources, about three-quarters of the world's Jews lived in Poland by the middle of the 16th century.[4]

Poland and Lithuania 1526Approximate location of Mlynov and Mervits in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (yellow), 1526.[5]
In a map of 1526, it appears that Mlynov (near Rivne and Dubno) would have been part of the Grand Duchy of Lithunania and the Mlynov ancestors may also have come into the area as part of a migration to that territory. Scholars speculate that there were two different streams of Jewish migration to Lithuania: an older and smaller of the two entered the territory from the east. These early immigrants spoke Judeo-Slavic dialects which distinguished them from the later Jewish immigrants who entered the region from the Germanic lands. The later and larger stream of immigration originated in the 12th century and received an impetus from the persecution of the German Jews by the Crusaders. The traditional language of the vast majority of Jews of Lithuania, Yiddish, is based largely upon the Medieval German spoken by the western Germanic Jewish immigrants.[6]

In any case, by 1569 the Treaty of Lublin had turned the informal personal relationship between Poland and Lithuania into a formalized relationship of a single state, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, one of the largest countries in Europe at the time. The Commonwealth was ruled by a single elected monarch who carried out the duties of both the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and governed with a common senate and parliament.[7] By the 17th century, the population of Mlynov was reportedly no more than 300 people.[7]


Khmelnytsky Uprising

We don’t know, therefore, whether the ancestors of those we know of living in Mlynov in the mid 19th century experienced the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648 and 1657 which attacked Roman Catholic clergy and Jews. During the Khmelnytskyi uprising, the Mlynov settlement reportedly supported the rebelling Cossacks, a group of predominantly East Slavic-speaking people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities and who fought against Polish domination and against the Commonwealth forces. In the spring of 1648, the insurgents apparently destroyed a neighboring mansion in Muravytsia.

The Khmelnytsky uprising resulted in a Cossak government known as "Hetmanate" and triggered a period of political turbulence and infighting known in Polish history as the Ruin. The success of the anti-Polish rebellion, along with internal conflicts in Poland and concurrent wars waged by Poland with Russia and Sweden in the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667) and the Second Northern War (1655–1660), effectively ended the Polish Golden Age and caused a secular decline of Polish power during known as the Deluge in Polish history.

All of these events are backdrop for and buildup to the Second Partition of Poland in 1792–95, which brought Mlynov and Mervits under Russian rule and ushered in the period in which we know the names of Mlynov ancestors.


[1] We know about Moshe Gruber, Mordechai Rivitz from their granddaughter, Clara Fram, who was born in Mlynov in 1902 and immigrated to the US in 1909 with some of her family.Her grandmother, Zecil Rivitz, immigrated with Clara to the US in 1909. We know about Israel Jacob Demb and Rivkah Gruber, and their children Simha (Demb) Gruber and Rivkah Demb from photos and traditions past down to Demb descendant, Ted Fishman and Julius Edlavitch, and from Clara Fram's memoire. We know about Toba and Berel Fishman from Fishman, Siegel and Goldseker families trees.

[2] It is possible to roughly guestimate an ancestor's birth year from the birth year of his or her eldest child, which we often have. We can guess that the ancestor was age 16–20 when their eldest child was born. This is obviously not a perfect method, but gives us some sense of the decade that ancestor may have been born.

[3] According to the family tree preserved by the Teitelman descendants, this Mordechai Gruber is believed to have had 9 children and thus descendants in the Teitelman, Alman, Wurtzel, Steinberg, and Kleinberg families, among others. Teitelman descendants: Mordechai's son, Yosef Moshe Gruber, was from Mervits. Yosef Moshe's wife was Shifra (Teitelman) and many of the Teitelmans are descended from them (including Ruchel and Sonia). Steinberg / Wurtzel descendants: One of Mordechai's daughters, Sooreh, married Zelig Wurtzel and their daughter, Pessia, married Getzel Steinberg. Alman/Gelman: It is believed that Mordechai had a daughter Riko (Gruber) who married Gedaliah Gelman. They became the Alman family in America. Kleinberg descendants: Mordechai's daughter Leah married Azraiel Kleinberg (or Kalinberg). Poliakov descendants: Mordechai's daughter Marium married Moshe Poliakov. Weisfeld descendants: A daughter Hanah married Shimon Weisfeld.

[3] See "History of Jews in Poland" in Wikipedia.

[3b] Lerner footnote Chaya Malka Lerner, married Anshel Steinberg, and was born in about 1881. She was the mother of survivors Getzel Steinberg, Mendel Steinberg and Bunia (Steinberg) Upstein. It seems plausible she was part of the same Lerner family. It is also possible that Golda Lerner, who married Moshe Herman (Erbman) and was the mother of Israel Herman was a sister of Joseph Lerner. Joseph Lerner on his passenger manifest says he was headed to his nephew Israel Herman in Baltimore.

[4] On the "History of Jews in Lithuania" in Wikipedia.

[5] I'm leveraging a map in the public domain of "Map of Grand Duchy of Lithuania" in Wikipedia.

[6] On the "Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth" in Wikipedia.

[7] On the population of Mlynov by the 17th century, see "Mlyniv Ukraine" in Wikipedia, citing Bukhalo, H., Vovk, A. Mlyniv, Mlyniv Raion, Rivne Oblast (title and article in Ukrainian) in The History of Cities and Villages of the Ukrainian SSR, an encylopedia about Ukraine .


Compiled by Howard I. Schwartz
Updated:September 2022
Copyright © 2019 Howard I. Schwartz

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