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 in Mlynov and Mervits 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 eventual translation of Russian census documents at some point may help us better understand at what point the families we know of as "from Mlynov" and "from Mervits" were already there.

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 in the mid-19th century, sometime around 1845-1860. We know little to nothing about their parents or their childhoods directly and don’t know how they came to be in these small towns. What remains of them, typically, is their names and a photo kept by descendants, though we know more about those who emigrated later to the US or Palestine. Below is a list of the ancestors that families still recall today and their estimated dates of birth, based on the birthdate of their eldest child or their immigration papers.[1]


Approximate Date of Births of Known Ancestors[2]
  1. Moshe Gruber– ~1835

  2. Abraham and Liebe Hirsch – ~1842

  3. Israel Jacob Demb– ~1849

  4. Mordechai and Zecil Rivitz– ~1851

  5. Avrum Goldseker– ~1852

  6. Rivkah Gruber (daughter of Moshe Gruber)– ~1853

  7. Berel Dov and Toba Fishman– ~1858

  8. Labish Gelberg– ~1860 and Etta (Schuchman) ~1865

  9. Getzel Fax– ~1862

  10. Chaim Schwartz– ~1863

  11. Simha Gruber– ~1864

  12. Anna (Fishman)and Shimon Goldseker– ~1867

  13. Joseph Shargel– ~1869 and Yenta Brandl – ~1872

  14. Elia Aron Gaynor – ~1876

  15. Moishe Fishman– ~1873

  16. Elia Aron Gaynor – ~1876

  17. Ben Zion and Masa Polishuk – ~1878

  18. Asher Steinberg and Chaya(Lerner) – ~1881

  19. Arke Nudler – ~1888


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.[3]

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 speculates 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.[4]

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.[6] 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 chidlren were born. This is obviously not a perfect method, but gives us some sense of the period the decade that ancestor may have been born.

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

[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:March 2021
Copyright © 2019 Howard I. Schwartz

Webpage Design by Howard I. Schwartz
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