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The Serf

Our earliest traceable ancestor in the Jendrzejewski family in Lopacin Parish is Michal (in Polish, spelled with a slash through the l to make the f sound). What can we know about Michal? General history and information about his sons suugests possible scenarios about his life.

Historical Context

Michal was answerable to and considered part of the land the nobleman or squire owned. However, he must have been a peasant of some importance. Some of his sons were described in the records as uczciwy (well known, respected) indicating perhaps that he might have had a small plot of land for subsistence farming that was larger than other serfs. Nobles and the dominating powers, however, all strove to keep the peasants subjugated in medieval serfdom, that is poor and powerless. In his book God's Playground, Volume II, Norman Davies describes several levels of peasants between 1791 and 1900. He described the serfs who were owned and attached to the land by the royalty, the church, and the nobility. Below them, even, were the landless peasants who were simply agricultural laborers. There was also the free peasantry who rose to be farmers by 1900, but a "free" peasant was virtually nonexistent in Russian Poland.

The Napoleonic records between 1812 and 1826 refer to the houses 14 and 13 as those of the Jedrzejewski family, where children were born and family members died. In as late as about 1845, a marriage certificate mentioned a dowry registered in a land office in Ciechanow.

Ownership of land was defeated by another tradition in Poland, the splitting up of any inheritance estates among the children. This affected nobles and peasants alike. Up to 1830, the Jedrzejewski residence at number 14, was controlled by Michal's oldest son, Piotr. After the 1830-31 insurrection Piotr moved to Radziwiloborz, just across a stream from Nowa Wies, leaving the household to the youngest brother, Bartlomiej (in my direct line). Another brother, Jozef, moved to Gutkow a couple kilometers to the east. Clearly the residence was too small for the children of their growing families or the land allotted to them by the squire did not sufficiently support the needs of three families with children. The age of all the sons suggests that Michal might have been born in the 1730s or 1740s.

Available Records of Michal:

No birth, death or marriage records seem to exist for Michal. We only know of him through secondary sources, the death records of his sons Piotr, Jozef, Michal and Bartlomiej (my direct line). Two of the brothers were born from Michal and either Katarzyna or Ewa. Recodes stating the mother of the two other brothers seem to have been lost.

A death record of one of his sons states that Michal was born in Nowa Wies. That was the village of my direct line until the family migrated to the United States. Yet, records from that parish do not include his baptism, marriage or death records. Why? Other families are included. This makes be doubt that he might have originated in Nowa Wies. If not in Nowa Wies, then, what was his origin?

Records of this Jedrzejewski family do not indicate any form of nobility. Latin records of his brothers posthumously indicate "agricola"(farmer); Polish records indicate gospodarz rolnik (peasant farmer) and most certainly a peasant farmer. However, it is important to understand that in Polish society a peasant was not just a poor farmer. He was also a serf. Polish society had carried on the medieval tradition of feudal nobles and serfs until the 1860s, when the industrial revolution challenged the social norms.

Michal's Sons:

All the known son's lives , except for Bartlomiej's, are summarized below to enlighten us a little more clearly about the life of their father, Michal. I have devoted a separate page for Bartlomiej, whose records seem to be most in tack.

Jozef 1763-1833

The first known of Michal Jedrzejewski's children with wife Katarzyna, Jozef was born in 1763 ( or possibly as late as 1772). Jozef's earlier birth date of 1763 corresponds with two records and seems more plausible than the later one of 1772 suggested by the age recorded in the birth record of his son, Franciszek. Therefore, the earlier date will be used. His marriageable age of 18, then, would have been as early as 1781. Jozef lived the first half of his life during the reign of Adam Poniatowski (1764-1795), during the Confederation of Bar (1768-72), the First Partition of Poland,(1772), Four Years' Siem (1788-1792), the forming of the Constitution of May 3, 1791 and the 1792 Polish/Russian war that ended in the Second Partition of Poland. After the Rising of Kuskiusko in 1794, the Third Partition of Poland gave his Mazovian home to the control of the Prussians. This control lasted until Napoleon swept through the area at the end of 1806 and first half of 1807, when the emperor defeated the Prussians, pushed back the Russians and formed the Duchy of Warsaw.

It is from this period of turmoil that we find the first of few surviving records from Jozef's family. He married Maryanna Kostkowska, already supposedly 46 years of age, when, in 1798 they had a daughter, Maryanna. Jozef would have been 35.

In this record Jozef was listed as agricola, farmer. Presumably, because he was the oldest of the known brothers and began his family much earlier than the others, he inherited primary responsibility of the farm, though management of the farm was probably split between him and his three known brothers. Evidence suggests that the other brothers all remained in Nowa Wies, if not specifically house #14 until after their families were begun. This suggests that they were peasants with a feudal tie to the land, though they might have been "richer" peasants with partial ownership of the land. A squire would have control over the land, however, and control over where the brothers and their families lived. I suspect that just before they had Maryanna they also had Mateusz. The only evidence of his existence, however, occurs in an 1815 birth record of Mateusz and Maryanna Krylylowska's son, Laurenty. While this is a vast leap, considering the ages of the other brothers compared to Jozef, it is a plausible leap. Jozef would be the oldest of the brothers and the only one capable to have had a son that could start a family that early.

Jozef and Maryanna had Jozefa in 1810 when Maryanna was 58 and Jozef was 47. Maryanna's age being 11 years older suggests to me the possibility that Mateusz was born of a previous wife, not of Maryanna. Often, a second wife taken by a man would be an available widow in the village, even if much older than the man. Mateusz' mother might have died during his birth, a common occurrence at the time. Of course this is all conjecture.

In 1819, Jozef and his family, possibly after the marriage of his first daughter, Maryanna at 21 (?) or with her help, moved to the village of Radziwiloborz just south of Nowa Wies. Jozef is listed as Wyrobnik, a peasant hired hand, who left his childhood village home in Nowa Wies to find work and make room for the families of his half brothers in Nowa Wies. That might have been too much for Jozef's wife, Maryanna, who died at the recorded age of 67 in 1819, which corresponds with her age on her daughter's birth record of 1810.

In the 1822 birth record of another son, Franciszek, Jozef had remarried to a widow Franciszka Falety Baronow. They lived in house number 12 in Radziwiloborz. Jozef's and Franciszka's ages are listed as 50 and 43, respectively. Jozef's age of 50 in that record is 9 years short of those recorded on the other records available. In 1833, Jozef moved back to Nowa Wies and died on December 18, leaving his wife Franciszka Falety Baronow.

Piotr 1777-1848

Michal had a son named Piotr, but Piotr's mother was not mentioned in any of the available records. Piotr's birth date is much closer to the ages of his younger brothers, but errors in the recording of his age suggest a wide span of possible birth dates, from 1774-1780, or 6 years. His mother could have been Katarzyna or Ewa or some unknown wife of his father.

He would have become marriageable, then about 1895, just after Koskiusko's rising and in the year of the Third Partition when Prussia took control over Mazovia. Yet there is no record of him having children or marriages before his marriage to Maryanna about 1810 when his first known child, Jozef, was born. Perhaps, Jozef, was named after Piotr's older brother, Jozef, who followed their father's role as head of the household when he died. The lack of any marriage or children until about the age of 33 leaves open the possibility that Piotr had served in the Prussian Army between 1795 and 1806 and/or the Polish Army between 1807 and 1810. He also might have simply remained in Nowa Wies to work hard on the farm.

After the birth of Jozef (1810-1816) in 1810, several other children followed: Jozefa (?)(she might be the same as Jozef) (1811-1816),Malgorzata (1813-1830), Katarzyna (1816-?), Adam (1818-1822), Antoni Leonard (1821-?), Kazimierz (1824 - ?), Elzbieta (1826-?) and Maryanna (1829-?).

After Antoni Leonard was born in 1821, Piotr and his family moved to Gutkow, a village closer to the Lopacin Parish seat, about two or three kilometers or two away. This mobility might mean he was able to purchase land, or that he was moved by a squire to farm different property. In any event, it served to disperse a very crowded household. Since the duchy of Warsaw, he was free to purchase land, though doing so put burdensome fees by richer landowners who retained some rights to the property.

Piotr was regarded in all these records as a "rolnick" or "honesty" or "agricola', all terms associated with a peasant farmer. Piotr's daughter, Malgorzata, was married in to Adam Sotkiewicz who was recorded as a derelict husband in her 1830 death record. Could Malgorzata's death and his abandoning her be connected to the 1830 insurgency or a cholera pandemic?

Piotr's wife, Maryanna died at the age of 50 in 1844. Piotr died in 1848 at the age of 70 as a Gospodarz Rolnik (peasant farmer). He left a widow Maryanna Kurniki.

Michal 1780-1814

Information about Michael is based solely on one document, a secondary source, his death record. It lists Michal as age 34 when he died in 1814, establishing his birth date. He is connected as being the son of Michael, as he lived in house #14 in Nowa Wies, the same house recorded in his brothers' records.

Michal would have approached a marriageable age in 1798, but most likely would not have been able to marry the wife, Lucia Szadowska, mentioned in his death record until about 1806 when she turned 18. This would have given him time to have served in the Prussian Army until 1806 and in the Polish Army after 1807. In fact, he might have married her after serving in the Army at a time close to his death. The fact that his 1814 death record states that he was Gospodarz Rolnik, a farming peasant, implies that any military duty he might have had ended sometime before his death. Lucia was 26 at the time.

It is odd that the Latin records for the 18th century record no Jedrzejewski births deaths or marriages. The second half of the 17th century ushered in three partitions and a declaration of independence, all of which culminated with the split of Poland into three regions no longer called Poland and under the dominance of the Russians, Prussians and Austrians.

Now we'll continue with Bartlomiej, the brother in my direct line:

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Copyright: This information is presented only for genealogical purposes and may not be copied in any form without written permission by the author.

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Andrew Jendrzejewski