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The 1784 Census: Wiejsieje Kahal
by Dorothy Leivers
“My shtetl”, Kapciamiestis (Kopciowo), Lithuania, was and remains a small settlement with under 1000 inhabitants. It was at one time the administrative centre for a wider rural district which was never much larger than 4000 people. Therefore it became apparent to me very quickly that I needed to expand my searches. I eventually looked at all the Polish and Russian period vital records on the various microfilms for Wiejsieje, Lozdieje and the indexes for the records which form part of the Polish State Archives Project of Jewish Records Indexing-Poland. Some18 months ago I extracted the patronymic vital records for the Jews registered with the Parish of Kopciowo between 1808 and 1825, and this year I did the same thing for the town of Wiejsieje. Later this year I will study the patronymic records for Lizkow and Lejpuny. I will also look at the microfilms for the patronymic records for Berzniki which are extracted in Landsmen Vol. 1 No1 (Summer 1990), the journal of the Suwalki-Lomza Interest Group.
The methodology of my research has not been conventional and it was not conducted in a consecutive order. However, it has been consistent in my constant probe and search for detailed information. The research has been dependent on what data was available, which microfilm arrived at my local family history centre first. Three years later, I have a spreadsheet which includes details of the records I have been able to find relating to Wiejsieje. I have shortened the process by downloading JRI-Poland indices for Wiejsieje and Lozdieje, and added the patronymic records which I had extracted. I added information I found in Landsmen. I returned to the microfilms and started to extend the indices by adding father’s name, patronymics, etc. and especially noting all records for Kopciowo and the villages that appeared in the Wiejsieje records such as Pozopsie, Kowale and others. This has been a process of constant cross referencing between data, checking and double checking. During these past three years, I have also photocopied and translated large numbers of these records pertaining to the Kopciowski family and families connected by marriage.
With the encouragement of other Kopchevans and as we worked on constructing our web page, I realised that I could create family trees for many of the Kopciowo families. I started a GEDCOM file into which I entered the information from the spreadsheet and soon had ample evidence for what I had long suspected. These families were interrelated. Also the families they intermarried outside the Wiejsieje Kahal tended to also come from the same places. None of this surprised me. Later this year, we will begin putting those hypothetical trees onto the Genealogy page of http://www.kapciamiestis.org/.
As a result of the recent work done by the Jewish Family History Foundation’s Grand Duchy Project, I was able to obtain a copy of the 1784 census pages for the Wiejsieje Kahal which I volunteered to index. This is a list of 57 families representing 191 individuals, and it includes a number of outlying villages. It provides the earliest evidence I have found of a Jewish presence in Kopciowo as well as Kowale and Korewicze which are about 2 kilometres distant. There was one entry for each of these three villages. Each family was living at an Inn (Karczma in Polish) which suggests they were probably leaseholders. Since there is a 25 year gap between the census and the first of the vital records available, identification of families from this information is very difficult and may not be possible. However, if records of magnate holdings for the area are located, it may prove possible to do so in the future. There is another entry on the census which I think can be connected to later descendents. Family number 45 caught my attention immediately:
45. Zelik son of Mowsza and his wife Kuna and 5 children are living at Pozopsie.
From the Slownik Geograficzny I learned that in 1827 there were only 18 houses in Pozopsie. The patronymic records for Berzniki which were extracted in Landsmen Vol. 1, issue 1 include some for the village Pozopsie. Three family names appear:
Miller, Krygier and Mikobolski. I learned from one of those records that Mowsza z Szmerek Krygier is related to Zelik z Icko Miller. (1824 Akt 63 Death of Owzer Krygier). Zelik was a witness to that death and is noted as his cousin. This suggests that Mowsza Krygier was Zelik Miller’s uncle. I also noticed that all three families in the 1820s lived at house no 9. From later records I am also aware that if these families were not related by 1820 they certainly had intermarried in later generations. One further family will figure in this consideration: Raczkowski. Both the Miller and Krygier families are related to the Raczkowskis by 1821.
Ashkenazi naming patterns are very helpful. Because of the pattern of naming a child for a near relative who is deceased, we see names recurring in subsequent generations within a family. This becomes increasingly interesting when the name is one which does not occur in the records often. I believed I knew who Zelik and Kuna were likely to be linked to immediately but what I did not at first realize is how many families were in fact descended in some way from them. I constructed a number of hypothetical family trees and then tried to test them in order to see how the family patterns might connect.
The Berzniki patronymic records were amongst those I had entered into my ‘spreadsheet’ and eventually doing first name searches narrowed the field for me.
I noticed the name Kuna in relation to the Miller family quite early in my researches because it was an unfamiliar name to me. It is also recurrent in the Krygier family, as is Zelik.
The name Kuna is not one which I have come across often. In combination with Zelik in a family it is even rarer. I ran a sort on my spreadsheet and separated out ‘Kuna’, both as the subject of an event or as a parent. The result supported my suspicion. Over a period of almost 100 years and upwards of 5000 individuals,
I found 28 named Kuna. I cannot identify 3 of those at all. Of the remaining 25, 6 women with Kuna as part of their given name could be identified as descending directly from Noach Miller, Szmerek Krygier and Leyb Raczkowski. In the same families I found recurrence over the generations of combinations of Zelik, Szmerek and Noach. Amongst the other Kunas, I saw surnames that suggested a relationship to these three families but there is insufficient evidence.
Who were Zelik z Mowsza and his wife Kuna? In such a small town I thought it would be a fairly easy matter but there is a 45 year gap between 1784 and the 1821 the marriage record of Zelik Ickowicz and Chayka Leybowna which was the first record that came to mind when I saw the 1784 census entry. The marriage was registered at Kopciowo in 1821 and the record is very difficult to read. I am certain that this is Zelik son of Icko Noachowicz and Jenta Miller and Chayka, daughter of Leyb Raczkowski and Rochla Szymkowna. The surname in this record looks like Haradzkowski. Later records for other children of Leyb and Rochla meant that I could follow the name to its later form RACZKOWSKI, suggesting that the family originates from Raczki.
Three trees follow. Dates and references can be supplied on request.
The first tree is for the family which came to be known as MILLER. In the third generation we find: Kuna Fejga, Szmerek, and Noach Szmerek. It is also worth noting that Chono Miller marries Chana Krygier. Szmerek Noach Labenski is the son of Rocha Leah nee Miller and he marries Jachna Etka Ruwelowna Miller who was his aunt. In the 4th and 5th generations we find occurrences of the names Zelik, Noach and Szmerek again, sometimes in combination with another name
The second tree is for the Krygier family, and again there is the occurrence of the names Szmerek, Zelik and Kuna. I have added to this tree Kuna Leja Mowszowna who is probably the daughter of Mowsza Krygier, and she will appear again on the Raczkowski tree as the wife of Icko Leybowicz (who the brother of Zelik Miller’s wife, Chayka). Her name may be a combination of Kuna from the 1784 census (i.e. wife of Zelik) and Leja who was the wife of Szmerek (Mowsza’s father) The evidence is not sufficient to assign this person with absolute certainty.
The third tree is for the RACZKOWSKI family and given the 1821 marriage of Zelik Miller and Chayka Raczkowski, the naming pattern is as might be expected. It is however important to note that the naming pattern continues in the family of her brother, Icko, either because his wife, Kuna Leja, is indeed the daughter of Mowsza Zelik or because in some other way the Raczkowski family are related to the Millers and Krygiers in an earlier generation.
There is no evidence that Noach Miller ever lived in Pozopsie. His son, Icko died there in 1824 aged 37 suggesting a birth date around 1787. This seems late given his son Zelik was born around 1801-1803. However, this brings us closer to the 1784 census
Mowsza Krygier is about the same age as Icko Miller. I know he and Zelik Miller are related from the death record of one of his children where the relationship is given as ‘cousin’; but I cannot tell if he is the deceased’s cousin or the father’s cousin. In both families I find the names Zelik and Kuna repeating down the generations. Mowsza Krygier‘s wife was Basia Benjaminowa so she is not the sister of Icko Miller. However Icko’s wife Jachna could be the sister of Mowsza Krygier and Ick Miller may have been living with his father in-law, Szmerek Krygier. There is insufficient evidence as to Jachna’s parentage. That identification would be helpful but is not essential to the analysis owing to the strong naming patterns shared by both families. The 1784 Zelik was a son of Mowsza and this tips the balance towards the Krygier family but not sufficiently to allow for certainty. What is clear is that down the generations the naming pattern repeats. This suggests that Zelik z Mowsza and his wife were the ancestors of the three families I have looked at above.
Can I prove this to my satisfaction? In order to do that I would like to see birth marriage or death records for some of their children.
 The gazetteer (Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich) was published between 1880 and 1902 under the direction of Filip Sulimierski. It is an excellent gazetteer for locating places in the areas of Poland, or that were at one time or another under Polish rule (up to the 19th century).