06 June 2013

Jewish Land Records in the Central State Archives in Lviv, 6 June 2013

I've been a little jealous of those American genealogists who have to deal with burned courthouses. They have been pushed to use extant land records and indirect evidence analysis to progress in their family history research. Jewish genealogists can learn from this - World War II and the Holocaust has certainly created a "burned courthouse" situation in terms of extant records. Recently, when I attended the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas, I listened to several talks by Elizabeth Shown Mills where she performed genealogical magic with land records. If only we had those for our European ancestors! We do. After today's work at the Central State Historical Archives in Lviv, I'm starting to feel optimistic.

Natalie and Alex Dunai have done extensive work with tabular records in the archives. These are records of a variety of agreements and contracts, many of which document the purchase and sale of real estate. Fond 166 at the archives includes documentation of agreements in Galicia between 1780 and 1891. Natalie arranged to pull the four volumes from Zaleszczyki for me this morning. A few years ago she had indexed some of the records. That index made it simple to locate some of my Wenkert and Liebross records. I worked my way through the other volumes looking for my surnames of interest.

While several volumes that existed are now lost, we were able to link some of these registers to the full contractual language in other volumes. Sometimes the agreements mentioned house numbers in Zaleszczyki. Cadastral maps of the central portion of Zaleszczyki have not been located yet in any archive. So, we cannot say where these homes were within the town. However, it still should be possible to conduct further analysis using the tabular register records to push family connections back in time.

One of the most interesting set of records for me were created as a result of the 1848 emancipation of Jews in the Austrian Empire of Franz Josef. Lands previously controlled by the nobility were now available for Jewish ownership. The government documented rent previously paid to the lords to develop compensation for their economic loss. They also documented all the home owners and boarders within the town of Zaleszczyki. These tables are in the archives.

The detail below shows a record of agreement between Srul (Israel) Hersch Wenkert and the former noble landowner, dating from 1850. Srul's signature is written in Hebrew characters.

At this point I am not certain, but it is likely, based upon this record and a couple of others through which we may estimate Srul's age, that this is my great great grandfather Israel Hersch Wenkert, father of Breindl (later Bertha) Wenkert Liebross, my great grandmother.

I photographed all the Zaleszczyki records of interest for my research. It will take some translating and further analysis before I may be able to really assess the success of my archives visit.


  1. This has been my virtual trip to discover my ancestors.
    Bertha Wenkert Liebross was my great grandmother too.
    Diana Liebross Steinman


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