Serfs of Poland and Russia Part V by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.

Glossary of Agricultural, Property,
and Land Subdivision Terms [1]
After Emancipation of the Serfs
Abstracted by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.
May 31, 2005

    End of Serfdom in Poland:
  1. Napoleonic defeat of Prussian and Russian Occupied Poland in 1807 ended serfdom, but emancipation of serfs was delayed until Revolution of 1848.
  2. Austro-Hungary Occupied Poland, 1848: Resulted from the peasant revolt in 1846 over abuses of forced labor and greed of the gentry (szlachta).
  3. German Occupied Poland: Silesia, Poznania, Pomerania. West Prussia, 1850. East Prussia or Pomerania was not part of the German Occupied Poland, except part of East Prussia, the Northwest part, which was east of Gdansk/Danzig.
  4. Congress Poland – “Russian Occupied Poland, 1864: Delayed until after Russian suppression of the Polish Insurrection of 1863.

Category of Serfdom: based upon the amount of land held and worked by the serf. By the 18th century, serfdom became synonymous with slavery. In Russia, serfs were auctioned; serfs were subjected to justice and death penalties administered by the lords.

By 1781 in Austria, Emperor Joseph II abolished serfdom, so serfs married, moved, or took up trades without the lord’s permission. Serfs could be flogged as punishment, but not executed. Each administrative jurisdiction, Kreis (the German term for county; Polish term is powiat), had a separate court system. Until 1847, courts were often held in the village tavern (karczma; this was the term used for judges, who traveled to different town courts).

    Object of “Emancipation” was to limit forced labor by the lords:
  1. Cmetho – 3 days labor per week
  2. Semi-cmetho – 2 days labor per week
  3. Hortulanus – 1 day labor per week
  4. Inquilinus – 1 day per month

    Legal redistribution of land and tax base:
  1. Land distribution: Royal Crown land; Church land; Noble land; and free Peasant land.
  2. Lord/land owner received 30-70% of the acreage.
  3. Occupations were still under the stewardship of the lords until after 1850.
  4. Transition to serf ownership was financed by State bonds and redeemed through taxation.

    Tax payments in-kind:
  1. Pańszczyzna: Serfdom; serf labor statutes
  2. Pańszczyżniany: Serf (chłop)
  3. Ellenwanden: amount of woven cloth (paid per year) based upon length of cloth, the ellenwand.
    1. Ellenwand: equal to the Polish unit of length – łokieć:
    2. Austria: 0.7775586 meter
    3. Prussia: 0.66694 meter
    4. Russia: 0.57600 meter
    5. Poland: 0.5608 meter
  4. Dnie sprzężajne: Peasant (cmethones) compulsory labor cultivating the lord’s fields, but using his own oxen and tools.
  5. Dnie piesze: Lesser peasant (hortulanus) compulsory “walking” labor without his own animals or tools.
    1. Example of Polish annual payments by peasants to the lord/property owner: 1,560 cultivation hours labor, 8,554 walking hours labor, 10 geese, 322 chickens, 6000 eggs, 1,824 yards of cloth, and 8 florins and 36 groszy cash. Poland tried to standardize equivalent payments:
    2. 1 dzień sprzęż = 24 groszy
    3. 1 dzień piesz = 6 groszy
    4. 1 goose = 12 groszy
    5. 1 chicken = 7 groszy
    6. 60 eggs = 10 groszy
  6. Quitrent: American land-servitude after 1776; annual tax payments.
  7. Freeholder: Land ownership without symbolic payments of any kind.

Latin Polish Definition
Agricola Rolnik Rola means soil. Rolnik means the farmer.
Cmetho (cmethonius) Kmieć Self-sufficient farmer; later use was peasant. If a serf were self-sufficient, he may have been classified as “cmetho” based upon the land value, regardless of the size of the farm.
Colonus Kolonista Settler; Alien colonist farmer
Semi-cmetho Zagrodnik z rolą or (półrolnik) Peasant farm was half-sized; Usually 21-42 acres
Hortulanus Zagrodnik Peasant farm was quarter-sized Garden-sized; Usual size was 1 - 21 acres. Serfs had to supplement income with outside work.
Hortulanus cum agro Peasant with minimal subsistence farm, who received additional land
Inquilinus or Rusicus/rustico/plebus Parobek; Okupnik Landless peasant had 1 – 1 ½ acre; tenant; often used for “day-laborer”
Ogrodnik Peasant had a house with small garden, but no cropland; gardener
Chałupnik Peasant had a small cottage (chata)
Komora All-purpose living room
Komornik Peasant tenant had only one room in someone else’s house - (southeastern Poland). In England the term was Cottager.
Kumornik pauper Komornik Peasant without house or farm animals
Kątnik; aka (podkomornik) Poor peasant lived in a corner of someone’s room

Latin Polish Definition
Rusicus/rustico, or plebus Parobek Landless peasant laborer; often a rural farmhand or day-laborer.
Villanus Villager
Pauperes Ubogi Destitute and landless peasant unable to support himself
Łan Polish farm – standard unit of area. German = Hufe, mórg, Joch, sążeń squared, or Klafter.
Łan frankoński Frankish or German term = 43.2 mórgs or 23ß27 hectares. American homestead farms were 40 acres
Łan flandryjski Flemish term = 30.0 mórgs
Włoka Flemish term same as Łan flandryjski equal to 41.50 acres.
Morg or morga
  1. Austrian = 1.422 acres
  2. Prussian = 0.631 acres
  3. Russian/Poland = 1.388 acres
  4. Area about 5,600 sq. meters
Sążeń (Sazhen squared) = 4.537 acres
A division of a morg
Ha. Abbreviation for hectare - 2.471 acres
Kilometer (km) 0.6641 miles
Wiorsta Verst (English) = 1.069 km or 0.70 miles
Gospodarstwo Polish farm
German: Betrieb/Bauhof/Bauerngut
Grunt Any sized ground or soil holding
Szlachta Nobility or gentry. Also included knights
Equites Military knighthood

Governmental terms
Castellanus Kasztelan A.k.a. chatelain; governor of castle
Capitaneus Starosta County governor (county = starostwo)
Palatinus Wojewoda Provincial governor; province = województwo
Wojskowy Military
Tribuus Wojski Military like (adjective)
Scultetus Sołtys Bailiff or head of the village
Subcamerarius Podkomorzy Lesser rent collector or Chamberlain
Dominus Pan It refers to the Lord, master, or gentleman. As a prefix it could mean Mr. similar to the Spanish padrone.
Dziedzic Refers to someone, who inherits
Pandziedzic means the inheritor
Dwór Manor house
Heares Właściciel Owner or proprietor
Psoiadacz Proprietor
Praedium Folwark Large working farm, i.e. American “grange” or residence and central area of the Polish gentry estate.
Praedium militare Defensive outpost
Latifundium Entire estate of a lord
Demesne Estate not leased to serfs
Mansa Plebania Parsonage, rectory
Glaeba Gleba Soil or ground; village land that supported the local priest
Economus Ekonom Steward of the estate


[1] Ortell, Gerald A.: “Polish Parish Records of the Roman Catholic Church, Their Use and Understanding in Genealogical Research,” Polish Genealogical Society of America, Chicago, IL, 1998.

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