BOOKS OF RESIDENTS (“TENANT REGISTERS”)
Click here for a downloadable file with a list of all surnames
appearing in Series 3 of the Books of Residents. The list also
indicates the frequency of appearance of each surname.
Where these volumes have survived, Akta Miasta or Ksiegi Mieszkancow (Books of Residents) are a unique source of information on the citizens of towns and villages of Poland. In simple terms, these “Tenant Registers” are a house-by-house census of the people in the town and the authorities’ way of controlling the movement of the population. Different series and types of registers have been in use since the middle of the 19th century but, unlike the vital records of Poland, most of them have not survived the passage of time.
The following description is based on an initial examination of the Tenant Registers in the possession of the city administration of Ostrów Mazowiecka by Stanley Diamond and Michael Richman in October 1996 and later research of individual volumes. In October 1998, the entire collecton was transferred to the Pultusk Branch of the Polish State Archives.
For the period when there was a Jewish community in Ostrów Maziowecka, there appears to have been four sets of Tenant Registers, designated herein as Series 1, Series 2, Series 3, and Series 4. A preliminary inventory of these registers was made in March 1996 and revised in 1997 and 1998.
In 1999, the Polish State Archives agreed to microfilm Series 3 to further the scientific and humanitarian goals of the Beta-Thalassemia genetic trait research project, which is based on the study of Jewish families who lived in Ostrów Mazowiecka and nearby towns. The microfilming project is being managed by the Ostrów Mazowiecka Research Family.
Contributions to the project should be made to the Ostrów Mazowieck Tenant Register Fund c/o Jewish Records Indexing - Poland. All donations are tax deductible in the U.S.A. When the entire project has been funded and the database has been completed, indices to the registers will be added to the JRI-Poland database. For more information on the “Tenant Register Project,” please contact Stanley Diamond.
According to the article "The Polish Concept of Permanent Place of Residence" (AVOTAYNU Volume XVI, No. 3, Fall 2000, edited by Julian Bussgang), Russian decrees of 1861 and 1866 required municipal and rural communities to maintain two types of books of residence - a book of permanent residents, and a book of temporary residents. Some communities may have had such books at an earlier date, as discussed in the article, but the Ostrów Mazowiecka Tenant Registers appear to have been maintained pursuant to those decrees, given the time period (late 1800s) and the language (Russian). We were told by Polish state archivists that these registers came into use in the 1860s as a means to track population movements in response to the Polish uprising of 1863.
There is no physical evidence of Series 1, but we have surmised its existence from information in Series 2 and 3. Column 11 in Series 2 and 3 indicates the "previous place of domicile." In many instances, the column entry says "town of Ostrów" with a number and page number. The first number appears to be a house number, but the page number does not correspond with the page on which the inhabitants of that house are listed in the Series 2 and 3 registers. Therefore, it would appear that the references are to pages in Series 1. This would explain, among other things, why the house numbers appearing in 1880s vital records do not match the house numbers noted in the Series 2 and Series 3 registers.
We were told by the Polish State Archives that Tenant Registers came into use during the 1860s, as a means to track population movements in response to the Polish rebellions. Therefore, Series 1 would likely date from the mid-1860s or early 1870s. It would have been discontinued by the 1890s.
Series 2 consists of a series of volumes with dark grey bindings. The register bindings are in very poor condition and the Series is not complete. The books are 30 cm x 45 cm and vary in thickness from 7 cm to 10 cm.
The information in these registers is recorded in a two page spread and consists of the following:
- House number (indicated in upper left hand corner of left hand page)
- First name and surname
- column for males
- column for females, including maiden name
- Names of parents
- Date of birth - day, month and year
- Place of birth
- Status (e.g., married, widowed, single)
- Social Status (e.g., town dweller, middle class, farm dweller, etc.)
- Previous place of domicile
Our best guess is that these volumes came into use in the early 1890s. While several individuals who died before 1890 are included, they may simply have been copied from entries in Series 1. Entries in Series 2 are in Russian.
Use of these volumes appears to have been discontinued by World War I.
Series 3The current project (See example of typical register page and extracts above)
Series 3 has red bindings and consists of 19 volumes, a supplemental volume (number 20), plus an index volume. This series is complete and the bindings are in generally good shape. The books are 30 cm x 45 cm and vary in thickness from 5.5 cm to 9 cm. Column headings are identical to those in the Series 2 registers. The inside front cover of each volume has the label of the manufacturer. The printed labels carry the date 1873. It is not clear what that date signifies as far as usage is concerned.
It would appear that Series 3 started out as a copy of Series 2 as the entries are identical, including the notes. However, some individuals who were crossed out in Series 2 do not appear in Series 3. In both series, the handwriting of the scribe appears to be the same for all entries in all columns other than the notes; on the other hand, there are at least three or four different handwriting styles in the "notes" columns and the same scribe seemed to have been responsible for entering the notes in each of Series 2 and 3. One scribe tended to use red ink and a second used black ink. The notes column also contain pencilled entries of initials and dates (in which the month is noted by Roman numerals). Because of the similarity of all these pencilled entries - although the dates vary - it has been suggested that this was a one-time review of the registers to denote something relative to “draft status” for the Russian army. Time did not permit us to fully analyze the examples we came across to determine when the recopying from series 2 to 3 probably occurred.
Series 3 seems to have been maintained for several years in conjunction with Series 2. After World War I, though, only Series 3 was used. There are many indications that efforts were made to update the registers around 1920 or 1921 to reflect changes during the war. If a family had left the town, however, the entries might just have been ignored rather than updated. The registers continued in use through at least 1930, and there are a few notes as late as the late 1930s where the registers were used for reference purposes (e.g., as evidence of birth in the absence of a birth registration).
Pre-World War I entries are in Russian; later entries, whether the addition of new children or notes, etc., are in Polish.
The index volume generally reflects the Series 3 registers. It does not appear that this index was updated after the beginning of World War I, so that many entries are not reflected. The index frequently omits entries in registers which had been crossed out because the occupant either married (and a new entry with spouse was made on another page), was deceased, or moved away from Ostrów.
There are approximately 50% additional pages with entries that are not included in the index. These list:
1. Additional children not recorded in the index.
2. Entire families, usually with the same surname as the preceding family in the register.
There are additional volumes numbered 20, 21, 22, and 23, in light grey bindings (similar in appearance to Series 4 [see below]).
This volume has additional Jewish and non-Jewish entries from Ostrów and is obviously a supplemental volume to the original set of 19. E.g. There is an index entry for Juda Wolf JASKOLKA with his parents and siblings with a notation "deleted, see page 688." He is listed in the index a second time with his wife and two children (born in 1911 and 1913) with the notation: "after volume 20."
Thus "after volume 20" refers to entries for families whose records were moved to a new volume, likely because of lack of space (nearby pages) in the original volume.
Volumes 21 to 23
While the birth, marriage and death registers of Ostrów include many events for families living in nearby villages, these families are not are recorded in the town's Tenant Registers. It is these three volumes which cover small villages, such as Grabownica. Initial research indicated that the entries in these volumes are primarily of non-Jewish families. Efforts to locate certain Jewish families, such as SERWETARZ of Majdan Koziki and Sielc, did not bear fruit.
Observations about Series 3
Exact dates of birth were supplied only if there was a birth registration to serve as a basis for such information. Otherwise, only a year of birth is indicated, along with a statement that the age was determined by the person's appearance or, in some cases, by reference to a specific testimony (army doctor, etc.).
The "Notes" columns have a variety of interesting entries. We could not ascertain, however, if these notes were meticulously kept up to date, and whether there is consistency from one page or individual to the next. Notes entries include:
- Date of death (with the act number), and whether the person died in Ostrów Maz. or some other town which is mentioned by name.
- Army draft information. This includes whether or not a man appeared for the draft or, if he did, where he served (e.g., as a soldier or in a local guard unit).
- Town or other house in Ostrów where individual moved when he/she left this particular house number. If the person moved to another house in Ostrów to get married, for example, the same entry in the notes would refer to another page number.
- For a woman who moved, the name of her spouse and the town where the spouse was from (and to where they both presumably went to live).
- The act numbers of the relevant marriage records - in Ostrów Maz. or another town.
- Criminal records. These are often quite detailed indicating the offense and the sentence, and where it was served.
- Pencilled entries: These are initials with dates. As mentioned previously, this may have been a one-time review of the registers to denote something relative to “draft status” for the Russian army.
The notes column recorded details of military service. Notations "did not appear for military service" are typically dated when the man was 21 years old.
The draft appears to have been mandatory for all males at the age of 21. For this reason, if a birth registration gives a birth date for a son that seems to make him younger than genealogical researchers' records indicate, that is probably the case. The fact that the wives were in most cases older than their husbands in the Tenant Register index is another indication that sons' births may have been registered late.
It would seem that men who did not appear for the draft had typically left the country. (We have noted cases where such individuals were found in the New York Passenger Arrival Lists the same year as they “did not appear” for the draft!) In other cases, the person was found and arrested -- some of the notes describe various court proceedings. In later records, if the person was found to have left the country, his Polish citizenship was revoked. If the person did appear, the notes reflect the type of service -- e.g., whether the person was a soldier or served instead in the local self-defense organization (perhaps somewhat similar to U.S. National Guard).
The notes point to the existence of two additional sets of records. One is a Population Movement Register. The other is a list of persons eligible for the draft (or at least of those who appeared for the draft), which type of record was described to us by an archivist in a different location. Whether any of these records survived for Ostrów Mazowiecka (other than the one Population Movement register volume we know of, for the years 1932 to 1934) is not currently known.
We understand from Polish archivists that a ruling by Poland's Minister of Interior Affairs of October 16, 1930 (Dz. U.P.L. 84 poz. 653, paragraph 54) required that the books of residence then in use be closed and replaced by a new set of books. Pursuant to this ruling, then, Series 4 came into use about 1931. It is entirely in Polish. It was maintained through 1950.
This 31 volume series is organized by street and house/flat numbers. The top of each double page spread has a place for the town name, street name and number, and flat/apartment number.
The books are 40 cm x 54 cm and vary in thickness from 3.5 cm to 9 cm.
The column headings generally correspond to those in Series 2 and 3 registers, although more detailed in a number of respects:
- Name --
- Surname -- including, for married women, maiden name and previous married name
- First name, according to the birth registration
- Names of parents, including mother's maiden name
- Date of birth and place of birth (locality, municipality and, if applicable, country)
- Status -- main tenant, member of family, sub-tenant, worker
- Profession - position, main source of support
- Religion (according to birth registration)
- Status and name of the second partner - date and place where the registration took place
- Military status/obligation
- I.D. Card - type of I.D. number, date and the office where I.D. issued
- Previous place of residence (in detail) - locality, municipality, province, street, and house number
- Lawful (main) place of residence
- Where moved to (municipality, province, street, house number; in case of death, write "died")
- Any penalties, etc.
b) Registration number of officers according to the conscription list or the number of the military list
a) Date when first took up residence in municipality
b) Number of book (tenant register)
c) Date of entry (if born in municipality, enter "born here")
a) Date when moved or date and place of death
b) Number in population movement register
c) Date when removed from registration
Observations about Series 4
Most Jewish entries were first made in pencil and were incomplete -- generally, indicating just names and parents' names. In some cases, though, the entries were written over in ink and complete information was supplied.
There are no entries for the Jewish families after September 1, 1939. However, in some cases there are non-Jewish families entered at the bottom of the same page on which a Jewish family appears. Since the registers recorded people living in specific houses, the implications are obvious. These entries are generally from 1942 through 1947.
Locating families in Series 4
There is no index to Series 4. However, there are two finding aids for specific individuals and their families created by members of the Ostrów Mazowiecka Research family.
- Some families may be found by using volume and page number references in the index of the 1932 - 1934 Population Movement Register. Streets named also give a general idea of where Jewish families lived.
- Ostrów Maz. pages from the 1928 and 1929 Polish Business Directories (Ksiega Adresowa Polski) have been indexed. Most entries indicate streets where businesses were located and according to a personal interview with long-time resident Hillary Chrust, "most people lived and worked in the same place." Very few could afford to rent both business premises and a home. Exceptions would be wealthy families like the TEJTELS who owned the Brewery. The CHRUST family had a store and rented a flat across the street. 80% of the families were poor and, according to Mr. Chrust, thirty to forty families called themselves middle class.
"Jewish and partially Jewish streets" are described in "Sefer ha-zikaron le-kehilat Ostrow-Mazovyetsk" (The Memorial Book of the Jewish Community of Ostrow Mazowiecka). In his "A Walk Around Town," Arija Lejb MARGOLIS says:
The Jewish community is concentrated first of all at the Old Market (as far back as the uprising in Poland) "Plac Kzieenznej Anny Mazowieckiej", and the streets: Warszawska, Brokowska, Sz. Brokowska, Miodowa, Pultuska, Rozanska, Kaza (or Mieckiewicza), Jagielonska, Nurski, Solna, Ostrolencka, Jatkowa and Batorego. Mixed streets were 3rd May Street, Malkinska, Poczsztowa Street, Kosciuszki Alley, Ugniewska, Cementarz, Lubiejewska and "the Pyaskes".
The inventory of the Series 4 registers lists the street names within each volume. The street names appear on the binding of the volumes and are generally, but not totally, alphabetical.