In Search of Nobility: Tracing Noble Roots
*shared with client permission
Inheriting documents can be a boon for every budding family historian. Untold stories and treasures can be found in these treasure troves. However, when those documents are in a foreign language, researchers may find themselves unaware of the importance of the items they hold. Researching ancestry in Europe can even lead to hidden surprises such as a reference to nobility.
This was the case for our client who believed the eleven Russian language documents they held related to their paternal Lithuanian grandmother’s family. Our first step was to have these documents translated to discover their familial information. We determined that they were issued by the Nobility Office in the Russian Empire and therefore contained complex 19th-century Russian administrative language. In addition, each of the individuals named in the documents had double given names along with Russian otczestvo, or patronymics, such as Władysław Józef Adamovich Eymont. This practice added another paternal generation to what was known about the family.
We determined that all of the documents were authorized and certified copies created in the early 1940s from the parish metrical registers, but these attestation of births and marriages also clearly stated that they were the legitimate births of children born to noble (szlachta) parents. Parish records are usually the first documents researchers will find that indicate social class, stating where the participants were peasants or serfs, residents or townspeople, or those of noble rank. If you find that your ancestor held a noble status, there may be additional nobility documents recording the male ancestors of the family’s noble lineage.
After the three partitions of Poland (1772-1795), all noble families were obligated to prove their noble status to the countries who took control over the former Polish lands. Beginning in 1772, the Eymont family’s home was no longer considered to be in the Commonwealth of Poland but became part of the Russian Empire or Imperial Russia. In the Kovno Governorate during the period of 1833-60, over seventeen thousand people lost their noble status due to Czar Nicholas I’s effort to reduce the size of the noble class. However, the Eymont families in the town of Kowno were fortunate and wealthy enough to prove their nobility in the office of the Vilna Noble Deputy on multiple occasions (1798, 1828, and 1847).
Fortunately for us as genealogists, the requirement to prove noble status produced valuable records. Collections of nobility documents are usually held by the State Historical Archives. In this case, they were held at the Lithuanian State Historical Archives (LVIA), the main repository of records for Lithuanian history from the 13th century up to 1918, in Vilnius. Nobility documents are rarely online or digitized and must be obtained through direct requests or the use of an experienced onsite researcher.
The documents presented by our client proved that the Eymont (Ejmont, Ejmontas etc.) family was part of the Lithuanian middle nobility, and that they held land and court noble titles such as stolnik.
Here is an example from an 1865 record which referenced the filing of their lineage in 1847 at the office of the Noble Deputy:
Image transcription below:
3 August 1865.
According to the Law of his Imperators at the Kowno Congress Deputation the matter was considered about the affiliation of the newly born people to the noble family of Ejmont. According to the appeal of the chairman of the Kowno Nobility dated 12 December 1864 #4326 were presented Consistory Roman Catholic birth records: 23 February 1856 of Jan – Apolinary son of Józef and Karolina nee Pałkowska [or Pełkowska]; 9 September 1862 of Władysław -Józef son of Adam and his wife Ludwika [Gronda?]; 18 December 1862 of Józef-Mikołaj son of Piotr and Lucyna nee [Sienkiewicz]. It is asked to affiliate the mentioned individuals to include them into the genealogy issued by the Wilno Noble Deputation from 9 April 1798 and approved by the Herald on 24 July 1847 #2484. In order to avoid obstacles a document was attached which stated that [page break]
Ejmont family belong to nobility according to the resolution dated on 11 February 1837 that Józef-Wincenty, Piotr-Paweł and Adam-Wiktor, sons of Albin-Kazimierz and grandsons of Józef son of Konstantyn Ejmont are connected to the Ejmont family. [Here in the text there are Herald resolutions mentioned and issued on 24 July 1846 #2481 and also from 1857. Some of the text is not readable because abbreviations were used.]
It was decided to affiliate Jan-Apolinary son of Józef-Wincenty; Józef-Mikołaj son of Piotr and Władysław-Józef son of Adam-Wiktor, grandsons of Albin-Kazimierz, great-grandsons of Józef son of Konstantyn Ejmont to the Ejmont family and to the Wilno Nobility according to the resolutions from 9 April 1798 and 11 February 1837 and according to the statute from 24 July 1847 #2481. They were once and for all affiliated to the nobility. [page break]
It was announced to Józef son of Albin Ejmont residing in the town of Kowno and also it was announced to the town police. It was written in the coat-of-arms papers and needed to be paid a fee of 1 Robel and 20 Kopeck. Other institutions need to be also informed and issue an approved copy to the nobleman Jan Apolinary son of Józef son of Wincenty Ejmont with a signature and the official seal. Kowno 7 May 1866.
Official seal of the Kowno Nobility Deputation. 3 January 1897 # 165.
Official seal and signature illegible. [page break]
This document was translated into the Lithuanian 921/18078, Kaunas, 23 September 1941.
Our onsite researcher gathered additional records regarding the earlier Eymont generations and discovered another very important document, written in Polish, that was issued on 11 February 1837. It stated that the main progenitor, Jan Eymont, used the Jastrzębiec coat of arms. This coat of arms was used by several noble (szlachta) families prior to and during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and is still used to the present day.
Based on the additional research, we discovered that our client’s ancestor, Jan Eymont, was a stolnik smoleński [stolnik of Smoleńsk]. In medieval times, stolnik was a court office in Poland and Russia, responsible for serving the royal table. Later, it became an honorary court title and a district office. According to the 1768 district office hierarchy, the stolnik’s position in the Crown of Poland was superior to that of podczaszy and inferior to that of district judge; in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, they were superior to podstoli and inferior to wojski.
In summary, researchers should not discount the importance of foreign-language documents held by their family. As seen in this project, because the client had kept the foreign-language documents, we were able to explore the documented nobility of the Eymontaite (Eymont) family of Kowno (Kaunas, Lithuania) and document 13 generations between our client and their ancestor Michał Eymont using original nobility records. The exploration of original Ejmont nobility papers, testaments and purchase-sale contracts, and the editions of the Metryka Litewska continues at the Lithuanian State Historical Archives (LVIA).
Legacy Tree Genealogists would be honored to assist you with any step along the way in your journey to discover your ancestral origins, including onsite research if needed. Our experts have the linguistic and research skills to efficiently find your family. Contact us today for a free consultation.
 Канцелярия Виленского губернского дворянского депутатского собрания (Chancellery of the Vilnius gubernia nobility deputy assembly, 1837), Fond 391/7/1997, pages 123-129, Lithuanian State Historical Archives, Vilnius.
 “Stolnik,” Wikipedia, https://wikipedia.org, accessed May 2018.