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Polish vital records often contained titles or terms that indicate the social status or rank of the individuals mentioned in them. In many cases, the status described has no real equivalent in English, as the concepts described are foreign to American contemporary culture. In such cases the literal English meaning, or the closest rough equivalent, of the title is provided and the full "flavor" of the expression is somewhat diluted.

Terms for Nobles and the Clergy

The following are all adjectives, declined either like magnus (those ending in -us) or like fortis (those ending in -is).

(Many thanks to Rafal T. Prinke, whose book Poradnik Genealogi-Amatora was the source for much of the following information).

Latin Polish English Used to address:
illustrissimus ac magnificus jasnie wielmozny The Honorable magnate, senator
magnificus wielmozny Esq., Your Honor an official of the court
generosus urodzony " well born" owner of at least one village
nobilis szlachetny noble owner of a parcel, or leaseholder
spectabilis godny worthy wealthy patrician from a large city
honoratus zacny honorable patrician
famosus/famatus slawetny renowned middle class craftsman
providus/circumspectus opatrzny provident a poor craftsman
honestus uczciwy honest farmer from a small town
laboriosus pracowity industrious peasant
infidelis/perfidus niewierny, przewrotny non-believer non-Christian
reverendissimus przewielebny Very Reverend Bishop Ordinary
reverendus wielebny Reverend abbot, bishop, suffragan
venerabilis dostojny distinguished, venerable  pastor
honorabilis czcigodny venerable, honorable rural pastor or assistant pastor

Terms for Commoners

Latin Polish Notes
cmetho, cmethonis kmiec a generally self-supporting peasant with at least one lan of land
semi-cmetho pólkmiec a peasant farmer on 1/2 lan of land
hortulanus, hortulani zagrodnik a peasant farmer who owned a house with a  small piece of land and garden and usually a small stock of farm animals
  ogrodnik in some areas used interchangeably with zagrodnik, in some areas implying less land
  chalupnik a farmer with at least a house (chalupa)
inquilinus, inqulini komornik a farmer who lived with another
  kątnik a farmer or a worker on a large estate
famulus,famuli parobek generally landless farm worker or worker on an estate
arator, aratoris rataj a zagrodnik who also worked at a large estate farm
  gbur used in the German partition, a wealthy peasant, frequently free from serf labor obligations
colonus, coloni kolonista originally meant "settler" or colonizer, later acquired the meaning of "poor peasant"
agricola, agricolæ rolnik a general term in the 19th century to describe a peasant


Januarius, Januarii
Februarius, Februarii
Martius, Martii 
Aprilis, Aprilis
Maius, Maii
Junius, Junii
Julius, Julii
Augustus, Augusti
September, Septembris, 7bris, VIIbris
October, Octobris, 8bris, VIIIbris
November, Novembris, 9bris, IXbris
December, Decembris, 10bris, Xbris

The names of the months are actually considered adjectives modifying the unexpressed noun mensis, month. Those ending in -us are declined like nouns of the Second Declension, so that the genitive singular ends in -i, the ablative in -o. Aprilis, September, October, November and December are declined like nouns of the Third Declension, with the genitive singular in -is, ablative in -i. Observant readers may note that September, October, etc. should mean "seventh month, eighth month," and so on. In ancient Rome the year was reckoned as beginning with March, so that under that system September was the seventh month, October the eighth, etc. When the calendar was changed the months kept their original days. This makes the abbreviations 7bris, 8bris very confusing, because we would expect them to refer to July and August, when in fact they refer to September and October. When you see these abbreviations, it helps to replace the numeral with the Roman name, i. e., 7 = septem, which reminds us that 7bris refers to September.


There were several different names for days of the week, using either dies (day) and the name of a god, or feria plus a simple ordinal:

Sunday:       dies Solis (day of the Sun), dies dominica, feria prima
Monday:      dies Lunæ (day of the Moon), feria secunda
Tuesday:      dies Martis (day of Mars), feria tertia
Wednesday: dies Mercurii (day of Mercury), feria quarta
Thursday:    dies Jovis (day of Jove), feria quinta
Friday:        dies Veneris (day of Venus), feria sexta
Saturday:     dies Saturni (day of Saturn), feria septima (or Sabbatum)


Dates are usually given in Latin by rendering the year and day in the ablative case, and the month in the genitive, according to the pattern "[in] the -th year, [on] the -th day of the month of -." Often the priests or clerks, having no great desire to torture themselves, would simply write the name down in numerical form, which we can read easily. But many forms mandated that the date be written out in full. Consider this date:

Anno Domini millesimo octingentesimo quinquagesimo primo, die decimo septimo Octobris

It is certainly a mouthful! But you may actually see dates given this way, so it is wise to be familiar with the pattern. 

First, anno is the ablative singular of annus, year, and "Anno Domini'; ("in the year of [Our] Lord") is a familiar expression, so at least you know right away that what follows is the year something happened. Reference to the dictionary and a quick review of the ablative endings tell us millesimo is the term for "thousand," octingentesimo means "eight hundred," quinquagesimo means "fiftieth," and primo means "first." So this happened in the one thousand eight hundred fifty-first year of Our Lord: 1851. 

Then we note that die is the ablative singular of the Fifth Declension noun dies, "day," so now we proceed to decipher the month and day. Reference to a dictionary tells us that decimo septimo is an ablative form of the expression meaning "seventeenth." Octobris is genitive of October; in some cases we might see the word mensis, "month," preceding Octobris, but it isn't really necessary and in either case we understand what is being said. With this information we state confidently that the date was " 17 October 1851.


Terms marked with an asterisk* are ones that tend to appear a lot and can be hard to find in standard dictionaries. In my opinion, they deserve a little extra attention.

advocatus: lawyer; as an official, a mayor or town wójt
advena: alien, foreigner; corrupta advena: non-Catholic foreigner (?)
aetas: age; aetate: at the age of__
ancilla: servant, maid
Anno Dni = Anno Domini, "year of our Lord"
annorum: "of years," = age
ao. = anno, "in the year"
apoplexia: stroke
apothecarius: druggist, shopkeeper
arator: farmer, plowman
auriga: coachman
bannis: banns
benedixi hoc matrimonium: I blessed this marriage
ca. = circa "about"
caelebs: single, bachelor
capella: chapel
caupo: innkeeper
cerdo: day-laborer, tanner
chirurgus: surgeon
civis: citizen, burgher (= German Barger)
*commendarius: pastor
conjuges: married couple, spouses; c. f. l.= conjugum filius legitimus, legitimate son of a married couple
consanguinarius: blood relative
consensus: agreement, permission
cooperator: assistant pastor
copulatio: wedding, marriage
coquus (masc.) or coqua (fem.): cook
cor: heart
cruditas: dyspepsia, indigestion
curator: pastor, as an official, a supervisor; 
   curator medici
: doctor
custos: guard; a custodian or supervisor
d. d. = de dato (on this date)
debilitas: weakness
decanatus: deanery (subdivision of a diocese)
decessit sine prole (d.s.p.): died without issue
*deflor. = deflorata, "deflowered"
*deft. = defunctus, "deceased"
denatus: deceased
*dictus: "said," i. e., called, known as"
die: from dies, "on [such-and-such a] day"
dies vitae: "day of life," i. e., age
dioecesis: diocese
dispensatio: dispensation for a marriage that would otherwise be against Church law
Dmni = Domini, "of the lord"
dolor: pain; dolore capitis: head pain; dolore pectoris: chest pain
domicilium: domicile, legal residence
dominus: lord (= Polish pan, German Herr)
ducatus: duchy
E. et O. R. = errore et omissione reservata,"error and omission reserved"
E. R.= errore reservata, "error reserved"
ead.= eadem, "the same"
ecclesia: church
economus: steward, estate official overseeing farm workers
ejus: of that one = "his" or "hers"
*-ensis: suffix added to the name of a town or village, e. g. cracoviensis = "of Kraków"
eod. = eodem, "the same"; eod. q. supra= eodem quo supra: "the same day as above"
eques: knight
eructatio: vomiting
faber: smith, craftsman; faber ferri: blacksmith; faber lignarius: carpenter; faber murarius: mason, brick-maker
famella: servant girl
febris nervosa: "nervous fever"
filia: daughter
filius: son
frater: brother
gemellus, geminus: twin
germanus: with the same parents
habuit: had; habuit ultra 100 annorum: was more than 100 years old
haeres: squire, landed proprietor, heir, heiress
heri: yesterday
hospes: innkeeper
*hujatis: local (? < hujus, "of this [place]")
ictus: stroke; fulmine ictus: struck by lightning
ignotus: not known
impedimentum: impediment to a marriage (legal reason against it)
incola: inhabitant, day-laborer
inquilinus: tenant, landless day-laborer
juvenis: youth, young man, groom
*levantes: godparents
magister: teacher, master; magister civium: mayor; magister ludi: schoolmaster;
magister stabuli: master of the stable
majorennis: of legal age
manu propria: in one's own hand
marita: married woman, wife
maritus: married man, husband
materfamilias: "mother of the family"
medicus: doctor, physician
mendicus: beggar
mensis: month
mercator: merchant, trader
miles: soldier
*modo: now, alias (used with married names or acquired names)
morbus: illness, cause of death
murarius or murator: mason
N. N. = nomen nescio, "I do not know the name"
nat. = natus or nata, "born"
naturalis: "natural," i. e., illegitimate
neophytus: convert, one newly baptized
nomen: name
obiit: died; obitus: death; obitus est: he died
obstetrix: midwife
officium: office; ex officio parochiali: from the parish office
*olim: deceased, late
opilio: shepherd
oppidum: village, small town
organarius parochialis: parish organist
ortus: birth, origin; 
ortus solis
: east
pagus: village, district
palatinatus: palatinate, province (in Polish województwo)
paroch ia: parish; parochialis: parish, parochial
parochus: parish pastor
paterfamilias: "father of the family"
patrina: godmother
patrini: godparents
patrinus: godfather
pauper: pauper
pectus: chest; dolor pectoris: chest pain
*phthisis: tuberculosis
plebanus: priest, pastor, vicar
primogenitus: first-born
proles: child, offspring
propter: due to, on account of 
puella: girl
puer: boy
puerperium: childbirth
*recte: properly, correctly, rightly
*relicta: widow, relictus: widower
ren. = renatus or renata, "baptized, reborn"
rusticus: peasant, landless laborer
Sacramentis munitis or Sa-tis provisis: the Last Rites having been administered
sartor: tailor
*scultetus: village administrator [Polish soltys]
senectus: old age; propter senectutem: due to old age
senex: old man
sepultus est: was buried
servus: servant
sine: without
socer: father-in-law
soror: sister 
spur. = spurius or spuria illegitimate
st. n. = stilo novo, "New Style" date
sutor: shoemaker
tabernator: innkeeper
testes: witnesses
textor: weaver
*thorus: literally "bed," usually used to indicate legitimate or illegitimate birth
tussis or tussio: [whooping] cough
tutor: guardian
uhlanus: cavalryman
ut supra: as [stated] above
ux. = uxor, "wife"; uxoratus: married
variola: smallpox
venditor: merchant, vendor
vicarius: curate, assistant pastor
vid. = viduus, "widower," or vidua, "widow"
villanus: villager
virgo: virgin, maiden
*voto: marriage, thus 1º voto, "1st marriage," 2d° voto, "2nd marriage," etc.
*vulgo: in the common language, commonly known as
yusd. = ejusdem, "of the same (month or year)"


a. D.= außer Dienst, retired; also can be Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord
a. d. h. = aus dem Hause, "from the house"
Alter: age; Altersschwäche: senility
*ausgewandert: emigrated
auszehrung: tuberculosis
b. v. = beide von, "both from"
Bäcker, Becker: baker
Bauer: farmer; Bauernknecht: farmhand
Beerdigung: burial
begr. = begraben, "buried"
Bergmann: miner
Bettler: beggar
Beulenpest: bubonic plague
Bezirk: district
Binder: cooper
Blattern: smallpox
Bleichsucht: anemia
Blinddarmentzündung: appendicitis
Blut: blood; Blutfluß: hemmorhage; Blutvergiftung: blood poisoning
*Borussia: Prussia
Bräune: dyphtheria, angina
Brustkrankheit: pneumonia, tuberculosis
Bürger: burgher, townsman
*bzw.: beziehungsweise, "respectively, or"
Charge: military rank
Chirurg: surgeon
*d. h. = das heißt, "that is, i. e."
dergl., desgl. = dergleichen, desgleichen: "the same"
Diener: servant
Drost: bailiff 
ehel. = ehelich, "legitimate"
ehelich: legitimate
ehemalig: former; ehemals: formerly
Ehemann: husband; Ehefrau: wife
Eigenmann: serf, vassal
eigenhändig: in one's own hand
Einlieger: free agricultural laborer
Entbindung: delivery (of a child)
entjungfert: deflowered 
Entkräftung: weakening, debilitation
Ergänzungsbezirk: supplemental district
erstgeboren: firstborn
evang. = evangelisch, "Protestant"
fallende Krankeit, Fallsucht: epilepsy
Fäule: cancer, abscess, sepsis
Fehlgeburt: miscarriage
Feldwebel: non-commissioned officer
*Gärtner: gardener, farmer with a bit of land
Gatte: husband; Gattin: wife
*geb. = geboren, "born, née"
Gefreiter: lance corporal
Gehirnschlag: stroke
*Gemeinde: community, parish
Gerber: tanner
*Geschwister: brother or sister, sibling
Geschwulst: dropsy, swelling
Geselle: journeyman
gest. = gestorben, "died"
get. = getauft, "baptized"
getr. = getraut, "married"
Gevatter: godparent
Gicht: gout
Gift: poison
*Gm. = Gemeinde, "parish"
Gutsbesitzer: estate owner
Halsentzündung: throat infection
Händler: merchant, trader
Handwerker: craftsman
*Häusler: cottager (& day-laborer)
Hausvater: "father of the house"
*Hebamme: midwife 
*Heimatortskartei: homeland card-file (per Thode a register of addresses of over 18 million people from Poland, Soviet Union, and other German-speaking territories living there in 1939; address: Heimatortskarteien, Lessingstraße 1, W-8000 München, Germany)
Heirathserlaubnis: marriage permit
Herdstättensteur: hearth-tax
Herzanfall, Herzschlag: heart attack
Hirt: herdsman
Hitzschlag: heat stroke
Hofbesitzer: farm owner
Hofmann: manorial estate administrator, farmer
Holzhauer, Holzknecht: woodcutter
*Huber: farmer of a half-sized farm; Hübner, Hüfner: owner of a full-sized farm
*i. V. = in Vertretung "on behalf of," or in Vollmacht, "as proxy"
Imker: beekeeper
Impfung: vaccination 
Jg fr. = Jungfrau, "maiden, virgin"
Jäger: hunter
Jammer: epilepsy
Jngfr. = Jungfrau, "maiden, miss"
Junggeselle: apprentice
*K. u. k. = Kaiserlich und Königlich: Royal and Imperial (Austrian Empire)
Kähler: coal merchant
Kärrner: freight handler, carter
Kästner: steward, treasurer, carpenter
Katasterbuch: book of deeds
*Kätner: cottager (with a small house and a little land, maybe a few cows)
Kaufmann: merchant
Keßler: kettle-maker, coppersmith
Kgf. = Kriegsgefangener: "prisoner of war"
Kindbettfieber: puerpural fever
Kinderlahmung: infantile paralysis
Kirchenbücher: church registers
Kleinhändler: retail merchant
Knecht: farmhand
Koch: cook
Köhler: charcoal burner
Koter: cottager (owned a little land)
*Kr. = Kreis, "county" (= Polish powiat)
Kramer, Krämer: one who has a small stall or shop for selling inexpensive goods
Kränke: epilepsy
Krebs: cancer
Kretschmer: innkeeper
Krüger, Krueger: innkeeper
*Kurland: Courland (now in Latvia)
Kürschner: furrier
Lähmung: paralysis
Landesbezirk: administrative district
*Landsturm: military home guard (for those age 43-50)
*Landwehr: local militia (for those 35-42)
Landwirt: farmer
laut: according to
Lazarett: field hospital
led. = ledig, "single" 
Lehrling, Lehrjunge: apprentice
Lungenentzündung: pneumonia
Mägd. = "servant girl, maid"
Mälzer: maltster, brewer
männl. = männlich, "masculine"
*Marasmus: decrepitude, weakness
Maurer: bricklayer, stonemason
Meier: farmer, estate overseer
Meldeamt: registration office
Metzger: butcher
minderjährig: minor, not of legal age
*Morgen: unit of land measure (the amount an ox can plow in one morning)
Müller, Mueller: miller
nämlich: namely, to wit
Ober-: upper, over, superior
Ohnmacht: unconsciousness, fainting
Ortsansäßiger: resident of the place, local
Pächter: renter, tenant (Pacht: lease) 
Pate: godfather; Patin: godmother
*Personalausweis: identity card
Pest: plague
Pf. = Pfenning, "penny"
Pfarramt: parish office
Pfr. = Pfarrer, "minister"
Richter: judge
Rose: erysipelas
Rößler: horseman; tanner
Röteln: German measles, rubella
*Rückwanderer: returning emigrant
Ruhestand: retirement
S. d. = Sohn des, "son of"
S. v. = Sohn von, "son of"
Säger: sawyer
samt. = "together with"
Säugling: infant
Schäfer, Schaefer: shepherd
Scharlachfieber: scarlet fever
Scharwerker: day-laborer (on a farm)
Schlächter: butcher
Schlag, Schlaganfall: stroke
Schleimfieber: typhus
Schmidt: smith
Schneider: tailor
Schnitzer: woodcarver
schriftlich: in writing
Schröder, Schroeder: tailor
*Schulz: village magistrate, mayor (= Polish soltys)
Schumann, Schuster: shoemaker
Schütze: hunter, military rifleman
Schwinde: consumption, tuberculosis
Skorbut: scurvy
*Standesamt: civil registration office
Stellmacher: wheelwright
T. d. = Tochter des, "daughter of"
*Tagelöhner: day-laborer
Täufling: one being baptized
to[d]tgeboren: stillborn
Trabant: foot soldier
u. = und, "and"
u. d. = und des, und der, "and of"
unehelich: illegitimate
*Untauglichkeitsschein: certificate of unsuita bility for military service
v. = von, "from"
Vergiftung: poisoning
verh.= verheiratet, "married"
verl.= verlobt, "engaged" 
Verschollener: one missing, declared dead
*Vogt, Voigt: bailiff, sheriff (= Polish wójt)
volljährig: of age, no longer a minor
Vormund: guardian
Wächter: watchman, guard
Wagner: carter 
Waise: orphan
Wärter: caretaker 
Wassersucht: dropsy, edema
Weber: weaver
weibl = weiblich, "feminine"
*weil.= weiland, "late, deceased"
Wirt: innkeeper, landlord
Wochenfieber: puerpural fever
Wohnstätte: place of residence
Wwe. = Witwe, "widow"
Wwer. = Witwer, "widower"
X: Christ; ten; or short for Ksiadz (Rev.)
Zeuge: witness
Ziegler: brickmaker
Zigeuner: Gypsy
Zimmermann: carpenter
Zunftmeister: guild master
Zwang: diarrhea
Zwilling: twin