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Pre-1848 Social Status

in the

Villages of Present-day Slovakia

by

Mr. Vladimir Bohinc

Not much has been said about this topic on this list and since there are some discussions about the records etc, I thought, this might contribute a little to better understanding of the social hierarchy in a Slovak village under feudalism.  Almost all villages were founded out there in the woods, out of nothing.

Soltys / Locator - The Village Founder - First In Status

A man, who had a contract with the Landlord, and was responsible for one village, to bring the people there, and to oversee the construction etc, was called Soltys, or Locator. He was the first Mayor, and his descendants inherited this right. Some even took a surname Soltys. Others took the name of the place as surname ( or was it vice versa? I am not sure about that) The fact is, that I found many old Mayors to have names the same as the place they were living in. After the village was established, they got a grace period of 6 or 8 years, where they did not have to pay any taxes. They had to cultivate the land and bring up the livestock etc. Such a grace period is in Slovak called "Lehota". This is why so many places have such name Lehota.  Such a Soltys, or Richtar or Judex or Fojt, was the number one in the village.( was A. J. Foyt, a famous Indianapolis racer of Slovak origin?)

Agricultural and Economic Property Units

At times, there were more than one [Soltys] at the same time, some being ex Judex.   Basic agricultural and taxing unit of land property was called "Usadlost" or "Sessio" or "Lan" or "Hof" or "Rola". The size of it was depending upon the quality of land and varied very much.  It was supposed to feed one family.   It included the land in the village (Intravilan) and also outside (Extravilan). As many of you have already seen, Slovak villages usually have houses alongside the main road. A standard width for a full Sessio was about 30 yards or steps. In the beginning, every family got such a property. With time, these properties (Sessio), began to divide in halves, thirds, quarters and smaller parts, depending on number of children or for other reasons. If you look at a village house today, you still can see, whether it was a full sessio or what part of it.

Sedliak /Jobbagion / Colonus / Sessionatus - Second in Status

Pretty exactly, a man, that had such a Sessio was called Sedliak, or Jobbagion or Colonus or Sessionatus.  In the beginning, this was the most numerous layer of population. They were No. 2 in the hierarchy. They had land and a home. With division of Sessios, the property became smaller and smaller.  If it was smaller than 1/8 of the full size, it was not a Sedliak any more.

Zeliar / Inquilinus /Hofer / Hostak - Third in Status

Here we come to the category No.3, which is called Zeliar, or Inquilinus or Hofer or Hostak or Domkar or Chalupnik. They had a small house and a small piece of land. Many Mayors had their "own" Inquilini on their land. So did also some priests.

Subinqilinus" or "Podludnik - Fourth In Status

Category No.4 was so called "Subinqilinus" or "Podludnik". They did not have their own house and also had no land. They were living with another Inquilinus as servants. Craftsmen like blacksmiths or millers etc were living as Inquilini or Subinquilini. They did not need land for their living.

Libertini - A Special Class - Freedom from Taxes

A special class were "Libertini". ( Thus the surname Slobodnik) They possessed papers, that gave them freedom from most of the Taxes and duties to the Landlord.

Mendicus / Zobrak - The Beggar

The last one in the village was naturally a beggar or mendicus or zobrak.

Empirical Evidence

In last couple of weeks I entered over 12000 oldest surnames, which I found in Urbar books from 16th and 17th century. These are the sources of first known surnames of subjects, that were not of noble origin, meaning ordinary people, from the territory of present Slovakia and some parts of Poland and Hungary. It is very interesting to see those surnames, that probably were created not long before the books were written. In many cases one can see surnames like Polak, Rusnak, Lengyel, Slovenec, Slovak, Czech, Crawat, Valach, which indicates, that this person, or his ancestor, did not have a particular surname, and was given such based on the country of his origin. There are many examples, where the miller was called Mlinar or Molnar, a fisherman was called Rybar, etc. This clearly indicates, that this surname was given either to this person or to his father, probably not further back.

For a limited number of names I can have a look into the data base, to see what was the original spelling and what was the location and status then. In many cases it can be seen, where this surname began to spread from. Inquiries are welcome. Another interesting fact is also, that in every Castle Estate, there were always some Sessios deserted, meaning, the people left to some better places. Naturally, the Landlord was interested to have as many as possible subjects, so there were always new people coming. The history of Slovakia is full of migration.

Mr. Bohnic is a Professional Genealogist, based in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, Slovakia.   More information and inquiries can be placed through his web site, Konekta s. r. o.  My thanks to Mr. Bohnic for allowing his material to be reprinted here.

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Last Update: 27 April 2013                                                    Copyright © 2003-2013, Bill Tarkulich