Discovering our Ancestors' Travels and Travails

When I first started researching my family history in the early 1990s, internet research was not available. Travel to various repositories was necessary to view paper records. I had learned that the Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic Countries), the large historic Polish gazetteer published 1880–1902 in Warsaw by Filip Sulimierski, Bronisław Chlebowski, Władysław Walewski and others, was available at the main branch of the New York City Public Library.

New York Public Library in the winter (between the two lions, Patience and Fortitude)

On a business trip to New York City, I spent several hours at the library and found the pages in the book for the places associated with my maternal grandmother and her familyKoprzywnica and Gnieszowice.

Koprzywnica and Gnieszowice (Google map)

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, publications editor, was translating Slownik entries for the Polish Genealogical Society of America. I asked him to add Koprzywnica and Gnieszowice to the list. These translations, by Mark Kaszniak and edited by William F. Hoffman, have been posted to the Polish Roots website and are listed here with their kind permission.


Koprzywnica, 1) settlement, formerly a small town, on the river Koprzywianka, in Sandomierz powiat [county], in the gmina [district] and parish of Koprzywnica. It lies on the elevated edge of the valley of the Vistula, which is 7 verst away [about 7.5 kilometers], in a mountainous region. It is about 15 versts [about 16 kilometers] from Sandomierz, 98 versts [about 105 km.] from Radom, and 195 versts [about 208 kilometers] from Warsaw. It has a brick parish church, and an elementary school. In 1827 there were 171 houses and 1,051 inhabitants here; in 1860 there 150 wooden houses, 1,266 inhabitants (275 Jews); at present 153 houses (2 brick), 1,519 inhabitants, with 914 mórgs [about 1269 acres] of land belonging to the townsmen. The Population is employed with crafts, mostly shoemaking.

Kopzywianka owes its existence to the Cistercian abbey which was founded here about 1185 by Mikolaj Bogorya, the voivode of Sandomierz, as is attested by a tablet with an inscription, kept here all this time, as well as a charter issued by Boleslaw the Bashful1 in 1277, which renewed the previous endowment. In 1241 Tatars plundered the church and settlement, and killed the population. As a result of this, Boleslaw the Bashful, in charters issued in 1262 and 1277, broadened the previous privileges and endowments and increased the previous liberties for both the monks and the settlement’s inhabitants. Wladyslaw Lokietek2 granted the settlement a town charter based on German law3, which Kazimierz the Great4 confirmed during his presence in Koprzywnica in 1360. He stayed here a second time in 1370, resting in the monastery for eight days after a hunting accident. Subsequent kings confirmed and expanded the town’s liberties. In August of 1606 there was a meeting of the nobility called by Mikolaj Zebrzydowski, the voivode of Kraków, who headed the opposition and the so-called rebellion; sixteen senators took part in this meeting, and King Zygmunt III5, who was staying in Wislica at the time, negotiated with them to restore peace.

Koprzywnica’s own parish church no longer exists, but supposedly was built in 1180 by transforming a duke’s hunting manor, or a storehouse for fishing nets. Its construction was striking for the inefficiency of technique and conception. When it fell into ruin, it was closed in 1821, and both services and the parish were transferred a former church of the Cistercians, whose order was dissolved in 1819. All that remained intact was the chapel of the Mother of God, built in 1693. The Cistercians’ church and monastery is located outside the city, on the grounds of the village of Cegielnia. It has preserved to this day its original features on the inside, and partially on the outside. Built with cut stone and in the in shape of cross, its architecture is reminiscent of all the Cistercians’ other buildings from that time. The nave is divided by two lines of pillars into three parts; the ceiling is cross-shaped. Traces remain of paintings from the 13th century in the galleries joining the church and the monastery. The monastery buildings are in ruin; one that stands out is the chapter-house of cut stone that dates from the 12th century. There have been alterations due to renovations that destroyed so many monuments and did great harm to the local buildings. In the 17th century, only the main peaked wall was changed, and the original shape of the tower (in shape of goblet turned upside down) was raised. It was built by the last abbot, Krzysztof Bogorya Skotnicki. The church grave vaults, five in number, are neither ancient nor interesting. The most ancient is of the brothers Niedrzwicki from 1581, any another is of a certain Otfinowski from the 17th century, erected by the brothers Samuel and Waleryan Otfinowski. The church and the monastery’s buildings were examined and described by professor Luszczkiewicz. See “Pioneers of Gothicism in Poland” (Ateneum from 2nd quarter, year 1882).

Koprzywnica parish, Sandomierz deanery, has 4,999 souls. Koprzywnica gmina [district] with an office in the village of Cegielnia, has 5,121 inhabitants, 648 houses, with an area of 10,948 mórgs [about 15,196 acres] including 5,047 [about 7,005 acres] of manorial land; the gmina court, district III, is in Loniów, and the post office is in Sandomierz. The gmina includes: Bieszyce dolne, Bieszyce-górne, Blonie, Cegielnia, Cissyca duchowna, Dmosice, Gnieszowice, Kamien-wislocki, Koprzywnica, Krzcin, Krzcinska-kepa , Nagnojowska-kepa, Niedrzwica, Przewloka, Radowaz, Sosniczany, Speranda, Swiezyca, Trzykosy, Wielkoleka, Zarzecze and Zbiegnowice. There are a quarry for building stone, 6 mills, an oil mill and a brickyard. In the gmina there are 5 lakes with about 37 mórgs (about 51 acres) of area.

2.) Koprzywnica, a manorial farmstead on the river Koprzywianka, in Sandomierz powiat [county], in the gmina [district] and parish of Koprzywnica, 620 mórgs [about 861 acres], 8 houses, 13 inhabitants, and a water mill. It is the entailed estate6 of general Chruszczew. The Koprzywnica prebend has an area of 216 mórgs of land [about 303 acres], without buildings, the entailed estate of Aleksander Hurko.

1 Boleslaw the Bashful, Polish king 1243-1279
Ladislaus the Short, Polish king 1306 – 1333
Casimir the Great, Polish king 1333 – 1378
a charter defining terms on how towns were incorporated based on German law
Zygmunt III Vasa, Polish king 1587 – 1632
“entailed estate” is a legal term referring to an estate with specific limitations on who can inherit it.

Source: Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego, Warsaw [1883, vol. 4, p. 384]


Gnieszowice, a village owned by the clergy on the river Koprzywianka, in Sandomierz county, Koprzywinica gmina [district] and parish. In 1827 there were 41 houses, 252 inhabitants; at present [i.e., circa 1880] the number of houses was 56, with 336 inhabitants, and 624 mórgs [approximately 866 acres] of peasant-owned lands. In the 15th century it was the property of Paweł Skotnicki, count of Bagonga (according to Długosz, Liber beneficiorum, volume I, page 396).

Source: Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego – Warsaw [1881, vol. 2, p. 621]


By United States Information Agency – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 541884., Public Domain,

Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling (ICM), University of Warsaw, Poland,

“Polish Roots,” Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego, Translated Entries and links to SGKP online,

Comments on: "Koprzywnica and Gnieszowice near Sandomierz" (1)

  1. […] the Achives, I verified my grandmother’s birth in the little village of Gnieszowice, in the baptismal records from the parish of Koprzywnica. Sandomierz is a beautiful town, with an […]


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