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This project is dedicated to tracing Lithuanian nobility ancestors and providing information of historical content in relation to genealogy.

If you have Lithuanian nobility ancestors, or if you study ancestral lines deriving from Grand Duchy of Lithuania, please follow and participate in this project.

Nobility titles in Lithuania

There are the following titles of Lithuanian nobility:

  • bajoras - lord, noble landowner. Bajorai - plural form of bajoras. In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and under Russian Imperial rule, only bajorai had civil and political rights, participated in elections. All bajorai representatives were theoretically legally equal. The resolutions of the Seimas prohibited them to be titled with Western European titles as Graf or count, duke, baron, etc. It was also forbidden to use the title obtained in other countries. For equality reasons, the Lithuanian nobility did not write their names with titles or any signs of substantiation of their status.

By a resolution of the Seimas in order to maintain the principle of equal rights, the representatives of Lithuanian nobility could not write their title with their own name, neither with signature nor the use titles when addressing other nobles. This was a very important principle. Many Lithuanian noble families abided by this principle even during the Imperial Russian rule, although the law of Imperial Russia was stated differently. These rules were also benevolently followed by the foreign titled nobles residing in Lithuania (Grafs, barons, etc.), who integrated into the community of Lithuanian nobles.

Nevertheless, there are ways to trace the pedigree for Lithuanian noble families. The title was always stated in family legitimization to nobility documents. Abbreviation of the title was written before names in church for birth, marriage, and death records. Sometimes on the correspondence, the addressee's name was written together with the abbreviated title of that person. Coat of arms indicates that the family had a nobility title. Coats of arms were described in family legitimization to nobility documents and had a specific name for those images. The name of the coat of arms image could be written after a surname, a small coat of arms image could be shown in the corner of a person's portrait, or a signet ring worn on a finger - all these are indications that a family had nobility title.

Nobility titles were inheritable only in one way: from a father to his legitimate children. Sometimes wife was indicated as "grafienė", "kunigaikštienė" - these were not true titles, but only honorary titles. After marriage wife retained her birth-inherited title and family crest.

If a man held a high state office position, his wife and daughters could have been listed with his official position. Examples: the male is Capitan Rakiscensi, his unmarried daughters and wife could be listed as Capitanea Rakiscensi; male is Castrametator Ducatus Samogitiensis, his unmarried daughters and wife could be listed as Castrametatea Ducatus Samogitiensis. These are not occupations of the women, but only honorary status for the women, associated with that man. This tradition is very old in Lithuania, even today medical doctor's wife is addressed as "daktarienė", the presidents wife - "prezidentienė" and so on.

  • In church records Lithuanian gentry titles are listed as follows:
    • PMD - stands for Perillustrus Magnificus Dominus and indicates that person was a member of the gentry higher up on the economic ladder in a family of several generations with similar status. It was a member of the gentry who was also the owner of substantial land and thus influenced the culture and economy of the area or that person held a high official position and had political influence.
    • GMD stands for Generosus Magnificus Dominus and has a similar status level as PMD.
    • MD - stands for Magnificus Dominus and indicates that person was a member of the middle class of the gentry (bajorija - Lit., szlachta - Pol.), who was the owner of a large estate and land, that had some influence on the economy and culture of the area, or that person held some state official position. MD or Magnifica Domina before the name of the female indicates the daughter or wife of a middle-class gentry nobleman.
    • GD - Generosus Dominus which means "well-born lord" and indicates the lower class of gentry (bajorija -Lit., szlachta - Pol.). This indicates a noble person who did not own significant size property, did not hold a high official position and wasn't from a politically influential family. Most of these level nobles lived in town apartments, owned or rented small estates in the province, owned small businesses, or were employees in the office. GD before the name of the female is Generosa Domina which is translated as "well-born lady". G - stands for the "well-born" and is the same as GD.
    • In Polish texts this title is written as Urodzony for male, Urodzona for female, Urodzeni - plural form use for the family. This is equal to Latin GD. Also listed as Jaśnie Wielmożni Panowie, abbreviated as J.W. or J.W.P. - this is also equal to Latin GD.

Linguistic Note: Dominus and Domnus both have the same meaning. Some post-classical Latin writers reserved Dominus for Jesus and used Domnus for the gentry, but other writers used both words interchangeably.

  • kunigaikštis abbreviated as kun. - duke or prince (dux in Latin);
  • Lietuvos Didysis Kunigaikštis abbreviated as LDK - Grand Duke of Lithuania abbreviated as GDL in the English language (rex in Latin) - the ruler of the country, equates to the king in Western Europe. This title was not inheritable after 1572 - the death of Sigismund II Augustus. In 1569 he oversaw the signing of the Union of Lublin between Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and introduced an elective monarchy. LDK became the elective title.

Nobility Evolution in Lithuania and Nobility Laws

800-1413

9-14 century Lithuanian nobility was formed out of the military elite, which was awarded with lands in ethnic Baltic territories and in Lithuania Propria. The nobility used crests (heraldry symbols) as their last names. The earliest known noble Lithuanian last names are runic symbols.

Noble families from Crimea 1390-1441

Based on the Crimean Karaites history, at approx. 1390-1396 Vytautas the Great played a historic role in resolution of Crimean coup - a conflict among ruling political forces. Vytautas rescued and gave asylum to a pregnant wife of Crimean ruler. A boy was raised and educated as Vytautas' true son and later he became a founder of Giray dynasty. The asylum was also given to approx. 200 Crimean noble families - political supporters of that future ruler. In 1441 Hacı I Giray ascended to the Crimean throne and some of his political supporters followed him back to Crimea; although other families, mostly Crimean Karaites and Qırımçaq Jews, remained in Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Some of these families accepted Christianity and were given GDL nobility. Symbols in their family crests contain Crescent and Star, or a Star of David. Examples of such descending Lithuanian noble family coats of arms are: Leliwa coat of arms, Ostrogski coat of arms (it also contains old Lithuanian runic symbol), and many other Lithuanian noble families, who intermarried to Crimean families contain both: Crescent, Star, and parts of Lithuanian runic heraldry symbols.

1413-1795

After the year 1413 Union of Horodło Lithuanian nobility was united into the Polish nobility system. New family crests were assigned to Lithuanian nobles, only politically influential Lithuanian nobles remained with their old crests. Lithuanian nobles were Christened and new last names were assigned to them - usual derivatives of their pagan patronyms (derivative form a first name of the father).

During 15 - beginning of the 16 century some Lithuanian noble dynasties with large land ownership or strong political positions among several brothers split into branches adopting new last names: either Christian patronym or estate name was added, in some cases, previous last name was completely dropped. Nevertheless, in most cases, the noble crest of the family remained the same (there are known few instances when one or few family branches returned to their old pre-1413 family crest).

In the mid. 16th century Polish culture dominated within Lithuanian nobility, Polish term szlachta (Lithuanian: šlėkta) was adopted. Landlords called themselves žiemionys (or ziemiane in Polish).

1795-1918

1795 - the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth forever destroyed this state. Russia, Austria, and Prussia in St. Petersburg signed a convention on the third division of Lithuania and Poland. The largest part of ethnic Lithuanian lands and the Duchy of Courland were annexed by Russian Empire. Prussia annexed western ethnic Lithuanian lands and called it "New Prussia".

An order to legitimize was issued to the nobility of annexed lands. Families were required to submit their nobility prove documents, pay a substantial fee, bring it to the Noble Assembly and wait for confirmation. Many noble families did not accept the new government, others did not have sufficient means for fees and document search. These families officially lost their nobility status within Imperial Russia, nevertheless, in the church records they were listed as noble, and in their neighborhoods, they were still regarded as nobles. Noble Lithuanian families who legitimized the new government retained their elite status, although under the new law they were segregated into 6 levels.

Example of Lithuanian nobility under Russian Imperial law initial legitimization document, please see example photos:

According to Imperial Russian Law Regarding Nobility, in addition to initial family legitimization, each noble family generation had to be registered in the Genealogy Noble Books (Noble Register) within the same province where the previous generations were registered. It was not a simple procedure. Parents had to provide multiple documents confirming their nobility status: righteous (legitimate) birth and registration for their children, family nobility historic records, including land and estate ownership and property transfers, prove of nobility rights documents. Also, there were documents needed for segregated registration within one of the six Noble Register Books. The provincial Noble Assembly decided if the documents were sufficient enough as a confirmation for nobility and, if they were such, sent these documents to the higher institution - Heraldry Department of the Ruling Senate. The final decision was made there.

The Noble Genealogical Books (Noble Registers) were divided into six parts as follows:

  1. (Book I) - Granted or Real Nobility;
  2. (Book II) - Military Nobility (acquired according to ranks for the military service);
  3. (Book III) - Nobility acquired according to ranks for the civil service or awards;
  4. (Book IV) - Foreign Noble Families;
  5. (Book V) - Titled Families;
  6. (Book VI) - Ancient Noble Families.

Each male member of the family which had hereditary nobility had to be registered in one of these six parts of the provincial Noble Register. Women's registration (nobility legitimization) was considered optional, but useful for the status and property ownership. Wealthy nobles registered their daughters as well.

The foreign noblemen (who were reckoned among the nobility according to foreign rulers) were also required to submit their requests and all the necessary documents for their noble status confirmation within the Russian Empire (to receive Russian nobility status). Lithuanian and Polish nobility (Szlachta) was not an exception, but the procedure of confirmation for Lithuanian and Polish noblemen was somewhat easier than for noblemen from other countries till the year 1830 (the time of Polish revolt). After that, they had to confirm the nobility not only in the Provincial Noble Assemblies but in the Heraldry Department of the Ruling Senate and provide a large number of additional documents for it. Many Lithuanian and Polish noblemen lost their nobility because of the procedure complication, others were deprived of their rights and properties due to their participation in the revolt or any assistance to revolt participants.

Part VI (6) Registry Book listed only ancient noble families whose nobility was confirmed a hundred years ago or earlier. It means that when a family submitted a request to be included in the 6th part of the Noble Register it was necessary to prove that the nobility of this family have been confirmed a hundred years ago (or earlier, but not later).

Starting 1850 November 6th new nobility regulations determined another condition. After this year it was not necessary to count down 100 years but to prove that the family was noble in 1785 (or earlier).

1918-1939

In 1918 an independent Lithuanian Republic was established. Founders of the democratic government, cultural, political, intellectual, and professional intelligentsia consisted in the large part of the Lithuanian nobility. During independent Lithuania years 1918-1939 nobility status was only honorary, there was no elite status given to nobles by governing laws.

1. Internet search sources.

2. Books online.

Lithuanian royal dynasties are described in:

Lithuanian noble families are listed in:

Polish and Lithuanian noble families are described in:

Russian and Lithuanian noble families are described in:

3. Dictionaries and encyclopedias online.

4. Maps online.

5. Discussion groups.

6. Other useful sources.

Knygos internete.

Lietuvos valdovų dinasitijos aprašytos:

Lietuvių bajorų giminės paminėtos:

Lenkų ir lietuvių bajorų šeimos aprašytos:

Rusų ir lietuvių bajorų šeimos aprašytos:

Książki online.

Litewskie królewskie dynastie opisane są w:

Litewskie rody szlacheckie są wymienione w:

Polskie i Litewskie rody szlacheckie są opisane w:

Rosyjskie i Litewskie rody szlacheckie są opisane w:

Книги онлайн.

Литовские королевские династии описаны в:

Литовские знатные роды перечислены в:

Польские и литовские благородные семьи описанны в:

Российские и литовские дворянские семьи описаны в: