Persons related to Chopin Persons related to Chopin

Jakub Krzyżanowski

Jakub Krzyżanowski

*ok. 1729, †29 X 1805 Świętosławice

Fryderyk Chopin's maternal grandfather was until recently only known by name, being mentioned in the death certificate of his daughter Justyna, Chopin's mother, in 1861. His origins, date and place of birth and death remained unknown, as did his biography. The Krzyżanowski family name is widely popular in Poland, and in the 18th century included representatives of all social groups: peasants, townspeople, noblemen and converts. The dissemination of the Krzyżanowski name and a lack of briographical details led to a an amount of speculation which tried to identify Jakub with one of the convert and peasant families. Only recently did source-historical studies disclose a number of documents related to Jakub which allowed to reconstruct both his social status and his approximate biography. Based on this research, it has been ascertained that he belonged to the landless gentry. Due to Chronological and geographical factors indicate that his family could not belong to the converts, which were limited to the Ukrainian areas and only started appearing at a later stage. It is not clear, however, to which of the many branches of the Krzyżanowski family (of Świnka, Dębno or other coats of arms) did Jakub belong.

 Extant documents indicate that Jakub spent his entire adult life in the Kuyavia region, around the town of Izbica which lay at the center of a vast estate, belonging at that time to he Stkarbek family.

 Jakub Krzyżanowski was born around 1729. His place of birth remains unknown, but most likely he was not born in Izbica, as the local records (available since 1713) bear no mention of his christening there. Jakub is first mentioned in the sources in 1760 as a steward in the hamlet of Błędna (currently Błenna, 7 km south of Izbica). He worked with the lessee of this estate Bonawentura Pniewski, a notorious troublemaker known from a number of court cases. Jakub participated in at least two acts of neighbourhood violence. The first case is known from the testimony of Józef Polewski, lessee of the adjacent estate of Modzerowo, who claimed that Pniewski with the help of a few followers, including Jakub Krzyżanowski, armed with rifles and guns, assaulted Polewski while he was returning from the Crown Court. Subsequently Polewski was assaulted in the night of 14th December by the same group of armed men in his house at Modzerowo, where the aggressors raised unrest among the villagers and tried to put the house on fire. The same group then attacked the Ciepliny estate, also belonging to Polewski, where they damaged a courtyard and peasant's houses and fired at Polewski's subjects. Such violent neighbourhood riots, called forays, were not uncommon in those times. Krzyżanowski is likely to have participated in at least two such events.

It has proved impossible to establish for how long Jakub worked as a steward in Błenna. At that time he was not yet married, or at least not with Antonina Kołomińska. Jakub is first recorded in the Izbica parish in 1764 when he twice acted as godfather, probably while already working for the Skarbek family. On 28th March 1767 Jakub filed a complaint to the court at Przedecz, describing a bloody assault in which he himself participated as servant and representative of governor Jan Skarbek. According to his testimony, Józef and Jakub Szydłowski and Roch, Józef and Hipolit Dzierżawski with followers raided the town of Izbica, which belonged to count Skarbek, with the intent of expelling resident Jews. Meeting with opposition and failing to achieve their objective, the Szydłowski brothers gathered a larger group and again raided Izbica, this time on a market Wednesday, leading to bloody riots with the use of rifles. Several shots were heard, on which hearing the plaintiffs arrived: Jakub Krzyżanowski, Jan Skarbek, the starosta of Sarnów (Jan‘s relative) and Piotr Skarbek, Brześć Kujawski swordbearer, who were then insulted and shot at by one of the aggressors, Piotr Dzierżawski. Apart from this incident, the aggressors destroyed crops, intentionally leading cattle to roam in fields. To substantiate his testimony Jakub Krzyżanowski showed the court a sabre and four rifles which were won on the Dzierżawskis. In the public records under the same day we find a document of the examination of Józef Dzierżawski, who in turn showed two bruises on the head, which he claimed had been caused by sabre blows made by Jakub Krzyżanowski. Three days later the Dzierżawskis filed their own version of the events, sueing Krzyżanowski and other men. According to their version, they had come to Izbica on their own business and had been insulted, slapped in the face and had their rifles confiscated.

In the documents of Jakub Krzyżanowski we also find record that on 26th June 1771 he paid a small amount of money to Piotr Skarbek, later Brześć Kujawski officer, in relation to contentious grounds in Skaszyn. Twelve years later Jakub sued the heirs to Piotr Skarbek, governors of Inowrocław, for the reimbursement of this sum.

Jakub married Antonina Kołomińska before the year 1772, since on 5th May 1772 Konstancja Skarbek (born Bruchental, the governor's wife) issued a promissory note in Długie to Jakub and Antonina, paying the former 405 silver tynfs and 27 grosze, and the latter 1016 tynfs and 20 grosze. It is not clear whether at that time Długie was the temporary residence of governor Skarbek's family after the Izbica palace has been destroyed in the winter of 1772 and the governor himself had died, or whether it was Jakub Krzyżanowski who resided there. In any case it was recorded in April 1775 that Jakub's and Antonina's son Wincenty Fereriusz was born „at the Izbica estate". It should be noted, however, that their daughter Justyna, later mother of Fryderyk Chopin, was again born in Długie on 14th September 1782. Subsequently - probably due to an argument with the Skarbeks - the Krzyżanowskis were forced to leave Długie and move to nearby Sarnów, where their elder daughter Marianna was earlier born, on 2nd September 1780. In 1783 Jakub sued their heirs to governor Jan Skarbek for the amount of 37 Hungarian talars for having chased Jakub from Długie in the midst of the winter, contrary to prior arrangements, and wasted his summer crop. These facts indicate that at least from 1782 the Krzyżanowskis were residing at Długie as independent tenents. The frequent changes of residence of the Krzyżanowskis were probably linked to their mixed relations with employers, but also indicate the precariousness of their own existence.

In the meantime Jakub, while continuously holding various posts at the Izbica estate, went independent, leasing the royal estate of Skaszyn. His situation changed dramatically in 1774. At the beginning of 1772 governor Jan Skarbek died and the Prussian army sacked his palace in Izbica. The governor's widow remarried in 1773/1774 with duke Michał-Aleksander Czetwertyński, and on 19th July 1774 the duke nominated Jakub his plenipotent, further extending the range of his duties with an act signed on 13th June 1778. In 1780-1781 Jakub, acting on behalf of Czetwertyński, was cashing the rents due on the royal estates which he administered. Yet in 1780 he was replaced as the duke's plenipotent by Klemens Dmuchowski (or Dmochowski), who became the only representative of Czetwertyński. Between 1776 and 1781 Jakub also acted as a commissioner (occasionally called general commissioner), i.e. general manager of the duke's estates.

In the meantime, in February 1780, Jakub was leasing the royal estate of Skaszyn (located 3 km north of Izbica). The lease probably started already in 1778, since Jakub and his wife appear several times in various documents as being „from Skaszyn" (between 21st April 1778 and 29th August 1779). This hamlet was then owned by one Franciszek-Jan Burdziński and his wife Małgorzata, born Grabska. The lease of Skaszyn caused Jakub many problems, as testified by his complaint against Burdziński, filed on 23rd February 1780 in Przedecz. Contrary to his engagements, Burdziński had not signed a lease contract, robbing Jakub of a legal base for his lease; moreover, Burdziński ordered that his cattle and sheep be moved to Skaszyn, where a lack of room and fodder caused losses in the herds and made it impossible for Jakub to gather 1,000 złotys to pay the rent.

The lease of Skaszyn by Krzyżanowski shortly came to an end, although an exact date is unknown. But already on 2nd September 1780 Jakub was residing in Sarnów, where his elder daughter Marianna was born. In later years Jakub still resided in Sarnów, where he is recorded e.g. on 16th June 1783. Before 31st March 1785 the Krzyżanowskis moved to Izbica, where they lived until 1798. On 3rd December 1798 Jakub is recorded for the last time in the town documents as godfather to a peasant's child.

After the sale in 1800 of the Izbica estate by the Skarbek heirs to Franciszek Ksawery Zboiński (1751-1818, of Ogończyk coat of arms), former Płock governor, the Krzyżanowskis moved to nearby Świętosławice, a small hamlet located on the isthmus between the Brdów and Modzerowo lakes, just south of Długie, 2 km southwest from Justyna Krzyżanowska's birthplace. Jakub died in Świętosławice on 29th October 1805 at the age of 76. The cause of death was dropsy, a major death factor in those times. He was buried at the Brdów graveyard (8 km southeast of Izbica), though it is unknown whether on the church graveyard, located next to the parish church, or the town's cemetery to the southwest of the church, which was founded at the beginning of the 19th century.

We can presume that the Krzyżanowskis moved to Świętosławice around 1800 on the advice of the lessee of this estate, Gabriel Malczewski, who was witness at Marianna's (the Krzyżanowskis' elder daughter) marriage with Leon Bielski. After Jakub's death either the Krzyżanowskis and Bielskis do not appear in local Brdów records, possibly indicating that they moved to another town (as is known, their younger daughter Justyna was already living in Żelazowa Wola in 1806).

Piotr Mysłakowski and Andrzej Sikorski (January 2006)

Andrzej Sikorski, Piotr Mysłakowski, Rodzina matki Chopina. Mity i rzeczywistość [The Family of Chopin's Mother. Myths and Reality], Warszawa 2000.
Piotr Mysłakowski, Andrzej Sikorski, Chopinowie. Krąg rodzinno-towarzyski [The Chopins. Their Family and Social Circle], Warszawa 2005.


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