This past August, I traveled to western Ukraine to visit the small town where my grandmother Katarzyna Bosakowska (1889-1966) was born. On the way, I stopped in the beautiful city of Lviv to see if I could get my hands on an archival map from 1850 that would pinpoint the house where she lived.
Starting in 1817, the Austro-Hungarian Empire undertook a comprehensive cadastral survey project. These high-resolution maps covered 300 million square kilometers, including more than 30,000 cadastral communities. The maps were used to clarify land ownership. Today, they are scattered among archives in 12 different countries that once found themselves under Habsburg rule.
Last year I easily obtained, from an archive in Bratislava, high quality digital scans of cadastral maps for three ancestral hometowns in Slovakia. The maps, along with a packet of documents called protocols, allowed me identify the precise parcels of land my ancestors owned. Surely, with a little advance effort, I could get the cadastral map for my Polish ancestral hometown of Zalozce, now in a Ukrainian archive. The Central State Historical Archive in Lviv never responded to my emails. But now I had the chance to inquire in person.
Close but no cigar. With the help of a local, I was able to see the map and even touch it. But I wasn’t able to get a copy. And no one was able to find the crucial protocols that would allow me to identify my ancestors’ exact addresses.
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I traveled to Lviv with my third cousin Dariusz Bosakowski. Darek and I share the same great-great-grandparents – Bazyli Bosakowski (1822-?) and Rozalia Kwaśnicka (1824-1879). I descend from their eldest son Józef; Darek is the progeny of their third son Karol.
As soon as we arrived we met up with another Bosakowski – Aleksander – a native of Lviv who I met via Facebook. It’s not clear how Aleksander’s Ukrainian branch of the family relates to our Polish branch. At the end of World War II, when my grandmother’s family members were forced to relocate to western Poland, Aleksander’s family was sent in the opposite direction. The Bosakowski name is unusual enough so I have to believe there is a connection. Short of a DNA test, I’m not sure how we’ll ever find out.
Anyway, Aleksander was kind enough to help us find that map. The quest would have been hopeless without him. He came to meet us in one of the city’s many beautiful squares and we were off and running. Our first stop was a small waiting room that might have inspired Kafka. We barged past a couple of people who looked like they had been sitting there for awhile. After some back and forth in Ukrainian we were off again, scampering down the cobblestone streets and alleys to an unmarked entrance with a medieval cast iron door. Climbing a dark stairway, we found ourselves in what I assume was the Central State Historical Archive.
(Click on images above for slideshow.)
More conversations in Ukrainian ensued. I was informed by the courteous archivist that they could retrieve the map if we gave them a couple of hours. With profuse thanks we were off again to grab a coffee on the pleasant terrace of the Glory Cafe. There we met Aleksander’s delightful wife Natalia, who works for NATO in Poland, and another member of the Ukrainian branch of the family, Marina Bosakowska, who hails from Kiev.
After another stop to grab lunch, Aleksander took us on whirlwind tour of the city. We swung by the archive, which asked for more time. More sightseeing and beer drinking followed. Finally, we returned to the archive to find the cadastral map waiting there for us! It was bigger than I had expected – and beautifully hand colored. Interestingly, the town is identified as “Markt Zalosce,” German for Zalozce Market. I have not seen that on any other map. Perhaps the town was particularly known for commerce.
From the map, you can see that Zalozce sits on the banks of the Seret River where it empties into a large pond. In the town’s center, we see two big landmarks: a Greek Catholic cerkiev (St. Trinitas) and a Roman Catholic church (identified here as St. Jacobus although from other records I understood it to be St. Antoni). The other large red structure was the ruins of an old castle fortress.
Unfortunately, my hopes of identifying my grandmother’s home were dashed. While the archivists were able to produce the map, they brought up the protocols for the town of Zalesie. When we pointed out the error, we were informed they could not find protocols for Zalozce. Furthermore, there was no way to get a scan or copy immediately. I paid the fee for a copy and Aleksander kindly offered to follow up with them to see that I eventually get it. For my upcoming trip to Zalozce, I had to content myself with a photograph.
Now that I’m back home, I have two major goals: to get a high quality copy of the map and to find out where those protocols are. Aleksander offered to help. But something tells me another trip is in order.
Visiting Lviv again wouldn’t be the worst thing. While we saw a lot thanks to Aleksander’s hospitality, it would be nice to stay a few days and get a better feel of that beautiful city.