House Numbers – Numerus Domus – Domu Jego Pod Numerem

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Stanczyk has been looking at house numbers like he is a postal worker delivering mail. These numbers have led my rather numerate mind to a new musing …

I have noticed that the Catholic Church (let me be precise/narrow, but perhaps it has wider usage) in the Russian-Poland areas, during the years 1797-1825 recorded house numbers (aka Numerus Domus -or- Domu iego pod numerem) in their records. So I am trying to tease some further knowledge from my data by analyzing these house numbers, but I have questions that need research. So here is my laundry list of questions that I will investigate and perhaps by crowd-sourcing / internet collaborating I hope that I can also receive some answers via comments or emails.

Research Questions

  1. Was the column labeled ‘Numerus Domus‘ in the Latin Box format of church records required by the Codex Napoleon?
  2. When did house numbers get assigned?
  3. How were numbers assigned?  Did they number starting from the church (I have had that said to me.)? Did they give the lowest numbers to the “most important” members of the parish? Were houses assigned numbers in the order they were built without regard to their sequential location to another house or did they start at 1 and proceed down the street numbering each house, such that consecutive house numbers are next door neighbors?
  4. Were house numbers unique to a single village or to the parish they all belonged?
  5. Why did they stop collecting house numbers in the church records?
  6. Did house numbers get renumbered (if so then when)? I am thinking like, in Detroit around 1920 when many/most homes were renumbered.
  7. If the houses were not renumbered, then is it possible to visit the same house (assuming it still stands) and know it was that house where so-and-so lived?

Folklore About Houses or their Doors

There was a tradition in Southern Poland whereby at Christmas time, the people would inscribe the lintel above the door, with the names or initials of the three wise men from the Bible:

Gaspar(Kasper), Melchior, and Balthazar (were the wise men’s names by tradition — their names do not appear in the Bible).

Does anyone know this Christmas tradition or why Poles did such a thing ?

Does anyone know any other door or address traditions from Poland ?

Stanczyk

From Polish paragraph form during 1797-1825 years

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4 Comments to “House Numbers – Numerus Domus – Domu Jego Pod Numerem”

  1. My family had practiced the tradition of writing the initials of the three wisemen on the door frame on Epiphany. From what I understand and remember, it is related to the Epiphany. For us, it was not a really big celebration but from what I’ve learned it was really the closing of the Christmas season (or 12th day of Christmas) commemorating the arrival of the Kings at the cradle of Jesus. It’s not just a “Polish” tradition per se, but a Catholic tradition celebrated both by Eastern and Western (Roman) rites. You can find reliable information on the Epiphany through a simple google search. catholic.org has a good explanation of how it is celebrated in the Catholic Church here: http://www.catholic.org/clife/advent/advent.php?id=42.

    • Thanks for the link Donna. The article said it was an from an Eastern Rite Catholic (i.e. Orthodox Church). I am Latin Rite, but there many Orthodox rites and ideas that I enjoy . I enjoy the entire richness of our faith. Thank you for helping me understand. I like it. We never celebrated the Feast of Epiphany (although it did show on our Calendar every year).

  2. It is customary for the Roman Catholic or Orthodox priest to visit each household in the parish annually. This was done around Christmas and into the new year. At this time the priest would bless the house, writing the initials of the three wiseman and the current year on the door frame in chalk. The point of the visit was so the priest could make sure the parishioners had satisfied their sacramental duty and for the priest to receive extra donations.

  3. #1 I think you are confusing church records with civil records. When Napolean declared that Poland must collect vital information and keep records, the civil authorities simply had the church make copies of its own (Latin) records and turn the copies over to the civil government (Urzad Stanu Cywilnego) at the gmina level. Eventually the civil authorities decided it would be better to collect their own vital records which meant people had to then report an event twice; once to the church (usually a ceremony was performed) and once to the government.

    #2 Unknown, but I have seen house numbers on records as old as late-1600s.

    #3 House numbers were assigned starting with the church and moving outwards OR starting with the first house that was built and numbering each house built after that in sequence. This means you would/will find house # 245 across the street from house #1, and next door to house #59 on one side and house #75 on the other. This type of house numbering system makes it impossible to locate a particular house. Homes and buildings in cities are numbered sequentially however.

    #4 House numbers are unique to the individual village.
    #5 “They” did not stop collecting house numbers in the church records. This continues today.
    #6 The only time houses/property were renumbered is if the house burned down. Then the house rebuilt on that same property was numbered sequentially after the last house built. Example: if the number of the last house built in a village was #364, and house # 34 burned down, then when that house is rebuilt it is numbered 365.
    #7 In villages where the houses were numbered as they were built, it is almost impossible to locate a particular house unless it is a very small village. If any or all of the village burned down at any time, the process becomes even more impossible (if that can be). The only way to follow the change of addresses is by using church records and the information from the church’s Spis Parafialny.

    The residents and postmen of a particular village know where everyone lives so they do not need house numbers. In fact when a house is painted, often the house number is not replaced. Are you tearing your hair out yet?

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