House Numbers in Galician Records

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As some of you will know, over the past 6 or 7 years I spent 100's of
hours not only obtaining Cadastral land records and maps for Gesher
Galicia, but in the process I learned and figured out how building
numbers, land parcel numbers, house numbers were related and
many nuances of how they were used in Galicia. I presented these
results to IAJGS on a few occasions and so I thought I should
comment here.

House numbers in the Austrian Empire pre-date the partitions of
Poland. They were established by the Austrian Crown primarily in
order to be able to identify men for the Austrian Military but were also
used in land, vital, and other records. In reality, the house numbers
were "the address" of each particular property, much like we have
street addresses today. When the Austrians claimed Galicia as part of
their partition of Poland, they decided to not only make a survey of
the land (Josefinian Land Cadastre) but they also embarked on a
system of numbering all houses in every village, town and city.

The system basically follows the pattern that all houses (think of this
as addresses) would consist of a number assigned sequentially as the
house (or address) comes into existence. So if a village already had
340 addresses or house numbers, the next address when a new place
(not specifically a new building) would receive #341. The next would
receive #342. These numbers might be anywhere in the village, with
the only important fact being that there was no previous house
number on that house (and parcel) and so a new one is assigned.

Because Galicia came into this system well after the system was
established, the authorities initially went through each village and
started to number from #1 to the end of all houses/addresses.
Number one might usually be something central in the village like the
church or the manor house. The numbering was initially given to each
house along a street or square until that street was complete and then
the next road, etc. until the whole village was numbered. This would
have seemed very similar to our method of numbering today where
houses are numbered along a street sequentially one after another.
The only real difference at that point was that there were no street
names in the address. Streets or roads always had names, but they
were not part of the official "address". After this initial recording was
complete in a village, if a house parcel with a house were split (which
happened thousands of times) then one half of the split would retain
the old house number and the second half would obtain a new house
number. This would be the next available number in the sequence.
This could result for example in houses along a road being numbered
23, 24, 25, 26, 432, 27, 29, etc. Obviously the 432 was the new piece
of property that had been created from a split with either house 26 or
27. In our example, if 40 years later another split took place so that
24 was divided in half. There would be again a new house number
with an even higher number. So the street might now be numbered 23,
24, 648, 25, 26, 432, 27, 29, etc. This is why after 100 years or more
of Austrian rule the house numbers in a village can start to look
almost random.

I understand Mark Halpern replied to this same post on another list.
His reasoning for why a family might have many house numbers
among the various births, deaths and other events in a family was
very well stated. Mark said house numbers on Galician birth or death
records indicated the address where the event took place. He said it
could be the house (i.e. address) of a relative, a friend, the midwife,
the hospital, or even the doctor's office. Mark is exactly right and this
is the most logical explanation of why births in one family could be
shown in the records with many house numbers. I might add that this
might be particularly true if the family were "landless" or simply
renting space in another house, whether or not it was with a relative.
In other words, the family might have lived in different places for each
birth in the family and the birth taken place in that place of residence
for example. Many peasants could only afford to rent the corner of a
room in some cases.

Suzan Wynne, in her post on this subject said: "The larger cities had
numbered neighborhoods" In fact, the numbering in larger cities was
not following random "neighorhoods", but rather well-defined official
"suburbs." The city was divided into suburbs as well as a central or
core area, and each suburb was effectively treated the same as a
separate community. So the numbering started in each suburb with
number one and progressed sequentially until all houses or residences
were numbered. Again, if somehow new splits were created, then new
numbers were added for the newly created residences or houses. Vital
records and other records almost always have the name of the suburb,
usually as an abbreviation, in the column with the house number. The
names of suburbs can be found in various official Austrian
publications such as the "Gemeindelexikon von Galizien."

The system of house numbering was not chaotic as might seem to be
the case to some researchers, but rather it was a highly defined
system that was followed rigidly for hundreds of years. The system
was maintained during Interwar Poland after the Austrian period.

I find this whole subject fascinating, and the house numbering
information above is only part of the story. As well as house numbers
that were official addresses, there were also building numbers quite
apart from the house numbers. These building numbers are often the
numbers on cadastral maps that identify individual buildings, not to
be confused with house numbers. One can think of these building
numbers in a similar way to our legal descriptions of property today
versus the postal address of that property. But that is the subject for
another day.