Plioplys surname: 1561, Martynas Mazvydas, revolutionary activities

I am standing on the corner of Market Square which in 1561 was owned by Jurgis (George) Plioplys. Virbalis, Lithuania. May 2017.

In 2017 I completed a project that I started in 1976. For four decades, I collected family information. Finally, this resulted in a 2-volume book Plioplys: The History. The background information that I amassed was truly amazing and unexpected.

Amongst some of the highlights are the facts that Plioplys family members actively participated in political revolutions. They were involved in the anti-Czarist uprisings of 1863 and 1905. From 1865 through 1905, the Czar prohibited publishing books and newspapers in the Lithuanian language. Plioplys family members were very active in smuggling Lithuanian books and periodicals from Prussia. These were printed in Prussia and distributed across Lithuania.

Perhaps the most stunning finding was that I was able to trace the Plioplys surname back to 1561. This document lists all of the residents of the town of Virbalis, Lithuania. It includes their property ownerships and locations of all of these lots of land.

This city was located 2 miles from the Prussian border. Most likely the Plioplys surname is of Prussian origin. There were at least 6 Plioplys family households in Virbalis.

The land holdings of the Plioplys family members were exceeded only by those of Lord Wietrzinski. Plioplys family members owned 8.7% of the city’s land, the church and pastor 4.8%, and the Lord 16%. It is of interest that Plioplys family members owned twice as much land as the church and the rector combined.

Martynas Mazvydas, a Lutheran minister, was a next-door neighbor of many of the Plioplys family households. Almost certainly he was a close family friend. Mazvydas is very important in Lithuanian history as one of the fathers of the Protestant Reformation and, most importantly, for publishing the first book in the Lithuanian language in 1547. Almost certainly, the Plioplys family households were Lutherans at that time.

In 1561, and subsequently, Plioplys family members were free landowners. Serfdom was only abolished in Lithuania in 1861. Compared to the overwhelming number of families ruled by serfdom, Plioplys family members were distinguished as being part of a small number of free landowners.

The amount of real estate taxes paid by Plioplys family members can be determined. Converting into current US dollars, the total annual tax paid was $20,474. The annual tax per acre of city land was $137, and for outlying farmed land, $82. Two Plioplys family members owned beer taverns with an annual tax of $3,480. The city of Virbalis, with a presumed population of 4,000, had 113 alcohol serving taverns! It was to the government’s financial advantage to encourage the establishment of taverns. These monetary sums must be put into perspective. The costs of common items were: one egg $6, a chicken $58, a shirt $230, a pair of shoes $400, and a sheep-skin coat $1,400. (Farmers would have grown most of their own food, and manufactured their own clothing.)

I am very proud of all this material. If it were not for four decades of my dedication, none of this information about the Plioplys family lineage would be known.

Below: I am standing where Motiejus (Mathew) Plioplys had his residence on Punsko Street (now called Birute Street). Across the street was the residence of Martynas Mazvydas, a Lutheran priest who was the author of the first book published in the Lithuanian language. May, 2017.

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