Blinstrubs – Towtwils is the noble family of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of Samogitian-Danish roots, known since 1380s according to survived lithuanian historical sources . The family was formed by amalgamation of the family of Lithuanian Duke Towtwil Conrad Kęstutaitis (pol. Towtiwill or Towciwill, German. Tewtewill, Lot. Totivillus, Totiwillum or Thowtiwil, Rus. Товътвил) with Blinstrub family. The family retained its status of nobility during the periods of occupation of the Republic of the Two Nations and the Russian Empire.
Family’s origin and geographical expansion
An extract from “Heraldry of nobility of Grand Duchy of Lithuania” from 1658, written by historian Albert Wijuk Kojałowicz, describes Blinstrubs as following: Blinstrubs derives from Towtwil, prospers in Duchy of Samogitia and province of Kaunas. Rich people. Possess coat of arms “Swan”. It is correct – Samogitia (Žemaitija) or Viduklė county, if to be more precised, has been oldest known living place of Blinstrubs. In Batakiai eldership inventory of 1558, written by GDL revisor Andrew IlgauskasD459, which was found in the case of Pašaltuonis-Kulvertiškiai (later Rimšai) manor of Viduklė county, Blinstrubs are mentioned for the first time. It means that Blinstrubs already lived in Samogitia under period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and under ruling of king Sigismund II August. It means still under period Gediminas dinasty. This fact reject the theory that Blinstrubs came to Samogitia under swedish kings Vasas period. In the inventory Blinstrubs are mentioned as Noblemen of his his royal highness king (Bojar Korolia Jego krolewskej milosti). It’s oldest prove of family’s nobility which remained also under next centuries.
It is possible that the Blinstrubs lived in Viduklė county already in 1528-1536, during the ruling of King Sigismund I. In Lithuanian Historical Archive there is a case of two nobles – Michael Airimowicz and Johannes Pacewicz on donating their lands, peasants and a manor to Viduklė church D466. In this case two brothers Simon (Szymko) and Gregor (Hrycius) Towtwilowicz are mentioned as witnesses. It’s big chance that they were progenitors of Blinstrub-Towtwil family in Lithuania. This theory also strengthens by the fact that some of the ancient Blinstrubs signed documents as Towtwilowicz or Blinstrubs de Towtwil (see brothers George and John Blinstrubs signatures at the bottom of the page).
This means that the family most probably originated by amalgamation of Blinstrub family of Danish origin with the family of descendants of the Grand Duke Kęstutis’ son, Vytautas’ brother, Duke Towtwil (Conrad Towtwil), which still existed in the 16th century, in Viduklė county, under the surname of Towtwil (Towtwilowicz) (source: the census of the GDL of 1528 and 1567). Taking into consideration different survived documents regarging noble families with double surname, the most likely version is that Blinstrub may have been the surname of the female half of the family (the wife of one of progenitors), while the male surname was probably Towtwil (Towtwilowicz), or it may have been some other reason why the two families merged into one and chose the surname of Blinstrub for the new continuation of the line. Several things encourage us to accept these versions. First of all, Towtwilowicz, as a separate family did not survive to present days. Secondly, both Lithuanian and Polish anthropony scientists, such as Antanas Salys, Zigmantas Zinkevičius, Vitalija Maciejauskienė, agree in their academic works, that the nobility used lineal extension (Polish: przydomek) in their family names to show a connection of their family with another family, usually older one, which was the original family name from the begining. And finally, this theory is reinforced by another document of the Blinstrubs de Chrzczon family, which identifies Urbonas Chrzczon as the progenitor of that family.D532 In such way family members Blinstrubs de Chrzczon of coat of arms Wreby confirm, that the second family or family in ther extension is the older one, because the progenitor of the family is descended from it and applying the same principle to the Blinstrubs coat of arms Swan, it can be stated that Towtwil (by the way, it was always written in singular form) is the progenitor of the family and Towtwils (Towtwilowicz) is the original surname. In Polish nobility there is quite a lot noble families double surnames and descendats of these families know often which of surnames is original one. In Lithuania that information is almost forgotten. This is mainly due to the loss of independence of Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1790s. This was probably influenced by the rules of the Russian Empire’s noblemen deputy assemblies, which did not allow to use double surnames in the territory of Russian Empire.
Despite that Blinstrubs de Towtwil have always been recognized and legitimized as nobles, the family’s descent from Duke Towtwil allows family to be recognized de facto as dukes, which was probably not inherited de jure due to some historical circumstances. Most probably because Duke Towtwil died in 1390 or 1395, before the Treaty of Vilnius-Radom was signed 1401, which officially approved the title of Duke in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. That could be the reason why the title was not passed over to his children.
Interesting to know that not everyone in the family appreciated to be linke to Towtwils family. For example, one of the Blinstrubs – ID1084 Marthine, in his testament to wife Agnetha Daujotaite, identifies himself as Blinstrubowicz, apparently to show that Blinstrub family was more important to him.D013 There was no unified way of writing surnames for a while either, as we can see from the signatures of brothers George and John, below. One of them signs as “de Towtwil” and the other as “Towtwilowicz”.
It is also interesting to note that if it were no another Blinstrub family, Blinstrubs de Chrzczon, the connection between Blinstrubs and Towtwils families would probably have remained unknown, but with appearance of a new Blinstrub family (Blinstrubs de Chrzczon) in 1570-1580, Blinstrubs of the coat of arms “Swan” were imposed to use lineal extension of original surname in order not to be identified as other Blinstrubs, who also lived the neighborhood.
If rely on a legend, Blinstrub arrived to Lithuania from Denmark. For this could be true tells one small Danish town name – Blenstrup. In Denmark many towns or villages have such endings as -trup or -trop, and even some Danish have family names ending -trup, so chances that Blinstrubs part of family came from Denmark are really considerable. A progenitor of the family was probably a person who derived from some place in Danmark and used in his surname as name of his patrimony or village (see an example below). In Batakiai eldership inventory of 1558 mentioned family’s landowner is written as Blinstrup. This fact enhances the theory Blinstrub family’s origin is Danish with original ending -trup, which later transformed to -trub.
There is also a legend that Blinstrubs before moving to Lithuania, for some time lived in Poland. That there were Blinstrubs living in Poland, also confirms in 1934 released Braunsberg (now Braniewo) gymnasium student handbook, writen by the German professor Georg Luhr, which states that in 1715 in Braunsberg leadership and grammar studied the 23 year old student from Poland Bartholomew Blinstrub from Nakla city in Poland. But no more historical sources confirming Blinstrubs living in Poland in XVI-XVIII centuries, so it’s probably not true.
The second Blinstrubs patrimony was Pašaltuonis-Kulvertiškiai manor in Viduklė county, which is mentioned in Batakiai eldership inventory of 1558 D549. In about that time the first Blinstrubs patrimony Alsa (Viduklė-Paalsė) manor, currently Blinstrubiškiai in the same county, has appeared. In remained historical sources it is mentioned in 1569 for the first time. In Alsa manor, until 1734, lived sons and grandsons of family’s progenitors in Lithuania, Simon’s (ID842) sons Peter (ID841) and Caspar Blinstrubs Olsowski de Towtwil (ID843). In other, Pašaltuonis-Žvirblaukis-Dūdiškės (Dūdlaukis) and Raulai-Numgaliai-Kempaliai manors of Viduklė county, lived the progenitors of another Blinstrub family, brothers Stanislaus (W2) and Bartholomew (W3) Blinstrubs de Chrzczon as well as their children. That branch used blazon “Wręby”. More about this family you can read in section Blinstrubs de Chrzczon.
In 16th.-17th. centuries the territory of Raulai-Numgaliai-Kempaliai and Sujainiai manor, with it’s center, the first Blinstrubs patrimony Alsa (Viduklė-Paalsė) manor, has been called Blinstruby. An approximate territory of Blinstruby land can be seen in a map below.
In 1643 Caspars grandson Samuel Mosis married wealthy widow Anna Žaltytė Parčevskienė and moved to Kulva manor in Aukštaitija region. In that way Blinstrubs branch in Aukštaitija has benn formed for the first time and survived until July 16th of 1798, when last owner of Kulva manor Antoni Blinstrub (S53) died. Later Blinstrub’s patrimonies and manors were Pužai (1681 – 1799, Nemakščiai parish), Gabšiai-Gabšiškiai-Paklaniai (1756-1805, Raseiniai parish), Ugioniai (Betygala parish). In the XVII-XVIII centuries, Blinstrub’s habitats geographically slightly expanded. In Samogitia’s Nemakščiai, Adakavas, Labūnava parishes, new patrimonies has appeared – Macaliai, Daujotėliai, Urniežiai. In Aukštaitija, new Blinstrubs setllers formed Šiliūnai (Pagiriai par.), and Pasodai (Siesikiai par.) patrimonies. In 19th. century Blinstrubs began to move away from their patrimonies. The branch of Aukštaitija spread towards Jonava, Ukmergė, Vepriai directions. Samogitia branch spread towards Telšiai, Šiauliai, Tauragė districts.
In 1886 began another Blinstrubs migration trend, which, over time, formed the second largest Blinstrub community – emigration to the United States. The first Blinstrub immigrant to the US in 1886 became Johannes Blinstrub which later lived in Chicago, IL.
Family status in state of Lithuania and society
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Blinstrubs belonged to the Lithuanian-polish royal elite. The son of Adam, George Blinstrub de Towtwil (ID857), has graduated from evangelical universities of Marburg and Frankfurt. Thanks to his education he became the secretary of the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Wladyslaw IV Vasa and after his death, George became nobleman of King Johannes Casimir Vasa. His brother Johannes (ID860, d. 1669) was the secretary to Kings of Poland and Grand Dukes of Lithuania – Wladyslaw IV Vasa and John Casimir Vasa and the royal secretary and rotmaster to their father, King of Poland and Sweden, Sigismund III Vasa. He was also the deputy of Samogitia tribunal in 1640 and 1655. Other Blinstrubs took ranks of rotmasters, judges, deputies, marshals of Kaunas county and Samogitia, as well as many honorary duties of nobility.
It can be assumed that the kings of the Swedish origin, Vasas, have chosen George and John as their secretaries, because of the Danish origin of Blinstrubs. In the seventeenth century Blinstrubs not only enjoyed the privileges of being members of the royal elite but also had good diplomatic skills. According to historian Adolfas Šapoka, George Blinstrub, during Swedish Deluge, was the only nobleman who had a document issued by the Swedish general, Magnus Gabriel de la Garde, which prohibited the Swedish army from plundering George’s manors and lands in Lithuania (A. Šapoka “Kėdainiai treaty” 1990). In addition, brothers George, Johannes, David and Samuel Moses Blinstrubs were signatories of the Kėdainiai Union and in 1644 January 2 ratified the privilege of King Vladislav IV Vasa to Samogitia and its nobility.
In 17th.-19th. centuries Blinstrubs were landlords, but already in the beginning nineteenth century many Blinstrubs became wealthy farmers and some began to move to the cities and towns.
In April 10th of 1798, the family reconfirmed its status of nobility in the Vilnius Governorate’s noblemen’s deputies’ council (LVIA F391, ap6, b7)
Blinstrubs were related and had friendly relationship with counts Zabiellos, Pliaters, noble families Kulviečiai (Kulwinski), Kosakowski, Meištavičiai, Bilevičiai, Urniežiai, Pilsudski.
After 1918, when Lithuania declared an independence from Russian empire, family name has transformed from Blinstrub to Blinstrubas. Some got their family names converted to Blinstrubis, Blistrubis, Bistrubis etc., but they all are people of the same family.
In early 2000s, in Lithuania lived over 130 Blinstrubs (males). If we add females Blinstrubaitės and Blinstrubienės and people with changed Blinstrubis name, we get about 250 Blinstrubs. Approximately the same number of Blinstrubs live in the United States – under 2016 telephone and address directories in the United States live 170 adults with name Blinstrub, 55 people with the surname Blinstrubas (male and female) and several females with the surname Blinstrubienė and Blinstrubaitė. Plus 33 adults with the changed surname Blinstrup. In 2015 in Poland lived 32 Blinstrubs, in Germany 16 Blinstrubs. Several Blinstrubs resides in the United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden and Brazil. In 2016 in Facebook you can find over 200 Blinstrubs account. Based on these numbers, it can be assumed that the current population Blinstrubs is about 650-700 people worldwide.