The exact origins of the Klionsky family are unknown. But, almost everyone who presently bears the name can be traced to Minska Guberniya - Province or county of Minsk , now a part of Belarus, in the mid 1800s.
The earliest known census including our name was from 1858. In that year's Minsk Revision List, there was one listed household headed by Khaim Klionski, son of Are, and born in 1802. The household included his wife, sons and daughter, and the sons' wives.
Another census region in that same year, covering the area around Smorgon, about 50 miles NW of Minsk (then in Vilnius Guberniya of Lithuania but now also in Belarus), reports the family of Fayba Kliunsky, son of Chaim, and born around 1828. The household included his wife, son, and two daughters; they were listed as 'petit bourgeois'.
The 1874 Borisov Revision List
The next mention in official documents was the 1874 Borisov Revision List. There were six listed households of Klionskys with a total of 27 residents. Just one of these households was from Borisov itself (approx. 40 miles ENE of Minsk). Of the other five, four were from nearby Zembin (about 40 miles NE of Minsk), and the last was from Nestanovichi (a shetl approx. 110 miles SE of Minsk). Birth years are given for each head of household, and in some cases for his (always his in those days, never hers) father. Those dates range between 1811 and 1825.
Curiously, there is also an 1834 Borisov Revision List available on the web. It lists no Klionskys of any spellings. Since later lists show that there were Klionskys in 1834, it is not clear why they weren't recorded on the 1834 list. Perhaps the region covered by the 1834 list was different from the 1874 list and didn't cover territory where Klionsky families lived. (Recall that only one household on the 1874 Borisov list was actually was from Borisov.)
Perhaps criteria for inclusion on the list (a certain degree of wealth, property holdings, or tax obligations) were not met at the earlier date. Perhaps all the 1874-listed families were related, or for some other reason chose to move together to the region sometime after 1834. Or, perhaps, bribes were paid to stay off the list. Readers' research is welcomed on this topic.
Whatever the reasons for the absence of Klionsky names from the 1834 Revision List, it is likely that the 1874 Borisov list was also incomplete. This conclusion is based, for one thing, on the fact that the Binghamton, NY, branch of the family, with at least seven members definitely living in or near Borisov in the mid 1870s, is entirely missing from the 1874 list.
Are All Klionskys Related?
The point here is that there seem to have been more Klionskys arriving in other places from the Minsk/Borisov region between 1880 and 1925 than can be explained by the households who appear on official Russian lists generated between 1858 and 1900.
If true, there must have been more Klionskys in the Minsk region than those who appear on the Minsk, Smorgon/Vilna, Riga, and Borisov lists. This is an important consideration in evaluating the likelihood that all Klionskys are related to each other within a reasonable number of generations - say, within two or three generations before 1800.
The more members in the mid 1800s, the less likely there is only one family. But, if we are not all one family, what other name origin is possible? There was a town transliterated as Kolonsk in Belarus, about 120 miles SW of Minsk.
There was another in Lithuania called Kluoniskiai. Could Jews from one of these places have all obtained the same surname when surnames became required, and later been driven out by pogroms, famine, or economic opportunity to the Minsk region and beyond? Here too, reader research is invited.