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Belarus Records in Various Archives

by David M. Fox

 

*** This page is under construction, but is being made available now for use by SIG Members***
Please send corrections and additional material to Davefox73@earthlink.net

The Belarus SIG is looking for people to help organize all of the archival index information that we have collected.  If you are interested, please contact the Belarus SIG Webmaster .

 

Many people ask are there any surviving records for my shtetl in Belarus and where can I find them. Over the years different articles have appeared in issues of AVOTANU that addressed this subject in bits and pieces. In addition, Vlad Soshnikov has written several articles in the “RAGAS Report” and has generously given his permission for the Belarus SIG to republish them on our website. The Belarus on line Newsletter (BNL), Issue 1 (November 1998) contains an article titled, “Existing Records for Shtetls in Belarus”.  In BNL Issue 2 (February 1999), I expanded on the first article and wrote “More Records Uncovered in the Minsk Archive”.  There is also a JewishGen Info File, “Jewish Records from Belarus in the LDS Family History Library”.  A recent detailed examination of 13 of the film numbers on this file found that two microfilms had no Jewish records. 

There is another searchable database created by Belarus SIG member Nancy Goodstein, who works as a volunteer at the FHL. Nancy donated her database to the IAJGS which is available on JewishGen Jewish Records in the Family History Library Catalog http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/FHLC/. This database is an inventory of the microfilms, microfiche and books in the LDS Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) which are specifically Jewish genealogical sources.  It is a valuable finding aid for persons researching their Jewish ancestry, but is not intended to be a replacement for the FHLC.  The complete FHLC can be consulted at http://www.familysearch.org

The Belarus SIG has acquired several different inventories of records of interest to Jewish researchers interested in areas of current Belarus. In addition, I have compiled another inventory from a variety of miscellaneous sources. There are several reasons why getting a complete and accurate inventory is almost an impossible mission:

  1. CHANGING BORDERS:  As a result of changing borders, records for locations in present day Belarus can be found in archives located in Belarus, Lithuania (Vilnius), Poland (Beolostak and perhaps others), Latvia, Russia, Likewise, some of the records inventories for archives in Belarus include records for locations in present day Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.

  2. CENTRALIZATION OF RECORDS: During the times of the Czar and during the Soviet period, certain records from what is now Belarus were centralized in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These include, but are not limited to military records in:
  1. CONDITIONS IN THE ARCHIVES:  Having visited the NHAB (Minsk) in 1999, I saw the conditions in which records were stored. Economic conditions in Belarus do not appear able to support using the archival storage techniques used at the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Climate control, lighting in the stacks, limited computers, and lack of adequate funding were evident. I observed large records books on dusty shelves in the stacks, mold and worm damage to records, crumbling records that could not be copied or microfilmed without restoration, etc. The public reading room areas were clean and comfortable. Alla K. Golubovich, the Archive Director, is a professionally trained archivist who recognizes what needs to be done if she had the resources to do it. She was very helpful and gave our group a tour of the facilities and showed us how she was trying to improve the archive and develop computerized cataloging and indexing. Below you will find some photographs taken at the Minsk Archive in 1999.



    Alla K. Golubovich, Director, NHAB (Minsk), sitting at her desk


    Typical record book found in the NHAB (Minsk).  Notice the deterioration of the leather binding as well as the thickness of the book itself.  It might help you understand why it is not so easy to make Xerox copies from the original and why it is no easy task for a researcher to find your records.

    Record books waiting to be re-shelved in the stacks at the NHAB (Minsk).

 

  1. MOVEMENT OR TRANSFER OF RECORDS:  The holdings of different archives change over time due to the transfer of records from one archive to another because of consolidation/closure of archives and transfers of records triggered by the age of the documents. In addition, some documents may have been transferred between countries when borders change.

  2. DESTROYED RECORDS: Belarus history is filled with accounts of invading armies. Many records were lost or destroyed due to the ravages of war. Fortunately, some have survived and others may turn up in unexpected places at a later time. In addition, other records are been lost as a result of improper storage and preservation techniques. Some records were created in two copies, such as Rabbinate records. One set was provided to Government officials and the Jewish community kept the other. Hopefully, more records will be discovered as time goes on.

  3. MISFILED OR MISCATALOGED RECORDS: Sometimes archivists are not knowledgeable of the language in which records are written and therefore don’t know in detail what the records contain. Without that information, the archive catalog may not include records, which could be of value to researchers, or may not even be included in the archives’ catalog at all.

  4. RECORDS IN UNKNOWN ARCHIVES: Records for areas in Belarus have been turning up in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, the United States, and Israel. Some of these are primary records and others are secondary records. When we discover the existence of Belarus records in non-logical places, it is important that we document the location and contents and records them on a webpage similar to this one. There have even been reports of Jewish community.

  5. JEWISH RECORDS MIXED WITH “CHURCH RECORDS” AND “MIXED RECORDS”: Certain parts of western Belarus were at one time under the Polish sphere of influence. During this period, it was not uncommon for the parish priest to maintain vital records not only for his congregation, but also for the Jews living in the area of his parish. The Russian Revision Lists were usually maintained by social class. In some cases Jews were included in some Revision Lists that are not labeled “Jews” contain Jewish names.

    The LDS FHL has filmed some records of interest to Belarus researchers. A place name search can be done from the FHL website. It is critical that records not yet on microfilm be filmed as soon as possible, not only to provide easier access to researchers, but even more important, to preserve these records from further deterioration, as described above.

    Ideally, the Belarus SIG would like to create a single searchable database of records in all the different archives. However, if we wait to do this, it might be years before what information we already have is made available to members of the Belarus SIG. Therefore, we are making available what we have now, even though the data is not complete; there are different levels of detail, different data elements, and different formats; there are duplication of entries; incomplete and missing data; and etc. If there is a database expert out there who would like to consolidate the various inventories below into a single database, please contact me.


Inventories of Belarus Records

  1. NATIONAL HISTORIC ARCHIVES OF BELARUS (MINSK) - NHAB (Minsk)
    Address: 55, Kropotkina St., Minsk, 220002, Republic of Belarus
    Tel: (375-017) 268-65-22, 268-65-23
    Fax: 268-65-20
    E-mail: niab@solo.by, niab@belsonet.net
    Director: Alla K. Golubovich
    Web page

    The Belarus SIG recently contracted with a highly respected researcher in the FSU to provide an inventory of archival holdings of interest to genealogists, both primary records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce) and secondary records (draft lists, Revision Lists, property owner lists, school and court records, etc.). We recently received a preliminary file (with a final version to be delivered in the future) in Russian. I would like to thank Tom Edlund, formerly with the FHL and now with Brigham Young University, for translating the 43-page document into English. As of now, this is a text file and is not easily searchable. It will require that you scroll through the document. To make it easier to find shtetl names, they have been bolded.

    Click here to view this inventory of the NHAB (Minsk)

    This inventory includes records specifically identified as Jews or Jewish, as well as records identified as belonging to different religious groups and other records without any religious identification, such as court records, draft records, and property owner record lists. Many of the records on this list have not previously been included on prior record inventories. In fact, the FHL was unaware of the existence of some of the record fonds. Most significant is the inclusion of both primary and secondary records for Vitebsk gubernia and many of its shtetls and uzeyds (districts). In addition there are records from Gomel and Pinsk that were not previously thought to exits. Also found in the NHAB (Minsk) were small quantities of records from Kaunas and Vilna. Records for areas now in Latvia and Poland are also found on this inventory, as well as Soviet era records up through 1922 that were transferred from the abolished archive of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the BSSR. Some records back to the 1500’s are included, as are records from the first Revision.

  2. NATIONAL HISTORICAL ARCHIVES OF BELARUS IN GRODNO -
    NHAB (Grodno)
    Address: 2, Tizengauza Sq., Grodno, 230023, Republic of Belarus
    Tel: (375-0152) 44-94-66, 47-28-56
    Director: Karina P. Batrakova
    Web page.

    Last year, the Belarus SIG obtained a Russian inventory of records for areas that were in Grodno gubernia. Thanks to Vitaly Charny, the inventory was translated into English. An examination of the inventory found that most of the entries were located in the NHAB (Grodno), but there are records on this inventory that are in several other regional archives as well as the NHAB (Minsk):

    Grodno BGIA = NHAB (Grodno)

    Minsk NIA = NHAB (Minsk)

    Brest OGA = STATE ARCHIVES OF BREST REGION

The address: 8, Engelsa St., Brest, 224005, Republic of Belarus 
Tel: (375-0162) 26-59-29
Director: Anna V.Terebun
Web page


Grodno OGA = STATE ARCHIVES OF GRODNO REGION

Address: 84, Dzerzhinskogo St., Grodno, 230005, Republic of Belarus
Tel., fax: (375-0152) 72-24-43, 47-04-92
Director: Larisa I. Yunina
Web page


Molodechno OGA = ZONAL STATE ARCHIVES IN MOLODECHNO

Address: 69, Libavo-Romenskaya St., Molodechno, 222310, Republic of Belarus
Tel: (375-017-73) 7-26-76, 7-77-33
Director: Rostislav F. Gerasimovich
Web page


Grodno OZGS = STATE ARCHIVE OF REGISTER OFFICES FOR THE GRODNO REGION

Address: 3, Ozheshko Str., 230023, Grodno; Republic of Belarus
Tel: .(375-0152) 47-09-54


Click here to view this inventory of the Grodno Records.  Please be patient, this page takes a long time to load. 

This file is in tabular format and was created on an Excel template. Of particular significance on this inventory is the existence of the 1897 Russian Census records for Grodno gubernia. The 1897 Census for Minsk gubernia was not found in the Minsk archive. Since part of what was Grodno gubernia includes areas now in Poland, this inventory will be of interest to people doing family research in Poland.

Click here to view a partial inventory of the Grodno Archive.

Click here to view a list of the Grodno Jewish Vital Records that have already been filmed by the LDS.

  1. BELARUS RECORDS IN THE VILNA ARCHIVE
    Lietuvos Valstybinis Istorijos Archyvas
    Gerosios Vilties 10
    Vilnius 2015
    Lithuania [Lietuva]

    Because of shifting borders, some records for shtetls now in Belarus are found in the Vilna Archive. The Family History Library has completed filming the Vilna Rabbinate vital records located in the Vilna Archive. The last number starting with 2 is the FHL film number. While these films may not yet be in the FHL catalog, I understand that you can order them from your local Family History Center (FHC) by providing the film number. The filming of Revision Lists has not been completed in the Vilna Archive.

    Click here to view this inventory of Belarus Records in the Vilna Archive.

  2. DETAILED INVENTORY OF 13 MICROFILMS OF BELARUS RECORDS

    In preparation for starting the extraction and translation of records from 13 FHL microfilms that were converted to digital images, Vitaly Charny carefully reviewed each image on the 13 CDs and recreated a detailed inventory of what was on each film that were thought to contain Jewish records.. As you will see from the inventory, two films contained no Jewish records, others contained all Jewish records, and still others were a mixture.

    Click here to view this detailed inventory of the 13 roles of FHL microfilm.

  3. ANOTHER INVENTORY OF RECORDS FOR MINSK GUBERNIA

    Using a variety of miscellaneous sources, I compiled a database of records in the NHAB (Minsk). Because the data came from different sources, there is some duplication. One of the sources is from the input received from research reports received by others and me.

    Click here to view this second inventory of records in the NHAB (Minsk)

  4. SELECTED RECORDS FROM THE GRODNO OBLAST ARCHIVE (mss.) [Manuscript RG-53.004M] in USHMM

    Compiled by Tilford Bartman, this collection is on seven reels of microfilm, containing seventeen fonds (or record groups). Some fonds are so large as to take up more than one reel; other fonds take up less than one reel. Thus, a few reels contain multiple fonds. The USHMM Archives did not film every dela (or file) in the fonds. As a result, gaps will appear between dela numbers. All of the fonds filmed here contain only one opis (sub-collection). The microfilm of Fond 641 contains only the second opis of that fond. The documents were captured by the Soviets when they assaulted the German headquarters in Grodno. A group from the USHMM apparently went to Grodno a couple of years ago and microfilmed them. 

    Click here to view this inventory of Holocaust era records from Grodno.

  5. ON LINE INVENTORIES OF DIFFERENT ARCHIVES IN BELARUS (Belarus Government)

    The Belarus government website has started to put portions of the holdings of different archives in Belarus on line. To access these inventories go first to http://archives.gov.by/EItd/erx_gen.htm. Scroll down till you see: 

To research your genealogical tree, the following types of documents are the most valuable: 

* parish registers (Orthodox, Uniate and Catholic churches)
* census records 
* genealogical records of the nobility
* genealogical records of the state regional archives

The “parish” registers will not be of much use to Jewish researchers. The archives have not included any of the Rabbinate records (birth, death, marriage and divorce). The genealogical records of the nobility will be of limited value to Jewish researchers unless you know what you are looking for. Be sure to click on “census records” and “genealogical records of the state regional archives” where you can find fonds of records with records of interest to Jewish researchers. Follow the links to the different archives.

  1. Inventory of certain files (mainly Slutsk and Novogrudok uyezds) in the National Historical Archives of Belarus (NHAB) in Minsk

    Click here to view a research guide to the National Historical Archives of Belarus (NHAB) in Minsk

    Click here to view this third inventory of records in the NHAB (Minsk)

  2. ANOTHER INVENTORY OF RECORDS FOR THE GRODNO GUBERNIA

    This inventory includes information about, but is not limited to, the following

Click here to view this inventory of Grodno records.

What do you do if you find records from your ancestral shtetl in any of the six inventories?
**** to be added in the future*****