Definitions of some words and phrases found on the Belarus SIG website

Delo (plural: dela)

Archival reference to a file or files.

See fond, list, opis.


A representative council in Russia. The Russian legislature.

Evrei (plural)

Jews (male: evrey) (female: evreyka)

Evreiskoye kladbishe

A Jewish cemetery.

Evreiskaya sinagoga

A Jewish synagogue.

Fond (plural: finds, fondy)

Archival reference to a collection, collections, or record group(s).

See delo, list, opis.


A province of the Russian Empire (before 1918). The area which is Belarus today consists of all or part of five former Russian Empire gubernias: eastern Grodno, Minsk, Mogilev, southeastern Vilna, and southern Vitebsk.

Gubernskaya kazennaya palata

A provincial or gubernia Office of the Treasury which compiled census lists.


A social status of the merchant estate. (male: kupets) (female: kupchikha) (plural: kuptsy)

List (plural: listy)

Archival reference to a folio or folios.

See delo, fond, opis.

Meschanin (plural: meshchane)

MESCHANIN represents the social status of the family. The reason to have this information in the records for Russian authorities wasn’t to state the persons origin, but to indicate his social status. People in the Russian Empire didn’t have equal civil rights. Therefore it was important for it to be registered in documents. A Moscow meshchanin had different civil rights than an Ivenets meshchanin. The combination of such things as “soslovie” (like meshchanin), religion, gender, residence and age produces a picture of the opportunities that the person and his/her family had in the Russian Empire.

A Russian register class that united the inhabitants of villages, towns and cities where the capital was less than 1,000 rubles - generally merchants.


A social status of the petty townspeople estate. (male: meshchanin) (female: meshchanka)

Metricheskie knigi

Metrical books/registers of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces.

Molitvenny dom (plural: Molitvennyye doma)

A prayer house.


National Historic Archives of Belarus (Minsk)

Opis (plural: opisi)

Archival reference to inventory, inventories, or subdivisions of the collection.

See delo, fond, list.

Otdel ZAGS [Otdel Zapisi Aktov Grazhdanskogo Sostoyaniya]

Archive or Department of ZAGS, where vital records are registered, usually located in the local town hall or mayor’s office (for the previous 100 years).

Patronymic and matronymic naming patterns

The suffic “ov” or “ovich”, “[l]ev” or “[l]evich” following a male’s second name indicates that a name with this suffix is a patronymic (from the father). For example, an entry for Baruch Yakovlevich Rabinovich refers to Baruch Rabinovich, son of Yakov. The same situation is applicable for a female suffix of “ova” or “ovna”, “[l]eva” or “[l]evna” (from her father’s first name). For example, an entry for Rivka Yakovlevna Rabinovich refers to Rivka Rabinovich, daughter of Yakov.

Place of registration

The town where an event was registered. Most events (births, marriages, etc) were registered in the town in which they occurred in. However, sometimes the events were registered in different towns.

Pochetnoe grazhanstvo

A social status of honorary citizen.

Podatnye spiski

Poll-tax lists

Posemeinyi spisok

Family register


A guide. In this case, a published archival guide to fonds and collections.

Revizskie skazki

Poll-tax census


A retired soldier would have a document called a “bilet”, which was his proof of a social status that afforded him more privileges’ then the average meschanin. In Mogilev records, the transliterated Russian phrases of “biletny soldat” or “pobiletny soldat” correspond to the Minsk record phrases “retired soldier (otstavnoy soldat)”, “retired private (otstavnoy ryadovoy)” or “retired lower rank [Serviceman] (otstavnoy nizhniy chin)”.


Social estate (status). The combination of such things as “soslovie”, religion, gender, residence and age produces a picture of the opportunities that the person and his/her family had in the Russian Empire.

See kupechnestvo, meshchanstvo, pochetnoe grazhanstvo, remeslennik, and zemledelets.


A social status of artisan, which was often included with the meshchanstvo.


A district. There were several uyezd in each gubernia.


A social status of farmer.