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The Russia 1897 Census

By Arthur H. Hoffman

As part of my research in compiling the Geographical Dictionary for Podolia Gubernia (part of the JewishGen Geographical Dictionary project), I requisitioned the microfilms containing the Census statistics from the Family History Library (FHL).  What follows is a description of what’s available from this film.  Perhaps this information will assist other researchers to get an idea what to expect and to avoid having to cover the same ground that I did in my research. 

Be advised at the outset that the Census microfilms are images of the original material.  Thus, everything is in old Russian (old Cyrillic). In a visit to a local Family History Center (FHC) I was able to use their CD catalogue of microfilms available from the FHL.  Using the keywords “Russian Census” plus a few more refinements I was able to find two series of microfilms (about ten each) on the Census.  Each film in the series contained the Census statistical charts of about five Gubernias (provinces) of the Russian Empire.  The films which contained the Podolia charts were #1143008 The Russian Census 1904 Podolskia and #1732232 The Russian Census Podol'skaia 1905.  It should be noted that both films contained the same information.  So, it is not necessary to order both. 

Along with the Podolia films I also ordered #1183690 "The Russian Index - a Tutorial".  This film provides a history of each Russian Census over the centuries.  There is virtually no discussion of the 1897 Census beyond mentioning that it occurred.  It isn’t worth ordering this film.  In fact, I found most of this information on the Internet from a Google search.  For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Empire_Census is a good starting point.The cost to requisition microfilms is nominal, perhaps $6.00 (it can vary slightly). 

Each FHC has microfilm readers to view the film and copy machines to make copies of individual pages.  It takes from 2-6 weeks for the film to arrive at the FHC from the FHL.  They call you when it arrives and they will hold it there for 30 days.  If you need more than 30 days, you may renew it for an additional fee.

The Census statistical charts for each Gubernia consist of a Table of Contents, an Introduction of about 12 pages and 25 charts of different statistical analyses on about 285 pages.  I made an image file of the Table of Contents for Podolia that is part of this Article.  Mark Grekin translated the Table of Contents into English.  A file of the translation is also part of this Article. 

The primary purpose of my researching the Census was to obtain Jewish population data for all shtetls in Podolia that had at least 100 Jews.  To my disappointment, I found Jewish population data for only the major shtetls of each of the 12 Uyezds (districts) in Podolia, a total of only 17 shtetls.  I had been led to believe that there were data for many more than 17 shtetls in the Census, thus my disappointment. However, the information I’m looking for must be elsewhere.  When I find it, I’ll update this Article.

A common misperception is that the Census contains surnames by shtetl that would be important for researching ancestors.  There are no surnames in these microfilms.

Original 1897 Russian Census

CensusContents.jpg (348264 bytes)

Click on image to view full size



Other examples of the 1897 census

Here are some sample pages from the 1897 Russian census. These happen to be for the Hemmelfarb family, living in Odessa at the time of the census. Click on any image for a larger view, which will open in a new window. Census documents provided courtesy of Barbara Stephenson.
1897 Russian Census - head page
1897 Russian Census - first data page
1897 Rusian Census - 2nd data page
  • Last Modified: 02-23-2012
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