In 1895, the Imperial Russian government began planning a census of the entire Russian Empire. The actual count of individuals took place on January 28, 1897. Previously, tax registrations and draft registrations had been collected, but this census was different — it was to be used only for statistical purposes.
“The 1897 census had an ambitious intent: to document the entire population of the Empire and describe its associated characteristics on a single day. This [odnodnevnaya perepsis] would collect data on age, gender, literacy, nationality, place of birth, etc., for all residents irrespective of their social Estate or tax status. . . . Varying census forms were printed for what were considered the five principle groups of persons. Form [A] was for peasant households that resided on agricultural property; Form [B] was for landed Estates; Form [V] for urban populations; [another form] for the military population; and [the final form] for boarding students, clergy, wards of charitable organizations, etc.” (Thomas K. Edlund, “The 1st National Census of the Russian Empire,” FEEFHS Journal, volume VII, numbers 3-4, Fall/Winter 1999, Salt Lake City, Utah).
All individuals were listed together, but nationality (including "Jewish") was identified.
After the census was taken, a second copy of every return was made. Both copies were sent to the provincial census commission. The provincial census commission sent one of copy to the central commission in St. Petersburg. After the central commission tabulated statistical results, their copy of the information was destroyed. However, some of the original returns were saved in local and provincial archives.
About the Database:
This database contains names of 13,465 Jewish individuals (2,475 families) residing in Kovna and Vilna Gubernya, extracted from the remaining fragments of the 1897 Russian Empire Census. Please note that there are many qualifications in this statement:
1. Only records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives (LVIA) in Vilnius, Lithuania were examined. There are additional records available from other gubernias from other archives.
2. Only Jewish records were translated (the records include data on "religion").
3. The majority of the original records were destroyed, and are not available today. Most records have been lost. All records found in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius as of November 2002 have been translated for this database.
- Town: Name of the town (Form V only)
- Volost / District / Gubernia:Russian administrative designations on the Census forms. A volost (county) is a subdivision of an uyezd (district), which is a subdivision of a gubernia (province). In this database, the gubernia will be either Kovno (Kaunas) or Vilna (Vilnius).
- Address: The name of the rural Estate or Village where the family lived (Formas A and B) or the name of the Street where the family lived (Form V).
- Landowner / House of: The name of the person owning the property on which the family lived. On Estates this is usually the owner of the Estate. In Villages and Towns, it is often, but not always, the resident. It is used in place of a street number to identify an address. If two families lived at the same address, they will both be displayed. They may or may not be related, but we felt that the information that they lived together was important.
- Name: Surname and Given Name(s) of each individual. Transliterated from Cyrillic.
- Age: Age on the day of the census taking, January 28, 1897. This census in particular has been criticized by demographers for "age heaping", the tendency to prefer or avoid certain ages when taking the reports.
- Father: A patronymic — the father's given name — is part of the Russian naming convention. Patronymics are usually included with the individual’s given name and surname, for example "Peisakh Abramovich Katz" means "Peisakh, son of Abram, surname Katz". The fathers' given names have been extracted from the patronymic and put into their own column for this database.
- Relationship: Individual's relationship to the Head of Household. The Head of Household was usually the oldest man living in the house.
- Comments: Any notes made by the census taker.
- Born / Registered / Living: Place of Birth, Place of Registration, and Place Living. These three location columns give some of the most interesting information in the Census. It was common that a person lived in one place, but was officially registered in another place. These columns give an idea of how our ancestors moved, and why we can’t find them in the places that we expect to find them.
- Source: The archive, fond, series, and file number of the original record. All of these records are from the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius ("LVIA" = Lietuvos Valstybės Istorijos Archyvas). For example, "LVIA / 768 / 1 / 54" indicates that this record is from the Lithuanian State Historical Archives (LVIA), fond (record group) number 768, series 1, file 54.
Where can I obtain more information about persons appearing on this database?
If you do find your ancestors or relatives in this database, and you would like to receive a photocopy of the original census page that they are listed on, you can write to the Lithuanian State Historical Archives at:Lietuvos Valstybės Istorijos Archyvas
Gerosios Vilties 16
For a nominal fee, they will send you a copy. You must send them your ancestral information contained in this database, together with the Source (the fond, series, and file number), so that no research would be required. The original record is handwritten in Russian (Cyrillic alphabet).