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Belarus Church Records

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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Belarus, go to the Religious Records page.

Online Resources and Websites[edit | edit source]

  • Litwa-metryki cz. Lithuania vital records with online images. Map pins indicate villages from which records are available. Includes some records from Belarus.
    • Click the down arrow to the left of "Cz. I i II" to open the full list, which gives all these links.
    • A list of records and links to descriptions and images will appear. Example:
KOMAJE
first book of deaths from 1894 to 1895 year. Description | see
2nd book of deaths of the 19th century. Description | see
third book of births of the 20th century. And half Description | See
the 4th book of births from 1860 to 1866 year. Description | See
5. book of births from 1866 to 1873 year. Description | See
  • Description and See are clickable links. See takes you to the images.


Historical Background[edit | edit source]

According to the census of as of November 2011, 58.9% of all Belarusians adhere to some kind of religion; out of those, Eastern Orthodoxy (Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church) makes up about 82%. Roman Catholicism is practiced mostly in the western regions, and there are also different denominations of Protestantism. Minorities also practice Greek Catholicism, Judaism, Islam and Neopaganism. Overall, 48.3% of the population is Orthodox Christian, 41.1% is not religious, 7.1% is Catholic and 3.3% follows other religions.

Belarus's Catholic minority is concentrated in the western part of the country, especially around Hrodna, is made up of a mixture of Belarusians and the country's Polish and Lithuanian minorities. In a statement to the media regarding Belarusian-Vatican ties, President Lukashenko stated that Orthodox and Catholic believers are the "two main confessions in our country".[1]

Church Registers (Metric books) General Information[edit | edit source]

The Church acted as both a religious and civil agent in recording vital events and church sacraments such as baptism and burial. Peter the Great mandated the keeping of Orthodox books in 1722. The format was standardized in 1724. Printed forms were introduced in 1806. In 1838 a format was introduced that prevailed until 1920 when civil registration began. The priest made a transcript for the ecclesiastical court (dukhovnaia konsistoriia) having jurisdiction. Old Believer and Baptist transcripts were sent to the provincial administration (gubernskoe upravlenie). The distinction between the original and the transcript is often ignored by Belarusian record keepers.

Time period: Orthodox, 1722; Greek Catholic, 1796; Roman Catholic, 1613 (transcripts begin in 1826); Evangelical/other Protestant, 1641 (transcripts begin in 1833); Old Believers, 1874; Baptists, 1879–all to about 1930.

Population coverage: 70% coverage for early periods, 90% from about 1830 through the destruction of most churches in the 1930s, 50% among minority religions and dissident groups such as Old Believers and Baptists.[2]

Confession Lists[edit | edit source]

Register of orthodox parishioners taken at Easter confession:Attendance at confession and communion was required of the family members over the age of seven. Sometimes they are interfiled with metrical books in a record group or collection.

Time period: 1723-about 1930.

Contents: Lists head of household, names of family members (including children not attending confession) with their ages and relationship to head of household, residence (number of house or other identification), and whether or not they attended confession.

Location: Central state historical archives in Minsk and Grodno. Population coverage: 10% (see preservation note). Because this is a voluminous record type, many have been discarded. The standard rule was to retain only 2% but in some cases more were preserved. Consequently, these exist for only a small percentage of parishes. The records are well preserved in good facilities. The records were little used during twentieth century.[2]

How to Find Records[edit | edit source]

Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

You might need to do some work in maps and gazetteers to learn more about your ancestors' locality. Not every town had a church, so villagers would travel to their nearest parish church for services. To find church records for your ancestor, you must find the name of the town and name of the parish church where your ancestor attended church. The name of the diocese and deanery are needed. The church diocese and deanery may not match the voivodeships or gubernia that you found for civil records.

Gazetteers can help you learn these details. The online Radzima.net Gazetteer lists information about towns, villages, and parishes. It has a place name search engine, an alphabetical list of places through the years, and lists organized by http://www.radzima.net/eng/ Orthodox eparchies and Catholic dioceses (scroll down the left sidebar to these lists.)

The wiki article, Belarus Gazetteers explains other gazetteers.

These volunteer organizations can connect you to someone who understands better how to use the gazetteers and even search them for you to find your parish.

Digital Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]

Watch for digitized copies of church records to be added to the collection of the FamilySearch Library. Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on the records of Belarus.
b. Click on Places within Belarus and a list of states will appear. Clicking on a state will bring up a list of counties. Clicking on a county will bring up a list of towns.
Or Directly enter the name of the town here.
c. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Records in National Archives[edit | edit source]

National Historical Archive of Belarus in Minsk provides Research Services for Fees.

From the "Genealogy" page of the National Archives of Belarus: "The Belarusian archives store a large number of documents that can be used in genealogical research, are of interest for the restoration of pedigrees (metric books, revision tales, accounting documents of various departments, classes, nationalities, etc.). Mostly these documents are in the National Historical Archive of Belarus in Minsk (on the territory of the former Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk and partially Grodno provinces of the Russian Empire) and in the National Historical Archive of Belarus in Grodno (mainly on the territory of the Grodno and partially Vilna provinces ) Genealogy materials are also available in the archives of civil registration authorities (civil registry offices) Information on genealogy requests can be found on the website of the National Historical Archive of Belarus in Minsk on the Services page and in the National Historical Archive of Belarus in Grodno, whose contact information is available on our website. Currently, the site provides information regarding metric books (church registers), revision tales, documents on the genealogy of the nobility, documents of the genealogical nature of state regional archives.[3]

Writing to a for Local Church for Records[edit | edit source]

You will need to write to or email a local parish priest to find records. See Russian Letter Writing Guide for help with composing letters. This might come up initially translated into English. Then you will need to return it to its original form.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Belarus", in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarus, accessed 16 April 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Belarus,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 2002.
  3. "Genealogy", National Archives of Belarus, http://archives.gov.by/home/genealogiya, accessed 17 April 2020.