Belarus Jewish Records

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Beginning Research
Record Types
Belarus Background
Local Research Resources
Jewish Genealogy Research
Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Original Records
Compiled Sources
Background Information
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Historical Background[edit | edit source]


Find the Town[edit | edit source]

In order to research your family in Belarus, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. It is not enough to know only ‘Belarus;' you must know the town name and the district/province name. The name of a nearby larger town can also be very helpful.

One of the best ways to determine information about your ancestor's pre-immigration origins is to investigate records in the country of immigration. Records that might give clues about your ancestor's birthplace include vital records like marriage or death, vital records of children or spouses, census, synagogue records, obituaries, naturalization/immigration and so on. Find a Wiki page for the country, state, or county that your ancestor immigrated to in order to discover what types of records might be available for the area they lived in. See this page on Miriam Weiner's Routes to Routes page for additional tips on finding your ancestor's hometown.

See the Administrative Districts and Divisions article on Routes to Roots Administrative to learn more about jurisdictions in the Russian Empire and their modern-day equivalents.

JewishGen Family Finder[edit | edit source]

  • The Family Finder is a database of both ancestral hometowns and surnames that have been researched by their descendants world wide. The Family Finder allows you to connect with others who are researching similar ancestors and origins and collaborate your research. To add the surnames and locations you are researching, click on Modify (Edit your existing entries) or Enter (Add new entries). Type in the surnames and/or locations of interest and hit Submit. To search the database and see if you can connect to family members and other researchers, choose Search (Search the database) from the Town Finder home page. You can search for a surname and/or a town. Search results will appear in a chart format giving you the surname, town, country, and researcher information (often includes contact information) and the date they last logged into JewishGen.

Miriam Weiner's Surname Database[edit | edit source]

Over her 30+ years of working in Eastern European archives, Miriam Weiner collected vast amounts of material and can be searched using the Surname Database.

  • Use the Standard Surname Database if you know your ancestor's given name, surname, or town name. This database is comprised of name lists from local historians and heads of Jewish communities, name lists from books, and name lists from various archives.
  • Use the OCR Surname Database (optical character recognition) to search for your ancestor's surname. The search of the database is done using Cyrillic spellings, but the search form allows you to enter the name in Latin letters and automatically transliterates it into Cyrillic for you. This database is comprised of information from business directories, address calendars, telephone books, typed name lists, and name lists from books and from archives.

You may also be able to use the database to help narrow down a more specific location for where individuals lived who shared your ancestor's surname.

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Once you have determined the town your ancestor came from, the next step is locating the town in a map or a gazetteer. This will help you to identify political boundaries, place names, alternate spellings, etc. Gazetteers and historical maps are especially useful for understanding boundary changes or finding communities that no longer exist. In your research, in gazetteers, pay attention to the town's district and province as this will help you locate records such as the 1897 Census and Revision List records.

JewishGen Gazetteer[edit | edit source]

  • The JewishGen Gazetteer is a useful online gazetteer for locations in Eastern Europe. Note that wild card searches are not supported. To view an entry page, click on the Jewish star to the left of the town name. Entry pages provide jurisdictions for before WWI, the interwar period, after WWII and modern-day. Alternate names and Yiddish and Russian spellings are also included. In the center, you'll find a map and a list of additional Jewish communities located nearby. Finally, under Additional Information and in the green box at the top, you'll find links to references and additional resources that may help you in your research.

Radzima[edit | edit source]

  • The Radzima Gazetteer is a useful online tool for locations in Belarus, parts of Poland and Lithuania. In addition to searching by place name, you can also browse locations by governorates (gubernia), voivodeships, and modern day regions by clicking here. Radzima also includes historic maps.

Maps of your Ancestor's Town[edit | edit source]

  • To view present-day Belarus at Google Maps, click here.
  • For a map showing the percentage of Jews in the Pale of Settlement and Congress Poland, c. 1905, click here.
  • To view an additional historical map showing the historical percentage of Jews in governments, click here.

1897 Census[edit | edit source]

The 1897 Russian Imperial Census was the first and only census carried out in the Russian Empire. The census enumerated the entire population of the Empire (excluding Finland), but after statistical data was gathered, many of the census returns were destroyed. There are, however; surviving census returns for many locations throughout Ukraine. Use the resources below to help you determine if census records survive for your ancestor's shtetl and how to access them. Use the Reading the 1897 Census "How to" Guide to learn how to read census records.

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

1897 census records still exist for areas in the Grodno gubernia. These records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Belarus Database.

Revision and Family Lists[edit | edit source]

Revision lists are enumerations of the taxable population (most Jews in the Russian Empire fell into a taxable social class). There were ten revisions taken sporadically from 1772-1858. These records are a foundational source in genealogical research as they provide names, ages, and relationships.

Supplemental Lists, also known as Family Lists, can be found ranging from about 1860 through the end of the nineteenth century. They are similar in format to revision lists and are often grouped with revision list records in an archive.

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Many Belarusian revision list records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Belarus Database. To read more about the collection, click here.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

There may also be records available through the FamilySearch Catalog. Revision list records are catalogued at the uyezd (district level). To see if records are available for your ancestor's district, click here.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Throughout the Russian Empire, birth, marriage, divorce, and death records were required to be kept by the Jewish community beginning in 1835. Jewish records were generally kept in a tabular format with the left-side of the page in Russian and the right-side of the page in Hebrew. Vital records are available online in both indexed and digital image formats.

JewishGen (indexed records)[edit | edit source]

Many Belarusian vital records have been indexed and are available through the JewishGen Belarus Database. For more information about Births, Marriages/Divorces, and Deaths in the JewishGen Belarus Database click on the hyperlink above.

FamilySearch (digital images)[edit | edit source]

There may also be records available through the FamilySearch Catalog.

a. Click here to access catalog entries for Belarus.
b. Click on Places within Belarus and a list of gubernia will appear.
c. Click on the gubernia, then select Places within [Name of Gubernia].
d. From there, a list of uyezdi will appear.
e. Click on Places within [Name of Gubernia, Name of Uyezd]
f. Click on the Jewish Record topic (it may be found at either the town or uyezd level). Click on the blue links to view specific record titles.
e. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. 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. A camera with a key on top means the record is viewable but with certain restrictions that may mean the record can only be viewed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a Family History Center, or FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Take a look at the Family History Center Finder to discover a location near you.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Holocaust[edit | edit source]

Holocaust Lists Database at Routes to Roots[edit | edit source]

Use the new Holocaust Lists Database at Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots to determine the location of Holocaust documents such as victim and survivor lists, survival testimonials and more. Holocaust Collections included in this database are from select towns in Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, and Ukraine.

Database entries include information about archive the records are stored in and the archival file number. This information will help you locate the original record in the archive.

To determine what holocaust lists may survive, simply search the database by town. Click on an entry to view additional information about the record and its location. After you have determined that Holocaust documents for your town are available, consider searching your surname in the Surname Database. Miriam Weiner has digitized many Holocaust lists and they are accessible through the Surname Database. Keep in mind that this is an ongoing project, so check back often for new information and updates.

Additional Websites[edit | edit source]

Yizkor Books[edit | edit source]

Yizkor books are memorial books commemorating a Jewish community that was destroyed during the Holocaust. Books are usually published by former residents and records the remembrance of homes, people and ways of life lost during World War II. Most books are written in Yiddish or Hebrew, but in recent years, many have been translated and made available online. You may wish to refer to the Glossary of Yizkor Book Terms list to help you.

Historical Photos[edit | edit source]

The Image Database on Miriam Weiner's website contains photographs and postcard views of many towns and cities throughout Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, and other select countries dating back to the early 1900s. These include pre-WWI and current town views, photos of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and Holocaust memorials. Even if you are unable to find a picture of your ancestor's town, it may still be interesting to see what other towns in the area looked like, which will allow you to a get a feel of what life may have been like for your ancestor.

Additional Records and Finding Aids/Record Inventories[edit | edit source]

Additional records such as city directories, school records, additional tax records, etc. may exist for your locality. Use some of the sources listed below to help you locate those records. Many of these records may be located in an archive. To learn more about archives in Eastern Europe, read the YIVO article, Archives, by Miriam Weiner.

Genealogy Indexer[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Indexer is a free database that provides access to thousands of records including city directories from the former Russian Empire, Yizkor books, WWI casualty lists and other military records, as well as school records. Links to the original records are often included.

Miriam Weiner Routes to Roots Foundation[edit | edit source]

Use the Archive Database to locate what records exist for your ancestor's town, and where to find them. Search for the name of your ancestor's locality, and the database will provide results for known surviving records from that location, and where the records are held. (Remember to adjust the search criteria for Soundex options or spelling variations).

This database contains documents such as army/recruit lists, family lists and census records, Jewish vital records (birth, marriage, death, divorce), immigration documents, voter and tax lists, property and notary records, Holocaust documents, police files, pogrom documents, school records, occupation lists, local government and hospital records.

  • See Routes to Roots Foundation and hover over Belarus for a Genealogical and Family History guide to Jewish and civil records in Eastern Europe.

For information about the repositories referred to on Miriam Weiner's Archive Database, see the Archives in Eastern Europe page which includes archival contact information. Contact/visit the respective repository for details on their holdings. For instructions on contacting archives and accessing records, see Q11 on this Routes to Roots page. For help writing in inquiry in Russian, see the Russia Archives and Libraries page.  

Jewish Roots[edit | edit source]

The Еврейские Корни (Jewish Roots) site is an excellent resource to help you locate archival documents. The website is in Russian, but if you are using the Google Chrome browser, simply right click anywhere on the page and select Translate to English. Search using the name of the town (find the Cyrillic spelling of the town on JewishGen Town Finder) to see what archival records might be available for your location. In addition to the database, use the Forum to connect with other researchers and find other potential resources for your location.

Archives of Belarus[edit | edit source]

  • View the Archives of Belarus home page by clicking here. Includes a "Contacts" link.
  • Discover over 50 web pages of Jewish information available online at the Archives of Belarus by clicking here to search. Follow up by starting a search for the word "Jewish" and clicking the "Search" button.

Ancestry[edit | edit source]

The following are relevant indexed collections on Ancestry.com.

Reading Records[edit | edit source]

Belarusian Jewish records are most commonly written in Russian or Hebrew. Use the resources in this list to help you learn how to read the records. You may also consider using a free translation service such as the FamilySearch Community (Be sure to post in the Russian Empire Genealogy Research group or tag @RussianEmpireGenealogyResearch in your question) or JewishGen View Mate.

Russian[edit | edit source]

Hebrew[edit | edit source]

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]