©copyright 1995-2005 by Blitz; all rights reserved
Information Center - BLITZ works with the historic archives in St.
Petersburg and Moscow and provides genealogy research, document retrieval
and translations. BLITZ is located in St. Petersburg and also maintains
an office in California. BLITZ provides a preliminary genealogy search
At the conclusion of this preliminary search, we will be able
to give you our assessment as to the existence of records of your family
and the direction of further research. Hopefully we will find some information
which we will report to you. We will also tell you if there are some
documents which you should order. On the other hand, if we believe that
further research will be unproductive, we will let you know along with
our reasons. Although we cannot guarantee results, our researchers are
very experienced and we have had good success for many of our clients.
See the Genealogy Order Form
The present genealogy search situation in Russia and the kind of
information we have found for our clients is described below.
GENEALOGY RESEARCH IN RUSSIA
More on Archives in Russia
There are many government archives in Russia as well as in the newly
independent states of the former Soviet Union. These archives contain
a rich assortment of materials for the genealogist tracing families
in the Russian Empire. However, the archives do not communicate with
each other and information on similar subjects is not coordinated. Each
archive will provide specific information on subjects sought if they
are found within their archive. They may recommend another archive if
they are unable to provide such a work.
Information in the archives can now be accessed by contacting the archives
directly or by contacting a commercial research service such as BLITZ.
However, unlike research in many western countries, it is not possible
to simply request a birth, marriage or death certificate. Archives in
the former Soviet Union were not organized to respond to this kind of
straight forward request or to provide such information or documentation.
In general, the archives in the former Soviet Union are poorly organized,
poorly indexed and in poor physical condition. After the collapse of
the Soviet Union, the budgets from the central government for maintaining
the many archives have been drastically cut or are non-existent. Archives
must now pay for their own electricity, heating and fire protection
Unfortunately, a great many records have been lost during wars and by
fire. Some records were discarded after they were thought not to be
useful any longer and some records have simply not been catalogued so
their existence is not known even to the Archive. Blitz researchers
have become very skilled and resourceful at locating existing records.
Efforts are now being made to systematize the records and publish catalogues
for the various archives. The Mormon Church is now microfilming a great
many records in Russia. The problem remains that many of these records
are handwritten in the old Russian alphabet. Needless to say, these
records are very difficult to read and translate. Unless you are skilled
in reading old Russian, this is a good reason to use a local research
Some of the types of records that can be accessed in the archives of
the former Soviet Union are listed below:
Civilian service records - Civilian service records are very
detailed records of a person's government work record and usually list
the spouse, children, vital dates, places of work and types of civilian
service. Civilian service records are very good sources of genealogy
Military Service records - Military service records are similar
in detail to civilian service records and are found in the Military
Historic Archive in Moscow and in the Naval Historic Archives in St.
Petersburg. A military service record is more likely to exist if the
person was an officer. It is useful to know which branch of service
the person served in.
A photograph of the person in uniform is most helpful. Military service
medals, even those shown in a photograph, can often be identified as
to the campaign. If the service medal is available, it should have a
serial number on the back, which can be traced. Records of trials and
courts-marshal are also kept. These records often contain much personal
Protestant Church Registers - In pre-revolutionary Russia, each
year the non-Russian orthodox churches were required to make a copy
of their register and send it to St. Petersburg. These records are kept
in the Russian State Historic Archives in some 300 large volumes called
"Metrical" books. These books are very time consuming to search because
they are not indexed and are organized by year and parish.
It is therefore essential to first know the parish name, which can have
both a German and a Russian name. Parish boundaries often changed as
the population increased or as colonists established new settlements.
Sometimes parishes disappeared as they were absorbed into adjoining
Business Records - The St. Petersburg archives often have records
of Foreign companies who did business in Russia. These records can include
lists of local workers, letters from individuals, contracts, etc.
Heraldry and coats of arms of noble families - Genealogy charts
and coats of arms for noble families are kept in the main archives.
Members of each generation of noble families were required to confirm
their noble origin (their right to be attached to the nobility of their
family) according to the Russian Law of that time. These files can contain
valuable information on each noble family extending back many generations.
In conquered lands, such as Poland and Lithuania, local families often
applied to the Russian authorities and provided detailed genealogy information
to try to become registered as nobility in Russia.
Adoption records - Records of adoption proceedings may be in
the Russian archives. In some cases, couples would apply to adopt their
children born out of wedlock. During the 19th century (Victorian era)
it was against the law to legitimize illegitimate children. Illegitimate
children had no right of inheritance and gaining a good position in
the government was practically impossible. However, the parents could
petition the Tsar and he might (rarely) grant an exception to these
laws on the basis of the parents' social standing and good character.
Land ownership records - In some cases, land ownership records
are available. These records may indicate the number of serfs owned
by the landowner. In the Russian State Historic Archives there is a collection of documents of the Main Redemption Office. This institution was responsible for redeeming land plots after the Emancipation Reform of 1861. As a result of this reform serfs were liberated and received a right to have own land plots. It was permitted to them to redeem land plots of their masters. The documents of this institution list the former and present landowners - that is former serfs and their masters. These files are also interesting for examining because they not only describe real estate property of a particular family, but include information how a particular manor was succeeded, for example from whom it was inherited. Another source for information about real estate property is the files about pawning the manors available in the collections of the Banks documents.
Apartment records - Some cities have local archives with the
listing of apartment residents, the date they moved in, the date they
left for an extended period of time, where they went, when they returned,
where they returned from and when they moved out for good. In some cases,
the records will indicate that a person was arrested.
KGB records - During the Lenin and Stalin era many people were
arrested, tried and executed as traitors. Sometimes these same people
were later rehabilitated. The records of the trial and rehabilitation
proceedings are in the archives of the FSB (former KGB) offices located
in the same city (or region) in which the person was arrested. These
files can only be accessed by members of the immediate family.
For researchers, these files can only be ordered and viewed 75 years
after the date of the original records. The main information center
located in Moscow may provide the relatives with such information. Accessing
the KGB records is not easy and you should use a local research service
such as Blitz.
Library Sources - A large number of published sources for genealogy
information are available in libraries including many directories compiled
according to the rank or institutions where people served, schools,
addresses, and other information published in Pre-Revolutionary Russia
as well as, old newspapers.
Genealogy Search Order Form
Kristin Nute, Coordinator
Russian-Baltic Information Center - BLITZ
907 Mission Ave, San Rafael, California, 94901-2910, USA
eMail address: email@example.com