The Russian Hereditary Nobility System
There were two forms of nobility in the Russian Empire: hereditary and personal. WhereasHereditarynobility passed down to subsequent generations, personal nobility could not be inherited from the person who was awarded the status of personal nobleman. This article focuses on the specific registration of hereditary nobility in the Russian Empire.
According to Russian Nobility Law, every member of each generation of an inhereditednoble,had to be registered in one of the following six parts of the provincial Noble Register (Noble Genealogical Book):
Part 1 - Granted or Real Nobility.
Part 2 - Military Nobility (acquired according to ranks for the military service).
Part 3 - Nobility acquired according to ranks of civil service or military
Part 4 - Foreign Noble Families.
Part 5 - Titled Families.
Part 6 - Ancient Noble Families.
In order to confirm hereditary nobility, it was necessary to first prove the family relationship with the previously reckoned hereditary noble family members. This procedure was called "to be attached to the nobility" (or to be added to the family nobility).
To be added to the family nobility, a person had to provide various documents confirming their origin and their right to be registered in the same section of the Noble Register as their ancestors. Often the parents initiated the process of adding their children to the family nobility and tried to do this for all of them. They would submit documents which would confirm their childrens origin from noble ancestors (marriage and birth certificates) as well as other documents which were necessary to confirm their place in the Noble Register.
Different sets of documents had to be provided for the inclusion in a specific Part. For example, service lists and diplomas had to be provided to confirm the right to be included in Parts 2 and 3.
Noblemen who were reckoned according to foreign rules had to confirm their nobility in the Russian Empire (to receive Russian nobility) to be included in the 4th Part. Polish nobility (szlachta) was not an exception, but the procedure of confirmation for Polish noblemen was easier than for noblemen from other countries between the 18th century until the year 1830 (the time of the Polish revolt). After this time, Poles had to confirm their nobility not only in the Provincial Noble Assemblies but also in the Heraldry Department of the Ruling Senate as did other pretenders. There were many documents needed for this part. Many Polish noblemen lost their nobility because of this.
The 6th Part of the Noble Register listed only ancient noble families whose nobility was confirmed a hundred years ago or earlier. This means that when a family pretended to be included in the 6th part of the Noble Register it was necessary to prove that nobility of this family had been confirmed a hundred years ago (or earlier, but not later). Pursuant to regulations dated November 6, 1850 it was not necessary to count a hundred years, but to prove that the family was noble prior to 1785.
The 1st Part listed families, to whom nobility was granted by Russian or foreign crowned persons, and their descendants. People who had enough proof to be reckoned among nobility and whose ancestors were not noble hundred years ago (or in 1785), were also listed here.
Documents confirming the origin from an ancient ancestor who received the hereditary nobility had to be provided to confirm the right to be included in the Parts 1 and 6. It was necessary to confirm that the family owned estates (ancestral lands) in the same province in which the first members of the family who were reckoned among the nobility owned.
Sometimes the descendents of a family did not succeed in being included in the same Part because their proof was not considered sufficient. This would happen if the family had lost their estates or lost some necessary documents. In addition, requirements for nobility confirmation continually became more restrictive and the authorities asked for more and more documents. In the case of being refused inclusion in a particular part of the register, people tried to provide the Noble Assemblies with proof which would be enough to be included at least in another part of the same Noble Register or to apply to the Noble Assembly of another province.
The provincial Noble Assembly decided if the documents were sufficient for confirmation and that there were enough documents. They then sent the documents to the high institution of the Heraldry Department of the Ruling Senate. The documents of this institution are kept in the Russian State Historic Archives in Fond 1343. This Fond contains 197,487 files with the documents which were provided for the purpose of confirming the right of nobility of the people and families of the entire Russian Empire, official correspondence as well as final decisions. A very rich genealogy source of information is found in these files.
In addition, the provincial Noble Registers and the lists of people who were attached to the nobility of their families are available in the same Archival Fond. The Fond contains 775 registers for the years 1785-1917. They are listed in Inventory 51 of Fond 1343. Unfortunately, information concerning the members of specific families is not gathered together in these files. Nor is there an alphabetic index of names. It is necessary to look through each entry page by page in order to find members of one and the same family. BLITZ fulfills such research with the registers in cases when information from the files about family nobility appears to be insufficient.
As an example, the following is a surname list from a file containing names attached to the nobility registered in the province of Volynia in the years 1836-1843 (Russian State Historic Archive - Fond 1343 inventory 51 file 65).
Chaikovski (Czaikowski, Tchaikovsky)
Deshert (Derzert, Desziert)