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Archives and Libraries
Archives collect and preserve original documents of organizations such as churches or governments. Libraries generally collect published sources such as books, maps, and microfilm. This Wiki page describes the major repositories of genealogical and historical records and sources for researching German-speaking people from Russia.
Although, the records you need may be in a foreign archive or library, the Family History Library may have a microfilm copy of them. Check the Family History Library Catalog before writing to or visiting archives in the Commonwealth of Independent States (hereafter CIS) or Germany.
If you plan to visit one of these repositories, check their website, or contact the organization and ask for information about their collection, hours, services, fees, and whether they allow visitors. For further information about the collection try looking in the FamilySearch.org Author/Title Search under the archive name for inventories and registers. You could also try theFamilySearch.org Place Search under the place where the archive is located and the topic “Archives and Libraries.”
There are six major types of genealogical repositories for records about Germans from Russia:
- State and National Archives (Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS])
- Special German Archives
- Other Archives Outside of the CIS
- Historical and Genealogical Societies
- Internet Sites
- Village Coordinators
Many large collections of Germans from Russia records exist in Central Europe as well as the Commonwealth of Independent States. Soviet archives centralized vast holdings of church and vital records dating from 1722 to 1917. By so doing they have assisted in preserving records that might otherwise have been lost or destroyed.
State and National Archives (Commonwealth of Independent States)
Archives in Russia and other former Soviet regions are, at best, very difficult to deal with and at worst, impossible to deal with. Some, such as the main Archive in St. Petersburg are completely closed (as of 2009) to any form of research. Research in these archives is best left to the most experienced of genealogists, and in particular, those with ready access to those sources. Some of the Germans from Russia societies have made special arrangements to work in some archives. Such societies are the best starting point for research.
Repositories of primary interest to genealogists are the Central State Archives [Центральный Государственный Архив = Tsentral’nyy Gosudarstvennyy Arkhiv] and theCentral State Historical Archives [Центральный Государственный Исторический Архив = Tsentral’nyy Gosudarstvennyy Istoricheskyy Arkhiv] systems of the CIS, with over two hundred seventy central and branch repositories located throughout Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaidzhan, Moldova, Kirgizia, Tajikistan, Armenia and Turkmenistan. Included in these systems are traditional provincial and country archives.
Central States Archives in Russia do not normally have the funding to respond to correspondence. All church records have been sent to Central State Archives. Civil registration was begun in 1917 and records are available at the Central State Archives. A few questions may be answered by correspondence at Ukrainian archives. Most researchers either visit the archives in person, or hire an agent to do the research for them. For information about hiring professional researchers see Search Strategies.
Repositories and significant collections of vital records for Russian-German research include:
Central State Historical Archives of Belorussia in Minsk contains church books of the Lutheran Bishopric of Minsk, vital records of the Mogilev Roman Catholic Consistory, and poll tax records for the Minsk province.
Central State Historical Archives of Moscow has vital records for the Moscow Evangelical-Lutheran Consistory, 1833-1917.
State Archives of the Saratov Region houses original church books for the Lutheran congregations of the Volga region, vital records of the Tiraspol Roman Catholic Consistory, and poll tax records for the Saratov province.
St. Petersburg Central State Historical Archives contains vital records for the St. Petersburg Evangelical-Lutheran Consistory of which the years 1833-1885 have been microfilmed and are available through the FHL. Later years are known to be held by these Archives. The territory covered includes most of what was western Russia at the time (except for Poland and Baltic States) from Arkhanglsk in the north to the Black Sea in the south AND Alaska. Poll tax records for the Sanktpeterburg province are also held there. As of 2010, this Archive is closed to all research. It has been closed for the past eight years or so for building renovations. Reopening date is not known at this time.
<Are there any important archives in Saratov, Samara, Nikolayev, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, or for the Volga? If so would you please describe what they have.>
State Archive of Orenburg Region
460014 Orenburg, Russia
Tel.: 7 (3532) 77-59-45
State Archive of Samara Region
443099 Samara, Russia
Tel.: 7 (8462) 33-62-72
State Archive of Saratov Region
410600 Saratov, Russia
Tel.: 7 (8452) 24-32-39
Central Historical Archive of Moscow
117393 Moscow, Russia
Tel.: 7 (095) 128-67-86
Central State Historical Archive of St. Petersburg
190008 St. Petersburg, Russia
Tel./fax.: 7 (812) 219-79-61
«Please identify which collections or parts of collections from above that we have at the FHL. Please be specific—what years or areas do we have? What years or areas are missing?»
Contacting the Central State and Central State Historical Archives systems is both difficult and time consuming. All correspondence must be written and addressed in the native language using the Cyrillic alphabet. Do NOT send money through the mail. A guide listing both addresses and telephone numbers for these archives is:
International Directory of Archives = Annuaire international des archives / International Council on Archives. Archivum, vol. 38. München; London; New York; Paris: K. G. Saur, 1992. (FHL book 020.5 Ar25 v. 38). Commonwealth of Independent States archive addresses are listed state-by-state in English on pages 71-88, and in Russian on pages 88-121.
Arrangement of Russian Archive Records. Russian archive material is organized by fond [фонд], opis [опись], and delo [дело]. The records in a fond are simply the records of a specific organization, portion of an organization, or individual. An institution creates records for its own purpose and use. When the administrative or personal value of the records expires, they are transferred to an archive.
Archives may also create collections as opposed to fonds. These collections contain records of differing authorship and are filed together on some logical or thematic basis. In some archives, therefore, vital records may be found in collections rather than fonds. These collections, as in the Crimea for example, usually include records of more than one religious denomination.
Fonds and collections are often described in guides [путеводители = putevoditeli]. The individual item in a fond is a file or volume [дело = delo]. Each delo is given a title based on the record type and contents. Items are usually filed chronologically by the earliest year of information found in that item.
The inventory of files in a fond or collection is known as an opis [опись]. While fond is a statement of authorship, opis is a statement of content. It consists of the title assigned to each time listed in a sequential order. It also includes information on inclusive dates and number of pages. The opis is the key to finding records in a fond and is considered the most significant finding aid used by researchers. It is usually not available outside of the archive.
A fond may have more than one opis. These sometimes reflect different types of material or blocks of material accession by the archives. The decision as to what to include in an opis is in the hands of the archival cataloger, and will vary significantly from archive to archive.
Special German Archives
Researchers who identify the German, French, Swiss, or Austrian town of origin of their German-speaking ancestors who settled in Russia can find information about significant archives and how to contact them in the “Archives and Libraries” page of the Germany Wiki. Four German archives in particular are important for researching Germans from Russia:
German Center for Genealogy [Zentralstelle für Genealogie] was founded as an archive for genealogical materials. It has an extensive collection of German church records from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, and other east European German-speaking settlements. The Family History Library has microfilms of these records, but if you need more information, you can contact the center. For a fee, employees of the center will try to find genealogical sources. But as a general rule, research must be done in Leipzig by the researcher. The address is:
Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie
German Foreign Institute [Deutsches Ausland-Institut (Stuttgart)] between 1917 and 1945 created a parish register inventory, genealogies, biographies, and a dozen alphabetical index card files listing names of Germans from Russia, their settlements, and showing many of their places of origin. In 1987 this collection became part of the Federal Archive [Bundesarchiv] in Koblenz. The Family History Library has microfilms of these card files. They are described in the Author/Title Search of the Family History Library Catalog under Deutsches Ausland-Institut (Stuttgart). Many are also cited in the appropriate Germans from Russia Wiki pages. The archival material from this collection is now at:
- Potsdamer Str. 1
- D-70173 Koblenz
A sixteen page inventory of this collection is:
Deutsches Ausland-Institut (Stuttgart).Karteienverzeichnis: 1750-1945 (Card Index Inventory, 1750-1945). Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1988. (FHL film 1340061 item 3).Also FamilySearch.org
East German Genealogical Study Group [Arbeitsgemeinschaft ostdeutscher Familienforscher (AGoFF)] specializes in ancestors east of the Oder-Neiße line and east European settlements such as Russia and Moldova. The study group requests inquiries be typed and in the German language whenever possible. Please send at least two reply coupons when inquiring for help by correspondence. International reply coupons are available at large post offices.
Arbeitsgemeinschaft ostdeutscher Familienforscher
Archive, Library, and Museum in the House of Germans from Russia [Archiv, Bibliothek und Museum im Haus der Deutschen aus Rußland] is an active cultural preservation organization.
Archiv, Bibliothek und Museum im Haus der Deutschen aus Rußland
Other Archives Outside of the CIS
See the Wiki article Brazil Archives and Libraries for information about archives with material about Germans from Russia in Brazil.
See the Canada Archives and Libraries Wiki article and the appropriate provincial Wiki articles for lists of archives in Canada which may have material about Germans from Russia in their collections.
State Archives of Latvia
Ul. Bezdyeligu 1
State Archives of Lithuania
Ul. Kareiviu 21
National Archives of the Republic of Moldova has church books for many Germans-speaking Roman Catholic and Lutheran congregations of Bessarabia in fond 211, opis 22. Hiring a professional researcher may be the best way to access these archives.
Национальный архив Республики Молдова. Имеется филиал
ул. Дзержинского, 67-б
Researchers may be able to learn about ethnic German settlers in areas that are now part of Romania by correspondence with the State Archives of Romania:
Archivelor Statului din România
Bucureşti, Sect. 5
Bdul Kogălniceanu 29
The letter must be typed in Romanian to get a response. The staff at the Family History Library can provide a list of letter writing phrases to help compose a letter in Romanian.
Many archives and libraries in the United States have information about Germans from Russia. For more information about these repositories see the Wiki article United States Archives and Libraries and the appropriate state Wiki pages. A significant library of German-Russian material is:
- Family History Library
- 35 North West Temple Street
- Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3400
- Telephone: 801-240-3433
- Fax: 801-240-1925
The Family History Library has acquired German-Russian records from archives in Russia, Ukraine, and other sources. These include:
- St. Petersburg Lutheran Consistory, including parishes near St. Petersburg, near the Black Sea, in Bessarabia, and Volhynia
- Bessarabian Lutheran settlement church records
- Volhynia Lutheran church records (see complete list at SGGEE )
- Bukowina and Galicia (formerly Austria) some church records
- Library of Congress collection of Berlin Document Center films
See the Germans from Russia “Church Records” Wiki page for details. The Family History Library has no records from the Volga region or the Caucasus.
The hours, holidays, catalog, collection, services, key resources, and how to prepare to visit the library are described in Library Services and Resources.
Historical and Genealogical Societies
Many Germans-from-Russia started historical and genealogical societies. Some societies maintain libraries or archives that collect genealogical records. Many also publish valuable newsletters. For more information, including addresses of some societies see the Germans from Russia “Societies” Wiki page.
Computer Networks and Bulletin Boards
Computers with modems are important tools for obtaining information from selected archives and libraries. In a way, computer networks themselves serve as a library. The Internet, certain computer bulletin boards, news groups, and commercial on-line services help family history researchers:
- Locate other researchers interested in the same ancestors. Investigate the membership directories of genealogical groups to see who is researching your ancestors.
- Post queries. Ask about a particular ancestor or how to do research in an area. Other researchers may reply with exactly the help you need.
- Send and receive e-mail asking a specific individual or organization for information.
- Search large databases for information about specific individuals. Some computer archives contain compiled genealogies. Others are transcripts of original records.
- Search computer libraries for information about how to do research and genealogical book reviews.
- Join in computer chat and lecture sessions for ideas, inspiration, and tips to help your research.
Researching by computer can be very rewarding, but it also has its limitations. You will need access to a computer with a modem to use these files. An increasing number of public libraries provide network services for their visitors to use. Family History Centers do not usually have access to computer on-line services or networks. It takes time and practice to get acquainted with the various systems. However, local genealogical societies often have computer interest groups or members who are familiar with computer genealogical research. Sometimes there is a fee for accessing computer records. You often need to know where an ancestor lived to find further information about him. Information obtained by computer may contain inaccuracies and should be verified in original records where possible. Only a limited supply of records are available by computer. Other kinds of records must also be used to complete your research.
On-line services are provided by subscription. Commercial companies have designed subscription services to attract computer users to hundreds of areas of interest. Besides news and weather, you can also explore libraries and services specifically for genealogists. Look for membership directories, message boards, chat rooms, and libraries of research instruction and genealogies.
Networks allow your home computer to access information in the computer of someone else. Several noncommercial computer networks are available to help genealogists. For example, the Internet has many useful sites. Such sites come from libraries, archives, or individuals interested in sharing their records or findings. The sites include information about people and records from almost every historical time period and place.
News groups and bulletin board sections (BBS) on computer allow you to post messages, read replies, and reply to other researchers' messages. Both commercial on-line services and noncommercial networks offer this service.
The list of computer sources is growing rapidly. Most of the information is available at little or no cost. The following sites are important gateways linking you to many more network and bulletin board sites. Addresses for network sites are subject to frequent changes. For a list of Internet sites for general United States research see the United States Archives and Libraries Wiki article. Germans from Russia family historians have been especially active in sharing information by computer network. To get started with computer network research contact:
- FamilySearch Internet http://www.FamilySearch.org Access the Family History Library Catalog™, Ancestral File™, International Genealogical Index®, SourceGuide™, lists of Family History Centers, family history related web sites, and lists of researchers interested in similar genealogical topics. Learn about and order Family History Library publications.
- Cyndi Howell's List - Germans from Russia http://www.CyndisList.com/germruss.htm More links to other genealogical sites than anywhere else. Includes other Internet sites, mailing lists, people and families, news groups, publications, transcriptions of records, societies, villages and colonies.
- Federation of East European Family History Societies http://feefhs.org/ Resource guide to archive and library addresses, research library, maps on computer, articles, newsletters, surname listings, and links to Internet publications.
- American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) http://www.ahsgr.org Includes genealogies (surname charts) alphabetical by surname and village, membership information, how to order books, videos, census lists, and maps, favorite German-Russian Internet sites, e-mail lists of Germans from Russia researchers, discussion groups, and a list of village home pages. Emphasis on Volga Germans.
- Odessa German Russian Digital Online Library http://www.odessa3.org A list of AHSGR and Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) documents including conference lectures, publication indexes, researching German-Russian families in the Berlin Documents Center films, and a list of Germans from Russia genealogical societies.
- Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC) http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/gerrus Summary of activities, mission statement, computer discussion groups, links to family and village information, e-mail (listserv) groups, and discription of the GRHC at North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo.
For an explanation of key computer services which will help you discover information about ancestors, genealogical records, and research guidance see:
Archer, George. NetGuide: Genealogist's Guide to the Internet, at National Genealogical Society Internet site [computer network]. McLean, Va.: Archer, 1995. Used to be available from http://ngsgenealogy.org but does not appear to be there any longer. Since it was published in 1995, it is probably quite outdated.
Crowe, Elizabeth Powell. Genealogy Online: Researching Your Roots. 2nd ed. New York: Windcrest/McGraw-Hill, 1996. (1st ed. FHL book 929.10285 C886g; computer number 19237.) Explains the role of networks and on-line services for readers new to computer services.
Eastman, Richard. Your Roots: Total Genealogy Planning on Your Computer. Emeryville, Calif.: Ziff-Davis, 1995. (FHL book 929.10285 Ea79y; computer number 771150.) Beginner's genealogy manual with excellent chapter about on-line sources and assistance.
Helm, Matthew L., and April Leigh Helm. Genealogy Online for Dummies. Foster City, Calif.: IDG Books Worldwide, 1998. (not at FHL). Beginners explanation of how to use online family history sites and products, overcome dead ends, and how to publish your family tree electronically.
These are individuals who coordinate the gathering of information and compiling of databases about the inhabitants of specific Germanic villages in Russia and the Ukraine. You are encouraged to share your family information with the village coordinator for the village where your ancestor lived. You may also benefit from information already submitted by others. The most up-to-date list of village coordinators, especially for Volga Germans, is found on the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) Internet site described previously. The Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS, Bismarck, ND) has the best list of village coordinators for the Ukraine and Moldova. However, you must be a member of GRHS to gain access to this list. Some parts of Ukraine, especially Volhynia, Kiev and Podolia regions, do not have village coordinators due to the huge numbers of villages in which the Germans scattered themselves. This region is served by the Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe.
Inventories, Registers, Catalogs
Most archives have catalogs, inventories, guides, or periodicals that describe their records and how to use them. If possible, study these guides before you visit or use the records of an archive so that you can use your time more effectively. Many guides and inventories to archives containing German-Russian records are availablein the Place Search of the Family History Library under:
[NATION], [PROVINCE], [TOWN] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
Examples of books which describe the holdings of archives and libraries with significant German-Russia collections are:
Quester, Erich. Wegweiser für Forschungen nach Vorfahren . . . cited in “For Further Reading” near the end of this set of Wiki pages.
Miller, Michael M. Researching the Germans from Russia: Annotated Bibliography of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the North Dakota Institue for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Library, with a Listing of the Library Materias at the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Fargo, N.Dak.: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1987. (FHL book 978.4 F23n). Includes sections on Bessarabia and Black Sea Germans, Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, Volhynian Germans, and Volga Germans. Contains two bibliographies of family histories.
Olson, Marie Miller. A Bibliography of the Germans from Russia: Material Found in the New York Public Library. Lincoln, Nebr.: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1976. (FHL book 947 F2om; film 1181519 item 2.)
- "Russian Archives" in Research Russian Roots at http://www.mtu-net.ru/rrr/russia.htm [Updated July 8, 2005].