Belarus Church Records
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For information about records for non-Christian religions in Belarus, go to the Religious Records page.
Research use: Uniquely identify individuals and connections of those in one generation to the next. Transcripts are difficult to research because generally all parishes in a district are filed together for each year. Consequently, a researcher must refer to many volumes to identify the entries for a single parish.
Record type: Church records kept by parish priests of births/baptisms, marriages, and deaths/burials. The term is also used to refer to the records of denominations that had jurisdictions other than parishes.
General: 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.
Contents: Names of the person and other family members, residence, relationships, dates and place of birth and baptism, marriage, death and burial. Baptisms include names of godparents; marriages include the ages of the bride and groom; burials include the age of the deceased and cause of death.
Location: Central state historical archives in Minsk and Grodno, the regional archive of Brest, civil registration offices.
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.
Aside from the records already available through FamilySearch.org, there are also Belarus church and synagogue records listed in several archives.
Jewish Shtetl Information:
JewishGen fantastic resource
Orthodox and Uniate (Greek Catholic) Parish Records:
The National Historical Archives of Belarus currently has two branches. One branch is located in Minsk and the other branch is located in Grodno. When trying to locate church records, it is important to note which branch of the National Historic Archive of Belarus holds the records you are looking for:
Orthodox (Greek Catholic) Parish Registers branch location of records is noted
Catholic Parish Registers branch location of records is noted
Grodno-National Historical Archives of Belarus holdings in spreadsheet format:
Unified index to Catholic parish registers held at the National Historical Archives of Belarus in Grodno (Excel spreadsheet in Russian)*
Unified index to Orthodox (Greek Catholic) parish registers held at the National Historical Archives of Belarus in Grodno (Excel spreadsheet in Russian)*
Translate using Google (or other online) translator*
I found that the best way to look for records on FamilySearch is to search using the 'place' name (name of town where parish church is/was located is a good place to start).
On the FamilySearch web site go to Search>Catalog>Place. Here you can also try searching by subject or key word.
The Metrical books for the 'parish town' is where you want to start looking. Check carefully for the correct location and years. -There years where the records are missing or have not been microfilmed.
See genealogy tips -Belarus and links below for ideas on finding diocese and deanery names.
Finding Historical Church Records
Roman Catholic Church
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.
Belarusian Catholic Dioceses
Polish Genealogical Society of America information may not be up to date
Schematic of the Roman Catholic Church in the Republic of Polish 1925 (sic) Schematyzm Kościoła Rzymsko-Katolickiego w Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej 1925
Includes a complete list of Diocese and Deaneries/Deaconates of the Roman Catholic Church in 1925. Map on the last page showns dioceses and deaneries. There is also an index of towns and a list of names at the end of the booklet. At the beginning, there is a list of abbreviations that are used.This booklet is written in Polish. It can be downloaded as a pdf document. Once downloaded, the text is searchable. The text can be (painstakingly) translated using an on line translator -copying and pasting word by word worked best.
Roman Catholic Diocese and Deaconate Information from Radzima.net
Greek Orthodox Church
See National Archives links above
Vital and Marriage Records From Greek Catholic and Orthodox Parishes in Former Austrian Galicia,Former Malo Rus, Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus (former Byelorussia) -- information about the church records available in these regions; covers parish names, LDS microfilms, and addresses to write to
Greek Orthodox Eparchies (Diocese) Information from Radzima.net
Research use: Identify family groups and ages. They are easier to use than the revision lists because they include all classes of society. They are also a metrical book substitute.
Record type: Register of orthodox parishioners taken at Easter confession.
General: 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).
Preservation of records/vulnerability: 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.
- 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.