Documents of the First General Census of the population of Russian Empire in the Ukrainian Archives by Alex Dunai
The 1897 Census was the first and only census conducted in Russia. The major interest and value both for personal genealogy and for the history of Jewish communities is that it was taken in every town of Russian empire. This presentation will focus on where and for what towns and areas the questionnaires survived, and how to use this type of source which is undoubtedly of major genealogical and historical importance since the 1897 Census contained more information than any other vital statistic document. This article was published in the New York Times on April 12, 1898,
The 1897 Census was the first and the ONLY General census conducted in Russia before WW2.
The idea of the necessity of the urgent replacement of the current form of revision of the population by constant statistics appeared in the 50-ies of the 19th century.
The last revision,so called Revizkiye Skazki was in 1858.The main purpose of the Revizkiye Skazki was registration of tax payers and arranging recruit lists.Certainly people knew that and many tried to avoid being registered in those lists by all means,therefore the Revizkiye Skazki lists are frequently incomplete.In order to force the population to be registered there were used even military troops.
The first detailed project of the Census was presented by the Chairman of the Central Statistics Committee famous Russian geographer, traveler and ethnographer P.P. Semenov-Tyanshanskiy in 1877,almost 20 years after the last Revision and it was proposed to carry on a simultaneous (one day) census of all (regardless of sex, age, status, nationality and citizenship) population of the Empire (except of Finland).On the contrary to the previous revisions the Census wasn’t supposed to carry any fiscal purposes, the Census wasn’t connected with establishing new taxes and revising old ones.
Only after another almost 20 years this project with minor changes was approved by the Emperor Nicholas 2. According to the “Regulation on the First General Census of the population of Russian Empire”, issued in 1895 the Census was appointed on January 28, 1897.
Because of various fake rumors among people who were afraid of new taxes and duties in the press there appeared explanations of the goals and tasks of the First All-Russian Census and announcement of the Minister of Internal Affairs, head of gendarmes Goremykin. Everybody was encouraged to actively and honestly participate in the Census. It was emphasized that the Census has nothing to do with a revision, its not a preparation for establishing new taxes and therefore it doesn’t cause any complications, problems and responsibilities. The Census structure was mainly concerning the population present at the moment.
The processing of the survey data was performed with the help of so called “Hollerith’s machines”.
The design of the machine won the competition for the 1890 US census, chosen for their ability to count combined facts. This was the first wholly successful information processing system to replace pen and paper. Hollerith's machines were also used for censuses in Austria, Canada, France, Norway, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines, and again in the US census of 1900.
On December 15th 1896 when Herman Hollerith arrived in St.Petersburg, the weather was very cold.H. Hollerith was dressed in a fur hat and coat with a collar so high that one could see only his eyes.
H. Hollerith was supposed to earn on this transaction $67571. This was a decent payment for the gigantic work.
In 1911 Hollerith's company merged with two others to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), which changed its name to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1924.
The only set of “Hollerith machines” in Russia still exists today in Moscow.
It used to work until 1950ies in the Soviet Central Statistics Committee, in 1930-1940ies it was demonstrated in Moscow at the Soviet exhibition as an achievement of “Socialist accounting”.
So the Census was appointed on January 28, 1897.The winter month was chosen on purpose because in winter majority of population doesn’t move and stays at home and seasonal workers return home too.
For the Census there were prepared three forms of questionnaires:
form A (for peasants’ households of agricultural communities),
form B (for landlords’ households, private houses and households in the villages)
form C (for city dwellers).The basic unit for studying was a household, in the cities an apartment was considered a household, for every household there was arranged a separate questionnaire.
Every interviewed person was offered to answer a set of questions that were listed on the back side of the spread sheet. The list of the questions contained in the questionnaire was quite extensive and consisted of 14 items:
1) last name, first name, patronymic name or nickname ;
In this item there were also made notes on the people with certain handicaps (if there were such in the family): blind on both eyes, dumb, deaf, mute or mentally sick.
3) relationship with the head of the family and head of the household ;
When filling out the questionnaire first of all it was supposed to list the name of the head of the household, after him - everybody else according to their relationship to the head of the household: wife, sons, daughters (or children in age order starting from the oldest), children’s spouses, grandchildren, old father and mother, siblings, nephews and nieces, uncles, aunts, etc.
For grandchildren, nephews and daughters in law there were special indications in the family relationship.
4) age ;
5) family status ;
6) social group, status or rank ;
7) place of birth ;
8) place of registration ;
This item is particularly important for the genealogy research. With its help we can learn in which town the person was registered in the Revizkiye Skazki(Revision Lists).This is the clue to finding the earlier generations and other branches of the family.
9) regular place of living ;
10) note about absence;
In the 10th item there were made notes on people who normally reside in that house, but are temporarily away with indication where did they leave for.
11) religion ;
12) native language ;for all Jewish people as a native language is listed “Jewish” which most likely means Yiddish.
13) literacy with indication of whether the person can read and what kind of education the person has got.
14) occupation - craft, trade, position or service, separately the main one and a side one.
Besides there were made notes on military status.
Another thing of major importance was listing the address on the cover page of the questionnaire. The cover page also has description of the house.
The survey was made in two phases: 1st phase (preliminary, December 1896 – January 1897)
Tellers were visiting households and filling out questionnaires which were later checked out by the heads of Census departments. During the 2ndphase, the main one which was supposed to be finished not later than January 28, 1897 the tellers simultaneously visited the households for the second time to check and make corrections of the results of the first part of campaign.
The famous Russian writer Chekhov has noted his personal impressions about the survey:
“January 11th, 1897, village of Melikhovo. We have a census being taken. The tellers obtained awful ink-pots, disgusting coarse badges, looking like beer labels and briefcases that the questionnaires cannot fit in …”
In the cities there was used a method of self-calculation (in the manors and city houses as well as factories a teller would just bring and then collect and check out the questionnaires which were filled out by the landlords, owners, leaseholders).
In the country area there was used a method of interviewing (the questionnaires were filled out by a teller while interviewing inhabitants in each household).
The filled out and checked out primary questionnaires were delivered to the survey departments and after making some adjustments were sent to the provinces and the Central Statistics committees.
The Census lasted for almost 8 years, until July 1,1905.Major results were published
from 1899 till 1905 in separate 89 volumes (119 books) for Gubernias and provinces of Russian
Empire under the title “First General Census of the population of Russian Empire 1897”.
The level of trustworthiness of the obtained data is considered to be relatively high, the materials of the Census are actively used in historical and other similar investigations.
Of course, the major interest and value both for personal genealogy and for the history of Jewish communities have not the published summarized results of the Census that present general quantitative and qualitative description of the population of the Empire in general, but the primary questionnaires containing more information than any other vital statistic document about every individual person residing on the territory of the Empire in 1897.
What happened with the primary questionnaires after census was finished?
As a rule the primary copies of the questionnaires were sent to the Chief Census Commission Second copies where stored in Gubernia department, third ones-in the county offices.
After taking the Census there was issued the Emperor’s regulation to destroy the paper questionnaires. However in many cases officials didn’t hurry to fulfill the requirements and because of that questionnaires for some areas survived.
However the primary questionnaires preserved badly which makes it more complicated and difficult to use them in genealogy investigations. They can be found in the regional archives in the depositories of statistic committees or disseminated in various depositories of local governments.
For example, in Odessa the documents are stored in Odessa regional archive,the repository # 2 called Odessa Mayor’s Office. There survived Census questionnaires on 3000 addresses in the city of Odessa. In 1897 the number of Odessa inhabitants who acknowledged Yiddish as a native language was 124511.
For the Podolia Province, documents on which are located in two archives,Vinnitsa and Khmelnitski there survived only questionnaires for the city of Kamenets-Podolski with suburbs and just a bunch of pages for Bratslav and Vinnitsa counties. They are stored in the State Archive of Khmelnitski province, in the repository of Podolia Gubernia Statistics Committee (repository 244)There are 44 files of them, each one containing from 50 to 100 questionnaires.
The archives of Vinnitsa do not possess Census materials.
Documents from the former Volhynia Province are stored in 3 archives of Lutsk, Zhytomir and Rovno but I haven’t found a single questionnaire there.
The biggest collection and the most extensive Census records for Kiev Gubernia survived and are stored in the Kiev province archive -
State archives of Kiev oblast
Documents of Kiev Gubernia census commission 1896-1897 (Repository 384) consist of 16 inventories and contain 3371 volumes of questionnaires for 12 counties of Kiev Gubernia :
|Uezd ( county)||Census 1897 volumes|
487 volumes for Berdychev County
111 volumes for the town of Berdychev
156 towns & villages including towns of Radziwilovka, Brusilov, Belopole, Pyatigorka, Kashperovka, Kazatin, Belilovka, Samgorodok, Novaya & Staraya Priluka, Bakhnovka, Pogrebishche
25 volumes for Kiev County
38 volumes for the city of Kiev
Only villages of Kiev County
|Lipovets||185||60 towns & villages including towns of Lipovets, Ilyintsy, Dashev, Kitaygorod, Tsibulev, Monastirishche, Yustingrad, Sarny, Balabanovka, Lukashevka|
|Radomysl||634||175 towns including towns of Radomyshl, Dymarka,Chernobyl, Khabno, Gornostaipol,Malin, Annopol, Ivanov|
|Skvira||394||101 towns including towns of Pavoloch, Skvira( 41 files), Bolodarka, Novofastovka, Ruzhin, Vcheraisheye, Romanovka, Borshchagovka, Kornin, Khodorkov|
|Tarashcha||103||41 towns icluding towns of Tarashcha, Stavishcha, Zhashkov, Tetiev|
|Uman||529||134 towns including towns of Talnoye, Uman, Torgovitsa|
|Vasilkov||426||Including towns of Vasilkov and Belaya Tserkov ( 49 files)|
Besides the questionnaires there are saved lists of the households.They include names of the owners and their addresses.