Sources for Jewish Genealogy from the 18th to 20th Centuries in the Fonds of the State Central Historical Archive of Ukraine in Lviv by Alex Dunai
[This article is based upon a presentation made by Alex Dunai to the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) Conference in Paris, July 2012.]
The area called western Ukraine today, with its economical, cultural and educational center at Lviv, has experienced several different sovereigns over the past few centuries—and its major city has correspondingly borne a number of variant names. Since the 14th century that territory belonged to Poland until the partitions at the end of the 18th century when part of the western Ukraine (Galicia) with Lwow , called in German Lemberg, as the capital of eastern Galicia, passed to Austria. (Krakow was the capital of western Galicia.) Invaded by the German army during World War II, the Third Reich ruled the territory from 1941 until 1945 when it was liberated by the Soviet army, which annexed the territory to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and creation of the independent republic of Ukraine, Lviv continued to be a capital of one of the Ukrainian provinces. Ukraine has two State Historical Archives, one in the capital city of Kiev, the other in Lviv.
The State Historical Archive in Lviv preserves a great number of valuable documentary sources concerning the Jewish population that lived for centuries on the territory of contemporary Western Ukraine. These documents shed light on social, political, cultural, educational, legal and religious aspects of life of Jews from the 18th to the mid-20th century.
A number of documentary repositories (called fonds), hold documents of Jewish genealogical value with the information scattered among numerous different fonds.
Fond 701, Lwow Jewish Religious Community, holds 5,672 documents
The most important and precise sources available are the synagogues registers of birth, marriage, divorce and death from all of eastern Galicia. held in Fond 701.This fond has 377 registers of the religious communities of Galicia dating from the period 1789–1942, plus 35 registers that were moved to archives from civil registry offices in 2007–2010, a total of 5,672 documents in all.
Other documents of genealogical value include census records—documents in fond 701, which holds the so-called Lwow evidence books (1796–1860s). Lwow was a unique city with a large Jewish population. The Austrian authorities, experiencing difficulty taxing its Jewish residents established a system of family numbers under which only a limited number of Jewish families had an official right to reside in Lwow. Those with family numbers were official members of the Lwow Jewish community. They paid community taxes and had a right to have an official business and property in Lwow. They could be married legally and their children registered as legitimate. During the years 1796–1860s, 3,768 Jewish families officially resided in Lwow, and records on all family members and their connections to one another are recorded in the 19 volumes of the evidence books. Unfortunately, volumes 3 and 4, with records on families numbered 400 to 800, are missing. Also important for researchers to know is that, during the years covered by these books, it often happened that a family number was passed from one family to another—sometimes several times.
Fond 701 , Lwow Jewish Community records, are community tax records for various years starting from the 1860s to 1936. In 1859 some restrictions were cancelled by Emperor’s decree and new Constitution was adopted in 1867. Usually, in addition to the given name, family name and amount of the tax paid, one can find occupation and address of the taxpayer. The tax documents are supplemented by applications for decreasing the community tax. A large number of these applications were written in 1936–37 as a result of the economical crisis of the time. They offer an idea of how people lived in the interwar period, their economical situation and their problems.
Another type of documents available for the interwar period is voters lists for the elections to the board of the Lwow Jewish community. These lists resemble the tax lists. They include given name, family name, occupation and address of the voter, but in addition they include birth date—and most importantly, often several male members of a single family. Although each family usually had only one tax payer, generally the father but sometimes the mother, it did happen that several males in a single family were registered as voters. Women didn’t vote in Jewish community elections.
Documents for the period of the German occupation generally are poorly preserved, which makes the book of Lviv death registrations, 1941–42, a source of great value. In the book, which lists more than 6,000 individuals, one may find date of death, address and age of the deceased. Included are the names of famous Lviv professors, doctors of medicine and lawyers. A card index of the inhabitants of the Lwow ghetto, compiled in 1941–42, numbers more than 20,000 cards and includes names, addresses, birth dates (years) and positions and places of work. The card index and the death book are the only sources for the Holocaust period held in the Lviv archives.
In addition to the documents about Jewish residents of Lwow, the Fond 701 has a collection of about 1,000 personal cards of emigrants from Russia who lived for some time in Lwow during the 1890s on their way from Russia to the West—to USA, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, the United States and elsewhere.
A significant number of cases concerning Jews is kept in the Fond 150 , which includes records of the Supreme Court of Galician Province in Lwow, 1772–1919. The court, in particular, considered cases of persons accused of opposition to the existing system, spreading Zionist, Socialist and Communist ideas and political leaflets. The court also conducted censorship of the press.
In the fonds of the Supreme Court of Galician province, Public Prosecutor’s Office, and other court documents, one finds files on thousands of political and criminal cases. Information in the court documents is extensive in each case, even those for minor crimes. They describe in detail each accused, social position, place of residence, family members, and even information about parents.
Fond 151 for the Lwow Court of Appeal, provides information on many cases, refers to the appointment of Jews to the court and law posts, examinations, court practice and more (1919–38). Personal files of employees found in the fond are genealogically useful since official forms contain personal particulars and information concerning parents, religion, nationality, spouse, children and career. Attachments include extracts from birth and marriage certificates and records on children. Official qualification testimonials are also of interest. Since the files are arranged alphabetically, a search of those documents is relatively easy.
The large Fond 149 (55,000 files) of the Gentry Court of Lviv, includes files dating from the end of the 18th century to 1881. These are mainly documents of financial nature and include claims against merchants, leaseholders and transfer of property to state possession, documents concerning property disputes between the private persons and the state, Lviv City Council, other
merchants and landowners.
Numerous court fonds also hold contracts, wills, agreements and other similar documents. They, however, still need to be systemized and catalogued. Krayova Tabula, which may be translated as “tabula registers” were begun in 1780 and existed until 1939. This is a huge collection of various documents concerning real property: sale, purchase, rental agreements, settlements, deeds, testaments, marriage contracts, promissory notes, guarantee obligations and various business contracts concerning the real property and business relations between real estate owners. Tabula registers existed for all stratas of the population—property of big landlords and magnates, state institutions, banks, state railroad, rural and urban communities, churches and monasteries, as well as various contracts of small traders, testaments, promissory notes, auction sales notes from a tiny shtetl in a poor province on the boundary of the Austrian Empire and so forth. Deeds became legal according to the law only upon registration in the tabula registers.
Polish magnate records hold a huge amount of information in several different fonds. Magnates is a general title of big landlords, noblemen. The archives has the personal fonds of Count Dzieduszycki, who had large land holdings near Brody and Tysmenitsa; Prince Lubomirski, owners of properties in the Rzeszow Circuit; Count Lantskoronski, who owned large properties in Bobrka, Zhydachev,Sambor and Chortkow circuits. Polish magnate records include inventories of the inhabitants and goods of the towns and villages they owned and usually the Jews who lived on magnates’ land are listed as well. They also may include expenses and income. The Jews did not necessarily work for the magnate. People paid taxes to the magnate if they had houses on the magnate’s land. They paid higher taxes if they had a shop, and the tax varied depending on the size of the shop—of course more for a large store and less for a smaller one. Gardens, cows and even bees also were subject to taxation. Interestingly, the tax for a house on the front side of a street was higher than for one on the back side of the street. Tax lists were updated periodically because of changes within the communities.
In addition to the personal fonds of the major Polish magnates, the archives also has numerous documents pertaining to the other noble families in Fond,134 “Collection of Property Records of Polish Noble Families.” Among the various documents in this collection are, for example, inventories of the towns and villages arranged by town, the name of the town or by the name of the landlord if he owned several towns and villages, and documents granting certain rights to people who resided on the landlord’s land—who usually included Jews.
Another large collection of landlord records useful for genealogical research is kept in Fond 168, called “State commissions on liquidation of serfdom 1748–1876.” After an 1848 agricultural reform, commissions were organized to establish the amounts paid to landlords as compensation for the liquidation of serfdom. Documents are organized by town/village and consist of inventories of the compulsory services. Although Jews never were serfs, they usually were listed in the documents as payers of various kinds of taxes.
Documents of Galician educational institutions also are important and often the only source of information for Jewish genealogy for the interwar period. They are kept in Fond 178 and 179 “Regional School Council” (1852–1921) and “Curatoria of Lviv School Circuit”(1921–1939). These documents concern the activity of Jewish kindergartens, elementary schools, gymnasiums, teachers’ seminaries and professional schools, all of which are fully represented in these fonds. The records are arranged chronologically and then in a given year alphabetically by name of town with a given year. Documents of genealogical interest include student lists, examination letters, graduation certificates, school certificates; lists of teachers; and personal files of teachers. These documents include dates and places of birth and, sometimes, the names of parents. Examination letters include student photographs.
Records of the Central Jewish Society JEAS, Lviv Branch” (1920–1939), which operated from 1923 until 1939, are in the Fond 334 and include a large number of alphabetically arranged emigrant registration cards.. The cards provide detailed information about each individual: age, address, family members, education, social status, knowledge of foreign languages and more.