Sunday, September 20, 2015

Finding Eastern European Records, Part 5 (Locating records in European Archives )

I've often been asked how I find so many documents from various parts of Eastern Europe--many of which have appeared in blog posts.  This is the fifth in a series of posts describing how to find Eastern European records for your own ancestors.  While these posts will generally concentrate on how to find Jewish records in Eastern Europe, many of the strategies will also be applicable to records for other religions.  (Note that in the Russian Empire, most record sets were recorded separately by religion.)  The entire series can be seen here.

While a growing number of documents can be obtained in a researcher's local region (either online or via LDS microfilm) as discussed in earlier posts, an significantly larger number of documents are sitting undigitized--and sometimes disorganized--in Eastern European archives.
Birth Records for the Town of Shpikov--from Khmelnitski Archives

While there are many Jewish documents in Eastern European archives, oftentimes even the archives do not know everything that they have!

A great place to start looking for the possibility of records surviving for a particular town is Miriam Weiner's Routes to Roots database, where she has cataloged the location of records for many towns.  Note that isn't entirely comprehensive--I have found many document sets that aren't listed there--but it is a very good start towards understanding the potential scope of available documents for a particular town and the location(s) in which they can be found.  Be sure to search under both the town name as well as the district in which the town is located, as some record sets were stored by district.

Various JewishGen SIGs and groups have cataloged record sets of which they were aware; checking there to see if a group has already obtained or is planning to obtain records is always advised so you're not duplicating effort.

An excuse note from Itzko Lefand in 1869, found in Nezhin Archives.  This type of document has not been (and may never be) indexed, but it tells a lot about this individual.
Even if a town's vital records are already indexed, there still may be other types of documents relating to your family in local archives.  The above document is an excuse note from Itzko Lefand in 1869, was found in Nezhin Archives.  This type of document has not been (and may never be) indexed, but it tells a lot about this individual and his values.

Some archives, such as that in Belarus, have online lists of record sets in their inventory.  Others, like Ukraine, have no comprehensive knowledge of the record sets which they hold.

So how do you get access to these documents?  Stay tuned....

Coming next: Getting Documents from Archives
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