Germans from Russia Church Records

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Germans from Russia
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Alexanderwohl Church.jpgAlexanderwohl Mennonite Church in Goessel, Kansas
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Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church at Goessel, Marion, Kansas was built by families who migrated from the Netherlands to West Prussia, to Molotschna in South Russia, to Kansas.
Church Records


Many churches keep records of baptisms, christenings, confirmations, marriages, burials, memberships, admissions, and removals. Some keep minutes of church meetings and the histories of their local churches. Each church has its own policies on record keeping. These records are needed to undertake actual research in Russia. Laws were passed in the mid-1820s requiring Protestants and Catholics to make transcripts of their birth (christening), marriage, and death (burial) records. Records may have been kept earlier, however. These transcripts and some original church records can mostly be found in state archives.

How to Access the Records

While most church records are located in state archives, the Family History Library has microfilmed and digitized some of these records (see the FamilySearch Catalog). Many of these records are Lutheran church records.

A limited amount of church record transcripts of Germans from Russia are available via computer network. See the Archives and Libraries wiki page for more details.

Thomas Kent Edlund's The Lutherans of Russia: Parish Index to the Church Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Consistory of St. Petersburg, 1833-1885 (St. Paul, Minn.: Germanic Genealogical Society, 1994.) is a great source of church records. It is available on the FamilySearch Catalog (see Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1833-1885). The provinces of Bessarabia, Chernigov, the Don Cossacks, Kiev, Kherson, Kostroma, Novgorod, Olonets, Podolia, Poltava, Pskov, Saint Petersburg, Smolensk, Stavropol, Tavrida, Volhynia, Yaroslavl, and Yekaterrinoslav can be found in this collection. Many of the church records for these provinces have been indexed and can be viewed at More of these records can be found on the FamilySearch Catalog at Russia, Lutheran Church book duplicates.

The Evangelical-Lutheran marriages in Smolensk 1834-1870

Smolensk became the home of many German officers, bureaucrats, merchants, craftsmen and many farmers just before WWI. They founded a church in 1857. In the year 1862 the parish of Smolensk had 403 parishioners. In 1941 there were three volumes of church records still in existence: Births 1834-1917, Marriages 1834-1918 , Deaths 1834-1918.

All registers, except the birth registers were then in good repair. Entries were made in German until 1891, from 1892 to 1918 the Russian language was used.

The author made a list of all marriage entries between 1834 and 1879, which he did in 1941. Mr. Seeberg-Elverfeldt remarks that not all marriages were performed in Smolensk but as far away as Moscow and St. Petersburg.

A complete listing of entries between 1870 and 1918 was not feasible in the author's opinion because the congregation was no longer purely Germanic (volksdeutsch). He points out, though, that the death registers are of great worth because the entries reveal a place of origin of the deceased.

Among the FHL films of the St. Petersburg Lutheran Consistory, of which the Smolensk Lutheran Parish was a part, records for seven years are totally missing. The article by the above author provides information of marriages for six of these seven years. Frequently, Mr. Seeberg-Elversfeldt lists a marriage or two more than the films show.

There are two different formats of marriage records on the film. Firstly, the main marriage records contain first and last names, civil standing, occupation, origins and names of fathers of bride and groom. Secondly, there are also lists giving only the first and last names of those getting married and reference numbers to the main marriage registers which do not exist on films after 1853. Mr. Seeberg-Elverfeldt's article gives the complete information of the main registers from 1834-1870, frequently augmented with information from birth and death records. [1]

Records from churches in the Volga River district are kept in Saratov, Engels, Samara and Volgograd Archives. Some Catholic church records for years 1875-1917 are found on LDS films 2376721 to 2376728. Many of these records have been digitized.

The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia also has a view church records on their website. They are working to extract family lineage charts. Full details are on their website.


Three important repositories for Mennonites are:

Mennonite Heritage Centre
600 Shaflesburg Rd
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3P 0M4

In 1966 they filmed all the Mennonite records in Odessa for the southern Russian Empire, including revision lists.

Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Canada
169 Riverton Ave
Winnipeg, Manitoba R2L 2E5

Mennonite Library and Archives
Information and Research Center
Box 366
North Newton, KS 67117


  1. Seeberg-Elverfeldt, Roland. "Evangelisch-Lutherische Trauungen in Smolensk 1834-1870", Archiv für Sippenforschung Jahrgang 19, Heft 5 (1942), starting on page 97. (FHL call no. 943 B2as)