Russia Civil Registration

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Civil Registration

Civil governments have created records of births, marriages, and deaths, commonly called vital records because they refer to critical events in a person’s life. In areas outside of North America, vital records created by the government are called civil registration. Vital records are an excellent source of accurate names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. But the births, marriages, and deaths of many people were never recorded by civil authorities. Other vital records are described in “Church Records” and other sections.

Civil Registration - akty grazhdanskovo sostoianiye

Civil registration was instituted after the Russian Revolution. The acronym for the civil registration office was ZAGS, standing for acts of civil status. These were established in the cities by 1919, then later in rural localities. Gaps in registration persisted until 1926. ZAGS offices often gathered original metriki back to the beginning of the century into their collections to have an earlier record of vital events and to supplement the civil registration. These are normally the local copy of the parish register. Russian law requires that the vital records be transferred to regional archives 75 years after the date of creation. This has occurred in many instances but not always because of the limited space in the archives and bureaucratic inertia.

The czarist government issued a requirement in 1826 that rabbis, generally elected by a variety of Jewish communities, keep registration books of births, marriages, divorces and death. Russian Orthodox churches were under the same obligation.

Jews in Kovno and Vilna Guberniya were required to go to the synagogue to which they were assigned to register life cycle events, and each year, the government authorities went to the synagogues to copy these registers. The records were written in Russian (Cyrillic.) Some, but not all records were then duplicated in Hebrew or Yiddish. Today, all vital records stored in archives today are copies. The original records, kept in synagogues were destroyed by 1942, primarily by the Germans.

Website: List of Russian Civil Registration Offices

Wiki articles describing online collections are found at: