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1897 All Russia Census

Updated: Apr 5

I previously wrote about the 1935 and 1941 censuses, but there is an older census as well. It took place in 1897 in the Russian Empire, and since Latvia was part of the empire at that time, it also took place in Latvia.

Census list

Unfortunately, only part of this census has been preserved in the Latvian State Historical Archives. Primarily, pages for Latgale Region, the Riga and Valmiera districts, and the cities of Courland (Latv. Kurzeme) are available. I haven't heard if more documents from the 1897 census in Latvia have been preserved in Russian archives.

The census pages are available in digital form on the Raduraksti site. Most pages are filled out in Russian, but there are also pages filled out in Latvian and German, and even printed forms in Latvian. Since most of the pages are filled out in Russian, I will use Russian language examples below. The words I mention in parenthesis are in modern orthography, these are not transcripts of the original text.

This census, like others, listed all individuals living in one household or farm. A wide range of information was provided:

  • Firstly, the household itself was described – how many residential buildings there were and what they were made of. In Latgale, these were primarily wooden buildings with straw roofs.

  • Name, surname, father's name.

  • Relationship to the head of the family.

  • Age. It should be noted that the census initially took place in December 1896. Then, in January 1897, the enumerators visited the houses again. To determine the year of birth, the age indicated should be subtracted from 1896.

  • Marital status - married or single.

  • Social status. Mostly, you will see peasants (Russ. крестьянин), but in cities, you will also find townspeople (Russ. мещанин), merchants (Russ. купец), or even nobles (Russ. дворянин).

Rorkakstu piemēri

For peasants, it was indicated whether they worked on the land of a landlord (крестьянин при владельца) or on state land (крестьянин из государственных).

Handwriting example

  • Place of birth. Since the questionnaire asked "Were you born here?" the answer is mostly "here" - in Russian: здесь.

Handwriting example

However, if a person was born in another place, then the respective province, district, and parish were indicated.

  • Place of registration.

  • Permanent residence. Mostly, the answer in this box is also "here."

  • Notes on family members who were absent. In Latgale Region, you will sometimes see that a family member has gone to earn money in other cities, both within the Vitebsk Governorate or to Saint Petersburg.

  • Religion and mother tongue. This is where the wide variety appears - Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Old Believers, Latvians, Russians, Poles, Belorussians, Jews, etc. Here are some examples:

Handwriting example

  • Literacy and where the person was educated. Often in Latgale's farms, you will see that the older family members cannot read. However, if one of the parents was literate or an older child had attended the parish school, then the younger children could read too. Often, the had learned this skill at home.

Handwriting example

Please note that the orthography of the Russian language at that time differs from the present. It used letters that are no longer in use today, such as "ять" which was pronounced as "e" (as in the Russian word нет). Also, the letter "t" in that period's orthography differs from the one used today.

Search here for historical Russian handwritten letters.

  • The main occupation and the means of subsistence. You will mainly see that people were engaged in agriculture (Russ. земледелец). Wives and children received their means of subsistence "from the husband" (Russ. при муже) or "from the father" (Russ. при отце).

Handwriting example

  • Side job. Here, many different professions and occupations can be mentioned: carpenter, weaver, baker, etc.

  • Information on military service. Here, you will most often find references that the male family members are 1st or 2nd class militiamen: ратник 1. разряда (Russian).

Rokraksta piemērs

The 1897 All Russia Census was the first and also the only census in the Russian Empire; afterwards came the First World War, the revolution, and the collapse of the empire.

In Latvia, other censuses have taken place later, but unfortunately, only from two of them - the 1935 and 1941 censuses - have data usable for genealogical research. From the others, only statistical reports without personal information are available.



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