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How to Read Soul Revision Lists

Updated: Sep 5

This post is a short information what revision lists are and what the numbers and column headings mean.

Soul revision lists are the most useful resource when researching family history of the first half of the 19th century. Revisions were introduced in the Russian Empire by Peter the Great. The aim was to count the population and use the data for taxation and military service. Revisions refer only to those subject to taxation, not the entire population.

Ten revisions were carried out in the Russian Empire in the period from 1720 to 1858. Vidzeme Region was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1710, and in 1782, the fourth Russian Revision was carried out in Vidzeme (Livland).

Kurzeme (Courland) was incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1795, and only the fifth revision, in 1797, was carried out there. Only a few revision lists have been maintained for Latgale Region.

Each revision list has information about the previous revision, therefore it is helpful to know the revision years:

4th revision – 1782

5th revision – 1795

6th revision – 1811. Only men were counted, because it was important to estimate the number of soldiers for the upcoming war with Napoleon.

7th revision – 1816

1826 – surname lists were compiled in Vidzeme. Serfdom was abolished in 1819, and peasants adopted surnames, therefore the 1816 revision was repeated to include the newly-adopted surnames.

8th revision – 1834. The first revision in which Kurzeme Region peasants allocated surnames.

9th revision – 1850

10th revision – 1858

It is best to start with the last revision, then proceed backwards, following the family and household numbers.

Example of Soul Revision List with Translations
1858 Revision List from Jaunpils (Jürgensburg) Estate.

Men are listed on the left side of the revision page, women on the right. Current and previous revision ages are recorded for men. Between listed ages, there are notes about changes, for example, if a person moved from one farm or estate to another, or became a recruit. Information regarding women is often missing, and generally there is no information about women who died between the revisions. Ages recorded in the revision lists do not always match those recorded in church books.

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