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FAQs about Understanding Data in the ALD and other Records

These are frequently asked questions (and answers!) about Understanding the Data in the ALD and other Records.

What languages are the records in natively?

Pre 1840 vital records are written in Polish. Pre-World War I records are in Russian Cyrillic. Jewish vital records are in Cyrillic and duplicated in Hebrew or Yiddish. Post-World War I records are in Lithuanian. However, there can be exceptions. Pre-World War I records in the Memel (Klaipeda) Archive were written mainly in German. (One-third of those records are now in the Lithuanian Central State Archives (LCVA), one-third are in a small town in Eastern Poland, and the remaining third in an archive in Berlin, Germany.)

Is there any more data than I find in the ALD for a given record?

Generally speaking when LitvakSIG databases data from records, we database all available data from the records. Occasionally though there are things like signatures at the bottom of a page or some additional information like the amount of a tax paid that wasn’t translated. Some of our lists are indexes. For those records we’ve indexed, there very well may be additional data, such as photos or whole paragraphs of descriptive information in the example of Farmers Lists. Once you have found your family in records, it makes sense to research what data is typically on the records you have found (See Types of Records in the ALD and drill down) and to write to the archives for copies of the actual records.

Q. I had a married female ancestor who was married to X, as indicated by personal knowledge and/or family and revision lists, her marriage record, and/or the birth records of her children. However, according to the translation of her death record, it says that X was her father. That does not appear to be correct.
A. Most of the vital records were translated by someone who is not Jewish, does not know Hebrew/Yiddish, and can translate only what is in the Russian record. In many vital records, the Russian version was not exactly clear who was the father, or son. The vital records were recorded by a Rabbi who was probably more fluent in Hebrew/Yiddish than in Russian. The Hebrew version is more clear on the precise relationship of others to the deceased. For best results, a researcher should obtain copies of the original vital records that were either microfilmed by the Mormons, or from the archive, and have both the Russian and Hebrew/Yiddish translated.

What is a Family Number in a Revision List? What is its significance?

Family numbers in Revision Lists and other lists are important because they are carried forward through time, allowing you to connect different branches of the family from one Revision or Family List to another. These lists often have former family number fields.

How do I get a paper copy of a record?

Write to the archives for a copy. See the information in the FAQ about the Research Process and Contacting the Archives for more information. Also see these pages on our website: Archives and Repositories and ALD Source References.

Why does a record say my ancestor was “illiterate?”

Your ancestor may have had an excellent command of Hebrew and/or Yiddish including reading and writing. However, if he was not able to read and write in the Russian language, the Russians considered him illiterate.

My ancestor’s name was “Moshe.” Why does the record say “Movsha”?

You will find many variations in spelling of the same name depending on whether the name was spelled in Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, or Lithuanian. Most of our ancestors spoke Yiddish in their daily lives and prayed in Hebrew. But most of the official documents were in old Russian Cyrillic. Clerks transliterated their Yiddish names into Russian letters. Then, in our databases, we transliterate into English! There is information on the Translation, Transliteration, and Database Standards for the ALD as well as a Database of Lithuania Given Names on this website if you want to delve deeper into this topic.

I found records in the ALD for people with the same surname and shtetl as my family but I don’t recognize some of the given names. Is it likely these are relatives?

Depending on the size of the shtetls or town (as long as we’re not talking Kaunas or Vilnius here or maybe one of the bigger district-named cities), it’s highly likely you have found previously unknown relatives. It is best to keep the information from those records. You may have thought your great-grandfather had only one brother when, in fact, he had three brothers and two sisters. At a later date, you will probably receive other records that will enable you to verify who they were and which of your ancestors they were related to.

What is the meaning of “Age Last” on a Revision or Family List?

Usually, the "Age Last" refers to the previous MAJOR revision list, i.e., the 1858 list or the 1834 list. However, that is not always the case. Using an 1874 Family List as an example, for some towns additional lists were recorded for years between 1858 and 1874. The "Age Last" on the 1874 list could refer to the 1858 list but it could also refer to one of the additional lists. In some cases, those additional lists were destroyed and no longer exist so there is no way to check it out.
The archivists in the Lithuanian archives have very little confidence in the ages stated in the "Age Last" column because there is no way to know which previous list is referred to. An exception is, if the list states which year the "Age Last" refers to. this is rarely recorded but is present on some lists.

Where my ancestor was listed on a Revision List there is a notation that he was called to the army in a particular year, Section X, and a number. Can the archives find his Russian Army record from this information?

No. Recruitment Committee records do not exist in the Lithuanian archives. The Kaunas Archive has some personal files of men who tried to escape conscription, or had a legal reason to avoid military service, but these records are unindexed and the place of residence is not noted.

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