Various census lists were created in Russia/Lithuania since at least the late 1700s. Their primary purpose was to count the “taxpaying population” (“podatnoje naselenije”) – those categories of the population that paid personal tax (“podushnaja podat”) -- essentially what we would call a poll tax in English. This same population was subject to conscription into the Russian military.
While there are occasional lists of retired soldiers, priests, etc, these were the exception because the military, nobility and clergy were not part of the taxpaying population. Certain professionals with university degrees like lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, and other people of significant financial status (generally of the rank “Honorary Citizen”) were also exempt from these “poll taxes” and censuses.
Jews were part of the taxpaying population since at least the beginning of the 19th century, subject to “poll tax” and conscription. Very few Jews had acquired sufficient educational or financial status to be exempt from the category of taxpaying population by the late 1800s (Religious studies were not considered equivalent to universities by the Russian government.)
In some late 19th century lists, one can even see evidence of people, including Jews, being crossed off of census lists once they had obtained the required educational or financial status.
LitvakSIG's All Lithuania Database (ALD) contains data from various census lists from 1795 until the early 20th century for most of the districts in the Vilna and Kovno Guberniyas which includes more than 150 towns that today lie within Disna, Kaunas, Lida, Oshmiany, Panevezys, Raseniai, Siauliai, Telsiai, Trakai, Ukmerge, and Vilnius Uyezds (Districts). These lists are some of the most useful lists we obtain because they give names and details of all members of the household, whereas other lists normally give the names of only selected parts of the population and often only of the head of household.
The following are the major types of Census Lists included in the ALD along with a brief summary.
Revision Lists (“Reviski Skaski”) are comprehensive lists of the taxpaying population to which almost all the Jews belonged. They were first recorded in 1772. The last Revision List was compiled in 1858. Revision Lists were revised or updated, sometimes several times, until the next census was recorded. Such information frequently covered a period of ten years or more. Revision Lists are by far the most useful of all of the 19th century records. These records were written in Russian (Cyrillic) except for those in the Memel (Klaipeda) Archive, which were written mainly in German. Some records contain additional notations written in Yiddish or Hebrew.
There is very little difference between a Revision List and a Family List except for the name the particular list is called. Up to, and including 1858, the census was called a Revision List; after 1858 they were called Family Lists. Before 1858, a particular family may have physically lived in one place despite the fact that they were officially registered and counted for census purposes on a Revision List in another place. A Family List was made for town dwellers communities ("meshchanskoje obshchestvo") or Jewish communities and usually contained more information than a Revision List.
The first record actually called a Census was the 1897 Census of the Russian Empire. It included all families living in a town regardless of where they were registered. It also included the address where they lived, where they were officially registered, where they were born, and their occupation.
Please be aware that the spellings of names -- both first and last -- may be different from the ones you are familiar with and accustomed to. In addition, some information on these lists that do not fit into our database template are noted in the Comments Field. For more information, see our Translation, Transliteration, and Database Standards for the ALD.
Click here to search the ALD.