What Census Records Tell Us about Jewish Families of 19th Century Lithuania, a Case Study: the Shtetl Zeimelis 1816-1853
 by Anatolij Chayesh, St.Petersburg, translated by Sonia Kovitz
GOALS OF THE STUDY
- To share and analyze information about the Jews of the shtetl Zheymeli (the current city of Zeimelis, Lithuania) contained in the 7th, 8th & 9th revision lists (census records).
- To demonstrate the benefits of studying the census records of an entire Jewish community rather than solely those of individual families.
- To provide insight into the original archival census records prior to their reconfiguration into the digitized data files available on JewishGen.com.
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: The English term “census” may refer either to the activity of taking a census or to the record of gathered information. The Russian term PEREPIS’ [перепись– perepis’], usually translated as “census,” as in English may refer either to the activity or the record. Russian also has a pair of historical terms that distinguish between the activity and the record: REVISION and REVISION LIST. This set of terms applies only to the censuses of the 17th –early 19th century.
REVISION [ревизия – revizia] is the activity of taking a census, i.e., a periodic collection of information carried out region by region, family by family, individual by individual.
REVISION LIST [ревизкая cказка – revizkaya skazka] is the record of the information gathered during the REVISION. Russian census records of the 17th – early 19th century, namely REVISION LISTS, were published in a chronological sequence of editions. Accordingly, the 7th, 8th & 9th REVISION LISTS are the records of the 7th, 8th & 9th REVISIONS. “List” in this context refers specifically to the Russian term SKAZKA [cказка], whose literal meaning is “story.” SKAZKI(plural) are records containing detailed commentary on individual subjects of the Tsar. Copies of records from the lists may be obtained from the Office of the Chief Archivist of Lithuania.
A broad review of censuses in Lithuania is not our task. Neither the censuses of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania nor the First General Census [perepis’] of the Russian Empire taken in 1897, nor any subsequent censuses, will be examined. Our focus will be the history of the censuses in order to analyze the nature of the information found in the records.
In 17th – early 19th century Russia, records containing detailed explanations and commentary on individual subjects of the Tsar were called SKAZKI. The first such record was produced in accordance with the 26 November 1718 edict of Peter I, who ordered that taxable subjects be identified on whom to place the burden of raising a regular army. His edict required that “a record of all persons be produced in a year’s time in order to accurately establish the number of males in every village” and warned of the consequences of concealment: “If any males are concealed by the owners of the males or by those responsible for them, those males will be given to the persons who report the concealment.”
THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THE ARTICLE CAN BE READ HERE, PLEASE Download Census Records Zeimelis.pdf