Three million visitors and almost seven million pages: My Family service development in the first year of work

December 29, 2021
Social sector

Last December the Moscow Glavarchiv launched the My Family online service, where everyone can learn more about their ancestors. The service includes information from all church parish registers of the Moscow archive — by now over seven million pages were published. The number of Internet users of the resource keeps growing, and today it exceeds three million people.

"One of the most frequent reasons why citizens turn to the archive is searching for information about their ancestors. If one is interested in finding out the family history before 1917, then it is impossible to do without parish registers. Previously, they were available only in the archive where one had to go to. Opening of the service made it possible to find the required information without leaving home. By now My Family service has over seven million pages with records of parish registers, and every month we replenish the data. Orthodox, Jewish, Islamic, Catholic and Lutheran parish registers are collected here, and next year we will add records of the Armenian-Gregorian Church and data of Old Believers," said Yaroslav Onopenko, Head of the Moscow Main Archives Administration.

First of all, the service posted the parish registers of Orthodox churches, since these records are most often requested by citizens. Residents have access to the parish registers of more than 1,400 churches. Their records cover the time period from 1772 to 1917. They contain information about the birth, marriage and death of Moscow and the Moscow province residents from the late 17th century to 1917. Until 1917, it were the churches that functioned as today’s registry offices — they kept records of civil status acts. Since there is a very large number of Orthodox registers in the archive, new records from them are added to the service every month. To find information about ancestors, one need to know the full name, year of birth, name of the church where christening took place, or address of the birth. It is also desirable to know names of the ancestors’ parents.

Nearly 10 percent of the service's users are residents of other states. The materials of the online service are viewed by users from Sweden, China, Great Britain, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, Japan, Argentina, Canada, Thailand and other countries — residents of 50 countries. The most active users of the My Family online service are residents from Germany, followed by citizens of Belarus, Sweden, France and the UK.

Due to international interest, My Family is replenished not only with data of Orthodox parish registers, but with records of other religious denominations too, since this October. In particular, the service published all the Islamic parish registers of the Moscow Glavarchiv. They can be read in Russian. These registers were kept in two cathedral mosques. The first one was built in Moscow in the first quarter of the 19th century, the second — in 1904 in Vypolzov Lane in the Meshchansky district of Moscow.

On November 28, the Glavarchiv published Jewish parish registers from Moscow and the county towns of the Moscow province, belonging to 1870-1918. They are also available in Russian. Registering books and notebooks of the Moscow Choral Synagogue were separately intended for births, marriages, divorces and deaths. Until the 1890s, they were kept only in Moscow. The reason for it was that residents of settlements where no public rabbis were available had to apply to the rabbis of the nearest towns. However, by late 19th century, the number of Jews in the Moscow province increased, and since the 1890s, their civil status records were registered in the province too.

By the Catholic Christmas on December 25, users had access to almost 100 parish registers of Moscow’s Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches. The earliest of them date back to 1694. Most of the registers can be read in Russian, but the early entries are in Latin and German. Early in the last century, Catholic parish registered were kept in the Church of St. Louis and the Roman Catholic Peter and Paul Church. Lutheran records were made in the Evangelical Lutheran churches of St. Michael and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

In addition to the parish registers, the My Family online service provides census records —analogues of modern population censuses, and confessional statements — family lists of parishioners of the church. In addition to Russians, the census records included foreigners who acquired the Russian citizenship. The confessional statements of the Moscow Glavarchiv relate only to the Orthodox churches of Moscow and the Moscow province from the second quarter of the 18th century to the 1860s.

In the census records one can find out the full composition of the family and age of its members. Now the online service has over 420 thousand pages of such censuses with information about merchants, lower middle class, peasants and artisans. Such documents are very valuable for genealogical search. On average, the censuses were conducted once every 10 years or less frequently. From 1795 to 1858, they were conducted six times. The peculiarity of the census records is that they contained information only about representatives of taxable estates — peasants, lower middle class, merchants, shop workers, since these documents were compiled for subsequent taxation. Special census records were made for the clergy. But the nobles were not included there at all.

The confessional statements included information about all family members, except children under the age of one year. These documents help one find out the full composition of the family, age of its members and place where they lived. Now nearly 700 thousand pages of confession statements are available in the online service. Their digitization and posting on the site is going on. The confession statement was an annual church reporting document. It indicated those coming to confession, and taking communion. In addition to the names, place of residence, kinship relations within each family and age parishioners were recorded there. For example, among "peasants of the village of Ivanovskaya," there could be "Ivan Ivanov, 35 years old; his wife Olga Vasilyeva, 29 years old; their son Peter, 10 years old." All the parishioners of the church were recorded in the confession statements, even those who had never been to confession.


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