Thursday, September 15, 2016

Using the 1835 Census of Molotschna Colony, Russia

In 1702, Petr I the Great, tsar' of Russia, ordered that a census be taken of all of Russia for drafting men into the military and collecting taxes more efficiently.  This was the first census of Russia.  (Although the 1897 census is often described as the first census of Russia, this is not quite correct - it was the first census of the Russian Empire, and Russia did not formally become an empire until 1721.)  The first census was revised periodically in what was called a reviziia in Russian.

The Center for Volga German Studies in Portland, Ore., has put together a list of the revisions to the first census.
1st Revision – ~1719
2nd Revision – ~1743
3rd Revision – ~1767
4th Revision – ~1775
5th Revision – ~1798
6th Revision – ~1811
7th Revision – ~1816
8th Revision – ~1834
9th Revision – ~1850
10th Revision – ~1857

For Molotschna Colony in south Russia, the 8th revision, taken in early 1835 in Molotschna, is available in its entirety and is one of the most valuable genealogical records for Molotschna because it lists the name, age, relationship to head of household, and village for every person. Here is some information on how to use it.

First, you will need to look your ancestor up in the index that Richard Thiessen compiled.  The index is of every head of household and of stepsons and other males who have a different last name from the head of household.  For example, let's assume I'm trying to find my ancestor Jacob Fast who emigrated to the US in 1874.  I know that he was born in 1831 and emigrated from the village of Lichtfelde.  I've extracted all the Jacob Fasts from the index, but since he was only 4 years old in 1835, I'm not likely to find him in the index of heads of household below:
Richard D. Thiessen, "Index to the 1835 Molotchna Census", Russian Mennonite Genealogical Resources web site, corrected version of 28 March 2010.  Accessed online at on 15 September 2016.
As expected, I find no Jacob Fast from Lichtfelde born at the right time.  The Jakob Kornelius Fast at Lichtfelde #25 was born way too early in 1787.  So I need to look for my Jacob's father. 

Let's assume that Jacob's father was at least 17 years old when Jacob was born in 1831 and no older than 70.  That means that Jacob's father would have been born between about 1765 and 1818.  Let's look for all the Fast heads of household in Lichtfelde born 1765-1818.
So there are three Fasts living in Lichtfelde in 1835, all born at the right time to be Jacob Fast's father.  The name of the village and farm follow the person's name.  So let's look in the English translation of the census at each of the three Fasts I marked.

The English translation of the census is available from the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg for 50 USD.  (It's also available free to use at most Mennonite archives.)  It's a valuable document, but the translation was made from a very poor copy, so there are lots of mistakes in it.  I've posted corrections to a large part of the translation, comparing it to a good-quality microfilm of the original; but there are many pages I haven't looked at.

When I check the three Fasts in Lichtfelde, there is only one with a son Jacob, and that is Gerhard Abram, the second one marked on the list above.  Jacob (circled in red) was 4 years old in the census, so he would have been born in about 1831, so that matches.
Gerhard Abram Fast household, 8th Revision of Census of Russian Empire, Lichtfelde village, Molochanskii Mennonistskii Okrug, Melitopol'skii Uezd, Tavricheskaia Guberniia, household #16.  Translated by Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Now let's confirm it by looking at the original.  A microfilm of the original is found at many Mennonite archives, but I purchased a copy for 10 USD from the California Mennonite Historical Society in Fresno, California. 
Gergard" Abragamov" Fast" household, 25 February 1835, 8th Revision of Census of Russian Empire, Lichtfelde village, Molochanskii Mennonistskii Okrug, Melitopol'skii Uezd, Tavricheskaia Guberniia, household #16.  Found in Odessa Region State Archives, Odessa, Ukraine, Peter J. Braun Collection, Fond 89, Inventory 1, File 357, p. 333R-334.  Accessed on microfilm from California Mennonite Historical Society, Fresno, California.
The original confirms that Jacob (circled in red, Якобъ in Russia) was Gerhard Abraham Fast's son and that he was 4 years old and thus born in ABT 1831.  So I've confirmed that I have found the right Jacob Fast.  The census also gives me his father (and mother) and higher up on the page it says that his father emigrated in 1817 to Russia.  Now I have enough information that I could go searching for Gerhard Abraham Fast in West Prussia.

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