Russia, 1895-1911: 1000s of surnames #general

Daniel Kazez <dkazez@...>

I have read a lot about the Russian business directories. I recently
spent many hours examining these directories, in search of names of
interest to me. I offer this little report as a way to inform other
novices like me. Caution: I am no expert. I write these comments
solely as guidance to those researchers who may find my input useful.

The Russian directories that I examined are called "Vsia Rossia"
(="All of Russia"). See here for details:

Read these two articles for a lot more information:

James Rhode, "Russian Business Directories as Aids in
Genealogical Research," Avotaynu, vol. IV, no. 2,
Spring 1988, pp. 3-8.

Harry D. Boonin, "Russian Business Directories," Avotaynu,
vol. VI, no. 4, Winter 1990, pp. 23-30.

Four directories are available on microfilm:
1895 (1 reel)
1899 (2 reels)
1903 (1 reel)
1911-1912 (1 reel)

If you have family >from "Russia," you may wonder: "Is it worth the
time and effort to study these directories?" Here is the process
that I went through:

1. I learned the Cyrillic alphabet (1 week).

2. I requested the microfilms at the Slavic division
of the New York Public Library (5 minutes).

3. I examined the films and I printed the pages of
interest to me (3 hours).

4. I sorted and studied my pages (3 hours).

Here, below, is the good news and the bad news about these films.
from my entirely personal comments, you may be able to judge if these
directories will be of value to you.

Here is the good news:

o The microfilms are easy to read. The text is legible and
the printing is clear.

o The 1895 directory (1 reel) is clearly organized by region
and city. I easily found "my" region (Podolia).

o The 1899 directory (2 reels) has a surname index at the
end of the first reel. It is very easy to look up names.

o The 1903 directory (1 reel) also has an index of surnames.

o The 1911-1912 directory has no index of names. It is
arranged by geographic area. I did not spend much time
with this directory.

o With virtually no Russian skills, I was able to navigate
around these four directories with little difficulty.

And no here is the bad news:

o The surname I am interested in is "Oberman." On passenger
lists (1899-1909), different branches of my family appeared
with the name spelled Oberman, Hoberman, Huberman,
Goberman, and Guberman. I had hoped for simplicity and
uniformity in the Russian directories. I didn't find it.
Instead, I found a multiplicity of different spellings.

o I know where my family lived--Zaslav, Ukraine (Podolia).
As far as I could tell, no business listings were included
for this town.

o Members of my family had, as far as we can tell, "small"
jobs--cigar maker, tailor, etc. Perhaps they did simple
work in small shops or factories. After studying the
Russian directories, I had the impression that such people
were not listed.

Based on my experience with these Russian directories (five
microfilms total, for four different directories), you may find
these materials wonderfully useful or entirely useless!

Happy hunting!


Daniel Kazez <dkazez@...>

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