Re: Town Names in Russian Marriage Document #general

Herbert Lazerow

Joel Ackerman wrote:
I have my grandparents' marriage certificate (>from Russia)... After the
names of each of my grandparents is given the name of a town. It is not
the town in which their marriage seems to have taken place and is not the
town where my family lived at that time. The town name for my grandfather
is the name of the town that issued his Russian internal passport. What do
these town names represent?...
Most likely it is the town in which they were registered. Every Russian
had a registration that consisted of a status, and most also had a place.
The name of the town is probably preceded by the word "meshchanin" which
means "townsperson". That is a status. Alternatives would have been
"merchant", "peasant", "retired army private". The status and the town
name were attached when the individual's family arrived in Russia. They
were both hereditary. Children took their parents' registration, and a wife
took her husband's registration.

Registration could be changed, but that took qualification, time and money,
the latter of which was in short supply. It is not clear that your
registration had any practical consequence most of the time, except that the
law technically prohibited people registered in the Pale of Settlement >from
moving into mother Russia. Sometimes this law was applied; most of the time
it was ignored. So except at certain time periods, there was no incentive
to invest in changing your registration.

My Kimelman family lived in Nezhin Ukraine >from at least 1852 when the
records there began, but they were identified as "townspeople of Vitebsk",
so some ancestor must have lived in Vitebsk.

Herbert Lazerow
San Diego CA

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