< My great-great grandfather, Jacob(?) Berbachek >from Vilna owned a saloon and was a notary public in Lithuania. How was this possible?>
In most of the Russian Empire, making and selling liquor was
reserved to the nobility. They commonly leased that right for a specific
location on a calendar year basis, often to Jews. They were called
shenks, and the people who actually operated them were shenkers.
(Imagine moving your family >from one shenk to another on 1 January
as one lease expired and another began!)
As to the notary part, that is more doubtful. All of continental
Europe's legal systems are based on the legal system of the Roman
Empire, each with many modifications. The officer that we know as
a notary public, a person authorized to administer oaths and to cer-
tify the identity of a person who signed documents, did not exist in
those systems. The notary there was a much more important person.
Wills and important contracts, such as those for marriage and for
the transfer of real estate, were executed before (and usually prepared
by) a notary. The notary would give one copy of the document to each
of the parties, and bind one copy into his notary book for the year
as a permanent record.
I do not know whether a Jew could be a notary in Lithuania.
As a legal matter, it may depend on the year. As a practical matter,
it is unlikely that the entire Russian Empire adhered in every respect
to the laws promulgated >from St Petersburg.