Lithuania SIG #Lithuania 18th Century Grand Duchy of Lithuania Project #lithuania
The Jewish Family History Foundation's Grand Duchy of Lithuania project is
making substantial progress. This area, the ancestral home to 80% of the
Jews in the world alive today, at its largest, stretched the >from Baltic
Sea to the Black Sea for hundreds of years.
Major censuses were taken to determine the tax assessments for the Jewish
communities or kahals in 1765 and 1784. We are working to put translations
of these valuable documents >from archives in Lithuania, Belarus, Poland
and Ukraine into online databases.
Research groups have been organized around groups of Jewish kahals within
18th century districts. On our website you will see a detailed inventory of
the shtetls and towns that we have identified. Many 19th century shtetls
began as single inns or taverns, and are found only by detailed study by
research group volunteers and translators.
We now have 1784 (and many 1765) records for most of Lithuania and a growing
part of Belarus, including the 1784 Lithuanian districts of Kovno, Vilna,
Trakai, Upyte (Panevezys), Vilkomir (Ukmerge), Oshmiany (included Vileika),
Lida, and the largest, Zemaitija (Samogitia) Duchy, which included the
later districts of Siauliai, Telsiai and Raseiniai. Additional Lithuanian
towns were part of the 18th century Braslav and Grodno districts.
Articles about successful research using 18th century GDL records,
illustrated by images of the documents, appear on the website, including
one by Chaim Freedman verifying his theories about the descendants of the
Vilna Gaon, after finding additional family information in the 1795, 1784,
and 1765 Vilna City lists. The GDL records will provide many additional
Litvak families with possible links to the family of the famous Gaon.
The major challenge of the Grand Duchy records is that nearly all lack
surnames. As we know, Jews didn't take last names generally until the 19th
century. In a series of "Following the Paper Trail" examples, we demonstrate
that this obstacle is not a "brick wall":
Ada Green (formerly Greenblatt) used 20th century tombstones and burial
records combined with 1784 Krakes GDL records to unravel the relationship
between South African and New York branches of her Grushka family;
Professor Eric Goldstein used a late 19th century will to trace the
Shabashevich family to the 1784 census of Vidukle;
Chaim Freedman and Mel Comisarow traced their family >from an 1858 revision
list for a farming colony in Ekaterinoslav Province (where many Litvaks had
moved), to mid-century tax lists, to the 1816 Raseiniai revision list, to
the 1784 and 1765 GDL censuses for Girtagola;
I began with an 1882 birth certificate >from Kaunas and family lore, and
confirmed it with genealogical records back through the 1800s to the 1816
revision list for Ariogala; along with fellow researchers in the Ariogala
shtetl research group, we discovered several large extended families on
the 1784 and 1765 GDL censuses for Ariogala. Using these lists I was able
to estimate that my earliest known ancestor was born around 1675;
Hadassah Lipsius, traced her Charney family >from an 1836 Warsaw marriage
record to the 1816 Mir (Belarus) revision list, and to the 1784 GDL census
Our website provides details of projects and records, and a series of
historical maps to help find your shtetl in the 1700s.
As phases of our projects are completed, we plan to share our data with
JewishGen databases. Advisors >from the LitvakSIG, Belarus SIG, JRI-Poland
and other groups as well as eastern European archivists are helping us
coordinate our projects.
Jewish Family History Foundation