Researching family in Saint Petersburg, Russia #russia

Herbert Lazerow

<Jews were not allowed to live in these cities (St Petersburg) in the 19th century. If the did it wss because they worked for a wealthy or politically or military family. >
     Generally, Jews were not permitted to live in the Russian Empire outside the Pale of Settlement unless they were classified as retired military, merchants, or residents of an agricultural colony.  That was the law, but there is always a gap between the letter of the law and what happens on the ground.  I have read that there was little enforcement of this law before 1880, and enforcement was stepped up between then and the revolution. No idea how effective enforcement might have been. The fact is that the larger the city, the greater the range of economic opportunities it offered, so there was economic incentive to ignore the law and, if caught, to try to persuade the official that you were an exception.
Herbert Lazerow
Professor of Law, University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park, San Diego CA 92110 U.S.A.
(619)260-4597 office, (858)453-2388 cell, lazer@...
Author: Mastering Art Law (Carolina Academic Press 2015)


of course you can to find many jewish surnames (type them by cyrillic letters) in the site of S-Peterburg archives and in the vital records book of Peterburg sinagogue!

Joel Ratner

In support of Herbs point, here is a short history of St. Petersburg. Peter the Great founded the city in 1701. Lands from Poland were ceded twice during the 1770s and fhe third and final partition of Poland occurred in 1795. The importance of these events lies in the fact that prior to the partitions, there were not many Jews within Russia proper however, with the partitions, Catherine now owned lands with large numbers of Jews and had to decide what to do with them. Her answer was the formation of the Pale of Settlement.

See the article on the Pale for further information. 

Generally, Jews were not allowed to live outside the Pale however, the exceptions to the rule began to take place in the 1850s under Alexander II. This is the time where the strict prohibitions began to unravel for selected classes of people. Alexander ruled from 1855. An examination of the listing of 549 metrical register books for the Jewish community of SPB (Choral Synagogue), the first metrical register of births in the SPB archives is 1856.The listing states this register contained marriages, deaths and divorces however, examination of the images shows births were included.  The births of thirteen boys and nine girls were recorded as well as some marriages and deaths. See the record listing at SPB Metrical Register Listing .  A translated version appears below.

In the 1850s, the exceptions to the rules of prohibited residence outside the Pale began to emerge and these are discussed at some length in the YIVO article. Suffice it to say that artisans, army veterans, etc. were sometimes granted access to settlement in SPB from this time. This was the seeding of the population with the first community of Jews. Metrical registers are available in the SPB archive (TsGIA) for the Jewish community through 1918.

On a decidedly different but related topic, see the 

Laws Pertaining to the Jews in Russia

Full text of: The Persecution of the Jews in Russia

Joel Ratner

Eleanor Richmond

Was that how the "EREV" started?
The area where Jews could carry things?-on the Sabbath?
My Zeide went out to examine the "Erev" boundaries each year.
Eleanor Cooper Richmond


I am writing to you because I have a vague recollection of my Grandfather Theodore Shneyer and my Great Aunt Sara Kotler having friends whose name was Ratner. My Grandmother was Irene Kotler Shneyer who died in approximately 1951.

The Shneyer family lived in St. Petersburg Russia and my Great Grandfather was the Czar’s Dentist.  His name  was Alexander Borisovich Shneyer. Family from Philadelphia brought Theodore Shneyer to America.

My Grandfather had family in New Jersey and lived in Brooklyn NY also. My father was his son, Seymour Shneyer.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, I can be reached at grsn@...

Thank you in advance for your time and possible interest.
Gail Nussbaum

Alexander Sharon

1897 First All Russian Empire General Population Census shows following numbers of Jewish resident identified by their declaration of the mother language:

St Petersburg City - 12, 037 Jewish residents
St Petersburg Guberniya - 16,061 Jewish residents

Alexander Sharon
JGFF editor

Alexander Sharon

Re: Tsar's dentist:

The family of Nicholas II had three personal dentists for 23 years of their reign. According to the established rules, they were included in the staff of the Court Medical Unit.


The first of them was American Georges Charles de Marini, who worked under Nicholas II as "Dentist of His Imperial Majesty" from 1894 to 1898. This doctor was inherited by the young emperor from his father, Alexander III. 

The Emperor's second dentist was also the "American Physician, Honorary Dentist Wollison". He also passed to Nicholas II from his father - G. Wallison began working at the Ministry of the Imperial Court in 1896 as an honorary dentist.

"Personal dentist of Their Imperial Majesties" Henry V. Wallison lived in St. Petersburg on the Admiralteyskaya embankment at number 10. It was very close to the Winter Palace, where the Russian emperor lived from December 1896 to April 1904.
" Along the way, we will mention that in 1900, 634 general dentists + 59 specialized dentists practicing in St. Petersburg. 

Alexander Sharon



Thank you for your reply. Perhaps I should add that I was told that my Great Grandfather’s name was “Rehabilitated” in Russia and a plaque was placed on the building where the family lived. 

My Uncle William Shneyer went to Russia at that time to be present. He asked if he could see his family home. He was able to, but was told by the people living there that the Shneyer family could not have have lived there because he was Jewish. 

He was allowed to see the home.
Thank you once again for your kindness in providing me with information.  

Gail Shneyer Nussbaum, Theodore Shneyer’s Grandaughter.

Ava Nackman

Joel, how did you come by a translated version of these records?  My husband's grandfather had a sister who ended up in St. Petersburg.  She was married to someone with surname Pekar (that is all I know) and, per family lore, he was an opera singer who "sang for the czar".  I know that they remained in Russia and had two daughters.  I would love to track down these individuals, or at least find out what happened to them, as the family eventually lost contact with them.  But I have no idea even how to begin.  I am not aware of what records even exist in Russia, which are accessible, and if any translations have been done.  Can you give me some guidance as to how to start or point me to a good guide on Russian Jewish genealogy, if such a thing exists?
Ava Nackman

Sherri Bobish


It may be helpful to you in your research to see Theodore Shneyer's naturaliztion papers, which can be found on

He states he was born in Resekne, (Rēzekne) Latvia on Feb. 14, 1905.

Here is info from Theodore's passenger arrival in Jan. 1923.

He arrived at the port of NY under the name Theodor SCHNEER.
His sister Fania SCHNEER traveled with him.
Their birthplace is Resekne.
Their last residence was Kronstadt, Russia.
(Kronshtadt is 19 miles from St. Petersburg.)
They were bound for Uncle Abraham (surname spelled SHNEYER on one page & SCHNEER on another page) in Kearney, NJ.
Theodor (17) laborer, Fania (20) domestic,  both single.
Left behind in N55 W22 Marias Eeja, Riga, Latvia their mother Anna SCHNEER.
(I'm guessing that Marias Eeja is a street name.)

You can search records from Latvia at:

Try a phonetic search on the surname.  The spellings SHNEIER, SCHNEYER, SCHNEER and others, appear many times.


Sherri Bobish


I spoke with my husband and he said that we were told that my Great Grandfather Alexander Borisovich was in charge of the Hospital at Kronstadt.  When he did not come home it was on the same day of the Revolution when the Czar was arrested.  
My Great Grandmother Nechama (Anna) Alterman Shneyer worked for the Czar as well. She was able to return to Riga with Theodore, Fanny, Lida and William when Alexander was murdered.

Thank you for your information and kindness.  I will continue my research.  I did add some info about the Revolution and death of my Great Grandfather as we know it.
Gail Nussbaum

Tracy Fish

I just wanted to chime in regarding the significance of the SPb (Saint Petersburg) records that Joel Ratner mentioned in an earlier post. I meant to write about this much earlier in the year, but at the time, health and work had both gotten in the way. As Covid first picked up and various establishments began to close, Joel had shared on a different thread SPb records were temporarily available online for free. They were written in Cyrillic and not indexed. I myself, do not read Cyrillic and with the unbelievable kindness and guidance of Joel and also using Google translater, I combed through some of the records once I knew how to read the surname FISH in Cyrillic. Lucky for me, it was a short word so it stood out when the writing was legible.

My connection to SPb: My paternal grandfather immigrated to NY and I was always told he was from Saint Petersburg. This was interesting to me considering was I never able to find any DNA matches from Saint Petersburg nor any matches with the surname FISCH. For a long time, I thought it was misinformation or perhaps the surname changed. It is solely because of the temporary access to the SPb records I located both my grandfather and great grandfather's birth certificate. It turned out both were born specifically in Kronstadt. For context of time period, my grandfather was born 1906, my great grandfather, 1875. These records eventually lead me to the names of my 2XGG (b. 1850) and 3x great grandfather, as well as their spouses with their surnames, GRUNER, PAKORNOV, SKOVRONSKY/SKOWRONSKI, SLAVIN, and various siblings, their spouses and descendants. Also, although my great grandmother Esther SKOVRONSKY was born in Kronstadt, her father, was born in Klodawa, Poland (1846).

I share this for the following reasons:
  1. With the hopes of finding others with with connections to these surnames as well as other surnames listed in my signature below for this region
  2. To share of my family being an example of Jews living around Saint Petersburg pre-1900.
  3. To stress how valuable these SPB records are. I wish I had more time to go through the records when they were available because there's still an incredible amount I didn't have the chance to go through. There are a couple of forums that Joel has shared with me that have a couple of these documents indexed (I was able to find one family member on them). That being said, this would be an incredible and beneficial project should there be the means for someone to take it on, especially one who can read Cyrillic. I totally understand the time and cost it would take to do such a thing. JewishGen has been super helpful for identifying records of specific regions, but in terms of this region in Russia there has been no information available, which is unfortunate.
  4. My family, despite seemly living in SPb for a few generations, may not have originated from there, as suggested by one specific branch, however I have not confirmed this for other branches of this lineage.

All my best,

Tracy Fish
Nevada/Brooklyn, New York
IG: @tsfish