Modern Belarusians search their roots

Some historians confirm, that between the generations of one clan there is an inexplicable spiritual connection. An outsider may not notice this, but those people, who bear the same surname, feel it on some subconscious level. Perhaps, that is why many our coevals intend to restore their family tree, to find out the origin of the surname and to get acquainted with energetic and social factors, which influenced their clans, families and personalities during several years.
Some historians confirm, that between the generations of one clan there is an inexplicable spiritual connection. An outsider may not notice this, but those people, who bear the same surname, feel it on some subconscious level. Perhaps, that is why many our coevals intend to restore their family tree, to find out the origin of the surname and to get acquainted with energetic and social factors, which influenced their clans, families and personalities during several years.

The National Historical Archive of Belarus began to render this service in Minsk. We need to say, that it immediately became popular. As soon as Belarusians got the possibility to know more about their ancestors, the archival workers received significantly more work. Only for the last year more than 400 requests came here for restoration of a family tree.
Each person has his reasons to root in his origin. Some Belarusian citizens strive to confirm their belonging to the other nation in order to get out abroad for permanent residence. There are also those, who try to prove their participation in the foreign estate. “According to my observations, in the majority of cases people apply to us in order to satisfy their interest, — says the leading research assistant Irina Verner. — It is noticeable, that people make it by the call of their souls. I have to see, how people literally tremble while holding in their hands the documents, throwing daylight upon their family tree”.
All archival materials, having the republican significance, are collected in the National Historical Archive. Until this the documents were stored in the archives of institutions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, after Belarus was included into the Russian Empire — in the chambers of civil courts, archives of municipal governments, town halls, district courts, private individuals, later — in Vilensky archive of the ancient acts and in Vitebsk archive of the ancient act books. The oldest documents are act books of court institutions of the XVth–XVIIIth centuries. In funds of the archive are stored genuine parchment documents of the XVth–XVIIth centuries, written in old Belarusian, old Polish and Latin languages. There preserved seals and gilding of letters. Many historical documents died during the Great Patriotic War, the part of them was carried out to Latvia and Germany.
— In our archive we have the documents on Minsk, Mogilev and Vitebsk provinces. The part of materials on the modern territory of Belarus is in the archive of history of Lithuanian state in Vilnius. This is connected with the fact, that the territory of Western Belarus until 1917 was included into Vilenskaya and Kovenskya provinces, — explains Irina Verner. — For the search of data over Grodno and the western part of Brest regions (until 1917 this was a territory of Grodno province) you should apply to the National Historical Archive of Grodno.
Besides, it is possible to find a family tree of the peasant class only to the middle of the XVIIIth century, in rare cases to the beginning of the century, if parish registers of that period preserved well. It is connected with the fact, that the first census on the territory of Belarus was carried out after joining of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Russian Empire. In some cases it is rather hard for archival workers to derive a family line because after 1900 in Vitebsk and Mogilev provinces in the certificates of birth and other documents the surname was not mentioned, only a name and a patronymic.
The most profound data about noble classes are dated by the XVth century. The data about Belarusian gentry were best of all preserved in Minsk province. After joining of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Russian Empire, in the end of the XVIIIth – beginning of the XIXth centuries, noblemen had to prove their belonging to the highest class. They also had to submit the documents on the fact, that their ancestors owned estates, populated with peasants, and to confirm, that they are in the national service. Minsk gentry deputative meeting considered all these data, after that the Department on heraldry in the Senate approved them. In the preserved documents the history of a clan is described. Here you can find out, whether the family had its emblem, and which lands the family possessed.
It is interesting, that in the beginning of the XIXth century 12 percents of population of Belarus were gentry. However, a modern Belarus can have a rather famous surname, but he can be an indirect descendant of the noble clan. Among gentry and peasants of that period sometimes were namesakes.
A work of the archival worker requires not only knowledge of history, Polish, Latin and other languages, but also attention, scrupulousness and patience. One way or another, employers of the National Historical Archive say, that during their work at a request they live by it. For the last year they managed to implement 112 requests. There appear more and more people, willing to restore their family tree.
— As well as in the beginning of the 90’s, now many requests come from abroad, — says Irina Verner. — Descendants of their relatives, which emigrated from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, England, France, Australia and even Brazil search for their roots in Belarus. Many letters come from Poland. The citizens of our western neighbour strive to prove, that their ancestors possessed Belarusian lands, which were included into Poland until 1939. If they manage to do this, Polish state pays compensation to them.
Our talk was coming to an end. Ultimately, I asked the research assistant to write out several surnames of clans, which were approved by the Senate as gentry. They were Adamovich, Artsishevsky, Bogdanovich, Vojnich, Vojtkevich, Vysotsky, Gnoinsky, Davidovsky, Zavadsky, Korsak, Kuntsevich, Malkevich, Puschin, Sventitsky, Scorina, Turchinovich, Tyshkevich, Shpilevsky, Shunevich, Yakubovich.

Irina Tugarina
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