I am trying to research "Józef Staszkiewicz", who emigrated to Canada in 1927. I have his naturalization application, and it states that he was born in Wilno on 31-Aug-1904.

So, I went to Geneteka, and plugged that in. No dice. I looked a little wider, and I found this:

enter image description here

1903, not 1904. The button at the far right (SKAN), took me to the a file in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives, which fortunately has a "English" button in the upper right.

I advanced to page #110, which is the start of the 1903 records, and then to page #133, which has entry #104 (from the index entry above), and looked at it, and I can't make any sense of it.

Can anyone here read this?

I'm hoping that I have the correct record - but I'm not even sure of that.


4 Answers 4


It's written in pre-1918 Russian Cyrillic. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reforms_of_Russian_orthography and also https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/Russia_Handwriting)

In google translate, you can use the Russian keyboard to type in the words. The pre-1918 old glyphs are accessible when you press the Ctrl-Alt key.

So "счетъ родившіхся" means "Birth Count" "мужск. пола." mean "Male gender". число means date рожденія means birthday крещенія means baptism "сташкев им" means "Stashkev name"

enter image description here

The next column after the "Date" column, reads "Когда, гдѣ, кто и кѣмъ, одною ли водою, или совсѣми обрядами таинство окрещенъ"

Note that the "yat" symbol 'ѣ' has been replaced in modern Russian with the 'е' as the distinction between the two phonemes was lost and school children would just have to memorize which homonyms/homophones used a 'ѣ' and which used a 'е'. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yat)

So the column is translated by google as: "When, where, who and by whom, whether with water alone, or with completely rites, the sacrament was baptized"

For a guide on Cyrillic handwriting, see https://www.russianlessons.net/lessons/russian_handwriting.php

I can make out some of the Cyrillic script (I need more practice). enter image description here

I can make out "Иоанна" enter image description here which I mistook for the female name Joanna "Джоанна". Here, thanks to @Andra, it's "Cв. Иоанна Костелъ" meaning St. John's Church or Church of St. John, where "Cв." [Sv.] is an abbreviation for "Святого" [Saint's] and is in the singular genitive/possessive form of "Святой" [Saint] https://cooljugator.com/run/%D1%81%D0%B2%D1%8F%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B9 The 'а' ending on "Иоанн" is the declension for singular masculine genitive (possessive). John is usually spelled "Джон" and Johann would be "Иоганн" so "Иоанн" is just another variant of John.

A Google search for "Костел" returns this definition:

a word in Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Czech, Slovak and Silesian for a Catholic church.

It's a masculine noun so takes the final hard sign. The normal Russian word for church/chapel/kirk is "церковь" and for a cathedral would be собор or кафедральный собор.

I can also make out "Йозифъ" (Josif/Joseph): enter image description here

Josif Kс. M. Sarojechkom (not sure if that's really a 'ch' or maybe an 'l'). The final hard sign 'ъ' (твёрдый знак / letter ЕРЪ) is tacked on the end of Josif and Sarojechkom here to denote male gender nouns, a usage which has been dropped in modern Russian spelling)

The first letter of Josef must be a variant of the russian 'Й'

Probably someone fluent in Russian could help.

  • 1
    regarding "Иоанна" (make out Joanna Kacshen) - it's "Cв. Иоанна Костел", ~"St. John's Roman Catholic Church". You need a good level of Russian to understand these records.
    – Andra
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 21:30

The word is August. "августа". If you compare the entries on all the other lines, they all begin 1903 august 31st, though the final "st" takes on 2 variant forms. The lowercase 'g' and 't' don't follow strict schoolbook forms so easily confused with 'sh' or "shch" symbols.

Eg., ш щ т г м

enter image description here

enter image description here


I went to this really good site for handwriting OCR:


and used the model for generic russian: https://readcoop.eu/model/russian-generic-handwriting/

and pasted in the image above with Ioanna and Iosif and got this transcription:

Тысяга девятьсом трешьего годаавщуета У дня въ Виленскомъ Р. К. приходскомъ Св. Иоанна Косшеле окрещенъ младенецъ по имени Иосифъ ке М. Саросекомъ съ совершениемъ всехъ обрядовъ Таинства

which translates via google as:

One thousand nine three years old In the afternoon in Vylensk R. K. Parish St. John of Koschele was baptized as a child named after Joseph M. Sarosekom with the completion of all sacramental rites

enter image description here

Obviously, that should be 1903. The OCR program mistook the cursive lowercase final 't' for an 'm'. Ninehundred should be девятсот not девятьсом. The lowercase cursive 'm' and 't' look very similar except the 'm' begins with a leading uptick mark.

So after a few more manual corrections, I get following google translation:

In the year One thousand nine hundred and three, the 31st day of August, in the Vilna R. K. [Roman Catholic] parish of St. John's Church, a baby named Joseph M. Sarosechkom was baptized with the performance of all the rites of the Sacrament

[Not sure what Google did with the 'Кс.' Short for baptized "крестился"?]

enter image description here

Also found this site for pasting a sample of printed cyrillic and showing the script version in a good schoolbook hand: https://stevemorse.org/russian/cyrprintcurs.html?font=print

My russian's rusty and I see I was having problems identifying the hard sign 'ъ' and the 'ы' symbols in the cursive sample, eg., Josif/Josif.

enter image description here

(In modern reformed Russian, the soft sign 'ь' is encountered much more frequently than the hard sign 'ъ', but looking at the Wiki page for 'Yat' it appears that pre-1918 Russian required the hard sign at the end of masculine nouns, a superfluous usage that was dropped after the spelling reform:

The reform also created many homographs and homonyms, which used to be spelled differently. Examples: есть/ѣсть (to be/eat) and миръ/міръ (peace/the Universe) became есть and мир in both instances.

Apparently, both hard and soft signs were vowels at one point in history but lost their vowel meaning. Eventually the hard sign became a required marker for masculine gender nouns (which usage was dropped after the 1918 spelling reform):


  • Also, the transkribus generic russian OCR program did a good job on this sample even though it's ukranian and the orthography differs slightly between the two languages, but it's close enough that if you can read russian you can get the gist of the ukranian. Eg., the russian preposition for 'with ' is 'c' which has the 's' sound, but in ukranian apparently is a soft s sound 'съ'
    – widsith
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 0:00
  • The OCR program made another mistake I think. "годаавщуета У дня въ Виленскомъ" probably should be "года авщуета 31 дня въ Виленскомъ" The word "авщуета" doesn't translate so is probably wrong as well. "года" means years and is standard way of expressing year, eg., 1903 года. дня means days so 31 days would make sense at least. Put all together, google guesses August 31st but no such word "авщуета".
    – widsith
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 0:56

Next column over is about relative's information. After running through readcoop.eu's transkribus and manually correcting some characters and joining the hyphenated words, google translates as follows

enter image description here

Then the next column over (middle column) is about the christening, names given and who were present.

enter image description here

enter image description here

with google translation (after joining hyphenated words):

enter image description here

I'm not sure what the bar over the 'L' and 'V' symbolizes -- maybe it signifies that they're capital letters.

A schoolbook capital 'V' and 'L' would look like enter image description here

Looking at the other entries on the page I think the letter is a capital 'P' not a capital 'L'. So Kastan Petkevich: enter image description here When I made a typo, google translate is actually suggesting to translate Петкевич instead (so maybe a common name).

readcoop.eu's transkriptus missed the bar over the 't' and mistranscribed the letter as a 'sh'. So corrected google translation I I think should be:

The successors were Kastan Letkevich with Franciska Vilevich

  • Well, yay! That suggests that this is, in fact, the correct record. Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 15:10

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