Navigating Moldova Poll Tax Census Records

Carolyn Schott

I’d heard the siren call of this unexplored group of records for many years. There was almost a fairy-tale-like quality to the promise of this collection—all riches could be mine (in the form of genealogical records) if I could just figure out how to find anything in the “Moldova Poll Tax Census (Revision List)” collection on FamilySearch.

But it was daunting. The collection has nearly 400,000 images, no index, and is poorly catalogued. One of my targets was a specific village’s 1850 revision list. (Revision lists are tax lists of people in a certain village. They’re often used as and called censuses because they list all members of the household with their ages.)

But how to find it? Would a revision list for a village in Bessarabia be under the “Bessarabia Gubernia [Province]” heading (since it’s a type of record kept nationally) or under the “Kischinev [Chisinau]” heading (since the village was in that district)?

Having chosen the Kischinev option, I was confronted with 19 screen pages of links with names like “1802-1872 vol 3” (no information on the type of record or location). Where does one even begin?

Any of the 120 links marked “1850 vol __” could be what I’m looking for. Or they could be a completely unrelated type of 1850 record. And since revision lists are often updated over a couple of years, any of the 46 links with names like “1849-1851 vol 25” or “1850-1867 vol 454” were also possibilities. That’s a lot of records to comb through trying to decipher handwritten Cyrillic (which I am still a novice at reading).

Fortunately, I found some clues, so you don’t have to!

Tips for navigating this collection

FamilySearch screenshot

1) When you click on a link (for example, the one named “1796 vol 1399”), the first image you’ll see, the title page, shows the Moldova National Archives’ collection/inventory/case number (aka fond/opis/delo or фонд/опись/дело or фонд/опис/справа, depending on the language you’re working with). After clicking on “1796 vol 1399,” we’ll see that this set of images is from Fond 3 Opis 1 Delo 1399.

2) The Moldova National Archives site has a catalog of all their holdings. By following the links on their website, we find that the description of Fond 3 Opis 1 Delo 1399 is “документъ удостоверяющие помещиков оргеевского уезда хинкуловъх в дворянском сословии (копии)” or (using DeepL to translate) “Document certifying the landlords of Orhei county Hinculov as members of the nobility (copies).”  So even though FamilySearch doesn’t describe what’s included for each link, cross-referencing with the Moldova Archives’ catalog makes it fairly easy to figure it out.

3) Important to note – the “vol” listed in the FamilySearch link corresponds to the delo or case number. This isn’t a surefire way to find anything (because there could be a case 1399 in other fonds too), but it’s a useful clue.

4) Here’s a tool to help you identify the fonds included in each of the main categories shown on FamilySearch with links to the descriptions in the Moldova National Archives catalog (some in Romanian, some in Russian).

So where are the revision lists?

To me, the juiciest documents in the “Moldova Poll Tax Census (Revision List)” collection are the revision lists. They seem to be in Fond 134 Opis 2. Here’s the catalog listing for Fond 134 Opis 2 from the Moldova National Archive.

To find a revision list for any village in Bessarabia (skip to next section if you’re mostly interested in German villages):

1) Find your village in the catalog listing. (Note that villages are spelled with the Romanian equivalent of their name, so you might have to do some creative searching.)

2) Identify the case number.

3) Search on the page for Kischinev for that case number (will be listed as the volume). Click and voila! You’ve found your revision list.

German villages in Bessarabia:

If, like me, your interest is mainly on German villages, I’ve created a cheat sheet of links to make it super simple to find revision lists. Keep in mind – these are the original documents, so they’re in handwritten Cyrillic. (The Germans from Russia Heritage Society has translated/published some of these if you aren’t up for reading old Cyrillic. But there are many in this collection, especially from 1859, that have not been translated.)

On the cheat sheet, find your village, find the revision list you want (you have 1835, 1850, and 1859 to choose from), click on the link, and you’re ready to start hunting out those ancestors.

One tip: If there are multiple villages listed for one set of images (for example, the 1835 revision list), open the Moldova National Archives catalog for Fond 134 Opis 2, then go to the page number shown in the “Inventory Page #” column of the cheat sheet. That shows the page number within that case where your village’s revision list starts.

If you’re into handwritten 19th century documents for Bessarabian villages – the world is now yours! Happy hunting!