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BIALYSTOK REGION TURN OF THE CENTURY BUSINESS DIRECTORIES
VSIA ROSSIIA FOR 1895 & 1903
Compiled by Sidney Zabludoff
Three turn of the century Russian business directories, Vsia Rossiia ("All of Russia), are available in US libraries. These are for 1895, 1899 and 1903. An examination of the listings clearly indicates that the 1903 is the most important from a Jewish genealogistís perspective.
The 1903 Directory
In 1903, a business directory of Russia was published based on information gathered in 1902. Within this directory of several thousand pages, there is a section on Bialystok, Bielsk, Sokolka and their neighboring towns (The Uyezds of Bialystok, Bielsk, and Sokolka within Grodno Gubernia). The first two towns run from page 327 to 337, while Sokolka is on pages 351 and 352. The material has 686 entries for the Bialystok region. It was obtained from microfilm at the Library of Congress and the Slavic Library at the University of Illinois.
Each entry includes surname, given and patronymic name, street location and type of business. In a few cases the given and patronymic names and street locations are not given. Some entries include the number of employees and whether the business is operated in their own home or that owned by some other party. The most prevalent type of manufacturing business, as expected, relates to the textile industry. Typically, the service industries center mainly on food but also include dry goods stores, pharmacies, book sellers, banks, etc. Based on first names more than 90 percent of the entries are Jewish.
The translations of persons and streets are based on the Russian spelling, while the names of towns are those used in the BialyGen website ó the modern Polish version. A few entries are listed as nearby Bialystok. They are described as being in an isolated area. A road name or two roads are shown in the original listing.
The 1895 Directory
By comparison, the 1895 Russian Business Directory has about 85% (577) of the listings of the 1903 publication for the Bialystok region. An even greater negative is that 1895 publication only provides given names for about 25% of the listings, some 15% for patronymic names and only about 2% of the given names can be classified as Jewish. Nonetheless, the 1895 directory is a useful supplement in that it came before the massive migration to the United States of the early years of the 20th century. Indeed there are considerable Jewish sounding surnames in the earlier directory that do not seem to appear in 1903 version. About 20% (117) named entries are likely the same in the two directories. This comparison is based on the types of businesses that are very similar in both directories and the same towns. As a result, it is possible to indicate the continuation of an individual in a business for an eight year span and to determine the given and patronymic names of those listed in the 1895 directory. These likely links are indicated by an asterisk (*) after the surname in the 1895 list.
Any questions can be addressed to Sidney Zabludoff at SJZabludoff@verizon.net.
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Last Updated on 20 July 2008.