If an ancestor was a priest: specifics of search in Ukrainian archives

21.06.2022 270

Most of us had ancestors who were peasants and they lived relatively stably in one place, but this is not always the case. An interesting exception may be the variant when the ancestor was a member of the clergy. The main source of information in such cases is the clerical records of the church of the town or village where the family member in question served.

The clerical records are a document that recorded the history of a particular church, the amount of land belonging to it, and the financial side of the activities of the parish – the group of people serving in the church. This source is useful not only for genealogical research, but also for local history essays on the history of both a particular locality and the history of the church as a whole. When it comes to the genealogical component, it is worth understanding that it will be possible to find a biographical note about an ancestor only if he was a priest or a deacon, because the parish includes different categories of the church servants. In particular, we can distinguish two main groups:

  • The clergy (the rite of consecration i.e. ordinations is mandatory) are the priest and the deacon;
  • Church officials (administrative positions) are the reader, the sacristan, the prosphora, the bell ringer, etc.

The clergy records usually provide a brief biography of the priest – where and when he was born, where he studied, when he was ordained, and to which parish he was assigned. His family members are also listed, with an age indication. Sometimes you can also find a list of deacon’s family members. If your ancestor was, for example, a bell ringer in a temple, the clerical records could simply state his name, but there would be no biographical data, because the position of this type was administrative in nature.

A problem in the search may be that the priest often changed parishes and, accordingly, moved from village to village. In this case, clerical records can help trace these movements, if the necessary documents are available in the archives. Usually this type of sources is stored in the Central State Historical Archive in Kyiv and in the regional archives of Ukraine.

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