One of the goals of my trip to Lithuania was to visit the Lithuanian State Historical Archives at Gerosios Vilties g. 10, LT 03134 Vilnius, Lithuania. I had learned from the Archives’ website (which, unfortunately, appears to have disappeared as of 20 March 2011) that the reading rooms were open Monday-Thursday 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, Friday 9:00 AM-3:30 PM, and Saturday 8:30 AM-13:30 PM, although this information did not match the hours posted on the front door of the Archives.
The Lithuanian State Historical Archives Building
SOURCE: The Lithuanian State Historical Archives Building. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
Front Door of the Lithuanian State Historical Archives
SOURCE: Front Door of the Lithuanian State Historical Archives. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
My cousin Liliana and I took one of the Vilnius trolleybuses to the archives on the morning of Monday, 22 October 2007. All visitors to the archives are required to register annually and are provided with a registration card that must be presented when entering the archives.
When we explained that we were looking for church records of birth, marriage, and death, we were directed to Room 6. I was very disappointed to discover that we had to fill out a form for each record requested, pay a fee, and wait. An attestation of the vital event would be sent to us. We filled out the proper forms for the birth records for both of our grandmothers.
Corridor in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives
SOURCE: Corridor in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
Further inquiry revealed that the Archives housed reading rooms where the original records might be examined. We entered the microfilm room but were told that the records we wanted to view had not been microfilmed. We entered a second reading room where we saw approximately 30 desks where quite a number of researchers were examining bound volumes of records.
The archivist in the reading room helped us determine what parish records were available. We explained that our ancestors were from Likiškiai and the parish of Butrimonys. The archivist consulted several indexes and told us that several of the parish record books for the parish of Butrimonys were being repaired and would not be available during our visit. She also explained that there were no marriage records for Butrimonys. At the time, I thought the archivist meant that marriages did not take place in Butrimonys, but she probably meant that the archives did not have the marriage records from Butrimonys. To make matters even more complicated, we would have to order the record books and return later to view them.
We also learned that the Archives held both the Parish copies of the records and the Diocesan copies of the records. We requested one book from the Butrimonys Parish and three books from the Merkinė Diocese. We left the archives and returned the next morning.
On Tuesday, we were delighted to find the record books waiting for us. The records were inscribed in Russian in a columnar format. Surnames were written to the left of each record, enabling us to quickly scan the pages for the correct surname – Chmielewski. In addition to the surnames written next to each record, the surnames were also indexed annually at the end of the records for a given year.
We could not locate the birth/baptismal records for either of our grandmothers. We did, however, find the birth/baptismal records for Józef Chmielewski (born in Stakliškės on 19 March 1874 and baptized in Butrimonys on 22 March 1874), Władysław Chmielewski (born in Likiškiai on 25 November 1883 and baptized in Butrimonys on 27 November 1874), and Stanisław Chmielewski (born in Likiškiai on 09 January 1897 and baptized in Butrimonys on 12 January 1897).
Józef and Władysław were half brothers to our grandmothers Helena and Anna. Stanisław was a full brother to our grandmothers.
Liliana and I made note of these three records and requested photocopies.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko