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Making sense of old handwriting

Confession Lists

Confession lists were most often kept by the Orthodox, Greek Catholic, and Roman Catholic faiths. Christian protestants did not usually practice confession in the same way, though Lutheran family books provide similar information to these records. Also called communion lists, confession lists were designed to keep track of which parish members were participating in confession and partaking of the Holy Communion. Those who were not able to attend were also recorded and accounted for. These records were created at least annually, usually around Easter.

Each individual was generally referred to as a душа, or soul, in the confession lists. Given that these records contain detailed information about households and the relationships between household members, they are used like parish-level censuses in genealogical research. This provides a good starting point for researching a family, as confession lists show the members of the household together and record relationships between household members.


Russian/Pernov Confession List 1896
"Metrical books : Ekaterininskai︠a︡ Church, 1765-1926," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 March 2023), page no. 1, household no. 1, Pernov, Riga, Livonia, Russian Empire, 1896, DGS no. 7792213, image no. 270 of 902.

See a transcription and translation of this document

To simplify your reading of the documents you find, the following is a transcription and translation of the headings found on records of an average confession list. Spellings have been standardized to those used in modern Russian.

ведомость (name of church) церкви, (name of town/city) (name of county) уезда, (name of province) губернии, по части священника (name of priest) за (year in numerals) год.
ЧислоДуховные и их домашниеЛета от рожденияПоказания действа
Домов или дворовЛюдей.Мужеска пола.Женска пола.Кто были у исповеди святого причастияКтож исповедались токмо, а не причастились и за каким винословиемКоторые y исповеди не были.
Мужеска пола.Женска пола.
register of (name of church) church, (name of town/city) (name of county) county, (name of province) province, according to priest (name of priest) in the (year in numerals) year.
NumberSouls and their householdsAge from birthRegistration of actions
of Homes or buildings of Peopleof Malesof FemalesWho was at the confession of Holy CommunionWho confessed only, and did not partake of CommunionWho was not at confession
of Malesof Females

Use the scroll bar to see the rest of the headings for this document type.

Based on just the headings, a list of information that could be taken from a confession list in this format would include the following:

  • Names of the various household members
  • Relationships between household members
  • Genders
  • Ages
  • A record of their religious attendance

This, of course, is not a guarantee that each confession list will include every item listed or a great deal of information about each point. Each record will vary in its completeness and detail. It is also important to note that ages and other details in the confession lists may not be entirely accurate, especially for those who were not regularly attending services. The information recorded may have just been based on the knowledge of the scribe or a comparison to lists from prior years.


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