From the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, the Imperial Russian Government, which included eastern Poland and Finland, as well as most of the former USSR, maintained consulates throughout North America. With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, the consulates were closed. Their records were subsequently stored in many places, and many became lost, damaged, or destroyed. Eventually the records were placed in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States Government, in Washington, D.C. The records were organized into American and Canadian collections.
The American collection
The American collection of the Imperial Russian Consulates records is much larger than the Canadian collection. Containing material dating from the years 1862 to 1922, it covers primarily the years 1900 to 1917. In the United States, the Imperial Russian Consulates were located in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon) and Seattle.
For more information about the American collection, consult:
The Canadian Collection: Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA)
The Canadian collection consists of documents created by consuls in the Imperial Russian Consular offices located in Montréal, Vancouver, and Halifax. The last of these consuls were A.S. Likacheff, K. Ragosine, and H.I. Mathers (LI-RA-MA). In 1980, the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) borrowed the Canadian collection from the NARA. The documents were classified and microfilmed and returned to Washington, D.C., in 1990. The NARA later sent the original documents to the Soviet Union.
The LI-RA-MA collection (MG 30 E406) contains many types of personal documents that immigrants brought with them to Canada. Immigrants surrendered these records to the consular officials in return for the required identity cards that would enable them to work and live in Canada.
After examining the documents, our archivists classified the consular records into series. The majority of the work involved organizing the records into separate files, with each file representing an individual immigrant or family.
For more information on the LI-RA-MA collection held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and on the project, consult Identity Files.
The LI-RA-MA collection is organized into four series:
The collection consists of 127 volumes and is available on microfilms M-7591 to M-7672, M-8270 and M-8271 (84 reels, 16 mm).
The Passport/Identity Papers series contains about 11,400 files with photographs. The documents are written primarily in Russian, though frequently they are also written in six other eastern European languages. Most of the documents are handwritten. The majority of files deal with immigrants from the Russian Empire who were of Jewish, Finnish, Ukrainian and Polish origins.
Each applicant was required to complete a questionnaire which included a photograph of themselves, to ensure that he or she was a genuine Russian citizen. The questionnaires, containing 21 questions, were in some cases written in a bilingual Russian-English format. The information included:
Much of this information was recorded in transliterated form (in the Latin alphabet) on nominal index cards prepared for each file.
Sample of index card and explanation of fields.
This research tool provides access to about 11,400 references to the Passport-Identity Papers series of LI-RA-MA collection held at LAC. To verify the names of the immigrants, each file was consulted.
Much of this information was recorded in transliterated form (in the Latin alphabet) on nominal index cards prepared for each file. Staff members created a database from these nominal index cards.
Important note: Some of the original documents are very difficult to read, therefore some information in the database may be incorrect and/or incomplete. Please note that LAC does not provide a translation service.
The search screen allows you to search by the name of the immigrant. You can enter a surname and/or given name(s) and/or a date of birth.
Note that some entries include only an initial for the given names. Try searching by surname only.
Names can be written different ways. The search engine performs a search in the name field and/or other spelling variations fields of the original database.
To help you identify different spellings of family names, we suggest that you use the following soundex system. It is also valid for non-Jewish names.
When you have entered your search terms, click on "Submit". The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.
Your search results will be posted as a summary list from which you can obtain more detailed descriptions.
The results list contains the following fields:
Year of Birth
You can export the results to a diskette or to your own computer.
Click on the underlined name of the immigrant of interest to you, for a more detailed description.
The detailed description contains the following fields:
Name of immigrant (surname and given name)
You can view the corresponding page by clicking on "View Image". Then, by clicking on the arrows, you can view all the pages of the file for that immigrant.
You can print the images or save the images on your own computer.
To print a copy of a scanned image, right click on the image, select copy, then paste to your word processing software, using the Edit: Paste Special Feature: Device Independent Bitmap.
Use the following link for other options such as borrowing microfilm.
Other archival immigration records exist. Consult Immigration for more information about these records.