Genealogy originated in ancient times, when the idea of kinship and blood relationship was much stronger and more important than in our time. Genealogy is given a large place in the Bible. From it, genealogy passed to the first Russian chronicler. The story of the oldest Russian annals, “Tales of Bygone Years,” begins with the lineage of Noah, from whose sons the peoples of the world allegedly descend. The descendants of Noah’s youngest son, Japheth, are, according to the annals, all European nations, including the Slavs.
Biblical genealogy is only one of the ramified mythological genealogies of legends. The Greeks knew and transmitted in their myths the genealogy of the Olympic gods and heroes, from some of them the clan and the historical figures of ancient Greece known to us were led. The same ideas were spread across the other side of Europe – in Scandinavia. All dynasties of the Scandinavian konungs (rulers) date back to the different sons of the supreme god Odin. Pursuing the study of this vast tree, the modern historian E.V. Bees found on it the place of the ancestor of Russian princely dynasties – Rurik. He (if we accept the identity of Rurik and king Rorik of Friesland, known from Scandinavian sources in the 9th century) turned out to be a descendant of Odin through his son Sigrlam, the ruler of Gardarika, as the Scandinavians called Russia. The exploits of the ancestors of Rurik-Rorik – kungs and berserkers – were sung by the Scandinavian sagas, and Russia appeared in them along with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the magical country of Valhalla, where “the brave forever live.”
Hand in hand with the legendary genealogy went and real. In all layers of medieval society – from peasants to princes and kings – it was necessary to know their genealogy and their relatives. First of all, it was necessary to resolve issues of land inheritance. Land ownership (from small allotments to principalities and countries) was transferred only by inheritance. In the event of suppression of the clan, she passed on to relatives along various lines — and it was here that genealogy came to the rescue.
Old Russian chronicles transmit the genealogy of princes. After all, princely law from the end of the XI century. acted by inheritance – from father to son. Many between princely conflicts (strife) are associated with the branching of the clan of Russian princes, descendants of the first ancestor of Rurik, who appeared in Russia in 862. With the beginning of the formation of the noble estate in Russia (the 15th century), noblemen began to lead their genealogies. Some of them build their genealogy even before Mongolian Russia, but most of the Russian noble families are not older than the XIV – XV centuries.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, in order to establish some order in the distribution of service to the sovereign and issues of land inheritance, the first Russian genealogy guide was compiled – “The sovereign genealogy”. After a hundred-plus years, it was supplemented and expanded. So there appeared the Velvet Book (1682), so named by the publishers of the 18th century. for a beautiful velvet binding.
Along with the official genealogy guides, the nobles compiled their own guides and their separate lists. Similar documents are older than the “Sovereign Bloodline”. Already under Ivan III, peculiar “memories” were used about which boyar under whom he “sat”. And soon the first private notes of a pedigree character arose. They are much more complete than official data, but often make mistakes and provide false or mythical information, trying to raise one or another surname.
Often the genealogies did not write about the offspring of one or another boyar who ended up in disgrace. And although the “Sovereign Genealogist” and the “Velvet Book” were clerks, the representatives of the clans themselves gave them the paintings. When compiling the Velvet Book, there was even a scandal. The princes of Kropotkin, the descendants of the specific princes of Smolensky, protested against the attribution of princes Vyazemsky, noblemen of the Polevs, Eropkins and Tatishchevs to their “homies”. Having criticized their genealogical murals, the Kropotkins concluded that “they did not hear from old relatives to the relationship with these surnames.”
Peter I reformed the noble service and instead of the Rank Order he established the Heraldry Office (hereinafter referred to as the Department of Heraldry), which was entrusted with keeping records of the nobility, keeping ancient documents and collecting information about persons serving in the public service. After all, according to the “Table of Ranks”, the promotion gave the right first to personal, then to hereditary nobility. The Geroldmeister office was also engaged in another, new business – it composed and approved the noble coats of arms.
Coats of arms came to Russia from Europe, through Lithuania and Poland. The first Russian noble coats of arms appeared in the XVII century. True, even the Rurikovich in the X-XV centuries. they had their own symbols, which were minted on coins and cut out on seals, but they were personal symbols, and not even all, but only the most influential princes.
By the second half of the XVIII century. the number of cases in the Heraldmeister office has increased substantially; she could no longer cope with such a volume of information. A more perfect system of compiling family trees and registering serving noblemen was introduced in 1785, when, by decree of Catherine II, the nobility was united into noble collections in the provinces, and each of them was ordered to keep their genealogy books. Genealogy books were divided into six parts. The first recorded the nobility, granted special imperial diplomas; in the second, the nobility served in military service; in the third – served in the civil service; in the fourth – foreign nobility; in the fifth – the titled nobility, in the sixth – the ancient nobility, families who could provide documents about their origin more than a hundred years before 1785.
This decree greatly facilitated the work of Heraldia and streamlined the maintenance and compilation of genealogies, but at the same time entailed the destruction of relations between individual branches of families. So, representatives of the same surname, recorded in genealogical books in different provinces, eventually lost each other and could no longer “be considered related”. It is even more difficult nowadays for a historian to restore such connections. Entire lines are torn apart.
A number of provincial genealogy books were published (in the Tula, Kazan, Tver, Oryol, Chernihiv, partly in the Moscow, Yaroslavl and other provinces), others remain in the archives.
For genealogy surveys, they represent the most important source. The Heraldry Department continued to be the main institution in charge of maintaining and compiling noble genealogies, classifying certain branches or persons as already known clans, affirming the noble rank, and resolving various disputes.
Such a system was in effect until 1917. True, after the abolition of serfdom, many nobles ceased to submit documents for the approval of their children in the noble rank. After all, the main privilege of the nobility – the right to own land and serfs – was no longer valid. Thus, some pedigrees, which are compiled according to the documents of the Department of heraldry and noble assemblies, after the 1860-1870s. They have significant gaps, but they are completely recoverable from other sources, which cannot be said about a new and wider gap – after 1917.
Good luck in finding.