Editor's Note: Metrical books are registers of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces in the Jewish community, and because some still exist, are important genealogical sources. Note that the decree indicates that rabbis kept an additional set of chastniya knigi, or private books, which were supposed to be duplicates of the metrical books turned in to the government. In this translation, Municipal Duma is analagous to a city council, the Ulozheniye is a code of law, and the Korobotchny tax is the Box Tax. Krays are administrative districts and "Board of Jewish Clergy" is an approximate translation.
On Jewish metrical books.
The Legal Department of the State Council, meeting in general assembly to consider
the Interior Minister's presentation on Jewish metrical books, reached this opinion:
statutes of the Legal Code on Status (Vol. IX) are supplemented and altered to enact:
1. Authority over metrical books in Jewish communities rests with the rabbis. But if, in a populous community, one rabbi does not have the time to carry this out because of his duties to his Jewish congregants, then he can call upon the community to elect one rabbinical assistant for every thousand people, giving him a salary paid by the community for this purpose. These assistants must be approved by gubernia officials, be sworn in to the job in court, and work under the direct observation and supervision of the rabbis.
2. No other persons, except approved Crown Rabbis and their assistants, shall perform the rites of the Jewish faith; the aforesaid in Statute 1457 Vol. IX of the Legal Code -- anyone convicted on a violation of this regulation is subject to: on the first occurence imprisonment for a period of two to six months, or an equivalent punishment prescribed for this; and on the second: return without a hearing to the Army, or if ineligible for military service, to a correctional penal battalion in the civilian sector for a period of ten to twelve years. The head of the family who requested the ceremony is subject to a fine of 20 silver rubles; marriages and divorces performed by other than rabbis and their assistants are declared invalid.
3. Metrical books are to be prepared by the Gubernia Administrations on the given form. All funds for the preparation of these books, no more, however, than one ruble per book, are supplied by order of the Gubernia authorities, and should come from the general Korobotchny tax.
4. For proper preparation and use, metrical books should be dispatched to the Municipal Dumas, for transfer to the rabbis, no later than the 1st of October.
5. In addition to these books, rabbis have their own private books, or manuscripts, in which all items subject to entry in metrical books are inscribed by them, in Hebrew and Russian, after performing religious rites, and no later than one month after the rites are performed, the entries must be inscribed in the government metrical books, to be kept in synagogues or houses of prayer.
6. Monthly, and at the end of each year, members of the Board of Jewish Clergy must attest for both metrical books and private copies, and in so doing, calculate the number of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths, first in writing, later with figures, in Russian and Hebrew, and certify these with signatures of the Members of the Board, at the same time, from the Rabbis and their assistants, certification that the books are faithful, and that no changes were made. In all of these books, rubbing out or erasure is not permitted; and if an error in entry should happen, the error should be written with '( )' lines surrounding it, and a further explanation should be added at the end of the item entry. After this, responsibility for any change in a Jewish metrical book lies with the rabbis and their assistants, as well as Members of the Board of Jewish Clergy, and for any presumed change all of them are subject to penalties defined in Statute 1915 of the Ulozheniye on Punishments.
7. At the end of the year, the first day of the new year, the rabbis submit all of the metrical books and private books to the Dumas, Town Councils, and Magistrates, as their property. They will check the the books, making a notation at the end to certify what they verify: generally, that each metrical book is identical to its corresponding private book, that they are the final version, that they are generally the same. After that, the metrical books are surrendered to the Archive, and the private books are returned to the rabbis for keeping in synagogues or houses of prayer. If a rabbi is late in delivering metrical books, he is subject to a fine of 10 silver rubles; if he allows this to happen a second time, he must withdraw from his position.
8. The Duma, Town Council, and Magistrate officials in charge of Jewish affairs, each year by March 1, report to the Governor which of the Jewish metrical books from all rabbis during the past year were delivered and proved to be in good order, and who did not deliver them, or even if delivered, upon checking, were found to be incorrect; in the two latter cases, the Governor can give an order for immediate delivery of the metrical books or punishment for the perpetrators; upon receiving the aforesaid report, the Department of Religious Affairs for Foreign Faiths is then notified by April 1 of each year.
9. All information regarding births, marriages, divorces, and deaths of Jews, produced in towns, by local police, and in other places, is available at the Dumas, Town Councils and Magistrates. Metrical certificates issued by the rabbis or their assistants, stamped on official certificates bearing the coat of arms, are fifteen kopeks for petty townsmen, artisans, and Jewish farmers, and for other social classes, ninety kopeks, are certified by the Dumas, Town Councils and Magistrates and for that reason, Jewish metrical books are kept in these places.
10. For Jews in the military services, decisions on issuing metrical books and filling the responsibilities of the rabbis as well as storing the books for previous years for the Army and Navy departments are left to the discretion of the nearest top commanders of these departments. For service in the police in St. Petersburg and Moscow and for lesser Jewish bureaucrats, these books are issued by the Board of Deans, where they are returned back for storage. Supervision and proper jurisdiction over these books should be in the very same places, or with those persons who are in charge of these places. This order extends to other cities where the Jews serve in the police. Production, verification, and storage of metrical books in these places rests with the local police.
11. For Jewish settlements on Crown Lands in New Russia krays, the responsibility of the Gubernia administration to supply metrical books to rabbis lies with the Warden's committee; and the responsibility of the Duma - on the District offices of foreign settlers, which is in charge of Jewish colonies.
Resolved. His Imperial Majesty, following the opinion of the general assembly of State Council on Jewish metrical books, is pleased to affirm and order it carried out (V.P.S.Z. Vol. XXVIII, No. 27,172).