Family History (Pre-1917)

The pre-1917 Anglican Church in St Petersburg, located at 56 English Embankment, was known as the (British) Factory Church or Embassy Church or English Church (*), and later as the English Church of St Mary & All Saints, and had over 2000 on its electoral roll. Some photos of the church interior pre-1917 can be found on our Pinterest boards: The old English Church is now leased by the Russian state to the St Petersburg Music Hall which is in the process of renovating the building for use as a classical concert venue.

Not unsurprisingly, following the seizure, closure & nationalisation of the English Church building by the Bolsheviks, the modern Anglican Church in St Petersburg, which held its first post-Soviet Eucharist service on November 7th 1993 (and currently holds its 4pm Sunday services in the ground-floor chapel of the Lutheran Petrikirche), retains no records or archive material relating to the pre-1917 period. 

Apart from a few items sent back to London in Victorian times for archiving purposes (or smuggled out of Petrograd via Odessa or Finland or China) and now held in the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) (e.g. CLC/335), the surviving records and papers from the Anglican Church in St Petersburg (with some papers from church activity in Kronstadt, Schlisselburg, Archangel & Moscow) are to be found in the St Petersburg State Historical Archives (the site is in Russian only, so use Google or Yandex.Translate to view in English).

The online family records project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has collected a lot of the St Petersburg births, deaths & marriage records together and these can be searched online at, entering British Chaplaincy, St Petersburg in the Birthplace field and Russia in the Country field.

British burials usually took place in the two main (German) Lutheran cemeteries, the Smolenskoye and the Volkovskoye. There is no official online listing of graves, although both cemeteries do feature on the site - search under "Saint Petersburg" - and some graves are listed on this Russian site for the Smolenskoye Lutheran cemetery. And local researchers have published multi-volume books listing those graves still standing in the Smolenskoye (2 volumes by Robert Leinonen) and the Volkovskoye (4 volumes by Dr Benedikt Böhm) cemeteries. The cemeteries have suffered from neglect & vandalism (and partial redevelopment in the late Soviet period), but some graves in the Smolenskoye cemetery, including those of Charles & Francis Baird and of Arthur Macpherson, are still visible.

Besides the LMA, the other main centre of information on the British in Imperial Russia is the Leeds Russian Archive at Leeds University, which holds many family records & objects donated by the descendants of British families who had lived and worked in pre-1917 Russia/St Petersburg.

For more on the British community in the period up to, and immediately after, the Russian Revolution, see this catalogue from a 2017 exhibition, "Caught in the Russian Revolution", put on using items drawn from the Leeds Russian Archive. And for the personal story of one incredible individual, Violet Froom, who did so much to help elderly, infirm and destitute members of the British Colony left in Petrograd following the Revolution, using the English Church building as a nursing home/soup kitchen, see this short chapter, "The Story of an Englishwoman".

If your family history research also includes the British community in Moscow pre-1917, more information on some of the key families linked to St Andrew's Anglican Church can be found on this site which is maintained by Elena Watson who is a former church council member and official church historian at St Andrew's.

Finally, if you have a specific family history query, please do also write to us via the 'Get in touch' page as, while we do not hold any church records, we have developed a body of knowledge and contacts through helping others with their family searches. Previous searches have included the following family names: Baird, Call, Cattley, Cazalet, Drury, Gaubert, Grundy, Handyside, Headley, Hubbard, Jubb, Manners, Marshall, Parland, Simonds, Swann, Thornton, Whishaw, Wilson, Woodbine Parish, Yates.

And if you are visiting St Petersburg for family history reasons, a highly recommended English-speaking licensed tour guide is Elena Bobrova, a journalist & history graduate specialising in walking & cycling tours, who also offers bespoke tours of the city's museums & sites, including of places associated with the pre-1917 British community.

(*) For information, there was also another English-language (but non-Anglican) church in St Petersburg, the British-American Congregational Church, which was licensed as a chapel to the American Legation and was established in 1816 by John Paterson of the British & Foreign Bible Society. From 1840, the church was located at 16 Novo-Isaakievskaya Ulitsa (now 16 Yakubovicha Ulitsa); the building is still standing but now houses the Ministry of the Interior (MVD) Passport Office No.1 for the Admiralteiskiy district. For more on its history, see the article "A Congregational Church in Revolutionary Petrograd" in the Congregational History Society Magazine, Vol. 8, No.4, Autumn 2017 (pp.57-64).