The partitions of Rzeczpospolita between 1772 and 1795 and the fall of the Polish-Litvian (Litva - authentic name of historical Lithuania) Commonwealth resulted in the territory of Rzeczpospolita becoming part of Austria, Prussia and Russia. Each of those countries had their own specific structure and laws concerning nobility and its heraldry which, eventually, seriously affected the status of the Polish-Litvian nobility as a whole. In theory, the invading Emperors of Austria and Russia, as well as the King of Prussia recognised and legalised all Polish coats of arms and treated their bearers as equal to the Austrian or German Ritter von (a hereditary Knight). However, at the same time, they tried to win over the more influential families by the conferring of titles, and through a process of registration, (taking away of privileges) of the landless and the poor nobility. According to the laws of nobility upheld in Russia, Prussia and Austria these groups of the Polish-Litvian nobility could not claim to be included in their ranks. Even though the partitioners created a new type of nobility, members of which came mostly from the ranks of public servants, first class officers and industrialists, (people who did not belong to the noble class in Rzeczpospolita in the first place), overall the numbers of nobility plummeted down. As a result, thousands of ancient (from German - Uradel) but impoverished knightly families had totally lost their noble status. In all, only about twenty percent of the pre-1795 Polish-Litvian nobility succeeded in registering. This proved to be the final blow given to the genealogy and heraldry of the Polish-Litvian nobility, from which it will probably never recover.
According to a decree by the Governor General Chernyshev (1772) in order to register in the former Litvian provinces occupied by Russia after 1772, members of Litvian nobility had to prove their pedigree (in other words, to get a decree of district court - named vyvod, a proof of nobility). Required documentation included detailed genealogies, blazons of arms and other relevant materials. After examining the tabled documents such court would issue a verdict on inclusion into the nobility caste. If, in the process, the pedigree was approved, the court would issue a so called descend decree - letters patents which verified the rights of a particular person or a family to noble privileges and their right to bear arms. In 1785, the Russian Empress Catherina II ordered the preparation of separate and distinct genealogical archives for the nobility (GAN) or nobility register in all provinces of the Empire. Those archives (sometimes referred to as books) were divided into six categories - each corresponding to a different group of nobility:
1. untitled nobility by imperial letters - families unable to prove their noble pedigree dating more than a hundred years back;
2. noblesse d'epe é - officers of the army who reached the rank of colonel and officers of the navy who were captains of the first rank and above;
3. noblesse du cap - government officials who reached a rank equivalent to colonel;
4. foreign nobility - that became naturalised in Russia;
5. titled nobility;
6. ancient noblesse - old aristocracy, noble families before 1685.
Using the registration data from Horadnia, Miensk, Mahilou, Smalensk and Viciebsk provinces as indicative of the trends in all Litvian provinces which after 1772 fell under the Russian occupation, it is possible to conclude that the majority of registrations were contained in the first and the sixth category. In the above provinces, from the total number of registered families (approx. 6888) around 39% (2681 families) were registered in the sixth and around 28.6% (1969 families) in the first category.
In the beginning, the registration process utilised in Russia was rather liberal when compared to the rules of registration devised by the Austrian and Prussian officials. In Russia, more rigid rules were introduced during the reign of Tsar Alexander I, when the control over all matters regarding registrations was transferred to the Heraldry Office in Petersburg. Tsar's decrees aimed at lowering the number of nobility, and just as elsewhere, affected the less wealthy nobility, majority of which belonged to the old nobility (Uradel). The decrees, however, did little to protect from the registration of the wealthy usurpers, (families which before the Partitions did not belong to nobility at all). As a result, a large number of families which ancestors were army or civil officials (and who often were of lower social class), was admitted among the ranks of nobility; while a great number of old noble families lost its caste.