Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum

So where are all the Russians and Ukrainians excited to find their long-lost family and discover the stories of their ancestors? There are lots of forums online but only one forum can claim to be the best and most popular in the Russian-speaking world- All Russia Family Tree.

For the English-speaking world, the fact that the forum is in Russian doesn’t mean it is impossible to use. I’ve posted a video here on how to use this forum with Google Translate.

I highly encourage everyone at least to visit All Russia Family Tree in English. Thanks to this forum, I have found cousins on four different lines. Two cousins sought ME out.

So if you are brave enough to challenge yourself to register as a user on this forum, here’s my top 10 tips to make this forum the jackhammer for your Russian and Ukrainian genealogy brickwalls.

  1. Use very simple English and translate it into Russian, using Google Translate, when posting to the forum.
  2. Bookmark all your posts and check daily for responses to your posts. The forum doesn’t send update messages when someone responds to your posts.
  3. Look for forum members searching for family here. The English translation is provided for each name. The newer listings can be found here. Both lists are translated into English and are very useful.
  4. Provide links to genealogy blogs and photo albums at the bottom of each post.
  5. Be cautious if you get a private message from a researcher. Check out their profile and posts to see whether they are legit.
  6. Look through the forum to find all the areas where you can get help and find useful resources.
  7. Do not post the same message on various areas of the forums to increase your chances of getting responses. It will only increase your chances of being removed as a spammer.
  8. Thank anyone who responds to your posts, even when the responses don’t provide the information or help you were seeking.
  9. Take advantage of the search engine for the forum. It is a great resource for finding forum members researching the same surname or villages.
  10. Make sure to have your profile as friendly and complete as possible.

Any questions? Post them below or join the Facebook group for this blog.

Related posts:
New Russian cousins found again!
The priceless value of a sixth cousin

Discovery of 18th century family farm opens door to family’s mark in cultural history

It takes piece by piece to finally discover the gems from my family’s history. Now after a few years, I can pinpoint the location of my family’s 18th century farm on Google Maps.

Thanks to the hard work of a local historical society, I finally have the history of my paternal 5th great-grandparents’ farm from 1794. That farm is now a small village noted on Wikipedia here.

My 5th-great-grandfather Alexsei Kirsanov was a Don Cossack major who was granted land along the Sal River in southern Russia and started the farm. Less than a decade later, he died and his wife Martha was noted as wife of the village mayor.

Today, the farm is a healthy village of more than 500 people with a school, cultural center and medical centers. So hope exists that this village could still exist when I am able to visit the ancestral roots of my paternal grandmother’s family.


Then even more family history came my way. I noticed the name of another village detailed with a history carried the same name as the surname of my 4th-great-grandmother on the same webpage. I learned that a distant cousin- 7th cousin  Lt. Col. Ivan Mikhailovich Kuznetsov- donated his land for the construction of a church after his death. His grandfather was my 6th-great-grandfather.

kuznetsov church credit:

Thanks to my 6th cousin in the USA,  I was able to connect this distant cousin from the 18th century to my family. The family of my 6th cousin wrote about their Don Cossack ancestry in a book after visiting archives in St. Petersburg.

That research resulted in me  finding the booklet written by researcher Sergei Koryagin on my Don Cossack Kuznetsov family back to the early 1700s for a mere $10 US dollars.

So how did this journey all start? I stopped researching only in English and switched my journey to Russian. After finding the All Russian Family Tree Forum, translated into English by Google Translate, I discovered my 6th cousin (connected to me by a 5th-great-grandfather) with all the information one state way.

That’s all it took for this domino effect. Get out of your comfort zone and doors will keep opening to the history of your ancestors.

Related posts:
Discovering Don Cossack ancestry the easy way

The priceless value of a sixth cousin

Get sanity during the holiday season with a simple form

The holiday season is on its way but already stores are convinced the holidays are already here. Nothing like the holiday season stress mixed with intense genealogy research to cause panic that genealogy could take a back seat in the next several weeks.

So organization is the key to keeping sane while dealing with the holiday season AND genealogy.

Here is my Miller Sanity Checklist for Documenting Immigrants. 

Miller genealogy sanity checklist (best viewed in Web Layout under View in word processing programs)

Download this form to keep track of which documents you need to find and already have on your relatives. This form will keep you on track on what really needs to be done and will remind you how much you’ve already accomplished.

One great tip: Add a date to each check mark to remind you how much you have accomplished over time. Then print out the form and place it somewhere visible for genealogy rainy days to see your accomplishments.

Related  posts:
Documents that open doors to information (on A- and C-Files)
Guide for success in obtaining Alien Case Files

The User-Friendly Guide to Find A Grave for Russian and Ukrainian Genealogy

findagraveFind A Grave is an easy resource to use for those with longtime roots in the English-speaking world and western Europe. For those with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry, the challenge in using Find A Grave  starts immediately with determining how to spell names of relatives who used the Cyrillic alphabet in the old country.

Thanks to different ideas about spelling Russian and Ukrainian names in English, finding relatives on Find a Grave is not as simple as a few clicks.

So here are top 10 tips to untangle the mysteries of finding relatives from Russia and Ukraine on Find a Grave.

  1. Don’t eliminate results based on birth dates. So many issues complicate how Russians and Ukrainians declare their birthdays. In Russian Orthodox cemeteries, some families post their relatives’ birth dates by the European format of date.month.year. Sometimes that format can be misunderstood by Find A Grave volunteers posting the information. Immigrants also lied about their birth dates to appear younger in their new homeland. Others immigrants had their birth dates changed unintentionally during the rush of processing immigrants during and after WWII. Then some immigrants changed their old Julian calendar birth date to the current Gregorian calendar birth date.
  2. Use as few letters as possible to spell the last name. Romanov also can be spelled Romanow and Romanoff. Trying to guess the correct endings of surnames is a hard gamble to win. Search using the portion of names that most likely don’t have any variations.
  3. If results are not appearing for a non-complicated surname with a first name, consider using the person’s nickname.
  4. Consider changes for names of towns before eliminating good matches. The two world wars changed country borders and names of towns. Research your relatives’ birthplaces to see whether they would be listed under new names or even other countries.
  5. Be open to unusual spellings of names. Lydia also can be spelled as Lidia, Lidiya, Lidija. The variations sometimes only make sense to those with the name.
  6. Patronymic names may be confused for maiden names of women. (Patronymic names are middle names derived from the father’s first name, i.e. Nikolaevna, Sergeevna and Ivanovna.) If the maiden name is the only incorrect information for a good match, check whether the patronymic name was mistaken for the maiden name.
  7. Remember these rules for variations in spelling names: a V could be changed into W and FF, Y could be changed to J and IY could be shortened to I and Y or changed to IJ.
  8. Consider shortenings of surnames or major changes in names for assimilate into the new homeland. One gravestone in a Russian Orthodox cemetery lists a man’s surname as Peck when the true translation of the name should have been Peskovtsev.
  9. Confirm a match as the person being searched by using Legacy, a free online obituary service.
  10. When search results become useless, try a search engine with keyword and keyword site: in the search box to avoid the search restrictions on Find A Grave.

Related post:

One website could become the Russian version of Find A Grave

Don’t let this easy mistake implode your family tree

A DNA test and small paper trail face off to complete a WWII love story

My second cousin was only told of her father’s name and military title during WWII. The mother is mum about the mystery father who served in the Soviet Army for the Battle of Berlin.

The daughter of my cousin asked me if I knew anything about her grandfather. Relatives of my grandmother’s generation repeated the same story about this war love story.

The grandmother of my younger cousin got pregnant by a Russian soldier. She disappeared soon afterwards. A Russian soldier came to my great-grandparents’ apartment, begging them to come to communist-controlled East Berlin to pick up their daughter. The soldier told them their daughter was not returned to the USSR by sheer luck.

Too fearful of being forced back to the USSR and killed in the gulags for escaping war-torn Kiev, my great-grandparents stayed home and died not knowing what happened to their daughter and unborn grandchild. Was that visiting soldier the father of my second cousin?

Not only is the grandfather a mystery, but I was quite the surprise for my cousin’s family. I appeared out of nowhere four years ago with the help of the Russian Red Cross. My older cousin didn’t know her mother had a brother and sister.

After getting to know my “new cousins” for a few years, I finally popped the question to my second cousin’s daughter: “Will your mother take a DNA test?” A few weeks later, my cousin said yes with enthusiasm.

The time involved to get the Family Tree DNA test back to the lab in Texas was quite long. The package took two months to arrive in western Russia. Apparently, the horses delivering the mail also were busy with a circus tour.

My cousin got busy with her family life and waited several weeks to mail back the test. Thankfully, it took only less than 3 weeks for the test to arrive at the lab. Family Tree DNA quickly processed the test in a mere 16 days.

I was so hopeful to get close matches for my cousin. Family Tree DNA is the only large company that sends DNA genealogy tests to Russia and Ukraine, making it the best choice for finding relatives living in the former USSR.

My cousin has 27 pages of matches, giving her almost 300 matches. Her closest matches are 18 2nd to 4th cousins and 39 4th to remote cousins. I immediately uploaded her DNA data to Gedmatch to find other matches from Ancestry DNA and 23andme for free.

None of the matches on Family Tree DNA nor Gedmatch are close enough to ask the awkward question: “Do you have a grandfather who served in WWII in Berlin in spring 1945?”

This mystery is going to take more than a DNA test to be solved.

Thanks to the crafty and knowledgeable forum members on All Russia Family Tree, I learned about the only man who could have been the mystery Russian soldier. More than two dozen men with the same name served in the war but only one served in the Battle of Berlin.

The main Russian military archives released a boatload of information on the soldier at no charge- the soldier’s birth year, birth place, place of residence in 1987,  wife’s name and her birth year and their daughters’ names and birth years.

So here starts my personal challenge to see whether the DNA test or the small paper trail will help find the birth father’s family 70 years later.

Related post:

Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

An inside look into U.S. National Archives’ best research gem for WWII-era immigrants

For years, I have been glowing about the importance of Alien Case Files, possessed by the U.S. National Archives. There is nothing like a nice stack of documents filled with information on individual immigrants in one simple file.

Anyone wondering about relatives or ancestors who fled war-torn Europe during and after World War II should consider looking into obtaining Alien Case Files on their family. Only a small portion of records included in these files can be found on any online genealogy website, including

So here is a sneak peek into the life of Helen, my relative by marriage. Born in Ukraine, she fell in love in Russia, had her heart broken by her husband, escaped the USSR with her two children with her ex-husband and his new wife before a major battle between the Soviet Union and Germany occurred in her new hometown.

She was eventually captured by the German army and forced to fix the railroad damaged in the war. The American Army liberated her and she traveled through western Europe before coming abroad to live the American dream.

Her Alien Case File below shows how much can be discovered on WWII-era immigrants. Not all immigrants will have the same amount of records on them but Alien Case Files are the most complete records on immigrants in U.S. National Archives. I deleted several personal details in these scans for privacy reasons.

If you would like to find Alien Case Files on your family, read this FAQ on increasing chances of success in finding these records.


Guide for success in obtaining Alien Case Files

Hitting the jackpot on researching WWII-era immigrants takes a few simple steps. It will cost around $20-$55 per immigrant being researched. That’s a price well below the value of the documents filled in the U.S. Alien Case Files.

Here’s answers to general questions on obtaining these files.

What information will I need to obtain the files on my relative?

It is most important to know the person’s full name, birth date or birth year, birth country or city and immigration year. Any extra information such as profession, old addresses, names of relatives living in the same household increases the chances of finding the correct file. Various known spellings of the immigrant’s name also are a great help.

It is highly recommended to first obtain the immigrant’s naturalization record from regional archives of U.S. National Archives. That record will likely include the immigrant’s Alien Number.

What is the importance of the Alien Number?

The number will determine where the Alien Case File can be found. In order to search for an Alien Case File through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program, the number must be below 8 million.

Files with numbers higher than 8 million must be requested with a Freedom of Information Act request, using this form. That form needs to be sent to National Records Center (NRC), FOIA/PA Office, P.O. Box 648010, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010 or Do not mentioned genealogy as the reason for requesting file. Your request will be rejected and you will be referred to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program if you mention genealogy on the form.

Is there an online database for the Alien Case Files?

An index of available files for immigrants born no later than 1910 can be found on here. If you don’t have an paid account, visit, free and without a registration requirement, to search the index here.

If I find files of relatives in the index, where can I get the files?

Send an e-mail message to U.S. National Archives in Kansas City at View this page for more information on the files at Kansas City.

If my relatives are not found in the index, where I can send my search request?

Visit this page for the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services Genealogy Program to see whether your relatives’ files would be eligible to be included in the genealogy program. If your relative’s file fall within the criteria, go here to make an index search request for $20. Results of the search will be sent by postal mail in a few weeks and then the located files must be ordered for $20-$35 each.

My relatives were born after 1910 and are not eligible to be included in the genealogy program. How do I get their files?

Fill out this form and send it to National Records Center (NRC), FOIA/PA Office
P.O. Box 648010, Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010 or . Don’t put down genealogy under Part 3 for 1. Purpose (Optional).

It is highly recommended to have the immigrant’s Alien Number, if possible.

You will receive a letter, stating your request number. That number can be used to check the status update page daily to see the placement of your requests. That website’s address will be listed in the letter.

The form is free to file. It could cost up to $25 for each file, which is sent on a CD in a PDF format. I have not paid once for Alien Case Files through the FOIA/PA office.

How long does it take to get the files?

It should take less than a month to get the files from Kansas City. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services Genealogy Program tries to send files within 90 days. Results of search requests using the Freedom of Information Act form take several weeks.

Do I have to prove ancestry to the immigrant whose file I am requesting?

No. The only requirements for requesting these files are the person whose file is being requested must be deceased and their death must be proven if they were born after 1915. Proof of death can be shown with copies or scans of obituaries, Social Security Death Index listings and death records.

Can living people get their own Alien Case Files?

Yes. They must prove their identity with their birth record, driver’s license or passport.

If you have more questions, post them in the comments section below or e-mail me at bepa.miller at