Ukrainian archives work hard to keep records safe and introduce a central portal

Anyone watching the news on the Russian war against Ukraine can’t believe the amount of destruction taking place on a daily basis. But Ukrainian archive officials know the importance of the records in their possession.

That’s why the Ukrainian National Guard is protecting the archives.

“The practice of war has shown that there are no safe regions in Ukraine,” said Anatoly Khromov, head of Ukrainian archives on the State Archival Service of Ukraine portal. “Each area is under fire,  so we have very carefully decided when and what can be taken out. … Evacuation does not always save.”

It has been amazing that the Kyiv Regional Archives has posted scanned records six times since the war started in late February. Those updates have included additional filtration files of Kyiv Region residents who were taken as forced laborers by Germany during World War II and more than 100,000 registrations of births, deaths and marriages.

Sadly, Ukrainian archives announced the Soviet-era persecution records located in Chernihiv were destroyed. It is believe that the archives in the Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk regions were relocated by the Russians, according to an announcement made this month.

“The decision to impose sanctions on 15 individuals and 7 legal entities of Russia for actual actions or attempts to steal or illegally use archival documents concerning Crimea and certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is in the final stages,”  Khromov announced this week.

He plans to address the return of those archive records after the country wins the war against Russia, according to this week’s announcement.

Khromov admitted this week that only 5 percent of archive records have been digitized.

But State Archival Service of Ukraine is ready for modernization with a newly launched central portal that is expected to grow with scanned records from throughout the country.

“We have not given up on our plans, and today we can present a pilot version of an important resource that simplifies the lives of archivists and users in real time to millions of users, even during the war” Khromov said. “The digital resources of the three central state archives of Ukraine are presented on a single platform with access through a single window, together with almost 1.5 million full-text scanned copies of archival documents, to which a full-fledged search engine has been created. These are the Central State Archive of the highest authorities and administration of Ukraine, the Central State Archive of Public Associations of Ukraine, the Central State Archive-Museum of Literature and Art of Ukraine.”

That portal with scanned records can be found at here. Kyiv Regional Archives is considering to join this portal. Due to the war, it is not possible to connect other Ukrainian archives to the portal at this time, according to last week’s announcement.

Those who prefer to see scanned records by area from Ukrainian archives should take a look at the Scanned Russian and Ukrainian Archive Records page. It will be regularly updated with links to scanned records. Patience with links to Ukrainian archives is needed as the war has been interfering with Internet connections.

The Scanned Russian and Ukrainian Archive Records page includes links to scanned records of FamilySearch, which began scanning records at Ukrainian archives last summer. The work is expected to continue once it is safe to continue the project.

The page for Ukraine on FamilySearch has been updated several times with scanned records since the war started.

Before FamilySearch began its project of scanning Ukrainian archive records, Alex Krakovsky was busy scanning millions of records. His scanned records can be found here. It took quite the fight with the Ukrainian court system for Krakovsky to scan the records.

Another person posting scanned archive records is Marcin Stręciwilk-Kowal. His collection of scans can be found here.

The future is bright for Ukrainian genealogy as long as Ukrainian archives stays successful in securing the safety of their records. Let’s all pray for an end of this war very soon so Ukraine can have the peace it deserves.

Follow this blog with the top right button to keep up with the latest news in Ukrainian and Russian genealogy.

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More than 1 million records added to the largest WWII soldier database of the former USSR

The Memory of the People database has been filled again with scanned records on those who served in the Soviet Army during WWII.

Records of those who served and died in service have been added to the database here. Thankfully, the database does not require registration and everything can be viewed and downloaded for free.

Those hesitating due to the website being in Russian need to understand that not one English website has this data or record scans. It is highly recommended to download a web browser translator app such as Google Translate or similar to view this site in English.

A video guide can be viewed here for those unfamiliar with Russian to make the database less intimidating.

The database provides detailed information on soldiers (men AND women) that includes full name, date of birth, place of birth, location for call of duty, map of the individual’s battle route and awards received, with photos of awards and scans of original documents. Documents can be saved by clicking on the disk button on the bottom right. Some soldiers have their military photo posted to this database.

Here’s how to take advantage of this database without knowing Russian.

  • Have Google Translate in the next window for translating names and places. The results can be copied and pasted for translation. Downloading the Google Translate app or another web browser translator for your device is highly recommended.
  • If Google Translate doesn’t work for certain names, try Transliterating English to Russian in One Step.
  • Start the search with as much information as possible. If results don’t appear, take away one search keyword at a time.
  • Remember that towns and villages can be spelled different than personally known. The birthplace of my great-grandfather is listed in two different neighborhoods and spelled randomly with an o and a on the end.
  • Open a document for copying and pasting results. Also, keep a list of people, surnames and villages/towns searched in a document.
  • If results can’t be found on direct relatives, try searching for cousins, no matter how distant. It sometimes takes a random cousin to bring new life to research.
  • Remember the importance of patronymic names (middle names based on the father’s first name). If particular people can’t be found, look for people with the same surnames and patronymic names from the same village and town. Those people could be unknown siblings of relatives.
  • Keep a close eye on the results because names of places duplicate throughout the former USSR. You’ll need to know the neighborhood (raiyon) and region (oblast) where your relatives lived.
  • In case typos have occurred, it is recommended to search solely by village or town. Copy and paste the village or town name translated in Russian into the place of birth search box to view everyone who is included in the database from that place.
  • Make screen shots of positive and potential results.

Those who don’t find anything shouldn’t lose hope. Updates to this database are done every year.

In other news about WWII-related databases:

Arolsen Archives: International Center for Nazi Persecution has been working hard to scan its records and posting them online. It is well worth doing another search on this database if your ancestors or relatives were Nazi persecution victims or displaced persons from WWII.

A guide on searching on this database, which has more than 30 million records online, can be found here.

The organization, based in Germany, just announced the processing time for posting its records for online access has increased by 40 times due to the use of artificial intelligence technology. Read about this news here.

Arolsen Archives possesses more than 110 million records on Nazi persecution victims and displaced persons from WWII. The potential to find information online will continue for many years as records go online daily.

Follow this blog with the top right button to stay up-to-date on the latest news on databases and other resources for Russian & Ukrainian genealogy.

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One communist era record completely changes the story of my grandfather

I have not been shy about pursing any communist era records that are open to the public in Russian and Ukrainian archives. My latest find is hitting me with shock while I know I shouldn’t be surprised at all.

It is all started innocently when I e-mailed the local archives where my father’s family lived in southern Russia about whether communist party records were open to the public. The archives director told me the specialized regional archives that has the records, not knowing the emotional horror that would come one month later.

I sent a polite e-mail to the specialized archive, requesting that a search be done for all my blood relatives who lived in the city where my father’s family lived. My paternal grandfather was the sole relative who chose to become a communist party member.

The file of my grandfather had him working at an airplane manufacturing factory in 1935, making me wonder whether he helped build planes that were used in WWII. The archive gave me my grandfather’s communist party file number to help me make a request for his files from the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History in Moscow.

My hope was to find new information on my grandfather, including his work history, to complete the story of his life. My father died right before my 10th birthday so I never had a chance to ask my father about my grandfather.

My mother kept the letters and photos my grandfather sent from Soviet Russia to my father in the USA during the late 1950s until his death in the early 1970s. About 10 years ago, I had my mother translate the letters, written in the finest handwriting with caring words.

I was anxious to see my grandfather’s communist party file to learn more about his life. My cousin in Saint Petersburg paid my bill of 1,224 rubles (about $12 U.S. dollars) to obtain the scans of my grandfather’s files.

I was thrilled when 6 pages of scans with 2 photos came in my e-mail. Complete joy overcame me when I saw the details of his work and military service. I could understand only a portion of the Russian on the scans.

But before I left for work that morning my mother told me of a nightmare she had overnight. My family’s cemetery, where my father and my mother’s family are buried, was flooded, coffins came up with skeletons floating. My mother said she thought the dream meant secrets would come out but I laughed off the dream foolishly. Too many times her dreams have meant nothing to real life.

As soon as I got home, I showed my mother the scans and she could hardly read the scans. Too much time has passed since she has read handwritten Russian.

So, I started retyping anything legible onto this online typewriter and copied and pasted the Russian onto Google. I learned the division where my grandfather served in WWI and then I pasted ОГПУ, which was mentioned three times as his employer.

I started screaming and crying at the same time when I saw the first result on Google. It was a Wikipedia article that started with “The Joint State Political Directorate was the intelligence service and secret police of the Soviet Union from 1923 to 1934.” This agency created the infamous Gulag system, persecuted churches and ran dekulakization campaigns.

For years I have wondered why my grandfather never got in trouble for being in contact with his son in the USA. I contacted the office that had files on people falsely persecuted during the Soviet era several years ago and my grandfather wasn’t one of them. My grandmother’s first husband and 5 brothers were all arrested for false crimes.

My grandfather never attended college or a trade school but he owned a house that had a prize-winning vineyard that was visited by people from many areas of Russia. The house was next to a sea and on the main street of a medium-sized city.

How does a man who grew up dirt poor from a village in Kostroma Region make all this happen??? I cannot look at photos of my grandfather on my bedroom wall facing my bed in the same way anymore. Several times, I have said out loud to the photos, “Pavel, what have you done?”

Now, my mission is to research the “facts” on my grandfather’s communist file. He lied about his birth year, his childhood education and that his parents were dead when he filled out the communist party application.

I know I won’t like what I will find out on my grandfather but this is the unedited truth about what comes with genealogy in the former USSR.

Inspirational posts:
Untraditional source reveals the death of a great-grandfather
An empty-handed search shows the path to an even better discovery
An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled
Years of frustration ends with discovery of one key document


Keeping hope alive for family research during a terrible time

Just a month after I posted about the wonderful collection of Ukrainian and Russian archive records being posted online, Russia invaded Ukraine. My heart has not been the same since Feb. 24.

I have spent more than 10 years finding and connecting with my Ukrainian and Russian cousins. Many of my cousins live in Kyiv and Lviv so I obsessively have been watching the news on the war. I have plenty of cousins in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Smolensk, too. This war hurts me in so many ways because I have grown attached to my Ukrainian and Russian cousins.

How is it possible to even think about genealogy right now? I feel guilty but anything related to family is important to me.

Sparks of hope came when I heard about the activities of the Kyiv Regional State Archives. The archives employees have been scanning away their documents and posting them online. Their work was announced on March 1 and March 7. Their dedication in the worst of times deserves so much respect.

Sadly, FamilySearch had to stop scanning of Ukrainian archive records due to the war. The organization was going full steam ahead. However, the work FamilySearch had done up until the war has been posted online.

Now, Zaporizhzhia Church Books, 1774-1935; Cherkasy Church Books,1734-1930; Odessa Church Books, 1780-1898;  Mykolaiv Church Books, 1770-1930; Chernigov Church Records, 1717-1935; Kharkiv Church Records, 1710-1938  and Dnipro Church Books, 1780-1930 are available. Many of these records also have been indexed for searching abilities. (Links to other scanned records from FamilySearch are posted on the Scanned Russian and Ukrainian Archive Records page.)

Not only had FamilySearch been active in preserving Ukrainian archives, Alex Krakovsky has been scanning in archives for a few years. His scans can be found here. Krakovsky took on the Ukrainian court system to scan archive records for free access. He has managed to find many records that have never been seen by the public. Anyone with Ukrainian ancestry should know his name for what he has done for the Ukrainian community.

In Germany, Arolsen Archives-International Center on Nazi Persecution is showing its support for the Ukrainian people and seeking people to help transcribe its  WWII Nazi persecution records. Many Ukrainians faced Nazi persecution and the quicker these records can be transcribed, more families can have closure on their family’s stories. Learn more about the project here.

Out of curiosity, I searched for my Ukrainian and Russian family in the database and found many more records on them. It is well worth doing another search in this database. It is English, free of registration and very easy to use.

The big news in genealogy has been the upcoming release of the 1950 U.S. Census on April 1. Official information on its release is on the National Archives website. My hope is to post a guide on searching the census once indexing is completed to help those with ancestry from the former USSR.

May peace come very soon to Ukraine. God bless all the people fighting for Ukraine and those who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees and made donations to help the refugees!

Follow this blog with the top right button to catch the latest news and resources for Ukrainian and Russian genealogy.

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Scanned records of Ukraine’s partisans from WWII go online

The flow of records from WWII going online seems to have no end.

Now, 28 large books listing the partisans from Ukraine who fought in WWII have been posted on the Memory Book of Ukraine. The website does not require any registration to view its free scans, which can be easily downloaded. Another book also exists for those who served under Major General Mikhail Ivanovich Naumov here.

The information provided on partisans include- full name, data of birth, nationality and date of service. Don’t forget the middle name is patronymic (in honor of the father’s first name).

Here is a description of the books translated into English by Google Translate (not perfect but better than nothing). I have also translated the books’ names into English here for those who know the groups where their relatives had served during WWII.

The books appear to be typed in Russian and so do descriptions of these books. (My deepest apologies if the books are truly in Ukrainian.)  Those who don’t know Russian can continue reading for directions on using these books without knowing the language. Trying to find relatives in these records on your own is better than paying too much to a researcher who will be laughing to the bank. Typed records are so much easier to read than the script ones.

Here’s how to go through these books without knowing Russian:

  1. Before going through the books, use Google Translate  or this website to switch full names in this order- last, patronymic and first name. You will need to hand write the names or try to remember how the names appear for looking through the books.
  2. Click on the image of the book from here.
  3. Click on the work Следующая directly above the top right edge of the book to go to the next page. The word directly above the left edge Предыдущая will allow you to go back.
  4. You will know the list has started once you find the page that says СПИСОК in the top middle.
  5. Here is the order of the Russian alphabet: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я
  6. If the surnames being searched are farther into the alphabet, it will get annoying to keep clicking Следующая. To get faster through the books,  go up to the URL in the address line and change the number after ?image= no more than another 10. The change cannot increase or decrease the number of digits. For example, if you are on page 95, just go up to page 99. If you go up to page 100, the scans will disappear.
  7. Once you no longer see Следующая in the top right corner of the book, you will know the book has ended.
  8. To get back to the other books, scroll down the page and click on Вернуться к альбому on the bottom left of the book’s edge. It will take take you here to the other books.

I highly recommend downloading any page that could have information on potential relatives and saving the file under names that note the source of the scanned pages.

Those who were lucky enough to find relatives in these books should try copying and pasting their relatives’ names and group names into Google. It’s worth a try to see whether other websites have valuable information and photos.

These books are only a portion of the wonderful resources on this website, which also has a sampling of scanned records for prisoners of war here. The records aren’t all typed. The Ukrainian Book of Memory is an incredible resource that could have the records you thought never could be online and these are all FREE.

Follow this blog with the top right button to catch the latest news on resources and databases for genealogy in the former USSR.

Related posts:
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Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy