An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled

I thought I had uncovered everything possible on my great-grandfather Vasil. So much money has been spent researching his short 48-year life. What else could possibly be discovered after eight intensive years of research?

Just out of curiosity, I started searching for more information on his technical college in eastern Ukraine on Google. Quickly I found old photos of the school where he learned about mining.

One website had a great photo of the school property and then I scrolled down to discover graduation photos. Then there he was in the class of 1884 with his long beard and receding hairline.

I couldn’t stop smiling and immediately called the only living grandchild of my great-grandfather. She really needed the good news as she is dealing with an infection affecting her health and mood.

It’s hard to believe that I found the college graduation photo of my great-grandfather from 1884. This is all thanks to a museum that has been taking care of the album of graduation photos.

The photo has been online for two years, waiting for me to discover it. I never even thought to pursue graduation photos of my ancestors. Years of research in Ukraine never made me think that this could even be available online.

It took nothing special to find this photo of my great-grandfather at age 20. I only searched the school’s name and the word museum in Russian on Google, thanks to help from Google Translate. My basic Russian skills from my childhood have been built up through years of researching my ancestors from Ukraine and Russia.

Discovery genealogy gems didn’t start until I began using Google Translate to maneuver around Russian and Ukrainian websites. First, there was a lot of copying and pasting into Google Translate. Now, I also use Google Translate’s browser app to see websites automatically in English.

This latest discovery makes me wonder about what else is waiting for me. Genealogy is growing in popularity in the former USSR. More information and records will become available online as time goes on.

Those who switch their research from English to Russian and Ukrainian can turn their genealogy research from a never-ending brick wall to the yellow brick road. It just takes a small brave step to try Russian and Ukrainian websites.

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New WWII Soviet Army database gives faces to veterans

Russia will be going all out for the 75th anniversary of WWII’s Allied victory. That benefits anyone who had ancestors or relatives in the Soviet Army during WWII.

Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has created a new database called Memory Road, offering photos of WWII Soviet Army veterans.

The database was started in the late spring and has been growing each day by several hundred. Memory Road is close to having 300,000 veterans documented with their personal photos.

Each page on veterans has a link to the Memory of the People database, which details 18 million awards given to Soviet Army servicepeople.

It is well worth checking if anyone has posted photos of relatives and ancestors who served in WWII. Some people have posted additional information on the lives of their relatives who served in the Soviet Army.

The new database also is perfect for anyone who has photos of unfamiliar Soviet Army soldiers who need their service story completed more fully.

Memory Road can be searched just by first name, patronymic name (middle name in honor of the father such as Ivanovich and Vasilevich), or last name. This works great when exact full name spellings are not known.

Here’s how to use the database:

  1. If you don’t know Russian, use Google Translate or Stephen Morse’s website for translating names into Russian.
  2. Copy the names into the box that says найти героя on the top right.
  3. Open each result link in a new window. If you don’t, the website requires you to restart the search.
  4. Copy and paste all text into Google Translate to see it in English.

If useful matches aren’t found, repeat the steps a few times a month. This database is growing on a daily basis.

Memory Road is likely just the beginning of more online material on WWII soldiers. It wouldn’t surprise me if a large collection of Soviet Army military records is added online next year in honor of the 75th anniversary.

Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about news on important databases.

Related posts:
Millions of records added to WWII database (with a guide for searching the 18 million file database)
Free database on WWII soldiers grows by more than 5 million records
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Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker

 

Guide to finding the mystery family villages of Russia and Ukraine

The moment that the name of a family village is uncovered the excitement builds. Then, searching for that village on a 21st century map can seem as challenging as if the village never existed.

Before rushing to find the village or town on a map, it’s time to do some more research. Maybe the village or town still exists but the name has changed over time. Or the village switched borders within the former USSR countries.

Here are some web pages (all in English) that will help uncover the locations of mystery family villages and towns.

Russia:

  1. List of renamed cities and towns in Russia
  2. List of cities and towns in Russia

  3. List of cities of the Russian Empire in 1897

Ukraine:

  1. List of renamed cities in Ukraine

  2. List of Ukrainian toponyms that were changed as part of decommunization in 2016

  3. List of villages and towns depopulated of Jews during the Holocaust

  4.  JewishGen’s database on Ukrainian villages

Russia & Ukraine:

  1. List of ghost towns by country (Russia is listed under Asia.)

Galicia:

  1. Galician Town Locator

East Prussian towns now in Russia:

  1. List of cities and towns in East Prussia

Ruthenian (Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth):

  1. List of villages now in Zakarpatska Oblast, Ukraine (formerly the Kingdom of Hungary)

Carpatho-Rusyn (also known as Dolinyans,  Boykos,  Hutsuls  and Lemkos):

Root Seekers Guide To The Homeland

German settlements in Russia:

  1. Germans from Russia Settlement Locations

View this website on Germans from Russia for more information on these location.

If luck isn’t struck with these web pages, try posting for help on these Facebook genealogy groups. Those who had luck should search online for any additional information to help find the correct village or town on a 21st century map.

Feel free to post more useful web pages in the comments section.

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Database gives closure on anti-Polish terror victims of the USSR

Finding information on Polish relatives and ancestors hurt by the anti-Polish terror in the Soviet Union can take a lot of effort, but one website has made it as easy as a few clicks.

The Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding and the Institute of National Remembrance created a portal to give closure to relatives of anti-Polish terror victims.

“Moscow Memorial Association says at least 139,835 people were repressed, of whom no less than 111,991 were shot in the back of the head and 28,774 were sentenced to stay in the labor camps,” according to the portal.

Sadly, Russia doesn’t want to release all records on the Polish terror victims but this portal is the most complete database online.

Here is how to use the portal for searching. Imię is first name; Nazwisko is surname;  Imię ojca is father’s first name; and Data urodzenia is birthdate (day/month/year).

Once the information is entered, click on wyszukaj to search the database. If results don’t appear, try different spellings and fewer search criteria.

For those who don’t know Polish, the portal also can be searched in Russian. Имя is first name; Фамилия is surname; Отчество is father’s first name; Дата рождения is birthdate (day/month/year); and поиск is the search button.

Anywho who doesn’t know Russian nor Polish can copy and paste the results into Google Translate to view them in English.

Once results are found, don’t be shy about searching for further information on Google in Russian or Polish to see whether more information is available.

Related posts:
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Declassified file reveals relative’s full story on journey to the gulags
Secret files help complete the life story of five brothers

A Russian-American view into 23andme’s new country regional ethnicity breakdown

I was excited when I heard 23andme is breaking down ethnicity by country regions in eastern Europe. Years of research shows my ancestry is mostly Russian and some German ancestry from Poland.

The results from 23andme were surprising but not in a good way. With so many Russian lines researched back to the 1600s, I only saw one birth region of a great-grandparent- Tartarstan- and the other 4 regions were so far removed from my ancestors’ birthplaces.

One great-grandmother was born in the Russian Empire, but she had extensive German ancestry. Her birthplace now sits in eastern Poland.

23andme did find ancestry from her paternal grandmother’s region and another region was near the birth region of her paternal grandfather.

Due to missing records for the areas of Poland where my German ancestors lived, I cannot do more thorough research on those ancestors. The two other regions 23andme claims as my ancestors’ regions in Poland are so far away from where documents place them.

23andme gives the most specific ethnicity breakdown but it doesn’t match documented research of my ancestors. Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage provide the broadest ethnicity breakdowns. Ancestry has more specific information on ethnicity but it’s not going to break down any walls.

So far, it seems these DNA tests are better at finding relatives than serving as a crystal ball for where Eastern European ancestors once lived.

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A Russian-American’s inside view of the new AncestryDNA test
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Ancestry releases important database on WWII displaced persons

Researching relatives and ancestors who survived WWII is getting even more easier this summer, thanks to Ancestry.com.

The second newest WWII-related database is Africa, Asia and Europe, Passenger Lists of Displaced Persons, 1946-1971, a resource on 1.7 million people. Arolsen Archives (formerly the International Tracing Service) provided the document scans on Holocaust victims and survivors, Nazi forced laborers and refugees.

The documents in the database provide first and last name, nationality, country of birth, religion, martial status, gender, age or birth date, country of last residence, job title, departure date, departure place, resettlement camp, arrival place and destination on immigrants.

Here is a sample document from the database:

These documents cannot be found online elsewhere. Last week, Ancestry posted Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 with 10.1 million records also from Arolsen Archives.

Just two months ago, Arolsen Archives added 10 million records to its own database, totaling the records to 13 million. That database doesn’t involve any fees nor registration.

Anyone who has relatives or ancestors who were displaced by WWII should search for records in these databases. It takes one new piece of information to make breakthroughs. Sometimes, the breakthrough could be a different spelling of a first name.

Related posts:
Ancestry.com quietly adds incredible WWII database
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Ancestry.com quietly adds incredible WWII database

The summer can be a quiet time for genealogy research until a new database appears online.

Out of curiosity to see if any new documents have appeared on Ancestry.com for my immigrant relatives, I discovered “Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947”.

The incredible database of 10.1 million documents, obtained from Arolsen Archives- International Center on Nazi Persecution in Germany, provides names, birthdates, birthplaces, nationalities and addresses of foreigners present in Germany from 1939-1947 and Nazi persecution victims.

Here is a sample document from the database:

I highly recommend searching for any relatives or ancestors who could have been in Germany during 1939-1947. I was surprised the seven documents I found on my mother’s family were new online.

Arolsen Archives- International Center on Nazi Persecution has 13 million documents on Nazi persecution victims and war refugees in its database. The documents on my relatives posted to Ancestry aren’t available on that database.

To begin the search on this database, start here. The results can be narrowed down by first and last names, birthdates, birthplaces and relatives’ names.

Here is the database narrowed down by ethnic groups: Jewish, Polish, Soviet citizens (people from the USSR were lumped together), Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Hungarian, French, Bulgarian, Greek, Yugoslavian and Italian.

Since the database comes from Germany, y’s will be turned into j’s and v’s into w’s. I’ve also seen g’s turned into z’s and incorrect vowels within names.

This database could piece together family stories from WWII. With the 75th anniversary of WWII’s finale coming, many more records are likely coming online from Arolsen Archives. This blog will post when more records become available online.

Related posts:
10 million records added to WWII victims database
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Newest Ancestry.com database will turn brickwalls into dust