Once someone says genealogy, one thing that usually comes to mind is Ancestry.com.
Familysearch.org, a website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a great resource to find distant family from the former USSR. A Russian relative of my great-great-grandmother’s sister, who had German ancestry, found my family tree and contacted me. I never expected to find her family or learn my great-great-grandaunt had married a Cossack. I also found another distant cousin on familysearch.org.
So here are answers to typical questions about familysearch.org.
How much does it cost to use familysearch.org?
The website is completely free, a miracle in this time.
What is involved for registration?
You will be asked for your full name, gender and two e-mail addresses. You will not receive donation requests from the Mormon church or get spam from Mormon-related organizations.
What can I find on familysearch.org for Russian and Ukrainian ancestry?
The website has four main areas- records, family trees, catalog of microfilmed records and digitized books. There are more than 10 million searchable records on people who were born, married and had died in Russia, another 1.3 million for Ukraine, 62,000 for Belarus, 33,000 for Estonia and 679,000 for Lithuania. The section for family trees has more 400,00 people from Russia, 210,000 from Ukraine, 20,000 from Belarus, 50,000 from Estonia and 22,000 from Lithuania. Results come up as record extractions and scanned records.
The books section can be searched with any keyword in English. Searches by surname and village name could bring up some interesting material. The catalog of microfilm shows all the church and civil records the Mormon church has microfilmed worldwide, including the former USSR. Anyone can order the microfilm at a low fee and view them at a nearby family history center of a Mormon church.
How can I contact someone who has information on a relative?
Right now, only a username is listed for those who submitted family trees. But many usernames include last names. Before, postal addresses were also listed. A keyword search on Google may help track down people who posted family trees. Familysearch.org soon will launch a new website that allows collaboration on family trees similar to ancestry.com.
How can I submit my family trees?
The link to upload family trees is familysearch.org/upload/trees. Anyone can submit their family trees. It takes several months to see family trees posted onto familysearch.org. Make sure gedcom files are in English. I also recommend uploading gedcoms for one main surname each and listing places of birth, marriage and death in the town/city names known at that time. Not everyone knows the current names for towns and cities.
What about forums? Does familysearch.org have forums for the former USSR?
The site has forums but only one for eastern Europe. The forum is active so it is a good resource.
What else can be found on familysearch.org?
The site has guides for Russian genealogy and Ukrainian genealogy while it works on creating more genealogy pages on other independent republics of the former USSR. The search page on familysearch.org also helps find many more resources on genealogy on the site.