Venturing into microfilmed church records with success

Until recently, I have been pretty stubborn about reading church records on my own. Thanks to Latvian archives posting online church records from Bialystok, formerly in Russia and now in Poland, I have developed confidence to do the research myself.

Not many former USSR church records are posted online. But the Mormon church has microfilmed so many records that genealogical research of church records can be done dirt cheap. One microfilm costs $7.50 to rent for two months through this website.

I have lost count of the number of microfilm I have ordered from the Mormon church. I have not been able to claim any success until last week.

My visit to a nearby Mormon church Family History Center uncovered my great-great-great-great-grandfather married at age 60, a fact no one in my family knew. His marriage record had the full names of his deceased parents and reconfirmed his birth year and place. Now I am hoping to find his parents’ death records in western Poland archives to go back further in time.

I am finally making some major breakthroughs, thanks to getting out of my comfort zones. When I started my search for missing relatives and research into my ancestry,  I was using English to search the Internet. That got me hardly anywhere.

I am finally comfortable with using Google Translate to search the Internet in Russian and post messages in Russian on genealogy forums. Now, I need learn to get more comfortable with reading some of the bad writing in church records so I can make breakthroughs on my own.

Luckily, I got “Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History Research” by Jonathan D. Shea as a Christmas present. With Poland being a melting pot of Poles, Germans, Jews and Russians, the book is useful for those researching Russian ancestry.

The book shows how to read Russian church records, in addition to writing to archives and villages for family information. The Russian list for occupations, family relationships, vital record jargon, numbers, dates, time expressions, months, numbers and days of the week is remarkable. This book is expensive and worthwhile at $42.99 but it may be available at some libraries.

Russian genealogy is an exciting adventure but it requires getting out of comfort zones. Progress in Russian genealogical research will be seen once the attitude of “I can’t do that” is gone.

2 thoughts on “Venturing into microfilmed church records with success

  1. I’m impressed by the additional difficulty of researching in a foreign language particularly one written in Cyrillic. I’ve done some research in Dutch but it’s not nearly as difficult. Good luck!


    1. Thanks. The Russian language has changed over time so the records can be hard to read and the handwriting can be horrible. The same with German. There is old script that is much different from today’s writing.


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