Anyone researching their Russian and Ukrainian roots can make a major mistake when putting together their family tree.
So let me test you. This name- Svetlana Vladimirovna Krasnikova- is written on a document. What is Svetlana’s maiden name?
If you guessed Vladimirovna, you are wrong.
This is the easiest mistake that could make your family tree a pile of shallow branches that will collapse onto themselves. Vladimirovna is Svetlana’s patronymic name.
What is a patronymic name? This is something I had to learn when I was a teenager and had to give my full name to work for the first time. Thanks to being born to former USSR citizens, I have a patronymic name after my first name.
So, now you have guessed this is a “middle name”. It is special middle name that isn’t picked from a book nor given in honor of a favorite relative or friend. My middle name- Nikolaevna- tells people that I am daughter of Nikolai.
I still get too excited at times that I have found maiden names to add to my family tree. It takes time to understand the difference between patronymic names and surnames.
Just a few years ago, I had to call my mother to ask her whether my great-grandmother’s middle name on the back of a professional photo was her patronymic or maiden name.
It’s hard to contain the excitement that you’ve found a maiden name in Russian or Ukrainian records. Too many times on church records women are only identified by given and patronymic names. So finding maiden names is quite the thrill.
Here are the main rules for identifying patronymic names. For women, the name ends with evna, yevna, ovna or ichna. For men, the name finishes off with ovich, yevich or yich, according to Wikipedia’s page on patronymic names.
The difference between surnames and patronymic names also can be seen in these examples: Ivanovna (female patronymic) and Ivanova (female surname), Matveyevna (female patronymic) and Matveyeva (female surname), and Nikolayevich (male patronymic) and Nikolayev (male surname).
I have learned over the years about the perks of having patronymic names even when surnames are missing. A crafty Russian researcher found my great-grandmother’s maiden just on her given and patronymic names. That resulted in a Moscow man finding me on Russian forums and confirming us as relatives through a great-great-grandfather.
A patronymic name is not as great as a surname on the family tree but the gift of this unique name is knowing the father’s name just from a “middle name”.