The User-Friendly Guide to Find A Grave for Russian and Ukrainian Genealogy

findagraveFind A Grave is an easy resource to use for those with longtime roots in the English-speaking world and western Europe. For those with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry, the challenge in using Find A Grave  starts immediately with determining how to spell names of relatives who used the Cyrillic alphabet in the old country.

Thanks to different ideas about spelling Russian and Ukrainian names in English, finding relatives on Find a Grave is not as simple as a few clicks.

So here are top 10 tips to untangle the mysteries of finding relatives from Russia and Ukraine on Find a Grave.

  1. Don’t eliminate results based on birth dates. So many issues complicate how Russians and Ukrainians declare their birthdays. In Russian Orthodox cemeteries, some families post their relatives’ birth dates by the European format of date.month.year. Sometimes that format can be misunderstood by Find A Grave volunteers posting the information. Immigrants also lied about their birth dates to appear younger in their new homeland. Others immigrants had their birth dates changed unintentionally during the rush of processing immigrants during and after WWII. Then some immigrants changed their old Julian calendar birth date to the current Gregorian calendar birth date.
  2. Use as few letters as possible to spell the last name. Romanov also can be spelled Romanow and Romanoff. Trying to guess the correct endings of surnames is a hard gamble to win. Search using the portion of names that most likely don’t have any variations.
  3. If results are not appearing for a non-complicated surname with a first name, consider using the person’s nickname.
  4. Consider changes for names of towns before eliminating good matches. The two world wars changed country borders and names of towns. Research your relatives’ birthplaces to see whether they would be listed under new names or even other countries.
  5. Be open to unusual spellings of names. Lydia also can be spelled as Lidia, Lidiya, Lidija. The variations sometimes only make sense to those with the name.
  6. Patronymic names may be confused for maiden names of women. (Patronymic names are middle names derived from the father’s first name, i.e. Nikolaevna, Sergeevna and Ivanovna.) If the maiden name is the only incorrect information for a good match, check whether the patronymic name was mistaken for the maiden name.
  7. Remember these rules for variations in spelling names: a V could be changed into W and FF, Y could be changed to J and IY could be shortened to I and Y or changed to IJ.
  8. Consider shortenings of surnames or major changes in names for assimilate into the new homeland. One gravestone in a Russian Orthodox cemetery lists a man’s surname as Peck when the true translation of the name should have been Peskovtsev.
  9. Confirm a match as the person being searched by using Legacy, a free online obituary service.
  10. When search results become useless, try a search engine with keyword and keyword site: in the search box to avoid the search restrictions on Find A Grave.

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