Guide for spelling Russian and Ukrainian names to break those solid brickwalls

It gets exciting to discover an unknown Russian or Ukrainian relative but then the excitement turns into frustration when more information can’t be found.

The back of a photo may identify a man as Valya but trying to find information on Valya turns into a search into a man who doesn’t appear to ever have existed.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the differences between Russian and Ukrainian first names and nicknames.

This Useful English webpage gives a great list for spelling Russian first names with nicknames in English and Russian. The list starts at the middle of the page.

For those researching Ukrainian first names, try this website. Ukrainians and Russians have similar first names so make sure to also check out the Russian lists.

The challenge with Russian names continues when “middle names” are considered. Seeing a photo of a man identified as Valya Ivanovich doesn’t mean that is his full name. Ivanovich is a patronymic name, which is derived from the father’s first name, so his father was Ivan.

Useful English gives some examples of patronymic names under the men’s first names. It is very important to not confuse patronymic names with last names. Also,  sons and daughters have patronymic names that are spelled differently, for example Nikolaevich for men and Nikolaevna for women.

Then when it comes to last names, the spellings in English can be complicated from translations of the Russian and Ukrainian alphabets.

Here are useful lists of Russian last names and Ukrainian last names from Wikipedia.

The largest Russian genealogy website also has an extensive list of Russian surnames here in English and Russian. Each letter in English is linked to a page of surnames.

The link for each surname has posts for people searching for relatives. This is how I had found my distant cousins from several family lines. (The Russian text for the posts can be easily copied and pasted into Google Translate for English translations.)

Once the proper spellings of names can be determined, doors really open in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy. It can be challenging but the results from making the effort can be amazing.

Related posts:
Guide to finding family in Ukraine like a native expert
Best tips on uncovering U.S. documents on mysterious Soviet Union relatives
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs

4 thoughts on “Guide for spelling Russian and Ukrainian names to break those solid brickwalls

  1. Halina repp

    I have been looking for my father Iwan Hoderewski born Lomza Poland October 14, 1917. No luck with government agencies. He was in 4 POW camps and Wells before liberation in Linz Austria. Are there lists of names at the pow camp level? I would need a list hoping to pick out his name since I believe it was spelled various ways. He lived on Zwirki Wigury st Lomza but cannot get home ownership records. I believe he went to Perm University but no reply from them. I have tried Polish, Russian and Ukrainian spellings to no avail. Any suggestions as to where I can get more info. thank you Halina Repp (hoderewski)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you tried Arolsen Archives- formerly International Tracing Service? 13 million records are online here- https://collections.arolsen-archives.org/en/search/ If you don’t find anything, make a free request to search records here- https://arolsen-archives.org/en/search-explore/inquiries/submit-inquiry/ Have you tried posting on the Facebook genealogy groups posted here-https://lostrussianfamily.wordpress.com/facebook-genealogy/? Those groups are very helpful. I hope these resources will help you.

      Liked by 1 person

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