Random database search uncovers information waiting to be found at archives

After so many years of doing research on my ancestors, it is hard to predict what else could come my way. My latest discovery proves that good things do come to those who wait.

Out of boredom, I posted during the holiday season on the biggest Russian-language genealogy forum to find anyone who is researching my great-great-grandmother’s surname in southern Russia.

The responses on the forum weren’t of any use. Then, messages came this week from a man who saw my post. He suggested I have a researcher look at files at Russian State Historical Archive, the largest archive in Europe.

I know my great-great-grandmother’s family had some kind of connection to Luhansk, Ukraine. My great-grandfather had an uncle living there in the 1880s from his mother’s family.

The guy who contacted me found files on men with the same surname of my great-great-grandmother in Luhansk on the database for Russian State Historical Archive. I know it will be hard to connect those people with her family because I know so little.

Just out of curosity, I searched the full name of my grandfather on the database. My grandfather wrote in a letter to my father that he worked for Russian-Asian Bank in the early 1900s. I had a researcher attempt to find archive records on his work several years ago.

She couldn’t find any records. I gave up on trying to find information on his work for the bank.

Yesterday, my curosity peaked again. I waited a few minutes for the results of my search for him on Russian State Historical Archive. Then the first result was my grandfather’s personnel file from that bank where he had worked.

I was stunned and continue to be stunned. This has been waiting online for me to be found. It took a forum post completely unrelated to my grandfather to make this discovery.

Also, this is thanks to using Google Chrome as my Internet browser. It has an automatic language translator app and I couldn’t search or use these Russian websites without it.

So much money has been spent looking at records at this archive. I assumed I was done with this archive. Now, my researcher has plenty of reason to return to the archive.

I didn’t bother searching the archive’s database until now because I still get intimidated by large Russian archive websites. Having USSR-born parents only comes with a slight advantage in Russian genealogy.

This is a fine example of why not to give up. It’s hard to predict how one search can zig-zag into a perfect brickwall crashing.

Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about how this story continues.

Related posts:
Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy
Years of frustration ends with discovery of one key document
An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled
10 Mythbusters for making breakthroughs in Russian genealogy
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs


Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy

Staying stuck in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy is a temporary state if one change is made. Google Translate can truly transform research of Russian and Ukrainian ancestors and relatives to the land of discovery.

My research was stuck for years until I started using Google Translate. Many of my success stories on this blog are the result of taking advantage of Google Translate.

It has taken years to perfect using Google Translate. The free program has its kinks but here is how to avoid those kinks to use Google Translate like an expert.

Translating English to Russian or Ukrainian:

  1. Write in the simplest sentences.
  2. Avoid slang.
  3. Don’t use words with two meanings.
  4. Avoid the word excited. Google Translate made me look like an idiot when I used this word.
  5. Don’t use abbreviations, i.e. St. They can be confused. Is it street or saint?
  6. Remember that endings of Russian and Ukrainian surnames are different for men and women. (Here is a post that explains spelling Russian and Ukrainian first and last names.)
  7.  If Google Translate can’t translate names into Russian, use this website instead.

Working with Ukrainian:

  1. Ukrainian will translate so much better when it is translated into Russian first and then into English.
  2.  Make sure to get Ukrainian text from English text this way English-Russian-Ukrainian.

To move onto translating web pages from Russian or Ukrainian into English, download the Google Chrome web browser for computers. It comes with an translator app so the pages will appear in English with one click. Here is a video on using this app. (Check out this information on how to use the app on iPhones and iPads and Androids.)

Helpful reminders for using this app:

  1. Russians and Ukrainians write names in this order: surname, first name and then patronymic name (name derived from father’s first name such as Ivanovich/Ivanovna).
  2. Russian and Ukrainian grammar is complicated. The endings of names and places will change with the addition of a few letters. (see Ukrainian grammar and Russian grammar pages on Wikipedia)
  3. If the place or name being searched cannot be seen on a web page after the English translation, it is likely the name or place translated into an English word, instead of a letter-to-letter translation. To determine which surnames and places translate into English words from Russian, put the known keywords into Google Translate, have them translated to Russian and then translate them back to English to see if they translate into English words. For example, the surname Kapusta will translate from Russian to English as cabbage.
  4. If for any reason the Google Translate app on Chrome doesn’t switch websites into English, just copy and paste the link into Google Translate.

Here is a video that explains how to do the last two steps.

These guidelines and videos should give a great start to getting more comfortable with using Russian and Ukrainian websites. The amount of effort put into making this change can bring in return some great discoveries. It’s up to you how much you want to discover.

Related posts:
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker
10 Mythbusters for making breakthroughs in Russian genealogy
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)