Coming back to Ukrainian roots through genealogy

Rayisa never imagined she would get into genealogy. With being born in Ukraine, researching ancestors wasn’t encouraged and archives didn’t have an open policy to do research.

She grew up near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, only knowing of one grandparent, a grandfather who lived far away. Rayisa’s parents came from Kirovohrad and Khmelnytskyi regions of Ukraine.

“This grandfather lived far away, so I never knew him really well. I missed not knowing any grandparents. I wanted to know what my grandparents looked like, what they loved doing, and other interesting facts about their lives,” Rayisa says.

The mother of four kids and strong faith took a DNA test from 23andme in 2017 and she was hit with the genealogy bug. Thankfully, archives have become more open in Ukraine and Rayisa moved to the USA in the late 1990s. She couldn’t get a 23andme test in Ukraine.

“My parents are not alive anymore,” Rayisa says. “Most of my other relatives who are in their 50s or older were very happy to know that I am interested in my family’s history. Through researching my ancestry, I also met a wonderful aunt who is also interested in genealogy.”

Even though Rayisa has visited Ukraine since she has moved to the USA, she has not personally visited archives in Ukraine. She hired a Ukrainian genealogist to start her research. Then, she e-mailed archives for information and found information on archives’ websites to continue building her family tree.

“In the beginning I knew very little information, even about my grandparents,” Rayisa says.  “Now I can trace some ancestors that where born as far back as the second half of the 18th century…Genealogy is what I love to do the most.”

Now, her family tree has 2,185 deceased and living people. She has researched 18 surnames from Ukraine.

“My mom’s ancestry is the most researched because some records are available online…My dad’s tree has less direct ancestors,” Rayisa says. “Documents where I can trace my dad’s ancestors are preserved well. Unfortunately, those archives where the documents are kept do not make them available online, even though the bulk of them are scanned and available to see on computer by visiting the archives personally.”

One interesting story that comes from research is that sources suggest a paternal great-great-great grandfather took his wife’s surname. He moved into the home of his wife’s family home. Rayisa’s maiden name could be from her great-great-great-grandmother.

She also was able to document an interesting naming situation. Rayisa’s great-grandmother told relatives that she had several sisters named Anna due to the priest assigning the name.

Rayisa found archive records for two sisters of her great-grandmother named as Anna. Her great-grandmother complained about the naming situation because the same priest named her only daughter Anna.

Her research also has uncovered that a direct ancestor’s son was convicted and killed in 1938 for a fake crime. He worked as a helper to a landowner. His fate was found in a confession statement.

This was all learned thanks to a spark started by taking a DNA test.

Thanks for reading the first story from my series “Bending Curtain: A Changing Tide in Genealogy in the Former USSR “.  It will continue here throughout 2020 from the various countries of the former USSR.

9 thoughts on “Coming back to Ukrainian roots through genealogy

  1. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  2. Roman Kovbasyuk

    Nice story, thank you!
    It’s interesting that Raisa had success with a test on 23andMe, of all places. Probability of finding Ukrainian relatives there is quite small, with most Ukrainians testing with MyHeritage and FTDNA, which are much more easy to obtain in the country.


  3. Love the individual stories and suggestions.

    Would it be possible to develop an index or glossary of Ukrainian genealogical resources:

    o Archive urls, availability of data online
    o Ukrainian researchers location, languages, contact info
    o ukraine-related searchable resources snd contact info



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