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)

Years of frustration ends with discovery of one key document

Assumptions in genealogy can lead to years of frustration. I had been annoyed for years that I couldn’t document my great-grandfather’s birthdate and birthplace. The why behind my years of frustrations was revealed this week.

Thanks to a member of a Russian genealogy group on Facebook, I learned about a file on my great-grandfather at Russian State Military Historical Archive in Saint Petersburg.

I didn’t know what could be in this file but I was hoping it wasn’t information already known to me. A researcher has found so much information on my great-grandfather in that archive.

Once, I saw scans from the file, I knew something important was right in front of me. My ability to read Russian cursive is limited so I was grateful for help from a member of my genealogy group on Facebook.

The file had my great-grandfather’s full birthdate, birthplace, place of baptism and parents’ address. Years of frustration finally switched to accomplishment.

I could finally put his full birthdate into the family tree but I had to change his birthplace to a city 92 kilometers from the family Don Cossack village.

For years, I tried to prove he was born in the family Cossack village. The records for his birth year for that village are missing from archives. I still assumed he was born there. I even tried to find proof his parents married in the Cossack village but the village’s records for that year also are missing from archives.

Thanks to this getting scans of the latest file, I finally have pictures and postcards of my great-grandfather’s churches for his baptism, wedding and funeral. That is a first for any of my great-grandparents.

Once I calmed down from the excitement of finding all this information, I contacted my researcher for the area where my great-grandfather was born. She quickly wrote back that records for that decade are missing at archives for his actual birthplace.

This is the second genealogy joke on me for researching my great-grandfather. A local author wrote a book about my father’s hometown that included information extracted from the death record of his grandfather (the same great-grandfather) 10 years ago. My researcher can’t find the record in archives. Now, my great-grandfather’s baptism record is missing from archives but Russian State Military Historical Archive has it extracted in a file from 1879, when he was 15 years old.

This journey shows assuming facts can lead to years of frustration and the importance of never giving up on documenting ancestors.

Related posts:
An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled
Untraditional source reveals the death of a great-grandfather
Determination to get one record leads to a pile of records on family mysteries
The best surprises come when hope is almost lost

An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled

I thought I had uncovered everything possible on my great-grandfather Vasil. So much money has been spent researching his short 48-year life. What else could possibly be discovered after eight intensive years of research?

Just out of curiosity, I started searching for more information on his technical college in eastern Ukraine on Google. Quickly I found old photos of the school where he learned about mining.

One website had a great photo of the school property and then I scrolled down to discover graduation photos. Then there he was in the class of 1884 with his long beard and receding hairline.

I couldn’t stop smiling and immediately called the only living grandchild of my great-grandfather. She really needed the good news as she is dealing with an infection affecting her health and mood.

It’s hard to believe that I found the college graduation photo of my great-grandfather from 1884. This is all thanks to a museum that has been taking care of the album of graduation photos.

The photo has been online for two years, waiting for me to discover it. I never even thought to pursue graduation photos of my ancestors. Years of research in Ukraine never made me think that this could even be available online.

It took nothing special to find this photo of my great-grandfather at age 20. I only searched the school’s name and the word museum in Russian on Google, thanks to help from Google Translate. My basic Russian skills from my childhood have been built up through years of researching my ancestors from Ukraine and Russia.

Discovery genealogy gems didn’t start until I began using Google Translate to maneuver around Russian and Ukrainian websites. First, there was a lot of copying and pasting into Google Translate. Now, I also use Google Translate’s browser app to see websites automatically in English.

This latest discovery makes me wonder about what else is waiting for me. Genealogy is growing in popularity in the former USSR. More information and records will become available online as time goes on.

Those who switch their research from English to Russian and Ukrainian can turn their genealogy research from a never-ending brick wall to the yellow brick road. It just takes a small brave step to try Russian and Ukrainian websites.

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
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)

New WWII Soviet Army database gives faces to veterans

Russia will be going all out for the 75th anniversary of WWII’s Allied victory. That benefits anyone who had ancestors or relatives in the Soviet Army during WWII.

Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has created a new database called Memory Road, offering photos of WWII Soviet Army veterans.

The database was started in the late spring and has been growing each day by several hundred. Memory Road is close to having 300,000 veterans documented with their personal photos.

Each page on veterans has a link to the Memory of the People database, which details 18 million awards given to Soviet Army servicepeople.

It is well worth checking if anyone has posted photos of relatives and ancestors who served in WWII. Some people have posted additional information on the lives of their relatives who served in the Soviet Army.

The new database also is perfect for anyone who has photos of unfamiliar Soviet Army soldiers who need their service story completed more fully.

Memory Road can be searched just by first name, patronymic name (middle name in honor of the father such as Ivanovich and Vasilevich), or last name. This works great when exact full name spellings are not known.

Here’s how to use the database:

  1. If you don’t know Russian, use Google Translate or Stephen Morse’s website for translating names into Russian.
  2. Copy the names into the box that says найти героя on the top right.
  3. Open each result link in a new window. If you don’t, the website requires you to restart the search.
  4. Copy and paste all text into Google Translate to see it in English.

If useful matches aren’t found, repeat the steps a few times a month. This database is growing on a daily basis.

Memory Road is likely just the beginning of more online material on WWII soldiers. It wouldn’t surprise me if a large collection of Soviet Army military records is added online next year in honor of the 75th anniversary.

Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about news on important databases.

Related posts:
Millions of records added to WWII database (with a guide for searching the 18 million file database)
Free database on WWII soldiers grows by more than 5 million records
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker

 

Guide to finding the mystery family villages of Russia and Ukraine

The moment that the name of a family village is uncovered the excitement builds. Then, searching for that village on a 21st century map can seem as challenging as if the village never existed.

Before rushing to find the village or town on a map, it’s time to do some more research. Maybe the village or town still exists but the name has changed over time. Or the village switched borders within the former USSR countries.

Here are some web pages (all in English) that will help uncover the locations of mystery family villages and towns.

Russia:

  1. List of renamed cities and towns in Russia
  2. List of cities and towns in Russia

  3. List of cities of the Russian Empire in 1897

Ukraine:

  1. List of renamed cities in Ukraine

  2. List of Ukrainian toponyms that were changed as part of decommunization in 2016

  3. List of villages and towns depopulated of Jews during the Holocaust

  4.  JewishGen’s database on Ukrainian villages

Russia & Ukraine:

  1. List of ghost towns by country (Russia is listed under Asia.)

Galicia:

  1. Galician Town Locator

East Prussian towns now in Russia:

  1. List of cities and towns in East Prussia

Ruthenian (Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth):

  1. List of villages now in Zakarpatska Oblast, Ukraine (formerly the Kingdom of Hungary)

Carpatho-Rusyn (also known as Dolinyans,  Boykos,  Hutsuls  and Lemkos):

Root Seekers Guide To The Homeland

German settlements in Russia:

  1. Germans from Russia Settlement Locations

View this website on Germans from Russia for more information on these location.

If luck isn’t struck with these web pages, try posting for help on these Facebook genealogy groups. Those who had luck should search online for any additional information to help find the correct village or town on a 21st century map.

Feel free to post more useful web pages in the comments section.

Related posts:
Guide to interviewing relatives like a true detective
Break open the “I don’t know anything” relatives for some genealogy gems
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker

Database gives closure on anti-Polish terror victims of the USSR

Finding information on Polish relatives and ancestors hurt by the anti-Polish terror in the Soviet Union can take a lot of effort, but one website has made it as easy as a few clicks.

The Center for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding and the Institute of National Remembrance created a portal to give closure to relatives of anti-Polish terror victims.

“Moscow Memorial Association says at least 139,835 people were repressed, of whom no less than 111,991 were shot in the back of the head and 28,774 were sentenced to stay in the labor camps,” according to the portal.

Sadly, Russia doesn’t want to release all records on the Polish terror victims but this portal is the most complete database online.

Here is how to use the portal for searching. Imię is first name; Nazwisko is surname;  Imię ojca is father’s first name; and Data urodzenia is birthdate (day/month/year).

Once the information is entered, click on wyszukaj to search the database. If results don’t appear, try different spellings and fewer search criteria.

For those who don’t know Polish, the portal also can be searched in Russian. Имя is first name; Фамилия is surname; Отчество is father’s first name; Дата рождения is birthdate (day/month/year); and поиск is the search button.

Anywho who doesn’t know Russian nor Polish can copy and paste the results into Google Translate to view them in English.

Once results are found, don’t be shy about searching for further information on Google in Russian or Polish to see whether more information is available.

Related posts:
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Declassified file reveals relative’s full story on journey to the gulags
Secret files help complete the life story of five brothers