Starting searches for lost relatives is a challenging and intimidating task. It is hard to know where to start.
The most important thing is obtaining the most accurate information and documents on your relatives. Incorrect information wastes time and misses possible connections with relatives. Here is the easiest way to begin your search.
(Consider purchasing “Genealogy at a Glance: Russian Genealogy Research” for more inspiration, information and resources that are important for Russian genealogy. The guide is also available on Amazon.com here.)
1. Interview relatives- grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and parents- about the family. Ask about cities/towns/villages relatives lived, type of work done, religious life, major family events and how the family got separated.
2. Look at old photos front to back. Ask relatives to identify people not recognized. The back of photos may have important information such as towns where photos were taken that would document the family’s movement.
3. Look for old family letters and documents that can provide some important details.
4. Get all known spellings of the family name. If your family lived in German-populated areas, the Ys were likely changed to Js and the Vs were likely changed to Ws. Ask relatives whether the family name was changed anytime during immigration or naturalization in the new country.
5. Research the family on Ancestry.com under family trees, historical documents, stories & publications and photos & maps. Even if you think you have all the information you need on certain relatives, there is no harm in having more information.
6. Post your family tree on Ancestry.com.
7. Post information on missing relatives on
All these websites require registration. Bookmark your posts to track responses to your messages.
8. Post messages for help on finding family on the forums designated for the region where your relatives lived on forum.vgd.ru.
9. Network on listservs that focus on Russian and Ukrainian ancestry. You will be amazed by how helpful people are on these listservs. Check out these listservs.
10. Search for forums for the towns and cities where your relatives last lived. Use Google Translate to translate your family’s town or city into Russian or Ukrainian. Then, copy and paste the translated word for the town or city and the word форум into Google. Once you find appropriate forums, post your missing relative message in Russian or Ukrainian on the forums.
11. Make sure your e-mail program recognizes Russian and Ukrainian. Some e-mail programs translate Russian and Ukrainian into ÅÒÁ É äÍÉÔÒÉÊ! My Verizon e-mail program does not recognize Russian and Ukrainian in some messages. Also, make sure you check your spam mailbox every day for e-mails in Russian and Ukrainian. Many of my foreign language message are sent to the spam mailbox.
11. Search for your family’s surname in groups on Facebook. Genealogy groups are getting more popular on Facebook.
12. Make free tracing requests with American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center or with your local Red Cross and International Tracing Service. The wait is about one or two years. My grand aunt was found this way after 66 years of separation.
13. Do not hire a researcher to find your relatives unless you have exhausted all options. Make sure to research the background of a researcher online in Russian/Ukrainian and English and find independent reviews of the researcher. E-mail me if you are considering a researcher so I can see if there are any other options available. Too many “researchers” take advantage of people anxious to find their long, lost relatives.