Beginner’s Guide

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.

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 Research the family on Ancestry.com under family trees, historical documents, stories & publications and photos & maps.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.

6. Download Google Translate browser application to search Russian and Ukrainian language websites.

7. Post information on missing relatives on

1.baza.vgdru.com/1

2. www.ukraine.com/forums/genealogy/

3. boards.ancestry.com/localities.eeurope.ukraine/mb.ashx

4. boards.ancestry.com/localities.asia.russia/mb.ashx

5. genforum.genealogy.com/ukraine/

6. genforum.genealogy.com/russia/

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.

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102 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide

  1. les johnson

    Looking for Family names Kinzel , Dr Joseph and Joseph Jr. Louise Tiunka in the Ukraine
    also for Vladimer Urban Zdolbunna Ukraine Adella Kinzel,Dubnov , Ukraine
    les johnson

    1. Victor Lviv

      Zdolbuniv and Dubno records – most probably can be found in Lutsk archives, less probably – in Rivne archives, Zdolbuniv and Dubno RAHS (civil registry offices) – also are worth checking. I’m providing genealogy researches in that area – if interested – feel free to contact.

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    She changed her name and nationality to marry my grandfather and leave for the USA, which I now understand was commonplace for young women trying to flee in search of a better life. She has names, locations and approximate ages but other than that everything else is hit or miss. Any suggestions on where and how to start would be greatly appreciated. We are not certain that any survived or if they themselves changed their names, etc. or fleed to neighboring countries with adults.

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  40. I have hit a dead end for my 3x great grandfather, Konrad Bechtold, who was born in 1789 in Torschau Batschka Hungary and migrated to Freudental Odessa, South Russia now the Ukraine where he died in 1855. He was married to Magdalena Ehly born 1789 in Niederhochstadt, Sudliche Weinstrasse, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany and died in 1855 in, I presume, Freudental, Odessa, South Russia. Do you have any advice on how to obtain their birth or death certificates? I do not speak German and deciphering the German language documents is hard for me if I can’t make out the writing. Also, do you know a good genealogist that has expertise in Germany, Hungary or Freudental that could do this research for me? You can contact me at kgifford@satx.rr.com.

  41. Amos D

    Hi, great blog! Quite hooked :)! My Ukrainian grandfather has been a complete mystery to us for decades. Viktor Romanjuk/Romaniuk was born in Lutsk in 1912, and was then sent to an orphanage in his first few years. I’m close to putting the tracking of his backgroud in the ‘too hard’ basket, but wanted to ask you about the potential for district archives to store any details on children kept in state-run orphanages at that time? My family has no birth record, nor any other document pre-his emigrating to Australia in 1950 on him and I just wonder if, despite him having being a ward of the state, without legal guardians, would his birth document still exist… somewhere? Ok, many thanks and I’m glad I found this blog :)!

    1. Sorry for the delayed answer. Thanks for the compliments. I don’t know anything about orphanage archives. Do you know the village where he was born in 1912? Does Australia have more specific details in their immigration records on him?

      1. Amos D

        Thanks for the reply Vera! A couple of days ago my family found some old documents that put his birth at Pidhaitsi, Lutsk-Raion, Volyn Oblast. So we have miraculously narrowed down his town to a place of about 3100 people. I sent an archive request to both Lutsk archives and the bigger archives in Lviv. I am still a little skeptical that anything will be found as I read the suburbs around Lutsk saw a major battle in around 1915, when he would have been 3, so I can only imagine there would have been a fair amount of destruction associated with that. That said,
        I guess it’s a waiting game now. I’m going to follow your advice and give them 2 months to reply and then send snail mail copies of the same requests. Regarding payment to the archives, it doesn’t sound too standardised. Is there an archives bank account that people usually deposit money in, or is it a case of whoever found your records gets the coin? Many thanks again 😀

      2. I am not sure on the payment. Wait until you get an answer to worry about the payment. If you don’t get any answer by late July, I can recommend a good researcher to check for records on your family.

    2. Sofiya Shunkina

      Hello! My name is Sofiya Shunkina, and I’m a granddaughter of Zinaida Romaniuk! My granma told me that she has a sister Luba and Pawlina and also brother Viktor, who was born in Pidhaici, Volyn region in 1912, September 16. So, I think that Your grandfather is probably a brother of my granma. Please, contact me: sofiyaprokip@gmail.com, or on Facebook: Sofiya Shunkina-Prokip

  42. Sandra Campbell

    HI VERA TRYING TO TRACK DOWN RELATIVES IN RUSSIA/UKARAINE WITH THE SURNAME OF MELEVSKIY ( SO MANY VARIANT ON THIS SPELLING). MY GRANDPARENTS EMIGRATED TO AUSTRALIA ABOARD THE EMPIRE & EMBARKED FROM SIBERIA , & DISEMBARKED IN CAIRNS QLD 1913. I HAVE A RECORD STATING STEVE WAS BORN 26/12/1886. HIS FATHER WAS KNOWN AS YACKO. HIS WIFE’S NAME WAS PARASKO, MAIDEN NAME POGORELEY AGAIN NOT SURE IF THE SPELLING IS CORRECT. BORN 18/9/1891 IN TARASCHA, PLOSKA. THEY PUT DOWN NATIONALITY AS RUSSIAN BUT NOT SURE IF THEY ARE POLISH RUSSIAN, OR UKARANIAN.
    CAN YOU HELP ME PLEASE

    1. I will try to help you as much as I can. What documents do you have from Australian archives? I believe your family came from Chernivtsi Region of Ukraine. I know a great researcher for that area but tell me here or by e-mail bepa. miller at mail. ru about the research that you’ve done already.

    2. I will try to help as much as I can. I believe your family came from Chernivtsi Region of Ukraine. What research have you done with Australian archives? I know a great researcher for that area. Vera

  43. James Gardner

    I agree this is a daunting mission. I discovered my Great Grandfather was actually born in the Ukraine close to the boarder of what is now Moldovia. Their last name was Shvets. He moved with his family to Harbin China and was part of the groups that went to Hawaii in 1910. He attempted to relocate back to Russia and “join the military” around 1917 and was given a sum of money from the Russian diplomat sent to assist in repatriation efforts. His wife did not want to return to Russia so she got rid of the money. They stayed in Hawaii and the rest is history. I saw some old pictures of our family in Russia but they are now lost somewhere after my grandmother passed. I’m just starting this journey and am hoping for the best in locating lost family members.

    1. I have heard from a few people whose family lived in Harbin as Russians. I highly recommend collecting your relatives’ full names, birth dates and birth places and contact http://www.feefhs.org/members/blitz/frgblitz.html to research on Brem files. I heard the Brem files are filled with information. I have used this research firm and they are reasonably priced and know great English. Contact the regional office that cover Hawaii for US National archives for your family’s immigration records. E-mail me if you need any help!

      1. James Gardner

        I checked the feeths.org page and it appears they do not cover anything during the time frame for my family. I have applied to the Ukraine.com forum about 3 weeks ago but still am waiting for final approval to be able to post to the forum page. This is getting to be quite a job as I keep having to step back….take a deep couple of breaths as not to get flustered and dive back in.
        I have been able to find the area he came from, and found this on the web. Wholly cow…this is them. http://libweb.hawaii.edu/libdept/russian/album/album.php?page=10

        Any other ideas or if you know the folks at the Ukraine.com forum that can get me posting access would be great.

        Jim

      2. Hi James, I know at least 2 families who used Feeths.org successfully to research their Russian families in China for that time period. You will not be charged for inquirying Feeths.org. If the Ukraine.com forum has been so unfriendly, just use these two Facebook groups- https://www.facebook.com/groups/NashiPredky/ and https://www.facebook.com/groups/UkrainianGenealogy. They are highly active and helpful groups. It’s great you found your family on the Hawaaiian university library website. Sorry for the delayed response. I’m the in the middle of a big adoption case and holiday things.

  44. Koh31X7lV45+w3e5rEfVJHbfDA0kESsDoX95YrvQhFI=

    This is so helpful. Can you tell me what the photo is of Russia? Ukraine?
    How can I get a copy? Thank you. Sharon avery

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