Newest database will turn brickwalls into dust

The biggest struggle in genealogy can be as simple as a name. Names get complicated as soon as people leave their homeland.

Immigrants change their name to assimilate in their new homeland or immigration officials misunderstand how to write foreign names and then give whatever letter combinations they see fit.

Then future generations pound their heads into genealogy brickwalls when trying to research their immigrant relatives. Immigrants who filled out form after form somehow vanish from the paper trails that were supposedly left behind.

Thanks to’s newdatabase-U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, the mystery of name changes is solved if you have the right information. But if your family came from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, you are praying your family didn’t have name changes too impossible to figure out.

So here are some simple rules to follow. Many of these records include first and last names of parents, something that can’t be found on many Russian language birth and marriage records.

1. If you are not familiar with translating names into English, visit this website. Russian names are complicated to spell in English and this website is very detailed about figuring out names for English spellings.

2. The biggest changes in spelling names that will be noticed are switching v’s to w’s or ff’s and y’s to j’s and unnecessary use of iy combinations, i.e. Romanow for Romanov;  Borisoff  for Borisov; and Petrovskiy for Petrovsky. Even names of birthplaces will be found with strange English spellings.

3. If relatives cannot be found by using last names, use different spellings of first names with the birth years or spouses’ first names as keywords. Some Russian first names are not as common and will bring up fewer results to make the search easier.

4. If relatives are not found by using birthplaces by appropriate spellings, be open to misspelled places. My grand uncle’s birthplace of Kiev was spelled Kesin when he knew to spell it as Kiew from living briefly in Germany.

5. If good matches do not appear, reconsider the matches that have birthplaces of the closest city. Sometimes it was easier to spell the closest city for immigrants struggling to learn English than the actual village where they were born.

6. Remember that names of towns have changed over the years. Search for Leningrad, not Saint Petersburg or St. Petersburg; and Stalingrad, not Volgograd. Here is a Wikipedia page that lists town and city name changes in the former USSR.

7. If birth dates seem later than from what is known in the family, consider that your relatives may have changed their immigration records to appear younger and more attractive for employment and immigration approval.

Once you collect the information you need, I highly recommend reading this post- Nothing like a good chuckle from– on the U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 database. Information from that database and’s newest database are a great combination for trucking past the brickwalls and onto discovering new cousins.

Try DNA testing for dirt cheap

I know DNA testing is a gamble at times. But AncestryDNA has an offer worth trying.

Use this link to get the test for $49. Then, use FREESHIPDNA for free shipping. I don’t know how long these coupon codes will work. DNA testing doesn’t get this cheap with Family Tree DNA nor 23andme.

The test will only ship within the USA for now. It is rumored the test will be available abroad in some countries next year.

Here is my FAQ on testing with AncestryDNA.

It has the best ethnicity breakdown among the three main DNA testing companies. AncestryDNA is well worth doing if you are looking for relatives in the USA, especially for adoptees.

If you are on Facebook, check out my Facebook group.


Find Russian and Ukrainian graves online

Thanks to my incredible luck of having a Russian man find my grandfather’s grave, I was inspired to add  a new page- Cemetery Database.

I hope to find many websites for photographed Russian and Ukrainian cemeteries so graves can be viewed online. Luckily, I also am finding databases for cemeteries.

Hopefully, the excitement of photographing graves brought on by Find A Grave also will spread to Russia and Ukraine.

Keep up-to-date with Find Lost Russian & Ukrainian Family by following on Facebook or e-mail by clicking on Follow this Blog button in the top right column.

Inspiring TV show returns in July

The best show for inspiring genealogy research will return this summer to US cable TV. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is returning to The Learning Channel (TLC) on July 23 at 9 p.m. eastern time.

The show starts with “Sex in the City” star Cynthia Nixon. Here is the promo video for the premiere. Some previous episodes also are posted here.

I am hoping that eastern Europe will be included somehow on this show again. But most episodes show how to use to research family so the show could give some new tips.

Insider look at AncestryDNA, FamilyTree DNA and 23andme coming soon!

I am working on insider looks into the autosomal DNA tests (that look for matches from maternal and paternal lines) from AncestryDNA, FamilyTree DNA and 23andme. The posts will be in the question and answer format.

The first post will be on AncestryDNA and then I will post on FamilyTree DNA. My last post will be on 23andme. I have taken the autosomal DNA tests from these three companies.

After I have posted my three insider looks, I will have a post on which company’s test is best for various scenarios.

Please post your questions about these tests in the comment area below.

Two years later, so much learned and more to learn

Two years ago, I started this blog with so much hope and wonder about my family search and ancestral roots.

I have learned so much because I became more patient, learned from my mistakes and developed appreciation for minor details to help me move forward.

I never imagined I would know so much about my Russian and Ukrainian roots and find more Russian and Ukrainian cousins over the past two years. Everyone who could answer my questions are long dead and my remaining family asks the same questions.

The journey continues and I hope I have shown you that determination will get anyone through the complicated post-Soviet era government to answer questions relatives, family letters and photos will never resolve.

Keep your faith alive in your journey to discover your roots and find your family. Patience and time will reward you with more than you expected, as I have shown on this blog.

Thank you so much for your support and interest in my journey!