Ancestry.com quietly adds incredible WWII database

The summer can be a quiet time for genealogy research until a new database appears online.

Out of curiosity to see if any new documents have appeared on Ancestry.com for my immigrant relatives, I discovered “Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947”.

The incredible database of 10.1 million documents, obtained from Arolsen Archives- International Center on Nazi Persecution in Germany, provides names, birthdates, birthplaces, nationalities and addresses of foreigners present in Germany from 1939-1947 and Nazi persecution victims.

Here is a sample document from the database:

I highly recommend searching for any relatives or ancestors who could have been in Germany during 1939-1947. I was surprised the seven documents I found on my mother’s family were new online.

Arolsen Archives- International Center on Nazi Persecution has 13 million documents on Nazi persecution victims and war refugees in its database. The documents on my relatives posted to Ancestry aren’t available on that database.

To begin the search on this database, start here. The results can be narrowed down by first and last names, birthdates, birthplaces and relatives’ names.

Here is the database narrowed down by ethnic groups: Jewish, Polish, Soviet citizens (people from the USSR were lumped together), Czechoslovakian, Romanian, Hungarian, French, Bulgarian, Greek, Yugoslavian and Italian.

Since the database comes from Germany, y’s will be turned into j’s and v’s into w’s. I’ve also seen g’s turned into z’s and incorrect vowels within names.

This database could piece together family stories from WWII. With the 75th anniversary of WWII’s finale coming, many more records are likely coming online from Arolsen Archives. This blog will post when more records become available online.

Related posts:
10 million records added to WWII victims database
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Newest Ancestry.com database will turn brickwalls into dust

The complete guide to charming Russian archives for church records

So many church records are posted online but those searching for Russian birth, marriage and death records always don’t get lucky to find them online.

Millions of birth, marriage and death records are sitting in Russian regional archives that could bring about happy dances but too many people are afraid to contact Russian archives.

Obtaining records from Russian archives isn’t as painful as learning the Waltz but the right steps are needed to get the records.

The most important step is to know the full name, village/town/city of birth, birth year and religion of the relatives or ancestors. It is very helpful to know the parents’ names, if possible.

Those who had relatives and ancestors who came to the USA and don’t know this information should read and follow through this post first.

Having all possible identifying information confirmed is the most important step. Once all the information is collected, getting the prized records is simple as following these steps:

  1. Determine the region where the ancestor lived in Russia. Search Wikipedia for the location. If there are several locations throughout Russia, check Google Maps to confirm the correct region.
  2. A very thorough list of the archives can be found in ENGLISH here. Try steps 3 and 4 if the link doesn’t include the needed archives.
  3. Once the region is known, write the region state archives into free Google Translate, for example Kursk State Archives. Copy the Russian text from Google Translate and then paste the text to search on Google.
  4. If Russian is unknown, make sure your browser has a translator app. Here’s an app from Google. Chrome users can download the application for their browser here. The text results of a search and webpage text also can be copied and pasted into Google Translate.
  5. Once the e-mail address is found for the archives, write the e-mail message into Google translate in simple English. Here is example message: Good morning! I am researching my great-grandfather Nikolai Ivanov. He was born in village Ivanovskoye in 1897. His family was Russian Orthodox. Would it be possible to search for his birth record? What would be the charge and how can payment be sent for the search? Your help would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Your name
  6. The subject line of the e-mail message should not be anything similar to “request from USA”. It would best to use something similar to”birth record inquiry- surname” in Russian.
  7. A quick response from the archive could be sent to state that the request was received or it could take weeks to receive an answer.
  8. It is highly recommended to check regularly the spam/junk mailbox for messages from Russian archives. Due to the messages being written in a foreign language, those messages have a higher chance landing there.
  9. If the response is sent as text in an e-mail message, copy and paste the text into Google Translate. If the archive sends an attached letter in the format of  .doc, .docx, .odf, .pdf, rtf or .txt, the file can be uploaded here for translation into English.
  10. Estimates for research fees will be quoted in the Russian dollar- ruble. Visit this website for converting rubles into your currency.
  11. Bills to Russian archives can be paid through Western Union, which allows money transfers to Russian bank accounts or Russian Western Union stores.
  12. No matter the results from the search, it is very important to send a polite thank you e-mail message for the archive’s work. More research may be needed later on at that archive so keep that relationship friendly.

This effort may seem like a lot to get records but it will be well worth it. Eight years ago, this is how I started out. Now, my family tree goes back to the 1600s from using researchers and Russian genealogy forums that have connected me with my distant cousins.

Related posts:
Guide for spelling Russian and Ukrainian names to break those solid brickwalls
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Don’t let this easy mistake implode your family tree

Newly updated database reveals 2 million documents on WWII victims and refugees

International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is the agency to contact for documents on relatives who were victims of Germany’s national socialism. The wait time for a response is 2 years but the ITS online database has expanded to about 2 million documents.

Thankfully, this database can be easily searched in English. Since a German-based organization runs the database, there are important changes in spellings of names and places to remember.

The most common spelling changes are that many people with names spelled with v’s are changed to w’s and y’s are changed to j’s. This even happens to names of places such as Kyiv/Kiev (Kiew in German) and Kharkov/Kharkiv (Kharkow in German). Some documents don’t have these changes but these changes are important to note.

Here are some other important hints to find documents on relatives.

  1. If only one match or many matches appear, make sure to click on “more persons” on the right for more matches.
  2. Search for relatives using all known spellings of their names.
  3. If the last names are complicated to spell, consider searching by unique first names.
  4. Remember to consider all matches whose names are spelled the same or similar. If dates or places are off, double-check that information with relatives. Some victims and refugees lost their documents and traveled with fake or recreated documents and those documents were not always accurate.
  5. The database also can be searched by city/town/village. It is important to spell those places as they were written near the time of World War II. Research the places to see if their names have changed over time.
  6. The birth dates and event dates are provided in the European format of date.month.year.
  7. Naturally, there will be typos in the database so make sure to view the documents before eliminating results as matches.
  8. When nothing can be found, consider going through the database by the index of names. Have a list of possible name spellings to help find matches in the database.

Not everyone will find information and documents on their family but don’t be discouraged. Anyone can submit free requests for document searches here. Automated e-mail messages are sent when requests went through properly.

ITS sends responses to research requests by e-mail or postal mail. Make sure to check your spam and in boxes and provide a permanent postal address for your requests.

As time goes on, this database will be updated with even more documents. Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about the next major update and other important databases.

Related posts:
Minor traffic violation leads to a pile of immigration records (an ITS search)
Millions of records added to WWII database
Databases of Soviet Army soldiers as POWs provide wealth of information

Journey to find one record breaks down a brickwall on 3rd great-grandfather’s family

I thought I hit the jackpot when I found my great-great-great-grandfather’s death record on an Ancestry database. That was just the beginning of a journey to break down a brickwall I never expected to crumble.

I got the family tree of my ancestors who lived in Russian Poland 8 years ago from a German cousin. No one knew about siblings of my great-great-great-grandfather, Ferdinand Oswald Bleschke. Every effort to find records on his family failed until I creatively searched Ancestry’s recently updated database, Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945.

Once I found Ferdinand’s death record from 1926, I got curious about what else could be found. It would be a pointless effort, I thought, to look for his brothers and sisters without knowing their names nor birth years. I took the easy route and looked for his mother’s death record from 1884.

I was thrilled to find it. Once I saw the maiden name of Littmann, I knew I found the death record of my 4th great-grandmother without a doubt.

Then, my unstoppable curiosity moved onto whether any records could be found on Ferdinand’s siblings. Once I played around with the database by searching through the mother’s first, middle and maiden names and father’s first and middle names, my luck continued.

Two brothers and a sister of my Ferdinand were found in marriage and death records. All three were born too early to have their birth records in the database.

Ferdinand also was born, married and had children before 1874. He already was in Russia (now eastern Poland) in 1870. The genealogy gods are determined to test my patience and push my determination.

Thankfully, Ferdinand’s siblings chose to stay in the family village, allowing me to find his 13 nieces and nephews and 4 grand nieces and nephews. The story of my great-great-great-grandfather is more complete by finding his siblings’ marriage and death records.

Ferdinand left the family village of Schwiebus (now Świebodzin, Poland) about 7 years after his father’s death, with his wife and four kids to live in Bialystok, Russia (now Poland). He lived there for about 60 years and came back to current-day western Poland, most likely due to the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1921).

He found a new home about 50 km from his family village in Schwerin an der Warth, Germany (now Skwierzyna) near 1919. His brother, Julius, had already died eight years earlier in the family village.

Then in 1926, the family deaths came in threes. First, Ferdinand’s baby sister, Emilie, died  in the family village. Then 15 days later, Ferdinand died 50 km away. Back where Ferdinand left to escape the Polish-Soviet War, his oldest-known child, my great-great-grandmother Marie, died less than 2 months later.

The search to find even more records on this family to expand this story continues, with hopes of finding living descendants of Ferdinand’s nieces and nephews.

It has taken me 8 years to get to this point. So many times patience and determination have been paid back well beyond my imagination. Here is to more waiting and hoping!

Related posts:

One detail completely changes the story of great-great-great-grandpa’s life
The mystery of a great-great-grand aunt gets solved (reconnection with family of Ferdinand’s daughter, Martha)
Reuniting of two families after 115 years teaches important life lessons (reunion with Martha’s descendants)

Another treasure for researching World War I heroes

Databases are aplenty for World War II heroes but World War I heroes haven’t been forgotten. The newest database for World War I heroes is a great research tool, with the perk of having scanned military archive records.

Many people researching their ancestors from the former Russian Empire are challenged by using Russian websites. But In memory of the heroes of the Great War of 1914-1918 can be easily used with the directions below, even without knowing Russian.

The website has 2,278,000 entries on soldiers who received awards, went missing and/or died. The same information with scanned military records can’t be found on subscription-based websites.

In memory of the heroes of the Great War of 1914-1918  is free of cost and registration.

Here’s a peek at the search page translated into English, using this link:

To search this database, all keywords must be in Russian. Make sure to open Google Translate in the next window to the database.

If Google Translate can’t translate your ancestors’ names and birthplaces, use Transliterating English to Russian in One Step.

A few words won’t translate using the above link on the database’s search boxes- Губерния (region); Уезд: (county); Волость (parish) and Населенный пункт (community).

Here’s how to get great results:

  1. Use only confirmed information on people being searched. If a death year is not confirmed through other sources, skip that box.
  2. If the database doesn’t give any matches, redo the search by using less information.
  3.  When family information is limited, try searching by surname and village.
  4. If you are searching for more than one person, copy and paste all the keywords in Russian for each person into a Microsoft Word or another word processing document.

If you can’t read Russian, copy and paste each page of results into Google Translate.

It’s good to know if your ancestors’ surnames or villages translate into other words in English (such as cobbler, cabbage, etc,). You can double-check this by copying and pasting the surnames and villages name in Russian into Google Translate and viewing the English translations.

Some surnames and village names will translate letter by letter into similar-sounding Roman letters.

The scanned records from military archives can be downloaded from the website, drag the images to the desktop on Macs and right-click on PCs. If you don’t read Russian, do a print screen, save it to a Word document and paste the translated text from Google Translate.

If you want to try your luck with other databases, click here for other free databases.

The adventurous types can try to find more information on the Internet with new information found in the database in Russian. Here are some hints:
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker

Don’t miss out on learning about new resources by subscribing to this blog by clicking on the top right button.

 

Great-grandpa’s arrest record helps breakdown a brickwall

It’s been quite frustrating to not know the full name of my great-great-grandmother. No one passed on information more than her first and middle name and archives lost her marriage record.

I thought hope was lost in knowing who was my great-great-grandmother. Then luck again happened once again on the most popular Russian genealogy forum.

A woman who previously worked for the regional archives in the same area of my family village offered her services to research records. I didn’t have much hope records could be found but this woman would know archives better than anyone else I could hire to dig through archives.

By luck, she knew another resource for marriage information. My great-great-grandfather had to ask permission from a military board for his marriage to be approved, with him being a Don Cossack, soldier of the Russian czar’s army.

Thank you Don Cossacks for having such rules. The researcher found a document that revealed the month and year of marriage, the full name of my great-great-grandmother and her father’s title of captain and engineer.

The maiden surname sounded familiar. An investigation record of my great-grandfather’s arrest from his college days mentioned him staying with an uncle in Lugansk, Ukraine, with the same last name.

My grandmother gave my father an oral history of the family. That family surname was supposed to be connected to a maternal aunt’s husband, not her paternal grandmother.

Thanks to connecting my great-grandfather’s arrest document from St. Petersburg archives with his father’s marriage request record, the man in Lugansk is confirmed as my great-grandfather’s uncle, not just an older family friend. This explains why my great-grandfather attended college in Lugansk, so far away from the family Cossack village in southern Russia.

And thanks to Russian culture, I also know the first name of my great-great-great-grandfather. Once a full name is known of an ancestor such as given name, patronymic name (in honor of the father’s given name) and surname, the father’s first and last name are known. It’s a two-for-one deal in Russian genealogy.

The profession of my great-great-great-grandfather was hardly a surprise. His grandson, some great-grandsons and a great-great-grandson were engineers. After all these years of researching, I finally discovered a family profession comes from an ancestor.

Learning about my great-great-grandmother’s family didn’t seem realistic, with my past luck in southern Russian archives. My researcher got lucky with finding my great-grandfather’s death record so my curiosity was peaked whether his parents’ marriage record could be found.

The birth records of my great-grandfather and his brother vanished from archives. Thanks to connecting with my cousins from my great-grandfather’s brother on the most popular Russian genealogy forum, I guessed when the parents could have married, based on their great-grandfather’s birth year, and hit the jackpot.

In Russian genealogy, you can either be bitter about what can’t be found or be delighted with surprises after constant resilience.

For more inspiration:

An overlooked record opens a door to finding long-lost family from WWII
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (includes a video guide in English)

Databases of Soviet Army soldiers as POWs provide wealth of information

It’s wonderful to hear stories of Soviet Army soldiers who returned home to their families. Too many Soviet Army soldiers were taken prisoner and never heard from again.

One database from Germany provides information on 700,000 Soviet Army soldiers who died as POWs. The typical solider will have the following details: first name, last name, birthdate or birth year, father’s first name, birthplace, death date, nationality and identification number for the database.

This database is easy to use in German with the following suggestions.

  1. Change the letter v to w. Vladimir will also appear as Wladimir. Smirnov will also appear as Smirnow. The website has Ivanov written as Ivanov and Iwanow.
  2. Change the letter y to j. Vasiliy will also appear as Vasilij.
  3. If nothing can be found with the changes suggest in No.1 and 2, try the known or common spellings.
  4. Remember the e may be dropped in names such as Petr and Alexandr.
  5. Search by last or first name only if searches with first and last names are not successful.

The search box is above two phrases- Beginn des Namen (start of name) and Teil des Namen (part of name). The beginnings and endings of first names can be searched, in addition to last names.

Once information is found on a soldier, obtain additional information by sending an e-mail message in German (using Google Translate) to the first address listed here or mailing a letter to the first postal address listed.

If the people being researched aren’t on this database, check these lists that are translated into English.

Arkhangelsk Region, Russia

List of Soviet Army soldiers who died as POWs of the Germans

List of Soviet Army soldiers who died as POWs of the Finnish

Auschwitz, Poland

List of Soviet Army soldiers at  Auschwitz– There are 2,032 Soviet Army POWs in this database, listed in alphabetic order in English. One card of information is given on each soldier, written in German. The images can’t be download so print or try holding down Ctrl and PrntScr at the same time and paste the print screen into an image editing program.

Kiev

List of Soviet prisoners of war who died in German captivity in hospital No. 3 in White Church, Kiev Region, in the winter of 1941-42

Stalag 326

List of Soviet prisoners of war who died in Germany captivity

Maps

Map of German POW camps for Soviet Army soldiers

Map of Finnish POW camps for Soviet Army soldiers

If nothing can be found on the people being researched, make free search requests with International Tracing Service here. It could take a year to get a response.

Remember to look at the Free Databases page to see the other databases for researching in Russia and Ukraine.