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

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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.

Massive database reveals priceless information on rebels of the Russian Revolution

In history, the brave people come out to fight the change they fear and hope their secrets that could hurt their families stay just that. The rebels who challenged the changes that came with communism in the USSR are no longer unnamed souls who took their secrets to their graves.

Ten years of work by Vadim Olegovich Rogge has brought about an incredible database of 106,000 men and women who risked a lot in the 20th century.  This database includes many of the people who were considered enemies of the new communist government and even those who escaped the Soviet Union through emigration.

It was quite surprising to find my father, grandfather and a grand uncle in this database when they weren’t even adults during the Russian Revolution. They are considered rebels for immigrating to the USA. It would have been priceless to see their reactions for being included in this database if they were alive.

This amazing database has full names, birth dates, birthplaces, death dates, places of residences, titles within the White Army (the military that served the czar), military experience, and other incredible details, varying for each person.

Naturally, this database is posted in Russian but very easy to use for those unfamiliar with Russian by taking these steps.

  1. Use Google Translate to switch last names from English to Russian.
  2. Scroll down past the text explaining the database and find “Скачать базу данных «Участники Белого движения в России» (в формате PDF):”
  3. Click on the links for the first letter of each surname being researched. Everyone whose last name starts with a particular letter will be included in a large PDF file.
  4. If you are unfamiliar with the Russian alphabet, have the Wikipedia page on the Russian alphabet open in another window. This is extremely helpful in figuring out where a last name such as Smirnov will appear in the PDF file that covers a few hundred pages.
  5. Once the correct surnames are found, copy and paste all the entries into Google Translate. Make sure to enter a space between each entry or the translated text will form into a massive paragraph that is challenging to read.
  6. Make sure to save each letter file to your computer. It is never known how long these types of databases will stay online.

Once you have collected information on your family, don’t be shy and try searching Russian search engine Yandex with keywords on your family from the database. One detail could lead to a domino effect of finding even more information.

For more databases, go to the Free Databases page.

One man’s 13-year journey to stand on American soil after an escape during WWII

Escaping the Soviet Union during WWII wasn’t an easy task. A friend’s great-grandfather Peter somehow managed to escape for a new life in the USA. For years, the questions of how it was possible were left unanswered.

That was until yesterday. The man’s Alien Case File (the golden gem of researching mid-20th century immigrants) arrived on a CD, filled with pages of records to answer the questions.

It was quite a shock to learn about Peter’s journey to arrive in the USA. He left a village near Yaroslav, USSR, in 1944 and got on a plane “via Romania, Hungary, Austria” to Erfurt, East Germany. He stayed in communist East Germany for a year and then moved to free West Germany for three years.

Peter then moved to Cambridge and Oxford, England, for five years and returned to West Germany. It took him 13 years to finally arrive in the USA.

It sounds like an immigration journey that wouldn’t end. But how did Peter find a way to escape the USSR by plane? Why was communist East Germany his destination and why was he one of the lucky ones to get out after a year?

It is not surprising that it took 13 years for him to find his final home in the USA. With coming from the USSR, living in communist East Germany and later free West Germany, I can imagine U.S. immigration officials wondering about Peter’s activities before, during and after the war.

When he finally arrived in the USA, he got a room at the Bridgeport, Conn., YMCA and found a full-time job for $1.25 an hour at an aluminum foundry.

Not much else is known about his life from his file because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is claiming that releasing another 10 pages of information would constituent invasion of personal and law enforcement privacy.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security will hear from me about what I think about using exemptions for my Freedom of Information Act request. I have successfully appealed their denial of information from an Alien Case file at least once.

It took five years to get this far and I am not stopping until I get all possible information to complete this man’s story of escaping the USSR. U.S. national security will not be threatened by releasing information on a Soviet immigrant who would have been 111 years old this year.

Peter’s great-grandson voluntarily sweated for days in a Kiev cemetery to find my great-grandparents’ graves last summer. I owe him my full determination to complete the story of his great-grandfather, who is buried a few rows from my grandfather (whose father’s grave was found by Peter’s great-grandson).

Our relatives escaped the Soviet Union for a better life, said their final goodbyes to their family and chose to be buried in the same cemetery. My grandfather and Peter’s great-grandfather never met but their relatives came together in a freer world they never imagined.

Previous posts on this journey:
Grandmother creates brickwall with weak mortar, thanks to one detail

Old electrical tower leads the way to family graves

Related posts:

Documents that open doors to information

Guide for success in obtaining Alien Case Files

 

A Russian genealogy gold mine awaiting to be cleared of its treasures

russianstatelibraryThe gold mines of Russian genealogy aren’t advertised. It takes a lot of sifting through boring technical databases to find the true gold mines of Russian genealogy.

After years of wondering where the Russian government has been unloading its electronic treasure trove, I think I have found a gem for genealogy. Thankfully, the database comes with the tools that help avoid sweating to find the treasures.

The Russian State Library is claiming to have the second largest online database. That’s hard to believe but the amount of records here are unreal.

Users can immediately begin searching with the help of Google Translate.

Here’s how to take full advantage of this user-friendly database even without knowing Russian.

  1. Copy and paste your keywords (surnames, villages, events, etc.) translated by Google Translate in the search box and click искать (find in English) on the right.
  2. When results come in, click on еще (more in English) at the end of each description.
  3. Copy and paste the results into Google Translate.
  4. Once you’ve selected which results are most interesting, right click on or copy and paste the link for прочитать документ (read document in English).
  5. Select Онлайн-просмотр (online viewing in English) on the top of the next page and then click открыть документ (open document in English).
  6. Then the document will open. Click on поиск (search in English) on the left.
  7. Copy and paste your keywords in Russian in the search box and click on найти (find in English).
  8. The exact pages where your keywords appear in the document will be listed under Найдено: (found in English).
  9. If you can’t find your information or read the text, right click to save the document. There are Facebook groups to help with translations. See Facebook Genealogy for links to those groups.

Once this is all done, the journey has only begun. Take the journey one step further by picking out keywords from the documents and using a Russian keyboard to retype important keywords.

Then copy and paste on Google the keywords from the documents to see what else can be found and who else is researching the same information.

Push yourself and you’ll go farther. Get annoyed that taking on Russian is challenging, you’ll be watching others take down their genealogy brick walls this year.

An inside look into U.S. National Archives’ best research gem for WWII-era immigrants

For years, I have been glowing about the importance of Alien Case Files, possessed by the U.S. National Archives. There is nothing like a nice stack of documents filled with information on individual immigrants in one simple file.

Anyone wondering about relatives or ancestors who fled war-torn Europe during and after World War II should consider looking into obtaining Alien Case Files on their family. Only a small portion of records included in these files can be found on any online genealogy website, including Ancestry.com.

So here is a sneak peek into the life of Helen, my relative by marriage. Born in Ukraine, she fell in love in Russia, had her heart broken by her husband, escaped the USSR with her two children with her ex-husband and his new wife before a major battle between the Soviet Union and Germany occurred in her new hometown.

She was eventually captured by the German army and forced to fix the railroad damaged in the war. The American Army liberated her and she traveled through western Europe before coming abroad to live the American dream.

Her Alien Case File below shows how much can be discovered on WWII-era immigrants. Not all immigrants will have the same amount of records on them but Alien Case Files are the most complete records on immigrants in U.S. National Archives. I deleted several personal details in these scans for privacy reasons.

If you would like to find Alien Case Files on your family, read this FAQ on increasing chances of success in finding these records.