Russian State Public Historical Library offers amazing free genealogy document scans

A lot more Russian genealogy documents are sitting online waiting to be discovered than can be imagined.

Russian State Public Historical Library, the country’s largest scientific library specialized in history, keeps busy by posting scanned old books and booklets that can’t be found easily elsewhere. The website doesn’t involve any fees or registration and offers simple downloading.

The historical library has more than 200 genealogical and biological references on topics ranging from coats of arms to lists of mischief people expelled from Moscow here. I have listed below more than 35 books/booklets that would have the most interest.

Here is a link to a Zoom video that simply explains using the historical library website.

Most of the below books/booklets are listing people in alphabetical order.

Here is the order of the Russian alphabet:

А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

Before panicking and closing this page, have your family surnames translated from English to Russian on Google Translate or here. Having the names in Russian is half the effort involved with using these books/booklets.

The next important step is downloading Google Translate browser app or any other similar app onto your desktop or laptop computer. The app will automatically put Russian State Public Historical Library’s website into English.

The last half of the effort involved is lots of clicking and comparing your Russian surnames to the text in front of you. Once you make it to a page with the starting letter of your surnames, it will be lots comparing to see if any information exists on your ancestors or relatives.

Here’s an example how the website looks like before becoming too intimidated by a Russian website:

Once you find your family surnames in these books/booklets for the first time even if it is nothing about your family, your confidence with Russian documents will boom. I promise.

Don’t panic if you are not sure whether you found anything of importance. Facebook is loaded with friendly genealogy enthusiasts to help with translations of your downloads.

Below these links are more important guides for Russian and Ukrainian genealogy. Remember to follow this blog with the top right button to catch more posts on free resources in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy.

Nobility:

Pedigree book of princes and noblemen of Russia and abroad. printed 1787

List of noblemen of the Kingdom of Poland, with a summary of the evidence of the nobility; Appendix II to the list of nobles of the Kingdom of Poland (in Polish) printed 1851

Yearbook of the Russian nobility (in French) printed 1899

An alphabetical index of persons who were granted privileges in 1901 printed 1901

A list of titled families and persons of the Russian Empire from 1894 to 1908 printed 1908

Genealogical information about Russian noblemen and noble families descended from extramarital unions printed 1915

Nobility by region:

An alphabetical list of the noble families of the Bessarabian province, included in the noble genealogy book printed 1901 (now Moldovia)

Alphabetical index of the noble families of the Kostroma province, included in the genealogy book, divided into six parts, from 1790 to 1899 printed 1900

Alphabetical list of noble families included in the genealogy of noble books of Mogilev province printed  1908 (now Belarus)

Moscow nobility: an alphabetical list of noble families with a brief indication of the most important documents in the genealogical files of the Archive of the Moscow noble deputy assembly printed 1910

List of noble families included in the genealogy book of the Penza province. printed 1900.

List of noble families of the Sedletsk province printed 1910 (now Poland)

The nobility of the Tula province. – Tula, 1899-1916. printed 1916

Coats of Arms:

The general coat of arms of the noble families of the All-Russian Empire, begun in 1797 printed 1836

The coat of arms of the noble families of the Kingdom of Poland, the highest approved (in Russian and Polish) printed 1853

Coats of arms of Little Russian noble families printed 1892

Merchants: 

An alphabetical index of the names and firms of merchants, industrialists. printed 1899

Kazan merchant assembly. List of honorary and full members of the Kazan merchant assembly for 1914/Kazan merchant assembly printed 1914

Reference book about the persons of the Petrograd merchants and other ranks, joint-stock and share companies and trading houses, who received from November 1, 1915 to January 1, 1916 class certificates for the 1st and 2nd guilds, trade certificates of 1 and 2 categories for commercial enterprises, 1-5 grades for industrial enterprises, 2 and 3 grades for personal fishing activities. printed 1916

Persecution:

Alphabetical list of persons expelled from Moscow by order of his Excellency Mr. Moscow military governor-general, from August 11, 1848 to January 1, 1853 printed 1853

Alphabetical list of political criminals, deprived of the rights of state by court, whose property is subject to confiscation to the treasury, until October 1, 1864  printed 1865

Alphabetical index to books and pamphlets, as well as numbers of timed editions, the arrest of which was approved by court orders on April 15, 1914 printed 1915

Political Persecution:

Named and systematic index [to the historical-revolutionary bulletin “Hard labor and exile” for 1921-1925. printed 1928

Named and systematic index to the historical-revolutionary bulletin “Hard labor and exile” for 1926-1928. printed 1930

Political penal servitude and exile: biographical directory of members of the Society of Political Prisoners and Exiled Settlers printed 1929

Name index to the historical-revolutionary bulletin “Hard labor and exile” for 1929-1930. printed 1932

Political penal servitude and exile: biographical directory of members of the Society of Political Prisoners and Exiled Settlers. printed 1934

Military:

List of lieutenant colonels by seniority for Russian Imperial Army [1838, 1840, 1843-1844, 1848, 1842, 1855-1857, 1859, 1861-1881, 1883-1914]  Information about the passage of service, awards, and since 1887 – year of birth, religion, marital status, education. 

Alphabetical list of settlements in the Don Cossack Region. printed 1915.

Civil War:

Red heroes: a list of participants in the Civil War, awarded the Order of the Red Banner. printed 1920

A personal list of casualties at the front in the personnel of the workers ‘and peasants’ Red Army during the civil war. printed 1926

World War I

The second list of the killed, wounded, missing lower ranks of this war. printed 1915

Named list of wounded and sick soldiers in hospitals and infirmaries. – Pg., 1915-1916. printed 1916

Lists of Russian prisoners of war delivered from Germany. printed 1917

List of Russian subjects caught in the war abroad. printed 1914

List of addresses of refugees. printed 1916

List of Refugees Wanted by American Migrants printed 1916

Related posts:

The art of researching Ukrainian ancestors on Ancestry.com

Documenting Ukrainian cemeteries for FindAGrave has been quite the boot camp for me. I never imagined it would be so complicated to find information on these immigrants on Ancestry.com.

Thankfully, I have learned so much about how to find these people on Ancestry.com with my determination. Hopefully, this knowledge will finally help others in their journey to research on Ancestry.com.

Here are the surprising facts I learned about researching Ukrainian immigrants, many of whom were from western Ukraine and Galicia:

  1. The last names of husbands, wives and children sometimes are not always spelled the same.
  2. The tradition of spelling surnames by gender doesn’t always continue in the USA such as Dobrovolska for women and Dobrovolsky for men.
  3. Surnames are sometimes written in English with random vowel changes from the original transliterated spelling of the Ukrainian name.
  4. The birth date on gravestones sometimes doesn’t match information mentioned on documents on Ancestry.com. The birth year has been off by 5 years for some people. So don’t automatically eliminate a possible document match without further digging.
  5. First names are sometimes an English name that starts with a similar starting letter sound as the original Ukrainian first name.

So how can Ukrainian relatives and ancestors be found on Ancestry.com with so many complications? The best tool for researching Ukrainian immigrants on Ancestry.com has been the * (shift and 8 together on pc’s and mac’s).

To search Ukrainians with complicated names, spell with as many letters as possible and use an * at the end for the unsure endings. See the image below for an example. This method really helped me to confirm name spellings for people buried at Ukrainian-American cemeteries I was documenting on FindAGrave.

When this doesn’t work, it’s time to switch the suspected vowels to every possible vowel. The use of i,y,j also make the searches complicated so switch the order of those letters in every possible combination.

If too many results appear, here are some tips to narrow them down:

  1.  Select a gender.
  2. Click on United States or their chosen country under Collection Focus.
  3. Add the state in the place your ancestor might have lived box and click on exact under the box.
  4. Tweak with the Search Filters box on the top right to move between exact, sounds like and similar.

Here are some other important reminders:

  1. Anyone who came from Galicia could be listed on Ancestry.com as being born in Ukraine, Poland and Austria. Those people also could be listed from Carpathian Mountains or Malopolskie.
  2. If a US immigrant on Ancestry.com appears as a good match for your family tree, consider searching for them in this database or getting their Social Security application if they lived past 1936. The amount of information on the application is amazing and could confirm or deny suspicions.
  3. Research matches completely: spouses, children, siblings, parents, etc. before moving on. Those who came to the new country without knowing English couldn’t perfectly fill out documents. (My grand uncle is listed as coming from Kesin, Soviet Union, when he came from Kyiv.)
  4. Keep track of different spellings for the surnames you are researching on paper or a text file. It can really make the difference when doing further research on the families.
  5. Change the box on the bottom left to show 50 results per page so important patterns could be seen on the same page.
  6. Remember these important endings to last names: ycz/icz;  zyn; jy/yj, czuk/tschuk/juk; chenko/czenko and czyj.

If none of these suggestions work, it will likely take 20th century research to find records on Ukrainian immigrants. It will be time to call the Ukrainian churches near where they lived.

I have been stunned by the number of Ukrainian immigrants buried in an American cemetery who don’t have records on Ancestry.com or were noted in only one record. It takes determination to research Ukrainian immigrants but the knowledge gained will be worth a pricey genealogy class.

Related posts:
Guide to finding the mystery family villages of Russia and Ukraine
Guide for spelling Russian and Ukrainian names to break those solid brickwalls
Best tips on uncovering U.S. documents on mysterious Soviet Union relatives

Major German forced laborer database on Ostarbeiters goes online

One important online database has been missing for the WWII era until now. Finally, I can say a major database on the Ostarbeiters (forced laborers of Germany) is online.

Memorial, a Russian international historical and civil rights society, has posted information on more than 320,000 people taken from central and eastern Europe to become forced laborers for Germany. Many more people were Ostarbeiters but this database is the largest online.

Those who truly want to find information on their Ostarbeiter relatives and ancestors will need to make an extra effort to view this database. I will explain how to use this database without knowing Russian.

Memorial has posted a list of Ostarbeiters who were taken from or forced to work in these countries: Russia, current day Republic of Crimea, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Lithuania, France, Norway, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The list of Ostarbeiters comes from State Archive of the Russian Federation: Fund-7021, “Extraordinary State Commission for the Establishment and Investigation of the Crimes of the Nazi Invaders”.

Important video on using this database

Memorial has created a video on using this database, with English subtitles here. I highly recommend viewing this video so this database is easier to use.

How to use this database

The easiest way to use this database without knowing Russian is to download the Google Translate app or another preferred language translator to your browser. Once that is downloaded, the database listings of countries, regions and towns/villages can be viewed in English.

Under the search area, the database is split up by country, regions of each country and towns/villages affected by the forced laborer movement of Germany. It will be helpful for users to know the region, district and town/village where their relatives and ancestors were taken from or had been forced to work. If this not known, I suggest looking at each possible area on the database.

Once a link is clicked for a village or town, a spreadsheet will be downloaded to your computer or device that gives the name and location of forced labor of the Ostarbeiters. If that does not happen, look for the green and white Excel spreadsheet icon and click on it.

Simply write relatives’ and ancestors’ names into Google Translate or this website and paste the last name into the find text box in the top right. Some spreadsheets could be short enough to scan for the names being researched.

Those who know how to read script Russian can search here for the towns where their relatives or ancestors were taken from or forced to work. Once that search is done, scans of documents related to that area will appear.

In addition to this database, Memorial created this database (click here for the English translated version) of documents (mainly in German) and personal photos provided by Ostarbeiters. This collection provides information on 170,000 people.

I know this seems like a lot of work for those accustomed to doing research in English. But 75 years have passed since WWII’s victory. These people in the database deserve to have their story discovered so this never happens again.

Remember to follow this blog with the top right button to learn about the latest news in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy. The news on databases has been amazing for 2020.

Posts on Memorial’s other important databases and projects:
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Database reveals names of secret agents for the Soviet Great Terror
A shocking sign that some people in the former USSR aren’t scared anymore

FamilySearch on its way to make many more Ukrainian archive records digital

FamilySearch International has sealed a deal with the State Archival Services of Ukraine to scan records at Ukrainian archives. This is major news for anyone researching their ancestors from Ukraine.

What this really means for Ukrainian genealogy has been answered here by Sasha Sichkarenko, field relations manager of Ukraine for FamilySearch International.

“It is a huge day! It is fantastic news and a big step forward for modern-day Ukraine and its archives!,” he say. “… I’m happy that all components met in a perfect combination in the right place at the right time. This window of opportunity can bring a lot of positive and useful things to Ukraine, to the Ukrainian people, and to all who have Ukrainian ancestry and want to know their heritage.”

FamilySearch International has been working in Ukraine since 1994. That resulted in more than 20.5 million record scans from 16 regional archives being posted to the FamilySearch catalog, Sichkarenko says.

A break in FamilySearch International’s work occurred in 2011 due to political reasons. Then the situation started improving in 2013-14, he says.

“Society wanted to move away from the Soviet heritage and perverted cultural legacy of the communist regime. It demanded fundamental changes in governmental, economic, cultural directions, including dramatic renovation of the archival sphere,” Sichkarenko says. “Recent court decisions opened the opportunity to digitize historical records by individual researchers with their own smartphones and/or cameras. The archives felt the need to move into the digital era.”

The enthusiasm was heard from many directors at the regional archives who want to see the records digitized, he says.

That enthusiasm mixed with new State Archival Services of Ukraine leadership made the new agreement possible, Sichkarenko says.

Anatoly Khromov became the new director of State Archival Services of Ukraine in December 2019. He had served as deputy of the head of the Secret Service of Ukraine archive. Khromov was a speaker of FamilySearch’s “Family History Festival”.

Soon after Khromov took his position in February, FamilySearch International high-level leaders met with State Archival Services of Ukraine officials about cooperation and an agreement.

“As you can see, it took only 5 months to come from the intentions and goodwill to the announcement of the two signatures under the Memorandum,” Sichkarenko says. “This document will allow us to negotiate with regional archives for the digitization of their records.”

The ink is dried on the contract and FamilySearch International is ready to get busy with scanning archive records. Sichkarenko estimates the work will begin either in late summer or early autumn this year. The COVID-19 situation is delaying an immediate start on scanning, he says.

Sichkarenko has a list of all archive funds that focus on genealogical information that FamilySearch International wants to be included on its website.

That focus is well beyond just birth, marriage and death records. FamilySearch International wants to scan revisions, censuses, court and police records, 19th and 20th century newspapers with obituaries and other news, church prayer lists, Nazi occupation “card-indexes”, the “filtration documents” used to document Ukrainian forced laborers of Germany who were called Ostarbeiters and prisoners of WWII.

The other records of interest for FamilySearch International also include lists of orphans and widows of servicemen who died in WWI; personal files, career lists of employees with family information (late 19th to early 20th century), landownership materials; noble family records, books, maps, photos and gazetteers.

All these records that will be scanned will become available on the FamilySearch website at a time yet to be determined.  Once that happens, it will help complete so many family stories and family trees.

Follow this blog with the top right bottom to learn about news in Ukrainian and Russian genealogy.  

Related posts:
Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker
10 Mythbusters for making breakthroughs in Russian genealogy
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)

New WWII databases reveal amazing information, honoring 75th anniversary of victory

Coronavirus is not stopping the online celebration of the 75th anniversary of WWII’s victory.

Three databases have gone online, in addition to an explosion of soldier photos of men and women who served in the Soviet Army on a WWII database. Those who don’t know Russian are highly recommended to download a language translator app such as Google Translate and use this website or Google Translate  for translating keywords.

The information on these databases cannot be found in English anywhere. All websites are free of fees and registration requirements.

Saint Petersburg Archives has created a database of more than 67,000 civilian recipients of “For the Defense of Leningrad” medals. The database, searchable by last name, year of birth or place of employment, provides downloadable scans of award documents for each recipient.

“It (the medal) was awarded to active participants in the heroic defense of the city on the Neva – all those who, despite hunger and cold, shelling and bombing, stood by the machine, extinguished incendiary bombs, nursed the wounded, dug trenches, supported the urban economy, taught and cared for children, holding thereby personal victory in the battle for Leningrad,” says the website.

The Soviet government gave the award to 1.47 million recipients (according to Wikipedia) so the database is a work in progress.

That medal also was given to civilians in Odessa (Ukraine), Sevastopol, Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Caucasus, Transartic and Kyiv (Ukraine). My hope is databases for civilians who received the same medal in the other cities will appear online in the near future.

Another great database added for researching WWII is Explosion of Partisan, based on documents from the Central Headquarters of the Partisan Movement at the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command.

Information on more than 8,500 people awarded for their involvement in the war’s partisan movement are detailed in the database, which also is a work on progress.

This database can be easily searched by surname. Information provided on award recipients can include full name, birth year, place for call of service, place of residence, partisan group name, award presented, presenter of award and file location of record.

Requests to obtain scans of records can be sent to rgaspi@inbox.ru. It is highly recommended to write in Russian.

So far, most WWII databases from Russia have focused on soldiers of the Soviet Army. This is a great step toward recognizing all the people who helped in the war effort.

The other database comes from the Republic of Belarus- A Book of Memory, an effort by the Office to Perpetuate the Memory of Defenders of the Fatherland and Victims of Wars of the Armed Forces of Belarus.

The database provides information on people who died in Belarus during WWII and those who came from Belarus and died elsewhere during WWII. Users can find the following information in the database: full name, year of birth, place of birth, place of call of duty, place of service, position, date of death, cause of death, burial number and place of burial.

Those seeking information on their relatives or ancestors from Belarus will need to look page by page or know their full name- first, patronymic (name derived from father’s first name such as Ivanovich) and surname.

Some people on this database can be found on Memory of the People  but others are only found on A Book of Memory.

The other great news for WWII databases is the explosion of photos posted to Road of Memory, which has an estimated 2 million photos of men and women who served in the Soviet Army. Numerous photos are being posted everyday, with a noticeable amount of female soldier photos.

I wrote about Road of Memory back in October, when there were only 300,000 photos posted to the database. Users only can search by name. I search by surname and patronymic name or surname and first name to make the results more specific.

The photos on Road of Memory also can be found on Memory of the People, which is  much easier to search. It is very touching to see pictures of soldiers from the villages of my great-grandparents. (I explain how to search Memory of the People without knowing Russian in this post.)

These photos can be used to find facial similarities with known relatives or find potential relatives. I highly recommend bookmarking soldiers’ pages to regularly check for posted photos.

Last Sunday, a woman who posted her grandfather’s photo on Road of Memory e-mailed me. I saw that photo last Saturday while searching my 7th-great-grandfather’s surname in the database for soldiers from my great-grandfather’s village.

The Luxembourg woman saw my post on her grandfather’s surname on the largest Russian-language genealogy forum, All Russia Forum. Thanks to the database and forum, we will try to connect our family trees. Making the switch to Russian-language sites for genealogy really has its perks.

The news in WWII databases from the Russian-speaking world doesn’t end here. Last week, Germany handed over about 20,000 scans to Russian military archives on soldiers who were German POWs. The scans are expected to provide information on millions of soldiers, according to news reports.

It won’t be surprising if even more databases will go online this year, in addition to the new POW scans. The newest databases also will continue to grow.

The opportunities to make amazing discovers are available to those willing to try these Russian databases with language translators. Those who try will eventually have bragging rights.

Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about new databases posted online and important updates to WWII-related databases.

See more free databases here.

Related posts:
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Arolsen Archives quietly adds 13 million more WWII records…
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Massive database reveals priceless information on rebels of the Russian Revolution
Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy