Build the best mousetrap to find long-lost family this holiday season

okrusThe number of websites to find long-lost family are everywhere, even for those searching in the former USSR. There are a few great social networking websites for the Russian-speaking world.

But only one I will call the great mousetrap. It has one automatic feature that Facebook doesn’t have for its users.

Everyone who visits personal pages of users on Odnoklassniki pops up as a visitor in the same way as notifications appear on Facebook. Big deal, some will say sarcastically.

Send a potential relative an e-mail message or postal letter with the address of your page on Odnoklassnik and that person views your page, the doors open.

Most members of the social network list their relatives who are their friends for everyone to view. Unlike Facebook, all open accounts will show which friends are actually family to anyone viewing Odnoklassniki. Messages from current friends and strangers also appear in the same mailbox, unlike Facebook.

I used my account a few months ago to connect with family of my grandfather’s sister who wouldn’t answer my postal letters. A younger member of the family viewed my page mentioned in the letter sent to Ukraine and I finally figured out their family tree from their page, which was revealed by her visit to my page.

More than 200 million people from the former USSR are registered with Odnoklassniki and more than 45 million people visit the website every day, according to Wikipedia.

So it was not a surprise to find people carrying my two great-grandparents’ surnames in the village where they were born in the 1880s on Odnoklassniki. The easy search engine to find people by surname and hometown is an incredible resource to find long-lost family among the millions of registered users.

Even if a user can’t find relatives right away, the social network has a great area for groups that include many for genealogy. Some groups are based on surnames and backgrounds of ancestors- Cossacks, nobility, Germans living in Russia, etc.

Another great feature of Odnoklassniki is that status notifications are separated by responses to your status posts, friend’s posts and your group posts. There isn’t a need to dig around the status notifications to find the responses you’ve been awaiting in your genealogy groups, again unlike Facebook.

If you are convinced or tempted to use Odnoklassnik, here’s the best part. The website is available in English! Here is the link to register using the English version of Odnoklassniki, which is also available in Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Romanian, Tajik ans Uzbek.

Anyone ready to build the best mousetrap on Odnoklassniki, click here for my guide. I’ve been a member for 4 years so this is the best advice from my experience on finally finding those relatives mentioned in dusty letters or talks by older relatives.

Here’s the finest cheese for the best mousetrap to find long-lost family

First impressions are everything, even on social networks. Citizens of the former USSR have been raised to be suspicious of foreigners so building the right profile on Odnoklassniki is important.

Here’s what it takes to attract people to your profile on Odnoklassniki, with hopes that long-lost family will find you through your profile.

  1. Your first status post should be about the family you are seeking. Make the post simple and mention that older photos of your relatives are posted in your photo album.
  2. Try to post your status updates in English and Russian, using Google Translate or any online translating program.
  3. Don’t post photos of homes and cars that make it appear as if you’re rich in the view of former USSR citizens. You don’t want to attract the wrong attention and people who will falsely claim to be family.
  4. Post only in Russian when interacting in the groups.
  5. Show pride in your ancestry from the former USSR. Post pictures of your activities with Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian community groups.
  6. Don’t discuss current or past politics of the former USSR in any of your posts. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is very touch among the Russian-speaking world. Just leave it alone.
  7. Make sure to keep track of responses to your group posts. Even if the responses aren’t helpful, acknowledge them and be thankful.
  8. Join some groups unrelated to genealogy to bring attention to yourself. Maybe someone in fishing or traveling groups will click on your profile link and realize you two have a family connection.
  9. When posting in genealogy groups about the family you are seeking or researching, make sure to include any older photos and documents you have in the posts. It brings more interest so your posts aren’t scrolled past as much.
  10. Most importantly, don’t announce you are a foreigner in your status updates or group posts. Hello from America! or Hello from Australia! may be taken the wrong way. People from the former USSR have been taught to hate foreigners for generations. It’s hard to tell which members are excited about interacting with foreigners and those who are leery.

Please post comments about the successes and struggles of using Odnoklassniki. Any additional suggestions on using Odnoklassniki are welcome!

Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum

So where are all the Russians and Ukrainians excited to find their long-lost family and discover the stories of their ancestors? There are lots of forums online but only one forum can claim to be the best and most popular in the Russian-speaking world- All Russia Family Tree.

For the English-speaking world, the fact that the forum is in Russian doesn’t mean it is impossible to use. I’ve posted a video here on how to use this forum with Google Translate.

I highly encourage everyone at least to visit All Russia Family Tree in English. Thanks to this forum, I have found cousins on four different lines. Two cousins sought ME out.

So if you are brave enough to challenge yourself to register as a user on this forum, here’s my top 10 tips to make this forum the jackhammer for your Russian and Ukrainian genealogy brickwalls.

  1. Use very simple English and translate it into Russian, using Google Translate, when posting to the forum.
  2. Bookmark all your posts and check daily for responses to your posts. The forum doesn’t send update messages when someone responds to your posts.
  3. Look for forum members searching for family here. The English translation is provided for each name. The newer listings can be found here. Both lists are translated into English and are very useful.
  4. Provide links to genealogy blogs and photo albums at the bottom of each post.
  5. Be cautious if you get a private message from a researcher. Check out their profile and posts to see whether they are legit.
  6. Look through the forum to find all the areas where you can get help and find useful resources.
  7. Do not post the same message on various areas of the forums to increase your chances of getting responses. It will only increase your chances of being removed as a spammer.
  8. Thank anyone who responds to your posts, even when the responses don’t provide the information or help you were seeking.
  9. Take advantage of the search engine for the forum. It is a great resource for finding forum members researching the same surname or villages.
  10. Make sure to have your profile as friendly and complete as possible.

Any questions? Post them below or join the Facebook group for this blog.

Related posts:
New Russian cousins found again!
The priceless value of a sixth cousin

Find living family from the former USSR with little effort

It is hard to find Russian language websites that are easy to use for finding family, especially ones that don’t lose popularity after awhile.

After so much searching, I have found one that is growing in popularity- ЖДИ МЕНЯ – ПОИСК ЛЮДЕЙ (Wait for Me- People Search). More than 30,000 posts can be viewed on this website.

The best part is that registration is not required to search the website, which has separate sections for friends and acquaintances, classmates, relatives and those hoping someone is looking for them. I recommend looking through all areas.

Naturally, the site only can be searched in Russian. Google Translate can easily translate most names properly into Russian if written correctly in English. The search box for  ЖДИ МЕНЯ – ПОИСК ЛЮДЕЙ is on the top middle of the website.

I haven’t had luck in finding anyone who could be related to me but the number of posts are growing every day. To take full advantage of this website, I have registered so I can add posts on my lost relatives.

Registering is simple by following these directions: click on Регистрация on the top right of the main page and fill in the form. Пароль: password;  and Введите символы, изображенные на картинке: retype numbers written above.

Then click on the box next to Я принимаю условия пользовательское соглашение (accept terms of service) and then the blue oval button below. You will receive an e-mail message with a link, confirming your registration.

Then to add a post, click on this link and follow these directions. Everything with a red star is required.

Фамилия Имя Отчество разыскиваемого: provide name as last name, first name and patronymic name (patronymic can be skipped); Девичья фамилия того, кто потерялся: maiden name;  Дата и год рождения разыскиваемого: date and year went missing; Место жительства – область поиска разыскиваемого: place of residence- region being searched; and Ваше сообщение или история: information on person being searched.

A photo can be uploaded where its says “Загрузите фотографию человека, который потерялся размер не более 4МБ”. The file cannot be larger than 4MB.

Then you have to provide information on yourself: Ваша Фамилия Имя Отчество: your last name, first name and patronymic or middle name; Ваша девичья фамилия, если меняли фамилию: maiden name; Кто разыскивает?: Who is looking? female cousin: двоюродная сестра and male cousin: двоюродный брат; Ваш контактный телефон для связи с Вами: telephone number;  Ваш Skype: Skype address; Срок размещения анкеты: length of time to keep post on website; Неделя: week; Две недели: two weeks; Месяц: month; Три месяца: three month; and Год: a year.

Then click on the blue oval button to submit your post. It will take about a day to find your post on the website.

This may seem as if it’s a lot of work to add one post but it’s worth the effort. In less than 48 hours, 60 people have viewed my post. It is a matter of time when the right person views my post. It’s rare to have Russian family find you on an English language website. The better bet is on this website.

The priceless value of a sixth cousin

I have been eager to find the closest cousins as possible but the cousins with the most information have been those who needed to be identified by pulling out the family tree.

I was excited to seeing a posting by a distant cousin on a genealogy forum. The man’s paternal grandmother was born into the same family as my paternal grandmother. Our grandmothers were 4th cousins, leaving our common ancestor as our 5th great-grandpa.

The effort it took to track down my Russian-American 6th cousin was quite the feat. He posted his message on the most popular Russian genealogy forum 10  years ago so the postal and e-mail addresses he posted were out-of- date.

I had to research him on Google and find information on him on  Intellius before I called the right house. I knew this was worth all the effort when I uncovered he wrote a book on his southern Russian ancestry in ENGLISH.

Anytime I can find documented research on my Russian ancestors in English, it is a happy dance marathon. This is the first time ever that I had the luck of finding information on my ancestors in English.

The details that my sixth cousin found by visiting archives in St. Petersburg on my direct ancestors, starting from my great-grandfather’s generation, was beyond words. I never thought a sixth cousin would be so resourceful.

The cherry on top of this cake was that my cousin uncovered the full names of 3rd and 4th great-grandmothers, a task that is hardly easy to accomplish in Russian genealogy. Uncovering these surnames proved we are cousins twice, through our 5th great-grandfather and my 4th great-grandmother.

This all opened another door I never expected. Thanks to our Don Cossack ancestry, I was able to find information on my 4th great-grandmother’s family in  a genealogy book written by Sergei Koryagin.

So, now I have information on more than 30 relatives of my 4th great-grandmother. Koryagin details the service of the Don Cossacks in my 4th great-grandmother’s family in his genealogy book.

All due to the efforts of finding a 6th cousin, I have more than names and dates on relatives of my grandmother and 4th great-grandmother. This would have costed me thousands of dollars on my own.

Not all distant cousins are filled with family information but it is worth the effort to say hello to cousins who are connected to those great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. The information awaiting you to break down some brick walls could be just an e-mail message away.

Related post:

Discovering Don Cossack ancestry the easy way