Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy

Staying stuck in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy is a temporary state if one change is made. Google Translate can truly transform research of Russian and Ukrainian ancestors and relatives to the land of discovery.

My research was stuck for years until I started using Google Translate. Many of my success stories on this blog are the result of taking advantage of Google Translate.

It has taken years to perfect using Google Translate. The free program has its kinks but here is how to avoid those kinks to use Google Translate like an expert.

Translating English to Russian or Ukrainian:

  1. Write in the simplest sentences.
  2. Avoid slang.
  3. Don’t use words with two meanings.
  4. Avoid the word excited. Google Translate made me look like an idiot when I used this word.
  5. Don’t use abbreviations, i.e. St. They can be confused. Is it street or saint?
  6. Remember that endings of Russian and Ukrainian surnames are different for men and women. (Here is a post that explains spelling Russian and Ukrainian first and last names.)
  7.  If Google Translate can’t translate names into Russian, use this website instead.

Working with Ukrainian:

  1. Ukrainian will translate so much better when it is translated into Russian first and then into English.
  2.  Make sure to get Ukrainian text from English text this way English-Russian-Ukrainian.

To move onto translating web pages from Russian or Ukrainian into English, download the Google Chrome web browser for computers. It comes with an translator app so the pages will appear in English with one click. Here is a video on using this app. (Check out this information on how to use the app on iPhones and iPads and Androids.)

Helpful reminders for using this app:

  1. Russians and Ukrainians write names in this order: surname, first name and then patronymic name (name derived from father’s first name such as Ivanovich/Ivanovna).
  2. Russian and Ukrainian grammar is complicated. The endings of names and places will change with the addition of a few letters. (see Ukrainian grammar and Russian grammar pages on Wikipedia)
  3. If the place or name being searched cannot be seen on a web page after the English translation, it is likely the name or place translated into an English word, instead of a letter-to-letter translation. To determine which surnames and places translate into English words from Russian, put the known keywords into Google Translate, have them translated to Russian and then translate them back to English to see if they translate into English words. For example, the surname Kapusta will translate from Russian to English as cabbage.
  4. If for any reason the Google Translate app on Chrome doesn’t switch websites into English, just copy and paste the link into Google Translate.

Here is a video that explains how to do the last two steps.

These guidelines and videos should give a great start to getting more comfortable with using Russian and Ukrainian websites. The amount of effort put into making this change can bring in return some great discoveries. It’s up to you how much you want to discover.

Related posts:
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)

Guide for spelling Russian and Ukrainian names to break those solid brickwalls

It gets exciting to discover an unknown Russian or Ukrainian relative but then the excitement turns into frustration when more information can’t be found.

The back of a photo may identify a man as Valya but trying to find information on Valya turns into a search into a man who doesn’t appear to ever have existed.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the differences between Russian and Ukrainian first names and nicknames.

This Useful English webpage gives a great list for spelling Russian first names with nicknames in English and Russian. The list starts at the middle of the page.

For those researching Ukrainian first names, try this website. Ukrainians and Russians have similar first names so make sure to also check out the Russian lists.

The challenge with Russian names continues when “middle names” are considered. Seeing a photo of a man identified as Valya Ivanovich doesn’t mean that is his full name. Ivanovich is a patronymic name, which is derived from the father’s first name, so his father was Ivan.

Useful English gives some examples of patronymic names under the men’s first names. It is very important to not confuse patronymic names with last names. Also,  sons and daughters have patronymic names that are spelled differently, for example Nikolaevich for men and Nikolaevna for women.

Then when it comes to last names, the spellings in English can be complicated from translations of the Russian and Ukrainian alphabets.

Here are useful lists of Russian last names and Ukrainian last names from Wikipedia.

The largest Russian genealogy website also has an extensive list of Russian surnames here in English and Russian. Each letter in English is linked to a page of surnames.

The link for each surname has posts for people searching for relatives. This is how I had found my distant cousins from several family lines. (The Russian text for the posts can be easily copied and pasted into Google Translate for English translations.)

Once the proper spellings of names can be determined, doors really open in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy. It can be challenging but the results from making the effort can be amazing.

Related posts:
Guide to finding family in Ukraine like a native expert
Best tips on uncovering U.S. documents on mysterious Soviet Union relatives
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs

Get sanity during the holiday season with a simple form

The holiday season is on its way but already stores are convinced the holidays are already here. Nothing like the holiday season stress mixed with intense genealogy research to cause panic that genealogy could take a back seat in the next several weeks.

So organization is the key to keeping sane while dealing with the holiday season AND genealogy.

Here is my Miller Sanity Checklist for Documenting Immigrants. 

Miller genealogy sanity checklist (best viewed in Web Layout under View in word processing programs)

Download this form to keep track of which documents you need to find and already have on your relatives. This form will keep you on track on what really needs to be done and will remind you how much you’ve already accomplished.

One great tip: Add a date to each check mark to remind you how much you have accomplished over time. Then print out the form and place it somewhere visible for genealogy rainy days to see your accomplishments.

Related  posts:
Documents that open doors to information (on A- and C-Files)
Guide for success in obtaining Alien Case Files

The User-Friendly Guide to Find A Grave for Russian and Ukrainian Genealogy

findagraveFind A Grave is an easy resource to use for those with longtime roots in the English-speaking world and western Europe. For those with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry, the challenge in using Find A Grave  starts immediately with determining how to spell names of relatives who used the Cyrillic alphabet in the old country.

Thanks to different ideas about spelling Russian and Ukrainian names in English, finding relatives on Find a Grave is not as simple as a few clicks.

So here are top 10 tips to untangle the mysteries of finding relatives from Russia and Ukraine on Find a Grave.

  1. Don’t eliminate results based on birth dates. So many issues complicate how Russians and Ukrainians declare their birthdays. In Russian Orthodox cemeteries, some families post their relatives’ birth dates by the European format of date.month.year. Sometimes that format can be misunderstood by Find A Grave volunteers posting the information. Immigrants also lied about their birth dates to appear younger in their new homeland. Others immigrants had their birth dates changed unintentionally during the rush of processing immigrants during and after WWII. Then some immigrants changed their old Julian calendar birth date to the current Gregorian calendar birth date.
  2. Use as few letters as possible to spell the last name. Romanov also can be spelled Romanow and Romanoff. Trying to guess the correct endings of surnames is a hard gamble to win. Search using the portion of names that most likely don’t have any variations.
  3. If results are not appearing for a non-complicated surname with a first name, consider using the person’s nickname.
  4. Consider changes for names of towns before eliminating good matches. The two world wars changed country borders and names of towns. Research your relatives’ birthplaces to see whether they would be listed under new names or even other countries.
  5. Be open to unusual spellings of names. Lydia also can be spelled as Lidia, Lidiya, Lidija. The variations sometimes only make sense to those with the name.
  6. Patronymic names may be confused for maiden names of women. (Patronymic names are middle names derived from the father’s first name, i.e. Nikolaevna, Sergeevna and Ivanovna.) If the maiden name is the only incorrect information for a good match, check whether the patronymic name was mistaken for the maiden name.
  7. Remember these rules for variations in spelling names: a V could be changed into W and FF, Y could be changed to J and IY could be shortened to I and Y or changed to IJ.
  8. Consider shortenings of surnames or major changes in names for assimilate into the new homeland. One gravestone in a Russian Orthodox cemetery lists a man’s surname as Peck when the true translation of the name should have been Peskovtsev.
  9. Confirm a match as the person being searched by using Legacy, a free online obituary service.
  10. When search results become useless, try a search engine with keyword and keyword site: in the search box to avoid the search restrictions on Find A Grave.

Related post:

One website could become the Russian version of Find A Grave

Don’t let this easy mistake implode your family tree

Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker

It has taken me years to figure out how to search the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian even though I grew up in a Russian-speaking home. Now, I finally feel I can search the Internet like a native speaker, of course with the help of Google Translate as my aid.

Here are some tips that will eliminate the aggravations of searching in Russian and Ukrainian for non-native speakers and maybe find the hidden gems.

1. If you are not getting good results by searching people in this format: Ivan Vasilievich Ivanov (Russian: Иван Васильевич Иванов and Ukrainian: Іван Васильович Іванов), then search for Ivanov Ivan Vasilievich (Russian: Иванов Иван Васильевич and Ukrainian: Іванов Іван Васильович). This doesn’t make any sense to most people but a lot of times Russians and Ukrainians are referred by their last name, then first name and patronymic name on websites.

2. The same reverse situation is true for addresses. Russians and Ukrainians put street and lane before the chosen street name. If you search for “Lenin Street, Smolensk” the results will be limited compared to “Street Lenin, Smolensk”.

3. Don’t assume you have found information on a family village unless you see the place referred as село or деревня (Ukrainian: селище, містечко and селище).  I assumed at times I was looking at information on my family village until I noticed the place was referred as a город (city). A lot of villages are written as c., м. or дер. and then the village name.

4. Don’t let Russian grammar confuse you. My family village of  Ивановское will be also written as ИвановскогоThe end spellings of peoples’ names and places will change depending on the grammar case. That’s why Moscow (Russian: Москвa) will be written as Москве sometimes.

5. Don’t ever use letters from English-language keyboards to search in Russian. My first name is written as Bepa in Russian. When I write this using my English-language keyboard, I get zero results in Russian. In the Russian language, the print letters e, y, o, p, a, k, x,c, E, T and M are very similar to Cyrillic letters but search engines will pick up that these are not Cyrillic letters.

6. If you have found a website that appears to have a lot of information on your family or topic, narrow down your searches to that website by using your “Russian keywords” site: http://_________________________.

7. If you would rather find information through pictures before clicking on link after link after link, search Google Images. Each picture is linked to the websites from where Google lifted them. This may be the easiest way to search if seeing everything in Cyrillic would make you crazy.

8. At times, the website you are viewing may turn into nonsense symbols. So read this post-  Say goodbye to Оплата получена– before you start getting aggressive in searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian.

9. If you click on the Google Translate link next to search results, don’t forget to edit webpage names when you bookmark. You’ll get a list of bookmarks named Google Translate, otherwise.

10. I highly suggest having a firewall and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware installed on your computer and/or devices before you go click crazy on Russian and Ukrainian websites. These websites seemed to be filled with malware and viruses.

I hope your searches are fun and filled with surprising gems of information.