Ukraine Beginning Research
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Understand the historical context, become acquainted with the best sources for genealogical research, the arrangement of records in an archive, and learn options to acquire information from the sources.
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ShtetlSeeker provides variants spellings and historical jurisdictions for places with Jewish populations which covers many places for all ethnic groups. URL: www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker.
The basic gazetteer for historical Ukraine are selected volumes from Russian Empire postal directories: Spiski Naselennykh Mest Rossiiskoi Imperii (List of Populated Places in Imperial Russia). S. Peterburg: Tsentralnyi Statisticheskii Komitet Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del, 1861-1885. 62 vols. (Fiche 6,002,224 / 420 microfiches). Identifies religious congregations.
One gazetteer for modern Ukraine is Ukrains'ka RSR admynystrativno-teritoryal'nii podyl (Ukrainian Republic Administrative Territorial Divisions). Kiev, 1973. (Book 947.71 E5u). While published for other years, the 1973 edition is the basis for places in the FamilySearch Catalog.
An encyclopedia that provides historical details and names changes for places is Istoriia Mist i Sil USSR (History of Towns and Villages in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). Kiev, 1969-1974. 26 v. (Book 947.71 E5i).
Galicia & Bukovina (Western Ukraine)
Lenius, Brian J. Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia. 3rd ed. Anola, Manitoba, 1999. (Book 943.86 E5L). Identifies religious jurisdictions.
German, Polish and Romanian versions of places names are provided by Gemeindelexikon der im Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder ... vom 31. Dezember 1900 (Locality Dictionary for the Crownlands and Territories Represented in the Imperial Council). Wien, 1905-1908. Bd. 12: Galizien, Bd. 13. Bukowina (Vol. 12: Galicia, Vol. 13. Identifies religious jurisdictions). URL: BYU Library Family History Archive: www.lib.byu.edu/fhc/index.php.
Polish places names and jurisdictios are provided by Skorowidz miejscowosci rzeczypospolitej polskiej (Listing of Localities of the Polish Republic) Bystrzycki, Tadeusz. Przemysl, 1934, 2 volumes. URL: www.wbc.poznan.pl/dlibra/docmetadata?id=12786. Need to download a viewer (called DJVu Browser) to see the images.
Dvorzsák, János, comp. Magyarország Helységnévtára (Gazetteer of Hungary). Budapest: “Havi Füzetek,” 1877. Identifies religious jurisdictions. URL: BYU Library Family History Archive: www.lib.byu.edu/fhc/index.php
Austrian pre-WWI maps for western Ukraine. Generalkarte von Mitteleuropa (General Maps of Central Europe). Vienna, 1898-1967. 249 maps. Scale 1:200,000. Cover southern Belarus, western Ukraine, and Moldova. This map set uses Ferro as the Prime Meridian, which is 17˚ 39' 44"degrees west of Greenwich. URL: http://lazarus.elte.hu/hun/digkonyv/topo/3felmeres.htm
Modern Soviet military maps, 1:100,000 are found at Mana.com.
Metrical Books or Parish Registers (metriki)
The majority begin of these begin in the middle 18th century. Normally two copies were made, one local and the other a transcript sent annually to a central ecclesiastical or civil office. Metrical books consist of forms filled out annually, filed, and then bound into books. Over time they were filed in any order imaginable. Quite often the records of churches in a district for a single year are bound in the same volume. Most metrical books are found in state archives but ZAHS (civil registration) offices often have metrical books back to the beginning of the 20th century. These are normally the local copy of the metrical book. They are supposed to be transferred to state archives after 75 years.
Russian Orthodox. The keeping of metrical books was mandated by a 1722 decree of Peter the Great. A format of three parts--christenings, marriages, deaths–was established in 1724; a printed format in 1806, and in 1838 a format that prevailed until the Russian Revolution in 1918. A Ukrainian diocese (eparkhiia) was coterminous with a Ukrainian state (guberniia)
Greek Catholic (Uniate). Uniates were followers of the Byzantine rite that returned to union with Rome. In 1839 the Church was formally dissolved in Ukraine and its members considered Orthodox. The Church persisted in Galicia and Transcarpathia, then under Austro-Hungarian rule. When these areas were assimilated into Ukraine, this religion was outlawed. The descendants of Ukrainians may not be aware of the distinction between Uniate and Orthodox.
Roman Catholic. While these often go back to an earlier period, these were mandated by the government to be compiled 1826. Three copies were made for the diocese, the deanery (dekanat–level between the diocese and parish), and the parish. There were three dioceses covering parts of Ukraine in 1900: Odessa (created in 1899), Tiraspol (located in Saratov), and Zhytomyr (Zhitomir).
Evangelical (Lutheran). In 1832, Russia mandated keeping these records. The diocesan headquarters for Ukraine was located in St. Petersburg. The registers were kept in German until law of 1891 required that they be kept in Russian. Jewish. In 1835, the government mandated keeping these records in two copies: one local and one for the government.
Baptist. Civil registration was mandated in 1879. Two copies were created, one for the provincial administration and the other for the regional police headquarters.
Revision lists/family lists (revizskie skazski/posemeinye spiski)
The quickest way to identify families is revision lists, kept between 1719-1858 to support a national poll tax established by Peter I to change the basis of taxation from households to individuals. Encountering, opposition, it still took several years for the returns to come in. The 2nd revision (1743-1747) began after the ascension of Tsarina Elizabeth. The 4th revision, 1778-1787 was the first conducted by a local institution, the region fiscal chamber (kazionnaia palata). Revisions 5-10 were conducted during: (5) 1794-1808, (6) 1811-1812, (7) 1815-1825, (8) 1833-1835, (9) 1850-1852, (10) 1857-1859. The last three revisions noted familial changes between revisions. Separate vols. were kept for the different social classes: merchant (kupchestvo), urban citizen (meshchane), peasant (krest'iane), etc. Nobility, clergy, officialdom, army, and higher strata of the urban population were exempt–5 to 10% in the 19th century. Family lists and local census records 1860-1917, later equivalents of the revision lists, occur sparsely in archives.
1897 census (perepis 1897)
The 1897 census was the only universal census in imperial Russia, including Ukraine. It was conducted in the middle of the winter because this was the time when the populace was least mobile. The census tabulated information on name, age, sex, relationship, social class, occupation, religion, native tongue, literacy, birthplace, residence, registration site, military status, and disabilities. A copy was sent to St. Petersburg and was destroyed. Local copies have survived in Ukraine only for Kiev Province and for the Odessa City.
Conscription lists (prizyvnye spiski)
The government instituted conscription 1874-1918. The drafting of selected groups began earlier but as of January 1, 1874, all 21 year-old males were subject to military service. Conscription occurred each year in October. The term of service varied from 3-5 years. Less than 50 percent of the draftees were inducted
Lineage books (rodoslovnye knigi)
The gentry nobility assembly (deputatskoe dvorianskoe sobranie) was established in 1785 by Catherine the Great as the local governing body of the nobility. These books were compiled and turned into the assembly to confirm their hereditary status as nobles. They normally identify males only and relationships from father to son.
During the period of Soviet rule, archives centralized and preserved a vast holding of genealogical sources dating primarily from 1721-1917. Since 1992, the Family History has acquired a substantial collection of these sources on microfilm and as digital images.
A film print is not always in the collection of the Family History Library and you may need to wait a day or more to receive a copy. However, you order films in advance. Obtain call numbers from the Library catalog at FamilySearch. Russian is the primary language of the records but other languages are Polish, German and Latin. If the researcher identifies locations with the same name, he will need to track down the one in the appropriate jurisdiction.
When it is not in the FHL collection, you must determine in what archive the records are housed. Besides Route to Roots, there is a key site for Ukraine is Archives of Ukraine.
Other websites are:
- Ukrainian Genealogical Research Bureau
- Indexes Germans in Ukrainian records
- Genealogy of Eastern Galicia
- Genealab.com (Genealogy Research in Ukraine)
When visiting an archive, success depends largely on making prior arrangements so they know your purpose. Even then access is controlled by the disposition or mood of the archivist. Travel conditions and facilities are usually below Western standards. You may need a local guide/interpreter.
Ukrainian genealogical records are filed by record group (fond); the records of a specific organization, portion of an organization, or individual. Archives also create collections in which records of different organizations or individuals are filed together on a thematic basis. Thus, vital records of different religions can be filed together. A single volume, file, or even a single sheet of paper is an item (sprava). Each item is given a title based upon the record type and contents. Items are usually filed chronologically by the earliest year of information found in that item. An inventory (opis) is a list of items in a record group or collection. The inventory identifies the title assigned to each item, the sequential number, and information on inclusive dates and number of pages. There may be multiple inventories for a record group, reflecting different types of material or different accessions of records for the same institution. As a result, each item is defined by three numbers: fond, opis, and sprava. Later insertions are given an alpha designation after the number such as 21a, 21b, etc
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at: