by Lisa Alzo | Aug 29, 2011
Not that long ago if you were researching your ancestors in Central and Eastern Europe, you had but a few limited choices for tracking down birth, marriage, death, and other records. You could travel to your ancestral homeland with the hope of finding someone who could point you to the mayor's office or the parish priest; attempt to navigate the archives and repositories on your own; or hire someone to do research on your behalf. If you were lucky, you could order microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (or visit the library in person) for a marathon session of cranking microfilm until you were seeing double. Fortunately, technology and the Internet have streamlined the research process providing greater access to key information without having to leave your living room. This article will summarize some of the best online resources currently available for East European genealogy.
1. Family Search. This is the first place you should look before you make the leap "across the pond" in search of your ancestor's records. The FamilySearch website already has some digitized records for many countries including Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine that you can access free of charge. Keep checking back as new records are added all the time. Of course, you can use the site to search the Family History Library catalog for microfilms and other materials you can access either in person during a visit to the main library in Salt Lake City, Utah, or order (for a small fee) to view at your nearest FamilySearch Center-part of a network of 4,500 facilities located worldwide. In addition, use the FamilySearch Wiki as the place to learn about the countries you're interested in and what resources are available from FamilySearch, and other databases.
Digital image from FamilySearch: Slovakia Church Books, 1592-1910, Greek Catholic, Vranov nad Top?ou, Po�a, Baptisms, marriages, burials (Krsty, man�elstv�, �mrtia), 1862-1898 (Inv. ?. 853)
2. Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS). This specialized site has been linking Central and East European researchers since 1996 with its links to organizations and databases, as well as an extensive online map library containing historical maps of the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian empires, and other areas of Eastern Europe.
3. Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International (CGSI). Society promoting Czechoslovak genealogical research and interest among people with ancestry in the Czechoslovak region as it was in 1918, including families of Czech, Bohemian, Moravian, Slovak, German, Hungarian, Jewish, Rusyn, and Silesian origin. Has a "Members Only" section with online databases, message boards, queries, and more. There is also a page dedicated to research that includes basic information, listings of names of professional researchers and other useful links.
4. EastEuropeGenWeb. This project is a free on-line data repository for queries, family histories, and source records as well as being resource center to identify other on-line databases and resources to assist researchers. It's the regional branch of the WorldGenWeb Project and hosted by Rootsweb. You can easily browse by country.
5. HalGal. This Web site offers information on Halychyna/Eastern Galicia and should be the starting point for anyone researching their ancestral roots in Western Ukraine/Eastern Galicia, and a reference for Polish researchers of Western Galicia, as well.
6. JewishGen. The primary Internet source connecting researchers of Jewish genealogy worldwide. Features include: JewishGen Family Finder (a database of 480,000 surnames and towns), JewishGen Communities Database (more than 6,000 Jewish communities), ShtetlSeeker (which enables you to search for towns in Central and Eastern Europe), and a variety of other databases and discussion groups.
7. Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA). The Society is open to anyone doing research within the borders of the old Commonwealth of Poland. Provides books, newsletters, bulletins, printed information, some databases, regular Society meetings, and an annual workshop.
1. Czech Regional Archives. This site offers online free access to Czech Catholic parish records at the Czech Regional in Brno, Moravia. There are some gaps in the records, and in order to effectively use the site (it is not in English) you should have a working knowledge of the Czech language, and to be able to read (in some instances) in German.
2. Estonian Historical Archives. Offers inventories of records and images for free. You must register with your name and e-mail address before you can view them. Main page is in English.
Sample Birth register from a Lutheran parish in Estonia
3. Eastern European Archival Database (Routes to Roots Foundation).
The database includes the combined archival holdings in Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine (plus selected archive holdings from archives in Russia, Latvia, and Romania). Also are included are documents from civil registration offices in Poland (Urzad Stanu Cwyilnego offices) and civil registration offices in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova (ZAGS Offices); the Jewish Historical Institute (Warsaw, Poland); Pinkassim collection of the V. Vernadskyi Library (Kiev, Ukraine); Regional Museum (Ostrog, Ukraine) and the private collection of Rabbi Moishe Leib Kolesnik (Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine).
4. Geneteka. A Polish language website that houses church records that have been indexed and are from the various territories within Poland.
5. Radix. This website is dedicated to genealogy research in Hungary. Contains both free and pay-for-access information.
6. Slovak Genealogy Search Toolbox. A page listing related online resources for Slovakia, including the hints and unofficial guidelines for English speakers.
7. The State Archives of Latvia. Provides a free database of digitized records called Raduraksti. The database contains about 5 million images of genealogical records, including church records and the 1897 Russian Imperial Census. To view the records, you'll need to complete the site registration, which is free.
Raduraksti - State Archives of Latvia Website
Those researching their East European roots need to be aware that not all information is online and that many of the resources they seek must still be acquired by more traditional methods (i.e. microfilm, snail mail, in-person research). However, progress has been made in bringing certain types of data online. The websites discussed here are by no means an exhaustive list-there may be internet resources available or "in the works" so researchers should watch for updates on their favorite sites, as well as on genealogy blogs, and websites such as FEEFHS, Cyndi's List, EastEuropeGenWeb, or those dedicated to specific ethnic-based genealogical societies. That being said, it's certainly an exciting time to be a 21st century East European genealogist!
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