Tracing Your Eastern European Ancestors

mm016Over the past few years, the folks who publish Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, and the History Magazine have created a series of journals offering a collection of previously published article, gathered together on a single topic. Here are some of the publications we have already seen:

The same group, Moorshead Magazines, has now brought us Tracing Your Eastern European Ancestors. At 82 pages, this new journal offers 15 articles written by a collection of professional researchers and genealogists.

Publisher and editor, Edward Zapletal, does an excellent job in describing the difficulties of Eastern Europeans research:

“For many of us ion the genealogy world who are researching ancestors from countries in Eastern Europe, it’s a know fact that research in the region can, at times, be very difficult. We often start out searching for an ancestor in one place, but end up locating them in a completely different places the reasons are numerous, but several centuries of wars, famines, disease, floods, and fires, to name a few, contributed to migration and emigration, and to the destruction of many valuable records. Still, many records survived, including parish books, censuses, and gazetteers. For those who emigrated to distant lands, many records were created along the way at various ports of departure and arrival. Those, and many other documents that were carefully stored, are now being digitized, indexed and made available to eager family historians all over the world. The Internet has made searching much easier, but it’s not always the answer. Only a relatively small portion of all records have been digitized. Writing to, or visiting, local archives, records offices, churches, etc. still may be the only way to find that elusive Eastern European ancestor. Be patient. Be vigilant. Enjoy!”

Answers to many of your research questions can be found in this collection of professional articles. Just look at the contents list below to get an idea of all that is covered here.


10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Eastern European Research!

Lisa A. Alzo shows you the steps to track down your Eastern European roots

Using Maps & Gazetteers

Dave Obee show us how to use maps and gazetteers to locate where your ancestors lived

Online Resources for Researching Eastern European Ancestors

Lisa A. Alzo reviews some of the best websites for learning about your East European ancestors

Meet Your Matches: Helpful Tools from

Lisa a. Alzo discusses how to use some great tools from t o research East European ancestors

Top 10 Websites for Finding Your Polish Ancestors!

Donna J. Pointkouski looks at ten websites to help you locate your Polish ancestors

JRI-Poland Expands Access

Lisa A. Alzo reports on a new agreement between The Polish State Archives and Jewish Records Indexing-Poland

Online Hungarian Research

Lisa A. Alzo reviews the latest online resources for Hungary (With special thanks to Beth Long)

Researching the Hungarian Census

Smiljka Kitanovic explains the resources available for researching your Hungarian ancestors

Start Researching Your Czech Ancestors

Scott Phillips outlines the sources you’ll need to start on a successful journey to find your Czech ancestors

Five Great Sites fro Researching Your Slovak Ancestors!

Lisa A. Alzo discusses the key websites you need to know to research your Slovak ancestors

Researching Your Ukrainian Ancestors

Matthew Bielawa discusses taking the first “steppes” to finding your Ukrainian ancestors

Researching Your Russian Ancestors

Rick Norberg explores five websites that will be helpful for researching your Russian ancestors

Benefits of Joining an Ethnic Genealogical Society

Lisa A. Alzo discusses the role of ethnic genealogical societies in family history research

Five Simple Ways to Share Old Favorites

Lisa A. Alzo discusses five ways you can share Eastern European recipes and traditions online

Copies of Tracing Your Eastern European Ancestors can be purchased from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $9.75.

Reading Non-English Records

Tracing one’s history in their own native language offers plenty of challenges. Changes in writing styles and in handwriting, problems with damage and discoloration, both added to transcription and indexing errors can make record finding and reading difficult at times. However, at some point most researchers find themselves with an even greater challenge: finding and deciphering records in another language. Once a genealogist traces his/her ancestral roots to another country, language barriers add to overall complexity in research. Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman was written to help researchers with this very problem.

Following the Paper Trail not only acknowledges the need for language assistance, but recognizes that many researches will need help in more than one additional language. This book looks at many languages, dividing them into linguistic families. Similarities within a single family make it easier to identify words and commonalities in other associated languages. For example, the Latin or “Romance” language include French, Latin, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish, which together make up one section of the book.

Each language appears in the book with their alphabet in both printed and cursive forms. Sample documents are provided with an analysis, including translation to English, of their components. Selected vocabulary terms round out each language. All the documents are representative of the typical records genealogist seek or that their immigrant ancestors may have had in their possession. The authors refer to this volume as “an introduction to the translation of such documents.”

As such an introduction, this book makes an excellent resources for those just starting out with their immigrant ancestors research, or as a volume for regular reference.


Table of Contents

About the Authors


The Germanic Languages


  • The German Alphabet
  • The German Language
  • German Pronunciation
  • Document #1: A Family Record
  • Document #2: A Birth and Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #3: A German-Ukrainian Military Passport
  • Document #4: A Death Certificate
  • Document #5: A Contract for Passage on a Ship
  • German-English Word List
  • Personal Names


  • The Swedish Alphabet
  • Swedish and the Other Scandinavian Languages
  • Document #1: A “Moving Certificate” (Exit Permit)
  • Document #2: A Report Card
  • Document #3: A Swedish Passport
  • Document #4: An Emigration Contract
  • Document #5: A Swedish-American Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #6: A Confirmation Certificate
  • Document #7: A Marriage Certificate
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected First Names

The Romance Languages


  • The French Alphabet
  • Document #1: A Civil Birth Certificate
  • Document #2: A Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #3: A French Passport
  • Document #4: A Steamship Ticket
  • Document #5: A Death Certificate
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • French Personal Names


  • The Italian Alphabet
  • Document #1: A Steamship Ticket
  • Document #2: A Civil Family Registration Booklet
  • Document #3: Parish Family Registration Documents
  • Document #4: Civil Family Registration Documents
  • Document #5: An Italian Passport, Booklet Form
  • Document #6: A Long-Form Birth Certificate
  • Document #7: A Short-Form Birth Certificate
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Italian Personal Names


  • The Latin Alphabet
  • The Use of Latin in Genealogical Records
  • Document #1: A Slovenian Birth Certificate (Latin-Italian)
  • Document #2: A Polish Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #3: A Slovak Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #4: A Ukrainian Baptismal Certificate
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected Personal Names


  • The Portuguese Alphabet
  • Document #1: An Identity Card from the Azores
  • Document #2: A Birth Certificate from the Azores
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected Portuguese First Names


  • The Romanian Alphabet
  • Document #1: A Romanian Birth Certificate
  • Document #2: A Romanian Passport
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms


  • The Spanish Alphabet
  • Document #1: A Civil Birth Certificate
  • Document #2: An Identity Card
  • Document #3: A Consular Records
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected Personal Names

The Slavic Languages


  • The Czech Alphabet
  • Czechs, Bohemians, Moravians, Slovaks, and Their Languages
  • Document #1: A Czech Birth and Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #2: A Parish Family Registration Document
  • Document #3: A Slovak Passport
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected Personal Names


  • The Polish Alphabet
  • The Polish Language
  • The Format of Long-Form Documents
  • Template for Birth Records
  • Template for Death Records
  • Template for Marriage Records
  • Document #1: A Long-Form Polish Birth Certificate
  • Document #2: A Short-Form Polish Birth Certificate
  • Document #3: A Jewish Birth Certificate (Polish-Hebrew)
  • Document #4: A Polish/German Birth and Baptismal Certificate
  • Document #5: A Passport Application
  • Document #6: A Republic of Poland Passport
  • Document #7: A Polish/German Passport from the Austrian Sector
  • Document #8: A German/Polish/Ukrainian Employment Booklet
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected Personal Names


  • The Russian Alphabet
  • The Russian Language
  • Document #1: A Russian Orthodox Birth Certificate
  • Document #2: Long-Form Roman Catholic Birth Record
  • Document #3: A Short-Form Certificate
  • Document #4: A Jewish Birth Certificate
  • Document #5: An Islamic Birth Record
  • Document #6: A Russian Booklet-Type Passport
  • Document #7: A Single-Sheet Russian Passport
  • Document #8: A Ship Ticket
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Selected Personal Names

Other Languages

Hungarian (Magyar)

  • The Hungarian Alphabet
  • The Hungarian Language
  • Document #1: A Hungarian Birth Certificate
  • Document #2: A Hungarian Passport
  • Selected Vocabulary Terms
  • Personal Names


  • The Lithuanian Alphabet
  • The Lithuanian Language
  • Document #1: Lithuanian Baptismal Certificate I
  • Document #2: Lithuanian Baptismal Certificate II
  • Document #3: A Lithuanian Passport
  • Additional Useful Terms

Appendix A: Bibliography

Appendix B: A List of Genealogical Organizations


Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide is available from Family Roots Publishing for $28.42; Item #: AV346.