Sunday, October 3, 2021

Finding Family: J-Roots & Google Combined

I've written about the awesome J-Roots resource before.  It's a Russian-language forum for Jewish genealogy.  If you have ancestry from the Russian Empire, you should be using it (with Google Chrome to help you translate, if you aren't fluent in Russian).  You can see a previous success here and Dmitry Pruss' overview here

In any case, one of the goldmines on J-Roots is their forum.  Here, people ask questions, discuss what they know about records from various towns, and often do their own rudimentary indexing of various record sets.  But without reading through all of the forum posts, it's hard to know if there's a record that's been indexed for one of your family members.  But there is a way to figure that out.

Birth of Aron Zubkis; Uman, Russian Empire; 1910

Google has crawled the forums, and you can take advantage of that to find references to your family name.  This works especially well if you are researching an unusual surname.

My Zubkis family scatted all over what is now central Ukraine.  I've tracked many of them down, but without knowing what towns every single branch went to, finding some of them is really like looking for a few needles scattered through an enormous haystack.  But since vital events would have been recorded in the places to which the various branches moved, I can look to see if any of those branches are mentioned in towns where J-Roots forum members have listed out surnames found in a particular record set--included records sets where I'd never have known to look.

To look for my Zubkis family, I can use Google Translate to figure out how to spell the surname in Russian, and then I can search for the surname followed by, as seen in the below image.

Searching for the Zubkis family in J-Roots' Forum

I'll then need to look at each of the results (24 results for Zubkis) to see where it was mentioned.  When on a specific forum page, you'll first have to expand out lists to be able to find everything on the page--and some page have many such lists to expand, as in the image below.

You'll need to click all of the triangles on the page to expand lists.  Your name may be mentioned in one or more of them.

Once you've expanded out all lists, press CTRL-F on the non-translated page and search for your name--in my case for Зубкис (Zubkis in Russian) to find where it is mentioned, and then use Google Translate to find out the context.  In this case, the second arrow above gives a list of surnames, including Zubkis.

Expanded list--Zubkis is below and didn't fit in the screen shot

In this case, a volunteer listed all of the surnames found in the Uman 1910 Jewish births, one of which was for a Zubkis.  I can then go to the FamilySearch link she shared (not all indexed records on J-Roots are from FamilySearch, but the indexers generally give the source, often linking to images) and page through the years' births.  And there I found Aron's birth, seen in the first image in this post.  I had Aron's father's name from other records, but I didn't realize that he'd moved to Uman.  Now I do, and I can use this as jumping off point to look for other records for this branch of the family.

I've found a bunch of cool documents for various branches of my family this way (and some of them will likely appear in upcoming blogs.  Now, if your surname is Goldstein or Kagan or something super-common, you obviously won't want to look at all J-Roots Google results for your surname.  However, you can potentially pair a common surname with a town in hopes that J-Roots will direct you to additional records about your family.

So happy Googling.  Let me know what you find!

You can like my page on Facebook:

or on Twitter.


  1. Thank you very much, Lara. This is terrific. When I try to match your system, I can get to a page with a list of documents with a relevant family name, but if I click on any of those, I'm told that I'm "not authorized to download this attachment" Вы не авторизованы для скачивания этого вложения.
    Do you have any suggestions? Many thanks -- Eric Benjaminson

    1. It's likely because you're not logged into j-roots. Log in (create an account if necessary) and then try again.

  2. I am very excited to explore this site. I was able to get to the list of the found entries pertaining to my family, but when I click on it instead of getting the results shown, I get a prompt to save the file as an Excel Spreadsheet, which I did, but the listing I was looking for was not on the list. Any suggestions?

    1. Could there be other tabs on the spreadsheet beyond the one that comes up? Try CTRL-F to search for the name, and make sure it's searching the entire workbook, not just the sheet (click options after the "Find and Replace" window comes up).

  3. In the records that I did find, there doesn't seem to be any indication as to what town or place the records are from. Am I missing something?

    1. It's probably mentioned in the link on the main j-roots page that would have brought you to an Excel sheet, if that's what you're finding. Hopefully the name of the file or the table of the tab within the spreadsheet is informative.