Sunday, April 24, 2022

Chernigov Guberniya Records Indexed on FamilySearch

I've spent many many (many) hours paging through records from my ancestral town of Nizhyn/Nezhin and reconstructing my maternal grandfather's father's family.  Well, if you have family from what was Chernigov Guberniya in the Russian Empire, it's in the process of getting easier for you.

New-to-me marriage of my second cousin 3 times removed, Yosef Chatzkowitz, 1930

FamilySearch has been indexing Chernigov Guberniya Records.  And while the records are indexed under the name "Ukraine, Chernigov Church Records, 1717-1935," there are synagogue records as well as civil records from the Soviet era that are included in this record set.

As I mentioned, I'd gone through all of the Jewish records for Nizhyn.  But it turns out that some of my Lefands moved to the town of Chernigov (now Chernihiv), and they're now popping up in my searches.  And while my immediate family had moved to America before the Russian Revolution, some of their cousins' vital events are popping up in civil registrations in neighboring towns.

New-to-me death of my half first cousin 3 times removed, Chana Tolchinsky, 1920

Indexing is still underway, so this is the kind of thing that you'll want to check back for regularly.  Some things I've learned while searching:

  • No matter the town was in which an event occurred, it's being indexed as being from Chernigov Guberniya, Russian Empire (or incorrectly for some entries, from "chernigovskoe, Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, Russia"--and I've reported this to FamilySearch) without mention of a specific town.  Make sure to look at the beginning of the record book to see what specific town is involved.
  • Sometimes a town of registration is being used as a surname (even when an actual surname is mentioned in the record).  I've reported a bunch of these, but there will be more.
  • Make sure to use wildcards--or you'll miss records.  And add a * at the end to catch surnames names to which a feminine suffix was added.  So my Lefand surname is generally spelled Лефанд.  But that missed a relative who was index as Лефонд (Lefond) as well as a Лефонт (Lefont).  I had the most success with two searches--one for Л*ф*н*д* (L*f*n*d*) and another for Л*ф*н*т* (L*f*n*t*).  I did get some results that weren't my family, but I'd rather have to sift through extra than to miss records that I really want to find.
  • Not all of the information in the original record is in the index.  You may find towns of registration, causes of death, information about previous marriages of a bride or groom (who may be referred to as a widow[er] or divorce[e]), etc.  So always look at the original record!
  • You actually can search in English, and you can start with that, but I found more results searching in Russian and even more with the wildcards I mention above.
  • For Jewish records, the indexers didn't seem particularly familiar with even common Jewish names.  So many sure to have someone translate from the original image (either the Hebrew or Russian or both) to make sure you're recording the person's actual name.

New-to-me marriage of my 2nd cousin 5 times removed, Sonia Lefand--in Chernihiv City, not Nizhyn
So how do you search for relatives?  First log into your (free) familysearch account.  Then head to  And then search away!

Any other hints for dealing with these records?  Please comment below.

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  1. So I just tried a search for the surname Sigal which I can recognize in Cyrillic. Lots of results but I have no idea what any of the given names etc are....Any tricks for translating those quickly?

    1. Google Translate can help, along with some cut & paste (or just using Chrome's auto-translate).

    2. Post them on FB Genealogical Translators page, they will do it for you.

  2. According to JewishGen's Communities Database, the 1900 names of the towns in Chernigov were: Chernigov, Priluki, Niezhin, Kozelets, Novgorod Severskiy, Borzna, Berezna, Snovsk, Sosnitsa, Oster, Mena, Gorodnya, Dobryanka, Bobrovitsa, Kariukovka, Dmitrevka, Repki, Semenovka, Ichnya, Bakhmach, Baturin, Korop, Nosovka and Lovin.

    1. Louis, was your surname originally Chazenov by any chance? That was the original name of my Kessler family from Pohar/Pogar and Novozybkov in Chernigov. I can give you details if Chazenov was the name. Lynda Mandlawitz, NYC

  3. Lara – thanks for your recent posting to JewishGen’s Chernigov group. Using wild cards (*) in FamilySearch doesn’t seem to work for me – I never get any results. Is this due to searching in English? If so, how do I adjust Chrome to search in Russian? Also, I tried searching for Batsefsky and got 15 responses. None matched my relatives so I tried Batushefsky, the name on the gravestone, and got 2,224 responses, most of them starting with M instead of B (when translated). Any suggestions? Thx, Bill -

    1. Wildcarded English won't work when the index is in Russian. Going into Google Translate and saying "from Russian" I start to type Batefsky and get Батефский--but it's more likely BateVsky (Батевский). Searching with both gets me correct results, and playing with wildcarding will probably get some more.

    2. First, Lara, wow! Thanks.

      Secondly — I’ve had the same 8 results whether searching with Мар*нг*ф* or with Mar*n*f* .