“Records from Letichev, including Medzhybizh…”

I read that line in an email on the UkraineSIG listserv, a part of, and my mouth dropped open. Records from Medzhybizh? How do I get my hands on those?!

Researching Eastern European origins presents a variety of challenges: languages, shifting country borders, name changes, and records loss. There is also the myth of records loss – the Nazis destroyed everything – and then there are the true, devastating losses.

On 10 April 2003, a massive fire tore through the Kamyanets-Podilsky Archives, destroying or damaging more than 100,000 files, including “five the most valuable fonds of the history of Kamyanets-Podilsky Province since the end of the XVIII – the beginning of the XX century.”(1) The archives held the records of the area that comprised Podolia guberniya during czarist times.

According to an article in Avotaynu (2), “Five of the most valuable fonds were severely damaged:

  • f.226, Podolia State Chamber (Kazennaia Palata) (1796-1919);
  • f.228, Office of Governor of Podolia (1795-1917);
  • f. 112, Office for Peasant Affairs of Podolia Guberniya (1861-1919);
  • f. 678, Kamianets city office (1875-1920); and
  • f. 249, Office of Military Governor (1795-1845).

Destroyed or damaged records also included revision lists and Jewish metrical volumes. Since the 2003 fire at the Kamyanets-Podilsky Archives, researchers with ancestors from towns in the region have wondered if they might ever access or work with data relating to their relatives. My paternal grandmother’s parents were both born in Medzhybizh, so this has always had a great impact on the research for my family.

Today, with the support of, I’m announcing a fundraising campaign to support the translation of records from Letichev and Uezd, including Snitkov, Derazhnia, Medzhybizh, Zinkov, Mikhalpol, Volkovintsy, Butsnevtsy. Yes, you read that right – documents for Letichev and the towns of Snitkov, Derazhnia, Medzhybizh, Zinkov, Mikhalpol, Volkovintsy, Butsnevtsy!

This project will translate and index 1221 images of records from towns of Lectichev and its uezd, including Snitkov, Derazhnia, Medzhybizh, Zinkov, Mikhalpol, Volkovintsy, Butsnevtsy. These images are from the 1829 and 1833 lists of families for conscription.

This opportunity to translate and make the dataset and documents originally from the Kamyanets-Podilsky Archives available for study is truly exciting news, and needs your donations to make it a success.

Donate to the project here and look for the line that reads “Document Translation and Indexing Project for Letichev and Uezd”

We have a translator ready to start, so I hope you will join me in funding this important work.

(1), accessed 27 August 2015

(2), accessed 27 August 2015

Do you have any old letters or documents? Vol. 1

When I started working on my family’s history, I reached out to cousins of my parents‘ generation, interviewing them, asking them questions, and more questions. I also requested copies of photos that they had, looking on the backs of the images for clues. And I asked if they had any old letters or other documents.

One of my dad’s first cousins reponded to my document query with a note

[Your grandmother] sent me some correspondence from 1940 from family in the Ukraine which apparently requested some  money or clothing material or both. The correspondence is written in some kind of script, possibly Yiddish. I once had attempted to get someone to try to translate it, but not very successfully. However, I was told that the letter and a postcard were from “Sure” (which I was told meant Sarah) Mordche-Leibovna Schnaider ….. She may have been a sister-in-law of [my grandmother], or possibly a sister of Samuel.

Wow. 70-something year old letters from a heretofore unknown relative. This cousin was kind enough to scan all the letters, envelopes and bit of paper. I had them translated from Yiddish, and they were an eye-opener.Yiddish postcard August 1940

The letters detail requests for money and goods to be sent to Sore Mordeche Leibnova Schnaider on Rakovaya Street in Medzhibozh, Podolsky Gubernia [present-day Medzhybizh, Khmelnytskyi Oblast, Ukraine].  Sore addressed the envelopes in English, wrote the return address in Cyrillic, and the text of the letters in Yiddish, indicating that she had the ability to write, and possibly understand, at least two languages.

Comparing the data in the letters along with other family information, I determined that Sore was a sister to my great-grandfather.

Meanwhile, Sore’s sister-in-law responds to the requests, sending both a money order and a package of wool suit and coat fabrics, but the letters indicate the package did not arrive.

According to the translator, the letters sound pleading. A widow of 21 years, raising her children on her own, the notes seem to indicate a woman a little desperate and forgotten at a time when most of Europe is moving closer to chaos. The letters were sent from March through December 1940. Whether she sent additional letters is unknown. The Nazis arrived in Medzhibozh on 8 July 1941, placing all the Jews in a ghetto. The ghetto was anihiliated beginning on 22 September 1942, with the liquidation lasting three weeks.

Why Sore chose not to leave Russia, or if she had a choice, is unknown. Her fate, and the fate of her children are also unknown. I have initiated an International Tracing Service search through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Perhaps someday, I will have the answer.