'Yeshiva in Valoshyn (Volozhin) Belarus
...in search of your ancestors

Usually the search for one’s roots starts with an anecdote, a blurred photo, a letter from days gone by, memories.

Over the centuries, Belarus belonged to different nations, was the setting for wars, displacements, the holocaust. No other country in Europe had to endure so much suffering and destruction as this little country in which countless human tragedies and destinies occurred, at the crossroads between cultures, between east and west, between the Slavonic and the European world. Architectural remains, archives, cemeteries (including numerous Jewish cemeteries and war cemeteries from both World Wars) and ultimately the inhabitants all bear witness to this today.

Nowadays many people try to trace their family history and find out more about the origins and fate of their forebears. For one reason or another, this quest takes them to Belarus. Whether it be forgotten places where your ancestors used to live, battlefields where they died a tragic death, or simply previous encounters with the country and its inhabitants which you want to trace….we will accompany and assist you in your search.

We will conduct research for you in archives, visit the places where your ancestors used to live, engage the oldest inhabitants in conversation (usually a highly worthwhile and emotional part of the research), visit local cemeteries, churches and the like, which could shed light on your undertaking.

Before a journey begins we usually carry out detailed research. To do this we need all information that you may have, even seemingly insignificant minutiae which in our experience could still be helpful.

Often the Belarusian State Archives can provide valuable pointers for such a search. The State Archives have their headquarters in Minsk, with dependencies throughout Belarus. Documents dating from 1917 can generally be found here. For research in the period between the 18th and the beginning of the 20th century, we resort to the collections of the National Historical Archives. Here one can find documents dating from the time when Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (about 1300 to 1569) and later Poland-Lithuania (1569 to 1795).

Sometimes investigations take us to the historical state archives in the town of Grodno. This is mainly the case for investigations related to the area around Wilna (present-day Vilnius in Lithuania), Disna, Lida and Ashmyany.

We would be happy to draw up a family tree for you, based on our research, in as much as this is possible from what we find in the archives. For our research, we would require the names of your ancestors and all known places of residence. It takes time to compile a family tree – in some cases several months. Many families, in particular in the east of White Russia, were registered without a surname. If your family has roots in a farming area, family history can often be traced back to the years 1750-1795 (after the partitioning of Poland in 1795 a census was carried out in the new territories of the Russian Empire). If your ancestors were part of the nobility, it may be possible to trace your history as far back as the 16th or 17th century.

The history of Belarus is closely linked to the history of its neighbouring countries. Over the centuries, the territory has been part of various state formations, including the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, and the Russian Empire. Therefore, in our genealogical researches we often find that necessary documents are kept in the archives of Vilnius (Lithuania), Warsaw (Poland), St. Petersburg (Russia), or Kiev (Ukraine). This has encouraged us to look for partners in these countries, people who are not indifferent to history and the human destinies interwoven with it and who are very specifically engaged in the often small-scale research in archives. Therefore, we are pleased that we can now offer you genealogical research in Ukraine. Our historian Pjotr researches for you on site in Ukrainian archives and works closely with our historians in Belarus. You can find out more about our genealogy experts here.

Journeys of discovery which we undertake for you and with you are in every way unforgettable. They often go well beyond the beaten track to remote places and provide memorable encounters with the local inhabitants. Feel free to consult us at any time for a tailor-made proposal.