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Genealogy Guide: Ukraine

Brief History


During the middle ages, Ukrainian lands were controlled by a loosely knit group of principalities. By the end of the 14th century, most Ukrainian lands were possessed by either the Grand Duchy of Lithuania or the Mongolian-Tatar Golden Horde. In 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania united as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and western Ukrainian lands were placed under Polish control. At that time, eastern Ukrainian lands were under the control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1772, Russia, Prussia, and Austria partitioned the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and several Ukrainian areas were made part of Galicia, a province of Austria. By 1795, Austria controlled western Ukraine and Russia controlled eastern Ukraine. By the end of World War I, Ukrainian lands were within the borders of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (a constituent of the USSR), Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. After the Soviet victory in World War II, the borders of the Ukrainian SSR expanded westward to include the Ukrainian areas of Galicia. Upon the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine became an independentstate. More detailed information about the history of Ukraine is found in Paul Robert Magosci’s Ukraine: A Historical Atlas (see below).

For a general history of Jews in Ukraine, see “Ukraine,” in Encyclopedia Judaica. Professor Zvi Gitelman’s chapter on “The Jews of Ukraine and Moldova,” originally published in Miriam Weiner’s Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova (see below) is available online.


Finding Your Ancestral Town

Once you have identified the name of your ancestral town, you can locate it on a map with the following sources. It is also very helpful to identify the province in which your ancestral town is located, using historical atlases and/or the websites listed at the end of this fact sheet.

Mokotoff, Gary, and Sallyann Amdur Sack with Alexander Sharon. Where Once We Walked—Revised Edition: A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust (Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2002). This gazetteer lists towns according to variant spellings and provides the map coordinates of the town, as well as an estimate of the pre-World War II Jewish population. Genealogy Institute   DS 135 .E83 M65 2002

JewishGen Communities Database: This database allows you to search for towns using either the exact spelling or the Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex. Soundex searches find similar sounding names with variant spellings. Links on the database connect each town name to, where the town location is identified with a red star on the map.