Mogilev or Mogilev? #belarus #ukraine

Lee Jaffe

Recent translations of Russian Empire documents through ViewMate indicate my great-grandfather was "a citizen of Mohilev."   This is news to me, since all previous info connected him to Snovsk (Shchors), Chernigov, Ukraine.  Checking JewishGen's Town Finder (Communities Database), I find two towns called "Mogilev" before WWI:

Mohyliv-Podilskyy, Ukraine.
Mahilyow, Belarus.

Does anyone have a suggestion about how to determine which town is most likely referred to as Mohilev in 1890-1904 Russian Empire documents?  I've tried searching the family Joroff/Zharov in the Belarus town as a possible indicator  – not a common name and none I can connect to my family – but haven't found an equivalent database for Ukraine for comparison.  I thought about proximity but neither is close enough to the Chernigov region to make it a likely contender.  

Thank you for any suggestions you can offer,

Lee Jaffe
JAFFE / Suchowola, Poland
STEIN/SZTEJNSAPIR / Lomza? Bialystok?
SCHWARTZ / Perth Amboy, NJ
KOSHKIN / Snovsk, Ukraine


There is no quick and easy solution to determine which Mogilev is the right. All available sources, primary, e.g. census records and family registers, and secondary, e.g. business directories need to be consulted just to see where a name in question was known to exist.

Moreover, "a citizen of N" does not necessarily mean that a person, or even his father, lived in that town. It was difficult to change the registration officially, so a Jew could be a registered resident (more accurate translation) of N, but live in O and P, and his son could move to Q and R and still be a registered resident of N.


Zharov is not that uncommon name which was used by both Jews and gentiles. There was, for example an immensely popular, as Russian as they go, movie actor, Mikhail Zharov. He had a Jewish connection, actually: wife No. 4, Maya Gelshtein.

Boris Feldblyum
FAST Genealogy Service

Molly Staub

Check out my cousin Phyllis Berenson, who leads the Ukraine SIG. Her family comes from Mogilev-Podolsk and Shargorod. Have a healthy, meaningful new year, Molly Arost Staub


I came across a similar issue with my ancestors. A lot of my ancestors wrote down on their naturalization documents the "governorate" where they were from in Russia as opposed to the city. Some may not have remembered and some "governorates" shared names with cities and other places. For example an ancestor of mine put down Podol/Padol on numerous documents. That was a "governorate" in Russia at the time and there were other cities/towns that shared that name, close and far.
In your case, Mohilev was a city in Russia and at the time and was in the "governorate" of Mohilev. Mohyliv-Podilskyi, at the time, was also a city in Russia, but in the "governorate" of Podolia. If I had to bet I would put my money that when your great-grandfather said he was a citizen of Mohilev, that he was referring to the "governorate" of Mohilev.

Happy New Year!
Matthew Levine


also take into account that the migration of Jews to the Chernigov province came from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, including from the territories of the Mogilev province.
Iryna Tulchynska


I'm sure that "your" Mogilev was Belorussian one. The reason of my confidence is that there were, at least, 7 Zhorovs amongst the Belorussian Mogilev electors to Gosudarstvennaya Duma (smth like Parliament) in 1906: Esel b. Ayzik, Zalman b. Itzka, Zalman b. Abram, Yankel, Zelik b. Abram, Yankel b. Girsh, Eliya b. Morduch, and no one Zhorov in the similar Lists of Podol Guberniya Mogilev.

Dmitry Shirochin

Schelly Talalay Dardashti

When I began researching my TALALAI in Mogilev some 35 years ago - it took me 2 years to confirm it was Belarus. Everyone I asked tried to convince me it was the Podulsk one, but it did not seem correct. Then I remembered my GGM and GM talking about the Dnieper River which runs right through Mogilev, Belarus. The Dnieper is nowhere near MP. Research proved our Belarus (White Russia) connection with some 800 records in the city and nearby Vorotinshtina-Zavarezhye. We also had a Chernigov connection. A kidnapped Talalai boy into the army who was released in Chernigov and sent home for an ASBEL wife from Mogilev! The proof is in the smallest of details!

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
New Mexico
TALALAI: Mogilev BEL and envvirons, St Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsky, Kazakhstan, Israel, Canada, UK, USA, etc.


My maternal grandfather, Aron Revzin, was from Snovks and emigrated to Chicago in 1913. His parents were Feivish and Chaia Ededl, nee Haykin. Aron's sisters were Baile (Mendel Schulman), Chana (Sam Polley) and Frieda (Sam Marshak whose youngest daughter married a Jaffe). Snokvks means "snow."
Barbara Cohen


Snokvks means "snow."

Do you have a source for this?  What language is that in?
Town Snovsk is named after river Snov.  But that doesn't sound like Russian word for snow.
Snow in Russian is "sneg", in Ukranian and Belarusian - "snig".

Mike Vayser

Richard Brett

I have two families from Mogilev, in Belarus - Lazarovitch and Fuchs.  My great-grandmother Rachel Lazarovitch married Davis Fuchs. They emigrated to England in about 1900.

Richard Brett


My source is a former college student in one of my English classes who was from the area. He did some translations for me too.
Barbara Cohen