What to do on Ancestry when the names change but the places don't? #general

Emily Rosenberg

How do I search for place names on Ancestry when they are listed by my ancestors variously as Russe Poland, Russia or Poland?  I know I can cross check on Jewish Gen Gazetteer if I have information but how does that translate to a search on Ancestry?   And is there a way in Ancestry to have my most frequently used place names or person name appear at the top of the drop down list?  It certainly would be a useful feature for all the genealogy sites to have frequently used information easily available in drop downs.
Emily Rosenberg
Oakland, California

KESNER in Amsterdam, London, Chicago
STODEL in Amsterdam, London, USA
KAWIN in Suwalki and Poland
RUBINSKY in Suwalki and Poland

Brad Rubin

You need to know and search for all possible place name changes and variations.  In general, original records were recorded with the name of the place at the time of the recording and indexed accordingly.  However, our ancestors answered a simple question like "where were you born?" at times with the place name in effect when they were born and at times with the current place name (i.e. Russian Empire vs. Poland) and again indexed accordingly.  Compounding this problem is the wide variation in spellings.  For example, Szczuczyn is sometimes recorded and indexed as Stuchin, etc.

-- Brad Rubin

Shelley Mitchell

When you research on Ancestry, when you put in the name of the city, options will pop up. Before doing that, though, you might want to check JewishGen’s Communities Database to see the present name and country. A large portion of cities became part of Ukraine including Galicia (Ivano-Frankvist).

Shelley Mitchell, NYC


Ancestry uses a fuzzy matching algorithm for many search fields. Unless you click on "Exact" and even then, it would typically search for both Russia and Poland. You can also include both Russia and Poland in your searches. Worst case, you can move the sliders next to the various fields to widen or narrow your search region.

Another example is Hungary where it would find Slovakia, Czechoslovakia and even Ukraine.
Jeff Goldner
Researching Goldner, Singer, Neuman, Braun, Schwartz, Gluck, Reichfeld (Hungary/Slovakia); Adler, Roth, Ader (Galicia); Soltz/Shultz/Zuckerman/Zicherman (Vitebsk, maybe Lithuania), Wald and Grunfeld (Secovce, Slovakia fka Galszecs)

Sherri Bobish


Do you know the names of the town(s) that they came from, or are you trying to find out those town names?

If you know the name of a town than you can put the town name in the birth field in Ancestry.  Although, that can be tricky if the town was often mispelled, or had name variants that differ greatly from the standard name.

When you type in a town name in the birth field in Ancestry it will pop up with one or more towns to choose from, and Ancestry uses the name of the country to which the town belongs today.

For example, my family was from Ariogala in The Russian Empire (1890's geography.)  Ancestry will use Ariogla, Lithuania.

If you can be more specific about your question than I can try to help more.

Have a nice day,

Sherri Bobish

RATOWSKY / CHAIMSON (Ariogala, Lith.)
LEFFENFELD / FINK / KALTER (Daliowa & Jasliska, Pol.)
BOJDA / BLEIWEISS (Tarnow & Tarnobrzeg, Pol.)
WALTZMAN / WALZMAN (Ustrzyki Dolne, Pol.)
LEVY (Tyrawa Woloska, Pol.)
SOLON / SOLAN / SOKOLSKY (Grodek, Bialystok, Pol.)
BOBISH / BLUMENKRANZ / APPEL / WEINER / ROSENBERG (Vysoko-Litovsk, Brest, Biala Podlaska)

Jill Whitehead

Emily, you list your families as coming from Suwalki gubernia. This was and still is a border area. All eight of my great grandparents were born there in the 1840s and 1850s. Then, it was all part of Poland (Russian Poland). In 1919 after WW1, the three northern Suwalki gminas went into Lithuania leaving the three southern ones in Poland. However, there were some other boundary changes, as a small part of Suwalki went into Belarus in the Lida/Olita area.  There may also have been some small changes on Suwalki's boundary with Konigsberg in East Prussia now the Russian Enclave of Kaliningrad. 

Many place names in Suwalki have German/Polish/Lithuanian/Yiddish versions due to the many different empires ruling over them over time. Suwalki was Lithuanian for centuries, then it became Polish, then it was ruled by Napoleon and so on through the Russian Tsarist empire and German incursions in 20th century, plus post war communist rule.

it was not until post 1945 that the idea of the Nation State took hold. You need to understand European history to understand family name changes, place name changes, migration patterns etc. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK