Lviv—Our First Archives

 On Monday, June 11 we visited our first archives, The Central State Historical Archive of Ukraine,. (In Ukrainian TSentralnyy Derzhavnyi Istorychnyi Arkhiv Ukrainy, u misti L’vovi), is also known by its acronym TsDIAL (pronounced Tseh-dee-al). There is over 12 kilometers of documents in this Archive. It is located in the Old City part of Lviv. Here, many of the buildings predate the 19 th century, some going back as far as to the 16th century. Most of the streets are cobblestone and are not conducive to walking in high-heels or thin-soled shoes.

TsDIAL is located in what was the Bernardine Monastery, at 3a Soborna Sq. It is also referred to as the “Bernardine Archive”. The Monastery was constructed from 1600-1630. After the Austrian government gained control over the territories around Lviv, Stanoslaviv, Ternopil and Chernivtsi, they call these territories Galicia. The Austrian government opened the archive in 1784 as a central repository for the entire region. Over the decades the archives grew and became an important resource center for the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia, The Monastery Church of St. Andrii today belongs to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

After posing for pictures, we opened the large door and stepped inside. The foyer was large, with a checkerboard floor. On our right, was an ancient staircase with well worn creaky steps. I was definitely concerned that the staircase may not hold all of us at the same time. We slowly made our way up the stairs. At the top, there’s a turn in the stairwell, where we continued through another door. One member of our group, Romana Bahry had visited these archives before and she acted as our guide. We asked to see the Director, Diana Peltz. We were escorted to an office where we met the Assistant Director, Nadia, Ivanievna Franko. We explained who we were and the purpose of our trip. We mentioned that we had earlier corresponded with the archive. Nadia indicated that they had set aside the Spravy/files that we had requested, which were ready for us to examine. We were informed that protocol required that we each prepare a letter outlining the purpose of our visit. Romana prepared a master letter, which we each copied and signed. The Assistant Director then signed each letter. Once armed with these letters, we would now be allowed entry into the Reading Room.

We next proceeded out of the Assistant Directors Office to a long hallway where a guard was stationed at one end. He examined each letter, requested our passports, which he placed in a cubby-hole and gave each of us a plastic entry card with a key attached. We also were required to sign a visitor’s log. We were not allowed to take our cameras or backpacks into the reading room—only writing materials. The key was to a locker, where we could store our cameras and other valuables. There was an entry turnstile gate, which opened both ways with the plastic entry card we were supplied. You would need this card each time you entered or exited the reading room hall-way. There were evenly-spaced doors on each side of the long hallway.

Four hundred years earlier these side doors would open to a Monk’s room, probably with a small bed, desk, chair and a small bedside table with an oil lamp. Today, these rooms serve as offices.

Now we could proceed to the Reading Room. Here our Spravy were set aside. The staff then had us sign those forms, which we had earlier mailed to the archives, listing the Spravy we requested. We were finally in business and each seated at a table piled high with our Spravy (Metrical Volumes of Church records). We could also request additional Spravy and they were brought to us within an hour.

Adjacent the Reading Room is the Card Catalogue Room. The card catalogue is divided by type of document and then by village/town. There are also indices for the Greek Catholic Archeparchy and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. These list the vital records (birth, marriage and death).

As of 1984, the archive contained 750 fonds (record groups) with over 1,095,000 storage units dating from the years 1233 to 1939 (with a few files to 1944).

The fonds, which are of interest to genealogists include:

Some Technical Stuff

In 1784, the Austrian government decreed that the Catholic Church was assigned the task of keeping records of births, marriages and deaths. The parish priest would be assigned this duty. In addition, the church required that a copy be made and supplied to the Bishop’s Office. The Archives often have both the local parish copies and the bishop’s copies for many of the villages. The two major collections of vital records we were interested in were found in Fond 201, Opys 4a for the Greek Catholic Consistory of Lviv and Fond 681, Opys 2 for the Roman Catholic Consistory of Lviv.

When ordering a document you must distinguish it by its Fond number, its Opys number, its Spravy number and its Arkush number. The Fond represents the largest grouping and may contain thousands of books, documents or files. For example Fond 201, which is for the Greek Catholic Metropolitan Consistory, City of Lviv contains 42,430 files or Spravy covering the period from 1300-1945. This huge number of files is in turn sub-divided into a number of series or Opysy. Opys 4a contains 7,421 Spravy. Each of these Spravy represents a metrical volume such as the birth records for a parish. For example, Sprava 2193 is for the parish of Zboriv. The Arkush number would represent the page in the Sprava that a particular record is found.

After finishing our research, we quietly made our way back down the rickety staircase. I imagined how countless hooded Monks had earlier made their way down these same stairs, slowly wearing out the wooden steps. Perhaps there are even ghosts wandering the hallways? Who knows? Someday we might hear about an Archibald, the archivist ghost, who was condemned to haunt the stacks, until he found the hidden Spravy for the parish of Husiatyn (1760-1825).

Directly across from the Archive is an out-door café attached to a restaurant called “Café Na Soborniy.” The out-door part is covered over with an orange canopy. Is it symbolic of the “Orange Revolution?” We decided to try out the food and found that they served a broad variety of inexpensive Ukrainian dishes. The price was right and their borscht and salads would tie us over.


Our Second Archive—Ivano-Frankivsk  

Only four of us would be visiting theses archives; myself, Romana and the Hrynkiw’s. The Vizniowski’s will be sight-seeing and would visit Kolomya. After breakfast, the Vizniowski’s head out for their adventure and the “Archive Four” hopped a cab and made our way to our destination.

The State Archives of Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast is located at42a Sahaidachnoho Street, which is a fair distance from our hotel. We traveled through an industrial area of Ivano-Frankivsk, down a gravel road to a fenced-in complex with two square, Soviet-style buildings. One looked like it is a small warehouse of sorts, the other was the archive building. There was a small sign on the fence, indicating the archive address. You would never know that this building housed the archives without the sign being present. However, the taxi-driver seemed to know the building and drove to the correct building, without hesitation.

The door to the archive building was propped open. We posed for pictures outside the entranceway and proceeded inside. We were met by a guard who showed us to the director’s office. Compare to the Bernardine Archives, the interior of this building was bright and cheerful.

As of 1984, the archive contained 2,140 fonds (record groups) with over 352,000 storage units. Subdivisions cover the periods of Austrian (1772-1918), Polish (1919-1030), and Soviet rule.

The fonds, which are of interest to genealogists include:

The Director Kateryna Petrivna Mytsan, was very warm in welcoming us. She said she was looking forward to meeting us and had set out the spravy (metrical books) that we had earlier ordered. After chatting with us to find out more about our interests, the Director showed us to the Reading Room. It was far more spacious than at the “Bernardine Archives.” The large, open windows let in plenty of light and fresh air. There were many thriving plants adding to the cheerful atmosphere. One table was piled high with the spravy that we had ordered while still in Canada.

The Director proved very helpful and stayed with us until we were comfortably situated at our individual desks, where we could work. She offered to help us interpret what was in the books. We told her that we were familiar with these publications, having seen them on microfilm. The Director then suggested some other files to search that were of genealogical interest. She showed us the “Emigration Sprava” of those who emigrated from the region. These files included the letters and forms that were used in order to obtain a passport to immigrate to North America and elsewhere. Some even contained a copy of the resultant passport. We asked if the other archives would likewise have such Spravy. She said they would. Romana asked if they had any “schematisms” (annual directories of government, education and church officials and staff). The Director acknowledged that they had some and proceeded to show Romana the volumes they had.

The staff was so helpful that they even phoned ahead to order a lunch for us at a nearby café. The café was a five-minute walk down the road from the archive and adjacent a building parts warehouse. One of the staff would accompany us to the café, which had an outdoor patio. She took our order and relayed the information to the cook inside the café building. After we were served, she then returned to her work in the archive. The nearby warehouse sparked Harry’s interest, who wanted to see what types of building materials were being sold.

We had our usual borscht a veal cutlet and kasha, chased down with a cool beer. The total for the four of us was 20 HUA ($5.00). One can live very cheaply in Ukraine, if you knew where to eat. Harry made a quick visit to the warehouse, while we chatted. He would later relate to us just how inexpensive building parts were, compared to back home in Canada.

After returning to the archives, I was told that there was someone for me downstairs. I went downstairs and a young woman was standing there, holding my camera, which was attached to its monopod. I had taken it to the café and forgotten to carry it back. The café staff could have easily kept it and I would probably have lost my camera, had it not been for the honesty of the staff at the café. I thanked her and offered her 10 HUA for her trouble. She at first refused until I told her I wanted to buy a round of beers for the café staff. This she accepted.

Harry and Margaret would be successful by locating the birth records for Harry’s grandfather. I was searching for my Godfather, Peter Turchyn’s ancestors. Unfortunately the records stopped short by one year for what I needed. Romana was having success searching the “schematisms.”

Before leaving the archives, we posed for pictures with the Director and staff and thanked them for their generous assistance. We ordered a taxi and returned to the hotel.



Spravy Found Outside the Archives

Side visits can be valuable in more ways than we expect. When visiting the villages of our ancestry, we get to see where and how they lived. We imagine ourselves walking in their footsteps and we appreciate the country that they had to leave.

One thing we do not expect to find are old church records, for in 1940 the churches had to hand over their record books to the local civil-registry offices called ZAGS, now RAHS. However, on a side trip, I was informed that the church in the village I was visiting had kept the old records. I checked and sure enough, there they were, the records, that were supposed to be in the archives, were actually in this local church. The records went back to 1740. Here I had thought that these records were destroyed because the village was on a border river across which many military skirmishes had occurred. So make a point of visiting the local church and ask do they have the old records, and if not, where they are.


Our Third Archive—Ternopil

Our third archive to visit was the State Archives of Ternopil Oblast. It is attached to The Dominican Church & Monastery, located at 14 Sahaydachnoho Street, which is on the west­ern end of the street. Built in the mid-18th century, its twin towers rise from a baroque facade. It is the city's finest silhouette and is seen on many postcards.

The Hrynkiw’s would be sight-seeing, since this archive had no files relating to their search. At 9:00 am., the rest of us would make the short walk to the Archive. It was only a five minute walk from the Hotel Ternopil. Outside 14 Sahaydachnoho, we posed for pictures before entering.

The archive suffered incalculable damage during WW II. Even so, as of 1984, the archive contained 2,832 fonds (record groups) with over half a million storage units. The fonds, which are of interest to genealogists include:

In addition there are fonds covering emigration records from the area and Szematyzms, which were annual handbooks listing offices and office-holders. There were schematisms for government, churches and educational institutions. If you had ancestors who worked for government, a church or a school, these schematisms could yield valuable information and add to one’s genealogical pursuits.

After entering the front entrance to the archive a guard showed us to the director’s office. The Director, Bohdan Vasyl’ovych Khavarivs’kyi, greeted us very warmly and ushered us into his private office where he ordered in extra chairs for us to sit. He spent thirty minutes explaining what items they had which would interest us. He remarked how more and more genealogists were using the archives and how that was important. He also gave a brief outline of the history of the Ternopil archives. After a while he called in a photographer to take group pictures. The photographer would also take pictures of us doing research in the Reading Room.

I explained how our group wishes to make an annual genealogical tour to Ukraine. The Direstor then escorted us to the Reading Room where our spravy had already been set aside and placed in a metal cabinet. The woman, who was in charge of the room, called our names, one-by-one and handed each of us the metrical books we had ordered. Our group occupied over half of the desks. I was wondering, what did they do with large groups?

The routine here was more relaxed and we weren’t asked to submit our individual letter of introduction until we were comfortably doing our research. The protocol of submitting an individual letter outlining the purpose of our research appears to be the same in every archive. The Lviv archive has a strict requirement that this must be done before one can gain entry into the Reading Room. The Ternopil archive is more relaxed about this matter, requiring it at some point during our research.