You need to understand that the documents in this part of the world are rarely digitized and rarely indexed. The standard method of research is to go to the archive or office of vital records and check record books manually. This is time-consuming and requires travel. If we find documents — we usually can provide you with the copies, although with some archives it could take up to several months to get them. If required, we can transcribe document and translate it. Obtaining notarized/apostilled copies of modern documents is also possible for a fee.
Another limitation is the geography. We usually cannot search for “Mr Petrovichus who lived in Kiev in 1870s-1900s”. “Kiev” as a geographic indication in old foreign documents could be either the city proper, or the Kiev guberniya (province) covering 50,000 square kilometers (more than the modern Netherlands) with 3.5 mln inhabitants.
We usually need to have exact geographic location for the successful research. If you don’t have it, or have difficulty comparing old and new places — there could be some ways around based on other information you have. Sometimes this information could be found in old letters, old photos, even some family legends could give good hints. And, from the other side — if we cannot determine the location with some degree of certainty, we are likely to refuse your request.
Requests for documents which are less than ~75 years of age usually (but not always) might require some notarized power of attorney or authorization letter from the next of kin or from the estate — due to different privacy and data protection regulations in the countries we work in. It needs to be on paper, usually requires notarization and apostille, and could be a prerequisite for some kinds of searches.
But you should not worry. We know relevant procedures and can guide you through them.
It is always hard to give some percentage of cases we are successful. There are many unknown factors involved. We usually can help in a lot of cases, but it depends on our cooperation and communications. And on luck as well.
We had a case where the place was identified as “Kolomoa”, and client thought it is Kolomyia or Kolomyya, formerly known as Kolomea, is a city located on the Prut River in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, in western Ukraine. The last name of the subject of research was Ivanov, one of the most generic Russian last names. Several weeks of searching Ukrainian records there were fruitless. It turned out that there was an error interpreting the old handwriting, and the right spelling was “Kolomon”, which is Kolomna, in Moscow region, 1500 km to the north of the original location. After this determination we found living relatives of this exact Ivanov in two days.
We made no promises or guarantees to you concerning the outcome of the research, and nothing shall be construed as such a promise or guarantee.
The nature of our research does not allow us to give you any promises. Sometimes you are lucky and place of interest is well documented, sometimes we find documents for all nearby churches down to 1830, and nothing for the one we need.
What we can promise is that we work professionally and efficiently, and that we deliver all results we found, in the form of written report to you, whatever they are.