I've been trying to find anything about my great-grandfather Solomon Cheplivourstza--the surname has been spelled several different ways, even on the same document. He died in about 1915 and there is no trace of his existence other than a single photo.

I have never been able to find out anything about his family or where he came from--searches of his name (including "fuzzy" searches) come up empty.

I do have a copy of a Russian-issued passport for his wife (my great-grandmother) Miriam Cheplivourstza nee Soifer (she was actually Ukrainian, from Mohyliv-Podilskyi, but Russian Empire at the time); see attached. When I found this I realized that as per the Cyrillic writing it was actually probably originally closer to "Cherlivoursa" or something like that--but that still gave me no leads.

(FWIW, searches on JewishGen show a couple of other people searching that name; they're cousins of mine and have come up as empty as I have.)

Does anyone have any ideas where I can go from here?

Clipping of name from passport

I've tried spelling variations, including Soundex. The only family we know is his wife (my great-grandmother, who died in 1959 & is the only surname info I have), his daughter (my grandmother), and his 3 sons. The big problem is that this all takes place in Mohyliv-Podilskyi >100 years ago. IDK if there even WERE street addresses let alone what they'd be. Plus, any references would be in Cyrillic. We've been searching for info about him for at >20 years and have nothing. But what's really frustrating is that we can't even find possible family of his.

I have pretty much everything that it's likely possible to find on the US side. As far as Solomon Cheplivourstza, US addresses won't help--he died years before his family came here. His eldest child (my grandmother) was six when he died, so the only one I know of in the US who knew him was my great-grandmother, who died in '59. My grandmother died in '06, and I never heard any stories about her father's family from her.

  • If it's any help, the cursive Cyrillic signature seems to say "Миндель Черлiворса", i.e. Mindel Cherlivorsa. But I'm not 100% certain. Jan 9, 2023 at 13:32
  • 1
    I assume you are already aware of this WikiTree entry wikitree.com/wiki/Cherlivorsa-3 Jan 10, 2023 at 2:14
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    What record do you have for him dying in 1915. Where did he die? What else do you know about him?
    – Bill
    Jan 10, 2023 at 15:54
  • Only that my grandmother was six when he died, and she was born in 1909.
    – Scott
    Jan 11, 2023 at 13:16
  • He was conscripted into the Russian Army. He may have been trampled by a horse at his job at a lumberyard (?), making deliveries by horse and wagon. At a guess he died in Mohyliv-Podilskyi or its environs. re: Wikitree. The source is my cousin, who knows no more than I do. I thought he also had 1915 as date of death; I'll email him. The signature: my mother knew her as Miriam Mindel. It was probably written by an official based on what they heard her say; I'm almost certain she couldn't write.
    – Scott
    Jan 11, 2023 at 13:31

1 Answer 1


This is a good example of how the big-box genealogy sites don't serve us well for doing genealogical research. They expect us to search for people by name, when their names can be one of the most variable things about them.

Even though sites don't make it easy, you'll have to employ different search techniques and research strategies for finding things.

  • Work up a list of all known name variants and search for each one. learn how to use wildcards to replace vowels if the vowels vary wildly, or to search for the name with the begining and end but with an asterisk in the middle.

  • Think about how the name would have sounded to clerks and enumerators and how they might have spelled it and search for those variants too.

  • For searching in historical newspapers, learn about getting around difficulties in text generated by OCR (optical character recognition).

  • Make a list of things about your great-grandfather that can act as identifiers, and search for those instead. (ex: search for all men in a census county born in a certain date range, with a birthplace of Russia or whatever place it would have been known at at the time the record was created)

  • Search for members of the household that have different surnames (e.g. married daughters who might be listed as survivors in an obituary)

  • If you know the street address (in the US / new country), search for neighbors, then browse from there. Make use of the numerical (street) listings in city directories.

  • Make a list of known associates and search for them.

  • Learn to evalutate record sets by the time they cover (date range) and the locations they cover. Learn how the records are arranged, and what finding aids and indexes may exist for them. Get familiar with Soundex and other means of dealing with name variations when searching.


  • I couldn't agree more about the variations in spelling - I had one ancestor who had a relatively simple name (Nippress) and I encountered about 14 different spellings for it when researching them. Throw in a longer name from a non-English language and non-Latin character set and name searches can get real tricky.
    – slugster
    Jan 10, 2023 at 6:26
  • @Scott My reference to street addresses was about finding more records on the US side. Bear in mind too that answers here are intended to help you plus anyone else who might have a similar problem, so anything in my answer you've already tried is a reminder for others to try that too.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jan 10, 2023 at 19:44
  • @Scott Your question would be improved if you added the information you've put in comments into your main question.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jan 12, 2023 at 19:24

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