In Soviet Union period, the work with archival documents was the prerogative of the few of historians and access to the reading rooms of common citizens was fairly limited. Today the situation with publicity of Ukrainian archives is much better because agencies are covered with an aura of mystery and isolation of archival institutions .Ukraine is gradually transformed into an open public research platform which can be used by specialists, historians and all uninitiated persons initiated in the craft nuances of the historian, persons interested in the history of their family or native terrain. Evidence of this is the filling (visiting) of reading rooms of Ukrainian archives, which is growing more and more from year to year. For example, in the 90s the reading room of the Central State Historical Achieve in Lvov during the day could visit only a few people. Today, if the researcher comes to the archive later than 10 am, it may be turned out that he or she will have to stand in line.
Thus, isolation and inaccessibility are features that characterize Ukraine modern archives every year more and more and gradually are turned into outdated stereotypes.
So, what is to be needed in your research in the archive? After you work out with literature in the subject that you are interested, consult with experts, collect all possible evidences about the places where unpublished documents can be found, visiting the archive – the next logical step in your research. In this case, get ready to visit storage of documents you need. Public archival institutions remain regime objects. Therefore, to go to the territory of the archives you should definitely have a document that certifies your identity, so the best way out is a passport. If you are a fellow of some institution you must have a document with the name of the director of the archive on it, which points the purpose of your archive search.
This document is not an obligatory, so you can work in the archive as a private citizen, through some institutions may still insist on your identification
After all formalities are settled in, a logical question is: how to find the necessary documents, where and to whom to appeal, because there are a lot of archival departments, subdivisions and staff members. If you have all the necessary signals: the number and the title of the cases, descriptions and funds, then you go to the reading room of the archive. This is the room, where researchers are working on the documents, here they order the particular documents and the employee provide them the necessary archival cases. If you’re the first time in the archive, then you will have to write an application for permission to work with documents, and to become familiar with the necessary documents and then sign them.
Then you can order needed cases. The employees will give you a blank where you have to point the number of the case out, the number of the description, which is referred to the case and at last the number and name of the fund, where the case is to be found.
You probably will not know whether the documents are necessary for you, and in which cases and funds they are included. In this case, your next step is visiting the archival catalogue, which actually you might find the Ariadne’s thread that will lead you to the information you are looking for. So in the archival catalogues the materials are grouped, sorted and classified alphabetically by geographic and or nominal basis. So if you are looking for information about your village, you must find the required letter of the name of the village you need in the catalogue, write out the names of the cases and their signals, after which you should make the necessary order in the reading room.
Be prepared for those that cases you ordered, won’t be given immediately, because the archive workers have to find them first in the funds that can charge thousands of items. That’s why the ordering cases in Ukrainian archives is carried from one (Khmelnitsky region archive) for three or four days (Central State Historical Archive in Lvov).
Eventually finding and getting the archival documents is more than half of the battle. Because you have to find the needed information. If information is about your ancestors and you ordered the metric registers, you may have to spend an hour or more to find among the hundreds of others names and surnames scattered records of names that interests you. Sometimes the anxious desire of the meeting with the ancestors on the pages of old documents could change in frustration. Remember that these ancient documents are not always readable. The man who has no skills with old handwritten documents cannot possible read them, even if they are written in Russian or the old Ukrainian language.
That is why the search for archival information may be trusted to professionals and specialists with experience, gained skills of years, searching intuition. This will speed up the search process; increase the chances of the success of any research.
Jaroslav Lyseyko, PhD. © History