Tracing Russian roots isn't easy, but it's also less of an Olympian task than it used to be. These Russian genealogy tips are from our guide to tracing Russian roots in the January/February 2014 Family Tree Magazine (you can get just the Russian guide as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com). Or if you're also researching genealogy elsewhere in Europe, you might want the collection of guides in The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe.
“Russian roots” encompasses more than the present-day country. "Russian" is often used for heritage in places once part of the Russian Empire or the USSR, such as Ukraine and Belarus.
The largest influx of Russian immigrants came during the “great migration” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More than 2.3 million immigrants from czarist Russia entered the United States between 1871 and 1910, most from western areas of the empire (outside Russia's current borders) including nearly 750,000 Jews from the "Pale of Settlement."
Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians transliterated their names from the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet, resulting in numerous variants. This website gives the example of the common surname Муравьёв, which has more than 15 English variants including Muravyov, Muravev, Muravjev and Mouravief. Immigrants might have further Americanized their transliterated names.
Here's a list of terms for administrative divisions (province, district, village, etc.) in Russia and areas once part of it. You'll find other key terms for Russian genealogy here.
The Russian government took 10 poll-tax censuses, referred to as revision lists (revizskie skazki) in the 1700s and 1800s. You can browse revision lists from 1744 to 1874 on FamilySearch.org.
See FamilySearch's other digitized Russian records here. The Family History Library also has microfilmed Russian resources that aren't yet digitized.
FamilyTreeMagazine.com has a list of resources for genealogy in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Our Baltic roots genealogy guide (from the November 2010 Family Tree Magazine) is available as a download here and in the aforementioned Family Tree Guidebook to Europe. Source