An unreal surprise on my birthday

Yesterday, I was crying tears of joy. I have wanted for years to see the grave of my paternal grandfather. My oldest brother visited my father’s hometown three years ago and wasn’t brave enough to find our grandfather’s grave.

I made contact with a town official there and he said he would look into information on the grave. The local archive manager told him there wasn’t any information on his burial. Before I asked him, a friendly guy from the same town said it would be really hard to find the grave.

I was about to give up but then decided last week to post for some help on a forum for the town. Two people responded with questions and I thought this is hopeless again.

No one was offering to help me look for his grave on the forum. Then a guy sent me a private message that he was visiting the cemetery this week.

Luckily, I had my grandfather’s death date from the local registry office. That date determines where my grandfather’s grave would be located in the cemetery.

So, yesterday I casually checked my private messages for the forum and the guy sent me a message. I was nervous but relieved to not see the Russian negative words нет and не.

But I still was thinking he could be sending me random pictures of the cemetery. What were the chances of finding my grandfather’s grave on my birthday?

I could not understand what the guy was writing so I used Google Translate. It is hard to explain the excitement when I realized he pinpointed my grandfather’s grave on a map and posted 10 photos of the grave onto Dropbox.

This year has been the year of NO, NO and NO. I kept my expectations of finding the grave low because I’ve heard that cemeteries in Russia are not maintained in the same way as in the USA.

So, I cried on my birthday because I could finally see my grandfather’s grave. I gave my youngest son his middle name after his great-grandfather. Now, my grandfather does not feel forgotten in some Russian cemetery.

Here is his grave stone:

P1070186

I’m giving a translation as a free lesson in Russian gravestone reading: Ivanov Pavel Nikolaevich (patronymic name that states he is son of Nikolai), born December 5, 1885 (but he was really born on Dec. 15. Even gravestones have the wrong information. I know this as a fact because my father bragged he shared his birthday with his father) and died December 2, 1971. The г. in the gravestone means year.

P1070184

Here is the overgrown mess that surrounds my grandfather’s grave. Anyone who finds their relatives’ graves in Russia surrounded by beautiful flowers and nicely cut grass is lucky. This is the reality of cemeteries in Russia.

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting game begins for opening of communist-era records

Earlier this month, a guy in Kiev e-mailed me about doing research in my mom’s birthplace. I’ve had hardly any luck with Ukrainian archives.

Dimitri hasn’t e-mailed me in two years so I was curious about what made him think of me. It turns out that some communist-era census records in Kiev archives could be opened for the public soon.

I am especially interested in finding WWII records in Kiev archives. My brick wall for one great-grandfather’s family is like the wall of China. One daughter of this great-grandfather is alive but she won’t talk about life in Kiev during the war.

She says there is nothing good to remember. For me, remembering details of her uncles could help me take down this monster wall. My mother is not close to her aunt in Russia because we just made contact with her three years ago after she went missing in 1945. (see this post on finding my grand aunt)

So I need these WWII records to open so I can see what can be found on my Trunov family. My search is so far back in generations and the surname Trunov is so common that it is a real challenge to find relatives still in Kiev without new information.

I have found so many close and distant cousins but my Trunov line is one of the most challenging. I know most of my great-grandfather’s siblings’ birth dates and birthplace from Kursk Regional Archives’ records but that is all I know for most of them.

When the communist-era records open in Kiev, I am hoping Dimitri will find something on my Trunov family. It also would be great to see if anything could be found on my maternal grandfather’s family.

Now, I wait every day for an e-mail message from Dimitri to tell me which communist-era records will be opened.

Maybe AncestryDNA will become more useful soon

The Internet is buzzing that Ancestry.com is ending the sale of its Y-DNA (paternal line) and MtDNA (maternal line) tests. Ancestry.com hasn’t promoted the sale of these tests in a long time because it has refocused on selling its autosomal test on combined maternal and paternal lines.

Current customers of Ancestry.com only have one choice to transfer their Y-DNA and MtDNA data- Family Tree DNA. I am hoping this change will bring more attention to Family Tree DNA, the only DNA genealogy testing company that sends its products to countries formerly of the USSR.

When I first saw that Ancestry.com was selling maternal and paternal line DNA tests, I thought what a waste of money. Now, I know they are a great tool.

I have been hearing rumors that Ancestry.com is interested in opening a DNA testing lab in Europe in 2015. An employee of Ancestry.com’s Facebook’s page confirmed the company’s interest in that option.

Having a foreign DNA testing lab will open so many possibilities for those with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry who still live in Europe, but not in their homeland.

My matches are so distant on AncestryDNA because those people are related to my distant German ancestors. My matches on AncestryDNA would be more useful if people in Europe, Canada and Australia could get the AncestryDNA test.

I am crossing my fingers that Ancestry.com will announce its European-based DNA lab in the next few months. A better customer base will make the autosomal test more useful for those with Russian and Ukrainian ancestry.

I will post an announcement when I hear official word that a European-based DNA testing lab will open.

Inspiring TV show returns in July

The best show for inspiring genealogy research will return this summer to US cable TV. “Who Do You Think You Are?” is returning to The Learning Channel (TLC) on July 23 at 9 p.m. eastern time.

The show starts with “Sex in the City” star Cynthia Nixon. Here is the promo video for the premiere. Some previous episodes also are posted here.

I am hoping that eastern Europe will be included somehow on this show again. But most episodes show how to use Ancestry.com to research family so the show could give some new tips.

A bonus find for the adopted Russian brother and sister

I am crossing my fingers an orphanage director will answer my e-mail message to help the Russian-born brother and sister who are looking for their mother. Sadly, the father died soon after his kids were adopted in the USA.

The brother and sister have copies of their birth certificate but the maiden name of the mother is not mentioned. But it seems as if they have more information than American-born adoptees. I have several cousins who were adopted and it seems American-born adoptees have to do cartwheels to get their birth certificate.

While I wait for an e-mail message from the orphanage, I am so excited that I discovered online information on the brother and sister’s paternal grandfather. He was a decorated WWII veteran. I have tried so many ways to document my grandfather’s service in the Soviet Army so this success for the brother and sister is a bonus in this journey.

The grandfather’s service is so notable that his biography and photo are posted on the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation website. The biography includes his birthdate and birthplace so that opens the door to obtain his birth record for genealogy research. I am 100 percent confident that this man is the grandfather because a relative e-mailed the same picture as posted online.

I was even more thrilled when I found the five military award citations for the grandfather posted on Подвиг Народа. This wonderful website is such an asset for researching Russian WWII veterans. Such an online database does not exist for American WWII veterans.

Now, the joy I will have when the mother is found will be incredible. I never expected to find the father’s family so quickly. If only the maiden names of mothers were included on more civil records, I could find the mother much easier.

 

Oh grandpa, you’re so unique

When I decided to have my mother’s brother take a Y-DNA test, I was hoping for a large group of matches for his paternal line. I’ve read on Family Tree DNA’s forums that members have hundreds of matches at the Y-12 level, the lowest level of Y-DNA testing.

Grandpa, you gave me a measly three matches and none of the matches carry your surname. So frustrating. But I am hoping that I will get more matches soon from the people who bought the Y-DNA tests during the big sale in late April.

Thanks to buying this DNA test, I have learned that Family Tree DNA has 5,028 customers with Russian ancestral roots in its Y-DNA database. That number is a complete joke compared to the 18,923 customers with Irish ancestral roots in the  database.

So, I don’t know if I will bother upgrading my uncle’s Y-12  to Y-37 to test more markers on his paternal line. I will not likely get any stronger matches now so it will be another waiting game on this DNA test.

My current matches have a strong chance of being related to me in the past 23-29 generations. Those matches are completely impossible to confirm with my family tree or any family tree. An upgrade to the Y-37 DNA test could give me matches eventually to people who are related to me within the past 5-7 generations.

Family Tree DNA is the only company that provides the varied level of paternal line DNA testing. AncestryDNA has stopped selling its Y-DNA tests. 23andMe only gives customers a haplogroup for paternal lines.

Thankfully, the Internet is filled with information on Y-DNA haplogroups because I wouldn’t know what haplogroup R-M17 should mean to me. It sounds as if my grandfather’s roots are very Russian, based on this information.

Here’s a map showing the migration roots of people from my grandfather’s haplogroup. Please click on the image to zoom in.

haplogroup2

For the $49 I paid for this test, it has been worth my curiosity. Right now, I am not sure whether it is worth spending another $99 to upgrade to the Y-37 DNA test.

On a journey to connect Russian adoptees with their homeland family

Today, I am learning about what is involved for a Russian adoptee to connect with his/her birth family.

The journey started simple. The fiancée of a guy who was adopted from southern Russia in the 1980s asked for my help to find his birth parents. Luckily, the guy has an official birth certificate with the parents’ full names.

So I went onto Odnoklassniki, a Russian version of Facebook, and e-mailed a few people with the same surname who are living in the guy’s birthplace. I am grateful that the surname is not too common in the city of more than 1 million people.

Within four days, I got a response from a very excited man who called himself the guy’s uncle. Russians who are older cousins call themselves uncles/aunts to their younger cousins.

The Russian cousin knew the name of the American adoptee’s sister without me mentioning the sibling who was also adopted in the USA. For me, this is a good sign that he really is related to the American-raised brother and sister.

The amount of enthusiasm coming from the cousin and his wife makes me hopeful that this could be a successful reunion. There are a lot of questions to ask and more relatives to find.

It was quite a task to instant message two women on Facebook  in English and the cousin on Odnoklassniki in Russian at the same time. I was using Google Translate to write to the Russian cousin, then I had to translate his messages, pass on the information to the two women on Facebook and then I passed on their questions after using Google Translate to the Russian cousin. It was an intense two hours.

This journey with this family will teach me a lot about what it takes for Russian adoptees to find their families and how helpful local and regional government will be in providing information to their former Russian citizens.

I am so excited to see to where this journey will lead me and the American-raised brother and sister.