After having success in getting my great-grandparents’ marriage record from Kharkiv archives earlier this year, I decided it was time to try my luck in Kyiv archives.
Looking through my family tree, I determined the archive scans I would love to see: birth records of my grandfather’s younger brother and my grandmother’s brother and sister and marriage records of my grandparents and great-grandparents.
The process of requesting these records started three months ago. Part of me made the search requests out of curiosity to see what would be found in archives.
Thankfully, a Ukrainian researcher helped me create formal requests for the records. (Here is a sample letter to use for Ukrainian archive record searches. Remember to use Google Translate to switch the English to Russian and then the Russian to Ukrainian.)
A month after submitting my request and the archives accepting the request, I was informed that only records dated 1936 and earlier were available.
My grandparents’ marriage record from 1939 is still sitting in the Ministry of Justice office, even though it is supposed to be public record after 75 years.
That news also put my plans to request the death record of my great-grandfather from 1946 on hold. I am disappointed but grateful that Ukraine only has a 75-year rule, unlike Russia’s 100-year rule.
Another e-mail message from archives followed a week later that the search for the records would cost 1,300 hryvnias ($47 U.S. dollars/$39 Euros). My curiosity was worth $47.
I attempted to pay the bill with Western Union but couldn’t figure it out. Thanks to having a second cousin in Kyiv, she paid my bill and I promised to pay her back.
My cousin sent me a screenshot of her payment, which I e-mailed to archives. A six-week wait ended with free scans of three birth records. My great-grandparents’ marriage record from 1920 couldn’t be found, sadly.
The differences in how my grandparents’ siblings were documented for their births in Kyiv was quite interesting and a learning experience. My granduncle, son of a rich architect, had a bottom strip of a registry book, while my grand uncle and aunt, children of a poor tailor, have full-page birth records at archives.
I assumed that my grandfather’s brother was christened in a church in 1922 when I saw this:
This top strip looks like it’s from a church book but this is an old registry book. I was determined to find the church where my great-grandparents bravely christened their youngest child during Lenin’s reign of terror until I was informed of my misunderstanding.
Everything that was written on my grandfather’s brother’s birth record I had already known for years. However, I was thrilled to finally to see the address of my great-grandparents in an official record. Plus, I saw my great-grandfather’s perfect signature for the first time on a document.
The best surprises came from the birth records of my grandmother’s brother and sister. My grandmother had told my mother that her family lived near Khreshchatyk Street in the center of Kyiv. I have spent years trying to find this address.
Finally, I can say that I know the exact address. It is listed on the birth records of my grandmother’s brother and sister. I can’t believe all these years that it had been waiting for me on these records, plus a major shocker.
Once I posted for help to find old photos of the apartment building on the largest Russian genealogy forum, I was told about a blog that has this old postcard with my great-grandparents’ apartment house on the left:
I also posted for help on a popular Russian genealogy group on Facebook and I was directed to this photo of my great-grandparents’ apartment building’s rear streetview by Evgen Sokolovsky.
The biggest surprise on the birth record of my grand uncle, the youngest child, was that my great-grandfather admitted to being previously married and having another son. Thank you, nosy commies!
It makes me wonder whether my great-grandmother knew about her husband’s other family. My family didn’t know about it until my researcher in Kursk, Russia, accidently found the marriage and birth records a few years ago.
Now for less than $50 U.S. dollars, I uncovered the address of my great-grandparents from the 1920s and the signed admittance that my great-grandfather had another family. Not too bad for my curiosity…
Old address book online breaks down brickwall on a family photo
Search for grandma’s childhood home reveals family secrets
Thanks for skimping on your taxes, great-grandpa