Great-grandpa marks history with his love of making explosives

It wasn’t a secret in my family that my great-grandpa loved to work with explosives. He was the joke of the family at holiday gatherings.

Sadly, I don’t know much about my great-grandfather’s life as a child. But I know in college, he became a rebel. Great-grandpa was building bombs in an apartment during his college days to help the People’s Will Movement to kill government officials and the Russian Czar Alexander II to make reforms.

Luckily, I only have found documentation that my great-grandpa’s bombs damaged a tree in Kharkov, Ukraine, and a government building. He got arrested and thrown in a tower, no joke. Great-grandpa sat in a cell in the Peter and Paul Tower in St. Petersburg for 4 months by orders of Czar Alexander III.

He eventually got married but his obsession with explosives didn’t end there. My  great-grandfather started a business for making explosives that were believed to be used for mining in 1899 while Czar Nicholas II (grandson of Alexander II) was reigning.

I don’t understand why the Russian government didn’t stop him from operating an explosives business and was encouraging him by approving his three explosive patents.

The story of his life got more interesting when I researched the location of the laboratory where my great-grandpa made his explosives. He opened his laboratory  in a datcha in the countryside of southern Russian city, Taganrog.

The property was previously occupied by Nestor Vasilievich Kukolnik, a famous Russian writer who taught the future Czar Nikolai I. Kukolnik also was a godson of Czar Alexander I.

 (The only available photo of the Kukolnik estate, uncovered by Ludmila Nikolaevna Mironova.)

Kukolnik probably has himself to thank for bringing a man who was involved in a movement to kill his godfather’s nephew to come to Taganrog. Kukolnik helped convince Czar Nicholas II to build the Azov Railway that started in Kharkov  (now eastern Ukraine) and ended in Taganrog.

My great-grandparents married in Kharkov (yes, where his bombs were used in an attack on the government) and stayed several years in the Lugansk area before they most likely hopped onto an Azov Railway train.

My great-grandfather’s business didn’t just have a laboratory. It had warehouses, too. The locations of these warehouses make me wonder about what great-grandpa’s explosives would have been used for if he hadn’t shut down the business in 1908, 9 years before the Russian Revolution.

The warehouses were located in Ekaterinburg (where Czar Nicholas II and his family were killed), Tiflis (capital of the Republic of Georgia),  Irkutsk in Siberia (where the October Revolution was very violent) and less notable Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai.

Sadly, my great-grandfather died in 1912 but his oldest son reopened the business in 1914 when he was just 23-year-old. So many questions remain unanswered about what my grand uncle was doing with his father’s explosives.

It all started with finding the patent documents tucked away at grandma’s apartment. The story is more interesting than the mad scientist talk at holiday gatherings and will continue with some luck at archives.

Related posts:
Great-grandpa’s arrest record helps breakdown a brickwall

An overlooked record opens a door to finding long-lost family from WWII

One detail completely changes the story of great-great-great-grandpa’s life

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Free database reveals information on Russian Imperial Army officers

Finding information on men who served in the Russian Imperial Army can be more than challenging. So many details are needed to search in Russian military archives.

A database has changed that search into an easy process. Information on more than 44,000 men who served in the Russian Imperial Army, also known as the czar’s army, Cossacks or White Army, during 1900-1917 can be found here.

Not only is the information on the men’s service available, more than 22,000 photos of these men are posted on the website. That is in addition to more than 58,000 scanned military documents.

I know a lot of people are going to run or be intimidated when I mention the website is only in Russian. This information will not be found on any subscription genealogy website but it is possible to be seen in English with Google Translate.

Here’s the website translated into English. It is well-worth checking out.

Here’s a sample of information found on a Russian Imperial officer:

For those who aren’t familiar with Russian, here’s how to use the website with ease.

  1. Translate names into Russian with Google Translate or Transliterating English to Russian in One Step.
  2. Copy and paste the text into the top center search box below Поиск here.
  3. Once the results appear, copy and paste them into Google Translate.
  4. Then you’ll see which links and images could be matches for your relatives.
  5. Remember to copy and paste the links where information is found and complete information in Russian and English into text or Word documents.

The website also can be viewed through Google Translate but the search abilities don’t work with Google Translate. Click on this link to view the website in English.

The next step after finding information is using the important Russian keywords on Google or other search engines. The free information doesn’t stop here.

The effort that is taken to research your ancestors is up to you and the results could be well beyond your imagination with the right type of effort.

Related posts:
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker
Discovering Don Cossack ancestry the easy way
Don’t forget to check out the Free Databases page to search more online records and follow this blog for more information on great online resources.

 

The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs

Millions of records are available online for those researching their ancestors from the former Russian Empire. These records are completely free to access and download.

But still so many people won’t touch a link for a website in Russian. I’m trying to figure out why when Google Translate makes it so much easier to use these websites.

Using these Russian websites isn’t a computer safety issue. I only use Malwarebytes to protect my computer from malicious websites and my computer is completely safe.

So many of the best Russian websites have information never found on the subscription genealogy websites. Russian genealogy research online is possible even if you don’t know Russian.

I do have the advantage of having a father born in Russia and mother born in Ukraine. My father died when I was 10 years old. The pressure to know and speak Russian was released.

I was so horrible at learning Russian that I kept repeating first grade in Russian school. The teachers didn’t know how to get me to learn Russian like the other kids.

I still can’t have a simple conversation in Russian. My pronunciation is off and my knowledge of Russian grammar is embarrassing. I have relearned Russian from my childhood and  learned more Russian words from using Google Translate.

Thanks to Google Translate and my refusal to fear Russian-language genealogy websites, I am in contact with my grandfather’s family in Kiev, great-grandfather’s brother’s family in Moscow, my great-grandmother’s brother’s family in Saint Petersburg and some very distant cousins in Russia.

Not only that, I have found the best researchers in Russia to research my family tree back to the 1600s and obtained documents on my family I never thought could be found online and at archives.

All the success stories written on this blog could happen to anyone who follows these tips and does thorough research on their relatives and ancestors.

  1. Open Google Translate and one of the following websites: WWII casualties and MIA soldiers, WWII soldiers’ records, WWI soldiers’ records, or victims of political terror database.
  2. Copy and paste the link of the selected Russian website into  Google Translate into the empty left box. Click on Russian above that box, English above the right box and then the translate button.
  3. Now view the website in Russian and English. Does the Russian website in English seem less intimidating than its original form?

These websites can’t be searched in English but that problem can be solved quickly.

Visit Transliterating English to Russian in One Step to get several possible spellings of your family names. I highly recommend copying and pasting the translated names into a Microsoft Word document or a text document.

Once that is completed, searching Russian databases is easy as copying and pasting the Russian keywords. Then when the results appear, just copy and paste them into Google Translate.

If the results are too large for Google Translate, just copy and paste into Google Translate in chunks or use the find tool of your Internet browser. Copy and paste the Russian keywords into the find tool.

If nothing is found, start deleting one letter at a time due to the changing endings of words in Russian grammar (my struggle with Russian).

Genealogy research in the former Russian Empire involves lots of emotional sweat, especially for those who aren’t fluent in Russian. How much do you want to find your grandmother’s family never heard from again after WWII? What records on your relatives have been waiting to be found by you?

The Russian-language websites have the ability to knock down those strong brickwalls but it’s up to you whether you want to face the challenge of using Russian websites.

Related posts:
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker
Guide to finding family in Ukraine like a native expert
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide in English)

Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million

A Russian organization is determined to remember the people who were political terror victims in the USSR. Its project, started in 1998, first was published on a CD in 2001 with only 130,000 victims.

Now, Memorial’s project has been moved to a searchable database with information on about 3.1 million political terror victims. The information in this free database cannot be found on any subscription genealogy website.

Some of the details found on political terror victims include full name, birth year, place of birth, nationality, education, place or type of work, place of residence, date of arrest, date of conviction, length of sentence and source where the information was found.

The website can be easily used, even without knowing Russian. Here are translations of the keyword boxes: фамилия is last name, имя is first name, отчество is patronymic middle name (i.e. Ivanovich, son of Ivan) год роджения is birth year and mесто рождения is place of birth. The green button saying искать is the search button.

To search for relatives in the database, follow these tips:

  1. Translate keywords into Russian by using Google Translate or Transliterating English to Russian in One Step in a browser window next to the database.
  2. Copy and paste the translated keywords into the search boxes.
  3. If results don’t appear, eliminate some search criteria until results appear. Also, try all possible surname spellings from Transliterating English to Russian in One Step.
  4. When results appear, click on each name to see the complete information on his or her persecution.
  5. Copy and paste the information into Google Translate to see it in English.

Here’s a sample result from the database:

Then Google Translate will switch the information into English:

The information does not end with this database. The region where the arrest took place has the “secret file” on the prosecution and the file can be opened to relatives to obtain additional information.

Naturally, the regional Federal Security Service office needs the request for information in Russian. That’s easy as copying and pasting the information from the database and merging it into this statement “My relative (name and birth year) was arrested as enemy of the people in (town/city) in (year ) and was under investigation until (year, if known). Later he/she was justified. Please send me extracts from his/her criminal case to the above e-mail address. I’m especially interested in ………..(addresses, education, employer, relatives who lived with them, etc.)

This information would be greatly appreciated.

Yours faithfully,

Once you completed that step, copy and paste this statement into Google Translate to get your official request in Russian. The final step is translating “Federal Security Service” and the name of the region where the arrest took place into Russian on Google Translate to find the website for that particular Federal Security Service.

All of this seems like a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end. Here’s the proof from my own experience-Secret files help complete the life story of five brothers.

Related posts:
SSSHHH!!! Detailed civilian records of Soviet persecution camps declassified………
A shocking sign that some people in the former USSR aren’t scared anymore

A shocking surprise was waiting to be discovered for 6 years

The genealogy gods had a good laugh at me last weekend. I have been so frustrated by being unable to “find” the marriage record of my 4th great-grandparents from Russian Poland.

After all the success I’ve had with researching my German ancestors who moved to Russian Poland in the late 19th century, I hired a researcher to find the record in Bialystok (formerly Russian Poland).

The researcher found the marriage record but I was shocked when I saw this record. It looked so familiar. Then I started swearing. The record has been on my computer for SIX YEARS.

With being a typical family researcher, I research multiple lines at the same time and get easily distracted.

Six years ago, I ordered a microfilm from the local Family History Center for my family’s village of Ciechanowiec (Tsekhanovets in Russian). I scanned a few documents that had Hoffman and Lamprecht in them while I kept my 2 year-old son distracted with toys next to me in his stroller.

I got excited that Hoffman and Lamprecht appeared within one document. Maybe there was a chance it was the marriage record of my 4th great-grandparents. I knew no one who read Polish and didn’t want to bother anyone for a translation in case I was wrong about the record.

It sat on my computer, ignored until last weekend. I’m beyond words!

Thankfully, the researcher found more than the marriage record. I finally have the birth record of my 3rd great-grandfather, their son.

The story of this family gets even more interesting with that birth record. My Catholic 4th great-grandmother wouldn’t declare her son’s father in the birth record. The child was born out-of-wedlock in 1835. (It wasn’t forgotten by the church community. His grandson married 51 years later and his name was originally put as Lamprecht in his marriage record and then changed to Hoffman. I had wondered if he was raised by a step-father named Lamprecht.)

A year later, the Lutheran father (my 4th great-grandfather) steps up to be an honorable man and the couple marries. Finally, I also have the parents’ names of both 4th great-grandparents.

I thought I already had my 4th great-grandfather’s parents’ names from their son’s second marriage record in 1861. I assumed that the wife of his father in that marriage record was my 5th great-grandmother, but the marriage record from 1836 gives another woman as the mother.

Then the mother’s name of my 4th great-grandmother was quite a surprise, Bozyna Berba. The last name is German but the first name is possibly Czech. I would have never guessed that I could have Czech ancestry.

All of this is quite a learning lesson about assumptions. I assumed I couldn’t find the marriage record myself, that I already knew the name of my 5th great-grandmother and I would only find German ancestors in Russian Poland.

The journey of researching my family’s history is more interesting than I have been assuming for the past 6 years.

Related posts:
One detail completely changes the story of great-great-great-grandpa’s life
Great-grandpa’s arrest record helps breakdown a brickwall
An overlooked record opens a door to finding long-lost family from WWII

Journey to find one record breaks down a brickwall on 3rd great-grandfather’s family

I thought I hit the jackpot when I found my great-great-great-grandfather’s death record on an Ancestry database. That was just the beginning of a journey to break down a brickwall I never expected to crumble.

I got the family tree of my ancestors who lived in Russian Poland 8 years ago from a German cousin. No one knew about siblings of my great-great-great-grandfather, Ferdinand Oswald Bleschke. Every effort to find records on his family failed until I creatively searched Ancestry’s recently updated database, Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945.

Once I found Ferdinand’s death record from 1926, I got curious about what else could be found. It would be a pointless effort, I thought, to look for his brothers and sisters without knowing their names nor birth years. I took the easy route and looked for his mother’s death record from 1884.

I was thrilled to find it. Once I saw the maiden name of Littmann, I knew I found the death record of my 4th great-grandmother without a doubt.

Then, my unstoppable curiosity moved onto whether any records could be found on Ferdinand’s siblings. Once I played around with the database by searching through the mother’s first, middle and maiden names and father’s first and middle names, my luck continued.

Two brothers and a sister of my Ferdinand were found in marriage and death records. All three were born too early to have their birth records in the database.

Ferdinand also was born, married and had children before 1874. He already was in Russia (now eastern Poland) in 1870. The genealogy gods are determined to test my patience and push my determination.

Thankfully, Ferdinand’s siblings chose to stay in the family village, allowing me to find his 13 nieces and nephews and 4 grand nieces and nephews. The story of my great-great-great-grandfather is more complete by finding his siblings’ marriage and death records.

Ferdinand left the family village of Schwiebus (now Świebodzin, Poland) about 7 years after his father’s death, with his wife and four kids to live in Bialystok, Russia (now Poland). He lived there for about 60 years and came back to current-day western Poland, most likely due to the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1921).

He found a new home about 50 km from his family village in Schwerin an der Warth, Germany (now Skwierzyna) near 1919. His brother, Julius, had already died eight years earlier in the family village.

Then in 1926, the family deaths came in threes. First, Ferdinand’s baby sister, Emilie, died  in the family village. Then 15 days later, Ferdinand died 50 km away. Back where Ferdinand left to escape the Polish-Soviet War, his oldest-known child, my great-great-grandmother Marie, died less than 2 months later.

The search to find even more records on this family to expand this story continues, with hopes of finding living descendants of Ferdinand’s nieces and nephews.

It has taken me 8 years to get to this point. So many times patience and determination have been paid back well beyond my imagination. Here is to more waiting and hoping!

Related posts:

One detail completely changes the story of great-great-great-grandpa’s life
The mystery of a great-great-grand aunt gets solved (reconnection with family of Ferdinand’s daughter, Martha)
Reuniting of two families after 115 years teaches important life lessons (reunion with Martha’s descendants)

One detail completely changes the story of great-great-great-grandpa’s life

I thought the life of my great-great-great-grandfather Ferdinand Oswald Bleschke was completely researched. Obtaining his death record was on the side burner because I assumed it couldn’t offer anything new.

I was in for quite a surprise when I found the record on Ancestry.com’s new database,  Eastern Prussian Provinces, Germany [Poland], Selected Civil Vitals, 1874-1945.

In his 80s, my great-great-great-grandfather moved to Schwerin an der Warth, Germany (now Skwierzyna, western Poland) from Bialystok, Russian Poland (now eastern Poland). The death record didn’t make sense but it had the correct first and last name, age and birthplace.

My great-great-great-great-grandfather’s death place was partially correct. My distant cousin told me he died in Schwerin, Germany, not  Schwerin an der Warth. I assumed that he moved in with a grown child living in current-day Germany after his wife died in 1918.

That was far from the truth. I posted on genealogy groups on Facebook, asking about why would such an older man move so far away in his 80s. It turns out that I never bothered to look at the history of Bialystok at the time.

The city was in the middle of the Polish-Soviet War, a war I never heard of until now. The pain that my great-great-great-grandfather must have felt from this experience.

He recently lost his wife of 60 years in 1918. He had to leave the area and never be able to visit his wife’s grave ever again. My great-great-great-grandfather came to the area in the late 1860s with three young children to work in the growing cloth-making industry in the Bialystok area.

He had to leave behind his home, his church and his neighbors and see his large family scatter and separate from each other.

I wasn’t surprised where my great-great-great grandfather chose or was sent to live. Schwerin an der Warth was only 50 kilometers north of where he was born in 1834.

So many questions are still unanswered. Did he choose the location of Schwerin an der Warth? Did he move to Schwerin an der Warth with family from Bialystok? Did he know any family living in the town?

The research continues on these answers. Archives in Skwierzyna doesn’t have any records on my great-great-great-grandfather. The records possibly were given to German State Archives in Leipzig so I am waiting for an answer from the archives.

No matter where ancestors are being researched, this story shows every detail needs to be fully researched and documented to learn their complete stories. We all assume we know so much but surprise, surprise life is full of surprises no matter which time period is being researched.

Here are five tips to avoid my mistake and get the full story of your relatives and ancestors:

  1. Get and review all details of every possible document.
  2. When something is out-of-place or seems unusual, start asking questions. Did a fire destroy the factory where they worked? Did a drought put an end to a family farming business? Did a war force them to move? Did they move due to a backlash against their ethnicity or religion?
  3. What historical and political events were occurring where they lived and around them?
  4. Document who lived with your relatives and nearby neighbors with the same last name whenever possible.
  5.  And most importantly assume nothing. Ask who, what, when, where and why questions until they are answered.