Dear village elder,

This is how I started a letter last fall to the village of Putchina in Kursk Oblast. The results have been unreal.

I never expected to really get an answer. I’ve heard on the genealogy forum of that writing these letters gets results. Well, the result I got was unreal.

The village elder gave my letter to a woman in her mid-20s. Her grandparents had lived in the village. The amount of information my contact has given me has been a blessing.

She has written to me about life now in the village of no more than 50 people. She has sent me pictures of Putchina. The latest help she provided was taking pictures of three graves of people named Trunov in the village where my great-grandfather attended church. One grave could be of a man who was possibly a child of my great-grandfather.

Thanks to a researcher in Kursk, I have some background on my family from the 17th and 18th centuries and a bunch of addresses and phone numbers for people named Trunov who live in the same raiyon (neighborhood area) as did my great-grandfather.

One address and phone number is for a great-grandson of a man who could possibly be a son of my great-grandfather. My contact tried calling the number when I could not figure out why I could not get through. She told me the number does not work.

I will try to find a way to reach this man. I cannot send him a letter because the Russian postal service will not deliver a letter without a street address. I only have a house number for this man’s village.

Even if I never reach this man, I am happy I wrote my Dear village elder letter. It may not work for me every time, but it worked a few days before Christmas 2010. That’s what I call a miracle before Christmas.

Here’s some advice on getting a letter to a village elder:

1. First search for your family’s village on Wikipedia.

2. If the village does not appear in English, try searching the village by its name in Russian or Ukraine.

3. If the village’s population is no more than 1,000, write a dear village elder letter. If the population is larger, search for the village’s council on Google. You will be surprised how many small towns have gone online.

4.  After you write your letter, search for the village’s postal code at or

5. Hopefully after sending the letter, you will receive a response within a few months.

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