An unusual journey into a museum

My journey in searching for my family has taken me on adventures that seem unreal. Today, I received an e-mail message that my maternal grandmother’s father’s family will be the focus of a museum exhibit in Kursk, Russia.

Apparently, I come from famous ancestors. My great-grandfather grew up poor in a peasant family, but a famous peasant family. His family built a trading merchant dynasty in a town near his birth village in the 1700s.

I would have never learned this about my family if I had not written a letter to a registry office in Kursk Region for information on my great-grandfather’s siblings. When I received the registry office’s letter, it included information on the family of a sister of my great-grandfather and a suggestion that I contact this museum director.

I thought the office was sending me to someone who does paid research in the region and that’s it. But it turns out the man has been researching my ancestors for several years. He was kind enough to provide me with a list of phone numbers and addresses for six Trunov families who live in the same neighborhood as my grandfather’s village. In Russia, small town addresses are listed- region, neighborhood, village, street address or house number. I sent letters to three families, with hopes they will answer whether they are related to my family. The other families do not have street addresses so I cannot send them letters. The Russian postal service does not deliver my letters without street addresses.

The museum director asked me to send him family photos. I was so happy to do so. My hope is that someone living in Kursk who is related to my family will see our photos and ask how they can contact my family. It’s a long shot, but this museum exhibit could open another door for my family search.

The search for families of my great-grandfather’s siblings has been a nightmare. The name Trunov is one of the most common surnames in Russia. Three brothers moved with my great-grandfather to Kiev. One sister stayed in Kursk and another five siblings are a mystery. Nothing but birth records has been found in archives. If I find any of these families, it will be a bigger accomplishment than finding my great-grandfather’s daughter who disappeared in 1945.

I have found a lot of information on my father’s mother’s family, thanks to a museum in southern Russia. The museum reviewed a directory for 1696-1919 and provided me with information on every resident named Kirsanov. I knew a bunch of details provided, but I learned about the homes where my relatives lived, the factory that my great-grandfather owned, the school a grand uncle attended, his wives’ maiden names and his rank in the military.

Many of the Russian museums could not compare to the modern facilities of American museums but looks aren’t everything. Employees of Russian museums are probably just as eager to help others as those working for American museums. If you choose to contact a Russian museum, I would recommend sending a letter versus an e-mail message, unless it is a very large museum.

To find a museum in Russia or Ukraine, copy музей (Russian and Ukrainian) and the translation for the region or city where you are searching into Google. This should give you a good start on finding museums that could be useful in your search.

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