Having faith in letters to strangers

This weekend, I received a surprising e-mail message. A relative of a great-great-grandfather’s brother responded to a letter I sent to Kursk, Russia.

I am trying to find relatives of my great-grandfather’s family who still live in Kursk. I mailed letters and family tree information that a professional genealogist found in birth, marriage and death records to four people named Tyunin listed in an online phone directory.

I hope this woman who e-mailed me will have old family photos and information about our ancestry and more importantly, will actually respond to my e-mail message. To keep the momentum going, I sent her photos of my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, a brother of her great-great-grandfather. Hopefully, she will want to exchange photos and information with me.

Photos are priceless from the czar and communist times. So many family possessions are lost and destroyed over time and from the world wars. It doesn’t help that photography was highly discouraged during certain periods of the communist era. My grandfather secretly photographed his family in Ukraine because he knew the photos would be priceless for his family and future generations.

I am always afraid that I will only get one e-mail message after getting excited from finding a distant connection. Russians seem to take their time to answer an e-mail message so I wonder every day when I don’t receive a response, if another e-mail message will ever arrive.

This method of finding relatives has worked for me twice. It is worth trying for searching out missing relatives, especially when it costs 98 cents to mail a letter from the USA.

The first time this method worked I found a grandson of my great-grandfather’s brother by writing to a few people named Tyunin found in a Kiev online directory. I did not know anything about this sibling but this relative knew his grandfather had a brother who was a famous sculptor.

The newly-found relative has been a great help. Nikolai knew where my great-grandfather’s famous sculpture could be found in Kiev, which I will visit in two years to meet my cousins and see the works of my great-grandfather. Nikolai also remembered the name of the village where his grandfather was born. The professional genealogist I hired found records that prove Nikolai’s grandfather was brother of my great-grandfather.

I know this method has not help me find missing relatives for me, but it can work for others. So many people assume that after so many years, people will move out of the original family village, town or city. That is not the case for everyone and sometimes, families just move out of a small village to a larger and nearby town or city.

There is nothing to lose when writing letters to people with the same family name as missing relatives. Once you find people to write from online phone directories, the possibilities for finding family are endless. Check out my important link page for links to online phone directories.

Not everyone will answer letters. If you actually find the family of a missing relative, it is very likely that a relative will respond to your letter. This method is better and cheaper than hiring an expensive researcher who could scam you out of money to find your relatives. There is hope in finding family on your own. You just have to take a risk in writing to strangers.