Knowledge worth the four figures

After two months of waiting, I have finally received the results of research on my Trunov ancestors. The professional researcher I hired found records to push back my family tree to my 10th great-grandfather, born in 1620.

The information I now have on my Trunov family is a big thrill for so many reasons. When my researcher studied church records on the family from 1880-1919, the results were so disappointing. Only 10 years of records could be found. So much information was lost from war-related and communist-era destruction.

Now, I have my first family tree extending into the early 17th century, something I never imagined for Russian ancestry. It is disappointing that the researcher could not find the maiden names of so many women who married to my direct ancestors. But I do have the full names of my 6th great-grandmother and her father. Their surname is familiar to me. My great-grandfather’s sister married into the same family and so did her second cousin.

This new crop of information is more than a bunch of names. I know my family previously came from Orel in western Russia, where they served in the czar’s military. Hopefully, I will soon learn about the significance of this military service after I posted on for help in finding more information. I am hoping I can go back further in time as I search for more information online.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful researcher in Kursk, Russia. He typed up all the birth, marriage and death information for each direct ancestor and their siblings in one file and retyped the documents found line-by-line. I use Promt to read the Russian material in English. The researcher also photographed all the documents found on my ancestors. It is unreal I can see a document on my 9th great-grandfather from 1697 on my computer. All this cost $1,000, a sum well worth for everything found.

Now, I am waiting for EWZ files on my Tyunin family from national archives in College Park, Maryland. Apparently, I have German ancestry that was never discussed in my family. Before I can study my Kovalev and Tyunin lines in Kursk, I need to know what my great-grandparents knew about their ancestry. Hopefully, I can have these lines researched back to the early 17th century or learn where in Prussia the families originated.

After seeing how far my Russian ancestry can be traced back, I am anxious to see what can be found on my other two family lines from Kursk. I thought for many years that I would not know anything about so many of my Russian ancestors. I will not be lucky enough to find everything I want on every family line but the door is open for me to find plenty.

Getting some hope from the word “calculator”

I am anxious to find the family of my great-grandfather’s sister, Anna. She was the only sibling he discussed in his letter about his life to his son and daughter. The rest of the half-dozen siblings were only mentioned by name.

My great-grandfather was 23 years older than Anna. I did not know the age difference until I paid a professional researcher to study the family village’s church records. My great-grandfather left the family village in Kursk for Kiev when Anna was about 15 years old.

My great-grandfather luckily later escaped Kiev during World War II for Germany, with the help of his wife’s German ancestry. He sent packages of clothing to Anna’s family from Germany after he learned about how difficult their life was in the Soviet Union. Anna was lucky that she had a tailor for a big brother.

It is rumored that the packages of clothing my great-grandfather sent caused trouble for Anna. Receiving or sending foreign mail during communist times was a big no-no. Apparently, my great-grand aunt Anna also did not care about rules. She wrote to her nephew, my grandmother’s brother, in the U.S. sometime in the 1960s or 1970s. He never wrote back. This is my grand-uncle who threw out all of his personal documents from Ukraine and Germany and his immigration process.

Luckily, he kept her address for many years. I called him in 1999 to ask him what he remembered about his family. He mentioned his Aunt Anna mailed him a letter, which he no longer had, that he never answered. My grand-uncle mailed me her last address in English.

I sent a letter to the address but the letter was returned in 2000. For 12 years, I have kept the address. I finally  have figured out the address. I typed the place I thought was her village into Google. It came up as the Russian word for calculator. So I searched for village calculator in Kursk in Russian and discovered it was a real address in Kursk. I found a woman with the same last name on the same street as where my great-grand aunt lived in an online phone directory. The name is common but this is the only hope I’ve had in finding her family.

My mother tried to call her but the line keeps ringing and ringing. So I will send her a letter, hoping she is related or will pass on my letter to a government office that can help me. I already e-mailed a government office in Kursk for help in finding the family with the old address.

Then, I found a guy on, a Russian social website, who lived in the same apartment building as my great-grand aunt in the 1980s and 1990s. He listed his old address on his profile page. I am hoping he knew her or her children somehow and he will e-mail me back.

Finding my great-grand aunt’s family will be one of my major accomplishments in my family search. Hardly anything is known about my great-grandfather’s siblings. Even trying to find the families of his brothers would be hard because the family name is so common in Kiev, where they lived during World War II. I am hoping my great-grand aunt’s family reconnected with the other siblings so I can put this search to rest.

Keeping sanity while I wait, wait and wait even more

I thought this past holiday season that I would get a bunch of letters from Russia. I have been waiting forever for some new information to keep me motivated about my family search. But that Christmas wish never came true so I keep waiting and waiting for the flood of mail that supposedly is coming my way.

During the night when I wake up for a random reason, I check my e-mail, hoping that some office in Ukraine or Russia has some news for me. I check my e-mail probably too many times every day. I have three e-mail accounts because my darn Verizon account has problems with foreign messages. I send some messages through my Hotmail account that has zero problems with foreign languages and other messages from my account. With having a account, I had been hoping I would have better luck with getting responses from Russian archives.

Then when I know the offices are closed in Russia and Ukraine, I impatiently wait for the postal mail to arrive. Most days I catch the delivery person before he or she gets a chance to put the mail in the box. The postal employees must think I am crazy. I am an impatient person as you can tell.

Waiting for letters from Russia is painful. Sometimes, it takes a month for my letters to arrive and then another two or three months for responses to arrive in my mailbox. Not all Russian archives have e-mail, but those who have e-mail sometimes do not answer my messages. Other Russian offices have e-mail but they send their responses by postal mail, making the process very annoying to me.

To keep my sanity, I have created two lists- one for things I am waiting on and another for things I can work on. These lists keep me focused and positive. I know several things are on their way early this year.

My to-do list reminds me that there is still plenty of information and relatives to find. I have made major accomplishments in the past two years. I want to find every scrap of information available. With so many relatives dead, I have to depend on archives and other written material to fill in my family’s stories.

When my lists cannot keep me occupied in my boredom, I write in my journal. My mother recommended that I keep a journal to document my successes and frustrations. Hopefully, my two sons will read my journal and realize the work it took to find family information and relatives. I have restrained myself from all the swearing I would like to do in my journal that my sons will one day read. My sons will probably wonder why I bothered to spend so much time and money on my family search when it frustrated me so much.

In the end, I know I am making great friendships with my cousins abroad and will have some great places and relatives to visit in Russia and Ukraine when I am older.