Piecing together puzzles for one name

I hope I just solved the mystery of the maiden name for a great-great-grandmother. The effort took a year and a half to piece together two clues sitting in my house.

With my great-grandfather’s death in German, I was hoping I could find his mother’s maiden name on his death certificate. German death records are supposed to be gems of family information. In June 2010, I e-mailed several German archive offices to find his death certificate. Armed with his full name, birth village, date of death, full name of wife and last address, I thought this would be an easy task in highly-organized Germany.

Apparently, not one German archive office could help me. One office gave me an answer in a letter that my Austrian-American aunt could not translate. German government offices have a habit of writing letters in formal and technical language. Another archive office offered to do a document search for $60, but the fee was non-refundable. The other archive offices passed me off to other offices. My main problem was that I did not know the address of the hospital where my great-grandfather died in Berlin.

I tried again to find my great-grandfather’s death record late last year. I still had the same problem. Every archive office sent me to another office. So now, I have officially given up on the idea of ever seeing this document. Maybe when I am retired, I will one day see it on Ancestry.com.

Recently, I looked at the scribble that was put down for my great-great-grandmother’s maiden name on my great-grandfather’s German naturalization record from 1943. Then out of boredom one day, I looked at a Word document that has church records from my great-grandfather’s parish for his surname re-typed in cyrillic. The godmother of my great-grandfather’s brother had a surname that appeared similar to the scribble written on the naturalization record. A common theme of naming godparents in my Russian family seems to be that godparents are relatives somehow. The godparents of my great-grandfather’s brother appear to be relatives representing both parents’ families.

I am hoping my suspicions will be correct or I just wasted $300. The professional researcher who just studied my great-grandfather’s father’s family back to the 1600s is studying the mother’s family, using the name I have assumed for my great-great-grandmother. In a few weeks, I will know whether the researcher was successful.

Luckily, Russian full names have a patronymic middle name that represents the father’s first name. I know my great-great-grandmother’s first and middle name from a church record. As long as the researcher can find a Peter Korostelev born in the correct generation in the same village, I will be confident the mystery has been solved.

It’s too bad the marriage record of my great-great-grandparents does not mention my great-great-grandmother’s maiden name. I am lucky my great-grandmother had German ancestry so my great-grandfather could also apply for German citizenship. That scribble of a name on his naturalization record could be the breakthrough I needed to research his mother’s family. It will be interesting to know more about the family of my great-great-grandmother who birthed children until she was 46 years old.


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