Making progress without the help of Russian archives

Researching my Ivanov ancestry has been an unfair battle. The family name is too common. It doesn’t help that my grandfather and great-grandfather were the only surviving children of their parents. I’ll find some Ivanov cousins when pigs learn to fly to the moon.

The archive office for the region where my Ivanov ancestors were born has been useless. It has been partly my fault. I asked the office to search for birth records in the wrong town. I have e-mailed the office twice to search for records in the family village that was listed on a 1943 residency record. Not one response to those e-mail messages. I have e-mailed twice a genealogy research agency in the region for help in reviewing church records in my family’s village. That agency doesn’t want to answer my e-mail messages, either.

So, I am left to research my Ivanov ancestry in a way that does not involve archives. Luckily, my grandfather detailed some of his life story in letters he wrote to my father in the 1960s. He was a brave man for writing to his son in the USA during communist times. My grandfather said he and his father worked as a carpenter for a doctor in St. Petersburg.

I typed the doctor’s full name, St. Petersburg and the word doctor in Russian into Google and here appeared the doctor who had employed my grandfather and great-grandfather. My family lived for 11 years with the doctor, who probably paid for my grandfather’s private education in St. Petersburg. I knew I found the right doctor when I saw his connection to Russian royalty. My grandfather’s family also worked as carpenters for one of the many Count Shuvalovs before the doctor hired my family as carpenters. Count Shuvalov must have referred the doctor to my family.

The doctor who hired my family made the Russian history books. He cared for Emperor Alexander III and was present when the emperor died in 1894, six years before my family was hired by the doctor. The stories my grandfather could have told if he knew the doctor earlier. But during the time my family worked for Dr. Velyaminov, he was awarded the prestigious Order of St. Anne of the First Degree for his service to the Russian royal family and named director of the Imperial Military Medical Academy.

After my grandfather’s family left St. Petersburg, Dr. Velyaminov served in a high position within the Russian Red Cross and was elected to the Academy of Medicine. The doctor expressed his opposition to the new communist rule so his life was filled with hardship and deprivation, according to Wikipedia.

I hope to find a picture of the mansion where my grandfather’s family lived as the doctor’s carpenters. Maybe I’ll even find photos of my grandfather with the doctor, who had one son. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find information on which Count Shuvalov hired my family as carpenters. The possibilities are endless in what I will find, thanks to Wikipedia.

The birth records of my Ivanov ancestors are probably destroyed or illegible by now, but those records are not my only option in researching my family. I have plenty options if I work with what information I have and deal with the fact that a family tree of my Ivanov ancestors will probably never happen for me.

2 thoughts on “Making progress without the help of Russian archives

  1. Jeanne

    Thank you for your updates! It’s always heartening to read. I recently got back C-files for both of my grandfathers and they were useless since I already had legible copies of the documents. In one case, they blocked out my mother’s last name and the witness’s last name on copies that were barely legible.. In both cases, there only were 2 pages and no photos. After months of waiting, it was such a disappointment.


    1. I am happy you enjoy my blog. I am so sorry to hear that. Is there certain information you are seeking? Maybe I can help you find that information. I never heard of C-Files having 2 pages of information. Please e-mail me at bepa. miller @ mail. ru so I can help you.


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