Discovering Don Cossack ancestry the easy way

Now that the Soviet Union has been gone for two decades, the curiosity about Don Cossack ancestry is safe to pursue. The effort to find information can be complicated if genealogy research is done the traditional way of contacting regional archives.

If you don’t have full names, birthplaces and birth dates of your ancestors, some regional archives may not do paid research for you. Consistency in research services in Russian regional archives does not exist as I have painfully learned. Also, so many records of Don Cossacks were intentionally destroyed by government officials during the communist era.

Thankfully, the destruction of archives on Don Cossacks was not as severe in St. Petersburg, where so many valuable records exist on Don Cossacks. Hiring a professional researcher to look at records in St. Petersburg without knowing the file numbers is pricey.

That is why I am eternally grateful to Sergei Koryagin, a professional researcher in Moscow. He has published booklets on more than 60 surnames connected to Don Cossack ancestry. Each booklet costs $10 U.S. dollars.

Koryagin published 10 pages of material on the Don Cossack ancestry of my Kirsanov family. The booklet included a family tree with the name of my 6th great-grandfather, born in the 1720s. The information on my ancestors covers when they entered Cossack service, where they served, how they were promoted and how they were rewarded for their service.

A great-grandson of my great-grandfather’s brother purchased this booklet on our Kirsanov ancestors and found my post on looking for Kirsanov relatives on, the best forum for finding Russian relatives and ancestor information. I never expected to find relatives of my great-grandfather. But this third cousin had his great-grandfather’s family tree, which included information on my grandmother’s entire family and several preceding generations. It was undeniable that we were related.

Now, I have a picture of my great-grandfather with his father and five of his six children. It was touching to see my grandmother as a two-year-old with her big brothers. My cousin also gave me a picture of my great-grandmother with my great-grandfather’s brother. Another third cousin from my Kirsanov family gave me scans of three letters my great-grandfather wrote to his brother in the early 1900s and a photo of my great-grandfather in his Cossack uniform. I never heard that my great-grandfather was a Cossack. My family only discussed my grandmother’s uncles and earlier generations as Cossacks.

I am doing further research on my great-grandfather in St. Petersburg archives. I gave a wonderful researcher my great-grandfather’s nobility file numbers to see whether more information could be found on him. Koryagin only had Don Cossack information on my great-grandfather’s brother but Koryagin printed my great-grandfather’s nobility application file number and an American fifth cousin from my Kirsanov family had another file number in his book on our shared ancestry. I found the fifth cousin on after my third cousin e-mailed me an extensive Kirsanov family tree. The domino effect is just awesome.

I have posted two images below that show the surnames researched by Koryagin. If you see a family name, e-mail him at  in Russian and ask him from which villages your surname was researched. After you receive your booklet, read this post on translating your family information into English easily for free.

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16 thoughts on “Discovering Don Cossack ancestry the easy way

  1. pardon the inquiry…but, i was unable to read the names on the two pages as the resolution was too low to zoom in and read.
    i am looking to see if the last name ‘lysyanyuk’ (sp?) from the village sabadash, ukraine is listed.
    : )


      1. i actually did ‘right click’ and ‘save image as’…and it still was too low to view. am i downloading them wrong?
        in either case, i appreciate your blog.
        maybe i can find Sergei Koryagin’s list of other surnames…since i do know that my last name came from a kozak lysyanyuk form lysyanka (sp?) – 1640s.
        love your story of how you were able to piece together your family history.


      2. thanks for your quick replies : )
        i will try on my mac…it might just be a pc thing.
        family ancestor was originally a part of the Lysyanka Regiment (Zaporozhian cossacks) under the Cossack Hetmanate. would love to find a reference of some sort…other than simple family word of mouth. now that i have done a bit more reading. either way…love your post!


  2. Hello i have just found this site & deciding where to start-Oddly enough my Last Name is Don! I know my Grandfather(who recently Died) Had always told us we were decended from the Don Cossacks.So my name is Joseph Don(also my Granfathers name). Really interested in finding Relatives in Russia???


  3. zarac

    I also am unable to read the names on that list, I was wondering if the last name Platschinda or a surname similar was on there (it’s very possible the name varied a little on the migration to Australia). It is a well known story in our family that we were descendants of Cossacks. We recently found a message on the back of an old photo of my great grandfather which said he was ‘soul and blood Cossack, chieftain Cossack and Kuban and black sea Cossack.’
    His family and history has been extremely hard to find! If you have any tips, id love to hear them 🙂


    1. Sorry for the delayed response. I can’t find that name in the index. It is spelled ПЛАЧИНДА in Russian.

      I found this on the forum for I also saw a few more mentions in Cossack known areas.

      Ищу родственников по моему деду Плачинда Дмитрий Данилович, 1909 года рождения, Украина (Горловка Донецкой области) После переезда на Кубань моего деда на Украине остались его братья и сестры. В 1941 году мой дед ушел на фронт, и в 1943 май пропал без вести!

      I am looking for relatives of my grandfather Plachinda Dmitry Kuchma 1909 year of birth, Ukraine (Gorlovka Donetsk region) After moving to the Kuban my grandfather in the Ukraine were his brothers and sisters. In 1941, my grandfather went to the front, and in 1943 went missing in May!

      Any possible connection to your family?


      1. zarac

        Very possible!
        My great grandfather Paul Platschinda was born in 1910, and went to war, he migrated to Australia in 1950. We received a letter 20 years ago all in ukrainian, from a lady who was looking for her brother with the same name as my great grandfather. We weren’t able to translate much of it, for we didn’t know anyone who was fluent in the language, but part of it said he had a brother, who migrated to Israel or something.


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