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 forum.vgd.ru, 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 forum.vgd.ru 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Please click on the images to download them.