100 years after immigration, a family reunites

Back in February, a woman from southern Russia e-mailed me for help to find family of her grandmother’s brother in the USA. I did not think it would be too hard.

Not this case. It seemed like an easy case at first. In addition to knowing her grand uncle’s full name, birthplace and birth date, she knew her grand uncle left Russia between 1909 and 1920, his son became a doctor, her grand uncle worked with unusual machinery in the USA and he left to follow a girlfriend.

The complication was the grand uncle’s Polish last name. Polish first and last names can have so many variations in spellings. I searched every variation of this man’s name ending in vich.

I followed a paper trail from a man matching information of the woman’s relative on a ship passenger record posted on ancestry.com. He came from the same region of Belarus, his birthdate was near the lady’s grand uncle, arrived in the USA in the same period of time, and his full name was the same, even the patronymic name.

I found a match in a family tree on ancestry.com but it turned out the man had a different mother than the man I was researching. I got too excited and told the Russian lady I had found the family before I confirmed information.

I was so annoyed with myself. I promised to find her relatives so I was determined to continue looking. Luckily, the Russian woman’s family also was known by another surname that is Russian. There are only two possible variations for this name.

I was very cautious when I found a man who appeared to be the right match on a private family tree on ancestry.com. The full Russian name was correct, his birthplace was the correct region of Belarus and the birth year was off by a year.

Luckily, a grandson of the match was open-minded about considering the Russian woman’s grandmother as his grand aunt. The family confirmed their Joe had the same parents as the Joe I was researching and sent me four family photos. One photo showed three people in a village and on the back was written in Russian the name of the same village where the Russian woman’s family lived. And Joe’s son did become a doctor, Joe did follow a girlfriend to the USA and Joe did work with interesting equipment as the Russian woman’s grandmother had recalled.

I waited impatiently to hear from the woman in Russia after I sent her an e-mail message that a match was confirmed.  She was so happy and grateful and I was happy I kept my promise to find her family.

I would have never found this family if I searched with a closed mind. Joe had changed his birthdate on all the documents I found on ancestry.com. One document even had the wrong birthplace.

Joe’s family did not know about his siblings or the village where he was born. He never talked about his life in the old country to his family. Joe did not live in the Soviet Union. He left Russia in 1912. His letters to his sister stopped at a certain point due to personal safety issues.

Now, I am helping the family find immigration documents on Joe. He immigrated from England, far from the place where other people from the same village had boarded ships to America. The story of this Joe will be complete once more immigration records are found.


10 thoughts on “100 years after immigration, a family reunites

  1. arandun

    What a wonderful success story, and how happy she must be. What an incredibly cool way to be able to help someone, too– you are doing great work! 🙂


  2. Wow, that is just fantastic! I appreciate the posts in your blog. You have done a wonderful job. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack to find past relatives without much information. I find this search fascinating! Hopefully I will trace my great great grandparents soon.


  3. Yvonne Novitsky Macahig

    Wow, i am deeply touched with this accomplishment.You are indeed a Samaritan helping find the roots of a fellow blooded Russian.I am happy for her and thanks to you.My case is a bit difficult as I didn’t have enough documents of my grandfather.All I knew he is a Russian Jewish from Poland who stow away Russia during the revolution between white and red army bringing with him only few pics I kept until now.He choose to live in Southern part of the Philippines,and marry a Filipino native till he dies, leaving his grand children.May you remain blessed in helping those who are saddened and empty individual who are truly wish to find it`s missing link.


  4. Katrina K.

    how do I find someone like yourself that would also help me trace my grandmothers uncle who moved here with his family around 1920 to new york city, he sent a letter after the war around 1945 to see if anyone was alive in russia but due to safety reasons the russian authorities took it away and kept his sister in prison for a couple of days and questioned her about her being a spy though id give it a shot by the way the family was from belarus


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