Every Russian archive teaches lessons in genealogy

I was hoping to find the birth record of a paternal great-grandfather for cheap in Kostroma regional archives. But I got a rude awakening about how Russian archives operate. I have yet to see a standard rate for researching records in Russian regional archives.

My expectation was that the search would cost around $50. Not even close. Thanks to my peasant ancestry, the archives do not have my family’s surname in church records. I have a lot of Russian peasant ancestry and Kostroma Region is only my second experience dealing with this problem.

I thought giving the archives my great-grandfather’s given and patronymic names, the two possible years he could have been born, the name of his church, the name of his family’s village would make the search less complicated and more affordable. Nope and nope. Archives want between $100-$330 American dollars for a search that could find nothing.

So I decided to contact the same researcher who studied my paternal grandfather’s mother’s family to find records on my grandfather’s siblings. My grandfather wrote in letters that he was the only child who survived childhood. So that made me curious about how many siblings my grandfather lost.

The researcher found four siblings. My grandfather had two sisters and two brothers as sets of twins. It is sad I will never find cousins through my grandfather’s siblings. But the siblings’ lives were still interesting.

The first set of twins, Alexander and Ivan, were born in October 1883. Alexander died in August 1885 and Ivan died December 15, 1883. This information seemed unexciting until I realized that my grandfather had a brother who died on his birthday two years before he was born and my great-grandmother faced a second child death while she was 6 months pregnant with my grandfather. The grief of losing a second child could have resulted in my grandfather being miscarried.

Then I learned my grandfather’s two sisters, Elizabeta and Alexandra, were born in October 1887 and died in April 1888 one day apart. I cannot imagine giving birth to a second set of twins in the same month as the first twins who died young. I wonder if my grandfather even remembered his sisters who died when he was 2 1/2 years old.

It is sad that my great-grandmother was a mere 22 years old when she had her last children. So maybe the death of four children was all it took for her to not have any more children.

My curiosity continued into my Ivanov family and I agreed for the researcher to study my family as far back as records would allow. It was exciting to see my family tree go back to my sixth great-grandfather, born around the 1720s, and then interesting to know my great-grandfather Nikolai had two brothers, including another Nikolai, who was 17 years older than him.

I thought the researcher would find that my great-grandfather’s siblings also all died young. It is great to know there is a possibility that I could one day find Ivanov cousins, especially when my father was an only child and so was my grandfather.

12 thoughts on “Every Russian archive teaches lessons in genealogy

  1. ljslumpy

    I am searching for MICHAEL TRIFAN / TRIFANOV / TREFANOFF, His Americanized name was : MICHAEL STEVENS, he was born in Suvalki,Russia Sept. 1, 1886, died in the Marianna Mine Explosion in 1908, and married: MARY CHELPANOV. Americanized name : MARY WILLIAMS, lived in Marianna, Pa. MICHAEL came to the USA in the early 1900’s or late 1890’s. Thanks in advance for any information,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Lori


    1. 2595Beach

      Hi there, my grandfather was Phillip Trefonoff. His next of kin on his military records show Fred Trefonoff. I believe there may be a relation?. Phillip was born September 8, 1892 in Serakatja, Russia.


      1. kenas10

        I have reason to believe the family misspelled Trefonoff. Military records and his signature show Trefanoff, not Trefonoff. His father was Fred Trefanoff who also had a son named Michael. I also believe Fred along with Michael moved to the US east coast and changed their last name to Stevens. I can’t get any further than that. Please help.


  2. Shaun

    Looking for my Grandmothers family
    Taybe Yeta Meller [ Meler / Meleryte ]
    She fled Poltava, Ukraine during the Russian revolution and ended up in South Africa.
    Her parents owned a Pulp and Paper Mill.

    Any advice on how to research for her family ?
    Do I need to pay a researcher, or can I do anything myself?

    Thanks for answering, and thanks for sharing your family life


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