Message left in a family painting solves a family mystery

A painting in my grandparents’ living room will never leave my memory. As a child, I wondered why my grandparents had such a huge painting of a Russian religious monument along the river that runs through Kiev.

My mom only could tell me that my grandfather paid an artist to duplicate a postcard he kept from his birthplace. I wish he could have told me which church his parents had him baptized.

Today, I learned a clue was in that painting. Last week, I started to get anxious again to find my grandfather’s baptism record. My researcher Nikita Kovalchuk suggested looking at records from a church named St. Vladimir near the street where my grandfather lived before the war.

I thought to myself what is the chance that the painting of St. Volodymyr (also a name for Vladimir) and that my uncle being named Vladimir were connected to the church where my grandfather was baptized.

Then, this afternoon I got an e-mail message from Nikita that he found a record. I was thinking he found a random person carrying my grandfather’s surname but he really found my grandfather’s baptism record.

Finally, the mystery is closed thanks to seeing that the name Vladimir had an importance to my grandfather. The biggest surprise in the baptism record was my grandfather’s birth date.

Every document I have on my grandfather has his birth date as March 21. My mother never heard of her father’s birthday being another day. So it came to be a surprise that the baptism record lists his birth date as March 8.

Then I realized that maybe my grandfather acknowledged the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. This website confirmed that my grandfather’s birth date on his immigration records is his adjusted birth date.

Another surprise in the baptism record is that my great-grandparents had a peasant woman from their birth village serve as the godmother. Why would a peasant travel almost 240 miles to a baptism unless she was a relative?

My researcher in Russia’s Kursk Region didn’t pickup this surname for one of my direct ancestors from these great-grandparents. Then I looked at the transcribed church records for these great-grandparents and the peasant’s surname is noticed several times for godparents of both great-grandparents’ relatives. My great-grandparents’ marriage also was witnessed by a man with the same surname.

This baptism record may have confirmed that one of my direct ancestors carries this surname. Maybe this simple record has opened the door for even more research in Kursk Region. It is amazing what determination to find one record will return as a gift.