Random Facebook instant messaging leads to major breakthrough

Today, I instant messaged a contact in southern Russia with questions about high school education in the early 20th century to help find family academic records in archives. In the end, I made a major breakthrough that I didn’t think had a chance of happening.

The conversation moved onto my Facebook friend’s newest book publication and his acquisition of 1915 residency records. Just out of curiosity, I had my friend look up my paternal grandmother’s family. Minutes later, I had pictures of my grandmother’s childhood home in Russia.

I heard stories that my great-grandmother was so rich that she bought houses for her six children. I saw pictures of a house where the family had lived during World War II but still wasn’t convinced of great-grandma’s wealth. Today, that wealth was proven without a doubt.

My great-grandmother was listed in 1915 records owning a 8,000 ruble house when so many other houses in the city were valued less than 2,000 rubles. The house was such a great importance in my grandmother’s birthplace that it was the sole focus of two postcards.

My father’s first cousin told me of a massive family house that had a garden for children to play. I thought I found a picture of that house through the city’s library a few years ago but my cousin said she didn’t remember that particular house. Almost 69 years after leaving her hometown, I can finally show my cousin pictures of the house where she played as a child.

Out of curiosity I searched the house address, city and my grandmother’s maiden surname in Russian on Google, I found more information on the house. The information posted about the house made me speechless in the worst way about my great-grandmother.

A distraught mother wrapped her 9-day-old daughter in blankets at night in February 1910 and left the baby on my great-grandmother’s doorstep, with the hope that my rich great-grandmother would take her in. The mother left a note to not leave her daughter to die poor and unhappy.

So what did my great-grandmother do to this innocent baby girl? She sent her away to an orphanage, where she likely died or lived an unhappy life. Oh, the words I would have for my great-grandmother for not making room for the child when she lived in a mansion.

What makes this situation even worse to imagine is that my great-grandmother worked as a teacher before she got married. She also worked as a teacher after her husband died to provide for her six children. How could a woman from a wealthy family who didn’t need to work  choose to work with children and turn away from an infant in need?

This discovery does put a damper on the joy of making this major breakthrough and makes me wonder if my great-grandmother ever regretted sending the baby to an orphanage.

Two years later, her husband died of a heart attack and several years following his death, the communist government forced my great-grandmother’s family out of the mansion to make room for a boys school.

My family continued to live with servants in smaller houses. I hope my great-grandmother realized her dream home was better off giving many boys a better future when she couldn’t give one more child a better life in that house.

Here’s the family home that didn’t have room for one more child:


8 thoughts on “Random Facebook instant messaging leads to major breakthrough

  1. I would wonder if the stories told about the great-grandmother were true or exaggerated. Consider the social structure in the country at that time. Perhaps she was a woman with foresight and knew that the family’s days of richness would be coming to an end with the revolution of 1905. Did her wealth come from her husband or from a position he held?


      1. Now that I’ve seen your comments on the group we are in together I see that she is not one of your favorite ancestors. Of course the child deserved a chance in her vast home but perhaps it’s better the child was not taken in.


  2. MaryJo Wilson

    I think your grandmother experienced some Karma in her lifetime. She lost her husband and her mansion. In her next lifetime it may be even worse for her. Speaking of “Lost Russian Family”, my husband has 3 “Russian” grandparents who were all dead before he was born. He has no idea where his paternal grandparents were from but they immigrated to New York CIty in 1901–this is information from the census and it just said they were born in Russia. They were Ashkenazi so they must have lived in “The Pale”. Their names were Sam Mirsky and Rebecca Bloom. His other Russian grandfather was from Irkutsk, Russia and he immigrated to Canada in 1912 where his name on the 1921 census is listed as John Latch but his brother is living with him and his name is Ostap Lech. My husband has tested on 23andMe and his closest match lives in Russia but seems disinterested in figuring out how they relate. He doesn’t recognize any of the surnames and says that he has no idea how to help. A first cousin who is 83 thinks that because the Mirsky’s moved to Georgia, they must have been from the Russian Georgia but he also thinks some other things that are incorrect so we aren’t relying on that. Now, do you have any advice for me? I’d love some random advice! My husband was always told by his mother that her father was Ukrainian. My geography isn’t that great but even I know Irkutsk is in Siberia and the Ukraine is not!


    1. I don’t like 23andme. I prefer familytreedna.com. The Russians there are so much better and interested in answering e-mails. Have you tried an index search request for $20 at https://genealogy.uscis.dhs.gov/ Give all the various spellings of names. I can’t recommend much for Canada because I don’t have experience with Canadian archives. Have you uploaded the DNA data to gedmatch.com to find more matches for free?


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