The history of my grandfather’s family was briefly described in a letter and didn’t appear very interesting at first glance. Once I started some intense poking into some old address books online, the pieces of an incredible story of my grandfather who grew up dirt poor and later lived with high society started coming together.
The research into my grandfather’s life started with finding the addresses of the famous Russian doctor whom he lived with for 11 years in Saint Petersburg as a carpenter.
Thanks to online Russian address books, I found the doctor’s two main addresses from 1900-1911. Keeping up my Russian language skills from my childhood has really had its advantages for genealogy.
Then with the help of Google Translate, I was able to find the two homes of Dr. Nikolai Alexandrovich Velyaminov where my grandfather’s family lived on Russian websites from Google searches. One page even showed me several photos of one home from the inside.
The first home where they lived.
It’s just amazing to think my grandfather walked the halls and down the stairs shown in those photos. This is just another example why searching online in the language of your ancestors opens more doors in genealogy, instead of getting frustrated with English-based research for genealogy.
The second address was harder to research but I finally found pictures of the address. It only happens to be Anichkov Palace. Yes, Grandpa Pavel lived in a palace and didn’t mention a word of this in his letter to my father. He only referred to living with Dr. Velyaminov at his property.
I thought I had to be mistaken. A man who grew dirt poor in a village of homes made of mud and hay somehow moved into a palace? More research into the address on a Russian encyclopedia website states Dr. Velyaminov lived in a “government apartment on the emb. Fontanka, 33 (house of the Main Palace Administration at the Anichkov Palace)”.
How could my grandfather leave out that he lived within a palace? He wrote the letter from the USSR to my father in the USA in the late 1960s when it really wasn’t a good idea to have contact with foreigners. I assume my grandfather was too afraid to write in detail about his life in Saint Petersburg due to fear of having his letter be rejected by the postal service, which read some private letters.
While I will never know how my grandfather and his parents got the courage to leave the family village in Kostroma Oblast for a better life in Saint Petersburg, I know they also worked 6 years as carpenters for a Count Shuvalov before working for Dr. Velyaminov.
The timing for my grandfather’s arrival in 1894 to Saint Petersburg couldn’t have been more interesting. That was the year Czar Alexander III died.
The doctor who cared for the czar before his death was Dr. Velyaminov, who travelled with the new and last czar, Nicholas II, and his family from the Livadia Palace in the Crimea to Saint Petersburg.
Merging of these lives came together only with the help of two addresses. Doors of those homes opened the doors to understanding the life of my grandfather’s family.