Years of frustration ends with discovery of one key document

Assumptions in genealogy can lead to years of frustration. I had been annoyed for years that I couldn’t document my great-grandfather’s birthdate and birthplace. The why behind my years of frustrations was revealed this week.

Thanks to a member of a Russian genealogy group on Facebook, I learned about a file on my great-grandfather at Russian State Military Historical Archive in Saint Petersburg.

I didn’t know what could be in this file but I was hoping it wasn’t information already known to me. A researcher has found so much information on my great-grandfather in that archive.

Once, I saw scans from the file, I knew something important was right in front of me. My ability to read Russian cursive is limited so I was grateful for help from a member of my genealogy group on Facebook.

The file had my great-grandfather’s full birthdate, birthplace, place of baptism and parents’ address. Years of frustration finally switched to accomplishment.

I could finally put his full birthdate into the family tree but I had to change his birthplace to a city 92 kilometers from the family Don Cossack village.

For years, I tried to prove he was born in the family Cossack village. The records for his birth year for that village are missing from archives. I still assumed he was born there. I even tried to find proof his parents married in the Cossack village but the village’s records for that year also are missing from archives.

Thanks to this getting scans of the latest file, I finally have pictures and postcards of my great-grandfather’s churches for his baptism, wedding and funeral. That is a first for any of my great-grandparents.

Once I calmed down from the excitement of finding all this information, I contacted my researcher for the area where my great-grandfather was born. She quickly wrote back that records for that decade are missing at archives for his actual birthplace.

This is the second genealogy joke on me for researching my great-grandfather. A local author wrote a book about my father’s hometown that included information extracted from the death record of his grandfather (the same great-grandfather) 10 years ago. My researcher can’t find the record in archives. Now, my great-grandfather’s baptism record is missing from archives but Russian State Military Historical Archive has it extracted in a file from 1879, when he was 15 years old.

This journey shows assuming facts can lead to years of frustration and the importance of never giving up on documenting ancestors.

Related posts:
An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled
Untraditional source reveals the death of a great-grandfather
Determination to get one record leads to a pile of records on family mysteries
The best surprises come when hope is almost lost

An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled

I thought I had uncovered everything possible on my great-grandfather Vasil. So much money has been spent researching his short 48-year life. What else could possibly be discovered after eight intensive years of research?

Just out of curiosity, I started searching for more information on his technical college in eastern Ukraine on Google. Quickly I found old photos of the school where he learned about mining.

One website had a great photo of the school property and then I scrolled down to discover graduation photos. Then there he was in the class of 1884 with his long beard and receding hairline.

I couldn’t stop smiling and immediately called the only living grandchild of my great-grandfather. She really needed the good news as she is dealing with an infection affecting her health and mood.

It’s hard to believe that I found the college graduation photo of my great-grandfather from 1884. This is all thanks to a museum that has been taking care of the album of graduation photos.

The photo has been online for two years, waiting for me to discover it. I never even thought to pursue graduation photos of my ancestors. Years of research in Ukraine never made me think that this could even be available online.

It took nothing special to find this photo of my great-grandfather at age 20. I only searched the school’s name and the word museum in Russian on Google, thanks to help from Google Translate. My basic Russian skills from my childhood have been built up through years of researching my ancestors from Ukraine and Russia.

Discovery genealogy gems didn’t start until I began using Google Translate to maneuver around Russian and Ukrainian websites. First, there was a lot of copying and pasting into Google Translate. Now, I also use Google Translate’s browser app to see websites automatically in English.

This latest discovery makes me wonder about what else is waiting for me. Genealogy is growing in popularity in the former USSR. More information and records will become available online as time goes on.

Those who switch their research from English to Russian and Ukrainian can turn their genealogy research from a never-ending brick wall to the yellow brick road. It just takes a small brave step to try Russian and Ukrainian websites.

Related posts:
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)