An empty-handed search shows the path to an even better discovery

So much time and money have been spent to find records of my great-grandfather’s service with the Don Cossacks. A family photo shows him in a decorated Don Cossack uniform but records searched in two archives can’t document the same story.

My great-grandfather started his career in mining in eastern Ukraine and moved into explosive inventing for mine exploration, a much different path from the Don Cossack service of his brother, father, uncles and ancestors. It didn’t make sense why his path was so different.

That was until I posted on the most popular Russian language genealogy forum, asking if anyone knew anything about the mother’s family of my great-grandfather. Two quick responses provided nothing useful.

Two months later, a man from the forum e-mailed me if I was still researching my great-grandfather’s mother’s family. He told me at least four files exist at Russian State Historical Archives in Saint Petersburg for people with the same surname from Luhansk, Ukraine, for mining.

The man’s enthusiasm to pursue these records was contagious. Still, I had thought a slim chance existed for the records to be helpful because I knew so little on the family.

Great-great-grandpa Nikolai Pershin was a captain and engineer, which was all I knew about his life that led to a trend of engineers in my family.

Thankfully, I already have a researcher who helps me review records at Russian State Historical Archives. My researcher took a look at the records noted by the guy who e-mailed me.

It was quite the surprise that my researcher discovered in the records. I was so excited after reading her report, I couldn’t sleep that night.

My researcher retyped 16 pages of records. After reviewing the suggested records for potential connection to my ancestors, she opened the Pershin family nobility file. The details in the nobility file confirmed that these were the records of my great-great-grandmother’s family.

The records had a Nikolai Pershin who was a captain and engineer by the time by great-great-grandmother got married. He had a daughter Elizaveta, born in 1838, that was the perfect age to marry a Don Cossack leader in 1861. He had a son, Aleksei, likely the uncle of my great-grandfather whom is noted in another archive record. My great-grandfather also had a son, Aleksei, likely named in honor of his uncle. My grandmother told my father that her father’s mother died young and he was taken care by his mother’s family in Luhansk after her death.


A drawing of the Luhansk  Foundry, where my 4th great-grandfather lived and worked in 1796.

Not only did the records detail the birthplace of my great-great-grandmother’s brother and possibly her own, I learned about her family’s involvement as leaders of the famous Luhansk Foundry back to 1796 and Russian military service unrelated to the Cossacks for several generations.

The foundry was so important that it had a coat of arms. My great-great-grandmother’s brother, Aleksei, presented those coat of arms to Luhansk city duma and it became the city’s coat of arms in 1903. The current Luhansk coat of arms is based on the design Aleksei presented to the city more than 100 years ago.

My determination to find the story I wanted brought me to an even better story. Three years ago, a researcher discovered my great-great-grandmother’s maiden name and her father’s positions. Now, the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother’s mother has been discovered in a nobility file.

It took one person’s response to a 2-month-old forum post to break open this amazing family history. The Pershin family tree got pushed back to the 1730s and will open up a second female ancestor’s history to my family. It’s just amazing what can happen after a disappointment.

Related posts:
Years of frustration ends with discovery of one key document
An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled
Untraditional source reveals the death of a great-grandfather
Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum (with a video guide)

11 thoughts on “An empty-handed search shows the path to an even better discovery

  1. Steven schioldager.

    My great grandfather was a mining engineer Probably in Siberian. Lena gold fields I have been to Siberia. Irkutsk. People do not want to talk about any history before the Revolution some do not even know there was a revolution. Documents have either been disrupted or are hidden. Some White Russians just disappeared.


    1. My great-great-great-grandfather also did work in Siberia. I heard it could have affected his health. Russia is very complicated in history and for genealogy research. I had Don Cossacks in my family who were killed buy the Bolsheviks.


  2. Joyce Patterson

    My grandmother, Bronislava Sebastian Chodrowsky, born 1897 Odessa, by Black Sea, worked for a teacher, said they lived in huts with a bear rug over the hearth. There was a communal circular place in the center filled with water. I thought for washing clothes. They got an orange probably pound of butter maybe if that,Once a year, for Christmas. She left her home her parents, Sebastian Chodorowsky (fisherman on Black Sea) an mom Christine or Justine Transikaia Chodorowsky with her mom’s sister Jadwiga for America in 1914. Justine an Jadwiga parents John an Mary. Once arriving with all their luggage full of stuff from Russia They traveled from Nova Scotia to Portland, Oregon by train. My grandmother married Charles Klawa (Karliss Klav) born 1867 Riga, Latvia. They had four children. His parents Peter an Greta Klawa.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on this absolutely fabulous family discovery. It’s so amazing how blogging and reaching out on forums yield, at the most unexpected, least expected times wonderful discoveries.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ludmila Karameros

    Hello Vera: just read your family history and am hopeful that I can find something about mine. I posted everywhere years ago with no luck. My father Konstantin Ivanovich Lysenko was born in Slavyansk-Na-Kuban, in September 1893 to a Kuban Cossack family. His father Ivan Ivovich Lysenko served in the Czar’s Life Guards. (I believe it was Alexander II.) His mother was Alexandra Budyonny. Konstantin and his brothers were sent to military school – Corpus – and they fought in WWI against the reds. Do you have any suggestions for my search? I am very grateful for Any suggestions. I do not read or write Russian. Thank you very much. Ludmila Konstantinova

    Sent from my iPhone



  5. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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