I have been assuming that my great-grandfather was the only one in his family to pursue a life in mining. A search in archives uncovered a money dispute that opened the doors to giving a better picture of his father past the simple life details.
My grandmother told my father in a taped interview that her father sold a mine for 20,000 rubles. I asked my researcher at Russian State Historical Archives to find proof of this family story. She couldn’t prove that story true but the researcher found documents for an even better story.
My researcher uncovered that my Don Cossack great-great-grandfather owned a mine in southern Russia. Thanks to a dispute over 4,795 rubles in silver from 1861, I have the luck of learning about his mining background.
My great-great-grandfather borrowed the silver from a Don Cossack colonel who could have been his cousin, based on his last name being the same as his paternal grandmother. The colonel asked for the money back four months later, which was 8 days after the birth of my great-grandfather.
The money was gone and the infuriated colonel reported him to the police. An investigation started and determined that 2,500 rubles of coal was available at my great-great-grandfather’s mine.
The problem was that the mine was not operating at the time, was at least one mile from a railroad track and was not near any rivers to transport it as payment to the colonel. Great-great-grandpa didn’t have money for miners to dig up the coal or an army of horse wagons to transport all that coal for his debt.
The bickering over the mine escalated because my great-grandfather managed to quietly sell the mine in 1865 to another Don Cossack, who made it a working mine without official permission.
By 1873, the dispute ended with the mine being put up for public action and my great-great-grandfather’s debt accumulating to 7,000 rubles. That amount could have bought several houses at that time.
Sometime after my great-grandfather was born in 1864, his mother died and his mother’s family took him to Luhansk, now in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic within eastern Ukraine.
That story from my grandmother makes more sense now. With my great-great-grandfather having financial troubles and losing his wife, he was a lost soul who was struggling to deal with family finances and his two children.
Later on, my great-grandfather learned how to assist engineers in the development of mines at a mining school in Lysychans’k, which also is Luhansk Region today. He became an engineer who developed chemicals for explosives used in mining. His choice of profession is no longer a strange mystery to me.
His brother became a doctor. Maybe not surprising when understanding the loss of his mother at a young age could have inspired him to become a doctor.
A search on Google with Russian keywords from my researcher’s transcription of the money dispute file helped me discover that my great-grandfather’s paternal uncle was manager for the Office of Mine Inspections for the Don Cossacks.
Probably even more searching could come up with more family history in mining. A search of where my great-great-grandfather owned a mine shows the area grew into a city of about 245,000 people and honors its past by calling it the city of miners.
the coat of arms for Shakhty, Russia (source:miningwiki.ru)
Learning more than the basic facts of my great-grandfather’s life has gotten me to this point. I have opened myself to any possible archive documents on my great-grandfather’s family so I can discover family stories that are well beyond my imagination.
An empty-handed search shows the path to an even better discovery
An unreal surprise appears when research on a great-grandfather seems stalled
Years of frustration ends with discovery of one key document