I had given up hope that I would ever know about the death of my great-grandfather. With him living under German occupation, I assumed the records couldn’t be found after the severe damage done to his city from World War II.
Then came a message from a contact where my great-grandfather had died. By sheer luck, the contact (my half-aunt’s uncle’s great-grandson) had discovered the burial record in the southern Russian city archives.
It was even lucky that he noticed the burial record, with my great-grandfather having the very common last name of Ivanov. Thanks to my contact and I exchanging addresses where our ancestors lived, the address of my great-grandfather got my contact’s immediate attention.
Now I have the death date of September 11, 1946 and know he died of stomach cancer. My grandfather also died of cancer so it is important to know when these fatal illnesses run in the family.
My grandfather wrote in a letter to my father that his father had died in 1946. Nothing else was written about the death when my grandfather penned this letter at 73 years old. It has been hard to confirm the information on my own.
I tried on my own to obtain the death record of my great-grandfather from the registry office, which has birth, marriage and death records for the communist era. Each time I asked for information on my great-grandfather’s death, the office staff told me the record didn’t exist.
My great-grandfather was buried in the biggest cemetery in the city. Some office had to keep record of the burials but I assumed the communist-era records were closed to the public.
This discovery brings more hope that the burial records could be found for my great-grandfather’s wife and my grandmother’s mother. Thanks to census records during the German occupation, I know one great-grandmother died before the Nov. 27, 1941 census. The other great-grandmother died between the Nov. 27, 1941 and Jan. 2, 1943 censuses.
The burial records are available for 1941 and 1943. I will be a lucky woman if either of their records could be found. Higher chances are that they died when the records aren’t available.
The search for these records are about more than death dates and causes of death. The burial records would complete their life stories. These women lived through a rough war and German occupation so did they die naturally from old age or as victims of a war?
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*Photo credit- http://talesofwar.tumblr.com from the war zone where my father’s family lived in southern Russia.