Putting some hope on military records to solve a family mystery

I am completely stuck on figuring out what happened to the siblings of a great-grandfather. Church records show my great-grandfather was at least one of 12 children. Ten years of church records are missing from 1880-1919 so probably there were even more siblings.

I contacted the registry office for the family village’s neighborhood to see whether I could get more information on the siblings’ families in communist-era records. The registry office found the family of my great-grandfather’s favorite sister, Anna. The office released the full names and birthdates of Anna, her husband, two daughters and a son.

The youngest daughter was born in 1939, the year World War II started. The family lived in the Kursk Region, which faced a massive battle with the German army. The battle “remains both the largest series of armored clashes… and the costliest single day of aerial warfare in history.  It was the final strategic offensive the Germans were able to mount in the east. The resulting decisive Soviet victory gave the Red Army the strategic initiative for the rest of the war,” according to Wikipedia.

My great-grandfather’s youngest daughter recalled that she saw his parents in the city for the neighborhood before the war. I contacted the same registry office to see whether my Trunov relatives’ information could be found in the city’s archives. The office could not locate any records on the family.

Then, I thought I had some hope in finding Trunov relatives from the family village when I saw a newspaper advertisement online. These two people were listed with their birthdates for abandoning land in the village.

I e-mailed ОАСР УФМС России по Курской области, the migration service for the region, to see whether the office could find their current addresses. The two people in their 70s and 80s are not registered in the region so they died or moved. The office could not find Anna’s children, either.

My last option in finding information on my relatives is pursing military records from World War II, which is known as the Great Patriotic War to those who lived in the Soviet Union. Soon, I will mail a letter to the Военный Комиссариат for the family village’s neighborhood, hoping that the military office can tell me about my Trunov relatives who served in the war or which office that releases the information.

It would be great to know what role my relatives played in a major battle of World War II and how they defended their homeland from the German invaders. A lot of Americans can talk about their grandfathers’ service in the war. I can only say one grandfather served in the Soviet Army and managed to talk his way out of a German army POW camp and that his brother also served in the war.

I do not know the first names of my great-granduncle’s sons but the Russian tradition of using patronymic names makes my search a little easier. I know the birthdates of my great-granduncles so I know the range of years their sons could have been born in order for them to serve in the war. A lack of information inspires my creativity.

I will be pleased with any amount of information the Военный Комиссариат can offer. Every piece of information I find will eventually help me solve this mystery.

Discovering Don Cossack ancestry the easy way

Now that the Soviet Union has been gone for two decades, the curiosity about Don Cossack ancestry is safe to pursue. The effort to find information can be complicated if genealogy research is done the traditional way of contacting regional archives.

If you don’t have full names, birthplaces and birth dates of your ancestors, some regional archives may not do paid research for you. Consistency in research services in Russian regional archives does not exist as I have painfully learned. Also, so many records of Don Cossacks were intentionally destroyed by government officials during the communist era.

Thankfully, the destruction of archives on Don Cossacks was not as severe in St. Petersburg, where so many valuable records exist on Don Cossacks. Hiring a professional researcher to look at records in St. Petersburg without knowing the file numbers is pricey.

That is why I am eternally grateful to Sergei Koryagin, a professional researcher in Moscow. He has published booklets on more than 60 surnames connected to Don Cossack ancestry. Each booklet costs $10 U.S. dollars.

Koryagin published 10 pages of material on the Don Cossack ancestry of my Kirsanov family. The booklet included a family tree with the name of my 6th great-grandfather, born in the 1720s. The information on my ancestors covers when they entered Cossack service, where they served, how they were promoted and how they were rewarded for their service.

A great-grandson of my great-grandfather’s brother purchased this booklet on our Kirsanov ancestors and found my post on looking for Kirsanov relatives on forum.vgd.ru, the best forum for finding Russian relatives and ancestor information. I never expected to find relatives of my great-grandfather. But this third cousin had his great-grandfather’s family tree, which included information on my grandmother’s entire family and several preceding generations. It was undeniable that we were related.

Now, I have a picture of my great-grandfather with his father and five of his six children. It was touching to see my grandmother as a two-year-old with her big brothers. My cousin also gave me a picture of my great-grandmother with my great-grandfather’s brother. Another third cousin from my Kirsanov family gave me scans of three letters my great-grandfather wrote to his brother in the early 1900s and a photo of my great-grandfather in his Cossack uniform. I never heard that my great-grandfather was a Cossack. My family only discussed my grandmother’s uncles and earlier generations as Cossacks.

I am doing further research on my great-grandfather in St. Petersburg archives. I gave a wonderful researcher my great-grandfather’s nobility file numbers to see whether more information could be found on him. Koryagin only had Don Cossack information on my great-grandfather’s brother but Koryagin printed my great-grandfather’s nobility application file number and an American fifth cousin from my Kirsanov family had another file number in his book on our shared ancestry. I found the fifth cousin on forum.vgd.ru after my third cousin e-mailed me an extensive Kirsanov family tree. The domino effect is just awesome.

I have posted two images below that show the surnames researched by Koryagin. If you see a family name, e-mail him at dongenealog2003@mail.ru  in Russian and ask him from which villages your surname was researched. After you receive your booklet, read this post on translating your family information into English easily for free.

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