A journey to a family village teaches the importance of returning to the homeland

Three years ago, a cousin from my great-grandmother’s family found my message, asking for anyone related to the family to contact me, on a genealogy forum. This week I learned about how important it was to leave that message five years ago.

I have been so curious about how the village of my great-grandmother looks like today. Thanks to the relationship I developed with my cousin whom I only have e-mailed and instant messaged, I finally have set my eyes on the village of my great-grandmother.

Sadly, I wasn’t there for the big reveal but my cousin took his family on the 500-mile journey from Saint Petersburg to our family’s ancestral village of Meledino in the Kostroma Region of Russia.

The visit to the village almost didn’t happen. The car from Saint Petersburg never would have made it through the Russian countryside. By luck, my cousin’s family found a man who had a tractor that looks like it came from WWII but it was built to make the family dream of touching the land of our ancestors happen that day.

 Photos taken or given by Andrey Kozyrev

Then the sight of what happened to the family village was sad, but peaceful.

The village has been completely abandoned by people and moved back to its natural state.

Then in the next village, my family saw some sad sights of an abandoned church and its cemetery. Once the church was a beautiful site, busy with weddings, baptisms and funerals, and now it is left in ruins.

Nearby, my family learned what happened to their family’s log cabin, after 60 years of emptiness.


But the 50-year-old graves of my great-grandmother’s brother’s grandson and wife were found in great condition. This couple was the great-grandparents of my cousin Andrey (3rd cousin, 2 times removed).

The best part of this journey is that Andrey travelled with the family tree, created by a researcher I hired. Andrey found distant cousins during his 4-day visit and the family tree will grow once again.

One of those cousins is this 95-year-old grandmother, who lives in the village next to where my great-grandmother was born. When talking to her family, Andrey said the family was very surprised that an American researched her ancestors and felt proud to know this.

It was hard to hold back the tears of joy when I saw the messages and photos from Andrey. “Thank you, Vera! Without your investigation of genealogy, I would not have known my ancestors! A low bow from our whole family!”

So many people tell me that they don’t know Russian and won’t try the Russian websites for genealogy. I have rediscovered my Russian from my childhood and use Google Translate daily to understand the Russian websites that make my journey happen.

If I never tried the Russian websites, I would not be witnessing the journey of my cousin’s trek to our family’s ancestral land. Genealogy isn’t a journey that affects one person; it’s a journey that changes an entire family.

Related posts:

Guide to Using the Best & Largest Russian Language Genealogy Forum

Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker

Find Long-Lost Relatives from the Former USSR Simply in English