Back to the USSR

NGS-2015-OfficialBlogger-300x204-2I was really excited when I saw the class on Russian research at the NGS 2015 conference, titled Back to the USSR by Amy Wachs.

One of my Mother-in-laws lines goes back to Russia in the early 1900s, and it is the hardest family to research. Without a doubt, it trumps my Irish Research. In all my years of research I have only been able to add one name to that portion of the tree. I have followed the family in the United States, I have ship, census, naturalization and some vital records. All from the US. The only thing I have been able to find overseas is a Lithuania directory record, so no real information for me to continue to research with.

I am sure you could imagine my excitement at the prospect of sitting in and gaining a bit of insight on Russian research.

The lecture focused on researching in the six countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Maldovia (Maldova). I was hoping that the lecture would cover Russia as a whole, but the fact that it would cover the Ukraine still gave me a sliver of hope that I might learn something to help unravel the mystery of the Porai-Koshetz family.

What I learned is this; like any other heritage we research, never give up. Never give up on the hope that more records will come to light. Never give up hope that we will learn something new and never give up on your research!

To move forward on this line, I will start writing letters and / or emails to the archives in the places that my family members lived in. I will continue to hope for answers that might lead me to a new clue that will help unlock that brick wall I try to continuously hurdle over.

I hope that you too will continue to move forward with your research, even on the toughest of brick walls.




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  1. How can I find the information you have on researching in Lithuania? In the past when I tried to hire a researcher in Lithuania I was told “You already know more than most people”! I do have some birth and marriage info from the Archives in Vilnius and was able to prove that some ancestors were noblemen. However, getting more information about them has been impossible so far. I’m at the brick wall now!

    1. Geri,

      Great question. Do to copyright, I purposely did not include what was taught. Here are some things I would recommend since this one does not seem to be recorded:
      1. Check out the FamilySearch Wiki https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Lithuania_Genealogy
      2. Search for the Lithuanian Archives and write to them, see if they have anything else
      3. Reach out to Amy and see if she can offer advice
      4. Read this blog lostrussianfamily.wordpress.com as well.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Terri,

        I can give you some information which was an enormous help for my research in Lithuania. I did know the Polish version of my grandfather’s name and what city he lived in circa 1905.

        I was a member of the Lithuanian American Genealogy Society in 1998 , at the Balzekas Lithuanian Museum, 6509 Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60629. They gave me the address of the Address Bureau in Lithuania and directions on how to contact them. I needed to send the Bureau a request in Lithuanian with the surnames I was researching and approximately where they lived years ago. The Museum provided me with a copy of the cover letter I needed in Lithuanian. The Bureau’s reply was in Lithuanian, but not too hard to translate.

        The Address Bureau quickly sent me a list of people with my grandfather’s surname, an address in his home town for each in Kedainia and also a date which I believe was the date of birth of the people listed now living in Kedainia . There were eleven names and the female names also had in brackets another surname which may have been their maiden or married names. Most of the dates of birth on the list were from 1919 to early 1930. I wrote a letter (in English) to each of those people explaining who I was and asking if they knew my grandfather’s family. It now seems like every family has someone who is studying English so that helps! Several people wrote back saying they were sorry but they were not my relations. One family said they weren’t related; however, they gave me the name of a woman they knew who was related. To make a long story short, that woman was a granddaughter of my grandfather’s cousin. She had actually lived in the same apartment building where my great-grandmother lived in 1929. She has become my good friend and my husband, 3 grandsons and I have visited her in Lithuania three times. She and her family have shown me where my family’s farm was, burial places, and their church where I was able to attend Mass. The best part was all the stories she remembered about the family.

        It could be helpful to contact the Lithuanian Museum for help. The address of the Address Bureau on their letter to me is “Lietuvos Respublikos, Vidaus reikalu ministerija, Kedainiu Rejono Policijos, Kominisariatas, Lithuania”. If you give them names and towns they should be able to help. In my case I used the Polish version of my surname but then learned how it is spelled in Lithuanian. The name of the city used to be Kejdany but the spelling is now Kedainia but the Lithuanians will know what you’re talking about! Good Luck!

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