Genealogical research is always a journey into the unknown. We all know that we have ancestors, we may even know exactly or approximately where they come from, but we cannot initially imagine the result of the research. For many, this uncertainty frightens and stops them at the beginning of their journey. Even we, the people directly involved in the research, don’t always know what the outcome of our work will be.
But today we’d like to tell you the story of a successful search, which may inspire you as well.
The geography of genealogical inquiries is very wide, we are approached by people, without exaggeration, from all over the world. Just like that, one February day we received a request from Canada, from Scarlett.
Scarlett wanted to find information about her grandfather’s family, who had emigrated to Canada at a young age. And although her grandfather had managed to visit his family in the 1970s, Scarlett didn’t have much concrete information to latch onto. Of the main ones, the exact date and approximate place of grandfather’s birth, the village of Mihalki or some of the surrounding villages. Our genealogy expert Alexander determined which Orthodox parish Mihalki and other nearby villages belonged to. Fortunately, metric books (birth registration books) for the needed period in this parish weren’t destroyed during the wars and were kept in the Grodno Historical Archives. That’s why our inquiry to the archives brought us the first result: the record of the grandfather’s birth. Such records contain an indication of the place of residence of the parents of the newborn, as well as the names of the parents and godparents. Thus, the amount of accurate information increased.
A small digression:
East Slavic names consist of 3 parts: surname, first name and patronymic. The patronymic indicates the name of the father, used in a certain grammatical form.
Therefore, having the full name of a person, you can tell what his or her father’s name was.
This peculiarity of names is very helpful in genealogical research.
So, we now had the exact place of birth, it turned out to be the village of Mihalki itself; the names of the parents and the names of the parents’ fathers, i.e. the grandfathers of the newborn.
Our task now was to find information about the supposed siblings of Scarlett’s grandfather. We had no exact names, only the anglicized version of the sister’s name, no birth dates either. In such cases, of course, it is logical to make a request to the archives, to check all available metric books for the coming years for other birth records of children to the same parents. This is a long and time-consuming process. But in our case it was not necessary.
The fact is that while working on this request, our researcher Alexander found a book of memories on the Internet, written by former residents of the village of Mikhalki about their ancestors and other residents of the village. There was no mention of Scarlett’s grandfather in the book, but many other people with the same last name were described. But whether we would find brothers or sisters among them was to be determined.
The already mentioned feature of Slavic names, namely “patronymic”, came to the rescue.
Among all the villagers mentioned in the book with the last name we found one whose patronymic was the same as that of Scarlett’s grandfather. The year of birth of this Michalok resident also matched. There was one more thing, the book said he had a sister. The sister’s name did not match the name Scarlett gave us. But in Belarusian, as well as in Russian, there is a peculiarity in everyday speech to abbreviate names. So, one of the possible abbreviations of the name of the sister mentioned in the book was quite consonant with the English name that Scarlett told us. The puzzle seemed to add up, but we could not claim that the person described in the book was Scarlett’s grandfather’s brother 100%. To confirm our assumptions, we asked the archives for a birth record for the alleged brother. Upon receiving the archival record, we breathed a sigh of relief, the names of the parents and even the godparents in Scarlett’s grandfather’s birth record and in the birth record of the alleged brother matched completely. Hooray!
Now it remained to find the contacts of Scarlett’s living relatives, and we learned that they existed from the same book.
It was time to contact the authors of the book. It should also be mentioned that Vera Ivanovna Yudchits (Zakharova), the author of the book, and her sister, Maria Ivanovna Yudchits have created, in addition to the book, a family museum in the house of her grandfather in the village of Mikhalki. Now the museum is a meeting place for relatives and countrymen.
We called Maria Ivanovna, and that very evening we had the phone number of the second cousin of Scarlett, who lives with his wife in Brest.
A few days later the first Skype “conference” between relatives from Canada and Belarus took place.
We hope their communication will continue. After all, there are still many questions that Scarlett would like to find answers to. I would also very much like, that Scarlett with her family one day visited the native places of her grandfather, visited the family museum in the village of Mikhalki.
In conclusion, we would like to thank Scarlett for trusting us to find information about her grandfather’s family. And also to express our gratitude to Vera and Maria Yudchits for keeping the memory of their ancestors alive, for writing a book about the inhabitants of the village of Mikhalki and thus, unexpectedly for themselves, helped Scarlett find her relatives.
Everything we do in g4 tours we do with passion as we try to approach any request that is brought to us as responsibly as possible. We miss the tourists very much, we remember with nostalgia those who have already visited us and we are very much waiting for the end of the pandemic, when we can welcome new guests. The arrival of tourists is not only an opportunity to show and tell the world about our country, but also an incredible opportunity for communication and mutual cultural exchange. The lack of live communication is felt now more than ever, in this extremely difficult period for all.
It was the urge to make something of this situation and do something meaningful that led us to pay closer attention to another service apart from our classic travels that we offer to our site visitors – genealogical research. We started working on expanding cooperation with a number of specialists and organizations in this field, with a focus on Belarus and Ukraine but also the Baltics. And we also focused on more active advertising of this type of activity. But we did not expect that such an offer could be so in demand. Maybe it is to some extent also the “consequences” of the pandemic and forced isolation, when finally there was time to browse through old family albums and think about whether it is possible to learn more about ones ancestors.
Belarus has throughout its history multiple times been torn between different countries, its territory being subject to migration and different wars. No country in the former Soviet Union has suffered so much from forced displacement, expulsion and war. These tragic moments in Belarus’ history forced many residents to leave their homes. For these reasons people from almost all parts of the world write to us looking for their ancestors scattered in Europe. Interestingly enough, most of the inquiries come from the USA and Australia.
Of course, the search for information is not easy, and no matter how much we would like to help everyone who reverts to us, sometimes it turns records have been lost or destroyed during the war and nothing can be found at relevant archives anymore. But when the search is successful, we really rejoice with our clients. Many of which in the following express their intention to visit their ancestors’ homeland. And this is another challenge for us to develop tailor-made travel programs, so that it would be not just an acquaintance with our country, but really a contact with the past, an opportunity to feel the identity of the region, to understand where ones ancestors lived once upon a time.
Genealogical research is a very personal issue, that’s why we can’t present specific cases in this context, but if any of our clients has a desire to share their history, we will definitely publish it on our website.
Please feel free to contact us for any genealogical or other questions that relate to Belarus.