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We wish to thank everyone who asked us complicated questions last year and hope you will come back with more unsolvable puzzles.

We hope your families will be safe and well in this coming year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone 🙂

–Yours Historical detectives 

1937 New Year newspaper image.

1937 New Year newspaper image.

Real Puzzle

Did you ever wondered why we call our research “puzzle solving” ?

Look at those pictures. It is the same Galician village, part of Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, now in Ukraine, mapped in 1848 and in 1878. We are looking for a couple of particular house numbers. Does it look like a puzzle??

And why house number? In this part of the world (Galizia), unlike almost any other Ukrainian locations, all records of birth, marriage and death were accompanied with the house number. And using this number you can easily get all the family members living at the same household. And then find the place on the modern map, and then go and visit the place in person. So the map below is the key to the location. We have to solve it.

1848 Cadastral map of Bohorodchany, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Ukraine. Courtesy of Lviv Historical Archive.

1848 Cadastral map of Bohorodchany, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Ukraine. Courtesy of Lviv Historical Archive.

1878 Cadastral map of Bohorodchany, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Ukraine. Courtesy of Lviv Historical Archive.

1878 Cadastral map of Bohorodchany, Ivano-Frankivsk region, Ukraine. Courtesy of Lviv Historical Archive.

New project

We are looking now for the history of yet another family which emigrated from the former Russian empire to the North America.

So far the research plan consists of visiting archives of Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv Historical, Odessa in Ukraine; Russian State archive (Moscow),  Moscow city archive, Bashkortostan archive (Ufa); checking Greece-related records in several Russian archives, possible research in Havana where the family lived for several years on the way from the Russian and Austrian-Hungarian Empires to the USA.

One ancestral village is in Ural mountains:

The ancestral village is somewhere on this 1802 map.

The ancestral village is somewhere on this 1802 map.

And another is in Carpathian mountains:

Napoleonic 1812 map of the Stanislavov area.

Napoleonic 1812 map of the Stanislavov area.

This is an usual geography of our research. Have any historical problems in this part of the world? Call us right away.


We have completed the research and found out how the letters in the Soviet passports (and удостоверения личности, personal IDs, and in ZAGS birth certificates) were assigned over the most part of the XX century. A couple of months of fruitless archival research finally brought some Real Historical Gems.

It turned out that the 1974 series passports (which remained in use until 1999 and were not technically made invalid until today) were assigned regional two-letter series with the effort not to duplicate the 1934 series logical design — this way it seems that the 1974 series are very chaotic, although they are not.

We should try to make it into the book and the online database some time by the end of this year. Should somebody wishes to volunteer to help us with (mostly) database design, we will appreciate the effort.

Soviet 1930s passport cover page

Soviet 1930s passport cover page

Want to discuss this? Need help with old historical documents? We are ready to help.


Those underlined letters we were after.

Those underlined letters we were after.

This passport series IV-ДИ was from ~1938 to ~1974 assigned to Chelyabinsk region. Which matches the writing on this passport page. The 6-digit number is also valid one.


Recently visited Riga historical archive and about 6 local cemeteries near Panevezys, Lithuania. Fully documented relatives for the passport citizenship application. Looks like the family (which we traced in Ekaterinburg archives early this year) could be traced back to 1686 in Vilnius archive…

Panevezys area cemetery


Unnamed graves

Party archive

I recently went to this standard archival building in this part of the world (note those small windows which usually covered with dark glass):


It houses the former Sverdlovsk Communist party archive (currently titled “Center of the documentation of public organisations”


The place has a very large holdings of 1950s-1990s history of the region. And the  quiet proud history of keeping it.

“It was around 1991, when the Communist party was dismantled, and we receieved, within a month or so, 31 truckload of documents of the closed regional party bodies. They came unsorted, yes, it was bags full of papers… And we spent the next 10 years sorting and reviewing those documents”…

And they have something to be proud — digitized finding aids which you could search and find very rare views of the historical events which are less than 50 years old, something you could not easily find anywhere else…

I am very thankful to local archivists for all the help they provided me with.

Where is Dustih Hoffman, Hollywood movie star, and where are we, humble historic researchers, you may ask?

We helped the PBS Finding Your Roots to locate and document details of Dustin’s grandfather’s life and death in Bela Tserkva, Russian Empire (now Ukraine).


We researched this part of his family tree:


And found this newspaper with the news (sad one) which made Hoffman cry…


Watch the full episode on PBS site while you can, or get more details on Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates in this wiki article.

We are not sure we could film those nice pictures, but we are sure we could create the same emotions with our historical findings…



New Channel

We are on Telegram. Ask your questions here: telegram.me/genealogy


China Eastern Rairoad

We are frequently asked to trace families of Russians from Harbin and other Chinese locations related to the КВЖД — China Eastern Railroad.

The book we published — Russians in China. Genealogical index (1926-1946) — is a good place to start your research.

We are having an exciting case with documents flowing in from Khabarovsk archive, Russian State Historical Archive in St Petersbourg and from the digitized collection of Tobolsk archive, one of the largest Siberia-related collections. And Tobolsk documents allowed us to trace two generations of the family in Siberia.


Artwork provenance


We spent several days and were able to successfully locate the picture of the Russian painter, presented to Isabel II of Spain in 1860, inventoried in 1870 and never seen since then.

The Patrimonio National employees helped us to find the record for it and then we were allowed to actually visit underground storage vaults of Madrid Palacio Real to look at the painting.

It was very impressive.

And yes, this was a nice addition to our usual genealogical research work.

Contact us if you need something from Russia.

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