Monday, March 10, 2014

Found Her!

Sometimes, it helps to switch tracks when the going gets rough on one digital highway. There will always be another way to track down the same records.

When I had found that note on Genia Melnitchenko’s Atlantic crossing in 1938—the one in which her mother served as her chaperone when "Eugenie" and members of her ballet company came to New York for an engagement with the Metropolitan Opera Company when she was only fourteen years of age—I naturally presumed I could find a listing showing her mother’s information.

Apparently, that was not to be the case, judging from the several pages I scrolled through when finding Genia’s record at

However, always look twice, when it comes to disappointments with family history records. As it turned out, what wasn’t properly indexed at Ancestry was, thankfully, provided for at

There, the complementary note included—“with daughter”—was an entry for Genia’s mother.

The thirty nine year old married woman, we now can tell, was named Lydia.

I now could even figure out what those enigmatic numbers next to the note meant. "With daughter 19/13" cross-referenced Lydia with Eugenie Melnitchenko's listing on page nineteen, line thirteen. Correspondingly, Eugenie's note, "With mother 20/2" signified that her mother was listed on page twenty on line two, which she was.

Having found this entry, we now have access to that whole second page of data—the same as I noticed, accidentally, when I first found the entry for her daughter, “Eugenie,” a few days ago.

Thanks to this second page, I now know quite a bit more about this mystery woman who hid in the shadows of my childhood memories.

From the passenger list of the M.V. Georgic, I can see Lydia claimed she could read and write Russian—no surprise here, since she was a Russian emigrant who left her homeland sometime during or just after the Revolution.

Lydia gave, as her place of birth, a town in Russia which was spelled on the passenger list as Sonkhoman. I thought I had hit the jackpot with this tidbit of information—until I took a look at a list of Russian cities. While I understand that many Russian cities had their names changed after the political turmoil of that era, it was disappointing to not be able to find any mention of the place Lydia had once called home.

Just as her daughter had, Lydia received a passport visa for the trip when the company was still in London. As her current residence, Lydia had claimed Paris, France. Most importantly, for her closest relative back in France, she had claimed her husband—the same Mr. M. Melnitchenko as had been claimed by Eugenie.

The only twist to the record was that, apparently, the typist suffered from a mild case of dyslexia. For this entry giving Lydia’s husband’s name, the typist rendered the name, “Melchinenko.” Seeing how his address was given here as “S.Y. Ariel, St. Pierre, Cannes,” I’ve now figured out why Google™ Translate hadn’t yielded the English equivalent of the part of his address that read, “Aycht” in Eugenie’s entry: the word the typist meant to write should actually have read “Yacht.” The services of Mr. M. Melnichenko, the sailor, evidently had been engaged by someone whose vessel, the Ariel, was berthed at the Quai Saint-Pierre.

Armed with this discovery, I went back to Ancestry, trying to recreate the search results there, but nothing ever showed up. I cannot explain how—or why—the same document can yield two very different search results on different services. It certainly is a puzzle.

One thing this exercise reinforced in my mind, though: when you can’t find the document you seek on one online service, switch tracks and take a look at a similar site. Very likely, what was missing at one site will show up—and quite handily—at another site.


  1. Interesting about that Melchinenko and Genia's later use of "Melch." Is it possible Melchinenko was the correct name to begin with?

    1. Now, there's a thought, Wendy! It would seem reasonable...but...I had been in to the city so many times to visit Genia's parents, and other than my childish slurring of the syllables, it was always Melnitchenko, not Melchinenko. I am absolutely clueless where the idea came from for using "Melch."

  2. Given what is going on today - I thought this was ... kind of odd:

    1. Thanks for sharing that link, Iggy. Given the book was published in 2010, the author seems almost prescient. It looks like a fascinating read, incidentally!

      I was interested to see the author's name. Besides the Melnitchenko angle, I have seen that same name in online searches for Genia's family, too--especially when searching for her name as Eugenie Melnitchenko. Makes me wonder...but also provides another lead...

  3. I've trying to figure out the home town thing, but that's a tough nut to crack! Russia wasn't even the same "area" back then... it included Poland and some of Germany and places like the Baltic States.

    I'm going to keep thinking about this!

    1. Thanks, Iggy, I could certainly use any ideas on this. I did find another document (which I'll share tomorrow), but the city of birth was mistakenly entered as Marseilles (evidently the bureaucrat was completing both Lydia's and Genia's forms at the same time and got mixed up)--then the original entry was struck out and the correct town entered in such a way that I just cannot read it with my poor eyes.

      I think, now that I'm fairly certain about the Lydia-Genia connection, I will send for any immigration paperwork I can locate to see if there is more detail on this.

  4. I checked a list of old Russian cities. Remember, our "s" sound could be, when spoken with a Slavic accent, more like "ts" or "dz" or some other similar sound. Also, the city could actually be a small town or village and you will need to check a good gazetteer. However, the only city I found that had an ending with "men" or close to it was Darkehmen, renamed Angerapp in 1938 and then Ozyorsk in 1945.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and adding that helpful information! This is definitely going to be a challenge to find this city, but I will keep your advice in mind and try to think with that accent. I'm thinking I'll need to use a historical atlas to track down those city name changes, too. In addition, as you may have seen from my more recent posts, I've discovered there may be a possibility that this family was, more specifically, Ukrainian, even though they always claimed Russian in their documentation--again, a relic of those ever-changing borders.


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