Is there a Russian Royal family connection to Valentina Getsch

+2 votes
When nay grandmother Valentina Getsch came to the US in 1933 she brought with her a prayer icon. On the back it has this inscription:

To Princess M.I. Urusova

v[illage of] Vodalui-Vody

Bess[arabskaia] gub[erniia]

from K.B. Chebanov

16 April 1914

We have no idea who Princess Urusova is and how she is connected to our grandmother. Who can help solve this part of our family puzzle.
in The Tree House by Sandra Buranen G2G2 (2.6k points)

2 Answers

+2 votes
Urusov was a Russian princely family. Was the inscription in Russian (Cyrillic) or actually in English?

The lady in the inscription MAY be Maria Yazonova Tumanova, who was married to Prince Nikolai Urusov, a state counselor. The Russian "ya" sound, which in Cyrillic is the famous "backwards R" (Я) is sometimes rendered in English as I. So she would've been Princess M.I. Urusova.

Considering the time period, this prayer icon may have been a gift from either Princess Urusova or simply looted from the princely family's estates during the Revolution or the civil war that followed.
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (201k points)

Thank you for that information. The inscription is written in Cyrillic. Here is a link to the prayer icon with inscription

+2 votes

By the way, to trace your family history in Russia, I would HIGHLY recommend finding someone who can translate a short and polite genealogical query into Russian, and then posting it on the forum at

From what I understand, genealogy in Russia is difficult if you do not live there and do not speak the language. Almost all sources are in the Russian State Archives and must be paid for; due to the turmoil of the 20th century, many places were bombed off the map and many millions died during the Revolution, Civil War, both World Wars, and Stalinist purges. However, we can hope that some helpful Russian person on VGD's forum might be able to help you.

On VGD, click on ФОРУМ and then "Поиск предков, родичей и/или однофамильцев" (Search for ancestors) then select "Г" (Russian letter G) then "Га - Ге" and then post your query about your Getsch ancestors. If you know ANYTHING such as Russian spelling of surnames, patronymics, dates, locations, etc., include it in your message so the forum users can help you.

How did your grandmother even get to the US in the 1930s, that was in the Stalinist period and emigration was all but impossible at that time.

by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (201k points)
Thank you. We will see if that yields any information. We have tried several attempts on various Russian related genealogy cites, and other places included the one you mentioned. But so far haven’t gotten any responses or offer for help. Does seem rather remarkable she was able to leave the country then. On passenger manifest shows her visa was issued at Riga. Not sure if that is helpful or not. Wondering if she was granted permission to leave because her husband was U.S. citizen?

The USSR discouraged marriages between it's citizens and non-citizens. In 1947, a law was passed making such marriages illegal. Any type of interaction with foreigners was considered "anti-Soviet agitation" and could get you a nice all expenses paid vacation at a gulag, or even a bullet in the head. Of course, your Valentina left before this law was passed. Still, there must be some epic story about how she and her child got out -- the USSR made it very difficult to emigrate, and Soviet citizens needed internal passports even to travel from one city to another.

Try filing a FOIA request with the US State Department to obtain Valentina's passport application. I wonder what was on it... or even if they have more documents concerning her arrival.

Thank you. That’s interesting about difficulty leaving Russia under Stalin’s rule. Not sure how Valentina was able to get her passport. We were told her family was somewhat wealthy ... would that make a difference in getting a passport?

Will try to get information from US State Department.

Please do keep in mind we're discussing Communist Russia -- there was no longer such a thing as family wealth. The aristocracy of the old, Imperial, Tsarist Russia had been driven into exile, shot, blown up by grenades, or put to work cleaning toilets (yes, it's true. Ex-aristocrats were sometimes assigned toilet-cleaning jobs after the Revolution). The State confiscated their estates and wealth. I recommend reading Douglas Smith's Former People: The Last Days of the Russian Aristocracy to learn more about this time period.

Apart from the aristocracy were the kulaks, the wealthy peasants (people who were not born of noble blood but who owned large farms or mills, etc.) They were murdered in incredible numbers during Stalin's Great Purge. The lucky ones got sent to collective farms.

Now, Valentina's family may well have had connections. For all we know, she had some close relative who was powerful in the Party and got her a passport to emigrate out.

Thank you. We’ll read that book. The information and background of what was happening in Valentina’s home country is truly enlightening. Never experiencing anything of that magnitude, makes it even harder to imagine as to how she did get a passport. But also might reveal one of the reasons she left the country in the first place. Although her marriage dissolved in 1937, and her son was taken from her, and his identity changed to prevent her from finding him ...coming to the US still offered far more opportunity than what she was experiencing back home. Thank you for all your insight and help. This is helping us get to know her Russian family life much better.
The era that Valentina came out of is one of history's most frightening and yet fascinating. It would serve you well to learn more about it.

If your father is still alive, ask him to take a DNA test, then upload the results to Gedmatch. If you're lucky, one of his relatives on his Russian side has already taken a DNA test, and will pop up. If you can get in touch with a long-lost relation back in Russia, they will probably know far more than you or I.

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