Sunday, March 10, 2024

Tolchinskys in 1920 Soviet Census--And How I Have It

My Tolchinsky great-great grandparents and their children had emigrated to America before the Russian Revolution.  But my great-great grandfather's siblings remained behind in what was then the Russian Empire, along with their families.  I've found bits and pieces of what happened to them later, but I'm always on the lookout for more.  This past week, I got some additional insight, using a strategy that I've mentioned before, but which is always worth a reminder.

1920 Soviet Census; Tolchinsky Family; Losinovka, Chernigov Guberniya

But first, what does this document tell us?  The 1920 census only listed the head-of-household by name, and here we have 49-year-old Ruchel (daughter of Zalman) Tolchinsky; her husband had been my great-great grandfather's brother, and I now know he died at some point before 1920.  It also lists her children and their professions--as well as what happened to their property when this area became part of the newly-established Soviet Union.

The family was living in House #1326 and had the following additional members:

  • Sons
    • 30-year-old oil worker (unclear who this is--in Rochel's 1894 marriage, both she and her husband were on their first marriages, and there's no mention of this son in interim censuses)
    • 23-year-old officer of the People's Commisariat Post & Telegraph
    • 20-year-old in the Red Army
    • 17-year-employee in an oil shop
    • 14-year-old oil worker
    • and three young sons (ages 7, 5 and 2)
  • 27-year-old and 18-year-old daughters
  • Animals
    • 1 horse
    • 3 chickens

We also learn that the land was rented and that all but the three youngest sons were literate. They had owned a steam oil locomobile, which was nationalized by the state at 50%, the rest was left to the underaged Tolchinsky children.  This locomobile was a compact portable steam engine for agricultural needs and electricity production in the field; the family made and sold agriculture-based oils, which is also alluded to in the trial for one of their sons, which I've posted about in the past.

I also can narrow down when Rochel's husband died, since she had a 2-year-old son in 1920, but her husband had died by that point.

But how did I come across this record--and could you potentially find records for your own family using this method?  Join local Facebook groups!  They'll be full of things you probably don't care about (people selling cows or corn and complaining about potholes in the village), but sometimes there are historical gems.  Yes, they'll be in a foreign language, but Facebook auto-translates sufficiently for you to know if a post might be of interest to you.

I'd joined a local Facebook group a while back for the village of Losinovka/Losinivka where my Tolchisnkys lived, just outside of what's now Nizhyn, Ukraine.  And recently one of the members posted that he had the 1920 census for the village and was going to be indexing names--but that he'd take requests for specific surnames.  Many (current) villagers asked for their own ancestors' entries; I think I'm the only non-local who requested an entry. And look what I have!  I received another document as well which I'll post about soon.

So find those Facebook groups.  Even if you don't have family in the village (and even if there are no Jews remaining in the village, as is the case for Losinivka), you may still find information about your family members. 

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  1. Perhaps the 27 year old is their daughter and the 30 year old oil worker is her husband. The three youngest sons could be their children. Its not impossible, but not as likely for the 2 year old to be Rochel’s child and there is the age gap between the 14 and 7 year old.

    1. There were other children born between the 14-year-old & 7-year-old, but they died young (I have death records), all of whom were born to Rochel and her Tolchisnky husband. I suppose it's possible she remarried a 30-year-old in her late 40s, but it's not too likely in that place and time.