In happier times; Olga, Tata, Clara and Ella Kleinmichel with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovitch

Searching for the graves of my ancestors can literally lead to dead ends!

My latest search is for the graves of my maternal great grandmother and three of her daughters, my great aunts. My maternal great grandmother, Catherine Jakowzoff (Yakovtsov), died in France where she and her second husband, Vassily Jakowzoff, had fled to from the chaos of Soviet controlled Russia. They had somehow managed to obtain permission to leave the country in 1922. Perhaps Jakowzoff, whose profession was an obstetrician / gynaecologist, requested a permit to leave the country for some work related reason, I really have no idea.

In Paris Jakowzoff worked for some time as a surgeon at the American Hospital before he died in 1933. At some stage after his death Catherine relocated to Rozay-en-Brie, Seine et Marne, some 49km south of Paris. I have no idea why she went there to live. On 24th February 1958, Catherine died there and her grave is likely to be somewhere nearby.

My grandmother’s eldest sister Cleopatra, known as Claire or Clara, had escaped to Bulgaria with her children, where sadly the children died of Spanish flu. She also made her way to Paris, presumably to unite with her mother and sisters. Her husband, George Martinov, eventually joined her but their reunion was to be short lived, as he died in 1924.

Claire also ended up living in the area of Seine et Marne, where Catherine was, perhaps she and her mother moved there at the same time? She died in the hospital at Melun on 14th April 1966 and, according to a blogpost I read, is buried in a small cemetery near Moisenay. Could Catherine be buried here as well?

Meanwhile Natalie Kleinmichel, who preferred to be called Tata, had also fled to Paris during the Russian Revolution and Civil War, finding work as a governess. In 1956 she made the decision to become a nun. In 1990 she celebrated her 100th birthday in Viry-Châtillon, a southern suburb of Paris. Did she die there? Is her grave nearby? I hope to find the answers to these questions.

I have asked a French genealogist to help me find their graves, hopefully we will soon have some answers.

The fourth sister, Helen or Ella or Elena, married twice. Her first husband Vsevolod Pushchin died during WWI. Several years later she married Prince Nikolai Trubetskoy, but this marriage ended in divorce. Ella too escaped to Paris, but also lived for a while in Berlin. She spent the last years of her life in Baden-Baden, Germany where she died on 13th August 1982. One would assume she was also buried there, but all the attempts I have made to locate her grave have ended in dead ends.

I have discovered that, after a certain number of years, both Germany and France remove the remains from graves to allow for other burials. In both countries this can occur after around 30 years or, in some cases, if the grave has not been maintained properly. Given this fact, it is possible that I will never find the graves of my ancestors.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Lloyd de Vere Hunt

    Your comments are very timely as these issues create shock for an increasing number of those wishing to find their ancestor’s or extended family graves. I was in London a couple of weeks ago in which I discovered that

    a) My fourth great grandmother, Ann Mauduit Garvey, Baronin Pfeiitzer’s grave from 1806 from St. George’s Hanover Square had been buried at Bayswater Road Burial Ground – which was turned into a housing development in the 1970’s

    b) My fourth great grandfather Colonel the Baron George Friedrich Wilhelm von Pfeilitzer (genannt Franck) was indeed buried at Kensal Green under a nice arbor area according to specs. However, that ground has sunken and overgrown (because of environmentalist’s intervention. There is a funded project to clean out some of the squares in the fall but as yet unsure which ones.

    Thanks for this post!

    1. Avatar photo

      It is frustrating but understandable. With limited space I guess there have to be some rules and regulations about old graves and cemeteries. Not much use for family historians though!

  2. Geneviève

    Bonjour Alex,
    Je vous ai adressé, il y a déjà quelques années…, la photo de la tombe de Cléopâtre ou Clara Kleinmichel au cimetière de Moisenay.
    La croix est en très mauvais état mais vous pouvez faire un don à l’église Notre Dame de Kazan pour la rénover.
    Voir le site qui lui est consacré où vous retrouverez la photo de sa tombe et la liste des personnes d’origine russe qui y sont inhumées.
    J’espère vous avoir été utile.

    1. Avatar photo

      Bonjour Geneviève et merci! Yes, you have been very helpful 🙂

  3. Geneviève

    Pourquoi déménager à Rozay-en Brie ? Voici peut-être la réponse.
    En 1935, la Congrégation russe orthodoxe acheta une belle demeure située 33 rue de Rome pour en faire une maison de retraite pour personnes âgées russes réfugiées en France.
    Il est possible que Catherine s’y soit installée après le décès de son mari en 1933.
    Qui sait ?

    1. Avatar photo

      Geneviève, that makes sense! I will see what I can find out.

  4. Denise Duvall

    Good luck on your search! They are starting the same policy in my city in Ontario, Canada. After so many years remains in the mausoleums are removed. We were able to locate the cemetery in which my great-great grandmother (1814-1888) was buried. It is a few hours drive from my home. However, unfortunately all the grave markers in that section have sunk into the ground long ago. In the spring they do searches with sonar, but no luck yet.

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you Denise! How frustrating for you. I hope they find the grave markers soon.

  5. Cathy Koning

    You have set yourself a big challenge there. Any luck searching/making a request for official records in any of those places?

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      I do love a challenge Cathy! No luck yet in France. I’ve had a couple of replies from Germany, but only to let me know where my great aunt isn’t buried! Still waiting on another response but after nearly two weeks I’m about to give up.

  6. Jim Renes

    I admire your perseverance. Cemeteries can often be a wealth of information when one is deep in the rabbit hole. Sadly, as mentioned graves and monuments are often moved and/or recycled to provide new burial sites. Good luck with your future research and publications. Anxiously waiting to hear about your further family adventures.

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you Jim! Any updates will be here and on my social media. Thanks for reading!

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