Staunton, June 19 – DNA tests which identify the cultures from which one descends are increasingly popular in Russia, but those actively interested in tracing the genealogy of their families are far less numerous because of the problems they face, Aydar Akhtariyev, who traces his ancestry back to Chingiz Khan times and founded the familio.org/portal to help others.
The biggest problem is that most people assume that the best way to trace one’s ancestors is by last name, but until World War II, last names were very unstable in the case of the Tatars and even some Russians in the North in which members of the same family adopted different last names, the genealogist says (idelreal.org/a/31312813.html).
Instead, those who are interested in tracing their families need to find out the names of the villages from which they came. Many of these villages no longer exist or have had their names changed, but all the archival records one needs to trace one’s lineage is located, if it still exists, in territorially defined institutions.
Akhtariyev says he founded his portal to bring those interested in the topic together because it often happens that more than one individual is interested in people from a particular village and if they know about one another, they can help each other. If they don’t know about what has been done, they have to repeat everything, often a discouraging process.
Another problem for Tatars and Bashkirs is that relatively few people in the population know the Old Tatar Arabic-based script. Fortunately, there are now many experts for hire who know that language well, although Akhtariyev himself who has been in the field for 20 years concedes that he is not one of them.
Intriguingly, he notes that Bashkirs find it somewhat easier to trace their ancestors than do Tatars. The reason is that clan divisions among the Bashkirs survived because they were nomadic and did not have a state while among the Tatars, they have largely but not completely disappeared. When one knows one’s clan, going back further in time becomes easier.
Many who get involved in genealogical investigations often find things they don’t plan on, such as being members of a different nationality than their ancestors were. That makes such research politically sensitive, and it is among the reasons why the authorities in many places aren’t keen on seeing the field grow.