16 September 2023

Last Presentation of 2023: Deportation Locations

My scratch map of places of deportation from the presentation. 
The last scheduled presentation of 2023 is now done. I did a deep dive into the research and sources used for the deportation locations layer of the map. It’s a difficult subject and no fun, but it’s a part of our history and needs to be included. Thanks to the Southern California Chapter of Germans from Russia for having me. 

Shown above is my private practice/research map. This is map on which I make notes about what I have found and what various sources indicate as places of deportation. The yellow shade is roughly the area of Asiatic Russia under the U.S.S.R. Interestingly, there are a lot of pins (i.e. places of deportation  in European Russia. Not all places of deportation were to “Siberia.” More to come on who went where, when, and for how long as research progresses. 

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31 August 2023

Machines Reading Maps Tool

A fun new tool from the David Rumsey Map Collection was released yesterday: Machines Reading Maps. It presents an interesting new way to search for our ancestral colonies on historical maps within the David Rumsey collection. 

If you have seen my presentation “Time Travel Using Historical Maps,”* you may recall that I showed how to search the David Rumsey Map Collection using a tool called MapRankSearch. In it, we search the entire collection for a current place name (or something near a colony that no longer exists) and were presented with maps showing that location. And then we searched by coordinates to find it on the map results. Now you can search David Rumsey using a new tool, Machines Reading Maps which searches for the text that actually appears on the maps

It was only a matter of time before this happened. If you are familiar with live-text on Mac OS—where any text in a screenshot is clickable, copyable, and links are live—it’s the same idea. The DR team sent their computers off to scrape up all the words it can find on maps in their collection and made them searchable. It’s a cool new way to search for places. You can contribute as well. The link to the tool guide is here

Caveat (of course): As a researcher, you still need to evaluate every map from the search results to make sure it is the location you’re looking for and not another location with the same name. Remember that it is only searching for a name without any other context. Some unique German colony names yield pretty good results. But we all know Germans like to reuse place names wherever they go. For colony names that are common, like my ever-favorite example of Neudorf, you are better off using MapRankSearch, unless you just want a cool graphic with a lot of Neudorfs on it (see below). While it picks up and deals with some special characters, like umlauts, it does not pick up spelling variations. So, you will need to do searches for each spelling variation or name of a place if it had multiple names over time. For example, searching for Strassburg will yield different results than Strasburg and different still from Strasbourg. If you are a Kutschurgan Strassburger, you know very well that these are the spellings of three different places in different countries of your (and my) ancestors. But...they may be spelled “incorrectly” on a map. A French map of the Russian Empire, for example, may use the French spelling instead of the German spelling. Also, historically, there are many creative spellings used on maps. 

There are more accurate ways of searching for your ancestral colonies on historical maps (God forbid what’s going to start showing up on Facebook now) and more relevant map collections to the German colonies in Russia, but this one admittedly is tons of fun and I invite you to while away your Labor Day weekend playing with this. 

Here are some examples. Click on the collection image below to run the search on David Rumsey, or go directly to the website and start searching. You never know what you might find. 

*I will be recording my presentation “Time Travel Using Historical Maps” and putting it on this project’s YouTube channel soon.

Happy searching!

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13 August 2023

The Wall Breaker: Dark Histories & Sad Truths

Note: Unfortunately, this conference has been cancelled. There were not enough registrants to make it viable this year.

The annual Wall Breaker Conference organized and hosted by Robyn Morales is always a must-attend. Going on its fifth year, it has really come into its own, taking its place among the well-known conferences hosted by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Without the formality and pomp and circumstance, the Wall Breaker is like a days-long conversation with friends. It’s 100% virtual, relaxed, and always has topics that you don’t find in other German-Russian conferences. Robyn has a way of convincing the most interesting people to share what they know and start the conversations. And, the best part, the days are packed with topics. I'm talking 21 presentations over three days. There is no better deal out there for $75 CAD. You can register here

The final line up has been posted, and it is a good one!

Friday, September 8, 2023

  • Murder at the South Dakota State Archives   —Matthew T. Reitzel
  • In the Trenches - Searching Digitized First World War Records at Library and Archives Canada   —Marie-Eve Robert
  • Orphan Train Records   —Kaily Carson
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls – The GPS Approach   —Janice Nickerson .
  • Tales That Auntie Told Us: Family Lore & How to Deal with It   —John Althouse
  • Quarantined! – Genealogy, the Law and Public Health   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Resource Reviews   —Robyn Morales
Saturday, Sept 9, 2023
  • Death Demystified (North America)   —Robyn Morales
  • Where the Murderers Roam   —Daniel Hubbard
  • Stalin's Arrest Files   —Dave Obee
  • Where There Is – or Isn’t – a Will   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • How Old Did He Have To Be…?   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • “Death by Undue Means” – Coroner’s Records   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Criminal Cases Locally   —Stacy F. Kaufeld, M.A.
Sunday, September 10, 2023
  • “May The Universe Be Your Home!” a graphic novel about the GR community in Kazakhstan   —Lena Wolf
  • Breaking the Walls of Time and Distance by Visiting Ancestral Villages in Germany and Russia   —Dr. Mila Koretnikov
  • Crimean War   —Merv Weiss
  • ABC … 123 … EWZ! Using Einwanderungszentralstelle Records   —Carolyn Schott
  • Church Records – Broken Faiths   —Reuben Bauer
  • Genocide through Forced Labor: The Case of the Russian Germans in the Labor Army   —Otto Pohl
Hope to you there!

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31 July 2023

Video: Intro & Map Tutorial

After seven years, I’ve finally recorded a new video with an overview of project and a new map tutorial. Been so busy mapping, I didn’t realize how old it was. Anyway, all new video for the current map. 


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28 June 2023

Asiatic Russia Map Updates Posted

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map as of 28 June 2023.

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map has been updated. This was a particularly long research cycle from end of January through June with a lot of moving parts. That, along with giving 5 presentations, going to 7 (!) dentist appointments, and 2 trips to the vet — oh, how life tries to thwart research sometimes — I still made it by my own self-imposed deadline. I am pleased to announce that all of the settlements on the map are now in their former imperial provinces. The grouping of settlements into “colony groups” has been sunsetted completely. It simply became untenable as more settlements were found that just did not fit into that way of thinking. It also gathers up and gives a home to all of those “scattered settlements” that had been ignored in the past or grouped in whatever colony group that was closest.  

What’s New?

— Asiatic Russia has been split into three regions: 1) Russian Far East, Siberia, and Steppes Krai; 2) Russian Turkestan; and 3) Caucasus Viceroyalty. Like all the other regions on the map, each of the new regions was split into the provinces/gubernias or regions/oblasts as they were in roughly 1914, toward the end of the Imperial Russian Empire. Within each province/region, each settlement indicates what district/county/uzeyd it was a part of at the time. Period georeferenced maps were used to accomplish this. Yes, I know. I'm still mixing English and Russian names for these administrative jurisdictions. I will straighten them all out eventually. 

— In total, 33 new provinces/oblasts were added. A reminder: these are historical and do not equate to the area of similarly named oblasts today. If no Germans were found in a province, it is not include on the map. A few small provinces or ones created very late are grouped on the map with their previous province but are still listed as their own province. 

— Although the goal of this research cycle was not about adding locations, 372 new settlements were added anyway. As long as I was visiting the neighborhoods, I figured I might as well pick up some windfall. 

— Twenty-eight new sources were added. Most of these were historical maps to which you can find links on the Sources page. 

— The layers on the map have been renamed to include whether they were in European Russia or Asiatic Russia. They have also been reordered to those with denser German populations toward the top, which improves how searches of the map perform. Searches start at the top layer and go down. It is still a bit unruly to search the big map, but this does help. 

— On the same lines of improving search performance and rendering of the map on slower connections, I have removed the place names next to the pins on the big map. All of the other smaller maps regional, province, and enclave maps will continue to have the place names appear next to the pin. I have wrestled back and forth on this one but decided this was the best way to go given the number of pins on the big map and knowing how many more are coming. 

— The former German settlements in modern-day Ukraine that are in occupied territory as a part of the Russo-Ukrainian war have been updated. Thanks to David Batashvili of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) for his meticulous tracking of the front lines in a format compatible with my own map. 

— I will be reworking the Maps page into an atlas. As it is, the page is very outdated. Moving all the maps into an atlas will be a good final destination for all of this work. Some have seen the prototype in my presentations over the past year. 

— Lastly, I have removed the layer with the Austro-Hungarian villages in the Galizien, Bukovina, and Batschka regions. I knew the day would come, and today is the day. The focus of the map needs to be 100% on the German settlements in the former Russian Empire. But, good news! There has always been a seperate map with those villages on them. You can still (and always) get to them here

That’s it for now. I’ll be taking a research break for a few months. More to come later this year. 

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