06 January 2018

Map Refresh: A Living Document

Brand new year.  Brand new map updates.  A lot to cover, so let's jump in...

A Living Document
If you've been following this project for any period of time, you know that it is a work in progress with a steady release of new locations and updates as they're available. But I also wanted to point out that, more importantly, it is a living document. A living document is something that is continuously updated as information changes to keep it current and not to allow it to go stale.

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations is not a "one-and-done-put-it-on-a-shelf-and-dust-it" kind of tool.

Going into this, the awareness that current place names would change was just a given. So that we – meaning we collectively as a research community – won't have to go through this exercise again, updates to current place names will happen continuously.

Decommunization of Place Names in Ukraine
Having said that, work has begun on updating place names in Ukraine as a part of the Law of Ukraine № 317-VIII "On the condemnation of the communist and national socialist (Nazi) regimes, and prohibition of propaganda of their symbols." Under seven separate articles of this law enacted between 18 February 2016 and 3 June 2016, about three percent of place names in Ukraine have been subject to change across many of the oblasts that are home to former Germans from Russia colonies.  This means that updates will be made and sourced accordingly.  So far, most of the names are showing up in Google Maps, but some are not.  With this update, the villages in the current Odessa oblast and few others are included. (Hint: To bring them all up on the map, search for the word "Toponym" - it appears in the sources of each.)

Beresan: Wolkowo
Bessarabia: Mathildendorf
Chortitza: Friesendorf, Schöndorf
Hoffnungstal: Tichi Kut, Hoffnungsfeld, Werba
Glückstal: Neuhof-Chutor, Seebach
Liebental: Johannesfeld
Kutschurgan: Neu Elsass
Prichib: Jürgental

This effort will go quickly, so the next map update before the end of the month will include a full refresh of all maps.  

And along these same lines...

We Need to Talk About Crimea
Crimea has needed to be updated for sometime. The country to which it belongs has been in dispute since 20 February 2014. The maps have been updated to "Ukraine (de jure), Russia (de facto).  In other words, it is Ukraine according to law and Russia according to unsanctioned fact.  

Removal of Assumptions
A colony's founding year has been used to determine what country it was a part of at the time Germans founded or settled.  It's easy to assume Russia across the board, but it's not really backed up any sources other than the Stumpp maps, which were created after World War II, so they don't even have the original governorates or oblasts on them.  With the numerous occupations and revolutions and other declarations of independence between 1763 and 1939,  it has become clear that the assumptions need to be re-evaluated.  Going forward,  as areas are cleaned up, the assumed country at time of founding will be re-evaluated, sourced if possible, or removed if necessary.  This is an effort to ensure good data and not just fill in the field. 

Dobrudscha Grows
While doing a special request in Dobrudscha before the holidays, it became apparent that the area was not quite complete.  Looking back on the map provided by the AHSGR librarian (thank you, Diane Wilson!), the missing were settlements were noted as having 50 or fewer Germans living in them as of the 1930 census.  The map is from the back cover of Paul Traeger's book, Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha.  Thirty-one additional colonies have beed added to the online maps and two duplicates removed.  The new colonies are as follows: Arabagi, Babadag, Basarabi, Bogdah, Carabalar, Carmen Sylva, Casian, Cerchezul, Cernavodă, Cotu Văii, Durasi, General Scărişoreanu, Gherzalar, Hasarlac, Ilanlac, Isaccea, Māgura, Malinova, Medgidia, Mereni, Negru Vodă, Nuntaşi, Osmancea, Ovidiu, Poreaz, Rogojina, Saida, Spasova, Tărguşor, Topraisar, Vâlcelele, Viroaga, Zorile.

Galizien Parishes
In Galizien, there are a few parish and/or religion updates for the following colonies: Alzen, Bielitz, Brzezany, Deutsch-Lednica*, Majkowice, Maleniska, Sokolowka, Stare Siolo, Trynitatis, Wilmesau.

*This one is unusual in that it belonged to one parish, but it was closer to another.  People often went there instead for baptisms, etc.

You may have noticed that parishes are beginning to be identified with a letter after them in parenthesis: C, M, P, RC, etc. They stand for Catholic (RC = Roman Catholic in places where Greek and Roman Catholic parishes existed), Mennonite, Protestant, etc. In colonies where there were more than one religion (not as uncommon as one would think), there were parishes for each. This data began to be captured back with Bukovina in May of 2017 and has been included with any data clean up and all new locations since. The largest confession for a colony is noted with an asterisk (*).

The following maps have been updated:


01 January 2018

Homestead Act of 1862

"On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman, a Union Army scout, was scheduled to leave Gage County, Nebraska Territory, to report for duty in St. Louis. At a New Year's Eve party the night before, Freeman met some local Land Office officials and convinced a clerk to open the office shortly after midnight in order to file a land claim. In doing so, Freeman became one of the first to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Homestead Act, a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862." 
                                                    – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

On 1 January 1874, 11 years after the Homestead Act in the United States went into effect, Russia enacted mandatory military service, the beginning of the rollback of the privileges granted to German colonists living in Russia, as was decreed by Tsar Alexander II 4 June 1871.  This caused  a surge of emigration to the United States where there was land...lots of it.

The Homestead Act ran between 1863 and 1986, ending with Alaska having the final homesteads granted. Ironically, Alaska was a territory that Russia sold to the United States in 1867, and it became subject to homesteading under the Act.  Over the course of 123 years, the government distributed more than 270 million acres of public land to homesteaders in 30 territories and states.  An accounting of state by state number of homesteads and acreage show the impact of this Act in the history of U.S. westward expansion.

Map of current states (in brown) that held public domain land and were subject to the Homestead Act of 1862. 
Source: National Park Service Homestead National Monument of America

You can read the articles of the Act here, or view the original document signed by President Abraham Lincoln here.  A complicated law to understand, many newspapers and magazines ran stories explaining the finer points of new law both before and long after it went into effect.  Below is a version called the "Rules for Homesteading" that ran in the North Dakota Magazine circa. 1906, republished by The Bismarck Tribune, and preserved by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection:

  1. No person who is the owner of more than 160 acres of land in any state or territory can acquire any right under the homestead law. 
  2. A man has to be twenty-one years of age to make an entry, unless he is married or the head of a family. 
  3. A married woman has no right to make a homestead entry.   
  4. Commemorative U.S. stamp issued in
    1962 on the100th anniversary of the
    Homestead Act.
    Source: Digital Horizons

  5. A deserted wife can make a homestead entry. 
  6. A single woman over the age of twenty-one years has the right to make a homestead entry. 
  7. A single woman does not forfeit her homestead entry by marriage if thereafter she continues to comply with the law as to residence, improvements and cultivation.   But a husband and wife cannot both hold separate homestead entries and prove up on both. 
  8. The widow or children of a homesteader are not required to reside on their homestead after his death, but must continue cultivation by agent or otherwise.  The widow can enter a homestead in her own right while cultivating that of her husband, in which event she must actually reside on the land entered in her own name. 
  9. Homestead entries cannot be made for more than 160 acres of land. 
  10. Five years' residence from date of entry is required on homesteads for perfecting the title, except that sailors or soldiers of the late war may apply, as time of residence, the period of their military service; but in all cases there must not be less than one year's actual residence on, and improvement of, the land. 
  11. After fourteen months' residence on a homestead the entry may be commuted, if desired, by paying $2.50 per acre, if within the Northern Pacific Railway land grant, 40 miles each side of the center of said railway track, or $1.25 per acre, if outside of said limit, and the government will then give patent. 
  12. Any person who entered less than 160 acres of land as a homestead before March 2, 1889, may 
    Commemorative U.S. quarter dollar
    issued in 2015 celebrating the
    Homestead Act.
    Source: National Park Quarters
    now enter enough additional land which, added to the amount originally entered, will not exceed 160 acres. 
  13. A person who has not perfected title to a homestead entry, which he made prior to June 5, 1900, may make a new homestead entry of 160 acres, regardless of his previous filing. 
  14. Any person who, prior to June 5, 1900, commuted a homestead entry, may now take another homestead, but must reside on it five years.  He cannot commute an entry again. 
  15. It is necessary to appear in person when making an entry of homestead lands. 
  16. Land office fees, when application is made for homestead entry, are as follows: $14 for 160 acres; $13 for 120 acres; $7 for 80 acres; $6 for 40 acres.  If within the railroad land grant limit, $18 for 160 acre; $16 for 120 acres; $9 for 80 acres; $7 for 40 acres.

About 40%, or 1.6 million homesteaders, met all the requirements and proved improvements to the land and received the final patent, or ownership papers, on their claims.  And there is an estimated 93 million descendants of those homesteaders, present company humbly included.

Homestead application of the author's maternal great-great-grandfather, Ludwig Erck of Straßburg, Odessa, Russia. 
Source: National Archives and Records Administration

Homestead application of the author's paternal great-grandfather, Johann Schilling of Glückstal, Odessa, Russia.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration

For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.

Learn More:



Happy New Year!

I want to take a moment before 2018 gets underway to express my gratitude, my personal and heartfelt thank you to all those who have made contributions to this project, large and small.  To those who supported it, followed its progress, and enthusiastically encouraged its continuation, my deepest appreciation for your kind words.

This site and in the Google maps associated with this site is a result of thousands of hours of research, calculations, validation, writing, editing, and a lot of that good old German determination.  Now, subsets of the data are beginning to be used in all sorts of ways that go beyond genealogical research.  This means your contributions – be it a link to an article, the family story you shared with me while we searched for your village, a correction to something published, an alternate village name or spelling, or a location of a village or group of villages – have added value to not only to this project but also to future projects and analysis of the data.  It's gratifying to see it begin to mature in such a short time.

So thank you all!  Couldn't have done it without you.

May the New Year bring you peace and happiness.


16 December 2017

And to All a Good Night

Last night a bunch of rambunctious elves showed up at my house in South Carolina driving a new dark blue Jeep Grand Cherokee with temporary Virginia plates.  They said they were here to set up Christmas trees in all of our ancestral villages.

I protested – I did! – but they bribed me with tin of pfeffernüsse, a brick of marble halvah and a thermos of coffee and said they'd do all the work. And they promised to take down all the decorations after the holidays and clean up so that you can get back to serious research.

It seemed like a fair trade.

How could I say no?

Looking around nervously to see if any of the neighbors were watching, I said, "Show me the cookies," and when they did, I said, "Okay, you can come in."

The pfeffers.

After giving them my Wi-Fi SSID and password, and after I put all their MAC addresses into my router's whitelist, the elves quickly went to work.  Some scurried about, chasing the cat (she thought they were well-dressed squirrels and chased them back), while others sat quietly around the dining room table looking Google Maps up and drinking coffee, like a miniature Starbucks.  More than once, they giggled uncontrollably at where some of the trees ended up.

"No changing the coordinates," I yelled from the living room, powered sugar spraying from my mouth festively on the coffee table.   They collectively sighed, "Awwwww!"


But, to their credit, they were especially careful with placing trees where villages no longer existed. It seemed important that those places – those special places – got special attention and were not forgotten.  They all gathered in the dining room to make sure it was just right and nodded in agreement before moving on.

Somewhere near Sari-Bash in Crimea, they asked me to ask you, dear readers, to take a screenshot of the tree in your village and share it in email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. They want to see their Christmas trees in the places where your ancestors lived.  They don't care if it's in a village or a city, on a house or on a road, in a field or underwater (you know what I'm talking about, Neu-Kolonie).

I nodded, and said "Uh-huh, sure thing, yep.  I'll ask," while taking a bite of a hunk of halvah and sip of strong coffee and letting them melt together.

The halvah.

Hours passed, and by the time the elves finished their work, logged off, packed up their laptops in their Jeep, I was drifting head-long into a sugar coma.  They wiped my sticky fingers, dusted the powered sugar off my face and rinsed the thermos in the kitchen sink.

I heard them say in unison, "Frohe Weihnachten!"

And then one said,  "Hey, wake her up and ask her how to get to Edisto Beach from here..."

 Merry Christmas from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Project!
Merry Christmas from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Project
(and a bunch of elves!)


15 December 2017

Map Refresh: Final for 2017

For the final map update for 2017, we have updates to the data in Galizien and Central Asia. For Galizien, there are several updates and additions to parishes, one coordinate adjustment (Rosenberg, Lemburg district) and one colony noted now as being a known Mennonite colony (Wiszenka).  For Central Asia, there are seven new locations added: Aschgabad, Buchara, Kozelkov, Krestowo, Neu-Ak-Metschet, Saratowa I, Saratowa II.

Three new maps for the Central Asian colonies, the Siberian colonies and combined into the Asiatic Russian Colonies have been created. 

So, the following maps have been updated:

Siberian Colonies (new map)

Total colonies mapped in the project thus far is 3,973.  That's a good 3,000 more than I ever expected.  Little did I know. But I know a lot more now. 

Hope you find your village!  If not, drop me a note at grsl1763@gmail.com with any details you have about the location and when your ancestors were there.  


Germans from Russia Settlement Locations as of December 2017