01 June 2019

Update: Germans from Russia in America

Over the past month, I've received 328 responses to the Germans from Russia in America survey. Thank you for sharing the locations and stories of how your families came to America, where they settled, where they moved and when. I appreciated the directions some of you sent for the places in which your families lived that no longer exist or have been overtaken by cities. Many indicated a deep sense of pride their identity of being German-Russian, and for others, it was a recent discovery of a heritage that wasn't talked about in their families but is now being embraced.

The first 200 responses have been normalized by state, town, generation and German-Russian origins.  This created 2292 lines of usable data with 806 unique locations and 140 unique GR origins. About 2/3 of the of the normalized data has been summarized into language that can be dropped into the map data. Summarizing also included throwing out anything too large to be mapped for a reported generation, such as an entire state, county or township. Cities, towns, neighborhoods, census-designated places, unincorporated communities, ghost towns, historical post offices and historical cemeteries (for those places that weren't even ghost towns anymore) were included.

Initially I chose the South Atlantic states (Delaware down to Florida) to do some experimenting. Once I added the survey responses to the data I'd already collected and sorted the lot, there was no duplication of locations from what I'd already pulled from other sources. This was exciting because it meant, for these states at least, that the survey was generating new, previously undocumented locations of settlement in the U.S. by German-Russian immigrants all the way through 5th generation descendants. Given that Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas aren't exactly the first places one thinks about when hearing "German-Russian country," I decided to do California.

On the left is Richard Sallet's map of California from 1930. On the right, Karl Stumpp's map from the late 1970s.

California has long been known as a state to which immigrant Germans from Russia settled from all areas in Russia. It was also a state to which many who had settled elsewhere in the U.S. migrated to over time when things got rough where they were, to seek better opportunities elsewhere. You know, what Germans from Russia have always done.

A number of sources were used to generate a list of towns where Germans from Russia were known to have lived.

Once the survey responses were added to the locations already collected from other sources, there were only 20 duplicate locations, and there were 78 new locations. Even the duplicates were enriched by the survey data, providing details of the German-Russian origins and generations of descendants who lived/live there.

Below is the beta version of the Germans from Russia in America map. All of the details and sources are not fleshed out completely, and line editing hasn't been done. But I wanted to show where this is all going...and show how your contributions to the survey are being used. And maybe encourage others who have not filled out the survey yet to set aside some time time year to contribute their own information to the project.

Germans from Russia in America map (beta release 1 June 2019)

Like all the maps associated with this site, you can search it by clicking on the magnifying glass and begin typing. The results will begin showing below. Search for Black Sea to see all the towns that had Black Sea Germans in them. Search for Volhynia or Dobrudscha or Volga or Bessarabia. Search for Catholic to find all those town with Catholic Germans. Search for your ancestral village to see if where they settled is on the map yet – Kassel, Kandel, Frank, Walter, Constanta, etc.

Have fun. Play around with it. Let me know what you think. And remember, you can contribute to this map by filling out the survey


01 May 2019

Survey: Germans from Russia in America


27 April 2019

April Map Updates

There were several updates during the month of April, kind of all over the map. Below are the details of each area update

Donauschwaben Batschka 

After the Donauschwaben Batschka colonies were published last month, a good collection of maps surfaced by Paul Langhans. The Deutsche Kolonisation im Osten I, Donau-Länder (German Colonization in the East I, Danube Countries) has become a valuable source to others being used to locate and map the German colonies in this area. This set of maps includes the percentage of Germans in each village on the map. The maps also indicate in which colonies German-language newspapers were published, universities teaching in the German language, and more. 

A second pass at the data for Batschka was done to include information from the map, including noting that three colonies published German language newspapers:  Neu-Palanka, Neusatz and Zombor.  Also, an additional seven locations were added: Bründl, Despot St. Ivan, Duna Pataj, Kalocsa, Peterfeld, Sandor and Topolya.

Part of the Batschka map from Deutsche Kolonisation im Osten I, Donau-Länder. Source: Elke Rehder Collection


When I wrote the post The Donauschwaben: From Germany to Hungary to Russia, I included a passage by Karl Stumpp that gets quoted a lot about the journey some Germans made from the Donauschwaben Batschka and Banat in Hungary to the Black Sea area of Russia. It detailed the journey, and while I noted the modern names and provided links of some of the locations, I did not do so with the village of Luczawa.  Someone asked about it, so I fixed the post and added the alternate name/spelling to the Bukovina village of Suczawa (today Suceava). It's a minor thing, but now internet searches for Luczawa will come back with references to its current location.

Suczawa (Luczawa), Bukovina from Mapire's Habsburg Empire (1869-1887) Third Military Survey Map

Am Trakt 

The 10 Mennonite colonies that make up the Am Trakt settlement have been mixed in with the Volga colonies since the beginning of this project mainly because that's how they were on Karl Stumpp's 1954 map Karte de deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet.  But other maps of Volga German colonies do not include these colonies. The Am Trakt colonies were established at a later date under different circumstances with an entirely different immigration story than the Volga Germans, although they became a part of the Volga Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924, which may be why Stumpp included them on his map. This project has been very granular in some areas when it comes to defining colony groups, and distinguishing the Mennonite Am Trakt colony group from the Volga German colonies settled by Catherine the Great makes a lot of sense.  The Am Trakt colonies remain on the Volga Region map, but now they also have their own Google map, too.

Detailed Am Trakt Mennonite Settlement map. Source: Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online


The colony of Nikolastal was added to the Kutschurgan colonies. It's located south of Georgental and east of Mannheim. It was inhabited by sons of colonists from Strassburg from at least 1859. It does not appear on Stumpp maps or in the Mertens' German-Russian Handbook. The colony name and ties to Strassburg come from Lillian Bachynski Weigel's Kutschurgan Spousal Project based on the 1852 Kutschurgan Census (2008) and research of the Strassburg Thomas family by Bob Thomas and myself.

Location of Nikolastal in relation to Mannheim and Georgental. Source: Mapire 1872 map of Russia.

Location of Nikolastal in relation to Mannheim and Georgental on Google Maps. Image taken August 25, 2017, CNES/Airbus.


The colony of Messit (Mesit) was added to the Crimean colonies. The source of the name came from Lisa Wallender, who provided a Hochheim parish record from the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Mertens' German-Russian Handbook stated that it was on a Stumpp map, presumably Die deutschen Siedlungen auf der Halbinsel Krim (German Settlements on the Crimean Peninsula) in section #E2, but I was unable to find it on that map. However, the colony was located by parish (Hochheim was the parish established a few years after Messit) and using an overlay map of Russia from 1872 that is now available on the Mapire website. Oddly enough on the same day, two people researching the same Wallender family, who came from Konstantinograd in Poltava, contacted me. I was able to connect the two cousins, one in the U.S. and one in Germany. They have now joined forces. It was one of those very rewarding days.

Messit on the Mapire 1872 map of Russia. 

And so, the following maps have been updated in April:



08 April 2019

On This Day, 8 April 1876

Plat maps of Herzog and Victoria, Kansas from the Standard Atlas of Ellis County, Kansas.
Map courtesy of the Kansas Memory project,  Kansas Historical Society.

On this day, 8 April 1876, two towns in the state of Kansas in the United States were founded: Herzog and Catherine. 

Settled by Volga Germans from villages in Russia including Katharinenstadt, Kamenka, Kamenka, Herzog, Beauregard, Ober-Monjou, Mariental, Louis, Marienburg, Liebental and Graf, most had arrived in Topeka the previous year. Both in Ellis County, Kansas, Herzog would eventually become a part of nearby town Victoria, and in 1913, they incorporated under the name Victoria. Catherine (population 86) would become known as the German Capital of Kansas.

German colonists who lived in Russia beginning in 1764 had special privileges granted to them through the manifestos of Russian Empress Catherine the Great and Tsar Alexander I, but these were abruptly revoked in 1872 by Alexander II. Almost immediately, Germans from all over Russia sent scouts to North and South America looking for new opportunities. Within two years, Germans from Russia began immigrating to the United States. 

Plat map of Catherine, Kansas from the Standard Atlas of Ellis County, Kansas
Map courtesy of the Kansas Memory project,  Kansas Historical Society.

Map of the German settlements in the state of Kansas.

There are at least 140 towns in Kansas where Germans from Russia settled, some of which are shown on the map above. Most were from the Volga, but there was also a number from Black Sea Mennonite and Protestant colonies as well. Kansas was a jumping off point for many Germans from Russia, who eventually travelled and settled elsewhere in the western United States. 

A new interactive map showing the settlement locations of Germans from Russia in America is underway along with a series of articles that will take readers state-by-state, intertwining history, maps, newspapers, letters and German from Russia culture. 

Learn More:


29 March 2019

The Donauschwaben: From Germany to Hungary to Russia

Seidlungsgebiete der Donauschwäbische (Settlement areas of the Danube Swabian) from a drawing by Peter Hetzel.
Source: WikiTree

Beginning in the early 1700s, under the sponsorship the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, more than 1,000 German colonies were established in Southern Hungary. Over 200,000 Germans settled in colonies and private estates. Protestant Germans who settled in colonies in the Batschka would end up emigrating yet again. This time to new German colonies in South Russia.

Ersten, Tod
Des Zweiten, Not
Und Dritten, Brot. 

                          – German proverb

By the end of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the Germanic states in what was then the Holy Roman Empire had been devastated. Although it began as a religious civil war between Protestants and Roman Catholics, it evolved into into power struggle between the Catholic Habsburg Monarchy (1526-1804), the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, and German princes over who would rule the land. The war resulted in eight million fatalities including those from violence, famine and plague related to the military campaigns. The Pfalz in southwestern Germany were among the areas that suffered great destruction. By 1709, large numbers of German emigrants (referred to as Palatines) left the Pfalz and moved to England and America seeking opportunities for a better life.

To Hungary

For the German people wishing to emigrate from their homeland, Hungary was another option. Germans had been living there for some time, and although they came from different states and spoke different dialects of German, the Hungarians referred to them collectively as Swabians.  The Donauschwaben, or Danube Swabians, is a name used to describe the Germans who immigrated to provinces in Southern Hungary beginning in the early 1700s along the Danube River valley after the Turks were expelled. A series of treaties between 1699 and 1739 granted the Habsburg Empire all of Hungary, Transylvania, the Batschka, the Banat, Slowenia, Northern Serbia and other territories. As with the result of any war, the lands that had been occupied were left left devastated and depopulated. 

Beginning in 1718, the Habsburg Monarchy began an organized, Crown-sponsored colonization of the southern provinces of Hungary. They offered the following incentives:

  • travel stipends
  • free agricultural land
  • loans for seeds, implements and tools
  • houses in planned villages
  • construction materials
  • livestock
  • exemption from taxes for several years
The goal of the colonization of Hungary was threefold: 1) to fortify the land against invasion, 2) develop farm land and 3) further the Roman Catholic religion in Eastern Europe.

Those who were recruited were mostly poor peasants who were already subject to feudal lords, high taxes and military conscription. They came from Hesse, Baden, Württemberg, Alsace, Lorraine, the Rhinelands, Westphalia, Bavaria, Swabia and other areas. 

Those who were craftsmen often settled in existing cities, while those who intended to farm were settled into planned villages that were built in a square grid with the church and school in the center. Wide streets were the norm to accommodate activities such as markets, celebrations, etc., and it also allowed room to move livestock in and out of the village daily to common pastures outside of town. All farming was done outside of the village, and even today, the borders of a town extend way beyond what one would normally consider in order to encompass all the agricultural fields that were a part of the village then and are still today.

Schowe on the Habsburg Empire Third Military Survey map (1869-1887).

Plat map of Schowe as recalled from 1944/45. Map courtesy of Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands.

Schowe is currently known as Ravno Selo, Vojvodina, Serbia. Note the red outline of the official town boundaries and how they extend to include agricultural fields around the entire town.

The Donauschwaben settlements occurred in three waves and were named after their Habsburg sponsors. Collectively they became known as der Gross Schwabenzug, or the Great Swabian Trek.

The Karolinische Ansiedlung, 1718-1737 (Caroline Settlement)
  • Settlement was to lands liberated from the Turks (to become known as Swabian Turkey).
  • Goal was to create a buffer against invasion.
  • Officially restricted to Roman Catholics only, although, unofficially, Holy Roman Emperor Karl IV welcomed Protestants and promised freedom of religion.
  • Travel costs to Crown land was available.
  • Settlement on private estates was not subsidized by the Crown but were more open to Protestants, provided Protestants could find landlords that would tolerate their religion.
  • Many of the approximately 15,000 German settlers from this colonization were killed in Turkish raids or died from bubonic plague.
Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung, 1744-1772 (Maria Theresa Settlement)
  • Settlement was to lands in the Banat and eastern Batschka. 
  • Officially restricted to Roman Catholics.
  • 75,000 Germans rebuilt what was destroyed by Turks in the Banat.
Josephinische Ansiedlung, 1782-1787 (Josephine/Joseph Settlement)
  • Settlement was to lands primary in the Batschka with some new in the Banat.
  • Officially open to both Catholics and Protestants after Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II "the great Reformer" issued the Patent of Toleration in 1781.
  • Colonists came from Germany and other areas in Hungary.
It should be noted here that settlement by the Crown was responsible for about 64% of of the 204,000 settlers (approximately 130,000) in Hungary during these years. Settlement on private estates accounts for the remaining 75,000. 

After 1789, Crown-sponsored settlement ended. Some Germans continued to arrive until 1829, after which 500 guilders cash was needed to migrate to Hungary. More than 1,000 German villages were established in Southern Hungary despite the hardships, with the first 800 being settled in the first 40 years between 1711-1750. By 1900, there were more than two million Germans living in Hungary. 

Even with these population numbers, the ethnicities of those living in the villages may have been initially primarily German, they were eventually ethnically and religiously mixed.  József Kepecs' A Délvidék településeinek vallási adatai 1880–1941 (Religious data of the settlements of Southern [Hungarian] Region 1880–1941), details in his religious census information for each village including the total number of people practicing the following religions: Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed, Unitarian, Baptist and other Christian.

To Russia

In 1804, Tsar Alexander I opened the lands around the Black Sea in the Russian Empire for settlement to foreigners. This attracted a second wave of settlers from Germany to Russia, but it also piqued the interest of some Germans living in Hungary who were not happy with their situations.

After the Patent of Toleration was was issued by Emperor Joseph II on 13 October 1781, more German Protestant immigrants arrived in Hungary.  The Patent of Toleration officially extended religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in the Crown lands. It allowed them to freely practice their religion, to an extent. Even with this new edict in place, religion was still heavily regulated for those who were not Roman Catholic. For example, all marriages had to occur in the Catholic church, and Protestant church records were kept in Catholic parishes until a number of Protestant parishes were established in the 1780s.

Still, Germans continued to immigrate to Hungary during this time. In the Batschka, they established the colonies of Bulkes (1786), Jarek, Kischker (1786), Miletitsch (1786), Neu-Schowe (1786), Neu-Werbass (1785), Sekitsch, Torschau (1784) and Tscherwenka (1785). Germans from these colonies along with others from Alt-Siwatz, Neu-Siwatz and Kutzura would eventually leave Hungary and continue on to South Russia to resettle in new Protestant colonies in Bessarabia and in the Glückstal, Hoffungstal and Grossliebental districts of Odessa Province, where colonies were founded by religious confession in enclaves consisting of only of Germans.

Karte die südliche Batschka (Map of Southern Batschka).
Source: The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862, Karl Stumpp (1993), p. 102.

According to Karl Stumpp in his The Emigration from Germans to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862, the main reason for leaving Hungary was "the hard feudal service."

The living conditions could not have been favorable, otherwise it remains inexplicable why so many people from the above-mentioned villages joined the emigrants [from Germany] who were moving down the Danube or taking the overland route in the years 1804-07. They often travelled at night in their horsedrawn wagons, frequently with false documents, through Siebenbürgen [Transylvania] to the Bukowina, where they crossed the frontier at Luczawa [Suczawa], in order to pass through Moldavia and Bessarabia into the already established colonies near [the City of] Odessa. There the Russian government granted them a loan of 170 rubles for the construction of a dwelling and 50 rubles for the purchase of farm implements.

There were initially 16 families that immigrated to Russia to determine if it was a viable alternative to the Batschka. It seemed it was. Another 92 families followed and later another 132 families joined the others in Russia.

Below is a table of German colonies in Russia to which Germans from Hungary immigrated. Note the founding date of the colonies. Some were not founded until the 1840s, so that means Germans from Hungary, including other localities than the Batschka, continued to immigrate to Russia long after those initial families scouted the area.

Colony GroupGerman Colony in RussiaFounded ReligionNumber of Germans Families from Hungary
* Franzfeld was a Catholic colony, so the Germans from Hungary didn't stay long and resettled elsewhere.

New Map: Donauschwaben Batschka Colonies

We're pleased to introduce a new group of German settlement locations in Hungary: the Donauschwaben Batchka colonies. This is the first release of the Donauschwaben colonies. As data collection continues throughout the year in the other areas of Southern Hungary, we will be adding the other groups to the maps.

Batschka (Bačka) is a geographic and historical region in the Pannonian basin of central Europe situated between the Danube River to the west and south and the Tisza River to the east. Historically in the counties of Bács-Bodrog and Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kiskun of Hungary, today it is split between the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia and Bács-Kiskun county in Hungary. It was settled primarily in the Josephinische Ansiedlung (1782-1787) wave of settlement, although some had come during the the Maria Theresianische Ansiedlung (1744-1772) period.

Special thanks to Raymond Reu for bringing his own ancestral connections to the Donauschwaben to this project's attention and partnering with us. Also special thanks goes to John Kaminski whose keen eye for detail is always appreciated and just makes everything better.

The maps update for this release are as follows:

As always, if we missed anything, got something wrong, or if you just have comments, suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact me.

For anyone new to using Google My Maps, there is a short (and very old – see how far we've come!) tutorial on how to search the maps that you can find here.

Learn More: