21 December 2016

Some Final Thoughts on 2016

Let me begin by saying I had no idea what I was getting into.

When I asked Dennis Bender last February if I could put his village coordinates into a Google map because I wanted to know what it would look like, I didn't know where this project would go. I was just very curious how many villages there were, and what stories a map like that would tell.

You see, I grew up in a small town in New Mexico in the southwestern part of the United States. If there were any other Germans from Russia around, no one ever said so or made a point of it. My only exposure to German culture was a yearly trip up to South Dakota, to the small towns where my parents were born and their families still lived.

They were Germans. They spoke German. They ate German. My paternal grandfather did math in German like his parents taught him before there were enough kids to justify opening a country school. His parents came from the village of Glückstal in the Odessa area near the Black Sea. My grandmother's family came from Kassel in the same area. My maternal grandmother was the last of my direct lines to come to America in 1913 from Ukraine, Mom said. From Straßburg, Ukarine to Strasburg, North Dakota. Her dad’s family was from the same town, although his father and grandfather left Russia for the United States earlier than the rest, in the 1880s.

It didn’t matter, though, because we were all Americans now, by naturalization or by birth. Just to drive the point home, every year on the Fourth of July, Mom would wish everyone Happy Birthday. Something I still do today.

Because I never knew any other Russian-Germans growing up, I thought being one was pretty special. Unique. There must not be very many of us, I thought. And it was hard to explain the German and Russian thing in the 1970s and 1980s because I didn't fully understand it myself, and because Russia was the Soviet Union since before I was born. Understanding how that figured in came much later.
Finding my ancestral villages on a modern map meant a lot to me. It positioned my ancestors and myself not only geographically but also historically. It quite literally grounded me and gave me context for the past, present and future. Like looking at old family photos, the faces in them become more familiar over time and a part of every day life. Looking at the villages of where my grandmother, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived and ultimately left makes them familiar, too. More real, especially when I look at them not on an old, ornate or hand-drawn map, but on the map I use to direct me to the dentist office because I always forget which turn to take.

And now that I've seen the map that we've created with over 2,600 ethnic German villages settled in Russia, each depicted by a pin on a Google map, I have to admit...I don't feel so special anymore.
There actually were...and are...a lot of us.

I am, however, in awe of the part of history in which my ancestors participated. I am humbled to be a result of their choices and the resulting mass immigration and colonization of not only one country but two: Russia and the United States. Russia needed immigrants to inhabit and farm the land on the edge of its Empire, which Catherine the Great's manifesto in July 1763 made possible. One hundred years later, the United States needed immigrants to inhabit and farm the land in its newly acquired public lands made available by the Homestead Act, which took effect in January 1863.

On June 21st of this year, this blog went live. It was to serve as a home for the project that Dennis had started years ago and that I joined him on in February. We started the map with 103 villages located by latitude and longitude. By June, there were 1,001 villages located. As as of today, there are 2,672 villages located, with nearly 40,000 views combined of all 21 of our maps. It has become clear that a lot of other Germans from Russia were looking for the locations of their ancestral villages, too.

I hope you're able to find your villages on our maps now or in the very near future, and I hope you share them with your families over the holidays. Show the younger generations on their new tablets and smartphones where their great-great-grandparents came from on Google maps. Make it familiar and a part of their every day lives, like those old family photos. Technology allows them to take their family history with them wherever they go.

Even though I didn't know what I was getting myself into back in February, I'm very glad I jumped in with both feet and that Dennis welcomed me. Your feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, and for that Dennis and I both thank you. We know a village name and location is a very small part of the genealogy research we all do, but we also know how important it is to know where your cradle stood.
And the stories I was looking for in the map back in February? Aside from the general surprise that there were so many villages, each of us has a story of someone who lived in those villages, died there, maybe was forced to leave and maybe made it back at some point. Maybe not. Beyond that for me, the story it tells is that we are not alone. We never were.

Happy New Year to all. We'll see you again in 2017.

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20 December 2016

Next Up: Galizien

We're pleased to announce a collaboration with the Galizien German Descendants to bring to you the German villages in Galizien (Galicia).

This area is in east central Europe, north of the Carpathian Mountains.  It was a former province of Austria and now forms part of southeastern Poland and western Ukraine.  For those of you who've been waiting for more Poland, this is for you. This should also fill in some of the gap in Ukraine between Volhynia and Bessarabia.

We're lucky to have the Galizien German Descendants' expertise on this. They brought some great map sources the project of which we were unaware: Die deutschen Siedlungen in Galizien (German Settlements in Galicia) by Rudolph Untershütz and the military survey maps from Mapire's Historical Maps of the Habsberg Empire.  These along with our always reliable Global Gazetteer will be our main sources for locating the villages.  Galizien German Descendants website has much of the rest of the information that we generally collect and post on the maps, so if you're curious, you should check them out ahead of time.  

Look for an early version of this area on our main Google map sometime in January.

Die deutschen Siedlungen in Galizien (German Settlements in Galicia) by Rudolph Untershütz
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17 December 2016

German Settlements on the Crimean Peninsula

The map of the German settlements on the Crimean peninsula (Die deutschen Siedlungen auf der Halbinsel Krim) has been completed.  There are now an additional 108 colonies, bringing the total for the Crimean peninsula to 287 colonies.

If we missed one, or you have one that may not have be included on the Stumpp map (not unheard of - we've added a few in this manner), please contact us with whatever information you may have about the village.  We'll do our best to locate it and add it to the map.

The maps updated are
Germans from Russia Settlements Map (all villages)   2,672 colonies
Black Sea Region 1,342 colonies
Crimean Colonies  287 colonies

This will be our last map update this year as we take a break for the holidays.  We'll be back at work in January with a new area.

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14 December 2016

Elsaß, Kutschurgan

Plat map of Elsaß without family names.  Note the position of the buildings for each lot.
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 290
Elsaß was one of the six Mother colonies in the Kutschurgan district.

It should be noted that Elsasß owned more land than any other Kutschurgan colony.  In addition to the original allotment of Crown land (9,614 acres) which was cultivated in grain, pasture and hayfields, Elsaß had another 40,500 acres of privately purchased land which its farmers had acquired from the surrounding region. They also leased land from Russian neighbors. Large stone granaries stood as proof of their prosperity.

There were a number of stonecutters in Elsaß along with five blacksmiths, five cabinet makers, four shoemakers and three tailors. There was a large steam-powered mill, four general stores, a beer tavern and a whiskey monopolka (polka hall?).

Plat map of Elsaß
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 228

Location of Elsaß, Kutschurgan



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13 December 2016

Kandel, Kutschurgan

Kandel was one of the six Mother colonies in the Kutschurgan district.

It had a very long main street that stretched over a mile (about 2 km) from the town limits of Selz to the north to the Russian village of Gradenitza (today called Hradenytsi, 46.5996, 29.9965) to the south.

Kandel farmers were grain farmers and had over 150 acres of gardens including grapes, apricots, plums and cherries for the village and for the market.

There were 77 artisans and craftsmen, producers of agriculture implements in iron and wood, basket weavers and broom makers.

Year     Population
1881    1,983
1885    2,180
1890    2,319
1894    2,480
1900    2,639
1909    2,522
1926    3,404

Location of Kandel, Kutschurgan



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12 December 2016

Baden, Kutschurgan

Baden was one of the six Mother colonies in the Kutschurgan district.  It was a commune of middle-class farmers who had relatively small acreage, primarily growing wheat.  Before WWI, it was well known for it's beautiful vineyards and orchards. These increased in number after the Russian Revolution and some 50 acres were artificial irrigated.  In 1929, Baden was home to a 50-acre nursery of vines imported from France which sold thousands of cuttings to other colonies.

The plat map below shows the location of some of the vineyards, orchards and gardens.

Plat map of Baden
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 275

Location of Baden, Kutschurgan



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11 December 2016

Straßburg, Kutschurgan

Straßburg was one of the six Mother colonies in the Kutschurgan district.  It was founded in 1808 by families from Bruchsal, Wuettemberg and Weißenburg, Alsace areas and Prussia.

Plat map of Straßburg
Map courtesy of  Black Sea German Research plat map collection
The population growth of Straßburg was similar to other Kutchurgan colonies. By 1912 it had 291 farmyard lots with a population of 2,178.  Over 6,000 acres of the original land was under cultivation, three sections used as pasture and 325 acres as hayfields.  There were also 120 acres of vineyards.

Straßburg also had many craft and tradesman along with many shops including two steam-driven flour mills, 15 blacksmiths, six woodworking shops, one cooperage, four shoe shops, 10 general stores, three wine taverns and one hostelry (inn).

Year   Population
1859   1,023
1882   1,666
1890   1,965
1892   2,066
1900   1,998
1905   1,884
1907   1,701
1914   2,304
1926   1,363
1942   2,500

Location of Straßburg, Kutchurgan



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10 December 2016

Mannheim, Kutschurgan

Plat map of Mannheim
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 284
Mannheim was one of the six Mother colonies in the Kutschurgan district. Founded in 1808 by families from Alsace, Bavarian Palatinate, Baden and Prussia-Poland.  The ten families from Poland moved there as early as 1804 and continued on to Mannheim in 1809.  

All the houses in Mannheim were constructed of good quality stone as there were over 70 acres of shallow quarries in the area.

Mannheim was primarily a wheat growing community.  There were a few craftsmen, two steam-powered flour mills, an oil mill, a cooperative store, nine dry goods and grocery stores, four wine taverns and a hostelry (inn).

Location of Mannheim, Kutschurgan



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09 December 2016

Selz, Kutschurgan

Selz, also known as Limanskoye, was one of six Mother colonies in the Kutschurgan district. It was founded in 1808 by families from Alsace, the Palatinate, Baden, Prussia and Austria.  It was the administrative center of the Kutschurgan district until 1871.

By 1912, its population of Selz reached 2,966. This was an eightfold increase from 1811.  Since there wasn't enough land for the growing community, almost half of the residents were engaged in some sort of craft or trade. There were nine flour mills, and iron foundry, a plumbing shop, four paint shops, six cabinet shops, 49 woodworking shops and 29 blacksmiths. There were 32 stores and shops, and it also was home to 20 wine taverns and three whiskey stores.

Selz was a Catholic colony but note that there is a Jewish cemetery on this map drawn in 1944.

Plat map of Selz, Kutschurgan
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 264-65

Location of Selz, Kutschurgan



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08 December 2016

Karlsruhe, Beresan

Founded in 1810, Karlsruhe was a Mother colony in the Beresan area.  By 1840, there were 88 farmers, each of whom had use o1 178 acres.  The colony as a whole owned about 16,200 acres of land. You can see on the map that there is quite a bit of area set aside for livestock (viehweide).

Plat map of Karlsruhe
Source: Paradise of the Steppe, p. 310-11

And if you zoom in very closely on the Google map below, you can see a link to the remains of St. Peter and Paul Catholic church, a quarried stone, Gothic-style church completed in 1885.



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07 December 2016

Katharinental, Beresan

Katharinental was a Beresan Mother colony founded in 1817. Until 1861, it was a part of  the Landau parish, then a part of Karlsruhe parish (1861-1871) before becoming an independent parish.

In 1913, Katharinental had 204 farmyard lots with a total of 1,581 Catholic residents. The town also owned 1,630 horses and 1,188 cows.

Plat map of Katharinental, Beresan
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 316
Map courtesy of the Black Sea German Research site plat map collection

Location of Katharinental, Beresan



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Rastadt, Beresan

Rastadt was founded on 11 October 1810.  By 1913, there were 338 farmyard lots, 3,807 residents, plus 21 Russian families, 9 Jewish and 2 gypsy families.

The original church was Catholic, built in 1812, and designated a parish.  A new church was built in 1872 made of quarried stone with two towers rising to a height of 130 feet.

Plat map of Rastadt.
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, p. 319
Map courtesy of the Black Sea German Research site plat map collection

Location of Rastadt, Beresan


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06 December 2016

Map Refresh: 64 new Colonies in Crimea

We have a few map refreshes today including 64 new Crimean colonies.  At this point, we're going back over some areas with larger maps to find more colonies and add source information.  In Crimea, we're working from west to east on the map.  We're working from west to east on this map. Kutschurgan and Liebental, two groups that were a part of the very early part of the project, were also refreshed with more parish data from the German-Russian Handbook.  

Germans from Russia Settlements Map (all villages)   2,573 colonies including 64 new in Crimea and updates in Kutschurgan and Liebental
Black Sea Region  includes updates in Crimea, Kutschurgan and Liebental
Crimean Colonies  64 new colonies
Kutschurgan Colonies  parish and source updates
Liebental Colonies     parish and source updates

Below are the newly located Crimean colonies with alternate names:

Abei, Abey, Kuchuk-Abay, Abay-Kuchuk, Abaj-Kutschuk, Abai-Kutschuk, Abay-Kuchuk, Kuchuk-Abay, Abay, Agai-Bellon, Agay-Bellon, Agay, Bellon, Agay-Hördt, Agay-Hoerdt, Agai-Hördt, Aikaul, Aygaul, Ak-Kodsha-Deutsch, Ak-Kodzha-Deutsch, Ackodzha-Deutsch, Akless, Akleis, Ackless, Ak-Sakal-Chutor, Ak-Sakal-Khutor, Weißer Bart, Ak-Scheich-Deutsch, Aktatschi-Busan, Akhtachi-Busas, Ak-Tachy, Ak-Tachy-Busav, Busav-Aktachy, Busav-Aktashy, Ettingerbrunn, Ak-Tatschil, Ak-Tachy, Asan-Hatschi, Aksan-Adzhy, Adzhy-Aksan, Aksan-Achy, Adshi-Aksan, Asan-Hudzhu, Bergstadt, Koyash Kangyl, Krinichka, Besch-Pilaw, Besh-Pilav, Bespilav, Beschui-Elli, Beshuy-Ely, Beshu-Elly, Beshuile, Beschui-Kodschambak, Beshuj-Kodshambak, Beshuy-Kodzhambak, Beshuy-Kodzhambax, Beshuy-Beshut Kodzhambak, Bijuk-Kabanj, Byuk-Kabany, Bijuk-Kaban, Dschailaw, Dshailaw, Dzhailav, Frasch, Dshuma-Ablam, Dzhuma-Ablam, Dschuma-Allam, Ekibasch, Ekibash, Elaß, Elsass, Esaß, Freileben, Friedensfeld, Mamut, Ismail-Abaj, Ismail-Abay, Ismail-Abei, Abay-Smayl, Smayl-Abay, Juchari-Dshamin, Mergen-Maier, Mergental, Mergenthaler, Yukhary-Dzhamen, Kambar, Karagurt, Kara-Kurt, Karahurt, Karalar, Kipchak-Karalar, Kipchak, Kara-Sabu, Karatsch, Karach, Kart-Myschik, Kart-Myshik, Kartmichik, Kartschag, Karchag, Kaspir, Kitai, Kitay, Kitai, Kitay, Chebertesh, Kodshambak, Kodzhambak, Kotschalak, Kochalak, Zindler, Kutschuk-Ak-Tatschi, Kuchuk-Ak-Tachy, Kuchuk-Akhtachy, Mamut-Bay, Mamut-Bai, Mamut-Baj, Michaelsdorf, Michelsdorf, Mikhailovka, Monai, Monaj, Monay, Montanai, Montanay, Freidorf, Busav-Montenay, Busul-Montanay, Oibur, Aibur, Aybur-Deutsch, Ajubr-Deutsch, Oybur, Ojbur, Otar-Mamai, Otar-Mamaj, Otesch, Otesh, Feuer, Parzefeld, Scheich-Eli, Scheich-Ely, Schibau, Shiban, Schmidt, Simferopol, Simferopol’, Tegesch, Tegesh, Tjumen, Togaily, Djelal, Dzhelal (Braun), Tohaily, Togaily, Braun, Toksaba, Doksaba, Tokultschak, Tokulchak, Johannesruh, Tscherkes, Tscherkess, Cherkess, Novocherkask, Tschinki, Chinky, Chinke, Chenky, Zindler, Tschinki, Chinky, Tschondalai, Tschentalaj, Chentalay, Chondalay, Turasch, Turash, Ultan-Eli, Ulan-Ely, Ulan-Eli, Usbek, Usbek-Deutsch, Uzbek-Deutsch, Uzbek-Nemetsky, Utschuk, Urchuk, Uchuk


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01 December 2016

Schlangendorf, Schwedengebiet

Schlangendorf plat map
Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Russland 1961 (Homeland Book of the Germans from Russia)
Map courtesy of Black Sea German Research plat map collection

Schlangendorf was one of the Mother colonies in the Schwedengebiet (Swedish territory), on the north bank of the Dnieper River.

Although founded in 1804, the village was not fully occupied by German settlers until 1806. The 19 families from Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia who settled the village lost all their possessions along the way in fire at an inn near Zhytomyr. Because there were no houses ready by the time they arrived, they stayed in Schwedendorf until the end of 1805.

The layout of the houses were all along one main street rather than two as was customary, which displeased   Privy Councilor Shilkov.  "Euer Dorf habt ihr gebaut wei ein schlange alles nebeneinander," he said. "You have built your village like a serpent," and so he named the village Schlangendorf — Snake Village.


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30 November 2016

Major Milestone: 2,509 Villages Found

We have hit another major milestone in our project of locating all German settlements in Russia: 2,509 villages located and plotted on Google maps.  With approximately 3,000 known ethnic German settlements in Russia, we seem to be closing in on that number.

This week we've refreshed every map and are releasing five new maps with villages found in Karl Stumpp's "Map of the German Settlements in the Nikolaev Oblast."  Two of the new maps contain scattered settlements across the Taurida and Kherson Governorates that clearly weren't a part of any other well known colony group.  We hesitated using those names for the groups, but Stumpp referred to "scattered settlements," and so we followed suit.  For now.  This is still a work in progress.   

Since we've hit such a big number of villages, if you're not using the search function already, you should be.  Look for the magnifying glass icon on the left side in the legend.  Every single word in the data we present is indexed, which should help you quickly find what you're looking for. 

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Map (full map)  
Germans from Russia Settlements Map (all villages)   2,509 villages

Three Major Areas of German Settlement in Russia
Black Sea Region  1,178 villages
Volga Region   329 villages
Volhynia Region   1,002 villages

Colony Group Maps 
Beresan Colonies  103 villages
Bessarabian Colonies  189 villages
Caucasus Colonies   170 villages
Chortitza Colonies   125 villages
Crimean Colonies  115 villages
Dobrudscha Colonies   44 villages
Early Black Sea Colonies  4 villages
Glückstal Colonies    44 villages
Hoffnungstal Colonies    56 villages
Kherson Colonies    41 villages
Kronau Colonies   13 villages
Kutschurgan Colonies   60 villages
Liebental Colonies     40 villages
Molotschna Colonies    87 villages
Prischib Colonies     45 villages
Schwedengebiet Colonies     7 villages
Taurien Colonies    18 villages
Volga Colonies    329  villages
Volhynia Colonies   1,002 villages
Zagradovka Colonies   17 villages


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23 November 2016

Alt-Montal, Prichib

Alt-Montal was a Mother colony founded in 1805 in the Prischib area of the Taurida Governorate. The Prischib colonies were established in response to the increasing number of German immigrants arriving in the Black Sea area at Ekaterinoslave instead of Odessa. 

Initially in Alt-Montal, there were  50 families: 30 from Brandenburg, Mecklenburg and Prussian Poland, and 20 from Alsace and Baden.  

Plat Map of Alt-Montal, Prichib
Source: Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Russland 1961 (Homeland Book of the Germans from Russia)
Map courtesy of Black Sea German Research plat map collection
1805   132 people
1848   357
1858   424
1859   424
1864   408
1905   175
1911   199
1914   215
1915   215
1918   215
1919   424
1926   535

Location of Alt-Montal, Prischib

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22 November 2016

Walter, Volga

Founded on 25 August 1767, Walter was one of the original 104 Volga Mother colonies and one of the oldest German settlements in Russia.  It is located on the Medveditsa river.

Plat map of Walter
Map courtesy of Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia University

Location of Walter, Volga



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Alexanderfeld, Liebental

Alexanderfeld was a daughter colony founded in 1866 by families from other Liebental colonies. One source indicates there were two religions conscriptions among the villagers, Protestant and Catholic, although the plat map that exists for it, drawn in 1942, only shows one church, in all likelihood Catholic. The map also shows a drawing of the church and churchyard. 

Plat map of Alexanderfeld
Source: Paradise on the Steppe, Joseph S. Height
Map courtesy of Black Sea German Research plat map collection

On the lower right of the map, it shows a farmyard drawing of one of the residents.

Hof des Peter Kiefer 1920 (Courtyard of Peter Kiefer 1920)
1. Front door
2. Kitchen
3. Front house
4. Back yard
5. Room/chamber
6. Horse stable
7. Head for the carriage
8. Cow shed 
9. Summer kitchen
10. Cellar
11. Wagon shop
12. Pig pen

Location of Alexanderfeld, Liebental



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