28 July 2016

Road Trip: GRHS Convention 2016

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project will be presented at the Germans from Russia Heritage Society's 2016 Convention in Rapid City, SD, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 8.

I am pleased to be able to share our work with GHRS members and other attendees and be counted among excellent speakers already on the schedule.

If you're already planning to attend, please stop by.   If you haven't decided yet, take a look at the conference agenda for workshops and activities that might be of interest.



26 July 2016

All Maps Refreshed

All of the maps have been refreshed with the latest data this morning. A number of additions and updates to the Chortitza group and minor additions and updates elsewhere.  

Total village count so far: 1178

Bessarabian Colonies (185)
Chortitza Colonies 
Crimean Colonies
Dobrudscha Colonies
Early Black Sea Colonies (1)
Glückstal Colonies 
Hoffnungstal Colonies 
Kutschurgan Colonies 
Liebental Colonies 
Molotschna Colonies 
Prischib Colonies 
Volga Colonies (329)


22 July 2016

"Where Can I Find my Family's Russian German Village of Origin? A Great Emerging Resource"

"My German Roots," the newsletter for the German Special Interest Group of the Alberta Genealogical Society Edmonton Branch published an article last month about our maps entitled "Where Can I Find My Family's Russian German Village of Origin? A Great Emerging Resource."

The article, written by John Althouse, goes into great detail about how to use the previous version of the map (see tutorial on how to use the new version, not too much different).  The article walks you though finding a village, outlining what information is included, its value to genealogists. It includes many screenshots of the map and some of the aerial images of the target Volga village, Alexandertal, which, according to Althouse, happens to be one of his maternal (SLATTER) ancestral villages prior to the family's move to Schilling and who were originally in located in Messer. 

I'm pleased to report that all the villages mentioned are accounted for on the map.

Check out the article, and if you have time the rest of the AGS Edmonton Branch and its German SIG, which publishes some very informative newsletters for genealogists.


21 July 2016

Map Tutorial

Here is a short video introduction to the main map with a tutorial on how to search it.  The same procedure works for all the maps.

[Note: The video below was updated in July 2023.]


19 July 2016

New Version of Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Map

We're pleased to release the latest version of the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map. This is our big map containing all the villages we've found so far - 1168 as of this morning to be exact!  We'll have a short tutorial on how to use the maps available in the next day or so, but feel free to start browsing and searching.

As always, we welcome feedback and comments.  Just drop us a line using the message form on the right.


16 July 2016

Germans from Russia: Wolgaheimat Legacy

This documentary, Volga Homeland Legacy, is about the first German colonists who immigrated to Russia.


New Map - Volga Colonies

The German immigrants that came to the Volga region were among first colonists to take up Catherine the Great on her manifesto offer. They came from Hesse, the Rhineland, the Palatinate and Württemberg.  They are also among the most well researched and documented group.


15 July 2016

New Map - Hoffnungstal Colonies

Württemberg Separatists founded the colony of Hoffnungstal  in the winter of 1817.  They intended to got to the South Caucasus but were asked to found a colony in the Odessa area.  It remained an isolated colony for several years in both geographic location as well as separate from other German Protestants.  The five Mother colonies were founded between 1818 and 1831.


14 July 2016

Coming soon....a refresh of the big map!

Look for a new version of the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map (the big one) next week.  It will have all the information that the Colony Group maps have in the new format.  We're excited about it and hope you find it useful in your search for your ancestral villages.

In addition, we'll be adding a video tutorial for those who are less familiar with Google Maps to help you get started.

Stay tuned through the weekend.  A few more Colony Group maps to go.


New Map - Glückstal Colonies

The Glückstal colonies original settlement was in the town of Grigoripol in 1804-1805.  Because of frictions with the Armenians in the area, the government re-settled the Germans in the village of Glinoi (renamed Glückstal) trading places with the Moldavians.  The re-settlement occurred in the spring of 1809.  Another 293 families arrived in the summer of 1809 and founded three other Mother colonies.


13 July 2016

New Map - Prischib Colonies

The Prischib colonies were founded beginning in 1804 in response to an influx of new German immigrants. The tract of land was west of the Molotschana river, opposite a newly founded Molotschna Mennonite settlement.


12 July 2016

New Map - Molotschna Colonies

A large tract of land east of the Molotschna River was assigned to create additional Mennonite colonies that the Chortitza area could not accommodate.  By the 1860s, the Molotschna colonies population had grown to 4,000 families, many of whom were landless.  Daughter colonies arose and were scattered across the Black Sea region.

# # #

11 July 2016

New Map - Chortitza Colonies

The first Mennonite colonies in the Black Sea region, the Chortitza colonies, were established in 1789 on the Dnieper River. Mennonite leaders responded to recruiters and negotiated a special agreement with the Russian government. Their numbers grew rapidly, and by 1848, there were 7,217 families.


10 July 2016

New Map - Liebental Colonies

The Liebental group of colonists were recruited from southwest Germany.  Most went to Odessa while they waited for land to be assigned to them southwest of the city. Forty families in Lustdorf were artisans and were given half the land as other colonists because they were expected to practice their trades. Daughter colonies would become important to this group due to a large class of landless families that would develop.


09 July 2016

At Home in Russia, At Home on the Prairie

The focus of this site is locating Germans from Russia villages and mapping them, but occasionally we'll share photos or a documentary to bring home what a pin on a map really is...or was.

This one about Kutchurgan area, Straßburg in particular, recalled by descendants of immigrants in and around Strasburg, North Dakota.

Thanks to Prairie Public Broadcasting for making this available.


New Map - Kutschurgan colonies

Beginning in 1808, the Kutschurgan colonies were founded along the Kutschurgan River, a tributary of the Dniester River, primarily by Catholic families from Alsace, Baden, Palatinate and Württemberg.  By 1820, the six Mother colonies combined had grown to a population of 2,243. By 1859 the area had grown to 7,272, after which Daughter colonies began to be established.  These were often established by Kutschurgan sons, but sometimes Catholics from the Liebental or Beresan areas with join in the establishing of new Daughter colonies.


08 July 2016

5 lbs 3.8 oz of New Source Material Arrived Yesterday

German-Russian Handbook
A Reference Book for Russian German and German Russian History and Culture With Place Name Listing of Former German Settlement Areas

by Ulrich Mertens


New Map - Beresan Colonies

The Beresan river valley was where 600 German immigrant families settled between 1809-1810.  The 12 Mother colonies were settled between 1809 and 1819.


07 July 2016

New Map - The Bessarabian Colonies

German immigrants who settled in Bessarabia were colonists who had initially immigrated to central Poland between 1796 and 1806. The Napoleonic Wars made life very difficult for the German settlements because they were in the path of the Napoleon's invasion of Russia.  When the Russian invitation came to re-settle in Bessarabia, more than 1,500 families made the move between 1814-1815.


06 July 2016

The Origin of the Project

It's a question that nearly everyone researching their Germans from Russia heritage has at one point or another.  Where exactly were my ancestral villages located?

For Dennis Bender, the origin of the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project stemmed from simply from wanting to know exactly where places like Tarutino, Kassel and Johannenstal were situated today.

"Shortly after my mother passed away in November 2007, I got very involved in duplicating and organizing the 100+ years of family photos that she left behind. After that, I decided to try my hand at doing a family tree in MyHeritage program. Since that program and others like it only recognize today’s geographical locations, I became quite determined."

Some family tree programs tied in with the big online maps such as Google Maps and MapQuest will allow alternate names to be given to locations, but without knowing the current name or the having the GPS coordinates of an ancestral village, its easy to get stuck. Bender's goal was to create a short cross reference list of locations that included GPS coordinates.

"In February 2011, I stumbled upon the website Find a Grave and decided to pay tribute to my family’s ancestors for all to see," Bender said. But there were only a handful of cemetery locations in Ukraine and Moldova. Many locations he had on his cross reference guide weren't even available on Find a Grave. They simply didn't exist. Undeterred, he contacted the administrators of Find a Grave and asked them to add the town names he needed. They were agreeable, but they said they could only add four requests at a time to their database.

Patiently and persistently, Bender requested four new locations at a time until he got the 51 locations he required for his family memorials. He set up and pinpointed the cemetery for the newly added village, added the GPS coordinates, photos, descriptions and added memorials for each of his relatives. Freely sharing his work, other Find a Grave volunteers as well as his own family members asked for his help finding even more ancestral villages, and Bender obliged.

Bender gives a lot of credit to, Elaine (Becker) Morrison for her assistance and encouragement when he started his research. Morrison became and continues to be Bender's mentor and confidant.

"When I tried to remember my beginning interest in Germans from Russia activities," Morrison said, "I immediately thought of our late friend Herb Poppke. Herb loved to share his knowledge of South Russia and present Ukraine that included his large collection of maps, past and present. As I thought of his influence, I remembered a song of several years ago:
It only takes a spark
To get a fire going
And soon all those around
can warm up in its glowing
"My first effort for GRHS was to serve as the cemetery coordinator," said Morrison. "Years later, my efforts in recording our family history likely served as the spark that ‘warmed up’ my cousin's son: Dennis Bender. He did not know of my interest in cemeteries, but he found his own niche by working with Find A Grave and The Germans from Russia Heritage Society. May the fires continue to glow!”"

Sparking interest was certainly what Bender did. His work, which he updated often and freely circulated in PDF format, garnered attention, including publication in the newsletter of Germans from Russia Oregon and Washington Chapter of GRHS and in the GRHS quarterly journal, Heritage Review.

Sandy Schilling Payne was an early recipient of Bender's list through their contact on Find a Grave. "What was really interesting about it," she noted, "was that there really wasn't anything else like it."

She said there was, this very simple and straightforward list of ancestral villages from a handful of colony groups, which were by no means complete, along with their GPS coordinates and their current names. It wasn't just focused on one particular area or set of colonists.

"The GPS coordinates were pure gold," she said. "For me, I don't even care what the current name is. As long as I have those coordinates, I can place on a map where my ancestors were born, lived and died. It doesn't matter to me what it's called, if anything is still standing, or if its just a field of sunflowers."

When Payne, who is on the editorial board of the GRHS Heritage Review, was proofreading articles for the March 2016, she saw that Bender's latest list would be included in the issue. "I wondered what it would look like if all the villages were on a map, color coordinated by group. How many would there be? Where would they be? What would that look like? What story would that tell?"

Payne contacted Bender and asked if she could create a Google map with his data to be included in the issue. He was in agreement just as long as it would be free for all to use. Free access to information is very important to him. "Genealogical information and related material left on the shelf is of little or no value," he said, reciting his motto. She concurred and assured him the map would always be free.

With the first iteration of the Germans from Russia Settlement Location map done and published along with Bender's list in the March 2016 issue of Heritage Review, Payne handed over full edit access of the map to Bender to add villages whenever he found their locations.  She knew it would grow over time, but she had no idea how much, or how quickly.

"In retrospect, I feel a little like an instigator, like I poked the bear," she said.

Between February and June 2016, Bender had grown the list and map from 103 villages to over 1000 villages. "I didn't even know there were over 1000 Germans from Russia villages!" Payne said.  The overwhelming response of the publication and the map once again sparked Bender.  And, no, he isn't finished yet.

"I would like to extend a special thank you to Elaine Becker Morrison and Sandy Schilling Payne for their contributions and guidance. Without their talents, none of what you're viewing here today may have ever materialized."

The project continues to be a work in progress.


05 July 2016

New Map - The Dobrudscha Colonies

A maybe lesser known group of Black Sea Germans from Russia were those who left settlements in Bessarabia and re-settled in the historical area called Dobruja, or Dobrudscha, which is now a part of both Romania and Bulgaria.  These Dobrudscha Colonies were settled in three distinct waves beginning in 1842 with Mother colonies. Daughter colonies continued to spring up well into the 1930s.


01 July 2016

New Map - The Crimean Colonies

We're happy to announce the first of many new maps that we hope you will find useful.

The Crimean Colonies map is the first of the colonies group maps to go live. We anticipate releasing several others in the coming weeks, so check our Maps page often for new additions and a list of what's to come.


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