04 August 2016

Village Data: What we're collecting and why

Our goal with this project is to locate every German village in Russia from 1763 through the early part of the 20th century and make those locations freely available to anyone researching Germans from Russia.  Although we don't want to stray from our course we are recording some additional data on the villages beyond ancestral name, current name and coordinates.

This extra information is there primarily to help you find the correct ancestral village. For example, we currently have ten colonies by the name of Neudorf located in Crimea, Glückstal, Chortitza, Prischib and Volga. There are lots of villages in completely different regions with the same name, so things like the district and area can matter a great deal when searching to make sure you find the right village.

However, some of the data we're collecting is because we thought there might be some interesting maps to be made of the additional information.  What would a map of the colonies by religion look like? What about by current country?  What would a map of the founding dates of all the villages show us if we looked at them decade by decade? As our collection grows, we'll be exploring mapping some of these fields to find out what stories they might tell.

Below is a description of each field.

Ancestral Names
Villages often have multiple names, a German name, a Russian name, Ukrainian name.  Sometimes the names changed while our ancestors lived there. Listed are the most common names and spellings to make your search easy.  We want to make sure you find your village, whatever it may have been called in your family's stories.

Colony Group
Different sources use different names for groups of colonies, sometimes referred to as enclaves, that often refer to an area of settlement. We compared these sources to determine a standard we would use that would be both descriptive and still granular: Karl Stumpp's The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862; Adam Giesinger's From Catherine to Khrushchev: The Story of Russia's Germans; and Joseph Height's Homesteaders on the Steppe and Paradise on the Steppe.

Dale Wahl's original Long German Russian Village Listand the updated version on the Black Sea German Research site were the primary sources for this information. The district information is included to help further narrow down the village you're seeking.

This is the geographic area in which the colonies were located.

Old Country
This was the name of the country as it was known when our ancestors lived there.

Latitude and Longitude
These are the village coordinates calculated from Stumpp maps, located on modern maps and cross-referenced with the Global Gazetteer for current names and countries.

Place names and country names have changed over the course of time, and there's no reason to believe they won't change again.  But the coordinates of a village will not change.  Knowing the latitude and longitude of a village means you will always be able to locate it.

Current Names
The current name of the village.  There are often multiple names, so we include the most commonly used.  There isn't always a village still there.  Sometimes you will find a pin in a field or outside a another village.  In these cases, we use the closest current village name and indicate where in relation to it the original village was located.

Current Country
The current name of the country where the village is located.  Geopolitical events may influence country boundaries in the future.  If the need arises, this data will be adjusted.

Year Founded
This is the year the village was originally founded.  Not every village has a recorded founding date. The Mother colonies generally do have a date.  The Daughter colonies sometimes have a date.  The Chutors hardly ever have a date.  For conflicting dates or when ranges of dates are supplied, we took the earliest year.

Historically, Mother colonies were the original colonies in a area.  Each colony was allotted a certain amount of land, and as the population grew, land became scarce.  Daughter colonies were offshoots of Mother colonies and usually established by sons of the Mother colonies.  Chutors or khutors were smaller settlements, farmsteads or seasonal farms that may or may not have been inhabited year round.  Sometimes they grew into larger villages.

These are the primary religion or religions for a settlement: Catholic, Hutterite, Jewish, Mennonite, Protestant. Colonists were assigned to settlements based on their religion. However, some villages supported populations of different religions. Although we break out Mennonite and Hutterite separately, all other Protestant denominations are included in that larger category.

These are notes on the village. Sometimes we have conflicting sources, and we had to make a decision as to how to categorize it.  This field is where you might find notes about that. If we note that a village is defunct, it means the village is no longer there. It may have been destroyed by local or military conflicts, abandoned or the residents resettled elsewhere.

It's important in any kind of research to cite sources so that future researchers can re-trace your steps. We want to make sure you can do that with our data.  The earliest villages located in this project will not have source citations, but the more recent villages found and all those going forward will. In time, we'll backtrack and everything will be cited properly.