06 August 2017

New Milestone: 3,506 Colonies Located and Mapped

In the past week, the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project reached another major milestone:  3,506 colonies located and pinned on custom Google Maps.

It's been a little over a year since this blog has been up, and it's about a year and a half since the location part of the project has been in full force.  I thought I'd take a moment to do a little accounting on how far the project has come and what's left to do. The numbers below are based on the completed research so far.  This project continues to be a work in progress.

Total number of colonies found so far: 
Early on, I was skeptical that there were 3,000 colonies, but I was proved wrong.  As second passes are made at the maps published, more colonies are found, and there are areas that haven't been started yet.  Is 4,000 out of the question?  I don't think so.

Total number of Google maps maintained: 
In addition to the map with all the colonies, different colony group maps are maintained to make research in smaller areas easier for those who don't need all 3,506 at once. A list of the maps is in the right-hand column, and you can also bookmark the Maps page, which includes all the descriptions. 

Number of colonies still in existence with some population: 
The population in the villages and cities that still exist today may or may not be partially German. All ethnic Germans in Russia were evacuated or deported during World War II.  Few returned after the war.  Regardless, the mark our ancestors made is still present as they were the first to break the land.

Number of colonies that no longer exist: 
Nearly one third of the colonies founded no longer exist. Some colonies were very short lived, were summer farmsteads, or settled on land that was very soon found unsuitable for farming. Some were abandoned after attacks from native tribes, some resettled, some destroyed.

Oldest colony by founding date: 
Dobrinka, Volga, founded on 29 June 1764
Dobrinka was the first German colony in Russia founded with 353 Lutheran colonists by the Russian government on the Volga. By the late 1800s, Dobrinka had grown to over 4,000 residents.  Families from Dobrinka moved to new areas and helped found daughter colonies in Eckheim, Frankreich, Kana, Neu-Galka, Neu-Weimar, Oberdorf, Straßburg and Weimar. Dobrinka still exists in Russia today and is known as Nizhnyaya Dobrinka.

Most recent colony by founding date: 
Neu-Brienne, Bessarabia, founded in 1934
On 9 April 1918, Bessarabia became a part of the greater Romania and would be occupied by Romania until 1940 when it was ceded to the Soviet Union. Neu-Brienne was founded during this time.  It was a Lutheran colony, and it's last recorded population was 149 colonists in 1939.  Neu-Brienne no longer exists.

Colonies by founding date: 
Map: Colonies by founding date
Only about 50% of the colonies located have a documented founding year.  This map of the German settlements by founding date shows them in ranges of years.  The lightest green are the earliest settled, and the darkest green are the most recently settled. 

Number of colonies by region: 
Black Sea: 1,423
Volhynia: 1,002
Volga: 326
Ural: 57
By far the Black Sea area is the largest in terms of number of colonies founded.  Volhynia, which is really larger than the 1,002 colonies located thus far, also has a large number of defunct colonies, 379.  Siberia, which has not been started yet, could have close to 500 colonies, if the historical maps are good. 

Number of colonies by current country:
Ukraine: 2,574
Russia: 618

Poland: 121
Romania: 78
Moldova: 76
Georgia: 21
Azerbaijan: 8 
Bulgaria: 7 
Kazakstan: 2
Turkmenistan: 1
From the research thus far, the vast majority of German colonies settled in the Imperial Russian and portions of the Austrian empire are in present-day Ukraine. With the Siberian colonies, anticipate adding more to Russia and Kazakstan.

Number of colonies by religion: 
Protestant: 2,248
Catholic: 558
Mennonite: 364
Mixed: 229 
Jewish: 146
Although the Germans colonies in Russia were founded based on the colonists' Christian religious confession, it was not unheard of for more than one religion to be present in the colonies over time, including Christian and Jewish. Some of the village plat maps recall prayer houses and cemeteries of different faiths. Areas were made available for Jewish settlements in western Russia, first in the Pale of Settlement, and later among the German Mennonites in the Kherson and Yekaterinoslav oblasts, where the Mennonites served as model farmers in the communities. In the Austrian colonies, it was very common in Galizien and Bukovina colonies to have more than one faith. The Austro-Hungarian empire was primarily Roman Catholic, and enumeration of colonists were broken down by Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Jewish and "other," where "other" was anything of the Protestant faith. 

Number of colonies by groups or enclaves (alphabetical): 
Beresan: 102
Bessarabia: 204
Bukovina: 65
Caucasus: 174
Chortitza: 123
Crimea: 287
Dobrudscha: 45
Don Cossacks: 180
Early Black Sea: 4
Galizien: 397
Glückstal: 45
Hoffnungstal: 56
Jewish Agricultural: 23
Kherson: 22
Kronau: 16
Kutschurgan: 58
Liebental: 41
Mariupol: 108
Molotschna: 71
Prischib: 45
Samara: 20
Scattered Colonies: 1
Schwedengebiet: 7
Taurien: 20
Ural: 57
Volga: 306
Volhynia: 1002
Zagradovka: 17

Total combined number of views of all the maps: 
Not something I set up, but Google automatically tracks the number of hits on the custom maps.  It doesn't track how long you spend there, but I like to think once you're on, you spend a little time wandering around amongst the ancestral villages. So, thanks for looking at them.  Hope you found your village while you were there. 

What's left to do?
There are at least six months' worth of colony location work left, provided I can find the last of the maps needed. Simultaneously, there is data validation, clean up, sourcing and standardization happening, which will continue on for perhaps another year, or as long as it takes to get it right.  I promised someone early on in this project that it was ultimately my responsibility to "get it right," and so I am doing my best to keep that promise.

I'm grateful to everyone who has contributed on this project. No contribution is too small, from location data, to nicknames of a village, to recommendations of maps, to corrections and encouragement... every little bit helps this project be more helpful to others.

Dennis Bender, who is tireless when it comes to locating villages, continues alternately take second passes at maps to pick up anything missed the first time around, along with tackling locates on new maps. His true love is doing the locations. Without his determination, there would be no data.  And, I've said this before: no data, no maps.

Dave Gorz and John Kaminski of the Galizien German Descendants continue to validate and tweak the data for the Galizien colonies, making it as accurate as possible.  Because of them, it is one of the best researched areas on the map.  A huge thank you goes out to them for their continued work.

The areas left to do include the following: 

  1. St. Petersburg and Nowgorod area (Can do this based on historical names, but I'd like a Stumpp map for it.)
  2. Siberia (Huge area, need Stumpp maps for this. There are two.  Need them both.)
  3. Transcaspia (Are there maps for this? List of colony names anywhere? Thanks to Maggie Hein for bringing this area to our attention.)
  4. Jewish Agricultural colonies (Few on Stumpp maps but there are many more.)
  5. Dobrudscha (Doesn't feel like we're done with this area yet. Need Stumpp map to make me feel better about it.)
Of course, I will continue to write about the colonies.  Let's see, 3,506 colonies, average three posts per week, three weeks vacation per year...two weeks for Netflix binges...one week to have the flu. Yeah, I have years of writing ahead of me, something like 24 years or so as of today.  So, settle in, folks, and follow along.  Subscribe to this blog via email (sign up at the bottom of the right-hand column), bookmark it, or follow on Facebook, Twitter, etc