16 March 2018

Map Refresh: Galizien Religions and Parishes

This map refresh focuses on Galizien, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is located in east central Europe straddling modern-day southeastern Poland and western Ukraine.  It was a neighbor to Bukovina and also the Russian areas of Volhynia and the northwestern tip of Bessarabia.

Much appreciation goes to Dave Gorz and John Kaminski of the Galizien German Descendants (GGD) for their continued work on this area and for allowing their work to be included in this project. Dave's work on village listings and parishes has been going on for years, with added focus in the last 14 months.  John's work this time around included doing comparisons of data from multiple sources (see the list below), checking spelling and diacritics, and doing some map overlays of the parish and district boundary maps onto Google Earth and the Austrian military maps from on Mapire to visualize and verify what districts were in what parish.

The religion and parish fields were updated and now follow the map standard of noting the religion next to the parish. See the Data page for descriptions of each of the fields.  Also larger towns and cities that were not originally German settlements but did have small percentage of Germans living in them were called out.  The population for the year 1900 is included in the notes for these locations. 

Sources used for this update include the following: 
  • Die deutschen Siedlungen in Galizien (Map of the German Settlements in Galicia), Rudolf Unterschütz, circa 1939.
  • Gemeindelexikon der im Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder (Gazetteer of the Crown Lands and Territories Represented in the Imperial Council), XII, Galizien (Galicia). Vienna, 1907.
  • Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia.  Author Brian J. Lenius.  3rd edition, 3rd printing, June 2010.  WorldCat
  • Gesher Galicia town locator
  • Google Earth
  • Historical Maps of the Habsburg Empire, Austrian Third Military Survey (1869-1887). Mapire.
  • Übersicht über deutsche Siedlungen (Kolonien) und Einsiedlungen in ukrainische und polnische Dörfer : sowie Orte mit einer nicht bedeutenden deutschen Minderheit in Galizien von 1782 bis 1939 bzw. 1945 (Overview of German settlements/colonies and settlements in Ukrainian and Polish villages: as well as places with a non-significant German minority in Galicia from 1782 to 1939 and 1945). Author Ernst Hexel. 1977. WorldCat

Maps updated:


05 March 2018

Weather Report for Obermonjou: -9° C

The Weather Channel

Some sources day that on this day, 5 March 1767, the Volga Mother colony of Obermonjou was founded.

The location of Obermanshu on
Karte der deutschen Siedlungen im Wolgagebiet
(Map of the German Settlements in the Volga Region, 
AHSGR map #6)
I'm not suggesting it was impossible that this colony was founded in winter in Russia in 1767. Germans are a hardy lot.  But perhaps it was more likely, as other sources indicate, that it was founded along with five other Mother colonies in the area on 7 June 1767.

Either way, the June colonies, like Obermonjou, were founded with the assistance of recruiter Baron Caneau de Beauregard.  In the first year, there were 82 households with 299 residents, most of whom were from areas in Hessen.

Obermonjou, or Obermanshu, as Stumpp spelled it on his Map of the German Settlements in the Volga Region (AHSGR map #6), was a Roman Catholic colony, but later there were both Catholic and Lutheran colonists, each belonging to their respective parishes in near-by Katharinenstadt. 

It was situated between Orlowskoje (founded 7 June 1767) and Katharinenstadt (founded 26 June 1766).  You can see from the map above, there were eventually lots of neighbors up and down the Volga.

Today, Obermonjou listed in the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's GeoNames database as an "abandoned populated place," with its ancestral name, Obermonzhu, still attached to it after 251 years.

GeoNames database notes "Obermonzhu" as a variant name to the abandoned colony.
Location of the defunct colony of Obermanshu (Obermonjou),
most recently known as Krivovskoye.

Learn More:


01 March 2018

German Settlements by Founding Year

Now that this project has crossed a big milestone in terms of number of colonies mapped and geographical area covered, it's time to take another look at the German settlements by founding year.  I created this map and posted it about it over a year ago.  It was updated last August, so it's time to revisit.

This has always been one of my favorite maps because it uses the data to tell the story through a visualization of the growth of colonies across the Russian Empire and parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  And the story didn't end with the Russian Revolution.  It slowed considerably, but it didn't end.

The map has been updated and sectioned into three groups.  The first two were voluntary settlement or re-settlement.  The third was forced re-settlement – deportation.
  1. Settlements during the time of Imperial Russia from Catherine the Great up to the Russian Revolution (1763-1917).  
  2. Settlements after the Russian Revolution until deportations began (1917 - approximately 1935).  
  3. Deportation location areas.  
Currently there is only one under the third category, an accidental find to be honest, but I'm gathering information about deportation locations.  I'd be happy to hear about any sources that will help me get these places on the map.

This is one of those maps that I find fun to zoom in and wander around in while clicking on pins.  Note that not all of the colonies have founding/settlement dates, so not all are on the map.  After adding another 1000+ colonies over the course of the year, still only 50% of them have settlement dates.

The lightest green pins were the earliest colonies in the empires with later colonies becoming progressively darker green.

The purple pins are those established after the Revolutions and roughly divided into before and right as collectivization began to be enforced.


28 February 2018

Two Years and 4037 Colonies Ago

Two years and 4037 colonies ago, the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project began with a map of 103 colonies.  It's turned into the tool I wish I had decades ago when I started my German-Russian research. 

What does a German do when she (or he) doesn't have a tool she needs?  She builds it.

This is what the map looked like then:

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map from 11 February 2016. There were 103 villages.

In January of this year, the 4000th locate was quietly posted, and with this week's map refresh, there are 4037 colonies located.  How many more to go?  I've learned to stop guessing and just go with it until there's nowhere else to go. 

Now the map looks like this:

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map as of 28 February 2018. There are 4037 villages.

The two map refreshes this month added colonies in Central Asia and in the far eastern Siberian district of Amur. With the help of smaller-scale maps of both areas by the late Mennonite historian William Schroeder (author of the Mennonite Historical Atlas) and the online map of the Great Mennonite Trek by Walter Ratliff, there are just a few colonies left that are unable to be located in these areas. 

The Amur settlements were particularly difficult because they were all founded between 1927-28, and all were abandoned within a few years.  Because the Stumpp and Schroeder maps are more or less estimates of where the colonies were, instead of relying on measurements for the locations, they were georeferenced using map overlays.

Georeferencing is a method of overlapping old maps with new maps (often aerial or satellite images) using multiple known, still-existing locations as anchors.  The old map is then adjusted to fit over the new one, and the older map can be made transparent to show the newer map beneath and pinpoint places that no longer exist.  Many military maps an other old printed maps are available as overlays on Google Maps or OpenStreetMap and have been very useful in this project.

Hand drawn maps are very difficult to georeference because their scale rarely matches the online map, even with stretching and rotating.  To be as accurate as possible, multiple takes on the georeference were done on the Schroeder map, which had more modern reference points, to line up with Russian cities and borders with China to pinpoint these locations. Direct map overlays were done in Google Earth also, which enabled adjustments to match the terrain as well as cities. 

The example below shows the colony of Osernoye in Amur.  Note the rather large dot on the original map marking the location of the village.  The entire area is scoured for man-made clearings, old roads, the outline of farmsteads, any scars of the past that may mark where the colony was once located.  If none are found, the pin goes in the middle of the giant dot. 

Example of the colony of Osernoye in Amur.  Top: Schroeder map overlay on Google Earth. 
Bottom: Pin marking the defunct colony on the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map. 

Yurgino (white pin) near the Amur river, bordering China.
Mukhino (circled in yellow) was the district of which Yurgino was a part.
Finally, there was one colony, Yurgino, that was not on a map, but it was referenced in multiple Mennonite colony sources with its district, Mukhino. This was the only colony in Amur that was found based on its historical name.  Amazingly, there is a coordinate reference to it in the Global Gazetteer that points to a place with a population of zero that is within a reasonable proximity to Mukhino.  It's almost like it didn't want to be forgotten.  And now it won't be. 

It pays off to check out every reference.

The following maps have been updated:
Siberian Colonies
Central Asian Colonies
Asiatic Russian Colonies
Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map (the big one)



21 February 2018

2018 Convention Season

It's "save the date" season for German/Russian/Eastern European genealogy conferences and conventions, and time to plan your summer vacations and genealogy road trips around them. 

If I had one wish, and I try to make one wish a day for good measure, I would wish all of these organizations and others like them would have some online presentations as a part of their conferences.  A few webinar sessions would open up the content to both audiences and speakers worldwide who are not otherwise able to attend.  There you go.  My wish for today. 

Here's a round up of the larger events in the order of appearance through the summer. 

Organization: Ukrainian History and Education Center
Event: Nashi Predky Online Workshop
Dates: March 17, 2018
Location: Online!
More Info: https://www.ukrhec.org/nashi-predky-online-workshop-2018
Areas of Focus: Ukrainian Ancestry and History, Greek Catholics in Poland 

Organization: Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS)
Event: GRHS 48th Annual International Convention
Dates: July 18-22, 2018
Location: Pierre, South Dakota, USA

More Info:  http://grhs.org/aboutus/conventions/conventions.html
Areas of Focus: Black Sea Germans from Russia
Event: SGGEE 20th Anniversary Convention Hands-On Genealogy
Dates: July 27-29, 2018
Areas of Focus: German Ancestors from Poland and Volhynia

Organization: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR)
Event: AHSGR 49th Annual Convention
Dates: July 30 - August 2, 2018
Location: Hays, Kansas, USA

More Info: http://www.ahsgr.org
Areas of Focus: Volga Germans from Russia

Organization: Foundation for East European Family History Studies (FEEFHS)
Event: 25th Anniversary 2018 Eastern European Family History Conference
Dates: August 6-10, 2018
Areas of Focus: German, Baltic States, Polish, Kingdom of Hungary, Russian, Germans from Russia, Jewish Research.


20 February 2018

20 February 1804 Novaya Rossiya (Süd Rußland) Open for Settlement

Map of Neu-Russland, 1855. 

The term Novaya Rossiya, Neu-Rußland, or New Russia, was used often during the growth of the Imperial Russian Empire.  With the acquisition of land surrounding the Black Sea, another New Russia was declared. Those of us of Black Sea German decent know the area by what our ancestors called it, Süd Rußland – South Russia.

Napoleon had become something of a problem after the French Revolution (1789–1799). With the French monarchy overthrown, Napoleon seized power in 1799 and declared himself emperor.  By 1803, he had begun a series of major conflicts that would continue until 1815 and impact life for our ancestors in the northern part of the French Empire and the Germanic kingdoms to the east.

Russian Tsar Alexander I came into power in 1801, and he saw the results of Napoleon's actions an opportunity to recruit colonists to his Empire. On 20 February 1804, he reissued his grandmother Catherine the Great's manifesto inviting immigrant colonists to newly acquired Russian lands around the Black Sea. All the privileges of the 1763 Manifesto that were extended to the Volga Germans were reaffirmed.  But this time with the invitation, Alexander put into play a policy that would be more selective about immigration.

Only colonists that were "capable agriculturists and artisans" would be accepted. The idea was that they would serve as model farmers, winegrowers, animal breeders and craftsmen in the newly acquired and underdeveloped areas of the Russian Empire.

Colonists also had to already own property valued at 300 florins or more [1 florin = 54 grains of gold, 3.5g, or 0.1125 troy ounce]. In other words, they had to already be relatively successful in their current situations.  

The main points of Alexander's Manifesto:
  1. Complete religious freedom.
  2. Exemption from taxes and other burdens for the first ten years.
  3. After the ten years of exemption, the colonists will be treated like any other subject of the Empire, with the exception that they will not be required to house troops, except those en route to the battle fields.
  4. The colonists are exempt from military service and also civil service. Each one, however, is free to enter the service of the Imperial Crown, but this will not exempt him from the payment of his debts to the Crown.
  5. To get established, every settler will receive an advance loan, which he must repay in the 10 years following the decade of exemption.
  6. Every family is permitted to bring its movable property duty-free, plus commodities for sale not exceeding 300 rubles in value.
  7. Craftsmen are permitted to join guilds and associations. Each one may carry on trade and commerce throughout the Empire, without hindrance.
  8. Through the magnanimity of His Imperial Majesty, all serfdom has been abolished in the provinces of Imperial Russia.
  9. Every family will receive from the Crown a grant of 30-60 dessiatin [1 dessiatin = 2.7 acres] of productive land for its use. In addition to the police dues, each family will pay an annual ground tax of 15-20 kopecks per dessiatin after the ten years of exemption have expired.
  10. Any settler who desires to leave the Imperial realm of Russia and return to his native land must first pay is Crown debts, plus the taxes for three years for the use of the land.
In addition, only families were allowed to immigrate, not individuals, and no more than 200 families were allowed to immigrate per year in groups organized by immigration agencies.  However, there was no restriction on how many families who chose to immigrate independently.  

Alexander's invitation received "a prompt and lively response, especially in the provinces of Württemburg, Baden, and Rhine Palatinate and the northern cantons of Alsace."

More than 800 families arrived in South Russia in 1804, causing immediate problems with where to house the new colonists.  Colonists began arriving before the land was ready for them, so they stayed in Russian or Armenian villages until the colonies were ready to be inhabited. Like those colonies in the Volga, the new colonies were established by groups immigrants with the same religious confession.

The earliest colonies established in South Russia in 1804 were widely scattered in the areas of Chortitza, Crimea, LiebentalMolotschna, Prichib and Schwedengebiet (Swedish district).

Earliest areas of German colonies in the Black Sea area of South Russia:
1. Liebental, 2. Schwedengebiet, 3. Chortitza, 4. Prichib, 5. Molotschba and 6. Crimea. 

Between 1805 and 1807, immigration to Russia was all but halted due to Napoleon's military campaigns.  In 1805, only 250 families arrived in in South Russia.  In 1806, 60 families arrived, and in 1807, 130 families arrived.

German colonies in
1. Glückstal, 2. Kutschurgan and 3. Beresan.
King Friedrich of Württemberg prohibited emigration from his kingdom on 29 May 1807 in order to maintain his military force and collect taxes. The restriction on immigration would be in place for Württembergers until 1815.  After that, anyone who wanted to leave would have to pay to the government 10% of all they wanted to take with them.

Between 1808 and 1810, the Rhine-Franconian migration occurred with colonists from Baden, Alsace and Palatinate. About 2,000 families arrived in South Russia and established colonies in areas of Beresan, Glückstal and Kutchurgan in addition to more colonies in Chortitza and Prichib

In 1812, Russia acquired Bessarabia, and on 19 November 1813, Tsar Alexander issued an invitation for colonists to settle in the southern part Bessarabia.  German colonists who had originally settled in central Poland between 1796 and 1804, dissatisfied with their situation, left Poland to resettle in Bessarabia.  Those 1,500 families established colonies between 1814 and 1815.

Settlement in South Caucasus began between 1817 and 1819 with eight Mother colonies.  Later, Daughter colonies would be founded both north and south of the Caucasus mountains.  By 1817, Württemberg Separatists, now free to immigrate again, settled the Hoffnungstal colonies, and the area of Mariupol on the north shore of the Sea of Azov next to Chortitza and Molotschna, colonies began to be settled 1823 with some resettlement from other areas to Mariupol.

The peak of immigration to South Russia is considered to have occurred around 1817-18 with mass immigration ending in 1824. Smaller groups continued to arrive but not in the numbers seen in the first 20 years.

By 1825, there were just shy of 200 German colonies in South Russia with a population of 51,014.

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map of "New Russia" 2018.

Learn More:


26 January 2018

Map Refresh: Place Name Changes in Ukraine

The updates for name changes in Ukraine to adhere to what is prescribed in the Law of Ukraine № 317-VIII have been completed. The places listed below are the ancestral German village names by colony group whose current names have changed under this law. 

Beresan: Elizabethgrad, Karlesrhue, Neu-Kaltschna, Slepucha, Sonnenberg, Wolkowo
Bessarabia: Mathildendorf
Chortitza: Dnjepropetrowsk, Friesendorf, Kalinindorf, Rosa Luksemburg, Schöndorf
Don Cossacks: Bachmut, Christianowka, Katharinenfeld, Krinitschin, Lenintal, Marinort, Rosowka
Early Black Sea: Alt-Danzig
Glückstal: Neu-Berlin, Neuhof-Chutor, Seebach
Hoffnungstal: Chutor Beutelspacher, Chutor Ishitskoye, Hoffnungsfeld, Tichi Kut, Werba
Jewish Agricultural: Kalinindorf, Neuweg
Kherson: Hoffental, Neu-Karlsruhe
Kronau: Hoffnungsort
Kutschurgan: Neu Elsass
Liebental: Herrmannsdorf, Johannesfeld, Lenintal
Mariupol: Dawido-Orlovka, Eichwald, Ludwigstal, Mariental, Ostheim, Prinzfeld, Waldheim
Molotschna: Mariental, Pordenau, Schardau
PrischibEbenfeld, Jürgental, Weinau
Taurien: Preobrashenka
Yekaterinaslav: Eigenfeld
Zagradovka: Gnadenfeld
Volhynia: Kniahininek Kolonie

My favorite story from the list is the Liebental colony of Lenintal.  It was founded in 1925 after Ukraine became a part of the USSR.  Its ancestral name is Lenintal.  Its new name is Liebental.  I find it very satisfying that we sort of got one back.

A few things to point out:
  • A few of the current names were already correct. At the time some of them were recorded for this project, they had been updated on Google Maps and went in without notice that they had been changed.  In those cases, the sources were updated to include the link to the Wikipedia page (easier to decipher and follow than the original Ukrainian source) noting that the current name had changed.  
  • Some of the places are in occupied territory and have not been changed on Google Maps to comply with the new names.  These have been noted, and we'll check back on those at a later date to see if anything changes.
  • Most of the name changes are not in the Global Gazetteer, a source used heavily for confirming historical names with current names.  It's unknown when/if they will be updated in the future.  The source was left in place for historical name references and with the hope that it will be updated. 
To prepare for continued standardization and clean up work, all of the maps have been updated.  Some areas have significant updates already, while others just have the framework for what is to come.  You can check out the change history file if you'd like to see details of the changes.  I'm trying to keep it up to date, but some work will fall off the radar at times.


Other Map Projects of Interest

I love maps and maintain that they are not only for locating places but also for telling stories, whether intentionally or not.

Below is a list of other map projects that locate ancestral German colonies on Google maps. These are not maintained by this site, but they are interesting and may be of value to your research or help you tell your story.


Map of German Settlements in Nikolajew Map of German colonies in area of modern Mykolaiv, Ukraine. This area was home to the Black Sea Germans. The map is organized by religious confession and includes some surnames of Germans who lived there. Map and research by Julia Silber and Viktor Drobny from Ukraine. This map is actively updated.
Map of German Settlements in Nikolajew

Map of Mennonite Colonies Map of Mennonite colonies organized by type of colony across all of Russia. It includes villages founded by Mennonites (majority population), other villages Mennonites lived at one point (minority population), chutors (guts) and forestry land. Interestingly, the site states that young Mennonite men chose to live and work in forests as an alternative to doing time in the military, and some of these forests are on this map. Map and research by Andreas Tissen and Viktor Petkau. This map is actively updated.
Map of Mennonite Colonies

MennoMaps This is a mobile app for Android devices that uses the data from the Map of Mennonite Colonies listed above and brought to the internet by João Guilherme Dyck from Brazil. This is one of his spare time projects.
MennoMaps for Android shows the number of colonies in an area.

Zoom in to see smaller groups and individual colony information.

Map of the Great Mennonite Trek to Central Asia This map is a companion to Walter Ratliff's book Pilgrims on the Silk Road (Wipf & Stock, 2010), and it focuses on the Mennonite Trek to Central Asia in the 1880s by families in South Russia who sold their land and migrated to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Ratliff and a group of colleagues (scholars and descendants) took a trip in 2007 from Bethel College, Kansas and retraced the steps, gathering settlement coordinates along the way. You can also find more about his research on his website.
The Great Mennonite Trek to Central Asia

Map of Vistula German Settlements This map consists of villages from the A. Breyer map of German settlements in middle Poland. It was scanned, geo-referenced (overlaid) and imported online to Carto maps.  The site says is a work in progress, but it's unknown how often it's updated.
German Settlements in Central Poland


06 January 2018

Map Refresh: A Living Document

Brand new year.  Brand new map updates.  A lot to cover, so let's jump in...

A Living Document
If you've been following this project for any period of time, you know that it is a work in progress with a steady release of new locations and updates as they're available. But I also wanted to point out that, more importantly, it is a living document. A living document is something that is continuously updated as information changes to keep it current and not to allow it to go stale.

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations is not a "one-and-done-put-it-on-a-shelf-and-dust-it" kind of tool.

Going into this, the awareness that current place names would change was just a given. So that we – meaning we collectively as a research community – won't have to go through this exercise again, updates to current place names will happen continuously.

Decommunization of Place Names in Ukraine
Having said that, work has begun on updating place names in Ukraine as a part of the Law of Ukraine № 317-VIII "On the condemnation of the communist and national socialist (Nazi) regimes, and prohibition of propaganda of their symbols." Under seven separate articles of this law enacted between 18 February 2016 and 3 June 2016, about three percent of place names in Ukraine have been subject to change across many of the oblasts that are home to former Germans from Russia colonies.  This means that updates will be made and sourced accordingly.  So far, most of the names are showing up in Google Maps, but some are not.  With this update, the villages in the current Odessa oblast and few others are included. (Hint: To bring them all up on the map, search for the word "Toponym" - it appears in the sources of each.)

Beresan: Wolkowo
Bessarabia: Mathildendorf
Chortitza: Friesendorf, Schöndorf
Hoffnungstal: Tichi Kut, Hoffnungsfeld, Werba
Glückstal: Neuhof-Chutor, Seebach
Liebental: Johannesfeld
Kutschurgan: Neu Elsass
Prichib: Jürgental

This effort will go quickly, so the next map update before the end of the month will include a full refresh of all maps.  

And along these same lines...

We Need to Talk About Crimea
Crimea has needed to be updated for sometime. The country to which it belongs has been in dispute since 20 February 2014. The maps have been updated to "Ukraine (de jure), Russia (de facto).  In other words, it is Ukraine according to law and Russia according to unsanctioned fact.  

Removal of Assumptions
A colony's founding year has been used to determine what country it was a part of at the time Germans founded or settled.  It's easy to assume Russia across the board, but it's not really backed up any sources other than the Stumpp maps, which were created after World War II, so they don't even have the original governorates or oblasts on them.  With the numerous occupations and revolutions and other declarations of independence between 1763 and 1939,  it has become clear that the assumptions need to be re-evaluated.  Going forward,  as areas are cleaned up, the assumed country at time of founding will be re-evaluated, sourced if possible, or removed if necessary.  This is an effort to ensure good data and not just fill in the field. 

Dobrudscha Grows
While doing a special request in Dobrudscha before the holidays, it became apparent that the area was not quite complete.  Looking back on the map provided by the AHSGR librarian (thank you, Diane Wilson!), the missing were settlements were noted as having 50 or fewer Germans living in them as of the 1930 census.  The map is from the back cover of Paul Traeger's book, Die Deutschen in der Dobrudscha.  Thirty-one additional colonies have beed added to the online maps and two duplicates removed.  The new colonies are as follows: Arabagi, Babadag, Basarabi, Bogdah, Carabalar, Carmen Sylva, Casian, Cerchezul, Cernavodă, Cotu Văii, Durasi, General Scărişoreanu, Gherzalar, Hasarlac, Ilanlac, Isaccea, Māgura, Malinova, Medgidia, Mereni, Negru Vodă, Nuntaşi, Osmancea, Ovidiu, Poreaz, Rogojina, Saida, Spasova, Tărguşor, Topraisar, Vâlcelele, Viroaga, Zorile.

Galizien Parishes
In Galizien, there are a few parish and/or religion updates for the following colonies: Alzen, Bielitz, Brzezany, Deutsch-Lednica*, Majkowice, Maleniska, Sokolowka, Stare Siolo, Trynitatis, Wilmesau.

*This one is unusual in that it belonged to one parish, but it was closer to another.  People often went there instead for baptisms, etc.

You may have noticed that parishes are beginning to be identified with a letter after them in parenthesis: C, M, P, RC, etc. They stand for Catholic (RC = Roman Catholic in places where Greek and Roman Catholic parishes existed), Mennonite, Protestant, etc. In colonies where there were more than one religion (not as uncommon as one would think), there were parishes for each. This data began to be captured back with Bukovina in May of 2017 and has been included with any data clean up and all new locations since. The largest confession for a colony is noted with an asterisk (*).

The following maps have been updated:


01 January 2018

Homestead Act of 1862

"On January 1, 1863, Daniel Freeman, a Union Army scout, was scheduled to leave Gage County, Nebraska Territory, to report for duty in St. Louis. At a New Year's Eve party the night before, Freeman met some local Land Office officials and convinced a clerk to open the office shortly after midnight in order to file a land claim. In doing so, Freeman became one of the first to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Homestead Act, a law signed by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862." 
                                                    – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

On 1 January 1874, 11 years after the Homestead Act in the United States went into effect, Russia enacted mandatory military service, the beginning of the rollback of the privileges granted to German colonists living in Russia, as was decreed by Tsar Alexander II 4 June 1871.  This caused  a surge of emigration to the United States where there was land...lots of it.

The Homestead Act ran between 1863 and 1986, ending with Alaska having the final homesteads granted. Ironically, Alaska was a territory that Russia sold to the United States in 1867, and it became subject to homesteading under the Act.  Over the course of 123 years, the government distributed more than 270 million acres of public land to homesteaders in 30 territories and states.  An accounting of state by state number of homesteads and acreage show the impact of this Act in the history of U.S. westward expansion.

Map of current states (in brown) that held public domain land and were subject to the Homestead Act of 1862. 
Source: National Park Service Homestead National Monument of America

You can read the articles of the Act here, or view the original document signed by President Abraham Lincoln here.  A complicated law to understand, many newspapers and magazines ran stories explaining the finer points of new law both before and long after it went into effect.  Below is a version called the "Rules for Homesteading" that ran in the North Dakota Magazine circa. 1906, republished by The Bismarck Tribune, and preserved by the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection:

  1. No person who is the owner of more than 160 acres of land in any state or territory can acquire any right under the homestead law. 
  2. A man has to be twenty-one years of age to make an entry, unless he is married or the head of a family. 
  3. A married woman has no right to make a homestead entry.   
  4. Commemorative U.S. stamp issued in
    1962 on the100th anniversary of the
    Homestead Act.
    Source: Digital Horizons

  5. A deserted wife can make a homestead entry. 
  6. A single woman over the age of twenty-one years has the right to make a homestead entry. 
  7. A single woman does not forfeit her homestead entry by marriage if thereafter she continues to comply with the law as to residence, improvements and cultivation.   But a husband and wife cannot both hold separate homestead entries and prove up on both. 
  8. The widow or children of a homesteader are not required to reside on their homestead after his death, but must continue cultivation by agent or otherwise.  The widow can enter a homestead in her own right while cultivating that of her husband, in which event she must actually reside on the land entered in her own name. 
  9. Homestead entries cannot be made for more than 160 acres of land. 
  10. Five years' residence from date of entry is required on homesteads for perfecting the title, except that sailors or soldiers of the late war may apply, as time of residence, the period of their military service; but in all cases there must not be less than one year's actual residence on, and improvement of, the land. 
  11. After fourteen months' residence on a homestead the entry may be commuted, if desired, by paying $2.50 per acre, if within the Northern Pacific Railway land grant, 40 miles each side of the center of said railway track, or $1.25 per acre, if outside of said limit, and the government will then give patent. 
  12. Any person who entered less than 160 acres of land as a homestead before March 2, 1889, may 
    Commemorative U.S. quarter dollar
    issued in 2015 celebrating the
    Homestead Act.
    Source: National Park Quarters
    now enter enough additional land which, added to the amount originally entered, will not exceed 160 acres. 
  13. A person who has not perfected title to a homestead entry, which he made prior to June 5, 1900, may make a new homestead entry of 160 acres, regardless of his previous filing. 
  14. Any person who, prior to June 5, 1900, commuted a homestead entry, may now take another homestead, but must reside on it five years.  He cannot commute an entry again. 
  15. It is necessary to appear in person when making an entry of homestead lands. 
  16. Land office fees, when application is made for homestead entry, are as follows: $14 for 160 acres; $13 for 120 acres; $7 for 80 acres; $6 for 40 acres.  If within the railroad land grant limit, $18 for 160 acre; $16 for 120 acres; $9 for 80 acres; $7 for 40 acres.

About 40%, or 1.6 million homesteaders, met all the requirements and proved improvements to the land and received the final patent, or ownership papers, on their claims.  And there is an estimated 93 million descendants of those homesteaders, present company humbly included.

Homestead application of the author's maternal great-great-grandfather, Ludwig Erck of Straßburg, Odessa, Russia. 
Source: National Archives and Records Administration

Homestead application of the author's paternal great-grandfather, Johann Schilling of Glückstal, Odessa, Russia.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration

For more historical and current events related to Germans from Russia, see our calendar page or link to our public Google calendar.

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Happy New Year!

I want to take a moment before 2018 gets underway to express my gratitude, my personal and heartfelt thank you to all those who have made contributions to this project, large and small.  To those who supported it, followed its progress, and enthusiastically encouraged its continuation, my deepest appreciation for your kind words.

This site and in the Google maps associated with this site is a result of thousands of hours of research, calculations, validation, writing, editing, and a lot of that good old German determination.  Now, subsets of the data are beginning to be used in all sorts of ways that go beyond genealogical research.  This means your contributions – be it a link to an article, the family story you shared with me while we searched for your village, a correction to something published, an alternate village name or spelling, or a location of a village or group of villages – have added value to not only to this project but also to future projects and analysis of the data.  It's gratifying to see it begin to mature in such a short time.

So thank you all!  Couldn't have done it without you.

May the New Year bring you peace and happiness.