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"(archived link).  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.