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. Molotschna 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.

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