18 May 2018

Map Refresh: Black Sea and Volhynia

This set of map refreshes include a lot of cleanup and standardization updates, but they also include the first set of updates to villages included in the German Captured Document Collection, including a few new villages.  Eighty villages now have sources that link back to those documents with some additions to their founding dates and religions, including more Jewish. Some are full village files, but others are a part of summaries.  The source link will take you to the first image of the section with the information about the village.  However, there may be other pages elsewhere in the films with more information.  It would probably be a good idea to check the working spreadsheet for more. 

The 80 villages include those in Beresan, Chortitza, Early Black Sea, Jewish Ag, Kherson, Kronau,  Yekaterinoslav, Zagradovka and Volhynia.

Easy way to find these?  Go to any of the maps that were updated below and click on the search icon at the top left of the map (the little magnifying glass).  Search for the phrase "German Captured Documents."


Maps updated:
Black Sea Area Colonies
Volhynia Area Colonies
Germans from Russia Settlement Locations


17 May 2018

German Captured Documents Collection

There is nothing like working with a primary source.

A primary source is the original of something, be it an object, a photograph, a document, a firsthand account of an event, object, person, or work of art, presented without comment, explanation, or interpretation. Primary sources include historical documents,  legal documents, letters, eyewitness accounts, interviews, maps, fieldwork, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings and art objects. Modern-day primary sources also include emails, blogs, tweets, YouTube videos, posts to social media that get dated and archived instantaneously.  

Digitally captured, nothing ever really goes away on the internet. Physical primary sources are a different story. Digitization efforts of these sources as a part of their overall preservation plan enables them to be made available for anyone to use from anywhere.  This is important.  Support the efforts of your local libraries, historical societies and archives.

In March of this year, I started looking for Karl Stumpp's village files he compiled in Nazi-occupied Soviet Ukraine from 1942 through early 1943 as a part of the newly created Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete), or RMO, headed by Alfred Rosenburg. I had seen many second and third-hand references to these documents in books, scholarly papers, even on the Odessa Digital Library. There were lists of names, dates and places.  In each case, their contents were delicately described, coupled with commentary about their origins so as not to terribly upset an audience of eager genealogists learning, perhaps for the first time, that their ancestors' names may have appeared in Nazi German documents.

I wanted to see the originals to find out what else was in them.

Maybe it was luck, or maybe my timing and interest coincided at just the right moment, but I found microfilms of the original documents online. In 1983, the Library of Congress' Manuscript Division microfilmed the collection, "German Captured Documents Collection, Reports from Ethnic German Communities in Ukraine 1940-44,and at some point (not sure when) FamilySearch made all but one film available online. The last film may still be in the process of being digitized. According to WorldCat, it is the only online repository of these documents. Remarkably lucky, I am. 

Skimming through the films the comfort of my own home (and backyard), to my surprise, I saw maps. And not just a few. I dropped everything and began indexing the films so that I could easily get back to certain sections and began downloading and piecing together the maps. These were early versions of the villages and areas that would become part of Stumpp's legacy as a German Russian genealogist, ethnographer and cartographer.  His maps are among the sources used in the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project.  Being able to see how they originated before they were re-drawn post-WWII (sans Nazi Party symbolism) and became the copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy of a map you can buy and hope isn't too distorted from all the copying... well, you can see how this would matter a great deal to a project like this.

Map of the colonies in the Kronau-Orloff (Zagradovka) area, June 1942. 

While I'm certainly not the first to peruse or index these documents, my focus is on places and not persons. Person indexes have been dealt with by multiple groups long before me, and they are readily available for free on Odessa Digital Library and within the genealogy databases for members of AHSGR and GRHS, and likely other places, too. 
Map of the location of Friedensfeld and distances
to nearby colonies.  26 August 1942

As for places, there are officially 99 villages that have relatively complete reports, including plat maps and area maps showing distances to other nearby villages.  But there are in the neighborhood of 300 of villages mentioned in the documents.  There are many Streudeutsche (stray or scattered Germans) entries made for Germans who didn't live in a village, or lived in a non-German village. Russian cities were included if they had a German population. One of Stumpp's missions was to record all ethnic Germans living in areas in Soviet Ukraine, so the non-German villages were recorded. His interest was purportedly genealogical.  The stated mission of the RMO was something different – more along the lines of liberating Germans from the Soviets – and reality, it was something entirely different.  Some has been written about how Stumpp's project for the RMO inadvertently documenting the elimination of Jews across Ukraine by the German SS. See the bottom of this post for some reading material on this subject. 

Stumpp had two clerical offices of operation: Dnjepropetrowsk (Dnipro) on the Dnieper River and Shitomir (Zhytomyr) in the southeastern part of Volhynia. Work done in the first several months of 1942 was fairly complete. They even used standard printed forms to complete, and some of it was even typewritten.  Later, the work became more hasty, particularly when they were forced to retreat entirely into Volhynia. The villages there are mostly tabulations and not the standard forms they were using earlier. 

Over the course of the next few months, I'll be posting about the villages and including the maps. Until then, I'm making my working spreadsheet publicly available so that anyone who wants to view their village's information before I get to it will have a much easier time finding it.  There are three tabs along the top of the sheet: About the films, Village index and Maps.  The first two have links to the films and to the villages on the Google maps.  Eventually, the Maps tab will have links to the cleaned up and captioned versions of every map in the films. For now, there's a list of those that are awaiting captioning. 

The areas included in the village files are the following: Kronau, Zagradovka, Chortiza, Early Black Sea, Kherson, Jewish Ag Colonies, Yekaterinoslav, plus two areas in Volhynia: Korosten and Shitomir.  Not every village in these areas is included. Click on the map link for a village to make sure that it is actually your village. Remember, many villages in different areas had the same names.  

To view the films, you will need to have a FamilySearch account, but it's free and pretty innocuous. I don't like to include any sources that require anyone to have to have an account or membership (Facebook, memberships to genealogy societies, premium online services, etc.), but this being a repository of the material which has no cost and has no advertising, an exception was made.

While I am taking time to piece the maps together like puzzles (some have a dozen or more pieces to them), straightening them, fixing the exposure and indicating north if it wasn't included, one thing I am not doing historically sanitizing the map images. Nearly every page is rubber stamped with SS image of an eagle indicating the project name and the command. Some of the area maps include drawings of of iron crosses or swastikas indicating which were villages were German. These are a part of the historical record of the primary source, so none of these are being removed.  

I'm working back and forth between indexing, linking and updating the master data files for the online maps and stitching maps together. The former I can do from anywhere (mostly from my backyard, or in front of the TV binging on Better Call Saul or watching IndyCar races). The latter has me sitting at a desk with huge monitor.  

Again, this is my working document.  Subject to change, it's arranged based on what I need in order to pull pieces of data  from the films for this project and is not intended to provide all of the information or nuances of the materials contained within the films.  This is a fairly large undertaking, but I think it's worth the effort, not only to validate the data that's already presented in this project, but also being able to attach a primary source directly to the villages.  Already, there are numerous updates and additions that will be posted soon on the maps. 

Learn More:


12 May 2018

Our Story

"Forget not the place where your cradle stood, 
for you will never have another homeland." 
– German proverb

Finding your German village of origin is a goal most of us have. Knowing the the location of where our German ancestors lived opens up research possibilities that could take us back generations to where our cradles stood.

But for many people all over the world descended from Germans from Russia, our story isn’t a direct line from a place in Germany to the place where we stand today. There may be a century or more of family history and movement from place to place within the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, all areas where German people settled and resettled between 1763 and the years leading up to World War II. By some counts, anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 ethnic German colonies were established in the Russian Empire alone. And the area where these villages were located was vast. It includes modern-day, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

This project's goal is to locate every German village in Russia and pin them on Google My Maps to make it easier to find the places, the stories, and the people whose mass immigration and colonization changed history.

Follow this project by email, Twitter and Facebook.


07 May 2018

GRHC 22nd Journey to the Homeland Tour

It's that time of year again when Michael Miller and Jeremy Kopp of the North Dakota State University Libraries' Germans from Russia Heritage Collection in Fargo, North Dakota, travel to Odessa, Ukraine with a group who will set foot in the villages of their German ancestors in the Black Sea.

This year's trip marks the 22nd anniversary of the tour and will take place May 16-26.  You can read more about this year's tour in April edition of In Touch with Prairie Living and about upcoming tours.

The group will visit villages in Bessarabia, Kutschurgan, Liebental and Beresan.  They are all included on the special map below, which also has photos of historic maps of each of the villages.  As photos of the tour become available to the public, they will be linked to on the map.

Here's wishing the sojourners a safe journey as they connect their past with their present in their ancestral homeland.  May it be the experience of a lifetime.


05 May 2018

Full Data Now Available

Dennis Bender along with the help of Otto Riehl have set up new site where you can obtain the full set of data that was used as the initial basis for the maps of the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project.  For those who have been looking for a long list of villages with coordinates and all of the other village data, this is site for you!

The new site is called Germans from Russia and Eastern Europe Settlement Locations, and it contains links to spreadsheets of the data organized by colony group, similar to what you see on the maps on this site.

Always very generous with his research, Dennis continues to invite people to use the data in new and interesting ways. Please take some time to look at his site, share it with other researchers, and link to it on your own site.


01 May 2018

April Update

Although my lack of posts in April may outwardly indicate that I've taken a month off, behind the scenes there has been a lot happening.  Here's a quick rundown of what's in progress.


Three known German settlements in the Astrakhan province have been added to the map: Sarepta and Tsaritsyn along the lower Volga river and Astrakhan at the Volga delta. Germans moved into these areas as early as 1763 making them among the very first Germans to arrive in Russia, almost immediately after Catherine the Great's invitation.

Clean up

There is ongoing clean up and standardization of data.  Bessarabia's data has been cleaned up a bit: a few misspellings, additions of names from the 1938 Volkskalendar and parish/religious designations and is ready to be posted.  Some of the data had shifted in the Kronau colonies, and that's been corrected.  A couple minor updates an additions to Volhynia, too.

Russian Cities

Investigation into Russian cities with German populations has been started.  There have been a few inquiries about this over the past months, enough to look into the subject a little deeper and address it.

Full List of Colonies

Another request has been to provide a full list of colonies.  I get it.  Sometimes a German just needs a list.  The prototype is looking good but will look better once more the data has been cleaned up. It will be linked to the live data that creates the maps, so the information will always be in synch.  No more keeping track of multiple versions of PDF files.  Bonus: once this is set up, it will be no extra work for me. Better to do all the work on the front end than do it over and over and over again.


The German genealogy organization Verein für Computergenealogie has within its information dense site a historical gazetteer called GOV. Otto Riehl of Germany has been working on creating entries for Bessarabia in GOV using location data from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project.  Just enter a village name, and you'll be presented with a list of places with that name that span the globe in some cases.  As you drill down, you'll find local government information about the place.  We're happy to be a small part of such a huge undertaking and thank Otto for his work on the project.

Maps from the Captured German Documents

After some effort, I located a online copy of the microfilms of the village files that were created by Karl Stumpp for the German SS between 1942 and early 1943 under the direction of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.  Within these files are maps of villages and sketches of the areas he and his command visited during World War II.  These were the early versions and notes that became the maps we know as the Stumpp maps of German colonies in Russia.  Obviously, this was of great interest to me, so I've been indexing the films from a location perspective and stitching together the maps, many of which were photographed/microfilmed in several pieces.  All the maps will be made available with links to the original source and the current location.  So far, I have 59 maps and am about a third of the way through.

So...that's what's been keeping me busy as of late.  I've been nose down in data recently, but I promise I will come up for air and get back to posting more this month.