21 January 2019

January Update

Happy New Year!

I'm a little late getting an update out this year, so let's get caught up first, and then I'll go into what's on the horizon.

Map Updates

In December, there were minor updates to a few colonies on the maps where alternate names were added, origins of settlers, spelling fixes. You can view the list of changes on the Change History page.

The location of the Volhynia colony of Jadwinowka was updated based on the research of Judith Silverthorn. With assistance from Dr. Frank Stewner and Dennis Bender, they were able to set the maps aside, narrow it down and confirm the location using church records. With earlier help from historian Hans Christian Heinz, she also provided a location update of Mitnica. 

Stan Schwafel has kindly been updating me on locations in Siberia and Central Asia to which his Volga relatives were deported and where they lived afterward before returning to Germany. Three colonies were added based on information from his newly-found relatives in Germany: Saimka, Novoyarkovo and Kozhevnikovo.

The Volhynia colony of Stolpec (Stolpeckoje, Stolpezkaia Kolonie) was located and added at the request of Viktor Haupt. Looking for his grandfather's birth place, he provided enough information to figure out what else it was called and where it was using Frank's Volhynia Gazetteer from Society for German Genealogy in Easter Europe (SGGEE). It was then confirmed on Karl Stumpp's Map of the German Settlements in Ukrainian Volhynia.

Much thanks to Judith, Stan and Viktor for their contributions. Every piece of information adds to the narrative of our geographical history, and I'm grateful to anyone who wants contribute to this project.

New Map: Vistula Colonies

The first draft of the Vistula Colonies was added to the main map in mid-December. There had been several requests for colonies in that area. The locations have been out there for some time, but for ease of use I went ahead and added the colony group to my maps. The data was updated again in January.  

The map that this data was drawn from was created by historian Albert Breyer in 1935. He was one of the only local historians who focused his research on ethnic Germans in central Poland. While traveling through Poland, Breyer noticed patterns and connections between the geography and the ethnic Germans living there. In his work, he noted the patterns were explained by different waves of settlement from different areas in Germany to central Poland for different reasons. The story of the Vistula Germans, who settled in central Poland along the river by the same name, dates back to the first wave of settlers in 1600.

Poland was called the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth officially in 1569, but it was the de facto state when the Polish and Lithuanian kingdoms united in with the marriage of Polish queen Hedwig and Lithuania's Grand Duke Jogaila in 1386. At its largest in terms of land, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth included all of what we know today as Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, most of Poland and Ukraine, small portions of Moldova, Romania, the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia on the Baltic Sea (between Poland and Lithuania) and the western-most part of Russia bordering Estonia, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine.  

Between 1768 and 1771, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was a protectorate of the Russian Empire, meaning it was controlled and protected by the Russian Empire while retaining its own monarch. The Partitions of Poland occurred between 1772 and 1795. During this time, the empires of Austria, Prussia and Russia carved out pieces of Poland for their own empires, and, in the end, brought about the end of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, wiping Poland itself off of the map. But that was not the end of the border changes for this area. The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) continued to redraw borders, in particular Napoleon's declaration of the Duchy of Warsaw, a client state of France. During Napoleon's occupation, some Germans decided to leave and go to Bessarabia and the Black Sea areas, and others to Volhynia. Volhynia's earliest German settlements were in 1873. The Black Sea was opened for settlement in 1804 with Bessarabia being acquired in 1812 and opened for settlement in 1813. I've heard the Vistula colonies referred to as "the old colonies" by some Germans from Russia with Bessarabian roots. 

The occupation was short-lived, 1807-1815, and at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Duchy of Warsaw was again divided. The portion that went to Russia was officially called the Kingdom of Poland but is referred to as Congress Poland (and sometimes Russian Poland) to differentiate it from other Kingdoms of Poland in the past. Sometimes called a client state or "personal union," the two shared a monarch – this would've been Tsar Alexander I, the one we know best as opening up the Black Sea area for settlement – but they retained distinct laws, boundaries and interests. By 1867, Congress Poland officially became a part of the Russian Empire. Poland as an independent country wouldn't return to the map until 1918. 

The location information for the colonies in this colony group came from the Germans from Russia and Eastern Europe Settlement Locations, Dennis Bender's site. The sources used include the SGGEE sections of the Breyer map, and SGGEE and Jerry Frank's Russian (Poland) Congress Gazetteer. A scan of the original full Breyer map is available here. 

The data that I included on my map has had some assumptions removed from the original data to more accurately account for the historical complexity and the shifting borders in this area. Of note, on my map the country at founding is "unknown" for all but a few dozen colonies where founding dates were specifically mentioned in Breyer's work. As more information is found, these will be adjusted accordingly.

In Progress

These are the map projects that are currently in progress. These along with more articles about Germans from Russia colonies and history will more or less set the course of the project for the coming year. 

German Colonies in and Around Poltava, Ukraine

The province of Poltava in Ukraine is not mentioned very often in Germans from Russia history, but there were German colonies within the city itself and elsewhere in the province. The story of how and why they went there is unique from other areas. There is no historical map that notes where the colonies were, and they were only in the periphery vision of Karl Stumpp's work. He mentions the area, but his focus was on the larger populations. However, local historians have researched and documented ethnic Germans and their contributions to this region, one of whom has been kind enough to share her research with me about the city itself. I also dug through several Germans from Russia and Eastern European genealogical and historical society journals, work papers, newsletters, websites, etc. to find any references in articles to Poltava and compiled a list of locations mentioned. These colonies will be added to the map in the coming weeks.

Germans from Russia Settlements in the United States

Inspired by a New York Times special article, I wrote a post called "They Make You Think Big Thoughts..." last October about an interactive map of building outlines the United States reminded me of a map of Germans from Russia settlements in the U.S. Almost immediately, I decided to start sourcing data for a new map that pinpoints where Germans from Russia settled in the U.S.  If you're of Volga decent, you may immediately think Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado. If you're a Black Sea German, you may think Dakotas, Iowa, Montana, Washington. But how about New Mexico? Arizona? Texas? Louisiana? Pennsylvania? Florida? Michigan? Like with the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map, you may end up being surprised at how far and wide our immigrant ancestors spread across the U.S. Maps, books of place names and indexes of letters to the editor that were published in American German language newspapers make up the bulk of the sources that are being used initially for this map. The hope with this project is to bring more immediate context to those who's ancestors immigrated to the United States. The new map will be released in installments over the next several months.

More Siberia

There is one final Stumpp map to run through this year: "The Former and Today's ("today" = circa 1962) German Settlements in the Soviet Union." This map has a lot of overlap with other maps, but some locations are new...and pretty far north. Should be fun to do when temperatures start to hit 100 in southern Arizona.

Historical Photo Collections

Adding photos to the maps has always been something on my to do list. It has nothing to do with maps, but everyone likes to see what the colonies looked like, especially from the time of our ancestors, but also what they look like today. Last year I noticed that with demise of Panoramio, the photo site that fed photos into Google Maps, many of the images that people had contributed that showed old German architecture in the ancestral villages were gone. I was kind of bummed and wished I had saved more of them, even though they were subject to copyright. So over the summer, I started collecting historical images of the colonies – churches, schools, street scenes, houses, cemeteries, wells, cellars, maps, etc. – and curating them in Google Photo albums. It was one way I could assure myself that the images wouldn't just disappear if a website I link to goes dark. At this point, nearly all come from public domain sources made available in digital archives from libraries all over the world. A smaller number come from printed materials that I personally own. I am attempting to geotag, caption, date and source the images, all of which I feel are important research and documentation procedures, and all of which are too often overlooked in the excitement of finding an old image and sharing it all over the internet. In time, these collections will be attached to each colony on the map. Not sure that Google Photos will be their final destination, but it's where I'm storing them now.

About this Project: Going Forward

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project started almost three years ago, founded by myself and Dennis Bender. Dennis has since moved on and started his own site. I'm grateful for his contributions to this project and also grateful that he continues to make his work freely available for anyone to use.

This project has grown into something much larger than its original goal: map the locations of every German settlement in Russia from Catherine the Great to WWII on modern, searchable maps. It has turned into a means by which to educate, enlighten, provide context, start conversations, remind us of exactly where we came from, how we got here, and that history didn't end when our ancestors left Russia. For many, our families have been in North and South America for longer than our ancestors were in Russia. We are well on our way to becoming someone else's ancestors, so it's on us to not only to keep the stories of the past alive but also to record our own stories. For the younger generations, you may be third, fourth, fifth-generation in whatever country you reside, but you're still a descendant of Germans from Russia. What you have to say is important. Your story matters just as much as all those who came before you.

This project is a work in progress, a living document and has always been a labor of love. I consider the work paying it forward. The project is entirely self-funded, accepts no contributions, advertising or sponsorship, and I receive no compensation for this work. I write about what I find interesting. I hope you find it interesting, too.

Onward 2019.