24 October 2019

Family Story Map: Schnaidt Familienreisen

Dakota Territory 1872 from the map Schnaidt Familienreisen.

Earlier this summer, Tom Schnaidt contacted me about finding some old maps. He wanted to put together a map showing his Schnaidt family’s journey from their German ancestral villages in Württemberg, to their ancestral villages in South Russia, and finally to the town in the Dakota Territory that his ancestors would help found. I mentioned several possible maps from different time periods, but no one map had everything he wanted on it.

I offered to make him a custom map using Google My Maps if he would allow me to use his research and my experience putting together his map to write a tutorial. I've been wanting to write something like this for some time to encourage more people to tell their own family stories on maps. He agreed.


A section from Karl Stumpp's map "Countries of Origin, Migration Routes and Areas of Settlement (1763-1861) of the Volga and Black Sea Germans in the Mother Colonies" (ASHGR map #5) with blue stars indicating points along the migration paths that the Schnaidt-Wanner family may have crossed on their journey from Württemberg to Russia in 1805. 

The research for the map is entirely Tom's. It started with one page of information and a rough timeline. Together we worked through how it would look, what to include, and what would be better served on his Schnaidt Family Journey website. In addition to names, places, and events, there are several travel routes noted. The routes shown were taken from both modern and historic maps and follow overland roads, riverboat routes on the Danube River, railroad lines from Russia to Germany and from New York City to Yankton through Sandusky, Ohio. It also includes travel by ship over the Atlantic Ocean to Castle Garden in New York’s Battery Park.

The resulting map is a visual story of the Schnaidt family's 200+ years of migration to three countries. Originating in Unterjesingen near Tübingen in the Kingdom of Württemberg, the family is documented in this location back to 1558. In 1805, the family immigrated to the Glückstal colonies in South Russia where they were among the very early German arrivals in the Black Sea area. In 1873, they left Russia for America. Destination: Dakota Territory. Again, they were among the very first Germans from Russia to arrive in America and in the Dakotas. The Schnaidt family would initially settle among the historic townships in what would eventually become southeastern South Dakota and would go on to help settle the town of Menno and establish long-running businesses there.

Red lines: The possible early 1805 immigration route to Russia. Orange lines: The possible late 1805 immigration route To Russia. Yellow lines: The railroad line from Odessa to Hamburg. 

I think Tom’s map is a great example of how to visualize one family’s migration history, and it will serve as a good example for my forthcoming tutorial on how to make Google Maps that are more than a collection of places.

Interesting note: When we started out, I was pleased to be working on a family history I knew little about because there wouldn’t be anything personal about the data that would skew how I approached mapping it. It was just data. But as we got into the project and started talking more, I suspected Tom and I were related. At one point, I filled in the gaps of my family tree back to my Schnaidt 5th great-grandparents only to find out that the names in my tree were on the map that I was making for Tom. So, there you go.

My thanks go out to Tom for patiently waiting for my schedule to free up to work with him on this and for providing more than enough information to make a pretty awesome map.

If you have any questions or are descended from the Schnaidt family from Kassel in the Glückstal district and want to know more, you can contact him through his website, The Schnaidt Family Journey.


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