21 January 2020

Survey Summary

On May 1st of last year, I launched a crowdsourced survey in order to fill in some blanks of the history of where immigrant Germans from Russia and their subsequent generations settled* in the United States. While there had been some previous research on this topic, it was nearly 50 years old and focused on the immigrant and first generation descendants from the Volga and Black Sea. Little substantial research had been done since to expand beyond those two well-known areas, or to continue the story to the present day.

I had questions. 

The survey was not scientific by any stretch of the imagination. It was completely opened ended, which allowed anyone who responded to answer with as much or as little information as they wanted to share using any language or terms they were comfortable with. There were no mandatory fields that had to be filled out in order to submit a response. Participation was entirely voluntary and could be completely anonymous. 

The survey was sent out in to the wild (social media) for genealogists discover and do what they do best: talk about their families. 

Last Friday afternoon, I finished the initial summary of the location data by generation. My husband came into my office intending to ask what my thoughts were on supper**. Instead, I held up a Post-It note and began to summarize the survey results for him. Below are some of the points I made along with a few other observations. 

Keep in mind that what is below is only what was reported in this survey by people who voluntarily responded. It does not include any information from other published maps and sources that are being used for the larger map project. It is one brand new source and should not be considered the ultimate source. 

*Did we ever really settle? There are those who stay and those who wander. I could wax poetic on this – and will at some point – but I do have a map to make. 

**Tamales (homemade, leftover from Christmas), rice and beans. 

• • •
  • There were 604 responses to the survey.
  • These responses resulted in 8,193 lines of unique data by generation and location. 
  • 1,944 unique places were reported in the survey to have had immigrant or descendants of Germans from Russia residents.
  • Roughly 1% of the places reported no longer exist. 
  • Places in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and the territory of Guam were reported.
  • The years reported were from 1872 through 2019. 
  • They came from areas across Russia (from modern-day Lithuania to Siberia), including Congress (Russian) Poland, Volhynia, Dobrudscha, Bessarabia, the Black Sea, the Don, the Caucasus, Volga and Asiatic Russia.   
  • Religions reported for the immigrant generations were Catholic, Jewish, Mennonite and several denominations of Protestant. If a religion wasn't reported, the known religion of the colony reported was not assumed. There were some surprises on that front. 
  • The earliest immigration year reported was 1872. The German immigrant came from Torun in Russian-occupied Congress Poland near the Vistula settlements and settled in Watertown, Wisconsin.
  • The latest arrivals reported were both in 1957. Both came from places in the Volga (Frank and Saratov). One settled in Lincoln, Nebraska and the other in Chicago, Illinois. Both immigrated through Germany to the U.S.
  • There were several reports of immigration to the U.S. through other countries including Argentina, China and Germany/East Prussia/Weimar Republic.
  • Some reported being in the U.S. a short time before they moved on to Canada.
  • Some immigrant Germans from Russia settled in one place, and their five subsequent generations have all lived in the same place.  Still do. 
  • Some immigrant Germans from Russia moved to several places. Over a dozen places were reported for one immigrant who was a migrant farmer. 
  • The state that had the most places reported was California
  • The states that had the least number of places reported were Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. (Frankly, I'm just glad they finally showed up to the party. I thought for a while we might need to send scouts to those states. ) 

The table below shows the number of places reported for each state, the earliest year Germans from Russia inhabited each state and the place where they settled. Less than half of the responses included dates, so some years are later than what are reported in other sources.

StateNumber of places reportedEarliest reported yearEarliest reported place
Connecticut 121890Waterbury
District of Columbia11983Washington
Guam11991Naval Base Guam
Idaho341905American Falls
Illinois911874Brush Prairie (Akin)
Louisiana51968New Orleans
Massachusetts 91913Boston
Michigan 721890Detroit
Minnesota621875Mountain Lake
New Hampshire41977Hanover
New Jersey171899Oradell (was Delford)
New Mexico 161915Santa Fe
New York121890Buffalo
North Carolina131969Hendersonville
North Dakota1661874Freeman
Pennsylvania 211907Philadelphia
Rhode Island11974Warwick
South Carolina81972Summerville
South Dakota961873Tyndall
Tennessee151962La Vergne
Utah191892Salt Lake City
West Virginia11999Walnut Hill

My next steps include line editing, incorporating this data into the master list of places that will populate the map of Germans from Russia Settlements in America. I also have a running list of updates and places to add to the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map that were reported in the survey. 

You can read more about the project at https://america.germansfromrussiasettlementlocations.org/