23 March 2020

Progress Report: Germans from Russia in America

Work continues on the Germans from Russia settlements in the U.S. The lower 48 are beginning to fill in nicely as you can see from the snapshot of the test map above.

Working from West to East, the last two full weeks have been on the largest division, the Midwest: West North Central states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.  A large number of places reported here were historical post offices, churches, cemeteries, schools and settlements that no longer exist. Fortunately, I had collected numerous sources over the past year to help out with what I knew was coming in this particular area. The last two weeks have included a fair amount of time converting legal land descriptions into coordinates and back again to find and confirm locations in township maps. While rural post offices were not marked on these maps (they came and went sometimes very quickly), churches, cemeteries and schools were. So I was working with a lot of tiny clues like the ones below.

The most challenging so far were the early Black Sea settlements (1872-73) in southeastern Dakota Territory (South Dakota today). For some reason, I thought these would be easy. A few were, but others all I had was a description of where it was from somewhere else. I ended up making a matrix of all the data known for each place to look at it all together as one unit. The bits of information spanned from 1879 to 2020, from maps of early Dakota postal routes, to county maps, to newspaper articles, to township maps, to Find a Grave. I'll write about the whole experience of finding them soon and share all the bits.

Currently, I'm recording the Hutterite colonies before I forget them. Bon Homme Colony (1874) was the first Hutterite colony in the Americas. There are about 130 Hutterite colonies in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington, with many more in Canada (that's another map).

Here's the rough schedule going forward:

  • Midwest: East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin)
  • South: West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas)
  • South: East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee)
  • South: South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
  • Northeast: Mid-Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania)
  • Northeast: New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont)

For anyone interested in daily updates, finds and random thoughts, you can follow along on Twitter, https://twitter.com/grsl1763.