06 July 2021

Welcome back, Niu-York!

Earlier this year, I posted about an article about how the  town of Novhorodske in eastern Ukraine was trying to restore its name back to its original name: New Yorkthe name of the settlement given to it when German Mennonites purchased the land and formed the Ignatyevo Colony in 1892.

The votes were in favor of the change, and on 1 July 2021, the name was officially changed from the 1950s Soviet-era Novhorodske to Niu-York. A few days ago, the change started showing up on maps, Google Maps and OpenStreetMaps being the first. It hasn't cascaded through all the online maps and names databases yet, but in time it will.

Today, as a keeper of then and now, I updated the Germans from Russia Settlement Location maps to reflect the change and restored the record of a little bit of German history in town far away.

Below are several articles and YouTube videos about the New York, its history, and current challenges.

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16 June 2021

16 June 1871—Tsar Alexander II Revokes German Colonists' Privileges

“Until 1871, an upward movement in all areas of life among German-Russians was to be noted. There was a growth of prosperity which found its expression in the acquisition of land; the cultural condition also improved (well developed school system, cultural associations). But it was precisely this progress that became a thorn in the eye of panslavic circles. A movement arose which opposed the further expansion of the Germans in Russia. The German minority was regarded as a foreign factor of a cultural and economic kind within the national body politic, and this, it was felt, had to be opposed. On June 4, 1871, these circles succeeded in bringing about the abrogation of the Codex of the Colonists that had assured them certain important rights at the time of settlement. Thereby the era of self-administration came to and end, and the colonists were made subject to the Russian Ministry of the Interior.”
                                          Karl Stumpp
                                          The German-Russians: Two Centuries of Pioneering (1967)

Things were going well up until they weren’t.

After the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861, the zemstvo system of local self-government was put into place in 1864. It applied to all villages in Russia except the German colonies.  The German colonies continued to self-govern under something called the Codex of the Colonists written in 1842.  Based on the promises granted in Catherine the Great’s manifesto of 1763  and Tsar Alexander I's manifesto in 1804, his was a set of Russian laws that pertained to the rights, responsibilities and privileges of German colonists living in the Russian Empire, which by then also encompassed the Black Sea/South Russia area.

On 16 June 1871 (4 June on the Julian calendar), Tsar Alexander II, revoked the Codex of the Colonists.  This act by Alexander II was the beginning of the undoing of the work of his of his great-great-grandmother, Catherine the Great, and his grandfather, Alexander I. And it was the beginning of the end of German immigration to Russia.  Control over the local government in the German colonies was abolished and replaced with the same zemstvo system that was in place elsewhere in Russia. The Colonist Welfare Office was shut down because the Germans in Russia were all now subjects of Russia.

It didn’t end there. In 1872, Tsar Alexander I issued a ukase (an edict) ending the German colonists
 freedom from military service beginning in 10 years. Service in the Russian army at that time was for a period 25 years for draftees. Rarely did they come home the men they were when they left, if they came home at all. After discussion, re-evaluating and “modernizing” military service, in January of 1874, the Russian government announced a new military law that went into effect immediately that required that all medically fit male Russian subjects (including the Germans, now Russian subjects) to serve in the Russian army for six years when they reached the age of 20.

The Germans who immigrated to Russia had a tradition of antimilitarism. Their families had endured five generations of war beginning with with the Thirty Years
’ War in 1618. One of the promises made to them as colonists in Russia was that they were free from military conscription “forever.” The word “forever” was later re-defined to be 100 years. This did not settle well among the German colonists. They regarded this new development as a breach of faith in the promise that was made to them. As conscientious objectors, the German Mennonites who had fled Prussia to Russia to avoid conscription were particularly disturbed by this development. An exception was made, and they were allowed to perform their service by reforesting South Russia.

There was no registration for the draft. To compile a list of men of age, the Russian government turned to parish records. Germans were/are impeccable at keeping records, and churches were required to provide a list from baptismal records of men who were of age. If any had died on that list, proof and affidavits had to be provided of his death when his year came up. In addition to the names of the young men, the names of their fathers and younger brothers were also recorded for future drafts. 

When colonists were called up for service, it happened quickly. A document from the Odessa State Archives from 1885 lists Benedikt Schlosser, a resident of Baden in the Kutschurgan district, who was born on 1 January 1864, as eligible for military service. It also listed his younger brother, Rochus, age 12, and his father, Konrad. Benedikt received his military card “No 2738” on 25 October 1885. He was obligated to show up for duty at the conscription station in the village of Mannheim, no later than 8 a.m. on 16 November 1885.

Some German colonists sent their sons away before they could be drafted. According to a timeline in The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America, in 1885, the Glückstal colony of Kassel was “unable to produce any men for the military draft. Without exception, all of them had gone to America in the spring of that year.” Sending sons of age to America continued for years. Karl Martel left Kassel and arrived in the United States alone in 1903, at the age of 20, with $2.50 in his pocket. It was either immigrate or serve in the Russian military. 

In 1874, Germans across Russia began immediately looking for opportunities to move elsewhere. Emissaries were sent from colonies in Bessarabia to investigate migrating to nearby Dobrudscha, in what is now Bulgaria and Romania, and, at the time, a part of the Ottoman Empire. They found it a suitable place to move and left Russia to settle in both existing and newly founded villages. Others migrated to recently opened areas in Central Asia and Siberia, where, although still a part of Russia, there was plenty of land and the laws weren’t strictly enforced yet. The colony of Rosenfeld in the Caucasus, which had been established just a few years prior, tried to make the best of the situation and petitioned to govern themselves in 1879. 

But most enticing was the propaganda coming from North and South America where there was cheap or free land for the taking. A conference was called in the Catholic Volga colony of Herzog and in the Protestant Volga colony of Balzar to determine where would be best for Volga Germans to immigrate.

The decision was clear for some, and the response was swift. In the early spring of 1873, the city of Yankton, Dakota Territory became home to Black Sea Germans from Russia, the first of many. German Hutterites from Russia would follow soon after the next year and establish Bonn Homme Colony not far from Yankton, and Mennonites began settling in Kansas.

The events in the early 1870s along with the subsequent push of Russian nationalism and “Russification” of the Germans who lived there caused waves of both migration and emigration from Russia in the decades to come to countries in North and South America, and eventual pain and suffering for those who stayed through wars, resettlement, deportation, and worse.

 # # #

14 June 2021

The Kutschurgan Colonies 1908

"Views of the Selz Colony"
Top (L-R): Kutschurgan poorhouse, the interior of the Selz church, and the school in Selz.
Bottom: (L-R): Group celebrating the 100 year jubilee and the Selz parish church.

"Churches and school buildings in Kandel, Strassburg and Baden"
Top (L-R): Strassburg school, Strassburg church, and Baden school with part of the church.
Bottom (L-R): Kandel church, Kandel school, and the Baden church.

In 1908, the Kutschurgan colonies celebrated their 100th anniversary of founding. The following year, Deutscher Volkskalender für Stadt und Land : auf d. Jahr 1909 published an article about the colonies along with the images above.

For more about this celebration and other articles and photos, see The Founding of the Kutschurgan Colonies.


01 May 2021

2021 Conference Roundup

Real Picture Post Card (RPPC), circa 1910. 

Last year at this time, all in-person conferences and conventions had been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were some online presentations, but for the first half of the year, there was little German-Russian-specific webinar content available. It got better in September with the ASHGR Edmonton Chapter’s hit 3-day conference. This taught the groups that always thrived on in-person conferences this important lesson: if you build it, they will come. 

This year, nearly all of the big Germans from Russia and Eastern European conferences that normally occur in the U.S. in the summer have decided to hold virtual conferences. Only one is doing a “hybrid” model of hosting the majority of the conference on-site and in-person while offering a number of presentations virtually for those who cannot or do not want to travel or have close contact yet. It’s good to see everyone accepted a new normal. And it’s good to see no one is going dark this year. 

Below is a quick round up of what’s going on, when, and who’s hosting/presenting. The costs vary and are included in the registration link. Compare what’s being offered with what you’re researching to get the most for your money. For those groups who haven’t announced their line up yet, keep checking their website for updates and early-bird or member discounts. 

Here’s what’s been announced as of May 1, 2021, in the order of when the events occur. 

Dates:July 13-15, 2021
Host Organization:American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR)
Title:“Connections: Keeping Our German Russian Heritage Alive”
Presentation Schedule:To be announced
Registration Open?:Not yet
More information:https://www.ahsgr.org/page/Conventions
Perks:Everyone welcome. Discounts to members. AHSGR is the largest Germans from Russia genealogy and historical society in the U.S.
• • •
Dates:July 17-24, 2021
Host Organization:International German Genealogy Partnership
Title:2021 International German Genealogy Conference
Presentation Schedule:view schedule
Registration Open?:register here
More information:https://iggpartner.org/
Perks:Everyone is welcome. Lots of different packages at different price points. This is an international conference, and some presentations will be in the German language.
• • •
Dates:July 21-24, 2021
Host Organization:Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS)
Title:“Embracing the Future”
Location:Ramkota Hotel, Bismarck, North Dakota, USA
Presentation Schedule:view schedule
Registration Open?:register here (mail in registration only)
More information:https://grhs.org
Perks:Everyone is welcome. Discounts to members. Free admission to those 18 years old and younger. This convention is the only one offered on site, but there will be some presentations offered virtually for two days. This is the 50th anniversary convention of GRHS (postponed from last year).
• • •
Dates:August 11-13, 2021
Host Organization:Foundation for East European Family History Studies (FEEFHS)
Title:FEEFHS Conference 2021
Presentation Schedule:view schedule
Registration Open?:register here
More information:https://feefhs.org/
Perks:Everyone is welcome. Free admission to full-time university or college students with a valid student-ID. Early bird discount.
• • •
Dates:September 18-19, 2021
Host Organization:Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe (SGGEE)
Title:“Finding Our Stories”
Presentation Schedule:To be announced
Registration Open?:Not yet
More information:https://sggee.org/convention/convention_news.html
Perks:To be announced


14 March 2021

Russian Railroad Maps 1877-1912

This is a collection of German language Russian railroad maps between 1877 and 1912. This covers the period when there was mass German emigration from Russia to North America and South America. Those who are curious about how their ancestors made their way to ports in the west (Antwerp, Bremen, Hamburg, Libau, etc.) can use the map closest to the time period when your ancestor left Russia and trace the path back. 

The first railroads in Russia began running in 1838. Each tsar had a different impact on the expansion of railroads through the empire, the result of which you can see with increased private and freight railroads over time on the maps below. Some of the German colonies were on or near a railway, while a few had railway stops.  

Timeline of Railroads in Russia

1835    Tsar Nicholas I (26 December 1825 – 2 March 1855) approved construction of the first railroad in Russia. Through the reign of Nicholas I, railroads were built and administered by the State. 
1838    The first railroad between St. Petersburg and Zarskoye Selo began operating.
1851    The railroad segment between Moscow and St. Petersburg opened; Moscow became the central hub of the Russian railroad network.
1855    Through the reign of Alexander II (2 March 1855 – 13 March 1881), railroads were built and administered by private companies. Existing railroads were also administered by private companies.
1871    Railroad connections from Kiev to Moscow and Odessa were in place.
1874    The Moscow-Charkov-Simferopol railroad segment was completed.
1881    Through the reign of Alexander III (13 March 1881 – 1 November 1894), there was a return to the idea of ​​State railways and a large number of private companies were nationalized.
1891    Construction began on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
1894    Through the reign of Nicholas II (1 November 1894 – 15 March 1917), there was a continuation of what Alexander III put in place with state railways, nationalization, and so forth. 
1896    In the Russian-Chinese mutual assistance pact, China receives a concession from Russia for the construction of the East China Railroad.
1898    Russia leased from China the Liaodong Peninsula, together with the port of Port Arthur (Lüshen), with the concession to connect it with the Eastern Railroad.
1904    The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad was completed.


Title: “Eisenbahn Karte des Europäischen Russland” (Railroad Map of European Russia)
Date: 1877
Notes:  This was published as a supplement to the St. Petersburger Kalender (Beilage zum St. Petersburger Kalender). While previous editions of the St. Petersburger Kalendar had lists of Russian railroad lines in them, this was the first edition I located that included an actual map. It is the oldest map in this collection. The legend notes completed railroads, railroads under construction, confirmed railroads, and planned railroad lines. 


Title: “Neueste Eisenbahn Karte des Europäischen Russland” (Latest Railroad Map of European Russia)
Date: 1892
Notes:  This map has two smaller maps that show railroad lines through some of Central Asia and Far East Russia bordering China and the Sea of Japan. 


Title: “Eisenbahn Karte des Europäischen Russland” (Railroad Map of European Russia)
Date: 1909
Notes:  This was published as a supplement to the Neuen Haus- und Land-Wirtschafts Kalender (Beilage zum Neuen Haus- und Land-Wirtschafts Kalender). This map is accompanied by a list of fares that can be viewed here. 


Title: “Die russichen Eisenbahn” (The Russian Railway)
Date: 1912
Notes:  A very detailed map showing every stop on each railroad line. It shows state run railroad lines, private rail lines, and freight lines. It also includes several detailed maps of cities and regions. 

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01 March 2021

Lustdorf, Liebental

Two views of the main street in Lustdorf, circa 1910. The top shows the church on the right. 

Lustdorf (also known as Kaiserscheim, Olgino and Khernomorka) was a Lutheran Mother colony in the Liebental district of Russia near the Black Sea. Among the earliest colonies in the Black Sea area, it was founded in 1804 or 1805 southwest of the city of Odessa. The closest German colony to it was Kleinliebental just 3.5 miles (5.7 kilometers) to the west. 

Lustdorf on an 1855 map of Lutheran settlements in Russia. 

Lustdorf on a 1910 map of the 3rd Military Survey of Austria-Hungary.

It became populated with skilled craftsmen who worked in Odessa, so less land was allotted to the colony for agriculture. In 1859, there were 45 houses in Lustdorf. The church was built in 1869/70. The congregation paid 39,832 rubles for it. It had 300 seats and Walker organ with 11 stops.  

The Lutheran church in Lustdorf, circa 1910. 

By the late 1800s, Lustdorf had developed into a sea-side resort, spa and sanatorium, and soon, a tram from the great fountain in Odessa to Lustdorf brought Russian visitors directly to the colony for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

Lustdorf was incorporated into the city of Odessa after 1945. Today it’s a neighborhood in the city named Chornomorka. The name Lustdorf hasn't been lost to history. There is still a tram stop named “Lystdorf Settlement.”

• • •

My personal connection to Lustdorf is my 4x great-grandfather, Johann Martin Schilling. He was my first ancestor to arrive in Russia. The month of March marked both a beginning and an ending for Martin. In March 1809, Martin and his family travelled from Steinsfurt near Sinsheim in Baden to Frankfurt am Main. There they stayed between 23 March to 4 April waiting to begin their journey to Russia. They arrived in Glückstal in July 1809. He was 42 years old. On 3 March 1848, Martin Schilling died in Lustdorf where he was living with one of his younger sons. He was 81 years old and had lived in Russia nearly half of his very long life. 

I imagine Martin as an old man by the sea looking out over the water. He stands tall with still mostly dark hair that he rakes back with his fingers as the wind gusts. He rubs his tired blue eyes and remembers where he came from, how far he has come, and he reassures himself, “I did the best I could.” I have heard these words from his descendants time and again; I hear his baritone voice supporting theirs, a major chord across time. We all do the best we can. No man can ever judge if it was enough.



22 February 2021

Gnadental, Bessarabia

Plat map of Gnadental, Bessarabia circa 1920 published in 1930.

The following translated excerpts came from and article entitled “Die Gemeinde Gnadental” by Friedrich Rüb, which appeared in the 1930 edition of Deutscher Volkskalender für Bessarabien. 

“The founding of the community of Gnadental coincides with the end of immigration of German colonists in Russia, namely in the period when official advertisements for emigrants in Germany to move to Russia had stopped ten years earlier. The settlers were, therefore, uninvited, free emigrants to whom the Russian government did not give any support, neither for the journey, nor for the first establishment. Gnadental is the 21st German community in Bessarabia.”

Map showing the land plot that would become Gnadental, Bessarabia. Date is unknown, but it was likely before 1830 given the other colonies noted on the map.

“The settlement took place in the years 1830-1833 on land which had been made available to Provost Lindl in 1822. From a petition from the Sarata school board 29 April 1829, the Welfare committee approved the establishment of the colony as per letter dated 14 May1829 [document] No. 716.... At the time of settlement, the land was leased...to some Moldovans, who used it as pasture for their sheep...”

During the first years, Gnadental was officially named “Sarata No. 2”. 

“In the second year of the settlement (1831), cholera prevailed in Gnadental as in the whole area, which demanded many victims. The merciful averting of this evil gave reason to name this colony ‘Gnadental’ [Mercy Valley]. This name was presented to the municipality through the Sarata Territorial Office for the Welfare Committee for confirmation, which was done, and granted dated August 1832 [document] No. 1043.”

An 1872 Austrian military map showing Gnadental with its former name. 

“In the spring of 1830 the settlement was started with 10 families, to which, in the same year another 12 families were added. These 22 families were joined by another 12 families in 1831, so that towards the end of that year, the colony had 34 families with a total of 168 souls. Two families ceded their farms soon after their arrival. In 1832, another 37 families settled, and in 1833, the last 11 families arrived. The settlement of the colony was completed in 1833 with 80 families and a total of 455 souls. The settlers of Gnadental did travel as an organized group. They came from 40 villages in Württemberg, mostly did not know each other before settlement, and came to Gnadental over the course of four years.”

Church exterior (left) and interior (right). Built in 1880.

The first church services were held in a private house. In 1833, the first prayer house was built on the square where the church stands today. The original church was replaced in 1880 by master builder Klaus Lorenz, a German citizen from Odessa, for 25,000 rubles. 

Top: The old school house built in 1847. Bottom: The new school house built in 1862.

“At the same time as the colony was founded, school life also began. Since there was no school house, school was held in a farmhouse. The settlers created the school they were used to from Germany and which corresponded to their religious attitude. It was a distinctly religious school. In 1833, the third year of the settlement, a special school class was built under one roof with the prayer house, in which school was held until 1846. The first 17 years, the teachers were local landlords. A turn for the better came in 1846, when an expertly trained teacher in the person of Johann Jakob Koch was employed, and the first school building was erected.... Until 1861 all pupils from the age of 8-15 were were accommodated in one classroom....the more talented pupils were not sufficiently engaged....but attendance was compulsory until confirmation.”

Street view in Gnadental. Western half of main street, circa 1930.

Today Gnadental is called Dolynivka, Odes'ka, Ukraine.


16 February 2021

1890 Map of German Land Ownership in the Kherson Governorate

Map legend with translation.

The last set of maps I shared was a collection of Lutheran maps from 1855. This is another period map that some may find useful in illustrating family histories. This is from 1890 with updates apparently made in 1942. By this point, many German colonists in this area had already begun emigrating from Russia to North and South America. 

I found this map while going through the last film of the German Captured Documents Collection, Reports from Ethnic German Communities in Ukraine 1940-44 on FamilySearch a few weeks ago. I've been stitching together all of the maps from that collection when I need a break from other research work.  

This map is titled the Schematic map of German land ownership in Kherson Governorate in 1890, and it was found on the last film, #8878483. On the map, the source is listed as “L. Padalka, Landbesitz der ehm. deutschen Kolonisten im Gouvernment Cherson 1891, edited by Karl Stumpp, 1943.” Stumpp was in this area between 1942 and 1943 while he was working for Reichsministerium für die Besetzten Ostgebiete (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories). At this point in this project, I thought I had seen all of Stumpp’s maps, but this is the first time I've seen this particular map. And Ive not found a reference to it elsewhere as of this writing. 

Although this map only covers the Cherson area, it is interesting because it outlines the areas that were initially allotted to the German colonists by the Crown and additional land that had been purchased. Many of the German daughter colonies are shown as settlements among the native population, and probably colonies of other ethnicities as Germans were not the only group invited to settle in Russia. 

Also of interest are the names of the places. The enclaves of this area are fairly well-represented based on what is known from other sources. There are several settlements that had the same name—not unusual at all. But there are many I've never heard of before, are not on Stumpps other maps, and that do not show up in the German-Russian Handbook. Below is an alphabetical list so that Google can index them.

Akerman, Alexanderhilf, Alexandrija, Alexandrowka, Alexandrowka, Alexandrowka, Alexandrowka, Alexandrowka, Alexfeld, Alt Danzig, Ananjew, Andrijaschewka, Annental, Antonowka, Antonowka, Antonowka, Baden, Balta, Bendery, Beresnegowataja, Bergdorf, Berislaw, Biziljewka, Blumenfeld, Blumenfeld, Blumenort, Bogdanowka, Boska, Brinowka, Cherson, Danilowka, Deutsche Güter, Deutsche Güter, Deutsche Güter, Deutsches Gut, Deutsches Gut, Dodonowka, Dubossary, Eigendorf, Eigenfeld, Eigenfeld, Elsass, Felsenburg, Felsenburg, Franzfeld, Freudental, Friedenfeld, Friedental, Fürstental, Gawrlowka, Georgiental, Glückstal, Golowlewka, Grossulowo, Grus Kaja, Güldendorf, Gut Ambarow, Gut Ambarow, Gut Hofmann, Gut Linke, Gut Nam, Gut Udatschnyj, Güter Dauenhauer, Güter Guhl, Güter v. Domauer u. Schart, Halbstadt, Helenowka, Hoffnungsburg, Hoffnungstal, Hoffnungstal, Jelisawetgrad, Jelisawetpol, Jeremejewka, Jewgeniewka, Jewstafjewka, Johannestal, Johannestal, Josefstal, Josefstal, Jsbaschewka, Jshitzkaja, Jsmailowka, Jwanowka, Kandel, Karlsfeld, Karlsruhe, Kassel, Katerinental, Katerinental, Kellerhausen, Kerstinowka, Klein Bergdorf, Klein Liebental, Klein Neudorf, Kleinendorf, Kleinfeld, Kleinfeld, Klosterdorf, Kopeikina, Krementschug, Kriwoj-Rog, Kronau, Landau, Landau, Lichetenfeld, Ljubomichailowka, Lustdorf, Malaja Jschetschelewka, Mannheim, Mariental, Mesendewka, Milaljubowka, Mülhausendorf, München, Nadeschdowka, Nasarow Jar, Neu Berlin, Neu Danzig, Neu Freudental, Neu Glückstal, Neu Kronental, Neu Lustdorf, Neu Odessa, Neu Schönsee, Neuburg, Neudorf, Neufeld, Neuheim, Neusatz, New Beresinna, Nikolaidorf, Nikolajewka, Nowakowka, Nowo Ukrainka, Nowobiziljewka, Nowomannilowka, Nowomirgorod, Noworushino, Odessa, Olgina, Olwiopol, Otradnajadolina, Otrodowka, Otschakow, Owidiopol, Petersfeld, Peterstal, Petratjewka, Petrowerowka, Petrowka, Platonowka, Podmogilnaja, Pondik, Prijut, Protopopowka, Rastadt, Reimarowka, Rohrbach, Rosenfeld, Sacharowka, Sakretarowka, Sawitschewka, Schlangendorf, Schöntal, Selz, Skarbnaja, Sofijewka, Sofronowka, Sokolowka, Solnzewka, Speier, Steinbach, Steinberg, Steingut, Stepkowka, Strassburg, Stschasliwka, Sulz, Taschlyk, Tiege, Tiraspol, Trudoljubowka, Viktorowka, Wassiljewka, Waterloo, Werchnjednjeprowsk, Weselyj Kut, Worms, Wosnjassensk, Zybulewka