03 March 2022

German Settlements in Ukraine

Between 1766 and 1918, at least 2,876 known German settlements were established within
the borders of Ukraine today. Most were established after 1804.

# # #

24 February 2022

11 February 2022

The Technology Behind the Map

Today was the birthday of the map of Germans from Russia Settlement Locations. It was created in 2016 and had 103 villages on it.

I often think about all the technology behind this project and am both grateful and giddy that so much of it happened in my lifetime. Things started coming together in the 1990s when I was fresh out of college. I have two BAs from New Mexico State University in English and Journalism & Mass Communications. I’ve not used either professionally aside from a brief time employed as a technical writer right out of college. Computers and networking were much more interesting, and even though I worked at a newspaper once, I was in the production department tending to the old mainframe, the new Unix-based digital photo delivery system, encouraging the use of computer pagination over manual paste up, and trying to convince anyone who would listen that online news was the future. They were not ready for the future. But I was. Like most who were in what would become to be known as “Information Technology,” I bounced around at jobs, sucking the marrow out of each one and keeping notes about everything I learned. Back then, there wasn’t a degree that prepared you for real IT jobs. Technology was happening too fast, and it was thrilling to be bobbing up and down in those waves. I did stints at both universities (nurturing environment but underfunded) and commercial companies (plenty of money for tech but no sleep for me). I sailed through the dot-com bubble easier than anyone should have. Always employed, always learning, and always having fun. 

Most of the technology used in this project to locate ancestral colonies, map them, and make them available on the internet wasn’t available to civilians, wasn’t reliable, or didn’t exist in 1994 when I started researching my own family. Without going in too deep, here are just a few: 
  • Aerial & satellite imagery – geboren 1858-1972
  • Global Positioning System – geb. 1973
  • The Internet – geb. 1960s-1980s (.gov and .edu), geb. 1990 (commercial .com)
  • World Wide Web – geb. 1989 (text only), geb. 1993 (graphic web browser)
  • Google – geb. 1998
  • Keyhole Earth – geb. 2001
  • Google Earth – geb. 2004
  • Google Maps – geb. 2005
  • Google My Maps – geb. 2007
  • Georeferencing – geb. ~2008

Aerial & Satellite Imagery

In the mid-1800s, images were taken from hot air balloons. This originated in Paris by French photographer and balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as “Nadar”, in 1858. As soon as photography was available circa 1826, humans had an itch to get a birds-eye view of their surroundings. 

Honoré Daumier, Nadar Elevating Photography to the Height of an Art,
1862, lithograph from 
Souvenirs d’Artistes. National Gallery of Art

Beginning in the early 1900s, images were taken from airplanes. Crop dusters were used at first, but as aeronautics advanced, military planes were outfitted with cameras for reconnaissance missions.

Barnstormer Jersey Ringel with a camera on top of the wing of an airplane in flight. 1921. 

Library of Congress

In 1946, images began to be taken from suborbital flights. This time rockets were outfitted with cameras.

View of Earth from a camera on the rocket V-2 #12, launched October 24, 1946.

White Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics Laboratory. 

Smithsonian Magazine

The first satellite image was a crude image of of a sunlit area in the Central Pacific Ocean with cloud cover. It was taken August 14, 1959.

First satellite image. Wikipedia.

In July of 1972, the U.S. launched the Landsat program to capture satellite imagery of Earth. The program is still running today with the latest satellite, Landsat 9, launched in late 2021. Yesterday (February 10, 2022), Landsat 9 data became publicly available for researchers. Millions of images have been taken and archived and are all viewable through the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Explorer website.

Later that year, “The Blue Marble” was taken from Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972. 

Earth as it was seen from Apollo 17, December 7, 1972.


These are some of the 6,500+ satellites orbiting the Earth right now, roughly 5,000 of which are active. This changes every two weeks or so with each SpaceX launch of its Starlink satellites. 


Why does it matter?
  • Global Positioning System uses satellites for exact positioning.
  • Google Earth and Google Maps use satellite images and GPS.
  • All of the above are needed to visually confirm the location of German colonies that have been destroyed or abandoned. Google Earth (full version) allows one to go back in time through available images.
As you can see, the evidence of this this colony, Sivushka, south of Orenburg, is disappearing with time.

October 8, 2002
July 20, 2004

June 28, 2010

Global Positioning System (GPS)

GPS was built in 1973 by the U.S. Department of Defense for military use. It was called “Navigational Satellite Timing and Ranging Global Positioning System” or NAVSTAR GPS. It was a highly accurate navigation system to replace older systems that were affected by distance or the weather. It was for military only through the 1980s. 

A commercial version available in early 1990s in the U.S., but it was not very accurate because of Selective Availability (SA). This was an intentional degradation of public GPS signals so that it was not as accurate as the military version. 

In 2000, U.S. legislation did away with SA, and GPS accuracy for commercial use improved 10-fold overnight. The popularity of handheld GPS receivers increased. GPS is now in vehicle navigation systems, maps on smartphones, etc. The U.S. has 31 GPS satellites in its constellation. The EU’s Galileo has 28.  Russia’s Glonass has 24. China’s Beidou has 50.

Internet: a network of networks.

The Internet

While satellite imagery and GPS were maturing, so was something called “The Internet.” This was a “network of networks” that allowed computers to talk to each other. It was initially used for sharing data among researchers in government and higher education institutions.

In the 1980s into the early 1990s, Internet protocols and applications became more “human” friendly, but everything was still text based. It was also small enough that if you were on it, you sort of knew where everything was. Still, there were early efforts to corral the information and make it easier to use.
  • DNS – Number to name database (The name ahsgr.org is actually Before they moved to their new website last December, it was As a human, you didn't need to learn the new ip address. You kept using the name. The DNS server takes care of the translation from names to numbers for you. 
  • Email – Text-based, no graphics, no notifications, not mobile. 
  • Listserv – Subscription email list for communicating sharing information with groups. This was the beginning of the “drinking from the firehose” era of modern communication. Also, it was when I regularly started telling the librarians I worked with to please stop printing the internet.  
  • Content (No WWW yet, and I don’t remember actually using the term “content” at that point yet) 
    • FTP (used for uploading and downloading files; also a repository of said files)
    • Gopher (menu-based content server) 
    • WAIS (text-based wide area information server)
    • Archie (search engine for FTP sites)
In 1989, HTML (hypertext markup language) was invented. The following year, the internet became commercially available and the first browser arrived on the scene. The Lynx browser followed in 1992; it was still text based. No images.

In 1993, the Mosaic browser came out. It was the first web browser that could display images—verrrrry slowly, but it could do it! The first image I saw rendered was of Charon, Pluto’s moon, from a web server in NMSU’s astronomy department. Mosaic changed everything. This made the internet as a whole more attractive to everyone and commercially viable. It was not just for geeks anymore—pictures sold the internet to the public. Suddenly everything and everyone was going “on the net.” I spent several years around this time not only being a sysadmin but also teaching staff and students how to get onto the internet and how to use it for research. 

And then along came ...

Google.com November 11, 1998. Internet Archive


In 1998, Google, Inc. was founded as an internet search engine company. It was not the first search engine on the scene, but today is currently the world’s most used. 

Meanwhile, in 1991, a company called Keyhole, Inc. was stitching together and georeferencing satellite imagery from Landsat with funding from the CIA. They launched a site called Keyhole Earthviewer, which was a 3D interface to the planet using satellite images, aerial photography, and GIS data. Its target market: the real estate industry, urban planners, and travelers.  

Earthviewer.com. November 30, 2001. Internet Archive.
Google acquired Keyhole in 2004 and renamed Keyhole Earthviewer to Google Earth.

    Google Maps launched in 2005, followed by Google My Maps in 2007. The idea behind MyMaps was to put map making into the hands of anyone so that they could “easily create custom maps with the places that matter to you.” The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations maps are made with Google My Maps. It wasn’t the first MyMap I made, but it is by far the largest and most complex in terms of the amount of data presented.

    Georeferencing Meets History

    Simply put, georeferencing is applying geographic information to a digital image (aerial photos, satellite image, maps, etc.) so that the image is correctly placed in its real world location. The process (again, very simply) it overlaying a digital image—say a map of the Saratov province—onto a digital map such as Google Maps and then identifying several location points on the image that correspond with the map. The accuracy of the end result depends greatly on the accuracy and scale of the image, which is why many are done as tiles and stitched together as one big map. Hand drawn maps, such as those by Karl Stumpp, are not terribly accurate. Highly detailed military maps, such as those of the Austrian Empire and the Red Army, often produce great georeferenced maps. When all goes well, you can have a historical map or image overlaid on a current map where you can search for locations by today’s name or by GPS coordinates and see it on the historical map. 

    Georeferencing of historical maps seemed to start appearing on the web in early 2010s. There are many digital maps collections that are georeferenced and free to use. What this has brought about is the surfacing of old maps that have not been seen before. Using these maps helps me find lost ancestral colonies and also find my mistakes. Once the coordinates are nailed down, it’s fascinating wandering back in time through maps of a place as far as I can go and then viewing the satellite images available for it in the not so distant past.

    1805—Rastatt (Beresan) before it was Rasatt
    Curious. Will write more about this soon.

    Top is the 1872 map. Bottom 1872 georeferenced map with modern map showing through. 


    This is from a 1941 German map





    End of nostalgia trip. I hope that you have a new appreciation of all the technology it took for this project to be where it is today, what it took for you to be able to gaze nonchalantly at your ancestral colonies and say, “There it is. No biggie.” I am glad it’s no biggie. That means it has become a part of your everyday life. For some, this romp though time and technology of this will be familiar. For others, ancient history...making me also, somehow, ancient. I’m cool with that. No biggie.


    11 January 2022

    Repression Years and Deportation Locations

    If you are beginning researching your family in the repression years, there are two new sources that complement each other nicely. One will give you a solid historical background, and the other provides lists of names, birth dates, originating colonies in South Russia and exile locations in Siberia and Central Asia.

    The first is the new book, The Years of Great Silence: The Deportation, Special Settlement, and Mobilization into the Labor Army of Ethnic Germans in the USSR, 1941–1955, by J. Otto Pohl, a well-known independent scholar and published author of Russian-German academic research. In this volume, he provides a concise history of ethnic Germans from Russia from the beginning and the events leading up to his focus on the peak years of Soviet repression of ethnic Germans—1941-1955. The book will be published on March 22nd, but it is available for pre-order now from Columbia University Press. $42 USD. Shipping costs vary.

    The second source is the MVD File Extractions Concerning Individuals/Families Who Were Relocated During the Repression Years” collection that is a part of the Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 (GCRA) Data Drive. This focuses on those who were exiled from the Odessa region (the enclaves of Glückstal/Hoffnungstal, Beresan, Liebental) in the 1940s, during the very peak that Pohl writes about in his book. There is no interpretation of this data at all. It is translated into English but is essentially raw and leaves it to the researcher to find family names and locations within the data. Set aside the fact that name of the research group publishing this includes Glückstal in its name; the fact is that much of what is on this data drive has to do with the neighbors in Kherson province with the exception of the Kutschurgan enclave, which is, for some reason, simply missing. The drive is available now from GCRA. $80 USD for non-members, $55 USD for members. Free shipping in the US. Contact the organization for international orders. 

    I pre-ordered the book and purchased the data drive last November. Of particular interest to me on the drive is the list of resettlement locations, including coordinates—over 800 of them. It will take time to extract the pieces of data I need to add to my maps, but in the end it will add to the deportation story layer on the map. Currently what’s on the map (and still in progress) is from the book Fortjagen muss man sie.” Zeitzeugen und Forscher berichten über die Tragödie der Russlanddeutschen (“You have to chase them away.” Contemporary Witnesses and Researchers Report on the Tragedy of the Russian Germans). You can get a copy of the book (in both Russian and German) as a free PDF from RusDeutsch


    07 January 2022

    As the Bee Flies in Tiraspol District

    1886 Map of the Tiraspol District, Kherson Province

    Just before the holidays, I had a brief email exchange with a food historian who remarked on my grandmother’s recipe for pfeffernüsse that appeared in the last issue of the Glückstal Colonies Research Association Newsletter. Our conversation revolved around the ratio of lard it called for, its possible use for extracting the fat-soluble flavors in the scant amount of star anise and clove in the recipe, and also the inclusion of what I described as “interesting” honey. By interesting, I meant to imply anything that didn’t come out of a plastic bear. Let me explain. 

    The German colonists who lived in the Glückstal colonies were farmers and also bee keepers. Beekeeping was something they brought with them from Germany. There are historical German beekeeping guides, calendars, newspapers and books in the digital collections of libraries in Germany, including several in Die Bienenbibliothek (bee library) at Regensburg University Library. The colonies of Glückstal and Neudorf were noted as engaging in “extensive” beekeeping operations, likely not only for the honey but also for the wax needed to make candles. The two colonies were only about 4.5 miles (7 km) apart, as the bee flies. The honey produced probably had the terroir of whatever pollen those bees harvested, which I image added to the flavor of whatever it was used to sweeten—including our beloved Christmas pfeffernüsse. What the characteristics of that honey might be could be discovered by researching what grew wild near the Glückstal beehives and what was cultivated that needed pollinators. I was curious.

    Glückstal Mother colonies showing fruit and grape orchards in 1886.
    Crop reports seemed like a good place to start for learning what was cultivated.  

    1810 Crop Report 
    (File 134-1-283, State Archives of the Dnipropetrovsk'k Region)
    The first crop crop report for the Glückstal colonies was dated 1 December 1810, a year or two after settlement. It included the colonies of Glückstal, Bergdorf and Neudorf. Kassel was not included as it had been newly established in 1810. The report recorded the colonists growing the following: winter and summer rye (Wintter Roggen and Sommer Roggen), winter and summer wheat (Wintter Weizen and Sommer Weizen), buckwheat (Buch Weizen), oats (Hafer), barley (Gerste), millet (Hirse), potatoes (Kartoffeln), peas (Erbsen), Turkish beans (Türkeischen Bohnen), beans (Bohnen), lentils (Linse), hemp (Hanf), flax (Flachs), and hay (Heu).

    1811 Crop Report 
    (File 134-1-320, State Archives of the Dnipropetrovsk'k Region)
    The following year, the same crops were reported in the report dated 1 December 1811: winter and summer rye, winter and summer wheat, buckwheat, oats, barley, millet, potatoes, peas, Turkish beans, beans, lentils, hemp, flax, and hay.

    1814 Crop Report 
    (File 134-1-398, State Archives of the Dnipropetrovsk'k Region)
    Although there was a crop report for 1814, no specific crops were named in it. 

    1820 - Spring 1821 Crop Report 
    (File 252-1-314, Odessa Regional Archive)
    In this report dated May 1821, beekeeping (Bienen) appears along with reports of planting trees grown for wood (Holzbäumen) and fruit trees (Obstbäumen), specifically mulberry trees (Maulbeerbäumen) for silk. The specific list of crops has also been pared back to include rye, winter and spring [sic, summer] wheat, barley, oats, lentils, potatoes, and peas. According to the translators’ notes, there were other crops grown, but the pages were illegible.

    1825 Statistical Reports of the Glückstal Colonies
    The 1825 crop report comes from Deutsche Bauernleistung am Schwarzen Meer, Bevölkerung und Wirtschaft 1825 (German Farming Statistics of the Black Sea, Population and Economy 1825). Georg Liebbrandt (1899-1982) discovered a set of statistical documents in the archives in Odessa, had them translated from Russia to German in Berlin, and Hans Rempel organized and published the translations in 1940. I have a used copy of this book on order, as I am curious about the other enclaves around the Black Sea. Reported in the translated excerpts (German to English this time by the Glückstal Colonies Research Association), the following crops were grown: winter rye (Winterroggen), winter wheat (Winterweizen), summer wheat (Sommerweizen), buckwheat (Buchweizen), oats, barley, millet, potatoes, corn (Mais), peas, small beans (Fasol', Kleine Bohnen), lentils, hemp, flax (noted as Lein this time instead of Flachs), and hay. It also enumerated the trees planted: acacia (Akazien), willows (Weiden), poplars (Pappeln), mulberries, apples (Apfel), pears (Birnen), plums (Pflaumen), cherries (Kirschen), peaches (Pfirsiche), apricots (Aprikosen), nuts (Nüsse), and grapevines (Weinreben). 

    I have to note that by 1825, the four Glückstal Mother colonies had collectively 161,471 grape vines planted, with 85,570 in/near Glückstal colony itself. (~250 vines made 1 barrel or 60 gallons of wine)

    All this reminded me of an agricultural map I happened upon last year of the district of Tiraspol from 1886.

    The Tiraspol District was established in1795 in the Russian Empire and went through several re-districting and province changes before it settled in as a district in Kherson Province in 1803. When the German colonists arrived in South Russia, the Glückstal, Kutschurgan, Beresan and Liebental enclaves were all a part of the Tiraspol district until 1825 when the district of Odessa was established. The Glückstal enclave (including the colonies in the Hoffnungstal parish) remained in the Tiraspol district along with some of the Kutschurgan, Beresan and Liebental colonies until 1923. The point of this is that there were no hard lines around the German enclaves that kept them administratively together.

    This map shows what settlements in Tiraspol had significant agriculture in place in terms of gardens, state-run nurseries, fruit orchards and vineyards. It also lists what places would partake in survey of what appears to be increasing the number of grape vines grown by 1895. Among them the German colonies of Neudorf (#9, Нейдорфская), Hoffnungstal (#20, Гофнунгстальская) and Kassel (#22, Кассельская). I'm not sure the results of the study are available online anywhere. 

    Some of the crops and trees mentioned in the crop reports needed pollinators, but not all of them. The trees that the colonists planted caught my eye since I have heard of acacia honey. But the German colonists preferred to plant willow trees over acacia trees maybe because acacias already grew wild? Bees will stay roughly two miles (3.2 km) from their hive, but they will travel up to five miles (8 km). What else grew wild in that range around Glückstal and Neudorf?

    Ultimately, I don’t know what characteristics honey from the Glückstal colonies might have had...and maybe still have...and how it might have flavored pfeffernüsse. I would be an interesting topic to dive into from a number of different directions, not just culinary and agriculture science. If anyone need a writing topic, I'd be more than happy to read whatever you wrote. Until then, I’ll stick with my own advice of using “interesting honey” over what comes in the bear. 

    Above is a lightly marked up version of the map above with some of the German
     colonies noted for orientation. Click on it to see a larger version.

    Sources and Further Reading:

    • Freeman, Margaret and Stangl, Thomas A., trans. 2004. “Glückstal Colonies Crop Report, 1820—Spring 1821.” In The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America: A Bicentennial Collection of History, Genealogy and Folklore, 223–33.
    • Rudolf, Homer, trans. 2004. “Statistical Reports of the Glückstal Colonies from 1825.” In The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America: A Bicentennial Collection of History, Genealogy and Folklore, 235–44.
    • Stangl, Thomas A. trans. 2010. “1810 Crop Report. State Archives of Dnipropetrovsk’k Region. File 134-1-283. Glückstal Colonies Research Association. Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 Data Drive.
    • Stangl, Thomas A. trans. 2010. “1811 Crop Report. State Archives of Dnipropetrovsk’k Region. File 134-1-320. Glückstal Colonies Research Association. Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 Data Drive.
    • Stangl, Thomas A., and Koenig, Donn, trans. 2013. “1814 Crop Report. Glückstal District. File 134-1-398, State Archives of Dnipropetrovsk’k Region, Dnipropetrovsk’k, Ukraine.” Glückstal Colonies Research Association. Glückstal Colonies Research Association 2021 Data Drive.
    • “Карта Тираспольского уезда с обозначением населенных пунктов и земских дач,  принятых за единицы исследования, и виноградников.” (Map of Tiraspol County with the designation of settlements and zemstvo dachas, taken as survey units, and vineyards.) 1886. Russian Empire. https://bit.ly/tiraspol-district.    
    • “Тираспольський Повіт (Tiraspol Region).” 2021. In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. https://bit.ly/wiki-tiraspol-district.