16 September 2023

Last Presentation of 2023: Deportation Locations

The last scheduled presentation of 2023 is now done. I did a deep dive into the research and sources used for the deportation locations layer of the map. It’s a difficult subject and no fun, but it’s a part of our history and needs to be included. Thanks to the Southern California Chapter of Germans from Russia for having me. 

Shown above is my private practice/research map. This is map on which I make notes about what I have found and what various sources indicate as places of deportation. The yellow shade is roughly the area of Asiatic Russia under the U.S.S.R. Interestingly, there are a lot of pins (i.e. places of deportation  in European Russia. Not all places of deportation were to “Siberia.” More to come on who went where, when, and for how long as research progresses. 

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31 August 2023

Machines Reading Maps Tool

A fun new tool from the David Rumsey Map Collection was released yesterday: Machines Reading Maps. It presents an interesting new way to search for our ancestral colonies on historical maps within the David Rumsey collection. 

If you have seen my presentation “Time Travel Using Historical Maps,”* you may recall that I showed how to search the David Rumsey Map Collection using a tool called MapRankSearch. In it, we search the entire collection for a current place name (or something near a colony that no longer exists) and were presented with maps showing that location. And then we searched by coordinates to find it on the map results. Now you can search David Rumsey using a new tool, Machines Reading Maps which searches for the text that actually appears on the maps

It was only a matter of time before this happened. If you are familiar with live-text on Mac OS—where any text in a screenshot is clickable, copyable, and links are live—it’s the same idea. The DR team sent their computers off to scrape up all the words it can find on maps in their collection and made them searchable. It’s a cool new way to search for places. You can contribute as well. The link to the tool guide is here

Caveat (of course): As a researcher, you still need to evaluate every map from the search results to make sure it is the location you’re looking for and not another location with the same name. Remember that it is only searching for a name without any other context. Some unique German colony names yield pretty good results. But we all know Germans like to reuse place names wherever they go. For colony names that are common, like my ever-favorite example of Neudorf, you are better off using MapRankSearch, unless you just want a cool graphic with a lot of Neudorfs on it (see below). While it picks up and deals with some special characters, like umlauts, it does not pick up spelling variations. So, you will need to do searches for each spelling variation or name of a place if it had multiple names over time. For example, searching for Strassburg will yield different results than Strasburg and different still from Strasbourg. If you are a Kutschurgan Strassburger, you know very well that these are the spellings of three different places in different countries of your (and my) ancestors. But...they may be spelled “incorrectly” on a map. A French map of the Russian Empire, for example, may use the French spelling instead of the German spelling. Also, historically, there are many creative spellings used on maps. 

There are more accurate ways of searching for your ancestral colonies on historical maps (God forbid what’s going to start showing up on Facebook now) and more relevant map collections to the German colonies in Russia, but this one admittedly is tons of fun and I invite you to while away your Labor Day weekend playing with this. 

Here are some examples. Click on the collection image below to run the search on David Rumsey, or go directly to the website and start searching. You never know what you might find. 

*I will be recording my presentation “Time Travel Using Historical Maps” and putting it on this project’s YouTube channel soon.

Happy searching!

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13 August 2023

The Wall Breaker: Dark Histories & Sad Truths

Note: Unfortunately, this conference has been cancelled. There were not enough registrants to make it viable this year.

The annual Wall Breaker Conference organized and hosted by Robyn Morales is always a must-attend. Going on its fifth year, it has really come into its own, taking its place among the well-known conferences hosted by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Without the formality and pomp and circumstance, the Wall Breaker is like a days-long conversation with friends. It’s 100% virtual, relaxed, and always has topics that you don’t find in other German-Russian conferences. Robyn has a way of convincing the most interesting people to share what they know and start the conversations. And, the best part, the days are packed with topics. I'm talking 21 presentations over three days. There is no better deal out there for $75 CAD. You can register here

The final line up has been posted, and it is a good one!

Friday, September 8, 2023

  • Murder at the South Dakota State Archives   —Matthew T. Reitzel
  • In the Trenches - Searching Digitized First World War Records at Library and Archives Canada   —Marie-Eve Robert
  • Orphan Train Records   —Kaily Carson
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls – The GPS Approach   —Janice Nickerson .
  • Tales That Auntie Told Us: Family Lore & How to Deal with It   —John Althouse
  • Quarantined! – Genealogy, the Law and Public Health   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Resource Reviews   —Robyn Morales
Saturday, Sept 9, 2023
  • Death Demystified (North America)   —Robyn Morales
  • Where the Murderers Roam   —Daniel Hubbard
  • Stalin's Arrest Files   —Dave Obee
  • Where There Is – or Isn’t – a Will   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • How Old Did He Have To Be…?   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • “Death by Undue Means” – Coroner’s Records   —Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Criminal Cases Locally   —Stacy F. Kaufeld, M.A.
Sunday, September 10, 2023
  • “May The Universe Be Your Home!” a graphic novel about the GR community in Kazakhstan   —Lena Wolf
  • Breaking the Walls of Time and Distance by Visiting Ancestral Villages in Germany and Russia   —Dr. Mila Koretnikov
  • Crimean War   —Merv Weiss
  • ABC … 123 … EWZ! Using Einwanderungszentralstelle Records   —Carolyn Schott
  • Church Records – Broken Faiths   —Reuben Bauer
  • Genocide through Forced Labor: The Case of the Russian Germans in the Labor Army   —Otto Pohl
Hope to you there!

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31 July 2023

Video: Intro & Map Tutorial

After seven years, I’ve finally recorded a new video with an overview of project and a new map tutorial. Been so busy mapping, I didn’t realize how old it was. Anyway, all new video for the current map. 


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28 June 2023

Asiatic Russia Map Updates Posted

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map as of 28 June 2023.

The Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map has been updated. This was a particularly long research cycle from end of January through June with a lot of moving parts. That, along with giving 5 presentations, going to 7 (!) dentist appointments, and 2 trips to the vet — oh, how life tries to thwart research sometimes — I still made it by my own self-imposed deadline. I am pleased to announce that all of the settlements on the map are now in their former imperial provinces. The grouping of settlements into “colony groups” has been sunsetted completely. It simply became untenable as more settlements were found that just did not fit into that way of thinking. It also gathers up and gives a home to all of those “scattered settlements” that had been ignored in the past or grouped in whatever colony group that was closest.  

What’s New?

— Asiatic Russia has been split into three regions: 1) Russian Far East, Siberia, and Steppes Krai; 2) Russian Turkestan; and 3) Caucasus Viceroyalty. Like all the other regions on the map, each of the new regions was split into the provinces/gubernias or regions/oblasts as they were in roughly 1914, toward the end of the Imperial Russian Empire. Within each province/region, each settlement indicates what district/county/uzeyd it was a part of at the time. Period georeferenced maps were used to accomplish this. Yes, I know. I'm still mixing English and Russian names for these administrative jurisdictions. I will straighten them all out eventually. 

— In total, 33 new provinces/oblasts were added. A reminder: these are historical and do not equate to the area of similarly named oblasts today. If no Germans were found in a province, it is not include on the map. A few small provinces or ones created very late are grouped on the map with their previous province but are still listed as their own province. 

— Although the goal of this research cycle was not about adding locations, 372 new settlements were added anyway. As long as I was visiting the neighborhoods, I figured I might as well pick up some windfall. 

— Twenty-eight new sources were added. Most of these were historical maps to which you can find links on the Sources page. 

— The layers on the map have been renamed to include whether they were in European Russia or Asiatic Russia. They have also been reordered to those with denser German populations toward the top, which improves how searches of the map perform. Searches start at the top layer and go down. It is still a bit unruly to search the big map, but this does help. 

— On the same lines of improving search performance and rendering of the map on slower connections, I have removed the place names next to the pins on the big map. All of the other smaller maps regional, province, and enclave maps will continue to have the place names appear next to the pin. I have wrestled back and forth on this one but decided this was the best way to go given the number of pins on the big map and knowing how many more are coming. 

— The former German settlements in modern-day Ukraine that are in occupied territory as a part of the Russo-Ukrainian war have been updated. Thanks to David Batashvili of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) for his meticulous tracking of the front lines in a format compatible with my own map. 

— I will be reworking the Maps page into an atlas. As it is, the page is very outdated. Moving all the maps into an atlas will be a good final destination for all of this work. Some have seen the prototype in my presentations over the past year. 

— Lastly, I have removed the layer with the Austro-Hungarian villages in the Galizien, Bukovina, and Batschka regions. I knew the day would come, and today is the day. The focus of the map needs to be 100% on the German settlements in the former Russian Empire. But, good news! There has always been a seperate map with those villages on them. You can still (and always) get to them here

That’s it for now. I’ll be taking a research break for a few months. More to come later this year. 

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10 June 2023

Caucasus Viceroyalty

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces is complete! 

The last of the work in the Caucasus region was completed on Thursday morning. This area includes the modern-day countries of Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Türkiye. This time, 133 places were added and all were split into 13 provinces. 

The First Imperial Census of 1897 described a total of 56,729 native German speakers at the time living in the Caucasus region, amounting to .61% of the total population. Broken down into provinces, the distribution of native German speakers in the Caucasus region looked like this in 1897: Baku (3,430), Batum (369), Dagestan (261), Elizavetpol (3,191), Erivan (210), Kars (430), Kuban (20,778), Kutaisi (1,065), Stavropol (8,601), Sukhum (406), Terek (9,672) and Tiflis (8,340). The Black Sea Province (not to be mistaken for the much larger Black Sea Region) also had 748 Germans. Prior to 1896, it was a district in the Kuban province. It is grouped with Kuban on the map, but it is still listed as its own province. Same goes for Zakatala okrug, which was a part of Tiflis province until 1903. There were no German settlements in that very small area, but there were 11 Germans reportedly living in the city of Zakatala at the time of the census

There is a wealth of good maps available for this area, both military and road maps. It makes sense given the proximity to both the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Caspian Sea, the ports of which make it desirable for commerce and often conflict. It was nice to work with georeferenced maps with clearly marked boundaries for a change. Here are two examples. 

“Map of the Caucasus Region from the the Imperial Geographical Society.” 1868. Repository: EtoMesto

“American Map of the Caucasus 1910” Repository: EtoMesto This map, while simple and not highly detailed, is accurate and in English. It’s always a relief to find something that doesn’t need translating.

While researching this region, I found several Kavkazskiy Kalendars (Caucasian Calendars) from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. These are akin to the other calendar publications seen in South Russia published in Odessa and Bessarabia that were sort of a farmer’s almanac. I have previously posted some maps found in those calendars, railroad maps in particular. The Kavkazskiy Kalendars were published in Tiflis, are not agrarian focused, but they do have maps. Below are three that show the regions of artisanal trades, the metal production, and the wool industry. They are in both Russian and French. Maps like this are interesting in that they show what industries was going on where our German ancestors lived, what types of occupations they may have had (locksmiths, blacksmiths, gold or silversmiths, tanners, weavers), or even what work drew them to a particular area. 

The repository for the maps below are the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, 1900 edition for 1901

“Map of the Caucasus: Cottage Industries and Artisanal Crafts”

“Map of the Caucasus: Wool Industry”

“Map of the Caucasus: Wrought Metal Production”

• • • • •

I have to update the sources and do some tidying up of the data before I can post it to the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map. Everything should be up over the next couple of weeks. I am looking forward to sharing the last five months’ worth of research very soon. 

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31 May 2023

End of May Update

Almost there! 

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces is near the end. All that is left in the Caucasus are the provinces of Stavropol and Terek. The pins in yellow and orange are left to do. Those in shades of red are complete. So far, 89 more locations have been added, covering the western part of the  North Caucasus (Russia) and the South Caucasus (Armenia, Türkiye, Georgia and Azerbaijan). 

Still on target for a mid-late June map update. This is what it looks like as of yesterday. 

Upcoming Conferences and Presentations

I will be presenting virtually and on-demand for GRHS and FEEFHS respectively. And in August, I will be attending AHSGR in Greeley, CO.  


Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention (Virtual), Saturday, July 22

Time Travel Using Historical Maps: Wander through time and explore your ancestral villages on geolocated maps. In the past decade, efforts have been made to scan and georeference historical maps that have been sitting in archives for hundreds of years. You will learn how to use information from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map to travel back in time and find your ancestral colonies on period maps using their GPS coordinates. You will learn where to find repositories of detailed maps online, how to overcome language issues with technology, and how to capture images and cite your findings. 

The geographical focus of the presentation will be on historical provinces of South Russia (the Black Sea region) of the Russian Empire.

As some of you know, when I do this presentation for chapters, I customize it by using colonies suggested by members. If you're going to be at this presentation either in person in Mandan, ND, or virtually, let me know what colonies you would like to see. 

Learn more and register here.  


Foundation of East European Family Studies Conference (On-Demand), August 1–4

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Project: It started with the same questions we’ve all had. Where was my ancestor’s village? Does it still exist? What is it called today? Was it far from other villages? Is it still in Russia? How do I find it on these old maps? Where is it on today’s map? This presentation introduces the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project, a geographic genealogy tool built using Google MyMaps that plots the locations of German colonies across the Imperial Russian Empire. We’ll review the history of the project and the research methods, tour the map, and discuss what’s coming next.

Time Travel Using Historical Maps: Wander through time and explore your ancestral villages on geolocated maps. In the past decade, efforts have been made to scan and georeference historical maps that have been sitting in archives for hundreds of years. You will learn how to use information from the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations map to travel back in time and find your ancestral colonies on period maps using their GPS coordinates. You will learn where to find repositories of detailed maps online, how to overcome language issues with technology, and how to capture images and cite your findings. 

The geographical focus of the presentation will be on historical provinces of the European part of the Russian Empire.

Learn more and register here. 

And so, a busy May ends as a busy June begins. 

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05 May 2023

Russian Turkestan

1900 Geological Map of the Caspian Region. Germans lived in the areas marked in blue, which followed the Transcaspian Railway and today border Iran and Afghanistan. To see the non-marked up map, click on the source link. Source: EtoMesto

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces continues. All of Russian Turkestan is done. This area includes the modern-day countries include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. 

Twenty-nine colonies were added, bringing the total for this area to 53. It was not a big German settlement area, and it was only open for a short time, roughly 1880 to 1910. During WWII, there were some deportations to this area and later resettlements. Those will be reflected under the Deportations section on the map in the future. 

The First Imperial Census of 1897 described a total of 3,722 native German speakers at the time living in the oblasts of Fergana (369), Samarkand (440), Syr-Darya (1,887), and Transcaspia (1,026). There were none reported in Semirechenskaya at that point. 

Map of the Syr-Darya Resettlement District from 1914. Most of the Germans in Russian Turkestan lived in these three oblasts, the districts of which I marked up and color coded: Syr-Darya (blue), Samarkand (red), Fergana (green). Source: EtoMesto

The census also did not include German populations in the protectorates of the Emirate of Bukhara and the Khanate of Khiva. But we know that Molotschna (Taurida) and Am-Trakt (Samara) Mennonites had settlements in those two Russian protected states, the result of the Great Mennonite Trek 1880–1884 for the End of Times. There is much about this topic out there. I recommend the very engaging book Pilgrims on the Silk Road: A Muslim-Christian Encounter in Khiva by Walter Ratliff. He is an Associated Press journalist, historian, and descendant of those original Mennonite pilgrims who were on the trek. He along with a group of other descendants recreated the trek in 2007. 

As for other German origins, there were few specifics. Along with the Molotschna (Taurida) and Am-Trakt (Samara) Mennonites, there were Germans from or somehow connected to the village of Frank (Saratov), Hussenbach (Saratov), Warenburg (Samara), Romanowka (Akmola), and Druzhba (Semirechenskaya), There were also reported Germans who came from the provinces of Ekaterinoslav, Kherson, Orenburg, Poltava, Samara, Saratov, Volhynia, Voronezh, and the Don Host. 

This is not a live map, but this is what the new research so far will look like when it gets posted. Click on it see a larger view. 

Next up is the Caucasus region, which will cover parts of modern-day Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Türkiye. I am looking forward to relaxing in the sun on the back patio this weekend as I start collecting maps and queuing up the data for the last leg of this research stint. I have a few other deadlines this month for upcoming convention presentations this summer. Given that I want to present new parts of the map in these presentations, I am highly motivated to meet my self-imposed deadline of posting the data before convention season starts. 

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21 April 2023

Steppes Krai: Semipalatinsk, Turgai, Ural Oblasts

1912 Map of part of the northern parts of the Ural and Turgai oblasts. Source: EtoMesto
1912 Map of the Semipalatinsk Oblast. Source: EtoMesto

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces continues. The former oblasts of Semipalatinsk, Turgai and Ural are now done. This completes what is labeled “Siberia” on the map now.  Several more colonies were added: Semipalatinsk, 16 colonies; Turgai, 15 colonies; and Ural, 3 colonies. Tomsk also gained 5 colonies because my borders between Semipalatinsk and Tomsk were off a bit. Whenever I finish an area, I look at it next to surrounding areas to make sure nothing is out of whack. 

What was most interesting about these three oblasts is that they reported no Germans in them at all before 1901. The colonies that were formed were a part of the Russian Empire for at most seven years. Also interesting is that most did not show up on period maps by name for decades. All the settlement plots were numbered. By the time names of these places started appearing on maps, many of their names had already been changed.

The origins of those who moved to this area, of course, were all resettlements from elsewhere in the Russian Empire. Most of the sources just said Volga or Black Sea, but some were more specific. Here is a summary of where they came from: 

Provinces mentioned as origins of the resettlers: Akmola, Astrakhan, Bessarabia, Ekaterinoslav, Kharkov, Kherson, Kurland, Moscow, Petrokov, Poltava, Samara, Saratov, Taurida, Volhynia.

Specific colonies mentioned (grouped by enclave or province): 

Is is Ural? Map by Sasha Trubetskoy on Twitter, 26 Jan 2022. 

A note on the Ural Oblast. Ural and Ural region means a lot of things to a lot of people. Although everyone agrees there is a Ural region, nobody seems to know exactly what what geographic area it includes presently...or in the past. The map above shows some ways of defining the region. This map is from last year of current Russia, so it does not take into account any historical regions that were a part of  Russian Empire but are now Kazakhstan.

Map of the Cis-Ural Region and Siberia in From Catherine to Khrushchev.

In From Catherine to Khrushchev, the Cis-Ural region is outlined and mapped on pages 136-137. In the image above, imagine the Ural mountain range running from above Perm down between Ufa and Chelyabinsk continuing south to just above Orenburg. That would be the central and southern ranges of the Ural mountain range. To the west (left) is the Cis-Ural region; to the east (right) is Siberia, according to this map. The book further defines the German colonies in the Cis-Ural region as follows: 

  1. The Neu-Samara Colony [eastern part of the Samara Province then; Orenburg Oblast today]
  2. The colonies around Orenburg [Orenburg Province then; Orenburg Oblast today] 
  3. The colonies around Ufa [Ufa Province then; the republics of Bashkortostan and Tartarsan today]
  4. The colonies around Aktyubinsk [Turgai Oblast then; Aktobe Province, Kazakhstan today]
  5. The Arkadak Colony [Saratov Province then; Saratov Oblast today].

While mostly in the zone of “Is it Ural,” there are some geographical problems with the map in From Catherine to Khrushchev, notably the Arkadak Colony that is situated west of the Volga colonies in Saratov Oblast. No way is that in the Ural region. And Aktyubinsk/Aktobe is south of the mountain range. But if one definition of the Ural region is the Ural mountain range and all the cities and villages in and around it, including those to the north and south of it, then okay, maybe Aktyubinsk falls in that category. Maybe.

Now that you have seen some of the ways the Ural region has been defined, past and present, I'm here to tell you that the Ural Oblast of the Russian Empire that existed from 1868–1920 isn’t ANY of those above. No, this oblast was further south and west of what anyone in their right mind would call the Ural region. But there it was for 52 years. It does not mean that any other definition of Ural region is wrong; this is just another one to add to the list. So, when you see the data posted to the big map, and you see Ural Oblast is not where you thought the Ural region was, then remember this post.

One more map section of the area that gives you a bigger picture. This one is from 1914. I’ve labeled a few provinces to give you some reference points. 

Map of Russia by Governments and Oblasts [1914]. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned before, all the data from this research exercise will be posted at once. 

Next up on the schedule is Russian Turkestan, or what is labeled Central Asia on the map now. It finishes off the southern part of modern-day Kazakhstan and includes settlements in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. After that, it’s off to the Caucuses.

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14 April 2023

Steppes Krai: Akmola Oblast

1914 of the Akmola Region from EtoMesto.

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces continues. The former Akmola Oblast of the Russian Empire is now complete. Today, it comprises part of Omsk Oblast in Russia and the North, Akmola, and Karaganda regions of Kazakhstan.

There were German colonies in this area as early as 1890, and before resettlement to Siberia picked up in the early 1900s, the Imperial Census of 1897 was taken. In it, it was reported there were 682,608 inhabitants in Akmola Oblast. Of those, 4,791 (0.7%) reported themselves as native German speakers. 

The map above shows the region as it was in 1914 in the Russian Empire, with resettlement areas still open for a few more years. Note that there are many numbered plots but not not many names of places on the map. By this time, there were already many German resettlers from provinces in South Russia as well as those in the Volga area. Where there is good, fertile land, there are Mennonite settlers. Like in Crimea, the Mennonites settled not in planned colonies that are named (such as Molotschna, Chortitza, Zagradovka, etc.), but rather, they settled in the general area around Omsk and west of Omsk along the railway. It was nice to discover several colonies by Germans from Volhynia, Estonia and Lithuania. Again, these are voluntary resettlements. However, mixed in with these settlements would eventually be the “special settlements” and other deportation sites.

To what is already on the map, I have done the following: added 65 colonies; removed 5 colonies that I could not find enough evidence to confirm the locations and did not feel good about leaving them there; and have pending another 49 new settlements that were formed in the Soviet era and that I need to cross-check against a list of special settlements so that I can categorize them correctly. 

The map below shows part of the region as it was in 1955 after the Russian revolutions, after the rise of the Soviet Union, and after WWII — i.e., what was left (as far as the Americans knew) after 40 years. 

1955 U.S. Army Map Service. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, UT Austin. 

Next up will be the former oblasts of Semipalatinsk to the southeast, and Turgai and Ural to the southwest. Of note, the 1897 Imperial Census did not report even one native German speaker in any of these oblasts. But I have a list of 121 locations in the queue already. Should be interesting. 

The map data will be posted at the end of this research cycle, which is still on target for late June before convention season starts. 

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12 March 2023

Western Siberia: Tobolsk Province

1914 map of the Tobolsk Province from the David Rumsey Map Collection

The splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces continues. The former Tobolsk Province in Western Siberia is now complete. This province shrunk over time. I recorded it with its boundaries in 1914, toward the end of the imperial period and when the voluntary resettlement of German and other colonists from elsewhere in Russia to Siberia was in full swing. It spans parts of the present-day Omsk, Tyumen, Sverdlovsk, and Kurgan oblasts.  Thirty-eight more settlements have been added in the process. And again, like with Tomsk, settlement was primarily in the southern part of the province with a mix of previous regions of origin (Volga, Black Sea, Volhynia) and religious confessions (heavily Mennonite, Protestant, very few Catholics). More mixed ethnicity settlements, too, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Estonian, Latvian. 

The Imperial Census of 1897, there were 1,433,043 inhabitants in Tobolsk Province. Of those, 1,120 (0.08%) reported themselves as native German speakers. This increased as resettlement proceeded over the next several years.  

With this province, Siberia, as it was defined administratively, is complete. 

Next up will be the Steppes Krai and the former oblasts of Akmolinsk, Semipalatinsk, Turgay, and Ural. Starting with Akmolinsk, this will cover the remainder of the present-day Omsk Oblast in Russia and most of northern Kazakhstan. This was a heavier area of resettlement by Germans with nearly 5,000 Germans living in the region before 1897.

As has been mentioned before, the update map data will be posted at the end of this research exercise all at once. Now that it’s beginning to take shape, I’m looking forward to seeing how it will look at the end. 

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02 March 2023

Western Siberia: Tomsk Province

German settlements in the Tomsk Province. 

The past two weeks I’ve been working through the former Tomsk Province in Western Siberia, which today spans the oblasts of Tomsk, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Altai Krai in Russia and the northern tip of East Kazakhstan and eastern edge of Pavlodar provinces in Kazakhstan. So far, 73 more settlements have been added. 

This part of Siberia, as you’ll recall, is the part where there was voluntary resettlement from other areas in Russia in the early 1900s. It was open for settlement, made easily accessible with the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in 1904, and some Germans thought it was a good way to avoid the mandatory military conscription since it was further east with less oversight in such matters. The early settlements were in the 1890s, but many more came after the railroad was completed. Germans mostly flourished there until the fall of the empire in 1917. 

I want to note that in the Imperial Census of 1897, there were 1,927,679 inhabitants in Tomsk Province. Of those, 1,430 (0.07%) reported themselves as native German speakers. 

The origins of the German re-settlers were diverse. There were many mixed Volga/Black Sea colonies from all the provinces of those two regions. German Mennonites established the Barnaul Colony, which consisted of six settlement areas: Salvgorod, Bas Agatsch, Glyaden, Pashnya, Saratov, and Fünfziger. 

Origins of the re-settlers (reported from various sources, not confirmed):
There was also a Neudorf...because there’s always a Neudorf, right? It wasn’t readily apparent exactly which Neudorf it was. In true German fashion of leaving at least some breadcrumbs, some of the colonies were named after the colonies they left: Kratzke, Dönhof, Mariupol, Landau, Lichtefeld, Kano, Beckerdorf, etc. 

Next up will be the province of Toblosk. 

1914 map of the Tomsk Province from the David Rumsey Map Collection

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24 February 2023

German Settlements in Ukraine

Between 1766 and 1918, Germans were known to have lived in close to 3,000 places in within the borders of Ukraine today, in both urban and rural settlements. Many were established by Germans after 1804. These places—whether they still exist or not, whether their names are the same or not—remain in the hearts of the descendants as one our ancestral homelands.

Slava Ukraini!


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19 February 2023

Update: Eastern Siberia and Far East Russia

A productive first week of splitting of Asiatic Russia into its former imperial provinces. The work has been less splitting and more locating. Starting in Eastern Siberia with the province of Irkutsk and working my way east into the Russian Far East, a total of 38 new locations were added, mostly from the 1897 Imperial Census, but quite a few came from EWZ files. These are all non-German founded settlements where German people were reported to have lived, or they themselves reported being born there. Some were voluntary, but I have to assume that some were involuntary the further east I went, and the more EWZ files as the primary source for place names started showing up.

Completed are the province/oblast/regions (as of about 1914) of Amur, Irkutsk, Kamchatka, Primorskaya, Sakhalin and Transbaikal.

Next, I will be moving into Western Siberia and south into the Steppes Krai using the same methodology. There will undoubtedly be more location additions with each province. Everything will be posted once all of Asiatic Russia has been done. It has to be an all or nothing post given my propensity to push the limits of Google MyMaps. I think it will be worth the wait. 

Have a great week!

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11 February 2023

Mappy Birthday!

Before I get into the notes of this month’s release, I’d like to take a moment to do my annual “how it started” and “how it’s going” look back on this project. 

This is how it started on 11 February 2016:

And this is how it’s going on 11 February 2023: 

The map refresh before Christmas last year left a few things outstanding that have been dealt with in this weekend’s update. 

There were 72 settlements that were outstanding for verification in the Samara province that have been confirmed and fully documented. These were mostly established in the Soviet era. Because I was in the neighborhood, an additional 42 settlements were added as I went through the Stumpp map by section. Many of them were chutors/khutors, collectives and state farms; some only appeared by name on one map other than Stumpp’s. 

The imperial Samara province was dissolved in 1928, so all those settlements with populations recorded in the 1924 census are recorded with their imperial district/province. Anything established after 1928 do not have the district and the province is asterisked to note that’s for categorizing these settlements together with those in what is the former Samara province at that point. 

I did have difficulty confirming some settlements as part of the “Volga German enclave” because they appeared during the interwar years (1918-1939). I hesitate to make the assumption that because they were near other Volga colonies that they were indeed “Volga German.” I did my best to not assume, but rather, try to find a source or a site that was researching them as Volga German settlement. Therefore, if you are looking for places where Volga Germans lived during the interwar period, you are strongly encouraged to use the Samara and Saratov province maps or the regional map instead of just the Volga enclave map. As always, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, let me know, and I will try to find it for you. 

The “About” pin has been updated to include the Black Sea German Research (BSGR) website. Germans from the provinces of South Russia migrated north to the Orenburg and Ufa provinces, and there are some recent Catholic church record translations available at BSGR for the Chelyabinsk and Orenburg parishes. They also have EWZ indexes in their database with hundreds entries from both EWZs and donated GEDCOMs that refer to settlements in the provinces in this region. BSGR is a real sleeper site of information. Spend 3 minutes searching the database and the website for things you are sure are not there, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

In December during my annual clean-up-my-downloads-folder event, I posted on social media about 14 German chutors in Tsarev District, Astrakhan Province...later the Stalingrad Oblast after the imperial province was dissolved, today in the Volgograd Oblast. Someone’s grandmother was born there was able to confirm that the German origins were linked to Dobrinka and Galka. I like when things like that happen, when the story behind a pin is suddenly revealed. Those settlements have been updated with that information.

All of the relavant maps have been updated. The sources page has been updated to reflect additions or updates. Someday I will annotate this list. It is a good list. And the change history log has been updated with a full list of settlements updated and added. 

Next up, I will be splitting the settlements in Asiatic Russia into their historical imperial provinces as they were circa 1914 toward the end of the empire: Siberia and the Russian Far East (11 provinces), Steppes Krai and Russian Turkestan (11 provinces), and the Caucasus Viceroyality (14 provinces). This is the last region where I need to do this exercise. I did some preliminary planning already, so I know where I am headed and what it will take to get there. Like the other regions, it is an all or nothing effort. Nothing will be posted to the map until the split is complete. I fully expect this to be ready before conference season starts in July.

Until next time, enjoy!

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