05 June 2024

Research Communities

When I have a question about one of our ancestors, I look to our Germans from Russia research communities. I do this because I know that we all know our respective ancestral neighborhoods, our surnames, our records, our place names. I know that those that are maintaining websites care about what gets put onto them. They take the time to locate, extract, transcribe, and translate records to make it easier for people to build their trees with good data. I know that no one is going to try to tell me that a Glückstaler family member’s baptism in 1874 happened in “Novorossiisk, Black Sea Guberniya, Russian Empire” or in “Alaska, Vereinigte Staaten.”

This is old news to many but new to me since I do no search FamilySearch often. I use it mainly to go to specific films. At least a year and a half ago (I know, where have I been?), their “Russia, Lutheran Church Book Duplicates” index began to include event places in some incorrect places, namely Novorossiisk, Black Sea Guberniya, Russian Empire and Alaska, United States (not even Russian America). They are wrong.

The search result and the record do not even match up. The name of the colony where these baptisms occurred was just a few images prior to this record. It should be Kassel, Kherson province, Russian Empire. 

Novorossiisk, Black Sea Guberniya, Russian Empire is a city in the Caucasus region on the Black Sea. I kinda get where they might have been thinking. They (am assuming it was a human and not AI) saw “Novorossiysk” and thought New Russia. Okay, that was indeed a name for the southern part of Russia in the 19th century. And then they saw “Black Sea Guberniya” and thought, oh, that must the Black Sea region where all those Black Sea German Lutherans were. But it’s not. 

Alaska, Vereinigte Staaten or Alaska, United States. Yeah. There is so much wrong with this, I can’t even. Before you try to defend this, yes, there probably were Germans in Russian America and in the settlements in Alaska. However, I doubt there were Lutheran parishes in Alaska, and if there were, they would not have been a part of the St. Petersburg Consistory and been sending duplicate church books to St. Pete. Why would this even be an option in the dropdown menu?

No one looked at the actual records to transcribe and translate the origin of the records. Newbie genealogsts under the impression that FamilySearch is an authority on the subject may just pick it up and use it as it. This is how bad data propagates in trees in FamilySearch and elsewhere. 

Please use Germans from Russia research communities. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use FamilySearch or Ancestry or MyHeritage or any of other big genealogy sites. You absolutely should. I, too, sometimes have complicated relationships with these sites. Forget about other people’s trees, in the end, they offer the largest repositories of records at your fingertips, some of which you may not find anywhere else. But use them in conjunction with a GR research community that knows your ancestral neighborhood. And continue to fight the good fight about using our ancestral place names in your trees and not letting our history be erased. 

On my map, I have an “About” pin for each layer that often gives sites where you can find out more about the people who lived in the colonies and other settlements. Below is a list of some of the research communities that know their German ancestral neighborhoods in the Russian Empire, have translated records, and will help you figure out your family tree.

American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) https://ahsgr.org/

Black Sea German Research (BSGR) https://www.blackseagr.org/

Eastern European Genealogy Society (EEGS) https://eegsociety.org/

Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS) https://www.grhs.org/

Glückstal Colonies Research Association (GCRA) https://www.glueckstal.net/

GRanDMA https://grandmaonline.org/

Mennonite Genealogy https://www.mennonitegenealogy.com/

Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe (SGGEE) https://sggee.org/

Volga Germans https://www.volgagermans.org/

Volga German Institute https://volgagermaninstitute.org/

Volga Records https://volgarecords.com/

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