30 August 2016

A Major Milestone

Today the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations project has reached a major milestone in its efforts to locate and document German settlements in Russia.  There were approximately 3,000 ethnic settlements attributed to the German people, and we have located 1,519 thus far, with over 1,400 of those found in the last six months.

Having reached the halfway mark, we wanted to take a moment to thank all those who have contributed their time, expertise, patience and encouragement of this project. Without your interest and support of what we're doing, this project would not be where it is today.  I wanted give my personal thanks to Dennis Bender, the project's chief researcher, for his determination and tireless efforts. I am in constant amazement of what he achieves.

And now we keep going.

All of the maps have been refreshed with the latest data this morning.    

Enjoy!

Total village count so far: 1,519

Germans from Russia Settlement Locations Map (full map)
Germans from Russia Settlements Map (all villages)


Three Major Areas of German Settlement in Russia
Black Sea Region
Volga Region
Volhynia Region

Colony Group Maps 
Beresan Colonies (86)
Bessarabian Colonies (185)
Chortitza Colonies (127)
Crimean Colonies (110)
Dobrudscha Colonies (44)
Early Black Sea Colonies (1)
Glückstal Colonies (45)
Hoffnungstal Colonies (55)
Kutschurgan Colonies (60)
Liebental Colonies (51)
Molotschna Colonies (87)
Prischib Colonies (44)
Volga Colonies (329)
Volhynia Colonies 
(294)

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26 August 2016

New Map - Volhynia Colonies

We're pleased to release a new map of the Volhynia Colonies.  

Volhynia is a historical area in northwest Ukraine bordering Poland and Belarus. German immigrants to Volhynia came not at the invitation of the Russian crown but rather by the invitation of wealthy landowners.  Because of this, they received no settlement help and did not have same privileges or regulations that other German immigrants had in the Volga and Black Sea areas.  

Settlements began between the first and second partitions of Poland with the earliest recorded in 1783 with the heaviest migrations into the area in 1831 with a second wave beginning in 1863.  

This is just the beginning of this particular group of colonies.  As you know, this is all a work in progress.

This new colony group has also been added to the map of all Germans from Russia villages map.





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25 August 2016

New Map - Black Sea Colonies

We have a new map to release today: Black Sea Colonies.

This map is comprised of all the colony groups that are collectively referred to as the Black Sea Colonies: Bessarabia, Chortitza, Crimean, Molotschna, Beresan, Kutschurgan, Hoffnungstal, Liebental, Glückstal, Dobrudscha, Prischib and the Early Black Sea colony groups.

Like the Volga and Volhynia regions who have dedicated researchers and websites to the history and study of those groups of German colonists, the Black Sea also has researchers and websites dedicated to the study and documentation of this area.  We thought a dedicated map was also in order.




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24 August 2016

How to Embed Our Maps on Your Website or Blog

Here is a short tutorial on how to embed Germans from Russia Settlement Location maps on your website or blog. Embedding a map means you'll have the live version of the map with your own text around it. This way you can put any of our maps into the context of your page.  For example, if you're hosting a Volga colonies research site, you can just include the Volga map in with your discussion of the colonies, timeline, or any other content on your site.

Hope you find it useful!





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18 August 2016

How We Find Villages

When Dennis sets out to find villages, he uses a set of both paper and online tools.  Over the years of his research, he’s honed them down to the essentials.  At first, it took a very long time to find a village and feel confident about it being accurate. There are villages that can still take hours of collateral research of surrounding villages to hone in on a single one. But today, if everything goes well, it takes about 20 minutes to find a village with confidence that it is correctly located and fully documented.   

Sounds simple but don’t think for a moment that it is always that easy, or that hours haven’t been spent in the weeds rather than on the path.  German persistence drives Dennis every day, but he also knows when to quit work on a village if it’s not being fruitful and move on to the next.  


Primary Sources Used to Locate Villages
These are the five sources used most often to locate villages.  

1. Stumpp Maps
There are 70+ maps of various areas in Russia and Eastern Europe with Germans from Russia villages.  Periodically a portion of an online version can be found, but mostly they remain in paper format available from the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society.  Libraries, archives and special collections also house copies that can be used on premise for research.

This is a web and mobile mapping service launched in 2005.  Includes navigation, satellite imagery, aerial photography, street views and much more.  It understands addresses, cities, zip codes, latitude and longitude coordinates.  In 2007, users could begin creating their own Google maps using a feature called My Maps.  

This is an online geographical index that uses many different public sources.  Its primary source for city names outside the United States is the NGA GEOnet name service, which is a part of the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

4. German Russian Village lists from the Black Sea German Research site and GRHS
Both lists are are based on the work of Dale Wahl and originally published on the Odessa Digital Library.  The greatest advantage to these is that they are online and searchable, although any continued research and updates to them seem to have stopped.  They are still good resources for finding place name variations, areas, districts, religions, etc.

5. German-Russian Handbook.  A Reference Book for Russian German and German Russian History and Culture with Place Names Listings of Former German Settlement Areas, by Ulrich Mertens.
This hefty book contains a remarkable section of village name cross references that will make anyone’s head spin.  It was the final key source necessary for the success of this project, and we refer to it alternately as “The German-Russian Handbook” and the “bible.”


Collaboration Tools
Because Dennis lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and I live near Charleston, South Carolina – that’s 2324 miles and two time zones apart – shared online tools are important to us.  

Google Drive
This is a set of free online office applications similar to Microsoft Office.  When we began our collaboration back in February 2016, I shared a folder with Dennis that had our big map and few other files in it.  We both have full editing access to it, and I share to the public what needs to be shared.  When the map got too big for its original design and we got serious about setting up a permanent site for this project in June, I extracted all the data from Dennis’ PDF file he’d been updating and circulating into a shared spreadsheet we call our “dorfs-master.”  We now work on the file together and exports of sections of the data are imported into our various maps at regular intervals.

Our "dorfs-master" shared spreadsheet on Google Docs.
Because we keep very different schedules, we have a color system in place to signal to each other where we are on various villages. Red highlight means something wrong with the village, please investigate or delete. Yellow highlight means I’m still working on this or something needs to be looked at further. It’s not quite ready for prime time. Green means this is a new village, or changes have been made or verified to an existing village. Green means good to go.

Skype
This is a free video chat application.  Because Dennis is in possession of all the maps, sometimes it helps for him to just hold up a map and show me what he’s talking about. And some things just need a conversation over an email.  


Locating Villages
So how do we locate villages?

It all starts with a Stumpp map, a ruler and a pool table.

Dennis' pool table, now map table. 
A Stumpp map is not always an easy thing to read, but for our purpose of mapping villages on Google maps, they are by far the best place to start.  Because some of the maps are very large, Dennis has sacrificed his pool table for the cause.  

The lines running north and south and east and west on the maps are longitude and latitude lines. Sometimes the maps are marked with degrees and seconds; sometimes they are not.  The tick marks used to denote villages indicate which direction the village is laid out, helpful when looking at them from aerial or satellite images, and how large the village was. One tick is usually a chutor/khutor (farm or summer village), while two or more were larger villages.

Example map without degree markings.
If the map isn't marked with degrees, first step is determining which line is which degree. Taking clues from any major roads, railroads, rivers and other water sources and Russian cities on a map helps determine this.  These are generally easy to locate on Google maps and obtain their coordinates and translate those to the latitude and longitude lines on the map.
Example of map with degree markings.

The next step is establishing a measurement in millimeters based on the scale of the map.  The map is blocked off in sections, and measurements of individual village coordinate begins.   Dennis will measure and take notes of a villages before taking it back to his computer for the next steps.  

For each village, he enters his hand calculated coordinates into Google Maps and sees where it lands.  A full 50% of the time, the pin will drop on or near the exact village being researched. Dennis has remarked several times how good the Stumpp maps are and has, at the same time, wondered out loud why no one has done this before.  

If the pin drops nowhere near a village, sometimes switching over to satellite or Earth view and seeing the landscape may show the remains of an abandoned village, or the scars of a destroyed village. Or sometimes the pins just drop in a field.  These cases require further research.  If Dennis is confident the coordinates are correct, the notes may indicate that the defunct village is located some miles or kilometers is some direction from a nearby village or landmark.

The most important pieces of data in this project are the ancestral village names and their coordinates, and if there is any doubt about the coordinates, the village not listed.  

Next step is looking up the name found on Google Maps on the Global Gazetteer to get the current name, all the previous names the village was known as and verify the coordinates.  Sometimes among these AKAs is the name of the ancestral village with a spelling variant.  

After consulting the Global Gazetteer, Dennis always adjusts the location of the of the pin on Google Maps to point to the current name of the village and records the coordinates to the 4th decimal place to include degree, minutes, seconds.  These final coordinates are added to our shared spreadsheet.

The German Russian Village lists are consulted next to record the district name, area and any other information.  Sometimes entries will include Russian or Ukrainian names which further validates what Dennis has found is correct.

The German-Russian Handbook is the last reference consulted, mostly because there is a lot of page turning going through all the cross references and spelling variations.  It’s worth the effort, but it does slow things down.  Page numbers are noted to add to the map in the sources.

The last step is to list the village and all its information on our shared spreadsheet. If there are any open questions about it, it’s highlighted yellow and notes are added.   Otherwise, it’s highlighted green, and he moves on to the next village.

When I wake up 5:30 a.m. and look at what Dennis has done overnight, I usually see the last edit on the file after midnight his time.  Once a week or so, I’ll re-import all the updated data into the maps, clear out all the green highlights and post to the world that we have fresh maps. Come and get 'em!

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16 August 2016

Working on the Next Major Area of Settlements

Tuesdays have become map update day for us, but, alas, we have no updates to the existing maps this week.

Instead, Dennis has been head's down researching the next major area of German settlements.  This is an area we've not seen plotted out in Google maps anywhere before, so we're excited to be able to share it with you soon.  Dennis is 87 villages into it now, and he's on a roll, taking breaks for Toronto Blue Jays games, of course!

Dennis at work at his home in Medicine Hat, Alberta, measuring and calculating village coordinates for the next major region of German settlements.
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11 August 2016

Maps Are Great for Reverse Lookups

Find a Grave, like many other genealogy resources, uses current names for their place names. Dennis and a few very persistent volunteers of Find a Grave have been requesting missing place names so cemeteries can be set up and memorials created for our Germans from Russia ancestors buried in the old country.

Are you surprised that Find a Grave doesn't have ALL places in their database?  You shouldn't be.  It, too, is a work in progress.

Today I was looking through memorials and tracing a family tree.  Ironically, this time there were only current names of villages and no ancestral names or biographies to give me hints.  I searched our map for places like Kurortne and Zolote Pole, and found them on our map in Crimea.  Their ancestral names are Friedental and Zürichtal respectively.

Success!

Where else you can do that?


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09 August 2016

Map Refresh and Chortitza Colonies Done!

All of the maps have been refreshed with the latest data this morning, including 22 new Chortitza colonies.  We now consider Chortitza complete.  Email us  if you have any questions about it or if we missed something.  

Many thanks to Mel Bender for loaning us the Stumpp map to complete that area.

Total village count so far: 1224


Bessarabian Colonies (185)
Chortitza Colonies 
(127) 
Crimean Colonies 
(110)
Dobrudscha Colonies 
(44)
Early Black Sea Colonies (1)
Glückstal Colonies 
(45)
Hoffnungstal Colonies 
(55)
Kutschurgan Colonies 
(60)
Liebental Colonies 
(51)
Molotschna Colonies 
(87)
Prischib Colonies 
(44)
Volga Colonies (329)


Enjoy!

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08 August 2016

Maps Make Great Reading References

Remember when you would keep a dictionary on hand to look up words you didn't know? 

This morning I was proofreading a translation of an article about the contributions of German women's groups in Bessarabia during Romanian occupation between 1918 and 1940.  An interesting article, it mentions that these women's groups made impacts on the lives of housewives, mothers and children in over fifty colonies in Bessarabia.  And it mentioned several of them: Sarata, Neu Odessa, Tarutino, Teplitz, Arzis, Neu Posttal, Bad Burnas.

As I've become accustomed to doing lately, I brought up a map, the Bessarabian colony map in this case, and searched for the colonies as I ran across the names in the articles to find out where they were located.  Pretty handy reading reference, I must say.

Look for the article mentioned above in the upcoming September 2016 issue of the Heritage Review, the journal of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society.

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04 August 2016

Village Data: What we're collecting and why

Our goal with this project is to locate every German village in Russia from 1763 through the early part of the 20th century and make those locations freely available to anyone researching Germans from Russia.  Although we don't want to stray from our course we are recording some additional data on the villages beyond ancestral name, current name and coordinates.

This extra information is there primarily to help you find the correct ancestral village. For example, we currently have ten colonies by the name of Neudorf located in Crimea, Glückstal, Chortitza, Prischib and Volga. There are lots of villages in completely different regions with the same name, so things like the district and area can matter a great deal when searching to make sure you find the right village.

However, some of the data we're collecting is because we thought there might be some interesting maps to be made of the additional information.  What would a map of the colonies by religion look like? What about by current country?  What would a map of the founding dates of all the villages show us if we looked at them decade by decade? As our collection grows, we'll be exploring mapping some of these fields to find out what stories they might tell.

Below is a description of each field.

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Ancestral Names
Villages often have multiple names, a German name, a Russian name, Ukrainian name.  Sometimes the names changed while our ancestors lived there. Listed are the most common names and spellings to make your search easy.  We want to make sure you find your village, whatever it may have been called in your family's stories.

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Colony Group
Different sources use different names for groups of colonies, sometimes referred to as enclaves, that often refer to an area of settlement. We compared these sources to determine a standard we would use that would be both descriptive and still granular: Karl Stumpp's The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862; Adam Giesinger's From Catherine to Khrushchev: The Story of Russia's Germans; and Joseph Height's Homesteaders on the Steppe and Paradise on the Steppe.

_________________________________________________________________________________
District
Dale Wahl's original Long German Russian Village Listand the updated version on the Black Sea German Research site were the primary sources for this information. The district information is included to help further narrow down the village you're seeking.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Area
This is the geographic area in which the colonies were located.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Old Country
This was the name of the country as it was known when our ancestors lived there.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Latitude and Longitude
These are the village coordinates calculated from Stumpp maps, located on modern maps and cross-referenced with the Global Gazetteer for current names and countries.

Place names and country names have changed over the course of time, and there's no reason to believe they won't change again.  But the coordinates of a village will not change.  Knowing the latitude and longitude of a village means you will always be able to locate it.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Current Names
The current name of the village.  There are often multiple names, so we include the most commonly used.  There isn't always a village still there.  Sometimes you will find a pin in a field or outside a another village.  In these cases, we use the closest current village name and indicate where in relation to it the original village was located.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Current Country
The current name of the country where the village is located.  Geopolitical events may influence country boundaries in the future.  If the need arises, this data will be adjusted.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Year Founded
This is the year the village was originally founded.  Not every village has a recorded founding date. The Mother colonies generally do have a date.  The Daughter colonies sometimes have a date.  The Chutors hardly ever have a date.  For conflicting dates or when ranges of dates are supplied, we took the earliest year.

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Mother/Daughter/Chutor
Historically, Mother colonies were the original colonies in a area.  Each colony was allotted a certain amount of land, and as the population grew, land became scarce.  Daughter colonies were offshoots of Mother colonies and usually established by sons of the Mother colonies.  Chutors or khutors were smaller settlements, farmsteads or seasonal farms that may or may not have been inhabited year round.  Sometimes they grew into larger villages.

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Religions
These are the primary religion or religions for a settlement: Catholic, Hutterite, Jewish, Mennonite, Protestant. Colonists were assigned to settlements based on their religion. However, some villages supported populations of different religions. Although we break out Mennonite and Hutterite separately, all other Protestant denominations are included in that larger category.

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Notes
These are notes on the village. Sometimes we have conflicting sources, and we had to make a decision as to how to categorize it.  This field is where you might find notes about that. If we note that a village is defunct, it means the village is no longer there. It may have been destroyed by local or military conflicts, abandoned or the residents resettled elsewhere.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Sources
It's important in any kind of research to cite sources so that future researchers can re-trace your steps. We want to make sure you can do that with our data.  The earliest villages located in this project will not have source citations, but the more recent villages found and all those going forward will. In time, we'll backtrack and everything will be cited properly.

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02 August 2016

Map Refresh: 25 New Chortitza Colonies

All of the maps have been refreshed with the latest data this morning, including 25 new Chortitza colonies, a number of other small updates and a change to the Mother/Daughter field.  We added Chutor as another option for the field. 

Total village count so far: 1202


Bessarabian Colonies (185)
Chortitza Colonies 
(105)
Crimean Colonies
(110)
Dobrudscha Colonies
(44)
Early Black Sea Colonies (1)
Glückstal Colonies 
(45)
Hoffnungstal Colonies 
(55)
Kutschurgan Colonies 
(60)
Liebental Colonies 
(51)
Molotschna Colonies 
(87)
Prischib Colonies 
(44)
Volga Colonies (329)


Enjoy!

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