Germans from Russia Emigration and Immigration

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Germans from Russia
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Alexanderwohl Church.jpgAlexanderwohl Mennonite Church in Goessel, Kansas
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German colonists resting in their travel to a destination village near Kamianets-Podilskyi (now the Ukraine).

Introduction[edit | edit source]

From 1880 to 1920 more than twenty-five million immigrants, many from Austria-Hungary, Russia, and the Ukraine, were attracted to the United States and Canada.

In North America, the Germans from Russia were attracted to the great prairies, which were not unlike the steppes of Russia where they had been farming for generations. Volga Germans settled mostly in Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. The greatest concentration of Black Sea Germans is in the Dakotas. German Mennonites from Russia settled in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, California, and Manitoba. Most Volhynian Germans settled in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Western Canada.[1]

Tracing Immigrant Origins can help you identify an immigrant ancestor's original hometown. It introduces the principles, search strategies, and additional record types you can use.

Finding the Place of Origin[edit | edit source]

Before you can effectively search the records of another country, you need to know the name of the city or town your immigrant ancestor came from. Clues about an ancestors' town of origin are found in various sources, including diaries and other records in your family's possession. You may find the town of origin in family and local histories, church records, obituaries, marriage records, death records, tombstones, passports (particularly since the 1860s), passenger lists (particularly those after 1883), and applications for naturalization.

Records that generally provide the country of origin include: United States censuses (beginning in 1850), Canadian censuses, biographies, death records, obituaries, naturalization declarations or petitions, pre-1883 passenger lists, and military records. These records do not usually list the exact town that the ancestor came from, but only the country.

Finding Place of Origin in Russia[edit | edit source]

The first step in researching your Russian-German genealogy is to determine specifically where in Russia your ancestors lived. You may be able to find out the town your ancestor came from by talking with older family members. The family may have documents concerning the place of origin, such as old passports, birth or marriage certificates, journals, photographs, letters, or a family Bible. Even if something is written in German or Russian, it may contain valuable information. Get help in reading it. Other sources are found in local libraries and courthouses and at the Family History Library, including naturalization applications and petitions, obituaries, county histories, marriage and death certificates, and American passenger lists of arrivals and European lists of departures.

You will want to verify the spelling and location of places where your family lived. A good listing of German colonies in Russia is:

  • Armand Bauer's "Place Names of German Colonies in Russia and the Romanian Dobrudja" found on pages 130-183 of Richard Sallet's Russian German Settlements in the United States (Fargo, North Dakota: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1974). (FHL book 973 F2rs)[2]

Tracing Families Back to Germany[edit | edit source]

Despite difficulties in accessing records in Russia, it is often possible to trace your lineage to Germany and back to the early 1600s. In some cases where vital records are unavailable or have significant gaps, it is extremely difficult to establish a line of ancestors through the 1800s in Russia. Nevertheless, even in these cases there may be family sources or printed sources that enable you to do so; older family members may remember several generations back or such information may be recorded in a family Bible or other family documents.

The German colonists who settled in Russia came mostly from southern Germany, principally Württemberg. If you can determine the specific place where the family originated you can trace the family back using German records. In many cases, however, the colonists spent a generation in Poland before moving on to Russia. If you can determine the place in Poland where the family lived, clues necessary to trace the family back to Germany may be found in the Polish records. Many of these records are available at the Family History Library.

The following work is of great value to those researching Germans in Russia. It lists most of the original German colonists who came to Russia and usually indicates their place of origin in Germany.

  • Stumpp, Karl. The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862. Tübingen: Karl Stumpp, 1972 (FHL book 943 W2sk 1978).
This book includes excellent information in English on the history of Germans in Russia and lists of German emigrants to Russia. For genealogists, the most valuable part of the book is the alphabetical lists of emigrants. This list gives each emigrant's surname, given name, age (sometimes), place in Germany they left, year of migration, and destination in Russia. To view this list online, see Odessa: Die Deutsche Auswanderung Nach Russland 1763-1862. More information is found in the book.[3]

Emigration Records[edit | edit source]

Immigrant Index (Einwandererkartei)[edit | edit source]

The Einwanderungszentralstelle (Immigration Control Center) kept a record of German immigrants returning from Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and France. This index contains about 2.9 million cards. Einwanderung (immigration) or emigration cards were filled out for every immigrant age 15 and above and Gesundheit (health) cards were filled out for every immigrant over age 6. The cards list name, place and date of birth, religion, marital status, education, profession, professional training, citizenship, and all relatives in the same group of immigrants. The cards are arranged in alphabetical order based on name pronunciation rather than spelling. These cards serve as an index to pedigrees (Stammblätter) also kept by the Immigration Control Center.

To view these records (some are digitized and some are microfilmed):

The Stumpp book list of emigrants can be found at this site Stumpp Transcription list.

Departure Records[edit | edit source]

Millions of Europeans emigrated out of Europe through the port of Hamburg in Germany between 1850 and 1934. For more information about these passenger lists and indexes see Hamburg Passenger Lists.

Arrival Records[edit | edit source]

Passenger arrival records can help you determine when an ancestor arrived and the ports of departure and arrival. They can also be used to identify family and community members who arrived together as well as the country they came from.

An in-depth description of United States federal immigration lists is:

  • Tepper, Michael H. American Passenger Arrival Records: A Guide to the Records of Immigrants Arriving at American Ports by Sail and Steam. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1993. (FHL book 973 W27am 1993)

The FHL has the National Archives' microfilmed collection of German documents collected by the Berlin Document Center, which include some Germans from Russia (FHL microfiche 6334167).

Odessa: A German Russian Digital Online Library is a digital library dedicated to the cultural and family history of the millions of Germans who emigrated to Russia in the 1800s and their descendants. Their collections consist primarily of digitized books and records, plus indexes of microfilms, and research aids.

Resources about various immigration lists and indexes of German emigrants:

  • Deutsches Ausland-Institut (Stuttgart). Auswandererkartei der Rußlanddeutschen nach Brasilien: 1870-1940 (Emigrant index of Russian-Germans in Brazil). Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1988. (FHL film 1552796). Alphabetical name index often showing birthdate, place, deathdate, place, age, spouses, children, religion, homeland, date of emigration, profession, and sources.
  • Haury, David A. Index to Mennonite Immigrants on United States Passenger Lists, 1872-1904. North Newton, Kans.: Mennonte Library and Archives, 1986. (FHL book 973 W22ha). Transcripts showing ships, ports, names, ages, and occupations, with index of 15,000 individuals. Includes many Germans from Russia.

Heimatortskartei (Hometown Index) is an index of Germans from Eastern Europe who returned to Germany for re-settlement in the 20th Century, especially after World War II. These indexes contain names of family members, dates and places of birth, marriage, death, and residence. Each geographical area such as Southeast Europe has its own index. For addresses of organizations with these hometown indexes, see:

  • Quester, Erich. Wegweiser für Forschungen nach Vorfahren aus den ostdeutschen und sudetendeutschen Gebieten sowie aus den deutschen Siedlungsräumen in Mittel-, Ost-, und Südosteuropa (Pathfinder for Ancestor Research in the East German and Sudetenland Areas and the German Settlement in Middle, East, and Southeast Europe) 4. Aufl. Neustadt (Aisch): Verlag Degener, 1995.

Village coordinators coordinate the gathering of information and the compiling of databases for specific Germanic villages in Russia. To learn more, see Germans from Russia Archives and Libraries.

Other Records[edit | edit source]

Some emigrant groups may have brought their records with them when they left Russia. Thus, the vital records of a few of these colonies, especially Mennonite colonies, might be in collections in the United States and Canada. If you are looking for Mennonite records, check with the Mennonite congregation in North America where the family first settled.

North Dakota received many immigrant German-Russians from the Kherson provinces of Russia. Their pattern of settlement in this country is directly related to their pattern of settlement in Russia. Catholic families from the Beresan region and many from Crimea settled in Stark county, North Dakota. Catholic families from the Katschurgan and Leibenthal regions settled in Emmons, Logan, and McIntosh counties. In many cases, the original Catholic immigrants recorded their heritage in the records of the new Catholic parish in North Dakota. When researching the genealogy of German-Russian Catholic families from North Dakota, it is important to determine where they originally settled in North Dakota. The records of the Catholic parish in that place will then help in tracing your ancestry. Priests are usually happy to help those who wish to research the records in person and may help by correspondence. Remember that in some cases the records of one parish may have been consolidated with those of another parish. For those whose ancestors settled in Stark county, considerable research has already been done and the information written up.

These books may be great resources:

  • Aberle, George P. Monsignor. Pioneers and their Sons. Bismark, North Dakota: Tumbleweed Press, 1980. (FHl book 978.4 D3a)
Includes histories of Catholic families in and around Stark County, North Dakota. In most cases, these histories trace the direct line two or three generations back through Russia and back to Germany.
  • Keller, Conrad. The German Colonies in South Russia, 1804-1904. (A. Becker, translator). Saskatoon, Canada: Western Producer, 1968-1973. (FHL book 947.7 F2k)
Includes detailed information about the Beresan Catholic colonies. For each colony a list of inhabitants in 1839-1840 is provided with ages, relationships, and places of origin in Germany.
  • Brendle, Johannes. Aus deutschen Kolonien im Kutschurganer Gebiet (From the German Colonies in the Kuchurgan district). Stuttgart: Ausland und Heimat Verlags-Aktiengesellschaft, 1930. (FHL book 943 W2sd v. 26)
Includes detailed information in German about the Kuchurgan Catholic colonies near Odessa. It provides lists of settlers for each village with ages, relationships and place of origin in Germany.

For Mennonites the following book may be helpful:

  • Unruh, Benjamin Heinrich. Die niederlandisch-niederdeutschen Hintergrunde der mennonitischen Ostwanderungen im 16., 17., und 19. Jahrhundert (The Netherlands-Low German background of the Mennonite migration to the East in the 16th, 18th, and 19th centuries). Karlsruhe: Self-published, 1955.
Includes background history on the Mennonite movement in Russia. Lists are given of families according to the town in Russia where they settled and time period, including in many cases birthplaces in German or Poland.
  • chapters have been created to assist researchers. The Intermountain Chapter is located in Utah. We can be reached via our blog at Also contact our Facebook page at AHSGR Germans from Russia Utah Intermountain Chapter. The chapter also consists of numerous resourceful village coordinators, who willingly assist researchers.


References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Germans From Russia: Genealogical Research Outline," Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.
  2. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Germans From Russia: Genealogical Research Outline," Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.
  3. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Germans From Russia: Genealogical Research Outline," Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.
  4. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Germans From Russia: Genealogical Research Outline," Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1999.