In Touch with Prairie Living
By Michael M. Miller
The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at the NDSU Libraries
in Fargo reaches out to prairie families and former Dakotans. In
various ways, it affirms the heritage of the Germans from Russia
in an important part of the northern plains culture. In this month's
column, Betty Kuss Schumacher, Valley City, a rural Strasburg, ND
native, shares her memories of how she became interested in family
history and genealogy.
Saturday was for Dusting!
As the youngest child of seven, my favorite dusting duty was an
impressive organ harmonium, originally from my maternal grandfather.
On its ornate shelves, a gallery of "old time" family photos were
displayed. Among photos of aunts and uncles in their wedding attire,
a special photograph commemorated war-hero Wendelin Volk in his
For many family faces whom I could not identify, my litany continued
with "Who's this?" Out of curiosity I began digging through our
"picture box" of loose family photos. "Mom, who is this old woman
depicted with three men and a young boy?" She replied in her German
folk dialect about "grossmutter," a grandma I didn't recognize.
Relatives, neighbors or the parish priest became my captive audience.
My mother viewed my "hospitality" as extremely humorous, even capturing
our parish priest's visit as a "Kodak moment." Pity Father Michael
to endure photo after photo placed in his hand, while a seven-year-old
child eyes looked up for approval. My young vanity never forget
a face. These important photographs preserved memories and also
provided stories of comfort.
Photos as Memories
Years later, I had a "panic attack," when mother was giving back
family photos to those who would enjoy them more. I pleaded with
her not to part with these treasures. Upon my mother's death in
1987, my concern was "the pictures." In kindly foresight, my mother
had assembled photo albums for each of her children, highlighting
her family heritage. Would everyone be thrilled to receive this
precious gesture? Their casual response was, "We already have copies
of these pictures." I quickly claimed ownership of these "original
What other stories were left untold? Occupied with a full-time
job and very young children, I pushed these memories aside, watching
for another opportunity to return to it.
Taking the Plunge!
That special opportunity arrived upon my purchasing a home computer.
Finding inexpensive software regarding family history research,
I took the plunge!
Numerous "experts" advised me to concentrate on one family lineage,
or you could go crazy! However, this tracking nightmare became moot.
Computer software relieves the memory headaches of remembering who
is inter-related to whom. When in-putting extensive data into my
computer files, correlation memory reveals many inter-marriages.
In such historic communities as Strasburg, Krasna or Linton in Emmons
County, ND, you discover relationships to "just about everyone."
Somehow, I knew that my husband and I were related. When dating
my future husband, we met his maternal grandparents. They were so
enthused that he was dating "Joseph Volk's granddaughter." Why would
they care that Joseph Volk was my grand-father?
In next month's column, Betty Kuss Schumacher will reveal her
A Borscht Recipe for Those Chilly Dakota Days
At the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection website, some of
the most popular home pages are those with recipes. Some of those
recipes will appear in future columns. Clayton Schmitt's shares
one of his many wonderful recipes.
2 lb. beef brisket; 1 large bunch beets; 2 medium onions; 2 tbsp
sugar; 1 large clove garlic; 2 medium nugget sour salt or juice
of 1 lemon; salt and pepper to taste. Simmer beef in water to cover
generously. Skim to clear. Add sour salt or lemon juice, sliced
and peeled onions and beets, sugar and seasoning. Mince garlic fine
and add to broth. Cook until meat is tender (about 3 hours). Correct
seasonings to taste, serve hot!
Help us to locate and collect German-Russian cookbooks from Dakota
church groups, organizations and clubs for the GRHC archives. A
new cookbook available from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
is Sei Unser Gast: Be Our Guest. Write for further information
or see http://library.ndsu.edu/gerrus/books/cookbook.html.
Information about the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
For information, contact Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia
Bibliographer, NDSU Libraries, PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599
(Tel: 701-231-8416; E-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu; GRHC