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
as an important part of the northern plains culture. In this month's
column, Betty Kuss Schumacher continues to share her family research
It was exciting that a "grandma," such a stranger to my childhood
mind, is now identified as my mother's fraternal grandmother. My
husband's grandfather was fondly reflecting that my grandfather,
Joseph Volk, was his first cousin. That "grandma" is the "sister"
of my husband's great-grandfather.
Now my quest moved into fervor! Family matriarchs and elderly
aunts were questioned for details, later documenting local cemeteries
with headstone photos. Having this addiction is a "hereditary trait"
linked to Vetter heritage. My unknown "grandma" was Elizabeth (Vetter)
Volk Klein. In my great-grandmother's "All Saints Book," she recorded
handwritten names of her parents and parents-in-law, further listing
her fraternal grandparents and great-grandparents. What a legacy!
The Vetter clan massively immigrated to Emmons County. I even
surprised my matriarch aunts, showing their great-parents
immigrated to America, where they lived, when they died, and where
they were buried. I met other family members, to "ring little bells"
of memory. I treasure these "Family Keepers" and dedicated historians.
Computer archival-filing, a super tool for cross-referencing complex
family relations, allows my double-checking for other common ancestors
and inter-marriages. No person is entered into my database unless
linked to someone listed previously. After four years, I have passed
the 21,400th data entry. Whenever printing out a new matrix of family
charts, I am amazed to discover "who" my relatives are!
Adding a "photo scanner" to my computer furthers my photographic
comparisons, as I gather immense pleasure by matching names to faces.
Imagine your excitement viewing a century-old photograph and recognizing
a familiar face staring back at you. An out-of-focus photo of my
fraternal grandfather is compared to early photographs of my uncles;
a definite resemblance can help to determine how he appeared. Even
Internet and World Wide Web respond: A "Kuss" in Germany inquired,
"from where the heck I was writing?" since the Kuss name is rare.
Valued Photos Are Keys to Past
Cherish old photographs, yet unidentified. Please, Please! Do
not throw photos away. They can provide a missing link for someone
Consider donations to the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection,
NDSU Libraries, Fargo, or the Germans from Russia Heritage Society,
Bismarck. You may hold the key to someone's past. Please think about
Travel to Germany
During the holiday vacation later in December, I visited Stuttgart,
Germany, where I renewed friendships with members of the Choir of
the Homeland (Heimatklaenge Chor), who toured North Dakota in July.
They expressed their greetings to their many friends in North Dakota.
For some, it was their first Christmas in Germany immigrating from
Siberia and Kazakshstan. They shared their stories of the winter
months: fetching wood in the Siberian forests to stay warm and how
the snowfall and snowstorms would compare to living on the Dakota
prairies. Their Christmas gifts for children would mostly be handmade
from textiles or from wood. We have begun an Oral History Project
with the help of the choir members. Oral interviews in the German
language of persons who recently immigrated to Germany from the
former Soviet Union including their youth in the Black Sea German
villages of South Russia (today Ukraine) begin in 1998. The Heimatklaenge
Chor will present a special concert for the Journey to the Homeland
Tour members in Stuttgart on June 7, 1998. Our first interviews
of North Dakotans now appear at the GRHC website under "Oral History
At Darmstadt Technical University near Frankfurt, German-Russian
students gathered to hear about the life of the Germans from Russia
on the Dakota prairies. They were most interested to learn about
the comparisons of the landscape and geography of the Dakotas. Many
of these students who have immigrated since 1991 to Germany from
northern Kazakhstan near Siberia where the landscape and climate
is similar to the northern plains. Since the late 1980s, close to
2.1 million ethnic Germans have immigrated to Germany from the former
Soviet Union, many with relatives in North America. The university
students are interested to make contact with young German-Russian
students in America via the Internet. Information will be sent to
the Germans from Russia electronic discussion groups. I sensed much
interest among the young people to learn more about their German-Russian
culture, heritage and folklore.
North Dakota Picnic in Mesa
The North Dakota Picnic is Sunday, March 1, 1998, from 10 a.m.
to 3 p.m., at Pioneer Park, 525 East Main in Mesa, AZ. The NDSU
Libraries and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection sponsor
Information about the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
If you missed last month's column shared by Betty Kuss Schumacher,
please write to the address below. For further information about
the collection, German-Russian heritage, the 1999 Journey to the
Homeland tour in May, contact Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries,
PO Box 5599, Fargo, ND 58105-5599 (Tel: 701-231-8416; E-mail: Michael.Miller@ndsu.edu;
GRHC website: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc).