Doctor Seeks out his Germans-From-Russia Heritage
Holland, Deb. "Doctor Seeks out his German-From-Russia Heritage Overseas." Rapid City Journal, 17 August 2003, sec. 1C.
RAPID CITY -- Genealogy can be addictive. Just ask Rapid City physician
|This woman was hoeing near a twon named
Eigenfeld. She stopped to chat with Vogele and others on the
As a young man growing up in Aberdeen, Vogele discovered a book
that listed the founding families of villages in the Black Sea region
of the former Soviet Union.
"We had this book knocking around our house for years,"
Vogele said. "It listed a Michael Vogele. I thought he was
probably my relative, but I never researched it further."
That was until March of 2000, when Vogele ventured to North Dakota
State University to peruse the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.
Vogele found lineage dating back to the 1600s, thanks to documents
available there and through the Mormons' Family History Library
|This picture of an old German house
in Neudorf shows the barn at the rear. The tradition of building
the barn adjacent to the house came from Europe.
"I had been bitten by the genealogy bug," he said. "I've
gone 10 generations back - that's 1,024 different people. I take
it with a grain of salt because it's just names and dates. I have
the begats, now I'm in search of the stories."
A trip to the Ukraine and Moldova in May of 2002 only fueled the
fire for Vogele.
Through the trip, Vogele was able to find documents that clarified
family relations back at the turn of the century. He even found
some distant cousins still living in the Black Sea region.
"They would be, like, my fourth cousins. But it's really quite
a feeling to be in the same village as
my ancestors, knowing that they walked the same streets I walked,"
Vogele booked the tour through North Dakota State University. It
is led by Michael M. Miller, Germans-from-Russia bibliographer for
the NDSU Library.
During the trip, Vogele wrote letters to his father, who lives
"I have just finished a whirlwind tour to at least 12 former
German colonies. Dad, you would feel very much at home here - gently
rolling hills, crops very similar to those in South Dakota. Nice
stands of wheat, some rye. Even though it is dry, corn will be knee
high by the 4th of July," he penned on May 26, 2002.
|A farmer throws alfalfa onto a wagon
near the village of Neu- Gluekestal.
After traveling with other members of the group for the initial
part of the trip, Vogele was allowed to hire an interpreter and
return, with his wife, Cathy, to the areas in which he believed
his family may have lived.
People in the village directed the group to an older man who supposedly
knew everything about the community. He sent them in search of Steinbachs,
Vogele's ancestors, who lived in Freiburg near Hoffnungstal. The
trek uncovered long-lost cousins Gresha and Marie Steinbach.
Vogele was fascinated not only with the family but also with their
"hof," or lot.
The house situated on the lot was small and was adjoined by the
barn. A separate summer kitchen and cellar were situated near the
house, as were a storage shed and outhouse.
"It's like a you're in a time warp. Everything is very simple,"
|Geese swim on ta pond in the Sofiental
commons at Novasamarka, Ukraine. Vogele said most villages have
a common pasture where animals graze.
|A one- room store in Hoffnungstal is
stocked with many kinds of sausages.
He learned through the interpreter that the cousins each get pensions
of about 130 grivnas a month (equivalent to $25 in U.S. currency).
"Many people in Ukraine and Odessa are extremely poor,"
Vogele said. "People begging are fairly common, and you see
people digging through Dumpsters."
Vogele's quest for ancestors also took him to Odessa, where he
met another cousin, Anna Steinbach, and her sister, Zina. They shared
stories of their heritage with Vogele.
"Until I got into the genealogy, my family was known only
back to my great-grandparents. And initially, the names and dates
we were using were wrong," Vogele said.
Vogele's grandmother came to the United States in 1884 and his
grandfather, in 1892.
"They both came to the Eureka area. My grandma's dad homesteaded
there, and my grandfather homesteaded near Lowry," he recalled.
Vogele's advice to others who may want to learn about their heritage:
"Start interviewing family members now before they, and their
stories, are gone."
Reprinted with permission of the Rapid City Journal.