Family History Book Shows Woman's Migration From
Russia to Lodi
Gokhman, Jennifer. "Family History Book Shows Woman's Migration From Russia to Lodi." Lodi News-Sentinel, 28 June 2006.
What started out as some family history research for Ren Urdahl
book five years later. She first started doing research as a gift
grandmother Clara Schmollinger, who lives in Lodi.
The book is mainly about her great-grandmother, Johanna Maria Engel
and how her family migrated from Germany to Russia, and she to North
Dakota, and then Lodi. This is a story familiar to many Lodi families
have German ancestors who came from Russia.
|Clara Schmollinger, 89, of Lodi, holds
up a copy of her granddaughter's book. She says she is a lot
like her mother, Johanna Engel Trick, who is featured in the
book. (Jennifer Gokhman/News-Sentinel)
Urdahl, of Livermore and formerly of Lodi, started gathering information
about five years ago. It took her two years to collect the photos,
get stories from family members, and do research on the Internet,
in libraries, archives in the U.S. and other countries.
Once she started doing research about what her family and others
through in Russia, she was hooked. She wanted to keep digging up
"I started seeing that they weren't just hard-working; they
determined, family oriented and God-fearing culture that stuck together
and helped others from their heart, even in the most extreme conditions,"
she said in an e-mail.
What was challenging for her was getting accurate information about
Johanna's siblings, as most were left in Russia when she came to
The second challenge was interviewing family members, especially
some had difficulty remembering stories.
Writing the book was a life-changing experience for Urdahl, and
relief and peace when it was finished. Urdahl sent a copy to the
Dakota State University Library for the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection in Fargo, N.D.
"Through my interviews with Grandma Trick's daughters, it
was so clear
that she was a great mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, neighbor
friend. She would give the clothes off her back to help someone
It was those that would not fend for themselves when they were able
she didn't like. ... She was an amazing woman through and through,"
wrote in the book.
Urdahl could see where her great-grandmother got her strength from
faith in God.
"I can't stop thinking about how helpless Grandma must have
felt all those
years receiving little or no information about her parents and siblings.
She didn't get to go back and bury her mother or her father. How
that must have been for her. She never went back to visit him, and
what I can see the only ones who really kept in touch with her was
brothers Ed and Carl," Urdahl wrote.
Urdahl says it's important to learn about family heritage. She
views on life changed when she saw what her ancestors went through.
There were enough Germans and German-owned shops in Lodi that people
could survive without knowing English.
People had their own whiskey stills in early Lodi.
Friends would get together at a local farm to make sausage.
Several people helped with jackrabbit eradication in Lodi; about
50 to 60
people participated and went to the vineyards and brought the tail
officials. (Trick's son Carl, about 8 or 9, helped.)
Carl and his friends used to hitchhike to Terminous to go fishing.
also caught eels at Woodbridge Dam and traded them at a Chinese
for a chow mein dinner.
They also used to visit the Moritz family in Galt and plucked the
feathers of geese to make pillows and comforters.
With early refrigerators, people had to put coins in to operate
order to pay the bill each month."We don't have a clue what
hard work is
compared to that," she said.
She enjoyed learning about her great-grandmother's life. Some of
things she found out she wouldn't have hard otherwise because her
great-grandmother didn't complain. Urdahl has also met people through
research with whom she is still in contact, and she has become closer
some of her relatives, with whom she previously didn't see often.
"What kept me going was my Grandma Trick's legacy, my faith
in God who
laid it on my heart and kept me going, my parents, my grandma (Clara
Schmollinger) and my awesome husband John who put up with all the
countless hours I spent on it," she said.
The book meant a lot to Clara Schmollinger and her four sisters
brothers, all of whom are in their 80s and 90s.
"They say I'm so much like my mother," Schmollinger said.
independent; I don't like to ask for help. I love to be out in the
And like her mother, she worked hard all her life. She did housekeeping
for 32 years among other jobs like working in packing sheds.
She said her mother worked until she the year she died. Johanna
out to visit her brother in Colorado every year, and he paid her
she worked to make up for it. She made German meals on a wood stove
all the people who worked for her brother, collected the wood for
stove, milked the cows and made the beds.
"She'd be so tired at night she crawled to bed," Schmollinger
History in brief
The Engel family went from Germany to Hungary in the early 1800s
southern Russia in the late 1800s.
When Catherine the Great reigned, she set up colonies for Germans
Russia. They received seed grain, potatoes, vines, seedlings, etc.
By 1897, almost two million Germans lived in Russia. Most of these
settlers were Lutheran.
By the 1900s, the Russian government abolished Catherine the Great's
doctrine, and colonist privileges were taken away. The settlers
decide whether or not to stay. The emigration of most of these Germans
started in 1873 and went until World War II.
Johanna Maria Engel was born in 1891. At age 22, she left for the
became an indentured servant to make immigration easier. She went
to Germany and then on steamship to North America.
Her husband, Theodor Trick, was born in 1840 in Russia. He moved
U.S. in 1910. He was a farmhand in North Dakota when he met Johanna.
were married in 1914.
In 1920, they took the train to California and lived with some
Stockton Street in Lodi. They moved to a shack and later a two-room
on Hilborn Street.
Theodor Trick had several jobs: He worked in vineyards, at the
did landscaping and finally owned a shoe shop from home.
His son Carl did several jobs before joining the National Guard
1930s. He was a golf caddy, sold the newspaper, helped in vineyards,
lawns and raised rabbits and sold the best ones to the local meat
Johanna Trick had a job at the cannery, was a housekeeper for the
family, a cook at Ruby's Restaurant, a salad maker at Croce's Restaurant,
and she worked in packing sheds and vineyards.
Reprinted with permission of the Lodi News-Sentinel.