My Interest in Family History - How It Began
By Dr. Adam Giesinger, Winnipeg, Manitoba
1917 - This was the year of the Russian Revolution, which received
much newspaper publicity and much discussion among our people. I was
8 years old and had just started school. I didn't know much English
yet, but had mastered a set of four German readers before I started
school. I still have the four books in my library.
1918 - The year of the end of the war and of the "flu"
which killed people all over the world. I was 9 years old. l didn't
contract the flu, but I got a crush on a history of the world war
that appeared early in 1919. I pestered my father to buy me a copy,
which he did. He warned me, however, that there were a lot of lies
about German in it, but he let me read it, with the warning not
to believe everything that is printed in books. This book had much
information about the Russian revolution and the seizure of power
by the Bolsheviks. It also had a lot of good pictures, including
the sinking of the German ship that brought my grandfather and his
family to America in 1900. I still have this book in my library.
1923 - The year when grandma received a letter from her sister
in Selz, with much sad news about family sufferings and deaths during
the war and revolution and a famine then existing among them. Grandma
sent her sister a food parcel and we received word later that it
got there. This contact with the family in Russia was the first
since before the war in 1914. There were a few more letters, then
Stalin clamped down on letters to the western world. I now have
copies of some of the letters grandma received then.
1924 - The year grandma died. She was only 59 years old, much loved
by her children and grandchildren, who assembled for a large family
gathering at and after her funeral. Much reminiscing about the history
of the family! Never again after this did I see all my uncles, aunts
and cousins assembled at one place. I was 15 years old. Many years
later I wrote a book in memory of grandma entitled, "My Grandmother's
1928 - The year when Stalin announced the Five Year Plan. This
plan took all land, farm equipment, farm animals, and other valuables
from individuals and made them state property. The plan was enforced
through a reign of terror, which brought death or long terms in
concentration camps to thousands of our German relatives in Russia.
I was then 19 years old, attending college in Regina. Our newspapers
were filled with horror stories from Russia.
1936 - The year grandfather died, at 75 years of age. I couldn't
make it to his funeral. I was teaching in a rural school in northern
Saskatchewan far from home, I had no car, the weather was wintery.
The next summer I saw some of the interesting papers he left behind,
some of which I later made copies. Of most interest to me was his
passport from Russia, which described him as Ambros, son of Adam.
This is where I first saw recorded the name of this great-grandfather,
whose name I inherited.
1945-1950 - This post-war period brought us the first news of the
fate of the Germans who had still lived before the war in the Black
Sea and Volga regions of Russia, the deportations of many to concentration
camps in Asiatic Russia and the repatriation of others to Germany.
About 1950 many German-Russian refugees began to arrive in Canada
and the United States. Now we began to hear first-hand stories of
the tragic wartime events.
1958 - This was the year when I made my first contact with Dr.
Stumpp. I saw a copy of the Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Russland
and wrote to the editor about subscribing to it. The editor was
Dr. Stumpp. In his reply he told me that he had a census list from
Mannheim, which listed a Jacob Giesinger among the founders. Might
this be my ancestor? There was no doubt in my mind that he was,
since both my grandfather and my father were born in Mannheim. What
others were between this Jacob and us, we did not know, but we were
excited about hearing about him. I now know that this Jacob was
my grandfather's grandfather, but my grandfather had not known him
nor of him. He had died many years before my grandfather was born.
1960 - This was an era of research in books I borrowed from libraries
in Germany. This research resulted in 1974 in the publication of
my book, From
Catherine to Khrushchev:The
Story of Russia's Germans.