Doctor Seeks out his Germans-From-Russia
Holland, Deb. "Doctor Seeks out his Germans-From-Russia Heritage Overseas." Rapid City Journal, n.d.
|This woman was hoeing near a town
named Eigenfeld. She stopped to chat with Vogele and others
on the trip. (Photos courtesy of Ken Vogele)
RAPID CITY -- Genealogy can be addictive. Just ask
Rapid City physician Ken Vogele.
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
That was until March of 2000, when Vogele ventured
to North Dakota State University to peruse the Germans from Russia
Vogele found lineage dating back to the 1600s, thanks
to documents available there and through the Mormons' Family History
"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
"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," he said.
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 in Aberdeen.
"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.
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," he said.
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,"
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 from the Rapid City
Journal , Rapid City, South Dakota