| Journey to the Homeland:
Odessa, Ukraine and Stuttgart, Germany
May 24- June 4, 2005
Biographies of Tour Group Members
* Identifies Deceased
Patricia Gabriel Belknap, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim, Strassburg
and Selz (Kutschurgan District)
I was born in Linton, ND and raised in Bismarck, ND. Both sets
of grandparents immigrated from what they referred to as “South
Russia” or “Odessa.” My family names are Paternal:
Gabriel, Maternal: Klein
Growing up we were encouraged to speak English only. When we asked
about their life before they came to the US, we would be told that
it was not important to know and not of any interest.
I’m not sure which villages my grandparents came from but
with the help of Mr. Miller and his staff as well as relatives it
would appear that the following places might have been areas that
my family had ties to:
Maternal: Elsass, Kandel, Schiethal, and Selz, Russia
Paternal: Bessarabia, Elsass, Lorraine, Mariental, Riedselz, and
Some of them arrived in the US aboard the ship: Kaiser Wilhelm
and S.S. Friesland
Ronald Frank Brossart, Minot, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim, Selz, and
Strassburg (Kutschurgan District)
I was born to the oldest son of Valentine F. Brossart & Alice
C. (Walter) Brossart at Rugby, North Dakota on August 18, 1951.
I attended grade and high school at Rugby, then attended NDSU
at Fargo, ND, and graduated with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Economics
in 1973. I have worked for F.S.A. /U.S.D.A. for 31 years. I am the
loan manager at Minot, ND, where I have lived for the past 20 years.
My research so far on my biographical history has consisted of
reading the history of some research that has been done by others
regarding my family tree. So far all of the trails have led to Kutschurgan
District, with the primary village being Selz, with some reference
to Baden, Kandel & Elsass.
My grandfather on my father’s side was Frank Brossart, born
on November 12, 1893 in Emmons County, ND, near Hague but soon moved
near Rugby, where he spent the rest of his life. His father was
Johannes Brossart, born in 1858 in Selz Russia and his mother was
Franciska (Vetch) born in 1866. An original settler to the colony
of Selz, Valentine Brossart, born in 1771, may have been a more
distant relative. My grandmother on my father’s side was Elizabeth
Voeller, born in 1892 near Selz, Russia and immigrated to the U.S.
about 1910 at age 17. Her father was Jacob Voeller born in the 1860’s
and died in 1940 at Rugby. Her natural mother was Catherine Keller
born in the early 1870’s but died in 1906 at Selz, Russia.
I am still trying to find information on my mother’s side.
Her maiden name was Walter, her father- Frank and grandfather- Benedict,
and her mother’s name was Catherine Abel. I hope to have more
information before the trip in late May. A trip to Odessa, Russia
has been on my “to do sometime in my lifetime list”
but decided now is as good time as any when I can accompany my father
on his dream trip.
*Valentine F. Brossart, Rugby, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim, Selz and Strassburg
I was born on a farm near Rugby, ND on September 4, 1926 to German
My father was born in the U.S. shortly after his parents came here
from Selz, Russia. He did not see the homeland, but learned some
about it from his parents.
My mother was born in Selz, Russia in 1892. At about 18 years of
age, she along with her parents and family of about 7 or 8 immigrated
to the United States from Russia. At that time she had a stepmother,
since her real mother died from complications in childbirth. We
believe she was buried somewhere in Selz, Russia around 1900.
Leaving home at that age was very hard for my mother. She was very
homesick and at times would talk about her life growing up in Russia
with tears in her eyes. She often talked about how they lived, what
they did, how they farmed and so on. She also talked about losing
her mother at a young age and how they later had to leave in a hurry.
It took two weeks on a dirty ship to get over here. There was much
sickness and some people died although fortunately her family was
spared their lives.
This is why I am interested and excited about visiting their homeland
and hopefully seeing where they lived.
Helen Margaret Combs, Clemson, South Carolina
Ancestral Villages: Bergdorf, Glueckstal, Kassel and Neudorf (Glueckstal
District), Paris, Bessarabia
Both families, unknown to each other, went to Russia from Germany
and Poland, respectively, in 1808. My father, Ludwig Georg Mayer,
was born in 1887 in Kassel. My paternal grandparents, Georg Heinrich
and Magdalena Miller Mayer, emigrated in 1894 with five children
and my great grandmother, Anna Marie Radack, to the Dakota Territory,
settling in Manfred, Wells County, ND. My maternal grandparents,
Wilhelm and Carolina Miller Suckut, no relation, emigrated in 1885,
also with five children to the southern Dakota Territory, then to
Mackintosh County, ND, where my mother, Emma, was born in 1890.
I didn’t know any of my family history until nine years ago.
Except, when I was a young teenager, overhearing my mother tell
her friend “that the family had gone to Russia because of
such a good deal”. It turned out to be not so good and they
left. I assumed it was to Germany. It wasn’t until many years
later that I became curious as to when my ancestors came to the
I have had a wonderful life. I have three great sons and their
families. A husband, A.F. Combs, for 66+ years that was as adventuresome.
We traveled, lived and worked the world over after our sons were
grown. Too bad, I did not know my history when I was in the Black
Sea are on a tour when we lived in Iran. While there, I belonged
to an American’s Woman’s Club with 4,000 members. Whenever
anyone wanted to go or do, there were always enough people to form
a tour, or take lessons of some sort, and someone to teach the class.
Yes, I’m working on my memoirs.
Frances (Fran) Louise Erickson Cooperrider, Crystal River,
Ancestral Villages: Gnadental, Lichtental and Sarata, Bessarabia
Fran was born on April 11, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois to Louis
Emma Bayer and Frank Albert Erickson. Louis Emma Bayer was born
in Coalharbor, Mc. Lean County, ND near Garrison, on December 2,
1907 to Friedrick (Baier) Bayer and Katharina Paulina Christina
Mueller, both German immigrants from Sarata, Bessarabia, (Ukraine)
Russia, arriving in the Port of New York on April 25, 1905. Friedrick
died from a farm accident on November 4, 1909, he was 31 years and
4 months old. Louise was 2 years old and Robert was 3 when their
father died. Katharina was a widow alone on a farm and would probably
have gone back to her family in Sarata in order to care for her
children. But before she was ready to leave, Johann (John), Friedrick’s
brother came from Lemmon, South Dakota and married Katharina. The
family moved to Garrison, ND and farmed there for many years. Johann
and Katharina Bayer had four other children, Emil, Herbert, Edna,
and John. Johann Bayer was Louise and Robert’s uncle as well
as their step-father. He was also Louise’s baptismal sponsor
Frank and Louise lived in Chicago, IL, on the north side until
1955 when Frank retired from the Illinois Central Railroad. They
moved to the St. Louis, MO area in January 1965 to be near their
son Wilbur (Will).
Frances “Fran” graduated from Augustana Hospital School
of Nursing in 1952 and received her R.N. in October 1952. In 1986
Fran received a BA degree in Health Education from the National
College of Education in Evanston, IL. She married Loy William Cooperrider
on October 26, 1952 at Augustana Hospital Chapel in Chicago, IL.
Loy William was born December 7, 1926 in Chicago, IL. to Luther
Odell Cooperrider and Elsie Clara Matilda Arkema. Loy was ordained
into the Gospel Ministry in June 1952, from the Lutheran School
of Theology in Maywood, IL. Loy served as pastor of three Lutheran
congregations during his 20 years in the ministry in the ELCA. We
lived in Olney, IL. (Southern Illinois) 1952-1956; Florissant, MO.
(suburb of St. Louis) 1956-1967; and Oak Park, IL. (suburb of Chicago)
1967-1973. After 1973 Loy was an executive with various professional
associations until his retirement at age 62 in December 1988. Loy
and Fran raised four children: David Loy, Deborah Sue, Dawn Louise,
and Daryl Paul. She has 11 grandchildren. Loy died in Spooner, WI,
August 26, 1999 from complications of lung cancer. He is buried
in the Spooner Cemetery.
In 1953, Fran worked in a hospital in Olney, Illinois for a short
time before the children were born and then stayed home to raise
four children. In 1973, Fran took a nursing refresher course at
a local community college and hospital. She worked at two hospitals
in the area: Mc. Neal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn, IL; and West
Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, IL. Fran worked as a staff nurse
on pediatric, medical/surgical units; and as an instructor in the
Staff Education Dept. of West Suburban Hospital for 10 years where
she conducted many classes, orientations, and CPR instruction; and
also worked in orthopedics and neurology.
When Fran and Loy moved to Florida in the fall of 1989, Fran worked
on medical units in Crystal River for three years. In 1994, she
retired after 20 years in active hospital nursing. Fran is now spending
a lot of time researching family genealogy. She is a member of three
genealogy societies and a Macintosh Computer Club.
In the year 2000, she completed a book on her paternal side.....
“The KARCHER/ERICKSON FAMILY HISTORY” then in 2004 she
edited and completed a book of Cooperrider sermons..... “FIVE
COOPERRIDER PASTORS...... father and four sons, their lives....and
words from the pulpit”.
She is now doing research on her maternal side..... (Baier) Bayer,
Mueller, Stuhlmueller, Bandel, Fickel, and Dahllinger from Sarata,
Bessarabia, Russia, and Ukraine.
Mabel B. Junkert Fischer, San Antonio, New Mexico
Ancestral Villages: Bergdorf, Glückstal, Kassel and Neudorf
Since this is my first trip. I have no special expectations.
I am an artist and will bring my pen and sketch pad. Also I will
make notes, perhaps I’ll bring some disposable cameras.
The names in my family tree are Junkert, Guthmiller, Lamle, Niech,
Kessler, and Schnable. The villages as I remember are Neudorf, Glückstal,
Bergdorf, and Kassel. However I’ll be happy with whatever
we can see. I do not have to go to every village.
I do not move fast, I’ll carry a cane for balance. However,
in the summer time, my back is better and I may not need the cane.
I hope this will not exclude me from the trip.
Nancy Alice Vorrath Herrel, Moxee, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Laub, Volga Region, Russia (today Tarylk)
My ancestral village is Tarylk (formerly Laub), Russia in the Saratov
area. I am not at this time seeking any information as to my family.
I am accompanying my friend, Dot McGuire, as she visits the area
in which her father’s family comes from.
I was born in Janesville, Wisconsin on August 15, 1931 to Jacob
George Vorrath and Laura H. Emmert Vorrath. Shortly before the Second
World War, my parents and my siblings moved to Washington State
because, as my father explained, we would always have food to eat
here. The Yakima Valley is an agricultural area.
My family originally lived in a labor camp (not as it sounds, but
a low cost living place for agricultural workers). My father being
an ambitious man eventually moved the family to the “camp
farm” where we milked several cows and bottled the milk. Also
raised hay and worked a pear orchard. As this was during the war
and there was a shortage of labor, my mother, sisters and I, along
with my aunt and uncle were the labor force. Dad eventually moved
the family to Yakima where he owned a series of restaurants (his
wife and daughters, of course, was the labor force).
After graduation from high school, I became a secretary, eventually
retiring in 1993 after 40+ years as a legal assistant/secretary.
I worked from my home for approximately 3 years before finally calling
My husband retired from the State of Washington, Department of
Transportation. We have two sons, one living in Texas with his wife,
children and grandchild. The other lives in the Seattle area with
his wife and child. We live in the country on a small acreage, raising
nothing, downsizing more each year. In my youth, the family picked
hops. I enjoy the fact that our home is surrounded by hop fields
and I do not have to work in them. I watch others.
Frank N. Huber, Seattle, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Selz, Elsass, Kosinka and Poniatovka (Kutschurgan
District); Alexanderheim (Prischib), Marienfield (near Militopol)
by the Dneiper
Growing up in North Dakota near the Emmons-Logan County line, my
mother would at times talk about living in South Russia. She mentioned
the Dnieper (Dnepr) River, the productive land, the nice horses,
and the climate tempered by the Black Sea. She was 10 years old
when they came to America.
My dad was seven years old when they came. He did mention Kosinka
(sounded like Gosinga). Kosinka is a daughter colony in the Kutschurgan
District. Said he was baptized at Poniatovka which appears to be
a neighboring village.
They talked about the ‘old country’ but it didn’t
hold much interest for the younger generation. My grandfather was
born in Selz and my grandmother in Elsass.
In 1953 I was in the military stationed in Germany. At that time
my dad received a letter from his cousin in West Germany. He was
in the trek from South Russia to Germany in 1945 described in Joseph
Height’s book ‘Paradise on the Steppe’. He became
separated from his wife and daughters at Posen, Poland. I took a
weekend pass to visit him. He was living with an 84 year old aunt,
her daughter-in-law, and 13-15 year old boy. They spoke the same
German we do!
This man gave me the family lineage back to 1808 when my great-great
grandfather left Mothern, Alsace. I do hope we get there on our
trip to Alsace. (He told me the ancestor was 12 yrs old when he
left Alsace, other research indicates 6 years, but he is listed
in the founding families of Selz)
That visit really piqued my interest in genealogy. I never heard
from him again. In 2001 I learned he found his family in Schweinfurt.
Dorothy Bullinger McGuire, Yakima, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Hoffnungstal, Glückstal and Neu Kassel
(Glückstal District); Albota, Bessarabia and Guldendorf (Liebental
I was born in Ashley, ND. I have three sisters, one died in 2003.
After my father died in a construction accident in 1939 (the day
before his 39th birthday), my mother re-married several years later.
My step-father moved our family a long with two cousins to Yakima,
WA, or I should say Wiley City, a small suburb of Yakima.
It was during WWII and jobs were plentiful, we worked in the fruit
industry as well as the hay fields.
After high school I joined the U.S. Air Force, my basic training
was in San Antonio, Texas. From there I was assigned the Dental
Clinic at Selfridge A.F.B, Detroit, MI. I returned to Yakima after
my discharge and continued to work in the Dental profession for
the next 26 years.
In the mean time, I met and married Jack. Jack and his six brothers
owned and operated a building supply business as well as a fleet
of trucks. We are both retired.
We have a son Brian, daughter-in-law Kris, a granddaughter Jori,
a senior and Honor Student, our grandson Max is a junior and a 6’7”
height. They all enjoy scuba diving as a sport while the oldies,
as we are referred to by the kids, enjoy traveling the U.S. in our
Michael M. Miller, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Straßburg (Kutschurgan District); Krasna,
Michael writes, “My first visit to the villages of Straßburg
and Krasna in June of 1994 is an experience I shall never forget.
I was especially touched by the warmth and friendship of the local
villagers. I returned to Odessa and to the home of the late Antonina
(Welk) Ivanova in the village of Selz in December 1995, where I
completed a cassette tape interview in German. Antonina died in
Michael was raised in Strassburg, North Dakota, learning to speak
English and German. His college degrees are from Valley City State
University and the University of North Dakota. He has been on the
North Dakota State University Libraries staff since 1967, where
he compiled the annotated bibliography, researching the Germans
from Russia, published by the Institute of Regional Studies, NDSU,
He serves as Bibliographer of the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection, NDSU Libraries. Since 1999, he has been an executive
producer of Prairie Public Television documentaries, including the
award-winning The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children
of the Prairie (1999), Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans
from Russia (2000); also Recipes from Grandma’s Kitchen: Germans
from Russia Food Preparations and Traditions, Volume 1 (2002) and
Germans from Russia Wrought Iron Crosses (2002). He has visited
Odessa and the former German villages each year since 1994 to 2005.
Carole Herlyn Schauer, Hyattsville, Maryland
Ancestral Villages: Bergdorf and Neudorf (Glückstal District)
I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1946 to Harry and Linda
(Hopf) Herlyn and raised near Marion, SD where my family farmed.
My mother is the oldest child of Herman and Freida (Trefz) Hopf.
She joined four brothers and sisters. She immigrated to the U.S.
in 1911 with her family and located in Ashley, ND where the family
farmed. Later they moved to Marion, SD.
Philip’s sister was married to Christian Fisher of Venturia,
ND. His daughter Katherine married into the Zimmerman family and
resided in Gackle, ND. His daughter Carolina married Jacob Hieb,
Sr. who was from Neudorf.
My grandmother, Freida, married Herman Hopf in 1915. They lived
outside of Marion, SD, had six children, and homesteaded land in
both SD and ND. In retirement, they lived in Marion next door to
Jacob Hieb, Jr. whose father was from Neudorf. Freida died October
Grandmother was afraid to talk of her life in Bergdorf. She would
only indicate that she was born near Odessa, Russia. Her family
hid Jewish people during the pogroms, and on one occasion was visited
by the guards looking for Jews who at that time were hiding in their
attic. The Jews snuck out of the attic by ropes and ran away. My
Grandmother was always afraid their family would be found, even
in the U.S., and harmed.
I grew up on a farm near Marion, SD. Later I attended South Dakota
State University and the University of Maryland where I received
my graduate degree in psychiatric nursing. I married LeRoy Edward
Schauer in 1970, and we lived near Washington D.C. all of our married
life. We raised two sons; Andrew works in television in Los Angeles,
and Michael lives with me and plays keyboards with a band. My husband
was a Methodist minister and died in 2003. My husband’s family
is from Germany; however, I do not know if his family has any association
with the colonists in Russia. I work for the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services in mental health. My mother, two brothers,
and numerous extended family members reside in or near Marion, SD.
My interest in genealogy was sparked when family members from Germany
came to the U.S. in the 1970’s to update my father’s
family history. The Herlyn family history goes back to the year
600. Since I lived near Washington, D.C. and had access to the Archives,
I researched family history both for my father’s and mother’s
families. My Grandmother would often talk of Bergdorf which inspired
me to both research her family history and visit her ancestral village.
Lorraine (Lori) Schessler, Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin
Ancestral Villages: Bergdorf, Glueckstal, Kassel and Neudorf (Glueckstal
District), Paris, Bessarabia
I am going on this adventure as my grandmother’s (Helen Combs)
This is her journey and I am honored and blessed to be part of
it. As Nana’s oldest grandchild, it is, I feel my duty to
learn of our heritage. To carry the story forward to my grandchildren.
I am very, very excited to be sharing your journeys home to your
heritage. We each have a unique connection to one another.
Edna (Stuhlmiller) Watters, Shoreline, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Benkendorf, Hoffnungstal, Sarata and Teplitz,
Bessarabia; Glueckstal (Glueckstal District)
My father's parents, David and Anna Maria Martha (Hansen) Stuhlmüller
immigrated October 1902 somewhere in eastern Canada with two sons.
They came directly to Washington State where they homesteaded, spending
a few years in California, and then returning to Washington where
they spent the rest of their lives on the farm. They were farmers
in Sarata and the USA.
Johann and Margaretha (Schöch) Hansen, are my great grandparents.
Johann Gottlieb Hansen was a tailor.
Christian and Rosina (Reiter/Reuter) Schuh, my maternal grandparents
came to America on the ship Blücher in April 1903 and landed
at Ellis Island. They came to Washington State and resided here
the rest of their lives. The Schuh family were farmers and had a
In Teplitz, my great grandparents, Johannes and Christina (Stickel)
Reiter/Reuter’s owned a small store.
I was born 1931 in Wenatchee, WA and spent most of my young life
on a grain farm, with some cattle, chickens, hogs, and horse or
two. Charles and I have been married 55 years. We married right
after my high school graduation. Charles was a navel returnee from
WWII. We have three wonderful children and four super grandchildren.
We decided I would be a stay at home mom.
Besides the children and grandchildren our interests are genealogy,
golf, tennis, and bridge. I am a member of St. Timothy’s Lutheran
Church. I have been in choirs, taught Sunday school, altar guild,
I am a member of GRHS at the Puget Sound Chapter.
Charles (Shorty) Watters, Shoreline, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Benkendorf, Hoffnungstal, Sarata and Teplitz,
Bessarabia; Glueckstal (Glueckstal District)
I am interested in this trip because I am married to Edna Stuhlmiller
Watters whose ancestors came to America in 1903 and 1902 from Teplitz
and Sarata. My ancestors came to America in 1714 and settled in
Germana, VA. I can trace them back to 1412 in Siegen.