|Journey to the Homeland Tour
– Ukraine & Germany
North Dakota State University Libraries
23 May – 2 June 2006
Biographies of Tour Group Members
* Identifies Deceased
Marie Tandeski Delizonna, San Jose, CA
Ancestral villages: Baden and Selz (Kutschurgan District), Kleinliebental,
and Franzfeld (Liebental District).
I am the eleventh of fourteen children born to Margaret Fix and
Thomas Tandeski. My family lived in the farming communities of Selz,
Odessa, Esmond and lastly Maddock, North Dakota.
While growing up, we were referred to as “Roosians”
by others and I never knew whether I was Russian or German although
my parents and their friends and relatives usually spoke German
when they got together.
I went to high school at Maddock, Drake and Halliday, North Dakota.
Then on to Interstate Business College in Fargo, ND. At the age
of 19, I decided to leave the freezing cold state of North Dakota
and seek my future in San Francisco.
Here I met my husband, who was from St. Paul, MN, and after several
years of working in San Francisco, he decided to open a law practice
in San Jose. When he decided to open his own firm I went to work
as deputy sheriff to help pay the mortgage. Before my five children
were grown, I decided to return to college and get my teachers credential.
I taught for 15 years and retired in 2001.
A few years ago on a visit to Fargo, we went to an Arts & Crafts
Fair and here I learned about the Germans from Russia. As I learned
more and more about this unique group of people, I was able to more
fully understand my background. Since then I have traveled to North
Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Salt Lake City, and even to Poland
to try and trace my ancestors.
From my research and if I am tracing the right family, I have learned
my maternal ancestors probably came from the Alsace area; they arrived
in Baden about 1804. They left Russia in 1889 and 1891. But like
many other Germans from Russia, much of their history has been lost
to time so it is now my challenge to try and piece together their
I have had a wonderful life and feel blessed that I am able to
join with the others on this Homeland Journey – 2006 adventure!
Gary Haar, Boise, Idaho
Ancestral Villages: Friedenstal, Crimea (Haar); Hoffnungstal (Aldinger),
Bessarabia; Neudorf (Hieb) and Kassel (Pietz) (Glueckstal District)
I was born at Bowdle, South Dakota on 12 November 1944. In 1951
my family moved to Gettysburg, South Dakota, where I went to school
until 1962. In 1962 before my senior year of high school my family
moved to Triumph, Idaho. In 1963 and 1964 I attended the University
of Idaho at Moscow, Idaho.
I was a Communications Technician in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to
1969. While in the Navy, I attended the European Division of the
University of Maryland. After being discharged from the Navy, I
attended Boise State University, receiving a BA degree in Business
Administration and Computer Science.
In September 1972 I went to work for the Idaho State Auditor’s
Office. I transferred to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
1 October 1974, where I worked for 27 years. On 1 October 2001,
I transferred back to the State Auditor’s Office, which now
was called the State Controller’s Office. At the State Controller’s
Office, I was the Operations Manager for the State Data Center until
31 August 2004, when I retired.
In 1804 my 4x-great-grandfather Johann Andreas Haar immigrated
to Crimea, the route traveled was – Ulm, Baden – Wuerttemberg;
Wien (Vienna), Austria; Radziwillow; Ovidiopol, Ukraine; Odessa,
Ukraine; Eupatoria, Crimea.
My 3x-great-grandfather Johann Georg Haar was born 4 November 1798
at Bissingen, Baden – Wuerttemberg, Germany. He died 9 December
1844 at Friedental, Crimea.
My 2x-great-grandfather Jakob Haar, with his family, immigrated
from Friedental, Crimea on 16 June 1875. My great-grandfather David
was two years old when they arrived in America on the vessel Cimbria,
in New York from Hamburg, Germany.
The reason I want to go to the Ukraine and Germany is to learn
more about my family history.
Peggy Sinnemaki Haar, Boise, Idaho
Ancestral Villages: Friedenstal, Crimea (Haar); Hoffnungstal (Aldinger),
Bessarabia, Neudorf (Hieb) and Kassel (Pietz) (Glueckstal District)
Peggy grew up on a dairy farm in northern Idaho. After college,
Peggy taught school for several years, and then moved on to Boise
Cascade working in the computer department. In 1970 she went to
work for the Idaho State Controller’s office and stayed there
until her retirement. She retired July 31, 2000 after many years
of service as the Administrator of the State Payroll/Personnel System.
Peggy’s family is not German – her family migrated
from Finland in the early 1900s. She however shares Gary’s
interest in genealogy and is interested in the Ukraine from the
aspect of researching the Haar ancestry.
Rudolph Michael (Mike) Hager, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ancestral villages: Strasburg, Elsass, Georgental, Selz, Baden,
Mannheim and Kandel (Kutschurgan District); Krasna, Bessarabia
I was born at Harvey, ND August 23, 1929 to Mike and Felicitas
(Krenzel) Hager from Orrin, Pierce County, ND. I grew up on a farm
in southern Pierce County populated almost entirely by fellow German-Russians
who came from the Kutschurgan Colonies near Odessa, in what was
then in South Russia, but is now in the Republic of Ukraine. I did
not speak English until I began school. My five siblings and I were
very close to both sets of grandparents while growing up. All four
lived relatively long lives.
Our family farmed in the lake region of southern Pierce County
where I attended school in a one-room school house and went on to
graduate from high school at Balta, ND in 1946. I was always curious
about the origins of our people, but was never able to any real
answers regarding our family’s pre-Russian history. I asked
so many questions and listened in on all conversations about Russia,
to the point of being a nuisance. (When later exposed to the works
of Stumpp, Height, and Giesinger, I was off and running.)
I attended the North Dakota State School of Science at Wahpeton
where I studied Radio and Electronics, and took a job in late 1949
with B & B Electric at Rugby, ND until I was drafted into the
Army in January 1951. After I finished my hitch in the Army, which
included a year in Korea, I went to work for Dakota Broadcasting
Company as Assistant Station Engineer at KCJB in Minot, ND where
we opened the first television broadcasting station in the Dakotas.
I departed North Dakota in the autumn of 1953 and took a job with
Boeing Aircraft in Seattle until November 1954, when I moved to
Florida to work on the Guided Missile Testing Range for RCA. I worked
at various overseas tracking sites for five years, and then transferred
to a NASA contract with the company.
In 1962, I joined The Collins Radio Company as a prototype field
engineer and spent nearly five years in Japan, Vietnam, and Australia,
involved in the development of “state of the art” naval
communications for the Far East Command.
In April of 1968, I came to Albuquerque where I built and operated
“The Barn Dinner Theatre” on the backside of Sandia
Mountain. It became a popular landmark that served food and presented
live professional stage comedies in a country atmosphere.
I sold my business in 1981 and went into real estate investment
in Arizona and Nevada. In 1998 I began to retire from all business
activity. Now, fully retired in Albuquerque, I have been able to
pursue genealogy to my heart’s content.
I have a daughter, Michelle, and three grandsons in their twenties,
who all live nearby.
Natalie Rose Weber Hansen, Marysville, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Kassel (Glueckstal District)
I was born January 27, 1936 in Isabel, South Dakota to Jacob Weber
and Irene E. Bock Weber. My dad, Jacob Weber, was born in Kassel,
Russia November 22, 1893, a German from Russia. He came to the U.S.A.
when he was 17 years old. I think he went to North Dakota where
his sister Katherine Reich lived. In 1917 he went to Isabel where
he obtained a homestead 25 miles northwest of Isabel. He married
Mom in 1920 in Isabel. Mom was born in Klemme, Iowa, but her grandparents
come from Dannstadt near Heidelberg, Germany.
In October 1936, my family moved to a small dairy farm near Sultan,
WA. I lived there until the fall of 1954 when I entered a school
of nursing in Everett, WA. After graduating and getting my RN license,
I worked 5 years at a TB sanatorium in Seattle.
I was married to Bernard Hansen on May 9, 1959. We had three children
and lived in the Bothell, WA area. I did not work for about 12 years,
but finally started working part time for the school district as
a school nurse. I also worked part time as a staff nurse at Evergreen
Hospital. I worked at Inglemoor High School for 21 years. The last
8 years were full time as their nurse. I retired in 1998.
My husband Bernard retired in 1992 because of problems associated
with M.S. He died suddenly July 6, 2002 from a dissecting aortic
aneurysm. I have kept busy with volunteer activities with the Cancer
Center, mentor programs, hospice programs and the Red Cross. I also
play piano at my church part time. I have 6 grandchildren and really
enjoy spending time with them and of course my children.
Donna Neiffer Larson, Dodge City, Iowa
Ancestral Villages: Neudorf (Neiffer); Bergdorf (Ahl); “Neidorf”,
and Tiraspol (Mittleider)
I was born on April 6, 1943 in Everett, Washington.
My father, Jacob John Neiffer (baptized as Johann Jakob) was born
on March 21, 1899 in Neudorf, South Russia. He came to the US with
his parents and two younger brothers in 1913. His father, Martin
Neiffer, was born in either Neudorf or Cherson, Russia, and his
mother, Elizabeth Ahl, was born in Bergdorf, Russia.
My mother, Pauline Mittleider, was born in Washburn, North Dakota
on September 27, 1903, three months after her parents and 5 siblings
arrived at Ellis Island. Her father, Theobald Mittleider was born
in Tiraspol, and her mother, Magdalena Rohrbach was born in Odessa,
I lived in rural Snohomish County, WA until I was 10 years old
when my father died. My mother and I moved to Sultan, WA where we
lived until my mother’s death in 1957. I moved to Seattle
where I lived with an older sister and attended high school, graduating
I married Tom Larson in 1961 and we moved to California. We have
In 1961, I began working for the government doing various types
of office work. We lived in several different states over the next
25 years as I worked my way up to management level and was an office
manager at the time of my retirement in 1987. Following my retirement,
we moved to Texas but spent summers in my husband’s hometown,
in Iowa. In 1995, we decided to make our home in Iowa on a permanent
I began researching my family history as I wanted to learn why
my parents always said I was German, yet my father and all of my
grandparents had been born in Russia. In 2003, I completed a family
history about my mother’s parents, their 16 children and their
descendants. A cousin and I also planned a family reunion in North
Dakota to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Theobald
and Magdalena Mittleider at Ellis Island. It was attended by more
than 80 Mittleider descendants from 18 states. I am now working
on compiling my father’s family history as well as organizing
materials regarding my husband’s family.
I am a member of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society in Bismarck
and am very active in my local Genealogical Society where I am a
past president and currently the treasurer. Our society is very
interested in preserving our local records. I have written two grant
applications which were approved and have allowed us to microfilm
and preserve over 50,000 pages of newspapers dating back to 1854.
We currently have another grant to allow us to preserve the old
county probate records which were to be discarded. I have a special
interest in preserving the local records as my husband’s family
has lived in the county for five generations and in the state of
Iowa since it was a territory.
I have a dual purpose in joining the Journey to the Homeland
1. I have always wanted to see my father and grandparents’
2. I will be able to meet my second cousin, Helmut Mayer, who
lives in Waiblingen, just outside of Stuttgart.
Our families had lost contact in 1925 when my paternal grandmother
died. Helmut was interested in establishing contact with his American
cousins, and with the help of his friends, Jan & Tom Stangl,
we were put in touch with each other in 2004. I am looking forward
to visiting with him and if possible, with another cousin, Erna
Schmalz who lives in Winsen, Germany.
I am excited about my upcoming trip and am certain it will be one
of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Patricia Rae Lewis, South Beach, Oregon
Ancestral Village: Kamarouka (Kassel) (Glueckstal District)
I was born in Shawano, Wisconsin to a family with a long history
of living in Wisconsin. I am traveling with my husband, Lavern Weber,
as he visits the village, Kassel, where his father was born. For
me, this is an opportunity to see an area of the world I’ve
never seen and to share the trip with many who have roots in this
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, lived many years in St. Paul, Minnesota,
moved to Melbourne, Australia for nine and a half years and now
live in Newport, Oregon. I have a science background and did research
on the physiology of reproduction and lactation. I retired when
Lavern did so we could have more time together and perhaps travel
as we are now doing. I volunteer as a member of a community group
which educates people about diabetes; I am active in breastfeeding
support activities and do literacy tutoring for adults.
* Arlis (Wagner) Lundgren, Sartell, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Hoffnungstal, daughter colony of Glueckstal
District; Berlin, Neuburg, Gueldendorf (Liebental District)
I was born in the Mercer, ND area and grew up on a farm 12 miles
south of there. My parents were Fred & Louise (Fischer) Wagner.
I had 2 brothers and 1 sister.
I was educated in a one-room school for the first eight grades
and graduated form Mercer High School in 1959. I attended Minot
State College and taught for six years (2 years in Washburn, ND
and 4 years in Minot).
I was married to Jerry Landgren from Mora, MN in 1963 and we had
We had lived in the St. Cloud, MN area for 35 years. I raised my
children and then went to work for a travel agency as a tour director
and a tour planner (one-day tours). I have worked in that field
for almost 20 years.
Some of my interests are sewing, reading, genealogy, antiques,
and of course, being a grandmother to 8 grandchildren.
I have traced back 8 generations on my father’s side, but
so far I am only back to my great grandmother on my mother’s
side (Fischer’s from the Hebron, ND area!). I got started
too late and most all the knowledgeable members have passed away.
I am so excited about the trip and can hardly wait.
Michael M. Miller, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Straßburg (Kutschurgan District) and
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. Antonia died in October,
Michael was raised in Strasburg, 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 with Prairie Public Television, Fargo. The award winning
Germans from Russia documentary series includes: 1) The Germans
from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairies (1999);
2) Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia (2000);
3) Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains
(2002); and 4) A Soulful Sound: Music of the Germans from Russia
He has visited Odessa and the former German villages since 1994
including the 12th Journey to the Homeland Tour for 23 May –
2 June 2006.
Darlene E. Brown Robertson, Hayward, California
Ancestral Villages: Hoffnungstal, Odessa, daughter colony of Glueckstal
District, Berlin, Neuberg and Gueldendof (Liebental District)
I was born in Hayward, CA on September 1, 1942. I am the oldest
daughter of Frieda Wagner Brown.
My mother was born in Mercer, ND February 19, 1912. Her parents,
my grandparents, came to the United States on March 25, 1902. Their
names were Johannes and Karolina Wagner. They were both 25 years
of age. They traveled with their son Johannes. They homesteaded
in Mercer, ND.
I first became interested in my heritage after my North Dakota
relatives printed out our family history. The book goes back to
the year 1754. My family was still in Germany at that time. I was
able to visit in 2004 the town where they came from and where they
were married. It was an incredible experience.
I am now a member of the American Heritage Society of Germans from
Russia. The Golden State chapter is located in Redwood City, CA.
The meetings are every other month. My mother, age 94, is also a
member. There is so much to learn at these meetings. I enjoy them
I am very excited about this journey and to be able to travel with
my cousin Arlis makes it all the better. Both parents of Arlis are
Germans from Russia.
Donald R. Schmitt, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Glueckstal and Bergdorf (Glueckstal District)
Born on September 18, 1934, to Henry Schmitt and Bertha (Weisz)
Schmitt, on a farm near Long Lake, in Bergdorf Township, McPherson
County, South Dakota.
My father was the son of Johann Schmitt, and Fredericka (Laemmle)
Schmitt, born July 4, 1895, on the homestead, which my grandfather,
Johann, obtained on their arrival in the spring of 1892, from Bergdorf,
South Russia, by way of Southampton, England.
My grandparents, along with 2 sons, Johann (Jr) and Jacob arrived
at Ellis Island on April 7, 1892 on the ship named ‘Lahn’.
On a manifest, I found, and also in a census of the Glueckstal area,
in Odessa, the last name was spelled Schmidt and then changed to
"tt", sometime after their arrival here.
Johann spent 5 years in the Russian Army, with some saying he played
Flugelhorn in the Czar’s Army band.
In a biography written by a cousin of my father, Jacob Schmitt,
near Dickenson, ND, writes that our ancestors were of German descent
and originated near Bielsberg, Wuertemburg, Germany. He also writes,
in the late 1700’s near the turn of the century, they immigrated
to South Russia and settled in the village of Bergdorf.
There we find great grandfather Jacob (1828-1860) married to Elisabeth
Wolf (1830-abt 1865). They had 8 children.
Great great grandfather was Gottlieb Schmidt (1791-?) & Maria
Justina Pfeiffer (1796-1876).
On my mother’s side, her parents were Phillip Weisz (1877-1955)
and Carolina Schumacher (1877-1962).
Phillip’s father was also Phillip (1839-1894) born to Johannes
Werner (1804-) and Elizabeth (last name unknown so far). Johannes
Werner died and Elizabeth married Christoph Weisz, who adopted Phillip
and in our ancestral tree he is now known as Phillip Werner Weisz.
My grandmother Carolina Weisz’s father was Andrew Schumacher.
He was featured in an article in “LIFE” magazine issued
Aug. 2nd, 1937.
After attending grade school in a one-room school house and after
graduating from high school, I spent one year at Wartburg College,
Waverly, Iowa and then finished my education at South Dakota State
University with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. My wife and I
owned our pharmacy for 20 years, after which I managed a K-Mart
Pharmacy for 20 years in Sioux Falls, SD.
We had 3 children, all married; one daughter and two sons and have
I now am semi-retired; I am still working part time at Cigna Tel-Drug.
Marjolaine Kay (Anderson) Schmitt, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Born November 15, 1939 in Nobles County, Worthington, MN.
Father – Fordyce Andrew Anderson (11/30/1916 – 05/08/1990)
Born in East Chain, MN
Father – Andrew Lars Anderson (06/02/1879 – 07/17/1925)
Father – Lewis Lars Anderson, born in Oslo, Norway 12/06/1846
Mother – Mary E. Carter from England
Mother – Sophia Anna Johnson (09/02/1982 – 07/14/1953)
Father – John Johnson (06/02/1847 – 1914)
Mother – Emma C. Lindstrom (04/07/1857 – 04/21/1939)
Mother – Catharine Bertha Jacobsen (03/15/1918 – 12/
Born in East Chain, MN
Father – Martin Kristen Jakobsen (09/01/1884 – 1972)
Born in Haderis, Haderup parish, Denmark
Father – Kristen Sougaard Jakobsen (09/01/1854 – 11/01/1922)
Born in Haderis, Haderup parish, Denmark
Mother – Birthe Marie Katrine Neilson (04/03/1862 –
Born in Horsen, Denmark
Mother – Kirstine Pedersen (1885 – 1945) born Hogild
Resen parish, Denmark
Father – Lars Christen Pedersen
I have been a registered nurse since 1960 and still work occasionally
at Avera McKennan Hospital for Ask-A-Nurse (a telephone triage service).
Lavern J. Weber, South Beach, Oregon
Ancestral Village: Kamarouka (Kassel) (Glueckstal District)
I was born 7 June 1933, a son of Jacob Weber. Jacob was born in
Kassel, 22 November 1893. He fled in 1910, being 16 years old. He
had two full sisters. The first was Katharina Reich, married to
Adam Reich. They lived in Wishek, ND most of their lives. The second
sister was Christina Neiffer and she lived near Sultan, WA. Katharina
Reich helped my mother after my birth in Isabel, SD. My great grandparents
were Johann Weber and Katharina Ketterling. Johanna died when my
father (Jacob) was one and a half years old. It is this bit of history
which sparked my interest in a visit to Kassel. My mother was born
in Iowa, but grew up in Minnesota and then moved to Isabel, SD.
My father was interested in homesteading. He ran a cream station
until the depression when the family moved to Sultan, WA, where
he dairy farmed.
After high school, I went into a partnership with my Dad on the
dairy farm. US farming was changing negatively for small farms,
so I went to Everett Community College, then to Pacific Lutheran
University receiving a BA degree. Then to the University of Washington
and earned a MS and PhD in the field of pharmacology/toxicology.
I taught in the Medical School at the University of Washington before
moving to Corvallis and Oregon State University in 1969. In 1977,
I become the director of the Oregon State University’s Hatfield
Marine Science Center in Newport, OR until 2002 when I retired.
I have four grown children and four grandchildren. My father died
in 1984, and my mother in 1997.