the Homeland Tour – Ukraine & Germany
North Dakota State University
Library sponsored tour
20 May – 30 May 2008
Biographies of Tour Group Members
A. Isabella Roth Allen, Kamloops, British
Ancestral villages: Speier (Bereasan District); Kandel
Born to German Russian immigrants on June 1, 1932,
I grew up on a farm in southern Alberta Canada. My
father Joseph B Roth came to Canada with his parents
and four siblings in 1910. They left their village
of Kandel in 1908 and traveled to Liverpool, England
to board a ship for Halifax, Nova Scotia and from
there went by train to western Canada. My grandfather
worked for the CPR in Regina, Saskatchewan when first
arriving in Canada. Urged on by my feisty (4’
5”) grandmother, he eventually obtained his
40 acres of homestead land promised by the Canadian
Government for $10. We have recorded all this wonderful
family history in our history book The Greats of Roth
published in 1985. My sister Dorothy Rapson provided
the genealogical background and other family members
contributed as well.
My mother’s name was Perpetua Hertz. Her immigration
to Canada was actually more of an escape because of
the Bolshevik Revolution at the time. Their village,
Speier was torched and they fled Russia never to see
or be able to get in touch with the older brothers
of the family again.
My personal history is much less dramatic. My husband,
Dwayne Allen and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary
in 2007. We have four children and five grandchildren,
all of which are spread across Canada from Ontario
to Alberta and British Columbia. I graduated as a
Registered Nurse from the Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary
and after a few years of working in hospitals, got
married, had two daughters, and went back to work
to support my husband through his engineering degree
from the University of Alberta. Then we had two more
children and Dwayne went on to work for the federal
government in our capital city of Ottawa, Ontario.
I earned my Masters Degree in Health Administration
from the University of Ottawa and also worked for
the Canadian government in the Health Promotion Directorate
of Health Canada.
In 1989, my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s
disease, so we decided to take early retirement and
move to British Columbia. It proved to be a great
decision and we had about 12 years of the good life;
golfing, curling, and traveling until Parkinson’s
took its toll and we had to sell our house on the
golf course across from the lake and move to an Assisted
Living Facility in Kamloops B.C. Dwayne now lives
in residential care in this facility and I see him
I am thrilled to be able to travel to Ukraine where
both my parents were born and even better to do it
with my sister Dorothy. I look forward to meeting
other German Russian descendants and especially to
meet Michael Miller who has done all the research
that we so appreciate.
Melvin Bender, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Ancestral Villages: Grossliebental (Liebental District);
Wointischi, daughter colony of Kassel (Glueckstal
I was raised on a farm near Hilda, a hamlet northeast
of Medicine Hat, Alberta, the city where I now have
lived for about forty years. Having taught elementary
and junior high school for over thirty years, I am
now retired and following my own timetable.
Recently I heard a speaker describe the close connection
between social history and genealogy. I’ve always
enjoyed both and belong to Medicine Hat’s Genealogical
and Historical Societies. Many years ago, I noticed
a newspaper article about Karl Stumpp’s book
on the German immigration to Russia. Discovering that
there were organizations that could help me with my
research sparked my own interest in the Germans that
came from Russia, of all places.
Through a matchmaker, my dad’s Woinitschni
father married a young lady born in Freidorf, a daughter
village of Grossliebental. Her Burstall, Saskatchewan
family had spent some time around Ashley, North Dakota.
before coming to Canada. My mother’s parents
came from Hoffnungstal.
Traveling has always been a favorite pastime. Breaks
in teaching included trips to exotic places, especially
those with ancient roots. Odessa has always been on
my must-visit list because it was mentioned in the
family history I had heard and read.
Allean (Mertz) Boschee, Crookston, Minnesota
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal, Kassel and Neu Glueckstal
My father, Reinhold Mertz, was born January 12, 1903
in Glueckstal, Russia. His two uncles, Jacob born
October, 2, 1867 and Rosina (Koepplin) Mertz, and
Adam, born July 24, 1869 and Karolina (Sifferman)
Mertz and son Jacob, came to the United States. They
came March 24, 1894 on the U.S.S. Allen from Bremen,
Germany to check the United States out. Jacob Mertz
family settled in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Adam Mertz
family settled in Bowdle, South Dakota.
Their brother, my grandfather, Johann (John) and
Christine (Reuer) Mertz came to the United States
on April 2, 1906 with children Reinhold and John Jr.
Johann’s parents Jacob and Carolina (Orhman)
Mertz Neuer came to the United States. The Reinhold
family settled in Bowdle, South Dakota for two years
in 1908 they homesteaded 15 miles south of the Tappen,
North Dakota area.
The early German from Russia settlers had a strong
faith. They built a sod church in 1908. By 1913, the
church was too small and they built a new larger structure.
It was named “Glueckstal Lutheran Church”
and it still stands strong and tall in the steppes
south of Tappen, North Dakota. On June 14-15, 2008,
there will be a 100th Anniversary celebration.
My parents Reinhold and Frieda (Wanner) Mertz were
married February 11, 1926. Reinhold was the oldest
of ten children. They had eight children; I am the
third oldest. I was born July 6, 1932 on the Mertz
farm 15 miles southeast of Dawson, North Dakota. I
married Gideon Boschee in 1953. We had three children.
We lived in Jamestown, Fargo, and Crookston, Minnesota.
I could not speak English until I started school
in a one-room country schoolhouse. I worked for Polk
County as a nurse and I continue to do a lot of volunteering
in nursing homes, etc. The joy in my life is music;
I sing and play guitar.
I am so thankful to be able to take this Journey
to the Homeland Tour with my daughter Karen (Boschee)
Horge, my sisters Esther (Mertz) Opp and Johanne (Mertz)
Gauper, and nieces Julie (Opp) Burgum, Pam (Opp) Galegher
and Lori (Gauper) Kishel.
Julie Opp Burgum, Casselton, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal (Mertz); Kassel (Wanner);
Neu Gluckstal (Opp); Hoffnungstal (Mertz) (Gluesckstal
District); Birlenbach, Alsace, France (Opp).
I grew up on a farm between Napoleon and Streeter
North Dakota in an area called the “flat”.
I experienced a few years of country schooling and
then attended school in Streeter where I graduated
in 1971. I received a home economics education degree
from North Dakota State University. I was married
to Bradley Burgum in 1976. Our first child, James
was born in 1980 and presently does consulting work
in Fargo. Our other son, Benjamin was born in 1982
and is married to Katie Ballard and lives in Minneapolis.
They have a son, Parks who is 20 months old. I taught
school at Central Valley, North Dakota and West Fargo
Middle School and presently do Guardian ad Litem work
for Juvenile Court in Fargo.
I took a Germans from Russia class taught by Timothy
Kloberdanz in 1983 which helped me understand the
uniqueness of our heritage. Knowing that my mother,
Esther Opp, enjoys history, I decided to participate
in this educational tour with her. In preparing for
this tour, I have become more involved in our family
genealogy and find it interesting. After hearing about
the trip, my sister Pam along with two aunts and two
cousins also decided to join in on this adventure
in May. I look forward to learning more about our
ancestors and to better understand the difficulties
they experienced that led them to America.
Reinhold Opp, son of George Opp and Elizabeth Himmerich
George, son of George Opp and Barbara Buechler
Elizabeth, daughter of Philipp Himmerich and Katharina
Esther Mertz, daughter of Reinhold Mertz and Frieda
Reinhold, son of John Mertz and Christine Reuer
Frieda, daughter of Frederich Wanner and Barbara Haas
Ruth Tietz DeNault, San Clemete, California
Ancestral Villages: Leipzig and Peterstal Bessarabia
In 1983, my husband Jim and I visited the U.S.S.R.
extensively including Odessa and Kishinev. When I
attempted to visit the ancestral villages from Odessa
the request was refused because I didn’t have
a visa beyond the city limits.
Traveling by train from Odessa to Kishinev we could
see the countryside of the ancestral villages but
were forbidden to take photos because it was a military
district. Now this is a welcome opportunity to visit
the villages with people of our heritage.
My father’s parents, Johan Tietz and Emilie
Treichel Tietz, came to Dakota Territory in 1899 arriving
through Canada. With them were his parents and his
younger siblings. My father Robert Tietz was born
in 1905 on their farm north of what is now New Leipzig,
in Grant County, North Dakota.
My grandmother Emilie’s father and grandfather
perished in a blizzard on a trip to market, which
I learned from Marie Buchwitz Miller was in Kishinev.
Emile’s mother couldn’t support all her
children so Emile was sent to Peterstal to be a baby
sitter and shepherd. During World War II she wrote
to her sisters and sent clothing and food, but after
a while they were removed and she heard nothing more.
My mother, Katherine Hertz Tietz was born to Henry
Hertz and Lydia Reimer Hertz in 1907 in North Dakota.
The family had arrived in the United States earlier
and had settled in South Dakota. I was born in 1930,
graduated from New Leipzig High School, and attended
Jamestown College where I met my husband Jim DeNault.
After his military service we moved to San Clemente,
California and began our retail hardware business
which now includes seven stores and a commercial sales
division. My husband died in 2003, and our four sons
and I manage the business.
I am blessed to be active with the Jamestown College
Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board of Trustees
at Concordia University Irvine, The Center for U.
S. Missions of the LCMS, and a local cultural center.
This opportunity is also a blessing.
Emil H. Eberhart, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
German Villages: Bergdorf, Kassel, Neudorf (Glueckstal
District); Wittenburg and Beresina, Bessarabia
My paternal great grandparents George and Margareta
(Rudolph) Eberhard/t from Neudorf/Odessa, came to
the United States in 1885 immigrating to Campbell
County, South Dakota. My maternal great grandparents
Johannes and Lydia (Mandei) Maier from Beresing, Bessarabia
came to the United States in 1892. My grandparents
were, Fred (Friedrich) born 1891 in Campbell County
and Rosina (Maier) Eberhart born April 2, 1894 in
My maternal great grandparents Heinrich H. Mueller
(changed to Henry H. Miller, April, 1911) and Katharina
(Goehring) came to the United States from Kassel,
South Russia on October 28, 1889 arriving on March
19, 1890 in Logan County, 13 miles southwest of what
became Streeter North Dakota. My maternal grandparents
Henry H. (born 1879 in Kassel) and Elizabeth (Steiger
born 1885 Bloomfield, North Dakota.) Miller homesteaded
a farm 14 miles northeast of Napoleon, North Dakota.
During my childhood years and teenage years, my family
lived on different farms in Campbell County South
Dakota. After graduating from Eureka High School in
1960, I attended Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa.
and Evangelical Theological Seminary in Naperville,
Illinois. I graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary
in 1979 with a Doctor of Ministry degree. I was ordained
as a United Methodist pastor 1968 and served United
Methodist churches in South Dakota, retiring in 2005.
My wife, Penny, who is also a retired United Methodist
pastor, and I are the parents of three adult children.
They are married and have blessed us with eight grandchildren.
Activities since retirement include part time chaplaincy
work at a hospital in Sioux Falls, spiritual direction,
pulpit supply, and helping my brothers and nephews
with the grain and corn harvest. Hobbies include photography,
gardening, and making beef summer sausage.
I am looking forward to participating in this tour.
Penelope (Penny) Eberhart, Sioux Falls, South
German Villages: Bergdorf, Kassel, Neudorf (Glueckstal
District): Wittenburg, and Beresina, Bessarabia
My grandparents, George and Christina (Schmidt) Kramer
and John and Marie (Schlenker) Sackmann came to the
United States from South Russia in the late 1800’s
and early 1900’s and homesteaded in the Lehr
and Ashley, North Dakota area.
During my childhood years, my family lived in both
Lehr and Ashley. After graduating from Ashley High
School, I attended Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa,
majoring in Home Economics and Biology. I taught Home
Economics and Science for several years, first in
Beverly, Kentucky and then in Naperville, Illinois.
Many years later, I entered seminary, graduating with
a Masters of Divinity degree. I was then ordained
as a United Methodist pastor and served United Methodist
churches in South Dakota for 29 years, retiring in
My husband, Emil, who is also a retired United Methodist
pastor, and I are the parents of three adult children.
They are married and have blessed us with eight grandchildren.
I have fond memories of growing up in these Germans
from Russia communities – the language, the
customs, the food, the music, the religious faith.
(Just hearing the song “Gott ist die Liebe”
can move me to tears). Since most of the relatives
of the preceding generation have died (only two aunts
and my father, who has dementia, are remaining), I
am very conscious of the fact that the memories and
traditions of my ancestors may soon be lost. That
is why I am looking forward to participating in this
tour and all of the reading and researching that I
plan to do before that time.
Marvin L. Frahm, Palm City, Florida
Ancestors: Frahm from Schleswig, Eichmeier from Holstein,
Quass from Tharden Germany, and Clyde, etc. from Scotland,
England, Wales, and Ireland
I was born in 1937 to LeRoy Frahm and Rose Quass
Frahm on her parents farm near Memphis, Nebraska.
I attended a 1-room 8-grade country school for eight
years and high school in Lincoln, Nebraska where I
graduated in 1954. I graduated in 1958 from the University
of Nebraska with a BSEE and worked for Hughes Aircraft
Company for 33 years as a Field Engineer. I married
Sylvia Feiock in Eureka, South Dakota on 12 July 1959.
I spent 14 years in Germany working with the German
Air Force and the rest of my career working with the
U.S. Navy in Rhode Island. I was retired in 1992.
I have spent my retirement building a couple of houses
on Cudjoe Key near Key West plus other odd jobs. We
moved from Middletown, Rhode Island to Palm City in1999
to be near our three children who live in South Florida.
I have led Bible studies, etc. in Newport, Rhode Island
and we were members of Swanhurst Chorus for 24 years
there. We are presently members of the St. Lucie Chorale
in Stuart, Florida and went to England where we joined
with a chorus and sang in the Royal Albert Hall in
London. This past year we went to Ratingen near Duesseldorf
to sing with a chorus there. My family came from Germany
in 1848 and 1880. My Clyde ancestry came from Clydsdale
in about 1750 or so and were in the Colonial Army
in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary
War. I learned German while working with the Luftwaffe
from 1960 to 1974. I was picked to work with the German
tall ship “Gorch Fock” during their participation
with our 200-year celebration preceding the 4th of
July 1976 in Newport Rhode Island.
Sylvia M. Feiock Frahm, Palm City, Florida
Ancestral Villages: Rohrbach and Hoffnungsburg,(Beresan
District), Bergdorf (Glueckstal District), and Peterstal
I was born in 1937 to John and Edna Feiock, on a
farm in Eureka, South Dakota. Because my grandparents
did not speak English, I learned to speak German at
a very young age. This community was largely German
speaking. I graduated from High School in 1955 and
graduated with a degree in Music Education in 1959.
Got married to Marvin Frahm from Nebraska and moved
to California where my husband was hired by Hughes
Aircraft Company. Because he was an electrical engineer
in field service we moved to Texas, back to California
and then on to Germany, close to Daaden/Sieg. Our
daughter was born in the village hospital. We moved
after 18 months to Jever/Wilhelmshaven (North Sea).
We then lived there for 7½ years and our daughter
attended German kindergarten. It was a great experience
to live on the economy, but also was able to take
advantage of the American commissary and PX. We moved
back to California and after 18 months, back to Bonn/Bad
Godesberg, Germany where the three children attended
the German schools but later on attended the American
Embassy school, where I also taught music. Back to
the states in 1974 to Rhode Island and after teaching
music in the elementary schools for 20 years, I retired.
My husband had already retired and we moved to Florida
to be close to our three children and families. We
are within 30 minutes and 90 minutes of our five grandchildren.
We enjoy living close by and celebrating many special
occasions with them.
Marv and I enjoy traveling and we sing in a chorale
which has traveled to England and Dusseldorf, Germany
within the last three years. The German chorale is
coming in March, 2008 to sing with us. We have very
fond memories of our stay with our German friends
I feel blessed that my father kept and passed along
documents such as: grandma Margaretha and grandpa
George’s citizenship papers, homestead document
for land in South Dakota and Russian Food remittance
receipts with the Russian addresses and the amount
they sent over to relatives back in Russia. This was
through the American Relief Administration and the
National Lutheran Council.
Grandma Feiock(Fuhrmann) was born in 1864 in Rohrbach,
South Russia. Married Johann George Feiock who was
born in 1863 in Rohrbach. Married in 1883 and came
to the U.S. in 1884. Went to Scotland, South Dakota
and from there found a place to settle down with land
allotted, outside of Eureka. They had 11 children,
three of whom passed away during infancy. There were
many hardships since they had only a pair of oxen,
a cow, and chickens. 10 cents was all they had, but
more than money, they possessed an attitude of tilling
the soil and reaping the harvest and instilling in
their children great work ethics.
Mom’s mother was born in Hofnungsburg, South
Russia and came to the states with two siblings; three
siblings died in Russia. I believe they came to the
U.S. about 1902. I have other information of relatives,
thanks to a relative who did extensive research.
I am so excited to have the opportunity to take this
tour and learn more about the places of my ancestry.
Pamelyn J. Opp Galegher, Thompson, North
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal (Mertz), Neu Glueckstal
(Opp) (Glueckstal District); Birlenbach, Aslace, France
I was born March 11, 1963 in Jamestown, North Dakota.
I grew up on a farm 16 miles from Streeter and graduated
in 1981. I spent the next four years at Jamestown
College getting my RN Degree. I worked for a short
time at Dakota Hospital in Fargo, before moving to
Grand Forks to work in the ICU for eleven years. I
took three years off to stay with the kids before
going back to work in the ICU for two years and now
I work in interventional pain management.
I married my husband in 1986. He farms near Thompson
and raises sugar beets, potatoes, wheat, corn, soybeans,
and navy beans. Our oldest son is a freshman at NDSU
majoring in mechanical engineering. Our oldest daughter
is a sophomore in high school and our youngest is
a 6th grader.
JoAnne (Mertz) Gauper, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Ancestral villages: Glueckstal
(Mertz), Kassel, Neu Glueckstal (Opp) (Glueckstal
District); Birlenbach, Alsace, France (Opp)
I was born on a farm south of Dawson, North Dakota,
to Reinhold and Frieda (Wanner) Mertz. Immigrating
from New Glueckstal, Russia, my dad, Reinhold, came
to America in 1906 with his parents, John and Christine
(Reuer) Mertz. My mother was born at Wishek, North
Dakota, to Frederich and Barbara (Haas) Wanner who
migrated here from Kassel, South Russia.
I have four sisters and three brothers. We always
spoke German at home until we entered school. I graduated
from Valley City (North Dakota) State College, where
I met my husband, Larry Gauper. We have two children
and three granddaughters and have lived in Fargo,
North Dakota, for over 40 years.
My grandparents, John and Christine were very influential
in the construction of Glueckstal Lutheran Church,
south of Tappen, North Dakota, and were lifelong members
of that congregation. All of their children grew up
attending Glueckstal Church, as did I along with my
brothers and sisters. The church building is pictured
on the cover of the Heaven Is Our Homeland DVD. Although
no services are held there today, the church will
open its doors June 14 and 15, 2008, for its 100th
Joining me on this journey is my daughter, Lori (Gauper)
Kishel; two sisters, Allean (Mertz) Boschee; Esther
(Mertz) Opp; and three nieces, Julie (Opp) Burgum,
Pam (Opp) Galagher, and Karen (Boschee) Horge.
James R. Hardt, Ashland, Oregon
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal and Neudorf (Glueckstal
I was born and reared in St. Francis, a small town
on the Great High Plains in northwestern Kansas. My
maternal great grandparents (Raile) and their parents,
emigrants from Russia, homesteaded there in 1884 prior
to the founding of the town. I am in the fifth generation.
My paternal grandparents (Sclittenhardt) also emigrated
from Russia and settled near Gackle, North Dakota.
Both sides of my family raised wheat and cattle,
and my parents established and managed businesses
in St. Francis and wheat operations in two states.
I attended University of Colorado, Boulder; served
three years in the U.S. Army Intelligence (cryptography);
was graduated with a B.A. from University of Massachusetts;
a M.A. from Harvard University, and a PhD from University
of California, Berkeley.
For 30 years I served in the California community
college system as a teacher, dean, vice-president
and president (12 years). Subsequently I managed for
five years a large temporary employment agency covering
My wife, Dale, and I reside in Ashland, OR, a small
theater town of 20,000 that is visited by some 250,000
visitors annually to attend the numerous theaters.
We have one daughter, Janice Lajoie, a thirty-one
year old G.E. Capital assistance executive who lives
in California with her husband.
Barbara Dale Gaston Hardt, Ashland, Oregon
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal and Neudorf (Glueckstal
My heritage is French/ Irish and Jim and I visited
my paternal grandmother’s village of Letterfrack,
Ireland a few years ago. This trip we will visit the
sites where Jim’s ancestors once lived.
I am retired after a varied career, including work
in advertising, broadcasting, public relations, commercial
real estate, property management, computer programming,
computer education and consulting.
Music is one of my primary interests. I play piano,
accompanying a group which performs at local nursing
homes, sing with a local community choir, and enjoy
playing duets and two-piano selections with a friend.
I am a member of the Rogue Valley Winds, a recorder-playing
ensemble. I also love tennis, walking, bridge and
Following this tour, I am looking forward to performing
in June with the Siskiyou Singers, our community choir,
in Prague and Budapest.
Karen M, Boschee Horge, Grand Forks, North
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal, Kassel (Glueckstal
I am the oldest of three children born to Gideon
and Allean (Mertz) Boschee on June 16, 1954. My family
lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jamestown, North
Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota and Crookston, Minnesota.
I went to high school in Crookston, Minnesota, and
the University of Minnesota, Crookston. During that
time I was a telephone operator. This was when we
did not have direct dial long distance or directory
assistance. After graduating from the University of
Minnesota, Crookston, I moved to Grand Forks, North
Dakota, to work for a law firm. After 4 ½ years,
I took a job at First Trust Company of North Dakota.
I am a trust officer for the bank, which is now known
as U.S. Bank, and have worked there 29 years.
My husband, Jim, and I met in high school and started
dating after graduation. We married in Crookston,
on February 12, 1978. We have two children, Andrew
and Alexis, who are grown up now. Jim is Production
Manager at Concrete, Inc. in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
When I was a young girl we would visit our grandparents,
who spoke mostly German when we were there. In the
summer I would spend a week or two at my Grandpa and
Grandma Mertz’s farm and my Aunt Esther and
Uncle Reiny Opp’s farm. I have very fond memories
of those times.
My grandparents on my mother’s side were Frieda
(Wanner) and Reinhold Mertz. Reinhold was born in
Neu Glueckstal, Russia on January 12, 1903, to John
and Christine (Reuer) Mertz.
Frieda Wanner Mertz was born in Wishek, North Dakota
on October 1, 1904, to Frederich and Barbara (Haas)
Wanner, who came from Kassel, South Russia.
I don’t have as much information on my grandparents
on my father’s side. They were August and Barbara
Boschee. August was born to Jacob and Phillipina (Doer)
Boschee from the Glueckstal District villages and
possibly from Alsace, France.
I am very excited about visiting the places my ancestors
were from. An added bonus is that we have seven Mertz
family members going on the trip.
Edward Hust, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Ancestral Villages: Rohrbach, Wiesental and Winogradowka
I was born in a small Hamlet called Wiesental near
Rohrbach on July 26, 1934, the second of three children
to Gustav and Lilli (Wiest) Hust.
My father and mother were both born and raised in
Rohrbach and so was my sister and lived there most
of their lives until 1944 when all Germans were ordered
to leave because of WWII. I was 9 ½ years old
at that time.
We left by horse and wagon going west to Poland.
Somewhere in Hungary we were put on a train. We had
to leave the horses and wagons behind.
In June 1944 we arrived in Morzyczyn/ Wartheland
There my father was drafted into the army.
So my mother was left alone with three children.
We stayed there about one year. Then we had to leave
again. This time it was by foot or train when we could
find one going to West Germany.
We arrived in West Germany in Neuminster on July
1946. Shortly after we were reunited with my father
and moved to Blessem, a town near Cologne (Köln)
area, where my father was working on a farm.
In 1951, we immigrated to Canada to the Lethbridge,
Alberta area where we worked three seasons on the
Sugar Beet Farm.
In the fall of 1953, we moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta.
This is still my home.
I have four children from my first marriage. I remarried
ten years ago. I am a carpenter and worked most of
my working years at a local Fertilizer Plant.
Towns I want to visit
#2. Wiesental, I was born there.
#3. Windgradowka, my brother was born there.
The last two villages probably are not there anymore.
I want to go back to my Homeland before I die.
Lori A. (Gauper) Kishel, Lita, Florida
Ancestral Villages: Glueckstal (Mertz), Kassel, Neu
Glueckstal (Opp) (Glueckstal District); Birlenbach,
Aslace, France (Opp)
I was born in Valley City, North Dakota to Larry
and JoAnne (Mertz) Gauper. My maternal grandfather,
Reinhold Mertz was the oldest child of John and Christine
(Reuer) Mertz. They made the journey to America from
their home in Neu Glueckstal, South Russia in 1906.
My grandfather was three years old. My maternal grandmother,
Frieda (Wanner) Mertz was born in Wishek, North Dakota
after her parents had migrated from Kassel.
I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota graduating from
high school in 1983 and the University of North Dakota
in 1987. I married Eric Kishel on September 12, 1987
and moved to Duluth, Minnesota. Both of our daughters
were born there; Kjerstin (18) and Kayli (16). We
moved to the Tampa, Florida area in 1994 where I continue
to be a stay at home mom.
I am excited to experience this once in a lifetime
trip (unless you are Michael Miller) with my mom,
JoAnne (Mertz) Gauper; two aunts, Allean (Mertz) Boschee
and Esther (Mertz) Opp; and three cousins,
Karen (Boschee) Horge, Julie (Opp) Burgum and Pam
(Opp) Galegher. I do not speak any German so I am
relying on my relatives to get me through. About the
only word I learned from both my grandma and mom was
Michael M. Miller, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Straßburg (Kutschurgan
District); Krasna, Bessarabia
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. When I returned to Odessa, I visited the
home of the late Antonia (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 Strassburg, North Dakota, leaning
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
and annotated bibliography, Researching the Germans
from Russia, published by the Institute of Regional
Studies, NDSU, 1987.
He serves as Director and Bibliographer of the Germans
from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Library. Since
1999, he has be 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); and Germans from
Russia Wrought Iron Crosses (2002); and a Soulful
Sound: Music of the Germans from Russia (2005). He
has visited Odessa and the former German villages
each year since 1994.
Esther Mertz Opp, Napoleon, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Glueckstal (Mertz), Kassel, Neu
Glueckstal (Opp) (Glueckstal District); Birlenbach,
Aslace, France (Opp)
I was the first born child of Reinhold and Frieda
(Wanner) Mertz in Kidder County, south of Dawson,
North Dakota. I spent my childhood on the farm and
attended country school, even high school by correspondence.
I have seven brothers and sisters. We spoke German
until we started school. Even in our later years our
parents spoke German.
I was always interested in history and enjoyed hearing
stories from my Grandpa Mertz about his years in Russia.
This trip should be interesting to me to get to see
the area where he grew up and lived in the Glückstal
area. Grandma (Reuer) Mertz too grew up in this area,
but she didn’t live as long as Grandpa.
Grandpa helped build the sod Glückstal Church
and then the wooden structure. Here in America he
was the organist, and reader or layman in church when
the pastor wasn’t there. He was also a Sunday
school teacher and led the singing. He lived into
his late eighties, so I remember much about him.
My Grandmother Barbara (Haas) Wanner’s ancestors
were from Alsace near the Rhine River. Jacob Haas
and his son Fredrich, who had four son’s of
which we are descendants. I’m maybe about ten
generations later. Roger Haas of Portland, Oregon
had researched back to about 1764.
At first when they came here they longed to return
back as life was really hard here, but that was impossible
with no money.
The church was named “Glückstal”
which meant “Lucky Valley,” after they
built it here in America.
My two daughters, two sisters, and two nieces are
also going on this tour.
We are retired, live in Napoleon and have many interests
like reading, antiques, crocheting, quilting, and
sewing. Also do volunteer work at the Golden Age like
quilting, delivering meals, and at the nursing home.
Have been singing in the choir, taught Sunday school
for many years. Got different awards for teaching
4-H for over fifteen years.
We hosted a 4-H exchange student from Germany in
the eighties one summer. She was so amazed that I
could speak German in her dialect and we understand
each other in German. She called the dialect Swaübish.
I had also taken a credit in German in the forties.
Long time ago.
Ila Rae Reich, Eureka, South Dakota
Ancestral Villages – Bergdorf and
Vassel (Glueckstal District) and Baden (Kutschurgan)
Ila Rae Reich was born August 6, 1937 in Linton,
North Dakota. The oldest of five girls to Edwin and
Alma Kaseman Reich. Graduated from Eureka High School,
Eureka, South Dakota, class of 1955. I attended and
a 1958 diploma graduated of Presentation School of
Nursing Aberdeen, South Dakota. I received my BSN
from Montana State University in Bozeman, MT in 1976.
Retired in July of 2000 of a nursing career, 10 years
active duty, 6 years with being a Flight Nurse in
Vietnam on C141 and 3 years active duty with the US
Army as a Community Health Nurse, 14 years with the
801st General Hospital, USA Reserve, Chicago, IL,
Total years – 24. As Civilian nurse for the
Department of the USHP, Department of the Navy and
the Department of Army. A total of 22 years. I have
been in all 50 states and Atlantic and Pacific. The
reason for my return to Eureka was to monitor the
health and safety of my parents. My mom died July
2006 age 90 and dad March 2007 age 96.
I have always been interested in my family history
and hoping to complete the genealogy book soon.
I belong to Germans from Russia Society, the Red Hat
Society, the USAF Nurse Society, My retirement goal
is to visit all 50 state capitals since 2001 I have
completed 25 capitals.
*(Mary) Dorothy Roth Rapson, Bow Island, Alberta
Ancestral Villages - Kandel, Mannheim (Kutschurgan
District), Speier (Beresean District)
I was born on December 12, 1933 in Bow Island, Alberta,
Canada, along with my twin brother, Frank. We grew
up on a farm, south of Bow Island, along with my sister,
and three older brothers. After high school, I went
to Mount Royal College, in Calgary, Alberta, and then
worked as a stenographer in Medicine Hat, Alberta,
until I married my husband, Wilf Rapson. We have five
children, and 12 grandchildren. We lived in Medicine
Hat, Alberta for 18 years before moving to Bow Island
in 1970, where we worked as barber and beautician
for a time, later my husband went into the trucking
My father, Joseph Ben Roth, had immigrated to Canada,
from Kandel, (Kutschurgan), Russia at the end of 1907,
along with his parents, Jacob and Margaret (Giesinger)
Roth, and his four siblings. This family was extended
to include five more, through the years, all born
in Canada. My grandfather's brothers and sisters also
came to Canada, at various times, but one sister,
Scholastica, and her husband, Michael Bachmeier, and
family, remained in Russia.
My mother, Perpetua (Barbara) Hertz Roth came to
Canada, with her mother, Dorothy Hertz in 1928, from
Speier, Russia. They lived through the Bolshevik Revolution
of 1917, and though there were horror stories to be
told about that, she didn't really want to talk about
it too much.
My interest in ancestry started in the early seventies,
and through contact with Dr. Joseph Height, I received
several family records of Roths from Kandel. However,
without anyone in the Roth family being certain as
to the first name of my great grandfather, it was
impossible to connect with the right lineage. In 1985
we had a Roth reunion which involved over 500 souls.
It was very successful, and brought about an interest
in a Roth History Book. After several years of compiling
family histories, names, etc., the book was completed
in 1996, at which time we had another family reunion,
but only involving my grandfather's family. In later
years it was discovered that our early ancestry in
our book was incorrect, and through the help of a
distant relative, we finally have our true ancestry
back to the 1700s. I also have the ancestry on my
mother's side, the Hertz's, as well as my great grandmother,
Theresa Tuchscherer Giesinger Kuntz.
I find genealogy very interesting, and fascinating,
and exciting too when you finally find an answer to
something you've been searching for. I'm so looking
forward to going to the Ukraine, and actually being
at the villages where my parents were born, and raised.
William A. Tolle, Arvada, Colorado; Beatrice
A. Haman Tolle, Arvada, Colorado
Ancestral villages: Kandel (Haman), Mannheim (Schiele)
and Strassburg (Kutschurgan District)
I was born on a farm near Towner, North Dakota in
1939. My father was Peter Haman who was born in 1891
in Kandel, Kutschurgan, Russia and immigrated to America
in 1898 with his parents and a family of nine children.
My mother was Magdalena Jaeger who was born in 1895
in Stassburg, Russia and came to America in 1903.
I have been involved in a variety of teaching jobs
and currently work with a Water Aerobics Exercise
program at our neighborhood YMCA.
Family history and genealogy has been assembled by
Susie Wanner and her mother Winona Haman into a book
entitled Ancestors and Descendants of Magdalena Jaeger
and Peter Haman which was published in 1997.
My husband, Bill, is from southwest Missouri and
a retired civil engineer.
Suzanne M. (Haman) Wanner, Dahinda, Illinois
Ancestral villages: Kandel (Haman), (Wolfe); Schiele
(Mannheim); Wanner (Kassel)
I was born at Towner, North Dakota on 15 January
1951, and lived on a ranch/farm my whole life. I was
the middle child of 11 children. My father died young
and mother raised us on the farm, with a brother taking
over the farming operations. I went to college at
Devils Lake and then furthered my education at University
of North Dakota. I got married and we moved to Minnesota
for about six years and then my husband was transferred
to Iowa where we lived until my retirement in September
of 2007. I worked in the healthcare field for 28 years.
We are currently living at our Lake Home, Illinois
but my husband is continuing to work for another year.
I got married in 1974 and we raised a daughter who
is married and an RN in the Twin Cities. They recently
had a baby boy. We also had a son who recently got
his PHD in electrical engineering and is employed
in Olathe, Kansas.
About 15 years ago, my mother’s enthusiasm
for genealogy bit me. She had done a lot of research
and after adding additional information and entering
it all in the computer, we published two family histories.
The first was on my dad’s side, Haman book and
then the Schiele book on my mother’s side. I
am currently working on our Pendergraft/Murray/Stephens
ancestors. It is truly a labor of love and very addictive.
My mother passed away one and a half years ago and
I really miss sharing information with her. Genealogy
is a way of bringing your ancestors close up and personal.
I am excited about visiting the home of our ancestors
and look forward to traveling with other family members.
It has been a lifelong dream to visit the ancestral
colonies of my ancestors and can hardly wait.
Kathy Kuntz Wellmann
Ancestral Villages; Kandel, Mannheim, Strassburg
all of the Kutschurgann District.
My father came here from Kandel, Russia at the age
of seven. He arrived in Baltimore, Maryland on December
15th, 1913 with his parents Urban and Mary (Kurtz.)
Kuntz leaving a sister in Russia who was shot in the
1940 while she was kneeling and praying in the cemetery.
My Grandfather John Schela (spelling changed from
Schiele when he came here as he wrote it as it sounded)
left Russia in 1904. He left with his fathers blessing
at the age of 20 in the middle of the night with a
fake passport and little money to escape the beginning
of the Russian Revolution leaving family, friends,
and service in the army.
My Grandmother Theresa (Burckhard) Schiele came to
the United States in June, 1906 at the age of 18 with
her parents, two brothers, and two sisters. They came
from Strassburg, Russia leaving one married sister
in Russia who was married to a teacher. They eventually
were sent to Siberia never to be heard from again.
Their daughter was forced to stay in Russia and be
cared for by
another family and eventually ended up in Canada.
My grandparents all settled and lived in Devil Lakes,
North Dakota where my grandparents and parents met
and married. My Grandfather Kuntz passed away a few
years after arriving in North Dakota. My father left
school with a fourth grade education. He worked in
a bakery cleaning and learning the business as he
grew up. This led my parents to move to Sebeka, Minnesota
where I was born and grew up. I moved to Minneapolis
to attend cosmetology school and met my husband Eugene.
After four years of military we moved to his family
farm near Hanska, Minnesota where we had a dairy farm
until 2000. We now crop farm and both have part time
jobs off the farm. We have four children; two daughters
and two sons. We also have one granddaughter and one
I have been interested in my family history as long
as I can remember. I have always wanted to see where
my grandparents came from after hearing so many stories
while growing up. This will be a dream come true.
I am looking forward to the Journey to the Homeland
I love to travel and see different places. This will
be the most special trip I will ever take.