Journey to the Homeland Tour – Ukraine & Germany
North Dakota State University Library Sponsored Tour
20 May – 30 May 2010
Biographies of Tour Group Members
* Identifies Deceased
Alice (Zimmerman) Ackerman, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Bergdorf, Glückstal & Kassel (Glückstal District); Johannestal (Beresan District)
My paternal great grandparents, Jacob Zimmerman (born Dec. 16, 1838 and died Nov. 16, 1897), migrated from Johannesthal, South Russia. He married Barbara Steiger in 1865 (she died in 1887). They had 5 children. He remarried Barbara Koepple and had 4 children. They came to America in 1893 and settled on a farm 4 miles south of Venturia.
My grandfather, Christian Zimmerman (born Feb. 7, 1881), married Wilhelmina Kusler (born June 12, 1885) on Feb. 2, 1902. They farmed 7 miles north of Venturia and had 5 children, my dad, Alvin Zimmerman, and 2 sisters. Wilhelmina Kusler’s parents, Nicholas Kusler (born April 8, 1858 in South Russia), migrated to America when he was 15 and married Caroline Mutchelknaus (born Oct. 26, 1859). Her parents migrated to America in 1874. Nicholas and Caroline settled on a farm 10 miles north of Eureka.
My maternal great grandparents, Ludwig Nies (born Jan. 24, 1860), in Glueckstal, South Russia married Margarel Nie Schmidt Walth (born Dec. 6, 1862) and came to America.
My grandfather, Jacob (born Oct. 24, 1893 in Gluckstal), married Martha Aipperspach whose parents migrated from Bergdorf South Russia. Her dad, Frederick Aipperspach (born Aug. 17, 1873), came to America at the age of 20 and settled on a farm 10 miles north of Zeeland. Frederick married Magdalina (Kassel, South Russia) Meidinger on Jan. 7, 1895 at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church 12 miles north of Zeeland. Martha was 1 of 13 children.
James R. Ackerman, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Johannestal & Rohrbach (Beresan District); Neudorf (Glückstal District); Neusatz (Crimea)
My grandparents, Ackerman, Pfieffer, Werre, came to the United States from South Russia in the 1800’s and homesteaded around Java, Artas, Mound City, Eureka, and Greenway, SD, area. My great grandfather, Jacob, and Kathrina (Eissinger) Ackerman were the first settlers in the Artas, SD, area. They arrived May 8, 1885.
I was born to Reinhold and Rose (Pfieffer) Ackerman, August 15, 1942. I have two brothers and two sisters.
I graduated from Eureka High School in 1962. I married Alice Zimmerman in 1963. We have two children and four grandkids. I worked in the Oil Industry for 35 years and worked in different areas. I retired from Kaneb Pipe Line in 2003 and moved to Fargo to be close to family.
I have always been interested in my family history, hoping I can get it done someday.
Mary A. (Heidrich) Baumgartner, Strasburg, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Mannheim, Selz & Strassburg (Kutschurgan District); Krasna, Bessarabia
I was born on my parent’s farm home about 17 miles west and south of Strasburg, ND, on a stormy day of July 27, 1949. I am the first born of two. My mother was alone when she gave birth to me, because my father had left to get doctor Bertheau. On his way he had stopped to tell his sister Josephine (Heidrich) Braun, and my mother’s aunt, Marianna (Holzer) Getz, to go and stay with my mother. By the time they got to my mother, I was already born and my mother had me lying on top of her stomach with the cord still attached and wrapped around my neck. It was a lucky day for me, and I am glad to be here.
My parents are Ramona (Holzer) Heidrich, born May 20, 1928, and Eugene Heidrich, born June 17, 1920 and died Dec. 4, 1997.
My father’s parents were Maxmillian Heidrich and Philomena Brickner, both born in Krasna, South Russia. Philomena was born Aug. 11, 1886 and died Dec. 17, 1963. She came to the United States in 1897 at age 11 with her parents, Heronimus Brickner and Rosina (Schreiner) Brickner, 2 brothers and 2 sisters. Maxmillian was born March 12, 1882 and died May 8, 1953. He came to the United States in 1901 at the age of 19 with his brother Ferdinand. They were on board the ship "S.S. Kaiserin Maria Theresa." Later 2 brothers and 2 sisters joined them. They settled in the Krasna area near Strasburg, ND. His parents, Carl Heidrich and Anna Nee (Moss) Heidrich, and sister Margaret never did come to the United States.
My mother’s parents were Katherina (Feist) Holzer, born in the United States on June 15, 1909 and died April 27, 1968, to Mary Ann (Braunagle) Feist who was born in Heckley, South Russia on May 19, 1894. She came to the United States at age four with her parents and settled one mile west of Strasburg, ND. Her father was Kasper K. Feist, born Oct. 20, 1888 in Russia, and came to the United States with his parents when he was six months old. Adam Holzer was born in Strassburg, South Russia on May 19, 1903 and died Jan. 28, 1975. At age two he came to the United States with his parents, Johannes Holzer and Marianna (Wagner) Holzer. They arrived in the port of New York on Dec. 11, 1905, on the ship "Columbia." They settled in the Krasna area west of Strasburg, ND.
His forefathers settled in 6 colonies of the Kutschurgan District. They were Strassburg, Baden, Selz, Kandel, Alsace and Mannheim.
Jodi Bitterman, Des Moines, Iowa
Ancestral Villages: Friedenstal, Bessarabia; Freudental (Liebental District); Worms (Beresan District)
I was born in Mitchell, SD and grew up in Sioux Falls. I attended the University of South Dakota where I got a BS and MA in Mathematics. I currently live in Des Moines, IA and am a programmer analyst at an insurance company.
The maternal side of my family is covered in the bio of my mother, Viola Bitterman.
My paternal Grandfather, Heinrich Bittermann, was born in Lesterville, SD in 1899. Heinrich's father, George Jr., was born in Worms in 1869; the family immigrated to the United States in 1873. Heinrich's mother, Elizabeth Kusler, was born in Worms in 1872; the family immigrated in 1873 also. My paternal Grandmother, Katherina Bittermann, was born in Streeter, ND in August, 1902. Katherina's father, Johann Bittermann, was born in Freudental in 1874. Katherina's mother, Katherina Rivinius, was born in Grossliebental in 1877. They immigrated to North Dakota in April, 1902. My grandparents married in 1925 and farmed near Delmont, SD.
I have scanned many letters, documents, and photos from various family members to archive and share them. I can read some German and have learned to read little script to help with the family genealogy research.
Viola (Fink) Bitterman, Iowa City, Iowa
Ancestral Villages: Friedenstal, Bessarabia; Freudental (Liebental District); Worms (Beresan District)
My mother was born in Friedenstal in 1907. She came to the United States aboard the "Kaiser Wilhelm" in 1910 with her parents, Andreas & Dorthea (Sauter) Albrecht and 8 brothers and sisters. They settled in Douglas County, SD. Another brother was born after they arrived in South Dakota.
My father was born in the village of Durrenzimmern, Germany in the Ries Valley area. His parents and nine of their ten children came to the United States in 1905. One of the older sons came to the United States before the rest of the family.
I am the fifth of eight children born and raised on the family farm near Delmont, SD. I have three children and two grandchildren. I moved to Iowa City, IA in 1994 and retired two years ago after employment at ACT (formerly American College Testing).
I have been collecting genealogy information for years, and I'm at the point where I want to organize and archive all the notes, pictures, stories, and documents I have with additional pieces I am collecting from family members. I have a number of letters, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s, sent from family in Russia, Germany and Argentina that my mother and aunt saved. My aunt never married, lived with and cared for her parents, and remained in the family home until she moved to a nursing home. She gave me and other relatives the pictures and documents she had in her possession for years. She still had the boarding tickets from the ship that brought them to the United States.
My daughter, Jodi, has also become interested in genealogy and she is helping me make copies and archive all this information. Both her paternal grandparents have German Russian roots, and I am helping her contact her cousins and gather information from that side of her family.
*Manny Dan Buzzell, Brentwood, Tennessee
Ancestral Villages: Glückstal District
I was born on Nov. 4, 1932 to Frank and Helen Buzzell in Jamestown, ND. My father was of English descent whose family came from the Isle of Jersey in 1600's and my mother’s family came from Sweden.
During World War II, my family moved to Van Nuys, California where my father, who was an electrician/pilot, worked for Lockheed and helped develop the P38 into a viable fighter. After the war, we returned to Jamestown in 1945.
I graduated from Jamestown High School in 1951 and from Jamestown College in 1955 with a BS degree in Economics/Business Administration. Following graduation, I joined the Army and served in the 3rd Armored Division's 83rd Recon Battalion from Aug. 1955 to May 1957 in Fort Knox, KY and Budingen, Germany from April 1956 to May 1957.
I married Patricia Harr on June 30, 1957 and moved to Chicago, IL after a short honeymoon. I began work with Continental Casualty Co. in July 1957. Our daughter, Barbara Ann, was born on June 18, 1958; I was then transferred to the Detroit office Aug. 1960. Our daughter, Jacquelyn Jean, was born on Jan. 28, 1962 and our son, Steven Eric, was born Oct. 4, 1965. I was transferred back to the Chicago office on Oct. 1, 1969 as the Regional Underwriting Manager over five of the six regions.
I was hired by Ingram, Armistead,Wallace as an Insurance Broker in Nashville, TN on Jan. 1, 1973 and moved the family on Feb. 2, 1973 to Brentwood, TN (population 1200). Broker was acquired, merged and/or purchased with name changes five times. The name of the company changed to Willis and the home office was in London, England. I was transferred to London in June 1994 and returned to the United States in June 1996. I was the lead in designing the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts which covered all but eight (out of 385 Trusts) Medical Trusts in England and Wales.
I retired on July 1, 2001 but stayed as a Consultant until Feb.1, 2003 as Vice Chair of Advanced Risk Management Services and President of Willis Re Nashville. I was also an Underwriting Member of Lloyds of London from Jan. 1, 1983 to Jan. 1, 1993.
Currently, Patricia and I live in the same home in Brentwood (population 37,000) and are active in various groups: Brentwood Library, Williamson Co. Library, Regional Library Board (9 Counties) Friends of the Library (locally and state). I serve on the Board of Jamestown College,
Jamestown, ND, Piedmont Liability, Trust Board (the Insurance Trust of the University of Virginia Medical Staff) and Consensus Management Corporation Board (provides Insurance Company services to rural hospitals in six Western states.)
Patricia Barbara Harr Buzzell, Brentwood, Tennessee
Ancestral Villages: Glückstal District
I was born on Sept. 14, 1932 to Jacob Daniel and Cecelia Haftl Harr in Eureka, SD. I had one sibling, Jacquelyn Doris. I was baptized and confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church. I attended Eureka High School and graduated in 1954.
In Sept. 1950, I enrolled in a four year nursing course at Jamestown College, Jamestown, ND. I received my BS degree in Nursing and my R.N.
I went back to Eureka to work in the local hospital. In 1955, I traveled to Europe for three months and returned to Eureka to work until my fiancé returned from the Army.
Manny and I were married June 30, 1957 and left for Chicago, IL to find employment. Manny joined C.N.A Insurance and I worked for Infant Welfare as a public health nurse. We were transferred to Detroit, MI in 1961 and lived there for eight years. Once again we transferred back to Chicago and remained there until 1973 when Manny accepted a position with an insurance broker in Nashville, TN.
We had three children: Barbara Ann (Mrs. Terry Mayo); Jacquelyn Jean (Mrs. Mark Southerland-Jacquelyn died in 1995) and Steven Eric Buzzell who married Berenda Montgomery. We have two grandsons: Nicholas Montgomery (11 yrs) and Daniel Mattox (9 yrs) Buzzell; three step-grandchildren: Kayla and Carson Searcy; Brayden Teasley and two step great-grand-children Brecken and Lofton Grant.
Because of Manny’s job, we traveled to London for 20 years and were able to travel to many countries. In 1994 we moved to London for 20 months. Our son and his wife moved into our home while we were gone.
On Feb. 2, 2010 we will have lived in Brentwood for 37 years. I had given up my nursing career to take care of our children. I volunteered at school and church. We belonged to Christ Lutheran Church for 37 years and recently joined Brentwood Methodist Church.
I helped organize the local library in 1976 and became a charter member of the "Friends of the Brentwood Library." Since that time I have been on the Friends Board and the Library Board forever! I also served on a Regional Library Board and State Friends of the Library.
Manny retired on July 1, 1999 but has been active on a number of Boards dealing with Insurance; Jamestown College Board and local, regional and state Library Boards as well as church boards.
We have been married 52 ½ yrs and look forward to many more!
Vic Flegel, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Ancestral Villages: Gnadental, Leipzig & Kalatschowka, Bessarabia
I was born in Kalatschowka, Ukraine in 1938. My mother was born in Gnadental, Bessarabia and my father was born in Leipzig, Bessarabia. In 1940, we were moved to Prussia (East?) then fled to lower Saxony in 1944 or 45. We came to the United States in 1951. We lived in Maryland until spring of 1952.
Now I live in Waukesha, WI.
Beverly (Dittus/Wiest) Harrison, Jerome, Idaho
Ancestral Villages: Alt-Posttal & Leipzig, Bessarabia; Rohrbach (Beresan District)
My German grandparents were among those who emigrated from South Russia in the late 1800’s and settled in North Dakota where my parents were born and reared.
I, too, grew up in North Dakota after which I lived in various parts of the country for my education and for work.
I now live in south central Idaho where I enjoy gardening, taking classes, and researching genealogy.
Tauni Ann (Schauer) Hunt, Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Ancestral Villages: Kassel & Neudorf (Glückstal District)
I was born in Longview, Washington to Gilbert Emmanuel Schauer and Audrey Vellenga Schauer. My dad's parents were German immigrants who had moved to North Dakota from the Ukraine, in the early 1900's.
My childhood was split between Mitchell, SD, Redwood Falls, MN, Rice Lake, WI and then back to Longview, WA for high school graduation.
I moved to Portland, OR to attend Portland State University, where I attained a B.S. in Business; Accounting.
I met and married Stephen Allen Hunt there. We then had Alexander Stephen Hunt.
We moved to Albany, OR where we had Adrianne Schauer Hunt and Stephen attended Oregon State University.
We moved to Rio Rancho, NM in 1996. I was a stay-at-home mother until I returned to school to get a teaching certificate for Special Education. I am employed by Rio Rancho Schools as a Literacy Specialist, and currently am attending the University of New Mexico for a Masters in Special Education.
My father has always told me of how his parents talked of the old country, and his dream of seeing where his parents were born. I am looking forward to seeing where my grandparents are from, on this trip.
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 the German language. Antonia died in October, 1998."
Miller grew up speaking both English and German and became interested in the heritage, culture and history of his ancestors. An important focus throughout Miller's life and career has been the preservation and documentation of the rich heritage within the German-Russian community in North America.
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 an 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 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); Germans from Russia Wrought Iron Crosses (2002); A Soulful Sound: Music of the Germans from Russia (2005); and We'll Meet Again in Heaven (2005). He has visited Odessa and the former German villages each year since 1994. A complete biography is at: http://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/biography.html.
Miller writes, "My life long dream has been to keep alive and enhance the heritage of Germans from Russia."
Arve Moser, Sartell, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Alt-Fruedental (Liebental District); Rohrbach & Worms (Beresan District); Alt-Posttal Wittenberg & Friedenstal, Bessarabia
I was born in Jamestown, ND to Theodore and Esther (Ruff) Moser in 1943 and grew up in Medina, ND. I have four siblings; one deceased brother and two brothers and one sister, living in North Dakota. I spoke German at a very young age as German was the language in our church and it was also the first language of most residents of Medina and the surrounding area.
One grandfather (Ruff) did not learn English, so German was the required language for anyone
who spoke with him. Unfortunately, I do not speak German fluently today from lack of usage,
although the language consistently impacts me when we visit back home in the Medina and
Streeter area. It doesn’t take long to start talking with that little German "brogue."
I attended school in Medina and graduated from Jamestown high school. I served in the United States Navy and am a graduate of Moorhead State University, Moorhead, MN. Carol (Mickelson), my spouse is a Swede – but that’s ok. We have a son, Jeff, in sales and a daughter, Cindy, a hair stylist. We have three grandsons, two in high school and the oldest is a freshman at the University of Iowa. I am a CPA and operated an accounting practice in Minnesota, until selling it in 1987 to a larger regional accounting firm. I have served in numerous financial management positions throughout my career.
Carol and I are so very much looking forward to this once in a lifetime tour, partly because of my obsession to know about my ancestry and to walk on the same grounds they walked and also to help in keeping bits and pieces of the Germans from Russia culture alive.
Carol (Mickelson) Moser, Sartell, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Hamre, Norrala, Gavleborg, Sweden
I am the spouse of Arve Moser, a German from Russia descendent. My ancestral background is Swedish.
I was born in Escanaba, MI, and was raised and attended school in Middle River, MN, a northern Minnesota community. My parents, John and Minnie (Soderfelt) Mickelson, carried on many Scandinavian traditions during my childhood, especially the eating of lutefisk and lefsa during the Christmas season. I attended junior college/vocational school and worked in various capacities during my working years. My husband and I have two children; a son, Jeff, in sales and a daughter, Cindy, a hair stylist. We have three grandsons, two in high school and the oldest a freshman at the University of Iowa. I worked in retail, in wholesale distribution and in school picture processing until my retirement in 2001. I have been involved with numerous hobbies including ceramics during my earlier married years and more recently I have excelled in shopping.
I am looking forward to the Germans from Russia tour because I will have the opportunity to visit the European cultural background of Arve as a prelude to our trip to Sweden in the summer of 2011.
Mary (Nemeth) Mussell, Anoka, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Neu Kassel (Glückstal District); Chechelmik, Vinnitsa Region
I am a retired school secretary from Anoka, MN. Joining me on this adventure is my husband of 46 years Richard (Dick) Mussell. We have five children and ten grandchildren.
My Mother was Laura (Herrboldt) Nemeth, her Mother was Caroline (Gellner) Herrboldt. Caroline immigrated to the United States from the area around Odessa, Russia as a young girl along with her father, Franz Gellner, mother, Elizabeth (Tempel Schmidt) Gellner, and her sister Pauline. They made the journey to New York on the ship "Pretoria" out of Hamburg, Germany. The family made their way to South Dakota, settling near Menno. My Grandmother, Caroline Gellner, married Friedrich Herrboldt in 1906. They farmed in the area around Highmore, SD. In later years they moved to Minnesota to a farm near Rogers.
I well remember her telling my sister and brothers that while she was born in Odessa, she was not Russian - she was German. Her family was part of a German community that lived in Russia. I am curious to see the country side of her childhood and to walk in her footsteps, seeing some of the sights she had seen. In making this trip, I feel I am doing so for my mother and her siblings who never had the opportunity to visit the area of their mother's birth.
Doing research, using internet and books, will help me learn of the country, history and its people. We saw the movie "The Last Station." The movie purports to represent the end of the life of Leo Tolstoy whose death occurs in a train station in - Southern Russia, the sights and the period dress took me right there in my Grandma's time.
Richard J. Mussell, Anoka, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Neu Kassel (Glückstal District); Chechelmik, Vinnitsa Region
I am traveling with my wife, Mary, to visit the Odessa area in the Ukraine to explore the country side of her maternal Grandmother's early childhood.
My paternal Grandfather, Gustav Mussell, was born on Dec. 18, 1863 in Germany, in Posen Province near the French boarder - near Alsace I believe.
My maternal Grandfather, Joseph Klein, was born on Aug. 25, 1857 in Gladt, Germany.
I look forward to our journey together.
Shirley (Wald) Pearson, Savannah, Tennessee
Ancestral Villages: Krasna, Bessarabia; Selz & Strassburg (Kutschurgan District); Alexanderheim & Marienfeld (Beresan District)
I was born Nov. 22, 1950 to Martin and Rose Scherr Wald. Three and one-half miles south east of Strasburg, ND. We were farmers, had milk cows, a few stock cows and did some grain farming. I went to St. Bens grade school and graduated from Emmons Central High in 1968. I worked at the beauty shops in Linton and Washburn, ND. I married David Pearson Nov. 22, 1975. We have a daughter and a son and five grandchildren; 15 yrs to 4 yrs old.
My grandfather, Anton Wald (Oct. 16, 1898 – Sept. 28, 1978), was born in Emmons County. His wife, Ida Bernhardt Wald, was born (March 13, 1903 – June 23, 1971) in Russia. My great grandfather, Martin Wald (March 1868-1956), and his wife, Magdelena Keller Wald (1872-1909), were born in Kassel, Russia. Martin died in 1956 at Strasburg, and Magdelena died in Linton, ND. My great grandfather, Jacob Bernhardt (March 21, 1863 – March 24, 1937), was born in Alexanderheim, Russia and died in Strasburg, ND. My great grandmother, Regina Mai Bernhardt (1869-1942), was born in Marienfelt, Russia. She died in Strasburg, ND.
My grandfather, Sebastian Scherr (Oct. 20, 1898 – Sept. 8, 1970), was born in Selz, Russia, and died in Strasburg, ND. My grandmother, Natalia Braun Scherr (March 21, 1898 – March 31, 1984), was born in Emmons County and died in Strasburg, ND. My great grandfather, Wendlin Scherr (1858-1901), was born in Selz, Kutschurgan, Russia. He never made it to the United States. My great grandmother, Anna Mary Bertsch Scherr (Sept. 29, 1861 – June 27, 1946), was born in Strasburg, Russia and died in Strasburg, ND. She came to the Hague, ND, area with her ten children and married her second husband Ferindand Fisher. My great grandfather, Michael Braun (1869-1945), was born in Russia and died in Strasburg, ND. His wife, Catharine Bachmeier Braun (1864-1941), was born in Russia and died in Strasburg, ND.
Roger and Karen Reede, Paynesville, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Selz (Kutschurgan District); Zurichtal (Crimea)
This is a trip we have been talking about for several years.
I am interested in visiting the ancestral villages of my grandparents in Bessarabia and Crimea in the Ukraine. My mother’s side came from the Bessarabian area and my father’s family came from the Crimean peninsula. The two villages that I know about are Selz and Zürickthal. I believe that both of my grandfathers were born there. I am still working on the genealogy and in the process of developing a family tree of the Reede Family. Matthaus Rüde from Schwaigern, is the earliest ancestor we really know much about. His father was Johann Martin Rüde, a weingartner or grape-grower. The Church records of the Schwaigern say that he was from the town of Ehrstätten. The Reede name has changed over time and locations from Rüde, Reide, Rüdi, Rüede although the family feels that the (-i-) at the end of the name is more Swiss than German. (Züricktal was first settled by the Swiss). It was known for its excellent wine. It was my grandfather John who changed the spelling to Reede and the family followed. Züricktal is now Zolote Pole or Zoloyte Pole or "Golden Field." The Fischer family genealogy has been put together by my mother and several cousins and Selz is the town indicated.
I was born and raised in Zeeland, ND, attended NDSU and UND and was a Geology professor at Southwest Minnesota State University. Karen is an Occupational Therapist and we met in college. Her ancestry is both Scandinavian and Celtic. She has been working on her genealogy and has been very helpful in researching my ancestry. We are both retired and living near Paynesville, MN.
We have been to France twice but never to the Alsace area. This will be a very exciting and informative trip for the both of us.
Audrey Schauer, Longview, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Neudorf & Kassel (Glückstal District)
Gil and I were raised in North Dakota. I lived in Oakes, and Gil lived in Dawson. We met in Minnesota and married there. I am a Register Nurse, and Gil has been in retail lumber. We have spent most of our married life in the pacific northwest.
My family heritage is from Norway and Holland. I have traveled to Norway and got acquainted with my relatives living there. Gil’s family is of German Russian descent. We are excited to be able to visit their homeland area.
We have two married daughters, two grandsons, and two granddaughters. Tauni our daughter will accompany us on this tour.
Gil is semi-retired but has his own handyman business which tends to keep him busy. I retired but have been asked to return part-time, so I am in a supervisory position.
Gil and I really enjoy traveling and are looking forward to a fun trip.
Gilbert E. Schauer, Longview, Washington
Ancestral Villages: Kassel & Neudorf (Glückstal District)
My father, Emanuel Schauer, was born in Neudorf, Russia Aug. 5, 1886. He was the son of Jacob and Anna Marie (Knecht) Schauer. He was twelve years old when he came to the United States with his parents and three brothers, August, John, and Jacob. He had a sister who remained in Neudorf by the name of Magdalena. She was married to Jacob Rau. Another sister Christine had married to John Schwartzwelter and had come over six years prior. The family settled west of Streeter, ND. When my grandparents came they also had with them three Hoffer boys: Jacob, Fred and John. The Schauer’s were of draft age and wanted to leave the area before they would be drafted.
My mother, Carolina Ketterling, was born April 29, 1889 to Jacob and Christina (Mueller) Ketterling in Kassel, Russia. She came over to the United States with her mother, sister, Katerina and her husband, Carl Frey. Her father, two brothers and three sisters had died of diphtheria in Russia. They settled south of Dawson, ND.
My parents were married Dec. 31, 1907. They were instrumental in building the sod church. Later a wooden church was built now as the Gluckstal Lutheran Church in 1908 south of Tappen, ND which still stands. My mother’s mother passed away and was buried on mother’s quarter of land, and once the church was built my father moved her grave to the church site, this being the first grave at the Gluckstal Lutheran Church. I was baptized and confirmed at this church. I am the second youngest of twelve children of my parents. We were raised south of Dawson, ND.
The names that I am so anxious to look up when we get to the area are Schauer, Rau, Ketterling, Mueller, Frey, and Schwartzwelter.
I am so anxious and thankful that I am able to take this journey as it is a dream come true. My mother said it would be nice if one of my children could go over and see where I was born. She was sixteen years old when she came here. I will be traveling with my wife, Audrey, and our daughter Tauni Ann (Schauer) Hunt.
Thanks many times Mike Miller for making this possible.
Dennis Sims, Woodbridge, California
Ancestral Villages: Neudorf (Glückstal District); Landerbergerimittleider, Alsace, France
I was born in Oakland, CA in 1942 and have lived in the Galt, Lockeford and Lodi area all my life.
I married my wife Peggy in 1968 and had a son in 1971 and a daughter in 1974. I have worked as a maintenance mechanic for forty years at Unimen, once called Owen-Illinois. We also have two grandchildren we enjoy doing many things with including camping.
We enjoy traveling and have seen many countries and most of the United States. While setting up this trip I have found out I have many relatives that came from the place we are going to visit, so I am excited to see all of them.
Peggy (Nies) Sims, Woodbridge, California
Ancestral Villages: Glückstal & Bergdorf (Glückstal District)
I was born in Aberdeen, SD and lived in the Wishek area until I was eleven. Then I moved to Lodi, CA with my grandparents Jacob and Martha Nies. I went to school, worked and was married to my husband Dennis in Lodi.
We have two children and two wonderful grandchildren. Our son was born in 1971 and lives in Louisiana and our daughter lives in Lodi with her husband and children.
We love traveling and have seen most of the states and some of Europe. We are so excited to see the places our ancestors have come from.
Christian Smith, Provo, Utah
Ancestral Villages: Alt-Posttal & Leipzig, Bessarabia; Rohrbach (Beresan District)
Christian Smith was born of a half German mother Wendi Harrison Smith and Brian Jay Smith in Orem, UT on Sept. 24, 1992, making him a junior at Provo High School. His favorite class right now is bio ag. He recently took an aptitude test which indicates he would be a good air traffic controller which he’s looking into the good schools which have that program. One of the top schools is NDSU. He’s excited for more information to come for that subject.
He is the sharpest of three brothers and a natural peacemaker being the middle son. His wit and intellect made him fast friends with any and all with whom he comes in contact, including his maternal Grandmother which is why he's been slated to travel with her.
Christian was named for his maternal great Grandfather Christian Dittus, whose parents immigrated to the United States in the 1800's.
Christian loves sports, specifically soccer. He has excelled at the Premier Competition levels in the state as well as in high school. He currently plays Goalkeeper for Provo High School. He has played soccer for thirteen years. Christian is also an avid hunter/fisher/all around outdoorsman. He has set shooting records that have been held for dozens of years and finds that one of his most relaxing activities is shooting a shotgun. Christian has hunted Elk, Deer, and Antelope and other small game all at or before the young age of sixteen. Christian is a Boy Scout and is very near the Eagle Scout ranking. Christian is also a self starter on acoustic and electric guitar and can frequently be found hidden in his room after doing homework, learning new chords on his own.
Christian is also very interested in serving a two year mission for his church in 2011.
Christian’s future aspirations include a broad range of interests from Wildlife Biology to Air Traffic Control & Piloting. Whatever it is, Christian is one that always has a goal in sight.
Valencia (Schumacher) Wald, Venturia, North Dakota
Ancestral Villages: Baden & Strassburg (Kutschurgan District); Eberboch, Alsace, France
My dad was Martin Schumacher. His parents were Johannes Schumacher and Katherina Wald. My mother was Eugena Vetter. Her parents were Frank Vetter and Genevieve Schlosser. I was born in Linton, ND in 1950. I was raised on my dad’s family farm thirteen miles south west of Linton. Graduating from Linton High School in 1968, I continued my education and became a LPN for St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Dickinson. I worked in the Pediatric Department at St. Alexious Hospital, Bismarck, ND. James Allan Wald, from Zeeland, ND, and I were married in 1971. We lived on the family dairy farm thirteen miles north east of Zeeland. We had seven children. Five boys and two daughters. I still live on the farm raising stock cows.
Joining the tour group in Stuttgart, Germany:
James Gessele, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Alexanderhilf & Grossliebental (Liebental District); Rohrbach (Beresan District); Hoffungstal, Bessarabia; Scharova, Bugayevka
James Gessele is a native North Dakotan of German-Russian descent, his great-grandparents hailing from Scharova, Bugayevka, Alexanderhilf, Rohrbach, Hoffnungstal and Großliebental in the Black Sea region and Hoffnungstal in Bessarabia. Known ancestral German villages are Kirchberg, Pflugfelden and Korb, all within the Stuttgart vicinity. He grew up in the small town of Mercer in eastern McLean County, graduated from high school and received his B.A. degree from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, and M.A.T. degree in German from Stanford University. He taught high school German as a foreign language for several years in Minnesota and then spent a four-year stint teaching English at a girls Gymnasium (academic high school) in Essen, Germany. While there, he traveled extensively throughout Europe; toured Soviet Russia on two occasions; toured Sri Lanka, Bangkok and Hong Kong and spent two weeks visiting Kenya, East Africa.
Gessele returned to Minnesota to begin new studies and took up a career in civil engineering in the Twin City area. A resident of Minneapolis, he has been an active member of the local North Star Chapter Germans from Russia and has served in various offices of that organization over the past twenty-four years. Leveraging windfall profits from the sale of a highly successful chapter cookbook (Sei Unser Gast), he and colleague, Mayo Flegel, were officers instrumental in establishing an endowment for the local organization through the Minnesota Foundation. With unflagging interest in travel, he joined a two-week tour of Egypt in 1982, a one-month comprehensive tour of China in 1984 and a fact-finding trip to "hallowed" ground in ancestral Kirchberg, Germany in 1998.
Retiring in 2000, he has since devoted his free time to issues of heritage and recording of history. To that end, he has authored an historical sketch of his hometown resort lake, co-authored a community centennial history compilation, served a term on the Board of Directors of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society and for three years acted as lead editor of that organization’s quarterly journal Heritage Review. Gessele translated the memoir of a Soviet German, Though My Soul More Bent, published by GRHS in 2003. He recently completed translating into English a 2008 German text dealing with the history of Bessarabia and its German colonists. Anticipated release of the translation, a Germans from Russia Heritage Collection publication titled Bessarabia: German Colonists on the Black Sea, is in 2011.
Carol Just, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Ancestral Villages: Kassel & Neudorf (Glückstal District); Klöstitz, Bessarabia
A native of Berlin, LaMoure County, ND, Carol Just has lived in the Minneapolis area suburb of St. Louis Park, for forty years. Just and her daughter, Katharina Halverson Schirg, were part of the 1998 Journey to the Homeland Tour.
Just’s parents, Julius and Helen (Dockter) Just, and three grandparents, Heinrich Dockter, Katharina (Meidinger) Dockter, and Katharina (Meidinger) Just, were born within a few miles of one another in McIntosh County, ND. The fourth grandparent, Karl Just, was conceived in South Russia and born at Tripp, Dakota Territory (near Yankton), shortly after his young parents arrived in America, October 1884.
Just is a charter member of the Minnesota North Star Chapter (1978) of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) and Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS), She has presented workshops for international conventions of AHSGR and the Germans From Russia Heritage Society (GHRS), and written articles about the history of the Germans from Russia for various periodicals. Just has co-written two family histories, and "Unser Leute," a musical pageant telling the story of the German-Russian migration from Germany to Russia to America. Just was featured in the NDSU Libraries/Prairie Public Television documentaries "The Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie" and "Schmeckfest: Food Traditions of the Germans from Russia."
Joining the tour group in Odessa, Ukraine:
Bob Dambach, Fargo, North Dakota
Prairie Public Television
Bob Dambach is the Director of Television for Prairie Public Broadcasting. PPB located in Fargo and Bismarck, ND provides Public TV to all of North Dakota, Manitoba, Western Minnesota and Eastern Montana. In his over 26 years at PPB, Bob has produced numerous award-winning documentaries that have aired both on PPB and on Public TV stations throughout America. Despite having no German-Russian (GR) blood in him, Bob has produced ten documentaries featuring the Germans from Russia, including the multiple award-winning documentary that started it all "Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie." He is currently working on a documentary on German from Russia Assimilation. Before coming to Prairie Public, Bob worked in Public Broadcasting in Las Vegas, NV and Wichita, KS. Bob and his wife Virginia have two daughters. Mary is an elementary school teacher in Fargo (she is married to a GR boy from Leola, SD) and Jeanne, who is entering her final year in Nursing at the University of North Dakota (she is dating a GR boy!). Bob will be making either his 7th or 8th trip to Ukraine and Odessa. He’s lost count!
David Geck, Glen Ullin, North Dakota
Prairie Public Television
I was born and raised on a ranch near Glen Ullin, ND, and am the youngest of eight children. I live on that same ranch that was homesteaded by my Grandfather. My father is of German heritage and my mother is German-Hungarian.
I attended school in Glen Ullin and vocational school in Wahpeton, before attending a video production school in Denver, Colorado. I have been working in television for nearly 25 years. For the last twenty years I’ve been working with Bob Dambach at Prairie Public Broadcasting making documentaries about the people of North Dakota and this great state in which we live.
I first traveled to Germany, France and Ukraine with Michael Miller in 1997 and look forward to a return visit this spring.
I have two beautiful daughters. Samantha is 21 and attends NDSU. Macy is 17 and is a junior at Glen Ullin High.
Bill Ridinger, Broomfield, Colorado
Ancestral Villages: Rohrbach (Beresan District)
I trace my family name back to the original settlers in Rohrbach when it was started in 1809. My great grandfather owned land and was also a Volst Mayor. My father was born there in 1919, son of a kulak. His father was arrested and sent to Siberia in 1932, returned in 1937, then was re-arrested during the great terror and never heard from again.
My father left Ukraine with the retreating German army and eventually met my mother in Augsburg, Germany, where I was born in 1954.
My father had two brothers who joined the German army in World War II. After the war, they were captured by Soviet authorities and re-patriated back to the Soviet Union. One of the brothers was sentenced to prison and was executed around 1978. The other brother was re-located to the northern Ural Mountains, then lived in Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg). The sons and daughters of these two brothers emigrated to Germany after Perestroika and live comfortably there today. I have remained in contact with them.
Of my grandfather's siblings, two made it to the U.S. to be re-united with their families, and two were sent to Siberia. I have yet to find out what became of the latter, but I believe they may have left behind families.
My American roots start with the brother of my great-grandfather, who left Rohrbach and settled near Sutton, Nebraska in 1910. His brother joined him a few years later, then moved his family to North Texas, near Wichita Falls, where they became dairy farmers. It was this brother who eventually led to our ability to immigrate to the U.S. in 1960. We lived in the Wichita Falls area for two years before moving to a small town north of Denver, Colorado, where I grew up and eventually graduated from the University of Colorado with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering. I have travelled extensively throughout my career and lived in numerous states and countries. I am just completing a one year assignment in Nizhnekamsk, Russia. I have a wife and two daughters in college.
My ancestors planted fruit orchards near Rohrbach. During one of my interviews with my father's cousin, who also grew up in Rohrbach, I heard that these orchards became hiding places from Red Army soldiers during the terror, and later from the Nazis. I have a vague description of the location of my grandfather's and great-grandfather's house in Rohrbach. It may still be standing. I'm also wondering if those orchards are still there.
Marie A. Weber, Sandhausen, Germany
Ancestral Villages: Kutschurgan District & Beresan District
Daughter of Leo & Mary (Mitzel) Weber, Hague, ND
I currently reside in Sandhausen, Germany, where I serve in the military.
The Weber & Mitzel families came from the Alsace area, and then immigrated to South Russia. After arriving in the U.S. they traveled to the Eureka, SD aea, and eventually to the St. Boniface area, and rural Hague.
I look forward to visiting the homeland of my ancestors, and to see where they lived and worked.