|1998 Journey to the Homeland Tour Group
near Odessa Airport, Odessa, Ukraine in June, 1998.
Journey to the Homeland: Ukraine and Germany
May 26 - June 8, 1998
Biographies of Tour Group Members
* Identifies Deceased
Walter C. Aman, Hillsboro, Oregon
Ancestral villages: Landau (Beresan District) and Güldendorf
I was born and raised in Campbell County, South Dakota where my
grandfather, Jacob Aman, homesteaded after arriving from Landau,
Ukraine in 1889. My father, John J. Aman, was 12 years old when
In 1885, my mother's parents, Gottlieb and Johanna Grenz came
to South Dakota from Güldendorf, Ukraine. My mother, Karolina Grenz,
was 2 years old when the family came to America.
During World War II, I served in the U.S. Army from Dec. 7, 1941
- April 4, 1946, spending 2 years in China, Burma and India. In
1950, I graduated from the University of North Dakota and started
teaching. Later, due to housing shortage, I moved to Bismarck to
work as an employment counselor. In 1955, I started work for N.D.
Vocational Rehabilitation Division as a counselor and supervisor.
In 1967, I moved to Hillsboro, Oregon where I worked in the same
capacity until 1986, when I retired.
In 1948, Ella Mae Grueneich and I were married in Bismarck. We
raised 3 wonderful children there. They are all married and raising
my four grandchildren. We lived in Bismarck until the big move to
Portland, Oregon in 1967. We enjoyed the northwest very much - the
tall fir trees and the abundant rain.
I like gardening, especially roses - am a garden club member here.
We had good schools, church, great camping near the Pacific beaches
and the Cascade Mountains.
In 1973, our world changed. After two years of intense medical
care, my wife of 25 years died at age 46.
Since my retirement in 1986, I have done some family research.
I hope that going to the villages where my parents were born will
help to continue my sporadic effort to put something in writing
for my family.
Duane Walter Bittner, North Highlands, California
Ancestral German villages: Glückstal and Kassel (Glückstal District)
Duane was born in Lehr, North Dakota in 1931 to Walter and Ella
(Sampson) Bittner. Walter's father, Jacob, immigrated to the USA
with his father, John and mother Carolina in 1879, arriving in New
York on the USS Berlin out of Glasgow, Scotland. They and other
immigrants arrived in Glasgow on the SS Circasia out of Hamburg,
Germany. The family came from the Glückstal District in Russia.
My mother, Ella, is of Norwegian decent. Her parents both were
born in Norway.
I lived in the city of Lehr with my brothers and parents. My father
farmed the land south of Lehr. I graduated from Lehr High School
in 1949, taught one room country school for one and a half years
before joining the Navy in 1951. After being discharged from the
Navy in 1955, I re-enlisted in the Air Force and spent the next
16 years in that service.
I married Patricia Jean Potratz from Zap, North Dakota in 1956.
We had three daughters born to us, Paula, Lori (deceased in 1981)
and Julie. After retiring from the Air Force in 1971, I was a Radio
Shack manager for three years before being hired as an Electronics
Technician at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento.
As an Electronic Technician at McClellan with Civil Service, the
Navy and the Air Force, I had occasion to travel widely, including
most of Germany and surrounding countries as well as most of the
USA. I retired again in 1994 and enjoy my genealogical research
of my family and those of other relatives.
I am looking forward to traveling to another part of the world.
Joan Marie Clark, Yorba Linda, California
Ancestral villages: Selz (Kutschurgan District); Speier and Sulz
My grandparents on both my mother and father's sides of the family
are from South Russian colonies - Selz.
Michael Segmiller and Katarina (Vetsch) Segmiller came to the
USA in 1913. They settled in McClusky, North Dakota; then to Harvey,
North Dakota. They had three children born to them in Harvey, namely:
Magilinda 1915, Marion 1917, and Elizabeth 1920. Elizabeth died
at age 6 and is buried at St. Celilia's in Harvey. My mother is
The Segmiller's moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1926 and there,
my uncle Joseph was born. My father, Joseph Keller, was born in
Harvey, North Dakota in 1915 to Valentine and Johanna (Busch) Keller
who stayed in the vicinity of Harvey all their lives. Both of their
parents immigrated to America from Selz, Ukraine.
My daughter and I are researching the surnames to write a book
in memory to all our brave relatives who made the trip over the
ocean to countries unknown.
They gave up their precious families, never to see them again
or to know where they went. In total hardship they built a new better
life, lived in sod houses, farmed rocky soil, and raised their families
to believe in God. We will visit their homelands and villages to
feel in our hearts the beginning of their lives.
Robert Dambach, Fargo, North Dakota
Director of Programming & Production, Prairie Public Broadcasting
Bob was born in Newark, NJ in 1951. He received his bachelor's
degree in communications from the University of Dayton in Ohio in
1973 and a MA degree in speech communication, radio, TV and film
from the University of Iowa in 1975. He has worked at Public Radio
and TV stations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Las Vegas, NV,
and taught television production at Wichita State University in
He came to Prairie Public Television in Fargo, ND as program manager
in 1984. At Prairie Public Television, he has produced numerous
public affairs programs and historical and cultural documentaries
as well as appearing as on-air host for membership drives. In 1996,
he was named the Director of Programming and Production for Prairie
Public Television. His hobbies are history, woodworking and travel.
He has a wife, Virginia, and two daughters, Mary (14) and Jeanne
His heritage is German on his father's side and Irish-German on
his mothers. He has been a member of the tours to Ukraine and Germany
in both 1996 and 1997 as the producer of a documentary to air in
1999 on the Germans from Russia. In 1997, while in Germany, he got
to visit his ancestral village of "Dambach" located about 50 miles
from Stuttgart in the Alsace region.
Bob has been closely involved with the production of the television
documentary on the Mennonities of Manitoba; to premiere on
Prairie Public Television in the fall of 1998. He is Producer for
the Germans from Russia documentary to premiere in the winter of
I look forward to a return trip to Odessa, Ukraine and my first
first to Crimea in May to see the country and the many friends I
have made there again. I also look forward to meeting you in Odessa
as you embark upon a trip and visit of a lifetime.
*Richard A. Doll, Tucson, Arizona
Ancestral German Villages: Katharinental and Speyer (Beresan District)
Freudental and Friedenstal (Liebental District)
I was born in Mandan, North Dakota in 1932 to Liborious & Mary
(Streitmatter) Doll. My father was one of twelve (12) children born
to Anton & Franzisca (Assel) Doll in Katharinental, German village
(1905) & immigrated to the USA in 1911 with parents & ten (10) of
their children. They settled in Mandan, North Dakota.
My great-great grandparents, Conrad & Elisabetha (Klein) Doll,
immigrated from Neuhausen, Baden, Germany in 1838 to Katharinental
near Odessa, Russia. My great grandparents, Peter & Eva (Keller)
Doll, were born in Katharinental (1839-1841 respectively) and died
there (1909-1910). My grandparents, Anton Doll, was born in Katharinental
1864 and Franzisca Assel, born in Speier 1870. My grandfather was
a carpenter working at Mandan Mercantile Lumber Co. and died in
Mandan, ND 1943. My grandmother died in Mandan, ND 1957.
My father, Lipp E. Doll, worked for the Northern Pacific Railroad
as a switchman for 48 years. He retired in 1970 and died in Mandan
in 1989. I had one brother and one sister, who lived with my mother
after my parents' divorce in 1933. I remember my grandparents very
well as I visited them often. My grandmother was a great German
cook and I was always there when she was baking. I lived with my
aunt and uncle, Christ & Katie (Doll) Ferderer, who became my Ma
and Pa, from the time I was one year old until high school, when
my dad re-married in 1944. I was raised in German-Russian culture
and strong religious Catholic up-bringing, and attended mass daily
being a server. I worked at the Midwest Bakery in Mandan, ND during
my junior and senior high school years.
I went to school at St. Joseph's Grade School and Mandan High
School graduating in 1950. Then I joined the USAF in 1951-1955 (Korean
Conflict). Employed by AMOCO Refinery in Mandan in 1955-1962. Employed
by DOD as a Petroleum & Chemical Q.A. representative at various
locations, primarily Denver, CO. I also spent a tour with NASA on
the Saturn 5 program (moon shot). Also, a tour with DFSC in Stuttgart,
Germany 1986-1987. Retired from federal civil service in 1992 after
35 years service. We moved from Denver, CO. in 1993 to Saddlebrooke
Adult Retirement Community near Tucson, AZ. I enjoy tennis, biking
We visit Mandan and Garrison, North Dakota, where my wife, Ruth
Freier, was born, almost annually. Ruth's mother, now 87 years young,
still lives in Garrison. We have many friends still living in Mandan,
where we lived after our marriage in 1955-1962.
Our three 3 daughters were born in St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck,
ND, where my wife, Ruth went to nurses training. Our daughters now
live in the Denver, CO. area and each has one of our three grandchildren.
We visit the Denver area quite frequently, as you can imagine. We
recently travelled back to Germany in October 1996 to visit friends
in the Stuttgart and Wiesbaden area. Also, visited Berlin this time.
While living in Germany from 1986-1987, we visited my ancestral
German township of Neuhausen, Baden, Germany. Never could find any
relationship there. At that time, I wasn't really researching as
now. I never learned to understand or speak German very well, although
exposed to it in my younger years, only a 'glenis-bissel'!!!
Ruth E. Freier Doll, Tucson, Arizona
Ancestral German Villages: Freudental [Liebental District] Katharinental
and Speier; (Beresan District); Friedenstal, Bessarabia
I was born in Garrison, North Dakota in May, 1934 to Frederick
and Emma (Renner) Freier. My father was born in Freudental, Russia
to Karl and Elizabeth (Neumiller) Freier. They immigrated to the
United States in 1900 and settled in North Dakota, where the family
built a 3 room sod house and farmed. My mother was born in Tyndall,
South Dakota to Andrew and Wilhelmena (Neumiller) Renner. They immigrated
from Friedenstal, Russia, 1905 via Canada to Tyndall, South Dakota
and eventually, Box Elder, Montana and became farmers.
I graduated from Garrison High School in 1952 and went to nurses
training at St. Alexuis School of Nursing, now Mary College, in
Bismarck, North Dakota. I met Dick Doll while in nurses training,
and we were married at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Mandan, North
Dakota in 1955. We have three daughters and three grandchildren,
ages 21 years old to 7 months.
I worked in surgery at Humana Hospital in Denver, CO. for 20 years
and spent the last 5 years working as a private scrub nurse for
two orthopedic surgeons. I have been retired for the past four years
and loving every minute!!
Walden Wally Duchscher, Havre, Montana
Ancestral German villages: Mannheim, Elsass and Selz and daughter
colony, Georgental (Kutschurgan District)
I was born to Walter and Ann (Jaeger) Duchscher on May 11, 1948.
I am the oldest of 7 children and am a Catholic.
I was born in Rugby, North Dakota and grew up on a farm near Silva,
Both of my grandfathers were born in Russia and, as a young boy,
I can remember them occasionally talking about life in Russia.
I graduated from high school in 1966 from Cardinal Muench Seminary
and from NDSU in 1972 with a degree in sociology and psychology.
While at the university I wrote two papers about the German-Russians.
The first was, "A German Marriage Celebration" and what a 3-day
marriage celebration entailed. It explained the role and importance
of a match-maker. The second paper studied the educational differences
of first generation German-Russians and Norwegians. I spoke at the
National Historical Convention and presented my findings.
I own and operate an insurance agency in Havre, Montana, but my
true love is still on the land. I also operate a farm about the
size of my great-great-great grandfathers, which was given to them
by Catherine the Great in Russia.
My interests in history does not stop with family, for my free
time is spent rebuilding old trucks, tractors and cars.
Gerald N. Fiechtner, Henderson, Nevada and Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Hoffnungstal, Black Sea
I was born October 8, 1937, to Fred and Selma (Knudtson) Fiechtner
at Grand Forks, North Dakota.
I lived in Grand Forks for two years, then to Hillsboro, ND for
3-1/2 years, and then to Fargo ever since. I went to grade school
at Jefferson in Fargo, then 3 years at Agassiz Junior High, and
one year at Fargo Central High, two years at Concordia High School,
St. Paul, MN, and two years at Concordia College, St. Paul, MN in
a pre-ministerial course, but did not complete it or go on to seminary.
I later attended and graduated from Dakota Business College in Fargo.
I served in the US Army from 1961-64, and then returned to Fargo,
where I joined my father in business at Nodak Supply Co, a retail
farm, home, housewares, clothing and large appliance and electronic
store. I was the oldest of three children. My brother, Robert, was
born in 1940, and lives in Fargo, and my sister, Eunice, was born
in 1942 and lives in Cupertino, CA. They are both married and have
families. In about 1975, my brother, Robert, and I took over the
Nodak business, after my father retired. In 1997, both Bob and I
also retired from active management at Nodak, but we still hold
ownership in the business.
I married Joyce Bergh of Trenton, ND in July 1960, and had one
son, Jon, born in 1964. The marriage was dissolved in 1971. In 1973,
I married Joan Robberstad from Erie, ND, to whom I am now married.
She brought to the marriage two daughters, Lori and Teresa, whom
I later adopted. In 1975, Joan and I had a son Matthew.
Jon Fiechtner presently lives in the Omaha, NE area, working in
business management and computer-related positions. Lori is married
and lives at Big Floyd Lake in MN with her husband, Bruce, and two
children, Laura and Melissa. Lori teaches private piano lessons,
and works in community theatre and local musicals, among other things.
Bruce works for Minnesota PCA. Teresa is married, lives in Fargo
with her husband Shawn. Shawn is the manager of Nodak, and Teresa
works there also as office manager. They have four children, Jessica,
Jocelyn, Jillian, and Shane. Our youngest son, Matthew, is presently
a cadet in his third year at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado
Joan and I now split our time between Nevada and North Dakota.
We were especially grateful to have missed the terrible North Dakota
winter and flood of 1997. We both play golf, are interested in music,
sing and play piano and organ, and are both active in church activities.
We belong to Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Fargo, and in the
winter, attend Christ Lutheran Church in Boulder City, NV.
My father, Fred, became very interested in his roots, and was
an active member in the North Dakota Germans from Russia Heritage
Society until his death in 1986.
My father's father, Gustav Fiechtner, came over from Odessa, Russia
as a young boy of 17 years in 1889 with his brother. They both settled
in Dickey County, ND, married, farmed in the area of Monango and
I became interested in my ancestry about 20 years ago, and have
"inherited" some of my father's records and files about our lineage.
I am happy that my sons, Jon and Matthew, will be able to join me
on this "Journey to the Homeland" tour, and hope they will continue
to be interested in their ancestry.
Jon Fiechtner, Tekamah, Nebraska
German villages: Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia
I was born August 3, 1964, in Fargo, North Dakota to Gerald Norman
Fiechtner and Joyce (Bergh) Fiechtner. I'm the only child from this
I lived in Fargo for six years, then my parents divorced and I
moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota with my mother. I went through
elementary, junior high, and high school in Grand Forks, visiting
Fargo two weekends a month and weeks during the summer. During these
visits, Dad's father, Fred, would often lasso me into spending time
with him; gardening vegetables and flowers, giving away the surplus
food, going to the state fair and entering our gladiola in a contest.
I remember him singing little German songs sometimes. I took two
semesters of German language in high school.
I attended UND for two semesters, NDSU for one. I moved to Colorado
in 1984 and moved to Arizona in 1986. I finished a one-year technology
course. Working in the typesetting department of Kinko's in Tucson,
did freelance desktop publishing for four years and learned screen
printing, moved to Nebraska in 1994 to work in my mom's business,
Mom married John Knauf in 1972, divorced in 1985, married Robin
Neihardt in 1989. Dad married Joan Robberstad in 1973.
Matthew J. Fiechtner, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Ancestral villages: Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia
I was born on 14 January 1975 in Fargo, ND. Kindergarten through
8th grade was spent at Grace Lutheran School in Fargo, ND.
I continued my education at Oak Grove Lutheran High School (also
in Fargo). There, I participated in many activities. Some of my
favorites include the golf team and many various musical groups
(the choir, madrigal singers, boys quartet). The German course there
also afforded many students the opportunity to visit Germany for
a month with an organization called GAPP (German-American Partnership
Program). For the first three weeks of the trip (June '92), each
U.S. student stayed with a host German student family. They lived
in a city called Itzehoe, Schleswig-Holstein (perhaps one hour drive
from Hamburg). We attended Gymnasium with that student during the
week. For the 4th week, we took a train to Berlin and toured the
area. The next fall, each U.S. student hosted their former hosts
in Germany for three weeks. The Germans spent the 4th week in Minneapolis.
After graduating from high school spring '93, I was accepted at
Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. I was a biology major
there, but I really failed to focus on academics. Subsequently,
I withdrew after one semester and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force,
24 May 1994. However, before heading off to Basic Training, I used
part of my tuition refund from Pepperdine to travel to Australia
for about 10 days. I spent half in Sydney and half in Canberra.
A pen pal of mine hosted me.
Adding together the time I spent in Basic Training, Technical
Training, and the actual time I worked as a Health Services Administration
Specialist, I was enlisted for a little over a year. The reason
the 4-year enlistment period was cut short is because I was selected
to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. That is where I am now, and
that is where I shall stay until I graduate early in June of '99.
It is a great opportunity to be here, but I am really looking forward
to my exodus from this place.
While here, I have also enjoyed various extra-curricular activities.
I participate in the Cadet Chorale (when my grades are good enough),
the Prior Enlisted Council, and Campus Crusade for Christ. In fact,
for 3 weeks after my freshman year during the summer, I traveled
with a group of Crusade-involved students from USAFA, UC-Boulder,
and a few other campuses in the U.S. to Concepcion, Chile. There,
we shared the Gospel/culture with students at the Universidad de
After I graduate, I am not exactly sure what I want to do yet.
If I go on to pilot training, I will have to spend about 9 years
more in the AF. If not, only 5 years. After that time, I sort of
have my eye on going back to school for some sort of musical/vocal
training. But you never know what else might come up. Basically,
there are many paths my life could take from this place and it will
be exciting to see how everything pans out. However, no matter which
direction my life will take, I hope I will always be able to enjoy
golf, downhill skiing, travel, reading, singing, and someday, a
family of my own.
Carol Just Halverson, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Ancestral villages: Kassel and Neudorf (Glückstal District); Akkerman
and Klöstitz, Bessarabia
A native of Berlin, LaMoure County, ND, Carol Halverson has lived
in the Minneapolis area suburb of St. Louis Park, for 30 years.
Her daughters, Katharina (Kate, currently studying in Berlin, Germany)
and Annie, (8th grade, St. Louis Park Jr. High) are very excited
to see their mom fulfilling her lifelong dream of visiting their
ancestral villages on the 1998 Journey to the Homeland Tour.
Halverson'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 grandparents, Karl Just, was
conceived in South Russia and born at Tripp, Dakota Territory (near
Yankton), shortly after his young parents arrived in America, October
An Oral Historian, Halverson is in the business of memories. Her
company, "Lifetimes" helps others identify and tell their life stories.
Halverson conducts videotaped interviews with her clients and edits
music and photographs from the interviewee's family album into the
text of the interview, creating a living legacy for their descendants.
A member of the Oral History Association of Minnesota, Halverson
gives Oral History presentations and workshops to school, civic
and church groups.
A charter member of the Minnesota North Star Chapter of the American
Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR), Halverson has
spent the last three years directing their programs. 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.
Halverson 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. She is currently part of a Twin
Cities area task force raising support for the NDSU Libraries/Prairie
Public Television Documentary about the Germans from Russia.
Katharina Kate Halverson, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Ancestral villages: Kassel and Neudorf (Glückstal District); Akkerman
and Klöstitz, Bessarabia
Currently a junior at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York,
I am spending the 1997-98 academic year studying at the Free University
in Berlin, Germany. As a German major who also studies Russian language
and history, I find Berlin to be the ideal environment to pursue
my interests in the current westernization of Eastern Europe, and
the consequential influence on immigration issues and the question
of national identity.
Following graduation from Vassar, I am looking toward a career
in immigration, more specifically, as an English as a Second Language
teacher in the United States. Before attaining my certification,
however, I will finish my studies in German culture and language,
and plan to spend at least one year either studying Russian language
and history or teaching English in Russia or Ukraine in the year
following my graduation from Vassar. Living and studying in Germany
has truly brought the German culture to life for me and has helped
improve my communication skills tremendously; I look forward to
a year in Russia or Ukraine to do the same.
During my semester break this spring, I travelled through Europe,
and was impressed by the effort being made in cities like Budapest
to westernize as rapidly as possible. Yet, while Budapest has numerous
western amenities like McDonald's and bagel shops, there is something
distinctly different in these regions where capitalism is less than
a decade old. I am not referring to the anachronistic sight of a
Pizza Hut sign on the facade of a building that is perhaps older
than my state in the U.S., but rather the gruff, hearty Ernst of
a society that is trying feverishly to catch up to the rest of the
western world; a society that has not been inundated with NBC and
Blockbuster Video just yet, but rather is evolving into a secure
member of capitalist society through Trial and Error. I am fascinated
with this idea of "renovating" a society and the consequential influence
on the culture and customs of the nations of the former East.
As a descendant of German-Russian immigrants, I am curious about
the influence of German, Russian and American history and culture
on the present-day situation of our families. I often think of my
Grandpa Just when I hear an older gentleman speaking a dialect of
German on the street here in Berlin. Then there are the times when
I enjoy a delicious bowl of Borscht here at my favorite restaurant,
and immediately have the sensation of sitting in my Grandma's kitchen
having dinner. Time and again I feel that I am returning to my roots,
little by little, and in doing so, a clearer picture of what lies
ahead of me unfolds. I anticipate an incredible, eye-opening experience
with the Journey to the Homeland Tour, and am so thankful for the
opportunity to participate!
Mary Frances Filer Jacobson, Mohave Valley, Arizona
Ancestral German villages: Elsass and Mannheim (Kutschurgan District)
I was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, March 11, 1939 to Lester
Filer and Magdalene (Meier) Filer. I have one sister, Naomi Ruth
Filer, born October 5, 1934. She is going on this tour also. Naomi
married Robert Reimer. We moved to Toppenish, WA when I was 4 years
old. Attended schools in Toppenish where I graduated from high school
in 1957. Then attended Central Washington State College in Ellensburg,
WA for two years, then transferred to the University of Washington,
where I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology
I met Chuck Jacobson while attending the University of Washington.
We were married on June 2, 1962. After graduating from college I
went to work in a hospital laboratory in Tacoma, WA. In October
of 1963 our first child, Lisa was born. In July of 1965 our son
Mark, was born. After Mark, our second child, was born, I was an
at home mother for about 3 years. Then I went back to work again
in a hospital laboratory. I continued to work in hospital or out
patient clinic laboratories until July, 1992.
At that time, Chuck retired from teaching school for 30 years.
I quit my job and we decided to travel. We left in our recreational
vehicle for an extended trip around the USA. We traveled to most
of the states. While in Arizona, we decided to sell our house in
Tacoma, WA and move to Arizona.
My German from Russia roots are through my mother, Magdalene (Meier)
Filer. Her parents were Anton Meier and Rosa (Ripplinger) Meier
from the villages of Mannheim and Elsass. I have had an interest
in my "roots" for about 15 years. Although I do not know the exact
location of my grandparents' home in Elsass, I look forward to this
trip to expand my knowledge of my German-Russian ancestry.
Vicky Retzlaff Kearns, Napa, California
Ancestral German villages: Beresina, Hoffnungstal, Kulm and Leipzig,
Bessarabia; Karstal and Freudental
My father was born in Kulm, Bessarabia and I was born in Kulm,
North Dakota. I'm delighted to share my birthplace with the famous
I grew up on a farm near Whitestone Battlefield with my parents
and eight older brothers. I walked a mile cross country with my
youngest brothers to attend a one-room elementary school. For high
school, it was necessary to move to town during the school year
because it was so far away. Fortunately, the N.I. at Ellendale had
a high school program. It was a most wonderful experience for the
dozen or so students in the high school program to be included in
the college activities. After my junior year I moved to California
and have lived here ever since.
My mother was born in Leipzig, Bessarabia and came to North Dakota
when she was five years old. She often described her house and village
in Leipzig in loving detail. I find it incredible that next year
I will be going to the birth villages of my parents.
My husband, John, and I have two children, Kathy and Robert, who
are both married and live in the Bay Area. We also have two delightful
granddaughters, Kristen, twelve, and Lauren, nine.
I love ballroom and folk dancing, aerobic classes, good food and
Clarence M. Keller, Havre, Montana
Ancestral German villages: Elsass and Strassburg (Kutschurgan District),
Alexanderfeld, Bezilwa and Kellersheim
I was born January 22, 1944 in Havre, Montana. I attended the
Cottonwood Rural School for the first 8 years, then attended high
school at Havre Central High in Havre. I was born and raised Catholic.
I farm north of Havre and raise wheat, barley and cattle. I have
been farming for 25 years.
LeRoy E. Keller, Havre, Montana
Ancestral German villages: Elsass and Strassburg (Kutschurgan District),
Alexanderfeld, Bezilwa and Kellersheim
I was born in Havre, Montana October 23. 1933, and am the oldest
of 16 children, Two of my brothers passed away from spinal meningitis.
We lived 24 miles northwest of Havre in the Cottonwood community.
I went to the Cottonwood grade school through grade 8 and then attended
Havre High School for 4 years. The last 2 years of high school I
delivered milk from 5:00 AM until 8:55 AM six days a week. During
my senior year, I played football.
In 1953-1955, I served in the Korean War. I worked for a farmer
for 22 years, then in 1969, the farmer loaned me the down payment
for a farm. I have added to the 960 acres that I originally purchased,
and now own 4,000 acres and lease 480 acres of school land.
I was born and raised a Catholic. I have dedicated my time to
the betterment of our church by serving on the Parish Council for
6 years and the financial committee for 9 years. I am very involved
in the Knights of Columbus; have held all offices, and am the current
From 1983 to 1989, I served a six year term as a County Commissioner,
and am a giver of over 23 gallons of blood to the Red Cross. I also
serve on many community boards, such as the Havre Food Bank, Human
Resource Development Council (HRDC). I have been serving on the
Montana Mutual Insurance Company Board since 1974 and have been
president of the local Farmers Union."
My mother was Juletta (Garding) Keller, my great grandparents
came from Germany in about 1860. Their name was Schgarding. The
first brother took the Sch off and it became a closed family of
Garding. My grandfather married a Fuchs, some change the name to
Fox or Foxx. My grandfather was Mathias Garding, born in 1885 in
St. Martins, Minnesota. My grandmother was Mamie Joevly, born November
10, 1891. Both passed away in Havre.
My mother was born in Grassy Lake, Alberta. When she was one month
old, they moved to Spokane, Washington, where they lived for 8 years.
Then they moved to North Havre where she met, and later married,
my father in September of 1932.
My father was born February 22, 1903 in Begelofka (Russia), Ukraine.
He was the 5th child of 14. His father was Johannes Keller, born
June 20, 1869 and passed away in Havre on February 8, 1937.
My father's mother was Magdalina Schwan, born in Kursokof, Russia,
December 12, 1874. His parents were married in Strassburg, January
28, 1896. (The Schwan family moved to Alexanderfeld.) Magdalina
died September 13, 1961. Johannes and Magdalina Keller arrived in
the U.S. on the Kaiser Wilhelm II boat in the State of New York
June 6, 1911, and then, four years later, moved to Collyer, Kansas.
At breakfast on the first day of school, my Grandfather told his
children, "We are in America and we will speak English." When my
father passed away, he couldn't speak German, but both he and my
mother could understand it. None of their children can speak or
understand the German language.
My grandfather had four brothers that named the village, Kellersheim.
My grandfather had only 2 brothers come to the U.S.A. His sister,
Mary, got to New York and one of her children became sick so they
had to go back. My great uncle, Andrew, was in the Russian Army.
My great grandfather was Wilhelm Keller and my great grandmother
was Christine Gerein.
June M. Kraft, Bismarck, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Kassel [Glückstal District]
My paternal ancestors came from the Odessa, Russia area. My grandparents
were Jacob Kraft and Karline (Mehlhoff) Kraft. My grandfather was
born and raised in Kassel and came to the United States in 1910
at the age of eighteen. My grandmother's father is also from the
Kassel area, although she lists her birthplace as Mardorofke, Russia.
She emigrated to the United States in 1901 at the age of five.
A family search is just beginning and I am especially interested
in the Kraft and Mehlhaf families. I would appreciate hearing from
others also searching for families in this area. I want to learn
about the history and culture of South Russia. It would be exciting
to locate relatives still living in Russia or Germany.
Currently, I serve as Burleigh County Extension Agent for the
NDSU Extension Service with a focus on family and consumer science.
My undergraduate degree is in Home Economics Education with graduate
work done in communications. Prior to joining Extension, I taught
high school home economics.
I enjoy travel and am excited about visiting Kassel. Although
this is my third trip to Germany, it is the first time in the Stuttgart
area. I am looking forward to seeing the choir members I met last
year while they were on tour in North Dakota.
I grew up at Tuttle, North Dakota, where my parents farmed and
I currently reside in Bismarck.
Cynthia Mitzel Longtin, Fargo, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Selz and Strassburg (Kutschurgan District)
Tour (1) veteran Longtin, my mind is whirling with thoughts ...
the anticipation is much the same. This is a powerful experience.
I'm the youngest of six children born of German-Russian Catholic
parents. My father was conceived in Straßburg, South Russia, and
born in North Dakota in 1909. This fact and the story of how Grandpa
Mitzel was detained by the Russian officials for almost a year;
but Grandma was sent to America with the six children while expecting
the seventh child has spurred the desire to see where they came
from and why.
"I remember well my maternal grandfather, Balthazar Welk, who
lived with us for six weeks every year until his death in 1966.
His wife, grandmother Margaret (Baumgartner) Welk died in 1954.
Grandpa Welk entertained me during those times he spent with our
family. He taught me how to trap gophers and made a tree swing out
of an old tire, together. Grandpa sang songs in German to me while
I learned to count to "10" in German and Russian. Learning words
too, I would go to school and teach my friends Russian. I thought
it was hot stuff!!"
"I remember visiting my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Volk)
Mitzel, a resident of the Harvey Nursing Home. She always wore a
black head scarf. As a child I liked to have my mom tell me stories
about my grandparents, aunts, and uncles who were born in Russia.
I had the great pleasure of seeing my ancestral villages in May,
1997, with my French/Norwegian husband and my two sisters. We shared
that unique time of our lives in the village of Selz, meeting actual
family. Antonina Welk Ivanova, a Selz resident, is a third cousin
to my mother. We had lunch in Antonina's home and enjoyed a tour
of the village with her. The next day we had lunch at her daughter's
home in Kandel. Other than the language difference, it was just
like visiting our aunt's house, a moment in time we will never forget.
Family is very IMPORTANT!
Stuart Longtin, Fargo, North Dakota
I'm German-Russian by marriage only. When I married my wife, Cindy
Mitzel, in 1985, I married into a wonderful German-Russian family.
My French-Norwegian heritage blended very well with this family's
great faith and spirit. I've been tracing my own family histories
for the last twenty years and became interested in German-Russian
heritage while researching and compiling histories for my wife's
paternal and maternal families. Facets of a strong faith in God
became evident time after time in the family stories and trials.
I wanted to see where this great faith of the German-Russians came
from. I found out a great deal about this faith while on the 1997
tour. My wife, her two sisters and I were thrilled to be able to
trace and find relatives while in Ukraine. It was very sobering
to think that, but for a quirk of fate, the situation may have been
reverse. Seeing them, conversing with them and feeling their joy
made the trip that much more exciting. Since the tour, we have been
corresponding with many of the people we met. Our horizons, and
our family ties, have certainly been expanded.
We both look forward to returning once again to German-Russian
roots. We hope to be able to see and take in more and more of the
essence of the land. The faith is strong and very much evident in
the people. It is exciting to meet and speak with the people and
realize they are just like we are and it means so much to them to
know you care.
Stuart writes, "I was born January 24, 1951. I have two sons:
Joseph, who is 27, and James who is 23. I am the youngest of my
parents, three children, having one brother and one sister. My parents
are deceased. My ancestry on my father's side is French, having
traced my paternal ancestry back to Paris, France, to 1738. It is
interesting to note that my French ancestors came from an area in
France that is 150 km from Alsace, the origins of the ancestors
of my German-Russian spouse."
"My maternal ancestry goes back five generations to an area north
of Trondheim, Norway. Members of my mother's family still correspond
with relatives here. I have been tracing the ancestry of my parents
for over 15 years. Recently, I became involved in tracing the German-Russian
heritage of my spouse, Cindy Mitzel Longtin. Cindy and I published
a family history of Philip Mitzel, born in 1860. This interest has
continued to the maternal ancestry of my spouse, the Welk family.
We have been successful in both families' history, with origins
to the Alsace area, to 1750. I have become adapt to utilizing Family
tree Software and the Internet for this purpose. My organizational
skills have come in handy during this project."
"My career has been in the telecommunication industry for 28 years.
Presently, I am the Service Manager for installation and maintenance
of business telecommunications systems in North Dakota and western
Minnesota for Lucent Technologies."
Mary E. Jaeger Marando, Crown Point, Indiana
Ancestral Villages: Mannheim, Kandel and Strassburg and daughter
colony, Neu-Mannheim (Kutschurgan District); Franzfeld and Grossliebental
I was born Easter Sunday, April 17, 1938 in Chicago, Illinois,
to Josephine Kucia (1912-1976) and Joseph P. Jaeger (1913-1980).
At age 2, we moved to rural Crown Point, Indiana, raised in a country
setting with an older brother (1935-1985) and many cousins. My younger
brother was born in 1950. I attended Catholic grade school, small
public high school, few courses in college. I married Joseph P.
Marando (1935-1996). I have two daughters, Catherine and Marian
and one marvelous grandson, Michael Patrick Quinn, age 8. I worked
for 29 1/2 years at the US Postal Service, retiring in 1992.
My father (1913-1980), was the youngest child of 13 children.
Both his father, Jaeger, and mother, Schiele, were of German-Russian
heritage. My father was born in North Dakota, Pierce County, Jefferson
Township, on the family homestead. Six of the older siblings were
born in Russia, immigrating to the United States in 1898 on the
USS Frust Bismarck with my grandfather, Ludwig Jaeger, and his first
wife, Magdaline (Volk) Jaeger.
My great grandfather, John Jaeger, and great uncle, Vincent Volk,
were founders, donated property, for the Fulda Church, St. Anselm's,
in Pierce County, Jefferson Township.
My interest in the German heritage began in the 1970s. And, looking
at some of the letters I sent out back then, my goals are finally
being reached: 1) to get enough background information to make a
trip to Russia and Germany when I retired in 1994 to visit the villages
where our ancestors lived, 2) to contact all my living first and
second cousins to gain information for my goal, 3) preparing and
having printed an "Ancestors of John Jaeger" book.
Goal 1: I'm going May 1998, 4 years from original goal, 100 years
from when my ancestors left their homeland.
Goal 2: I'm sure I've met all my first cousins, may not have gotten
to all the others but I'm continuing this goal and it could be "never
ending". Who will I meet in Russia! Germany!
Goal 3: Have most of my information, but now have added pictures
which are sometimes hard to come by.
Hobbies: Golf, travel, reading and a nice dinner. My cousin, Betty
(Jaeger) Winkler, who I hope will be meeting me in Stuttgart, has
introduced me to ballet, opera, and symphony. There was a very nice
opera house in Stuttgart. I like chamber music, and also did country
line dancing this spring. For visual arts, I can't believe how much
I enjoyed the Louve museum in Paris.
Lillian A. Miller, Williston, North Dakota
Ancestral Norwegian and Swedish villages: Handel and Jemtland, Sweden;
Fleeca Station and Osnus, Norway
I was born on a family farm at Appam, North Dakota -- Blue Ridge
Township to Oliver and Mathilda (Erikson) Holm on April 22, 1926.
My father was born March 20, 1882 to Peter and Christina (Johonson)
Peterson in Sweden. He and his brother, Ole, came to the United
States in 1901. They changed their surname to Holm (after Stockholm)
because of the vast number of Petersons in Minnesota. On April 1,
1906, he moved to Williston, North Dakota and filed on a homestead
north of Appam, North Dakota.
He married Mathilda in the fall of 1912 in Williston. Mathilda
was born in Osnus, Fleeca Station, Norway on September 15, 1891
to Christian and Martha (Madson) Erikson. On her 16th birthday she
and her father came to the United States, first coming to Whitehall,
Wisconsin to an uncle and aunt living there. Then, in 1909, she
traveled to Rugby and Barton, North Dakota, where she worked until
1911, when she moved to Williston, North Dakota, where she worked
and met my father. I am the 8th of 14 children. My father passed
away on October 19, 1969, and my mother passed away on November
I attended grade school in Appam, North Dakota, high school in
Alamo, North Dakota and graduated from high school in Williston,
North Dakota in 1944. My father retired from farming and moved to
Williston to make it easier for us to attend high school, as we
always had to stay away from home. I attended Minot State Teachers
College, received a teaching certificate. This was during World
War II. I only taught one year.
Then I went to the west coast to my aunt and uncle in Milwaukee,
Oregon. I worked in the Oregon Woolen Mills until I met my first
husband, James Keenan, and married on July 24, 1946. We lived in
Oregon City, where he was a chef in various restaurants until we
opened our own drive-in restaurant.
We had two children. Our daughter, Linda was born in Oregon City
and our son, Jerald was born in Williston, North Dakota. Jerald
has opened a Jewelry Store in Portland; and Linda is employed there.
My husband, James passed away December 12, 1977 during heart by-pass
My present husband, LaVern Miller, and I were married on August
18, 1984. We have a condo in Williston, and also have a home on
the farm where we spend time during spring seeding and fall harvest.
LaVern is interested and enjoys working with his brother on the
We both are interested in traveling, reading, and being with our
families and especially, our grandchildren.
*LaVern C. Miller, Williston, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: near Kiev, Ukraine
I was born at Williston, North Dakota on June 26, 1926. My father,
Charles Miller, was born in Oglesby, Illinois on August 16, 1898
to Luxembourg-German immigrants. This family moved to a homestead
in Williams County. My mother, May (Horob) Miller, was born in Kief,
Ukraine, on December 29, 1905, the youngest child. The family immigrated
to Canada, entering the United States and homesteaded in Williams
County also. I am told that the last name Horob was shortened at
citizenship from Horobanko.
In 1930, my parents bought a farm one half mile from the Horob
homestead. I fondly remember my mother and grandmother conversing
in Russian, and not understanding any of it.
I obtained my elementary education in a one-room school house.
This was a period of one of the greatest droughts and depression
that has ever been experienced in western North Dakota. Many families
left their farms and city hoping to better themselves at the West
Coast and elsewhere. Our family stayed with much frugality, big
gardens, milk cows, raising chickens, home grown beef, and a W.P.A.
Program; we survived. The farm is still family owned and, at present,
managed by my brother.
I attended Williston High School and received a diploma in 1943.
My senior year was only six months, having need to work on the farm
during World War II years.
My lifelong career has been raising small grains, livestock and
picking rocks. My father told me, "A good way to go broke was not
to pick rocks and not summer fallow." Having been blessed through
my heritage that hard work, common sense, and a Christian life-style
will bring contentment and success.
I have five daughters by a previous marriage of 18 years.
At present I am semi-retired, married to my present wife for 13
years, who will be accompanying me on my first ever overseas tour,
Journey to the Homeland, in 1998.
Michael M. Miller, Fargo, ND
Germans from Russia Bibliographer, NDSU Libraries, Fargo
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. I returned to Odessa. I shall never forget the frigid
temperatures and the hospitality at the home of Antonina Welk Ivanova
in the village of Selz in December, 1995. Traveling now to Odessa,
especially to the Kutschurgan villages and to Krasna, is like coming
home to the land where my grandparents walked the same streets."
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
NDSU Libraries staff since 1967, where he compiled the annotated
bibliography, "Researching the Germans from Russia," published by
the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, 1987.
He produced the visual program in 1980, "At Home on the Prairies:
the Germans from Russia," for the Germans from Russia Heritage Society.
Working with the family of Lawrence Welk, he was instrumental in
the family's decision in 1993 to donate the archives of the late
bandleader to the NDSU Libraries.
Besides his university work, he is a photographer. His past photography
assignments have taken him to the Olympics in Los Angeles, Seoul,
Calgary, Albertville, Barcelona, and Lillehammer.
He has visited Odessa in June, 1994; December, 1995; June, 1996;
and May, 1997. Michael serves on the committee to review the script
for the Germans from Russia documentary produced cooperatively by
Prairie Public Broadcasting and the NDSU Libraries to premiere in
*Irene Wahl Neuharth, Long Beach California
Ancestral villages: Kassel and Neudorf (Glückstal District), Rosenfeld
and Worms (Beresan District)
Irene Elnora (Wahl) Neuharth was born at Alpena, South Dakota,
on a farm on October 28, 1918, to Amelia Sophie (Dietrich) Wahl
and John Wahl.
Mother, Amelia Sophie Dietrich, was born in Scotland, South Dakota
on January 6, 1894. Father, John Wahl, was born in Emery, South
Dakota on April 1, 1891.
My paternal grandfather was Michael Wahl, born June 17, 1861,
in Kassel, Ukraine, South Russia. Migrated in February 17, 1880,
to Emery, South Dakota, and died March 21, 1944. My paternal Grandmother
was Caroline Heckel, born August 16, 1859, in Neudorf, South Russia,
and died March 21, 1944 in Alpena, South Dakota.
My maternal grandfather was John Dietrich, born August 14, 1861,
in Rosenfeld, South Russia. John Dietrich migrated to USA in 1872
and to Yankton County, South Dakota, on September 26, 1886. He died
July 9, 1930. My maternal grandmother was Elizabeth Orth, born in
Worms, South Russia, on August 30, 1867. She immigrated to Lesterville,
South Dakota, August 1873. She died January 14, 1941, at Alpena,
My great-great ancestors were born in Sinsheim, Eppingen and Baden,
Germany, and migrated to various villages in the Ukraine, South
I attended rural grade school through 8th grade, then attended
Alpena High School, Alpena, South Dakota. In 1936, I attended nurses
training at Anchor Hospital, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
I married Water D. Neuharth on August 18, 1940, and lived in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota. Later I moved to Deadwood, South Dakota where
Walter was assistant manager for Montgomery Ward. Walter spent three
years in Europe in the US Air Force in World War II. We owned and
operated Neuharth's mens wear clothing store in Wessington Springs.
I helped organize a 20 bed hospital in Wessington Springs, South
We moved to Long Beach, California in 1953, where I worked for
McDonnel-Douglas Corp. for 20 years as an industrial nurse, before
retiring in 1981.
Currently, Walter and I make jams and jelly to benefit the Shrine
Children's Hospital and a Mexican orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.
We have enjoyed working on family genealogy for more than 25 years.
We have traveled to 5 of the many countries of the world and the
One son, Loren, born May 17, 1943, and currently living in Albuquerque,
New Mexico, is manager of a television station. We have two grandchildren,
Julie, born January 22, 1970, and John, born September 17, 1972.
*Walter D. Neuharth, Long Beach, California
Ancestral villages: Glückstal and Kassel (Glückstal District); Worms
and Rosenflet (Beresan District)
I was born in Eureka, South Dakota, on October 19, 1917, to Daniel
J. and Christina Neuharth. I married Irene Wahl of Alpena, South
Dakota, on August 18, 1940. I served for three years in the US Air
Force during World War II.
I owned Neuharth's mens wear clothing store in Wessington Springs,
South Dakota, from 1946 - 1953.
I moved to Long Beach, California. After 28 years with the Long
Beach Unified School District, I retired in February 1981.
Irene, a registered nurse, retired at the same time, after 20
years as an industrial nurse with McDonald-Douglas Corp.
Having both been world wide travelers, we visited more than 40
countries of the world and the 50 states in the USA. Genealogy of
the Neuharth family, in particular, has been our hobby for more
than 25 years.
We have worked on a number of philanthropic projects, mainly on
Schriner's Childrens Hospital and fund raising projects.
Lola G. Parsons, Tucson, Arizona
Ancestral village: Hoffnungstal, Black Sea
My name is Lola Gervae Parsons. I was born at Emmett, Idaho, February
17, 1936, to Louis Gerhardt and Alice (Turner) Hereth, and lived
there until going to the University of Idaho in the fall of 1954.
My first marriage was to A. Daniel Freiberg, who was born in LaMoure,
N.D. December, 1935. We raised 4 children, two boys and two girls.
Dan died of a heart attack and I subsequently married my present
husband, Robert (Bob) Parsons.
My oldest child, Tamara, has her Masters in Public Administration
and is the Administrative Assistant for Valley County, Idaho. She
has two children, Cassandra (Cassie) and Chad. My second daughter,
Lisa, has her Bachelor's degree and is a probation officer for Valley
County. She has 2 children, Brad and Brian.
My oldest son, Joe, has his R.N. degree and operates a care facility
in his home in Ontario, Oregon. He has 2 children, Victoria (Tori)
and Daniel. My youngest son, Tony, is a Flight Engineer with JAL
and primarily flies from Honolulu to Japan to Bangkok to Honolulu.
He has an occasional flight to Australia, Nepal, Singapore or Bali.
His home is in Incline Village, Nevada. He has a girlfriend, Mary,
and a dog, Annie.
When I was a small child, my grandfather told me that he was born
in Bavaria and my grandmother said she was born in Odessa, Russia.
As a child that satisfied my curiosity, however after I grew older
and after they had both died, I found that I was very interested
in my background.
In the past few years I began to ask questions of older family
members, but have been disappointed with their lack of knowledge
about the Fritz and the Hereth families so have begun to look elsewhere
for answers. It was after buying a newer computer that I explored
the Internet and found Michael Miller's home page and the information
regarding the Homeland Tour. I had planned a trip to Germany, Poland,
Hungary and the Czech and Slovic Republics beginning in early May
and discovered that the Homeland Tour fit perfectly with the end
of the earlier tour, so I contacted Michael and the rest, as they
say, is history.
My grandfather's family history, as I know it, began with the
emigration of her forebears from Wuerttemberg in 1819 - 1821. One
great grandfather was Samuel Schlichenmaier, born September 6, 1762
at Cottenweiler, Neckarkreis. Another was great grandfather Johann
Kaspar Georg, born May 24, 1764, at Schweina, Meiningen. Great grandfather
Johann Jakob Conrad, was born March 30, 1776, at Unterweissach.
The other great grandfather was Adam Fritz, born 1789, in Messtetten,
I am very happy and grateful for the opportunity to join this
tour. I didn't think that I would be able to see the village of
Hoffnungstal where my grandmother was born. She was the second child
of Johann Friedrich Fritz and Elisabeth (Georg) Fritz. She was six
years old when her family came to Nebraska, married Martin Hereth
and moved to Snohomish, Washington. Then, in 1920, they moved to
Emmett where they had a farm. My grandparents had 8 children: John,
Elisabeth, Anna, Clarence, Paul, Walter, Louis and Doris. Louis
is now 87 and lives in Newman Lake, Washington. Doris is 81 and
lives in Lewiston, Idaho.
I spent most of the years from 1957 until 1982 raising my children
and involvement with church and civic organizations. From then until
the present, I have been a happy grandmother of 6, traveled, learned
to play golf, bridge, built a couple of homes and remodeled one.
We now have a summer home in Idaho mountains and spend winters in
our home in Tucson.
Bob is retired from the produce business. He primarily grew, packed
and shipped onions, both his own and for other growers. He is now
happily retired and also enjoys travel. However, is a white knuckle
flyer and refuses to fly again unless it is an emergency, therefore,
I am traveling alone on this tour.
Namoi R. Filer Reimer, Sumner, Washington
Ancestral villages: Elsass and Mannheim (Kutschurgan District)
I was born October 5, 1934, in Wenatchee, Washington. We were
living in Klamath Falls, Oregon, when my sister Mary Frances Jacobson
was born. We are travelling on this tour together.
My parents moved to Toppenish, Washington, in 1943 when I was
nine years old. I grew up and graduated from high school there.
After high school, I attended St. Elizabeth's School of Nursing
in Yakima, Washington, and graduated in 1955. Robert Reimer and
I were married in 1961. My career was in nursing until 1980, when
I made a change to work in our family lumber business. My husband
and I are retired, and spend our summers in the Northwest and winters
in Mesa, Arizona.
My ancestral roots of Germans from Russia are on my mother's side.
Her parents immigrated to South Dakota in 1901. Mother was born
in Ipswich, South Dakota in 1902. All of her siblings were born
in Elsass, Ukraine.
Mother's father was Anton Meier, born 1851, and her mother was
Rosa Ripplinger, born 1854.
My mother left South Dakota in 1920 with her parents, one sister,
and one brother to settle in Toppenish, Washington. My grandparents
died when I was in grade school, but I had a grandparent relationship
with mother's older brother, Frank Meier, born 1884. My sister is
the genealogist in our family and has encouraged me to become interested.
I am looking forward to our tour and learning about my grandparents
ancestral home in Elsass, Ukraine.
Merv Rennich, Dunlap, Illinois
Ancestral villages: Waterloo (Beresan District); Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia
Merv was born and raised in McClusky, North Dakota, where he lived
until he was eighteen. He then attended the University of North
Dakota at Grand Forks, where he received a BS in Mechanical Engineering
in 1960. For the next 34 years, he worked in primarily the Service
Department for Caterpillar Inc. His work took him to over 90 countries,
including a number of years living in Panama, Mexico, and Switzerland.
He retired from Caterpillar in 1994 and has since been quite busy
with family, genealogy, church, travel, and volunteer work.
In 1964 he married Joy Fleming, a Bradley University graduate
with a Masters Degree in Special Education. They have four boys:
Michael, a Purdue graduate and a computer systems engineer with
Cadence Design Corp.; Steve, a Stanford Ph.D. graduate and a research
scientist with MIT Lincoln Labs; Patrick, a Purdue graduate and
also a research scientist with MIT Lincoln Labs; and Joel, a University
of Illinois graduate and a photo journalist with Booth Newspapers
Merv's father, Carl Rennich, was born in 1904 in Waterloo, Beresan,
Odessa District to Karl Rennich (1876) and Christina Engel (1880).
He, along with his parents, and sister Amelia, and brother Emanuel
came to the United States in 1909. They traveled from Liverpool
to Halifax aboard the SS Southwark and then by train to Mercer,
North Dakota, where Karl set up a blacksmith shop. Karl's father
was Anton Rennich and his mother was Luise Boerkirchert.
Merv's Mother, Louise Kleingartner, was born in 1911 in McLean
County, North Dakota, to Balthasar Kleingartner (1887 in Hoffnungstal,
Bessarabia) and Katherine Hofer (1891 in Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia).
The Kleingartner line includes the family names of Singer, Walz,
Boerkirchert, and Grossmueller. The Hofer line includes the family
names of Schlepp, Wahl, Seiler, Laib, Dick, Naaz and Schaible.
Carl Rennich and Louise Kleingartner had five children: Meinhardt
(1929-1951), (Loretta 1933-1933), Mervin, Douglas (1944-1990) Bismarck,
and Joann (1954).
Merv has been interested in genealogy and researching his family
background for the past 20 years. This had lead him to edit both
a Rennich and a Kleingartner family newsletters. They have been
very instrumental in helping with his family research. He is also
Lead Editor of the Beresan District Odessa Newsletter which is now
in its second year of publication.
Merv is excited about being a member of the tour and is looking
forward to getting as much information and seeing as much as he
can about the places where his ancestors lived. He is also particularly
interested in gathering first hand information and pictures for
the BDO Newsletter.
Duane Retzloff, Mountain View, California
Ancestral villages: Kleinfelfitz, Prussia; Freudental and Karlstal;
Hoffnungsthal, Kulm and Leipzig, Bessarabia
Duane Retzlaff writes, "I was born in Stockton, California, and
when I was four years old, moved with my parents near where my father
was born to a farm south of Kulm, Dickey County, North Dakota. After
that we moved to a farm northeast of Edgeley, North Dakota, and
finally to the farm where my father, Emil Retzlaff, still lives
3 miles north of Monango, North Dakota. There I attended school
at a one-room country school house in Valley Township until the
school was consolidated with the Monango Public School."
"My father's parents, Otto Retzlaff and Louise Brandenburger,
were born in the Bessarabian villages of Kulm and Leipzig, respectively,
and came to the United States with their parents in 1896 where they
homesteaded south of Kulm, Dickey County, North Dakota. From an
early age I was fascinated with the stories told me by my grandmother
and grandfather of what it was like to live in Bessarabia and the
difficulties they encountered in emigrating to the United States
and homesteading on the vast, raw open prairies of the Dakotas."
"This interest eventually led me to compile the family genealogy
and to publish my grandmother, Louises' memoirs. I recently published
a family heritage book on my mother's side and am currently conducting
research in preparation for publishing the Retzlaff-Brandenburger
family heritage. This trip will provide a priceless opportunity
to witness firsthand, photograph, and document the history of the
villages where my grandparents were born and to share this with
other family members. I was fortunate, with my grandmothers' help,
to have established contact in the late 50s and early 60s with members
of the Brandenburger family who stayed in Bessarabia and eventually
migrated back to Germany in the early 1940s. I look forward to meeting
some of these family members again when we arrive in Stuttgart."
"I am an aerospace engineer and currently work for Space Systems
Loral in Palo Alto, California. I received my college education
in California, graduating from the University of California in Berkeley
and Santa Clara University in Santa Clara. Shortly after graduation,
my wife, Martha and I were married and we were blessed with three
wonderful sons who now make their homes in Provo, Utah. I worked
for 29 years for Lockheed Missiles and Space in Sunnyvale, California,
where Martha and I raised our family. I retired from Lockheed in
1993. My wife and I enjoyed four of the best years of our lives
together, before she passed away early in 1997. I now find myself
back in the work force, joining Loral in September of 1997."
"I look forward to joining my aunt, Vicky (Retzlaff) Kearns, daughter
of Otto Retzlaff and Louise Brandenburger on this wonderful tour
of our homeland and retracing the steps of our ancestors from Kleinfelfitz,
Prussia, to Freduental and Karlstal in Odessa region, to Hoffnungsthal,
Kulm and Leipzig in Bessarabia. What an adventure!"
Barbara Jean Roth, Lake Oswego, Oregon
German villages: Alexanderhilf, Freudental and Rosenfeld (Liebental
District); Neu Berlin
I was born February 2, 1941, in American Falls, Idaho. This is
the home of my grandparents, Henry and Christina Roth. They were
successful wheat ranchers. There were eleven uncles and aunts on
my father's side. My mother, Hilda Schultz, was from Blackfoot,
Idaho. Her father, George (Gottlieb), and step-mother, Meta, were
farmers. She had two sisters, Pearl and Dorothy. Dorothy was raised
by the Knetzers in Colorado, as she was a baby when their mother
died in chilldbirth with another child.
There were five children in my family. I was the only girl and
the eldest with three younger brothers Roger, Richard and Ronald
Roth. Then, God sent us a baby sister, Rebecca, when I was in high
school. For the major part of my growing up years, we lived in Walla
Walla, Washington. I was raised a Lutheran, confirmed at age thirteen.
All of my siblings also received their confirmations.
In the early twenties, I graduated from Lewis and Clark College,
Portland, OR in 1968 and I received a B.S. Degree in Secondary Education.
I was a stewardess for Northwest Orient Airlines. I was married
for eighteen years to R. Duane Moodhe. We had two children: Brian
Noble and Suzanne Michele Moodhe. We lived in Vancouver, WA.
Divorced in 1983, I moved to Bellevue, Washington, where I was
a Loan Officer for several large Savings and Loans. In 1989, I sold
my home and a condo in Bellevue and moved to Scottsdale, AZ. I purchased
real estate and a home, living there with my two little pooches,
Napoleon and Fonzi. I worked as a Loan Officer-Broker. In 1993,
I sold my home in Scottsdale and moved to Lake Oswego, OR, where
my sister, son and daughter live.
Semi-retired, I explored ideas for starting a new career. In January
1997, I learned in a very unusual way that I was to become a writer.
I have written and edited my first book and am just about ready
to look for a publisher for my book of Christian Fiction. Utopian
in nature, it takes place in Parkersville, Indiana (which does not
actually exist). The story centers on relationships between God
and man, man and wife, family, church family and the community of
This book models the behavior that God has shown us in His Holy
Word, to be the way to live our lives. Unlike today's dysfunctional
behavior in relationships that resorts to drugs, alcohol, sex, character
assassination, this story has problems true to life, however, they
are handled according to the teachings of the Bible. I believe this
book provides the reader with an example to reach for, it is not
implied that this was how life was actually lived in 1948, but simply
that it could have been. The pace of life then would have made a
good proving ground. In all, God is glorified. I am currently working
on a sequel or perhaps the second part to it, "Miracles in May."
Hopefully, will be in print before the year is out.
My purpose in going on this Journey to the Homeland Tour, is to
further learn about my ancestral roots. I have received materials
from members of the Roth family that have done genealogy research
over the past years. My great-great-great grandfather, Johannes
Roth, was a painter in Plieningen, Germany, just southeast of Stuttgart.
He married Rosina Siebenhalter. Their son, Jakob, born February
7, 1757, married Rebekah Hath, April 26, 1780, in Plieningen, Germany.
Jakob married three times.
Homer Rudolf, Richmond, Virginia
Ancestral German villages: Bergdorf, Glückstal, Kassel and Neudorf
and daughter colony, Klein Bergdorf (Glückstal District)
All of my ancestors came from the Glückstal District, and homesteaded
northeast of Zeeland, North Dakota, in the 1880s. They were members
of the St. Andrew's Lutheran Parish of five churches and the Neu
Kassel Reformed Church. My parents, Daniel and Pauline (Ketterling)
Rudolf, were born, baptized, confirmed and married in the St. Andrew's
Parish. I am the fourth of eight children, the last to be born on
my parents farm which they lost when I was two weeks old.
Our family then moved to Wishek, where I was raised. German was
my first language. Although my parents attended rural schools, English
did not become a functional language for them and us children until
my oldest brother started school. Both my paternal grandparents
and maternal grandmother retired in Wishek, which was typical of
their generation. English never became a functional language for
My paternal grandfather, who immigrated with his parents when
he was 19 years old, had received an excellent education in Kassel
and could read German, Latin and Russian. Because of his background
in Latin, he could also read English. Recently, I was given his
small personal library that he left at the time of his death. Several
items obviously came with him from Russia, and the oldest had its
origin in Germany -- the binding, title page and forward of a collection
of poems by Graf Ludwig von Zinzendorff published in 1735. Sewn
into that binding is a collection of hymn texts, with a pencil notation
that identifies it as "Reichs Leider."
My parents and the two youngest children moved to Fargo in 1962,
where my parents lived until their recent deaths. After graduation
from high school, I attended Jamestown College where I earned a
BA in Music Education. I also completed a minor in German, which
helped keep the language alive for me, but made the Swabish dialect
harder to speak.
I taught public school music in Minnewaukan, North Dakota for
three years, and then attended the University of Southern California
where I completed a MA degree in Music History and Literature. Next
I worked for two years as the music librarian at Dartmouth College
in New Hampshire, before going on to the University of Illinois
in Urbana, where I completed a PhD in Musicology. My college teaching
career began with two years at the University of Texas in Austin,
and am now teaching for my twenty-second year at the University
of Richmond, a small liberal arts college in Richmond, Virginia.
I can still speak formal German with a vocabulary that is unfortunately
limited by lack of use; and understand both the Swabish dialect
and formal German pretty well. Reading nineteenth-century German
script is still difficult for me -- something I need to work on.
However, I read gothic script very well. In addition to doing genealogical
research, I have done a significant amount of research on the music
of the German-Russian settlement of the St. Andrew's Lutheran Parish,
and have now expanded the project to include all of McIntosh County.
*Beverly Elaine Reinert Runkle, Billings, Montana
Ancestral German villages: Rohrbach and Worms (Beresan District),
Peterstal (Liebental District)
I was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. My father was transferred
to Wisconsin before I was one year old; subsequently transferred
every 2-3 years to a number of small towns in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The last transfer was to Bismarck, North Dakota where I graduated
from high school before leaving home. My maternal grandmother was
German-Russian. I remember seeing her twice.
Married for 44 years we have 3 sons and a daughter, a daughter-in-law
and 2 grandsons. This trip is my husband's gift to me.
Rosemary Ripplinger Schwan, Devils Lake, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Baden, Elsass, Kandel, Selz and Strassburg (Kutschurgan
I was born on May 25, 1938, in Pierce County, near Barton, ND,
to Peter P. Ripplinger and Mary Eva (Kurtz) Ripplinger. I attended
first and second grades of school in Pierce County, in a one-room
country school. German was spoken in our home most of the time.
Those first years of school were not easy, but sure were fun. I
had cousins that were in the same situation. In 1947, we moved to
Ramsey County, three miles east of Devils Lake, ND, where I went
to public schools and graduated from high school there.
I married Maurice Schwan in 1958 at Devils Lake, ND, living on
a farm fifteen miles northeast of Devils Lake, ND. His parents were
Denis Schwan and Barbara (Volk) Schwan. We are living on a farm
they lived on since 1948, which we took over in 1958, doing small
grain farming and raise beef cattle.
We have four children, Allen is married to Donna Fandrich living
in Grand Forks, ND. Dianne is married to Samuel Pearce, living in
Cody WY. Mark is married to Denise Ponicappo and living at Warwick,
ND, and Brian is single, living at home doing the farming. We have
8 grandchildren and 6 step grandchildren. I stayed at home and raised
my family and helped with the farm. After the children were all
in school, I started working in the Medical Records Department at
Mercy Hospital for 25 years. I hope I can keep working for a few
I have two brothers and one sister who are all living in ND. Raymond,
married to Patricia Bingham, living on the home farm near Devils
Lake. They have four children. Peter M., married to Jeannette Gust
living in Jamestown, ND. They also have four children. My sister,
Frances, lives in Fargo, ND and is married to Lawrence Walker, and
has two boys.
My father, Peter P. Ripplinger, and his parents are Stephan Ripplinger
and Maria (Schell) Ripplinger. They were born and married at Elsass,
near Odessa, Russia. They immigrated to Canada with Stephan Ripplinger
parent's who are Peter Ripplinger and Mary Anna (Kuntz) Ripplinger
in 1903. Peter and Mary Anna brought with them from Russia to Canada
their 10 children. They are buried at Kendal, Saskatchewan Canada,
as are most of their children. Stephan and Maria are buried at Rugby,
ND. On Maria (Schell) Ripplingers' obituary in 1963 are listed a
brother, Joseph Schell, and sister, Mrs. Dorothy Gatz, of South
My mother, Mary Eva (Kurtz) Ripplinger, parent's are Michael Kurtz
and Franziska (Schmidt) Kurtz. Michael Kurtz's mother died when
he was born and was raised by a family named 'Hambel'? He has two
sisters, one brother, one half brother and two half sisters. One
sister married Andrew 'Bonfest'? They stayed in Russia. Michael
and Franziska lived at Orrin, ND and had 10 children.
I belong to St. Joseph's Catholic Church, active in the Altar
Society, Catholic Daughters, and life member of the Germans from
Russia Heritage Society.
Geraldine (Gerry) Walth Sommer, Mesa, Arizona
Ancestral villages: Neudorf and daughter colony, Neu Glückstal (Glückstal
I prefer to be known as Gerry (Walth) Sommer. With luck, I could
be in Hoffnungstal on Dad's 95th birthday (5-28-03).
I was born in Richardton, North Dakota, to John and Della Walth.
My father had immigrated to the United States in 1905 as a baby
with his father, Jacob Walth and his mother, Katherina (Hilt) Walth,
and his brothers and sisters.
My grandparents died around the time I was born, and I have always
felt a great void in my life for not knowing this strong German
family. While we were still infants, we moved to Minnesota. I was
not fortunate to grow up in a dual language and culture as so many
of the other German-Russian families who stayed in the Dakotas.
My husband, Bill, and I retired about six years ago. While sorting
through old family photos, I began to get an interest in my "roots".
An interest I could no longer say I don't have time for...it really
does get to be an obsession. We moved from Chicago to Mesa, Arizona,
after our retirement. The only drawback is our daughters all live
back in the Midwest.
I am extremely excited about this trip to the towns of both of
my grandparents and my father's birthplace. I have many gaps in
my genealogy and do hope I can fill in most of them before our trip,
and perhaps some of them at the Bundestreffen. I intend to stay
one week longer in Germany searching Walths' who have returned to
Germany and finding where my Walth family originally lived in Germany.
Janice (Huber) Stangl, Ashburn, Virginia
Ancestral German villages: Alf Elft, Arzis, Borodino, Jargara, Neu
Elft and Neu Sarata, Neu Beresina, Bessarabia; Glückstal and Kassel
(Glückstal District); and Nesselrode/Birsula
In June 1898, one hundred years ago, my great grandfather and
his family immigrated to the United States. Jacob Huber was the
youngest child of Christian Huber and Friederick Kaul, who were
born in Germany and colonists in Glückstal. He married Rosina Ritter,
daughter of Georg Friedrich Ritter and Rosina Barbara (Maier) of
Glückstal. Jacob and Rosina were born in Glückstal, as was my grandfather,
Jacob J. Huber. Jacob J. Huber married Magdalena Hoff, born near
Tripp, South Dakota, to Jacob H. Hoff of Kassel and Magdalena Ladner
of Glückstal. My father, Edward, is the third child of Jacob and
Magdalena Huber. Edward Huber married Lydia Haberer. She is the
daughter of Christian and Barbara (Seefried) Haberer, who were born
in Neu-Beresina and Nesselrode. Her grandparents were residents
of Alt and Neu Elft [Seefried], Arcis, [Kruckenberg], Friedenstal,
Krasna [Froemmerich] and Borodino [Haberer].
I am the oldest child of Edward and Lydia Huber. I attended Bowdle,
South Dakota, schools for 12 years before attending Northern State
Teachers College in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where I earned an associates
degree in childhood education. I married Thomas Stangl of Java,
South Dakota, on June 15, 1958. This trip is our 40th anniversary
celebration. We have three children and two grandchildren.
I taught full time, part time and privately (piano lessons) until
I retired recently. When Tom and I retired, our long time dream
of being able to travel became a reality. We usually travel several
months a year.
When we are home, our avocation of genealogical research keeps
us busy. We are blessed in having an LDS family history center nearby.
We often spend several days a week reading and extracting records
from films of various German-Russian church records. We also go
into the National Archives in Washington, DC to read films of passenger
arrivals and census records.
Recently we also have been researching the 1939-1945 resettlement
[naturalization] records of ethnic Germans from Russia and Rumania
in the Berlin Document Center films at Archives II in Maryland.
I look forward to our trip to the Homeland where I hope to place
10 small crosses in the Glückstal cemetery where my great grandfather
Jacob Huber had 10 children buried.
Thomas A. Stangl, Ashburn, Virginia
Thomas A. (Tom) Stangl was born in Bowdle, SD, a descendent of Austrian/Pomeranian and Irish/English immigrants. He grew up on a farm near Java, SD; attended a rural one-room school; and went to high school in Java and Bowdle, graduating from Bowdle in 1953. He received a degree in Animal Husbandry from South Dakota State University in 1957; and has taken graduate school courses in economics and public management at George Washington University, Washington, DC, and the University of Virginia. He married Janice (Jan) Huber Stangl on 15 June 1958; they have three children, three grandchildren and one great grandson. Jan is of Germans from Russia ancestry, thus leading Tom into his deep interest in the group's heritage. The Stangls are life members of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS), as well as long-time members of the Glückstal Colonies Research Association (GCRA).
Tom began his government service career in 1957, with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Dept. of the Interior, on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in SD; he also served at the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservations in CO, as well as the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in SD. In 1970, Tom accepted a program analyst position in the Bureau's Central Office in Washington, DC, moving his family to Sterling, VA. In 1987, he retired as the Assistant Director for Financial Management, having been the chief budget and program planning officer for the Bureau for over eight years. For another five years he worked part-time as a consultant for various Indian tribes around the US.
Starting with a trip to England in 1985, the Stangls began to travel extensively abroad, including two trips (1998 and 2002) to Ukraine and Moldova. When the Stangls are at home, their avocation is genealogical research, primarily relating to Germans from Russia. While Tom does not speak or understand much German, he can read all forms of old German script very well; and has also worked with handwritten Russian, Polish, French and Latin records. Since 1992, Tom has traced most branches of Jan's family back to the 1500s, and recently he has traced one of her families back to the 500s, using data found on the Internet. He has not neglected the genealogy of his own families, but has had the good fortune of finding several "new" cousins, who have done the research on several of them. Unfortunately, records are scarce in Ireland and Pomerania.
In August 1997, Tom and Jan began their research of the Berlin Document Center (BDC) microfilms located at National Archives II, College Park, MD. These thousands of rolls of film include naturalization records for ethnic Germans, who applied for German citizenship during the 1939-1945 period. They have presented numerous workshops about the BDC records to Germans from Russia organizations. They have been able to find records for some of Jan's "lost" relatives, who had stayed in Old Russia. They also conduct volunteer research on the BDC films for persons sending email requests from all over the world. Especially gratifying has been being able to help several ethnic Germans still living in the former Soviet Union to prove their German heritage, thus helping them emigrate to Germany and obtain German citzenship.
Tom has had several articles published in Heritage Review; the journal of the Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS), Bismarck, ND, including an article published in 2009 regarding 1809 passports from Frankfurt am Main to South Russia. He has written many articles for the Glückstal Colonies Research Association (GCRA) Newsletter; and has contributed several major articles, extractions, translations, databases, and Points-of-Origin files for the 2004 GCRA book, The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America. He authored the original "story outline" which was developed with others into the script for the accompanying DVD/VHS award-winning documentary, Heaven is Our Homeland, The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America, which has been presented on numerous PBS television stations across the U.S. He has also contributed several articles and research materials to the 2008 GCRA book, The Glückstalers in New Russia, the Soviet Union, and North America. He continues to answer emails and write articles about his genealogical research on many GCRA families (who are not his relatives!), and uses his spare time to help Jan with several of her translation projects, and a long-planned, but unfinished, family history book.
*Cora Wolff Tschaekofske, Dickinson, North Dakota
Ancestral villages: Bergdorf and Glückstal [Glückstal District]
"Cora (Wolff) Tschaekofske was born at Golden Valley in Mercer
County, North Dakota. My parents were Henry Wolff and Amalia (Flemmer)
Wolff. Henry Wolff was born on December 18, 1895, in Blesetski,
a small village near Bergdorf. He was the son of Christian Wolff
and (Elizabeth Rau Aipperspach) Wolff. Amalia (Flemmer) Wolff was
born on June 20, 1903, in Freeman, South Dakota, shortly after her
parents Karl Flemmer and Christina (Kasanke) Flemmer immigrated
to the United States. Her father, Karl Flemmer, was born in Glückstal
on September 10, 1877. Her mother, Christina (Kasanke) Flemmer was
born December 7, 1877, in a village near Glückstal."
"I attended a rural school and Golden Valley High School in Mercer
County, North Dakota. I attended Dickinson Teachers College, and
taught in rural schools for several years, and did substitute teaching
in the Golden Valley Public School. I married Otmer Tschaekofske
in 1946, we farmed and ranched near Golden Valley for 43 years.
Both my husband and I were very active in all community activities,
especially in education and in the Lutheran Church."
"Having no children, our hospitality was always open to young
people. We hosted two International Farm Youth exchange students:
A young man from Germany and a young woman from the Island of Jersey.
We hosted many foreign students in our home; these were young men
who attended North Dakota State University. We also hosted young
people from Germany, England and Japan. I have toured Europe twice,
having visited relatives and friends in Germany, and read and speak
"My husband and I retired from ranching in 1989, and moved to
Dickinson, where my husband died three years after retirement. I
live in our Dickinson home, and look forward to the Journey to the
Homeland. I desire to walk in my father's footsteps, and see that
walnut tree which he said grew in front of their home."
Ervin C. Vogel, Wichita, Kansas
Ancestral German villages: Borodino, Josefsdorf, Neu Elft and Sarata,
I was born June 6, 1928, to Fred & Edna (Radke) Vogel on my grandparent's
farm between Gackle and Fredonia, North Dakota. I lived with my
parents and 3 younger brothers and 2 younger sisters on farms in
the Fredonia, Jud and Kulm areas where I grew up and attended country
From 1950 to 1952, I served two years in the U.S. Army, initially
with occupation forces in Japan and later, (fifteen months) with
a combat division in Korea. Following military service, I attended
Dakota Business College from where I graduated in 1955.
In 1954 I married the former Genieve M. (Marvie) Soberg from Winger,
Minnesota, whom I met at college. She passed away in 1994 after
many years of illness and 40 years of marriage. We had three daughters;
Cindy and Debbie who with their husbands live in Tulsa, Oklahoma
and Pattie, who lives with her husband and two children in Wichita.
Kansas, where I currently reside.
My entire working career of 41 1/2 years, following military service
and graduation from college, was in the telecommunications industry.
In 1955, following graduation from college, I accepted a position
at Bowman, North Dakota with the telephone company. Subsequent to
this, I worked for two other telephone companies in Carrington and
Ellendale, North Dakota respectively.
In 1968, I moved my family to Kansas where I went to work as a
Public Utilities Specialist for REA (now RUS), a Federal Agency,
until I retired in 1996. This work required extensive travel, mostly
in the midwestern states, but to some extent all over the country.
Prior to my retirement, I made two trips to Europe which included
the countries of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, England and
Ireland. Other countries that I have been to are: Mexico, Canada,
New Zeeland, Australia, Greenland and numerous far eastern countries
during my military service.
My father was born in Borodino, Bessarabia and immigrated to the
USA with his mother at the age of 4 in 1910. Because he was a naturalized
citizen and had very limited formal education, he instilled in his
family the importance of a good education, respect and appreciation
of the freedom that we enjoy in this country which most Americans
take for granted.
I belong to both GRHS and AHSGR.
Marilyn Wilkinson, Sacramento, California
Ancestral villages: Selz (Kutschurgan District); Landau, Speier
and Sulz (Beresan District)
I was born, raised in Southern California and presently live in
Northern California. I have been married 22 years and have five
wonderful children. I began my family research in 1993 after attending
a Genealogical Convention in San Diego, beginning with a folder
with some names and dates that my mother had acquired at a family
reunion 10 years prior.
My maternal roots are traced through both my grandmother's family
and my grandfather's family back into Russia. My great-grandparents
on my grandmother's side, Michael Segmiller and Katarina Wetsch
were both raised in Sulz, Russia. They were married in their village
on January 22, 1913. This began their journey to America. The other
villagers believed them to be on their honeymoon when, in fact,
they were fleeing to America. Michael and Katarina's journey took
them from Russia to Glasgow, Scotland. On April 25, they began their
voyage to America. On May 10, 1913, the adventurous couple felt
America under their feet.
My great-grandparents rarely spoke of their family and friends
or the village from where they came. It was something they were
afraid to share with us. My mother and I are working on this project
together, and it is our wish to learn more about the village of
Sulz. Our goal is to try to tell the ancestral story of my great-grandparents,
who are still very much alive in our hearts today. This is how I
will share them with my children and the generations to come. Every
time I work on my genealogy, I truly walk with the angels.
Tour to Germany only:
Valeda "Val" Fabricius, Minot, North Dakota
Ancestral German: Dresispitz, Strassburg and Warrenburg, (Volga
region, Russia) and Strassburg, Alsace, France
I was born September 10, 1940 in Ellsworth, Kansas to Theodore
F. Steinle and Clara L (Weinhardt) Steinle. I lived in Wilson, Kansas,
on a farm and moved to Quinter, Kansas, in 1945. After high school
I attended and graduated from Ft. Hays Kansas State College. My
Master of Science in Nursing degree is from Indiana University and
my Doctor of Philosophy degree is from North Texas State University.
Besides Kansas, I have lived in Arizona, Indiana, Texas and North
My family heritage is the Volga German-Russians. My interest is
in tracing family left in Russia when the rest of the family moved
to the USA in the later 1800s and in locating the original German
roots before the migration of Russia. My father's parent, Johann
Frederick Steinle, came to the USA from Dreispitz, Russia in 1887.
He married Mary Katherine Weber. My mother's parents were Hannah
J. Heinze and Charles Weinhardt. Family history indicates some of
the Weinhardt family origins were Strassburg and Warrenburg, Russia.
Their German roots are believed to be Stuttgart, Germany.
A cousin, Esther Heinze Miller Pennington, wrote a family history
book that includes the Heinze and Weber families. Another cousin
has collected some information on the Steinle family.
It is exciting to have the opportunity to visit Germany to pursue
Desktop publishing prepared by Lena Paris
Editing and proofreading by Jay Gage and Lena Paris
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo