Germans From Russia Gathering

Herzog, Karen. "Germans From Russia Gathering." Bismarck Tribune, 14 August 1998.

Margaret (Weber) Feist of Bismarck was researching her past in a bound volume titled 'The Weber Family' at the Germans from Russia Society convention on Thursday. 'I started out in the Center and now I'm down here but we've lived in Seattle and Wisconsin too,' said Feist, who is a 10-year member of the Dakota Pioneer Chapter of the Germans from Russia Society.
North Dakotans are used to having only three members of Congress. We have one of the smallest populations among the 50 states. We have fewer people per acre than most of the rest of the country.

But there is one thing we have more of than anywhere else. When it comes to Germans from Russia, North Dakota is the hub, the center. We are the Mecca of Germans from Russia, if you will.

High concentrations of that ethnic group settled in North Dakota, particularly in its southeast and south central counties. While many of their descendants are white-haired themselves, now, their ethnic heritage society is dedicated to preserving as much of that immigrant culture as possible.

More than 600 people signed up for the 28th annual Germans from Russia Heritage Society's convention, which runs through Sunday at the Radisson Inn in Bismarck.

People from Wisconsin, Ohio, California, Washington, Oregon, Texas and Arizona milled around with people from Bowman, Wishek, Fargo and all over the state. The riffled through a massive quantity of library materials assembled for convention delegates.

Table after table of self-published family histories were spread out for those seeking the relatives -- Bosch, Humann, Remmick, Neuhart, Albrecht, Boehm, and on and on.
The ruins of the former St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church built in 1892 in the village of Kandel (Ribalskoye), Ukraine.  The Soviet authorities tore down the church steeple around 1935.  The structure is now used for coal storage.

Copies of the Heritage Review, the publication of the GRHS, were available, as well as tables of small brown cardboard boxes running the length of the conference room. Each was filled with obituaries, and 10,000 more remain to be catalogued.

Microfilm readers were set up for use along one wall and computerized records were being probed by those looking for particular ancestral names. Maps, indexes, records, ethnic heritage books, tapes and other memorabilia were on display. Tables were set up for photos of various ancestral villages in the former south Russia.

Michael M. Miller, bibliographer of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University Libraries in Fargo has led four tours of the ancestral villages in south Russia.

Technology will be the tool that oils the wheels of the future of Germans from Russia heritage, he said. Kathy Schultz, here from Lincoln, Nebraska, executive director of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, agrees. Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, along with Lodi, California also have concentrations of Germans from Russia. Lincoln is the largest repository for German-Russian records, she said.

"A lot of people aren't interested in genealogy until they're about ready to retire," Schultz said. "We'd love to have the younger generation."

That's where genealogical software and availability of documents and research on line is vital, she said.

"People who are interested are able to get all these resources through technology," Miller said, sweeping his hand to indicate the masses of paper files, books and printed histories.

"This is the only convention in North America where they bring the complete library," Miller said. "They take all of this to every convention. Now they are developing focus groups for all the ancestral villages. That's where the younger people are getting more and more interested." Ethnic foods and textiles draw the interest of younger people, as well.

If the organization will continue to grow, it's a big challenge to keep the young people interested, he said. Being able to link into Germans from Russia-related web sites is a big step toward that.

Tracking from the middle of January to the middle of April, the Germans from Russia web site had literally thousands of hits, Miller said.

"Just in the section of recipes, more than 2,000. I think that's very powerful," he said.
Eric Schmaltz. The author is immigrant Johann Schmalz’s great-grandson.  Born in Minot, North Dakota, in 1971, he is Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he teaches Modern European and World History.  He expresses his eternal gratitude to old issues of the Emmons County Record as well as various extended relatives by blood or marriage who have assisted him with family history research over the past two decades, in particular Bro. Placid Gross, Mrs. Mary Lynn Axtman, Mrs. Nicole (French) Bailey, Prof. Amy Deibert, and Prof. Michael M. Miller.

Another project coming up is a filmed documentary on the Germans from Russia, including footage from Miller's tours to Ukraine and Moldova, set to premiere on Prairie Public Television in February 1999, he said.

The convention continues with workshops, presentations and social events today and Saturday, and concludes with an interdenominational memorial service at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The 1999 convention will be held in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

More information on the Germans from Russia Heritage Society is available at its web site: [The web site for the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo is]

Reprinted with permission of the Bismarck Tribune.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller