The John Schmaltz family of Emmons County: from Ukrainian Steppes to Dakota Prairies

Schmaltz, Eric. "The John Schmaltz family of Emmons County: from Ukrainian Steppes to Dakota Prairies." Emmons County Record, 18 June 2009, 5.
(Editor's Note: This is part twenty-four of Eric Schmaltz's history of the John Schmaltz family.)

Scattered Across the Expanses

The author with his cousin, Kimberly Bradley, examining family records during their surprise visit to Steinfeld, Germany, in the spring of 1993.  To the left stands Mrs. Brigitte (Schmalz) Nau, the author’s distant cousin whose Schmalz ancestors had stayed behind in 1808.

Today, Schmaltzes and their relatives live in the former Soviet Union, Germany, Canada, and the United States. Germans from Russia turn up most anywhere. I, too, have run into many a German from Russia on both my mother’s and father’s sides in various places over the years.

In the late spring of 1993, for example, when I was a college exchange student in Paderborn, Germany, I enjoyed the rare opportunity to visit Lower Alsace and the Rhineland-Palatinate with an American cousin on my mother’s side, Kimberly Bradley, who was then a young journalist living in Hamburg. She came up with the idea to write a story about my visit to the region for Oskar’s: The German-American Student Magazine published by Stern. After some hard investigating for a couple of days, we found a distant Schmaltz relative, Mrs. Brigitte (Schmalz) Nau, of Steinfeld, Germany, on the French-German border. Her ancestors had stayed behind in 1808. At least since the late 1600s and early 1700s, Steinfeld had been one of the Schmalz family’s ancestral residences. She shocked us by showing a copy of a family history booklet compiled by our common distant relative, Bro. Placid Gross of Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota. I, too, owned a copy in America.

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.

In June 1995, I interviewed Bishop Werth for North Dakota State University. One of the priests from Novosibirsk, Siberia, assisting the bishop on his second historic trip to the United States informed me that he knew of people still living in Siberia who carry the Schmalz name. These might well be the survivors or descendants of Stalin’s Ukrainian Germans repatriated immediately following World War II.

In 1997, when I was a doctoral history student in Lincoln, Nebraska, a distant cousin on the Schmaltz side, Mrs. Nicole (French) Bailey, contacted me about her continuing family history research. I had never met her before, but it turned out that she was about my age and that she and her young family resided in an apartment complex only a few blocks from mine.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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