Marienberg: Fate of a Village (Marienberg: Schicksal eines Dorfes)

Review by Dianne Ladd, Bakersfield, California

Bollinger, Johann and Janice Huber Stangl. Marienberg: Fate of a Village (Marienberg: Schichsal eines Dorfes). Edited by Harold M. Ehrman. North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2000.

Family historians and genealogists will discover this book most interesting and helpful. The introduction tells the history of Marienberg, founded in 1861. The majority of Marienberg's first colonists came from the villages of Glueckstal, Bergdorf, Neudorf and Kassel.

Following the historic narrative, the authors have written a brief family genealogical history outlining the family pedigrees household-by-household. The Berlin Document Center records were used to make this inhabitant's listing for the colony of Marienberg. Each family listing is primarily derived from the EWZ-Central Immigration Office Records. Every German immigrant in the 1940's had to document his or her German lineage before being reinstated as a German citizen. Some records, as filed by each individual, are more complete than others; however, the authors have attempted to complete each family pedigree using other available sources.

Researchers of the Glueckstal colonists will find these family records very valuable, when tracing family members who remained in Russia. Many of us researching our families may not recognize the need to complete the records of our distant cousins who remained in Russia. However, many of these families have descendants who have immigrated to Germany, during the past ten years and are now searching for their relatives in North America. The Marienberg book completes the link between Russia and North America for many of these families.

The third portion of the book has reprinted letters written to various German-language newspapers in North America. Each Marienberg letter has also been translated into English. A personal, historic insight into the life and times of Marienberg and its neighboring colonies unfolds as the letters are read in chronological order. These personal narratives can inspire, devastate, captivate and inform the reader.

Not only are the letters an excellent source whereby daily-life in the Russian villages is retold, but they are also of genealogical significance. For example, on pages 151-152, there is a letter dated 13 February 1922. It first tells of the devastating famine gripping the villagers and goes on to " praise the fortunate dead. I will list them " The correspondent, Jakob Ahl, then lists many of those who died within the last several years, including individuals from several villages, not only Marienberg.

The family genealogical information, as accurate as it can be in a personal letter, may be all that is available to us at this time. Hence, the Marienberg book does oftentimes offer new and undocumented data and insight into the life and times of our distant and not-so-distant cousins who remained in Southern Russia.

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