Graf-Buck Family Heritage: Family Photographs and Memories of Streeter, North Dakota

Book review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota

Graf-Buck Family Heritage: Family Photographs and Memories of Streeter,
North Dakota.
North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2005.

The Graf-Buck Family from Streeter, North Dakota, Germans from Russia who had married each other a number of times, owned a cache of photographs and documents to support an unusually polished family history. They enlisted the assistance of Jay Gage, Textiles and Exhibits Curator, a member of the staff of the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at North Dakota State University Libraries, to bring together their story in this book.

Introductory essays by members of the family tell a bit about memories of visiting in the homes of Streeter relatives and how it was they became interested in their family history.

The genealogy sections for the two families are detailed with thumbnail sketches of the persons listed whenever the information was available. There are dozens of black and white photographs--individual persons, families, homesteads, groups--some taken in Russia. Places and persons in the photographs are thoroughly identified, again with notes that put the pictures into context. The source of each photograph is given, when available, and most have archival numbers. This reviewer wished the pictures had been larger, but appreciates the need for the book not to be longer than it is.

The document features will catch the eye of anyone interested in the Germans from Russia. There are two sets of recipes, many of which are usable by the experienced cook with modern ingredients and methods. They are accompanied by photocopied insets of the recipes as they were set down in the handwriting of one Graf or Buck woman or another. Anyone for pork cake, cheese jelly salad, sour cream cookies, stroodle, kaese knoepla, or halupsi? The family kept interesting old personal papers such as recital performance lists, graduation folders, and closing day programs, letters from relatives in Germany, official correspondence and documents related to land ownership, government programs, and church. There are several striking, full-color reproductions of elaborate, German-language baptismal and confirmation certificates from the 1910s and 1920s.

Included in the book is a very sad but historically significant collection of letters that came to Adolf and Minnie Graf from Adolf and Emma Mittleider, relatives who live in the village of Blumenfeld in Russia, descendants of those who stayed when the forebears of those who now live in America emigrated. Written over a two-year period, 1929-1930, they give a chilling account of what it was like to live in rural Russia at the time when Stalin’s dekulakization program and planned starvation of the peasants was starting to take effect.

This family history skips the stories of pioneering life on the North Dakota prairie, but this material is well covered in the writing of others. In that it gives details often not available to other compilers of genealogies, it is well worth a look by family history buffs.

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