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In this archive May~June~July~August 2002
Volume 19 Number 2 of 3

Cemeteries
Sharing
Roots Tour
Corrections with Apologies to Members
Library Focus

Current issue

Cemeteries

More bouquets to members who have done cemeteries. At the January meeting, one member presented our library copies of Sturgeon River SE 16-52-3-W3, Mayview NE 33-52-2-W3 and Foxdale SW 26-51-3-W3 in the Rural Municipality of Shellbrook #493.

 

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Sharing

After being too busy golfing to deal with a request from Vancouver for a 400 page family history report, a member was asked for it again and found out that a PAF (Personal Ancestry File) file on one floppy will be better. The moral of this story is go-lfing off works. This moral is seconded by another member who enjoys life and relies on a relative in Toronto to do her research.

A guest has found some biographical research in Waterloo Country, Ontario easier going than Rudy research in Switzerland. Also, a g-g-grandfather has presented challenges in Pennsylvania because he was a single at the time.
Time spent at the Family History Center in Saskatoon has yielded a grandfather but still no luck with father’s mother.

Discoveries of living relatives have been especially rewarding. It does get complicated though as a g-g-grandfather was married three times and cousins married cousins. Email correspondence continues with 75 year old cousin. (Members agreed with comment that older relatives are usually more forthcoming.) As this member lost her father at age 9, a card from a woman who met her father when he was 10 provides welcome knowledge.

A Family Origins file is growing. Scanner working but no luck yet linking photos into Family Origins file. Doug Chisholm’s book, Their Names Live On: Remembering Saskatchewan's Fallen in World War II, spotted at McNally Robinson and mother’s cousin found. Son purchased map and Smith Narrows located. When Smith’s son was met at a funeral mentioned Smith Narrows. As son didn’t know about it, will collect info and map for him. (Other members mentioned Neil Lake and Pronto Lake.) Also fascinated with website detailing First Nations’ carvings in the North.

A surf to the newly released 1901 United Kingdom Census was beached. The site was overwhelmed but should be back up soon. Happy with obtaining grandparents marriage certificate. A surf to an English "achievments" site crashed when it was discovered that the fee was 450£. (Mention from another member of $400 spent on research that never yielded results echoes genealogist "beware" motto.)

Hopes are that our lobbying for the 1901 census will result in its release. Information received from "sister" in Ukraine, woman with same maiden name, about birthplace and tombstone.

A guest started collecting genealogical info 35 years ago, especially names and birthdays at reunions. Hoping to get copies of photographs held by an uncle. Inquired about a digital camera but members suggested 35mm was really a better way because then you have the negative and can scan photo to suit your purpose.

Samples of photos reproduced at Staples where circulated and appreciated.

That wonderful employee in Luxembourg has supplied marriage and death certificates for two great aunts. As documents are in French or German employee helpfully underlines important parts in red or green!

The discovery of three living relatives developed into wonderful relationships. One of the benefits of genealogy is not only finding past relationships but extending present ones.

A fantastic family history book was circulated as an example of "in house" publishing. Our member had collected the stories written by her mother’s family reunion committee. The committee had a rep from each family. The stories and photos were digitized and then printed out on her printer. Cerlock binding was used.

As well as upgrading her computer, one member plans to do photo-journalling to capture her memories as names and dates alone can’t tell the whole story. For example, her daughter was deceased when her son was young and her other daughter not yet born. The youngest daughter never knew her grandfather. Also, there are file folders waiting for attention.

While working as a volunteer to catalog the obituaries from the Birch Hills Gazette, a member, who has done numerous cemeteries including Muskoday Reserve, found a reference to a wayward grave. In 1987, two school children found the grave. Our member is now in contact with the children’s teacher and hopes to soon have the legal land description of the gravesite.

Thanks to computer wizard son one member is enjoying high speed internet access and using the Roots web has three new names for dad and one for mom.

Yes, after the excitment of a search is over comes the chore of verification. Our member is finding lots of mistakes. This reminds us all of the necessity of verification especially with the mixed blessing of the internet. The internet can replicate a mistake as quickly as it can the truth.

 

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Excerpts from
Roots Tour
The Account of a Trip taken by
Abe, Helene and Ray Funk
to Germany, Poland and Russia

September 19 to October 10, 2001
by Ray Funk © Feb 2002

rfunk_srr@qlo.com


Ray Funk’s slide show presentation at our February meeting was impressive. It documented his 21 day journey with his parents to research his Mennonite heritage. The first paragraph tells it best-- "the preparation". Although he may have wished he had done more preparation, the 23 page account he gave us and his slide show indicate that he recognizes the importance of preparation in any genealogical endeavour.

September 19-20—The Pilgrimage Begins
Off on the long-awaited roots tour with Mom and Dad. There is increased security at Saskatoon airport because of the World Trade Center events of last week but not as bad as we expected. An uneventful flight with tantalizing glimpses of the lights of Ireland and Great Britain. Lots of thoughts about the preparation and study I could've done but didn't, people I had meant to talk to . . . .

A whirlwind tour of the Giesbrecht families begins immediately. There are ten offspring. All are doing quite well, nice homes, pleasant folks. We visit their new house building site and are amazed at the super-durability of construction, including concrete room dividers in the basement.

There are lots of stories from the revolution-- the aftermath, Elizabeth Giesbrecht is the daughter of Grandpa Dyck’s sister Anna Quiring.. Her father, Alexander Quiring, didn't leave with the Dyck’s because his brother Franz was in jail. Alexander was taken later as well. In 1937, Ed’s parents were taken, leaving 4 and 9 year olds abandoned to be taken in by an elderly relative. They ended up in Dushanbe, Tajikestan close to the Afghan border.. . . .

September 21—New Branches of the Family Tree
Two thoughts are starting to sink in. The first is that all these couples we’re visiting are really my second cousins. We visit two more for supper, Marie and Waldemar Konrad. They are well informed, interested in the situation of Canada's Indians and other ethnic nationalities, politics and world peace.

The second thought is how old these settlements are. Dueren is 1025 years old, although it was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt. We also visit Nidiggen Castle (Burg) begun in 1177. Very interesting and evocative place but the romance is tempered by the evidence of how difficult and violent the medieval times must have been. More evidence of the shrinking globe drew out 100 DM at an ATM with my P.A. Credit Union debit card.

October 6—Home at Last
We leave the Zagreb Hotel at 11:00 Elena, our guide and our driver, an engineer with large-model Lada. Elaine is a new graduate of five-year university Tourism program and speaks French and Spanish as well as English. She recently accompanied a group of 60 Volga Germans for Argentina. They visited Mariental where to 234 people were massacred in one day as a reprisal for participation in the ill-fated peasant counter revolution of 1921. . . .
There is a woman crossing the road who confirms that we’re in the right place. She turns out to be Gemes Maikeeva who finds us again at the Dyck house and proudly takes possession of an Am Trakt book. She points out the store to the left which Corney Wall said is Bergman’s Store, and the cemetery behind it, which she says has German graves.

Mom decides we should visit the cemetery first. The most noticeable part of cemetery is Russian with blue and white trim, flowers and little fences. On three sides of the Russian graves are approximately 100 obvious mounds and depressions. To the East are two gravestones of Enss’s, several more stones with dates and no names, and a half-dozen pedestals for gravestones. It is a moving moment. As far as we can tell from Corney Wall’s description this was the Orloff Cemetery. Later conversations with Aunt Lieschen Quiring lead us to think this made up the Lysander Loch cemetery.

Our next priority is the Dyck house which Ms. Maikeeva has identified from our picture as being down the road to the right (west). The highway we are on crosses the former village street and turns west along a tree-lined stretch behind the southern row of houses. After about a kilometer we turn back north through the trees, back onto the old village road and there it stands, the object of our halfway around the world quest—the Dyck House, built in 1906 by Mom's grandfather and the house she was born in.

A fellow coming out the gate informs us that there now three living units in the house. Our guide goes to the west door while I take pictures and check the level ground where the machine shed stood. Luckily Ulla Lachaur’s pictures have prepared us for the neglected look of the grounds and buildings.

We're allowed to enter by a somewhat dubious thirty-something fellow and we find ourselves in grandpa’s old study. From there we go into the SW Exkstubbe which Mom remembered as the children's bedroom but which we later decided from Aunt Lieschen’s descriptions was the living room. The interior the house is far from clean or well kept but still looks solid. I offer the gentleman 100 rubles (about five dollars) for the intrusion and repeat this with the other two occupants is well.

Our next stop is around the house to the East where we get a friendly greeting from Vyacheslav Borodin and his 80 year old mother Anna. The first thing we see is the trapdoor to the famous basement where Dyck legend and Aunt Lieschen’s map say "treasure" was buried. So I head straight down into the dark followed by Mom. After adjusting to the dark we take pictures the floor. We also see a door to the left which is locked and we are told the other side belongs to the place we just left.

Inside the Borodin’s rooms the tile heating unit is still there it doesn't appear to be used. Tante Anna shows us the big northeast corner room and increasingly warms up to Mom as things get more relaxed. Vyacheslav takes us to the upstairs where the framing still looks great although there is a fair accumulation of dirt. I take a picture out the gable window of "Grandfather's House" in honor of Aunt Lieschen who Mom says enjoyed reading up here. Vyacheslav tells us he recently purchased his part of the house from the collective farm and we joke about finishing the upstairs to accommodate tourists.

Our last stop is the southeast section which we enter through the old front door where the organ used to be. Nicoloy Hubdergaliev informs us that he and his mother, who has since died, moved in six years ago. He also owns his part of the house. We enter the big room in the corner which Mom believes is the room she was born in and I take her picture sitting on the bed in honor of the occasion.

When we leave the house Ms. Maikeeva has arrived and I get out my Am Trakt book. This creates a new level of excitement as everybody looks through it. Since I only have one copy with me Mr. Maikeeva appropriates it. We take pictures, we promise to be back again, and are on our way still somewhat shell-shocked by what we have just experienced.

At the hotel we settle the bill $30 per hour for car and driver and $7 per hour for the guide. After Mom has had a bath and a rest, we spend the rest the evening trying to figure out what each room was and how Aunt Lieschen’s floor plan of the north part of the basement fit with what we saw. Unfortunately it seems we’ve missed the site of the "treasure" so we have to get back to check that out.

The night is filled with thoughts of how much there still is to explore both out at Am Trakt and in the Archives of the German Volga Republic in Engels and how little time to do it.

October 8-- War and Discovery
When I go down to pay the phone bill there is a solemn crowd gathered around the TV in the lobby. The Americans and British have begun the bombing of Afghanistan and I'm sure some of these folks are reflecting on their own experience with war in Afghanistan. Selfishly I wonder whether this will impact on our flights homeward starting tomorrow. . . .

The trip downtown with Mom and Dad is pleasant -- sunny weather, shuffling crowd on "Broadway" and glimpses of the former architectural splendor of Saratov. The trip to the archives turns out to be a bit more of an adventure. On the way over the Volga Bridge I asked the taxi driver to stop at the one little turn out to take some pictures. Just as I'm lining up my prime shot a police car stops and makes it very clear that taking pictures on the bridge is forbidden. He also gives the driver a chewing out and makes us wait at the far end until he returns and collects a fine from the driver. Then for the next hour we drive around and ask directions since he doesn't know where on Lenin Square the Volga Deutsche Archive is.

Once inside I am introduced to the translator Mikail Pestov who in turn ushers me into the office of Yelizaveta Yerina, an impressive woman in her sixties surrounded by mountains of paper. Her office and other parts of the premises I see later show all the signs of daunting work conditions and very little money.

I am informed that many documents have been destroyed, lost, sent to other archives and in the case of the Mennonites, taken with them. The atmosphere begins to change when I ask about records of the Malushny Agricultural Society. It turns out Ms. Yerina has written a book with references to the society.

The warmth of the occasion noticeably increases again when I get out my Am Trakt booklet. An assistant is hailed, given the names of the Mennonites villages, and dispatched. In an hour I am summoned and told the a file exists of oral histories to each village collected by students under the direction of August Langenzenger in 1928. She says that she has copied this file to the Goetengen Archive in Germany-- which she has done with many files, often secretly and a great risk to herself. However these originals have never been accessed nor is there any record of the copies being accessed in Goetingen.

I am intrigued and ask for a quote for copying, translating the Russian portions into German and mailing, for the histories from Orlof, Lysanderhoch, Hoendorf and Koeppenthal (I forget Walevka)." I am quoted 5000 roubles ($250) plus mailing, payable in cash while I am here.

While I am prepared to conclude the deal Ms. Yerina isn't and she shows me the 2/3 shelf of books on the Volga Deutsch she had authored or co-authored, the new Encyclopedia of Germans in Russia, Vol. 1 to which she has contributed entries and the spring 1994 and spring 1999 issues of the Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans in Russia were articles by her on the work at the archives appear. In answer to my inquiry about German or English translations she bemoans the lack of funding not only for translations but also for proper storage and referencing of documents, ensuring publication of Vol. II of the encyclopedia, and preparing an unpublished manuscript by August Langenzengzer (which is in Goethigen) for publication.

By now it is obvious that this is a woman with tremendous ability and dedication to her task. I can only imagine how thankless the job of maintaining and disseminating the stories of Germans in Russia must have been over the years so I attempt to express my thanks on behalf of we the descendents of these Germans.

In turn Ms. Yerina says that one thing they have virtually nothing of is documentation on the leaving of the Mennonites from the area and asks if we have any records in our family about their leaving. I can't restrain myself from mentioning Grandfather's Dyck’s Autobiography and Pilgrim People II. She immediately pleads with me for German copy the autobiography but settles for commitment to send a copy of Pilgrim People II. In my mind it is a fitting tribute to the lives, work and faith of our ancestors to leave their stories here so close to where so many of those stories happened.

October 9 One Last Look
Again we are lucky to have beautiful weather-- which we've had 18 out of 20, Elena has truly taken an interest in us and our story and is back as our guide. She immediately asks if she may have my last copy of the Am Trakt book as a present.

The purpose of this trip, back out to Am Trakt is to further check out Koeppenthal, take pictures of the Hansau and Walevka countryside, and find the graveyard East of Kalinina. For the last time we turned off the main highway at Bizimiyannoe which translates to "the place with no name".

The road ends at a square in Kirov (Koeppenthal) and as we look around we see what are clearly three Mennonite era buildings. The first is now a store which we photograph. The second is my second objective—The Koeppenthal Co-op Store, which my grandfather was so active in. Elena introduces me to Lina Loskutovia who invites us in. It turns out that the store is now the local clinic and pharmacy and has had up to 25 hospital beds. Nina and the two other women are totally taken with the pictures of the buildings and people in the Am Trakt book so I have no choice but to promise to send a copy. It is moving to see this historic building not only in good condition but being used for a healing purpose.

Next stop is the cemetery which is on a hill overlooking the village and offering a beautiful panoramic view of the countryside. The cemetery is in active used by the local villagers but we find only a few concrete grave borders and fragments of granite with no visible markers except for one barely legible inscription on the border.

Time is running short so we leave after I take one picture of another Mennonite house in the village I spotted on the road. Back to Kalinina, we stop at the store run by Corney Wall’s friend Vladimir Dawlytov but again it is closed. We check the road east to Oestenfeld and Medental but the driver pronounces it unpassable. We share a hug and a few tears, take one last picture and head back to Saratov.

On the way back we reflect on how tragically flawed the Communist experiment was. Certainly it wasn't for lack of big ideas and investment because the countryside is littered with massive, largely abandoned, concrete buildings from the collectivist era. For the people left behind and living there now these are difficult times and it's hard to imagine where they will all find a place in the new era. Capitalism and the market will find a way to bring back a measure of economic productivity. But the current drastic under investment in primary education in health-care will mean that Russia's greatest resource, it's young people will not have the opportunity to participate equitably in the recovery.

Also, while it's encouraging to see the energy which is coming with the new freedoms it's clear that the further from the middle of Moscow you get the less the benefits and the greater the costs of the changes. As well, while the color and bustle of the market is invigorating, the degree to which all things American are predominant from fast food, to brand names to popular music leaves one wondering where the Russian identity will end up. Luckily the beauty of its architectural heritage and the language will be hard to change.

Lastly, the whole question of how we, inheritors of the heritage of the people buried in the Vistula Delta and Russian colonies, should act to preserve that heritage is one we need to address. These places form an important part of the historical identity of our families and our church. But in today's world these fading memories are tending to get lost as we are increasingly assimilated into mainstream culture.

Properly acknowledging these locations and their stories with take a significant investment of energy and resources. But if nothing is done we and our children will lose the benefits of the lessons learned here, the inspiration of the faith and hope exhibited there, and an opportunity to communicate our beliefs and stories to our former neighbors.

Some efforts are already underway to rehabilitate the graveyard cannot plaques in the Vistula Delta. These need to be supported.

Am Trakt represents a greater challenge since it has only so recently become accessible, the number of descendents is a small fraction of those tracing their roots to the Prussian homeland, and the location is so remote. However here too I believe we need to figure out ways to mark the graves of our ancestors, raise plaques to acknowledge our former presence there, and become part of the larger effort to retell the stories of the Volga Germans and the Mennonite Colonists.

There are also possible opportunities for more direct involvement, including participating in the ownership and restoration of the Dyck House, and revival of the Malushny Agricultural Society as a partnership between the current communities and Am Trakt descendents.

Personally I would encourage anyone with the health and resources needed to visit these sites themselves to do so. Anything I can do to facilitate such visits I’m happy to share.

rfunk_srr@qlo.com



It was entirely appropriate that we spent Thanksgiving in Lysaderhoch. I am thankful for the success of our odyssey, for the wisdom of Grandpa and Grandma Dyck in seeing the need to leave, and especially for my parents who made this trip possible. I’m also grateful for the interest and encouragement of my children and I am truly indebted to surely for her cheerfully supporting this adventure in keeping our home and business together while I was off having this great adventure.

 

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Corrections with Apologies to Members
Volume 19 Number 1 of 3
In "More Sharing":
. . .Step into India? A member will be researching a McCartle grandfather who served in India. McCartle is McArdle.
In "Members Report" by V. LaRose:
Marj Thomas said the 2002 conference will be held in Saskatoon. It is 2003.

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Library Focus by A. Taylor

Focus on the library was the program for the March meeting and a number of members took the opportunity to check out books and magazines. Everyone should by now have the 2001 updated library list. We hope newer members will feel free to use the library and ask for any help they may need.

The magazines and journals that arrive each month are catalogued and shelved by the following meeting and a list of what has been added is posted on the cupboard door.
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Members are welcome to take books, magazines and journals out and are asked to fill out a card as you would in a regular library. When material is brought back the following month, the card is marked to indicate that it has been returned. There are still the odd book or record without a card pocket attached, please bring these to our attention. Magazines do not have card pockets so making a list of what issues are being borrowed is fine. Diane and I are happy to reshelve any material that has been taken out.

The library space is small so it is awkward to browse, the museum access is limited and it isn't easy to spend as much time working there as we might like so sometimes we aren't right up to date. We have suggested that the museum be asked to allocate a kitchen cupboard for our coffee supplies - that would give us an extra half-shelf space.

Note: The microfiche reader is now placed with a member.

There are lots of good resources there and we would love to see them well used.

Please continue to lobby for the census!

 

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created Jan 2001 modified Sep 2001