Just a Reminder!
There are many components of genealogy which are most rewarding. Several of these areas are gaining knowledge of the occupation of our ancestors, the time and factors leading to their emigration, the meaning and possible selection of a surname and to identify the earliest known ancestor along with his or her origin.
Who are our German-Russian ancestors?
It is well documented that Germanic speaking tribes were migrating eastward from the earliest of times. However, the most probable first large-scale organized immigration movement came about when the Habsburg Nobles defeated the Turks in the Hungarian Territory and invited Germans to settle the area. This immigration movement basically took place in three major waves beginning in the early 1700s. It was later supported by Empress Maria Theresia and Emperor Joseph II. The immigration of Germans to this area continued until the late 1700s. By the end of this movement, the Germans had settled in the regions of current day Hungary, Romania, and the region formerly known as Yugoslavia.
The Germans who were involved in this movement originated from all parts of Germany. However, since they departed Germany on the Danube River in the city of Ulm and settled along the Danube River, they became known as the Danube Germans. Since Ulm is in the German state of Swabia, the Hungarians also referred to these people as the Danube Swabians.
While these people were not part of the Germans to Russia movement, they in many ways set the stage for our ancestor’s journey to Russia. As an example, it was the Danube Germans who first used the “Ulmer Schachtel” river barge to leave the city of Ulm and float down the Danube River to their new destination.
The German Russian immigration under Catherine the Great and Czar Alexender I.
In 1762, Catherine the Great, the German born Czarina of Russia decided to bring some German culture and to populate the vast emptiness of the untamed wilderness of Russia. In order to entice the Germans to come to Russia, she issued a manifesto. However, the manifesto went largely unheeded. In 1764, she issued her second manifesto. To achieve her goal she granted many incentives and privileges to any German willing to immigrate to Russia. This manifesto was met with resounding success. Most of the Germans responding to this manifesto originated from the German states of Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate. Upon arriving in Russia, they mostly settled in the Volga River region and became known as the Volga Germans.
Catherine’s second manifesto had been so successful that in 1804 Catherine’s grandson Czar Alexander I issued his own manifesto. Czar Alexander granted the same incentives which Catherine had included in her second manifesto. Alexander’s manifesto was also met with resounding success. Most of the Germans who responded to his manifesto originated from the Germans states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden and Württemberg and the Province of Alsace. Upon arriving in Russia, these immigrants mostly settled in what was then known as South Russia, the current Ukraine, and became known as the Black Sea Germans. It was this group of immigrants which included all of my ancestors.
There were a number of other movements of Germans to Russia with one such movement in the 1819 to 1821 time frame to then Bessarabia, currently Moldova.
In 1871, the Russian authorities issued a decree which reneged on the promises made by Catherine the Great and Czar Alexander I. This started another wave of migration by the Germans—this time they were leaving Russia. While there were many destinations, the main destination of these immigrants was North America.