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Village Coordinators of the Month
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Every month we feature a Village Coordinator to recognize the work that they do for AHSGR, and to give members an opportunity to become more familiar with their Village Coordinators.

December 2019

Karen Bouton: Dietel, Russia

A year before the AHSGR 2012 Portland convention, Karen Bouton discovered that she had Volga German ancestors. The discovery led her to dig deeper into her roots and, ultimately, to become a Co-Village Coordinator with Don Soeken.

Although her grandfather never talked about the family having Volga German ancestors, Karen had always assumed the family had some Russian blood because her grandfather’s mother was born in Dietel, Russia. When she discovered her ‘Volga Germans’ roots, she signed up to attend the Portland convention. There, she met Don Soeken, whom Karen describes as “a fellow Kindsvater descendant.” The two exchanged contact info. Later, he contacted her about serving as a Co-Village coordinator, a position she gladly accepted. “I love genealogy and have been pursuing my family history for many years. Volunteering is a great way to learn.”

Karen shared that her start as a Co-Village Coordinator was slow, her not knowing what to do, but that she received a lot of help. For starters, Michael Frank had given her a CD set about his Aunt’s trip (in the early 1990s) to the Volga region at the Portland convention during the ‘Reunion for the Villages’. Later, the two met and agreed that she would create a Dietel database using the Legacy software program, entering the translations he had done of Dietel births, marriages, and deaths. Others also stepped forward to help. Dona Reeves-Marquardt submitted additional birth records to her for the database that Brent Mai had acquired while he was at Concordia University. Many other AHSGR members also submitted materials (mostly obituaries) to Karen for the database. A departed friend of hers, Karen Hergett, also inputted all the Dietel Censuses into Legacy that she was able to complete shortly before she passed away. “It’s taken me years of working diligently to accomplish this, but I’m almost finished,” Karen said.

In addition to the above, Karen has created the Dietel Facebook page, which she co-administrates with Don Soeken and boasts 297 members from all over the world. “It’s so useful to have other VC’s in this group,” said Karen, “as they can also give valuable input.”

Karen believes that anyone who is thinking of volunteering will have lots of help available to them. “The VC’s mailing list is a great resource for learning, and so this will be a huge advantage. I’ve collected many books along the way that I also reference to help with anyone’s research.”



November 2019

Regina Remisch: Hildmann Village

Regina Remisch credits Rosemary Larson, a long time AHSGR village co-ordinator, for encouraging her to become village coordinator for Hildmann Village in March 2019. “Rosemary sold me digital Censuses for Hildmann Colony but, more importantly, she willingly shared her genealogical knowledge,” Regina said. “She was so forthcoming with her information that I decided I too wanted to help newcomers to genealogy and to AHSGR. Thank you, Rosemary!”

As part of taking on her role as Village Coordinator, Regina has been able to both provide and receive significant amounts of information (i.e., from others in Russia, Germany, United States and Canada). She explained, “When researchers learn that I am an AHSGR VC, they are quite forthcoming with sharing information. Researchers know that if I belong to a reputable organization like AHSGR, I have the interest of others at the forefront. They understand that whatever information is provided will be shared with other AHSGR members.”

Regina advised that new AHSGR members delve into the historical aspect of the Volga Germans rather than settling for a collection of surnames and birthdates. She gave a shout out to the Mary and Roger Burbank from Concordia, who encouraged her to join AHSGR after helping as much as they could with the Roemisch and Guettlein surnames. “The history of ALL the Volga Germans (not just your own lineage) is fascinating,” Regina said.

She noted that AHSGR sells helpful non-fiction books on-line and recommended that new members buy the 1798 Census of the German Colonies along the Volga - Vol. 1 + 2 by Brent Alan Mai. Then she offered another expression of gratitude, this time to a nameless AHSGR member at the 2019 Convention who encouraged her to put all the 1798 Censuses she had collected back on the shelf and purchase Brent Mai’s two volumes.

Other resources that she recommended included:

  • The Censuses (1834, 1850, 1857) of the Volga colonies: Regina considers them a good way to begin to search for families and dates; AHSGR also sells individual village family plot maps with surnames of the villagers and where they resided
  • EWZ War records (from U.S. or Germany): Regina said these records have a wealth of information including birth, marriage, children and the route families took to leave the Soviet Union
  • Igor Pleve's Einwanderung in das Wolgagebiet - 1764-1767 - Band 1 – 4: Regina considers these a good way to discover if your family was a first German settler in Russia
  • An AHSGR Convention: According to Regina, it’s “an excellent way to make contacts, research, purchase materials, learn, and have fun”


For anyone who might want to become a Village Coordinator, Regina said that it’s extremely gratifying when you are able to help someone to get started on his/her genealogical travels. She noted that there are numerous unfilled positions available, and that AHSGR needs new people who are willing to share their resources with other village coordinators, new and existing members, and the public.



October 2019

Jerry Braun: Herzog and Liebenthal

Not only has Jerry Braun always loved genealogy, but he’s also 100% German Russian, with pretty much all of his family being from the same village. For him, it made sense to become a Village Coordinator for Herzog and Liebenthal, and he’s been a VC for the village for longer than he can remember. “I also love helping others,” Jerry said, “so it was natural to step into that role and share my family research to help others.”

Indeed, Jerry has plenty of materials to offer AHSGR members who are researching their heritage. In the 35 years that he’s been researching his German Russian family, he’s gathered informal family lists from Pleve, census lists from Russia, some church records, etc. Because he still lives in Ellis County, where many descendants from Herzog and Liebenthal first settled, he also has access to many local records in the United States as well. Last but not least, Jerry’s been working on tracing each of the original settlers of Herzog as far in both directions as he can.

Throughout his 35 years of digging into genealogy, Jerry has learned that he still has a lot of learn, but he’s also learned to become a better researcher and more of a skeptic. “I want multiple sources to tell me the same thing so I know I can believe it,” said Jerry.

As a VC, Jerry benefits from connections with other VCs and with AHSGR staff. “I'm constantly learning new techniques and strategies to dig deeper in gaining information and preserving our history,” Jerry said. “That connection has also allowed me to know when new information is available.”

And once Jerry knows that he has something, he’s eager to share it. “My treasures aren’t for me alone,” Jerry said. “They are to benefit all my distant (or not so distant) relatives.”

For anyone who might want to become a VC, Jerry said: DO IT! He has met great people in his role as VC and learned a lot about his village. Jerry noted, “There’s so much new information coming out all the time and we need people willing to get caught up in the ‘mess’ to make sense of all of it. But don't do it to just gain information for yourself. Be willing to share with anyone it can benefit.”



September 2019

Fabian Zubia: Dönhof and Neu Dönhof


Fabian Zubia became a Village Coordinator in 2017, so that he could continue researching about his Volga ancestors and so he could help the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia continue its development of historical research. He is Village Coordinator for Dönhof and Neu Dönhof.

He has personally benefitted from this role due to having access to all the documents that AHSGR has. “I learned that our ancestors can be of many different German villages or colonies,” explained Zubia. “My four mother-side great-grandparents were born in Huck. I supposed that all my ancestors were from this colony, but when I researched I discovered that two of my great-great-grandmothers were born in other colonies, one in Dönhof and the other in Dreispitz.”

Zubia believes that it’s very important that the AHSGR members who want to research their German from Russia heritage use the all tools that we have for genealogical investigations. He elaborated by saying that these tools include census lists, family histories, maps, colony websites, and Facebook pages and groups.

He would encourage anyone who is interested to become a VC. “It is an interesting and pleasant job,” said Zubia, “and also a work of great responsibility.”



Summer 2019

Shari Stone: Hussenbach

Shari Stone has served as co-coordinator for Hussenbach, since being asked five years by Sue Nakaji if she would take on the role.

“It has opened a whole new world for me. I hadn’t realized the vast amount of info I could get,” Shari said. “Once your name is on the list as a Village Coordinator, you start getting emails and info from people all over the world. You become a hope for people that they can find family.”

Shari has been doing genealogy since the age of 17 when she met an old couple share stories of their heritage. Prior to meeting them, she had loved history but hadn’t really understood that her family was German Russia. After listening to this couple and realizing that she community in Montana where she grew up was German Russia, she realized the significance of her heritage. In her role as a VC, she’s now also helping her own family research their genealogy.

She advised that AHSGR members who are researching their heritage to contact their VC first before they decide there’s nothing out there and get frustrated. “Chances are resources exist and their VC can direct them to those resources,” Shari said. “VCs can give a life line by sharing what resources they have and building from there.”

As a VC, Shari is dedicated to finding resources for those she helps. She gave the example of a woman whose she’s been helping for a year. “I finally found her great-grandfather’s obituary,” Shari said. “He died in 1996 and so I knew he had to have one, but I couldn’t find it. It was in Frankfort script and that’s why I didn’t see it first, but I knew his sisters’ name and saw it in the script. Then I had someone help me with the script and I found the obituary. I was so excited that I immediately called her. She was thrilled beyond words! This discovery has opened up a whole lot of more information and now everything is starting to come together.”

From being a VC, Shari has realized, “We’re given this opportunity to do research that is so valuable for connecting families. To help someone else is very rewarding. I find it a great satisfaction.”

She would encourage anyone who is interested to definitely become a VC. It’s a bit time-consuming, Shari admitted, but stressed that if one has time they can help others to go beyond what they know. ”People appreciate the support. Sometimes they don’t want you do to do all the work; they just need direction, and then can have ownership in knowing that they found what they wanted.” 



Spring 2019

Sue Nakaji: Hussenbach-Linevo Osero

Sue Nakaji has been the Village Coordinator for Hussenbach-Linevo Osero since 2008. “Hussenbach is the original colony,” said Sue, “not to be confused with the daughter colony Hussenbach-Gashon.”

At the 2008 Casper Convention, Sue was recruited by Doris Evans to be an understudy and future VC. She also received a digital copy of the Hussenbach database. At the time, Louise Potter was the Hussenbach VC. When she passed away in November 2008, the Potter family shipped her Louise’s files, and Sue began work on the village.

Genealogy has been a personal hobby for Sue since 1977 when the TV mini-series Roots aired. “I thought if Kunta Kinte could find his family in Africa,” Sue said, “I should be able to trace my family back to Germany.”  When Sue was in high school, she met another person also interested in his roots.  A teacher in her hometown, Richard Scheuerman, had written a book about the story of his family’s immigration from Russia to Washington State called Pilgrims on the Earth which included copies of records of his family in Russia. Sue hoped to find similar information for her grandparents.

As a VC, Sue “loves the challenge of examining the records and puzzling out the familial connections.”

She advised that AHSGR members who are researching their heritage to ask people who are older what they know and remember. Then they should write down as much info as they can, Sue said, and not ignore any stories that may be the “one clue” later in their research. Sue also recommended that members research and document as much as they can in the US or Canadian records, search the census, passenger lists, naturalization, birth, marriage, and death records. The more information one can gather, Sue said, the greater the likelihood something will connect one to the correct branch of their tree.

Sue has compiled several resources on a Facebook page and on a webpage. These include census documents and a village history. Sue has also put together some documents for the village. These include a compiled list of surnames that are found in the village records and a Reconstructed First Settlers List.

For Sue, the benefit of being a VC is meeting “a bunch of wonderful people who share your heritage.”

Sue has learned a lot from being a VC. For one thing, her sense of humor runs deep in her roots. “If you have ever wondered why your family does certain things that are different from mainstream America,” Sue said, “it may be because of your Russia German roots. If you are in a room full of German Russians and need something to start the conversion, talk about your food heritage or butchering chickens.”

To anyone considering becoming a VC, Sue believes that it’s a great way to learn about one’s family heritage and meeting interesting people. She explained, “You decide how much time, resources and energy you want to devote to your village. I have found it very rewarding.”



February 2019

Mary Jane Bolton: Walter

Mary Jane Bolton is the co-coordinator for the village of Walter, a role she has served in for six years. She initially became involved in genealogical research through Mary Mills, a VC for Walter and Walter-Khutor villages, in 2006.

Bolton says her interest was sparked by her mother’s own genealogical interests.

“My mother was the first child (in her family) born in America, her parents came from Walter, Russia.  She was always curious about her family which she knew nothing about,” Bolton says. “As she grew older she started to develop dementia and it became more important for my mother to find her family; that was the year 2000.  I started my search and we had some answers for her and the entire story for some of her siblings.  It has been a rewarding journey.”

She says that those searching for their own genealogy should familiarize themselves with the resources available to them. She recommends using AHSGR tools, starting with surname searches, and using that to find a village coordinator who can further guide you in your research. Mary Jane takes pride in her own ability to facilitate such help.

“Being a village coordinator brings a great sense of accomplishment; you are helping people find their ancestors and hopefully helping future generations,” Bolton says. “It is a privilege to work with many gifted people who are so willing to share methods and information, it is an ongoing education.”



January 2019

Leroy O. Nikolaisen: Dinkel

Leroy Nikolaisen has been VC for Dinkel, where his father’s origins are, for about 34 years.

“I got into the subject because I wanted to gain info regarding my father,” he said. “I just sort of slid into it.”

Leroy said the work is challenging, although available information has greatly expanded during his tenure.

“Today a person has much help from the Censuses, village lists, and obits.” He noted there still is very little information about Dinkel after 1857, and what’s available needs to be translated.

“I have learned a bit about my family and hopefully I have helped the people asking about their Dinkel relatives,” he said.

Leroy said he’s giving back to all the people who have helped him with his own quest for information, and he encouraged others to consider taking on the VC role, including for Dinkel.

“It has been rewarding, but I think it is time for someone else to take over the reins,” he said.


December 2018

Ben Markel


Ben Markel has been VC for Goebel since 2009. It started with his own family research.

“I wanted to learn more about one of my families’ ancestral villages and I found that I quickly amassed more information and had more interests than many with whom I corresponded. I also enjoy learning and sharing what I have learned,” he said.

He has compiled lots of resources, including a working file of names, births and marriages known regarding the village of Goebel. He has the AHSGR Village File information, and also files, links, databases and materials in addition to the 1798, 1816/1834 and 1850/1857 census reports he obtained from AHSGR, Rosemary Larson and Brent Mai respectively. He also has a copy of Pleve's Vol II with the FSL for Goebel and Göbel birth records (1894-1900) acquired from the Volgograd archive, with the help of Kevin Rupp. The VC role is invaluable.

“I benefit by being in a position to reach out to new AHSGR members who share an interest in Goebel as well as continuing to learn with and through AHSGR community,” he said.

And Ben encourages others to consider taking on the VC role. “If you’re thinking about it and constantly thinking about what a VC for your village could be doing, go ahead and do it! Volunteer your talents and your share your interests; you’ll learn even more.”


November 2018

Michael Buck

Bauer, Neu-Bauer

Michael Buck has been a VC for Bauer and Neu-Bauer villages since 2009.

“My interest began through researching my own family history which evolved into a greater understanding of the importance of preserving the culture and legacy of our Germans from Russia ancestors,” he said.

Michael recommends people beginning research start with living relatives who may have information and locate primary source documents beginning with parents and going back as far as they can.  Next, he said, “it is critical to familiarize yourself with the village that your ancestors came from and read all available material, which will give you a greater appreciation of their values and struggles that they went through.

“Also, contact your respective village coordinator to obtain information including census records and maps.  They are an excellent resource who may also be able to put you in contact with others who are researching the same surnames,” he added.

Michael said there are many satisfactions to being a VC. “Probably the biggest benefit in this role is being able to assist others in moving their research forward and continuing to add to the village inventory of information. It is very satisfying to see when someone puts together a piece of their research that may have been missing for several generations and was at risk of being lost forever,” he said. “The main thing that I have learned is to be patient and flexible as you go through this process. There are many complexities and inconsistencies between information that may have been passed down versus the recorded information.”

>What advice would he give to someone who is considering becoming a VC? “Do it! There is no better way to honor your Germans from Russian ancestors than to tell their story and ensure that it is communicated to future generations. The more involved you become, the more appreciation you have for this unique and distinguished group!”

                                                                    October  2018

Sherrie (Gettman) Stahl

   Brunnental, Samara, Volga 

Sherrie (Gettman) Stahl has been a VC since about 1992.

“I became interested in his genealogy after my father passed away. I’m sure this is how many folks get interested in genealogy.  Oh, how I wished I had asked him questions while he was still alive!  All I knew was that they lived in Russia and that they were German. Basically I had to start from scratch ... so I headed for the library.”

Sherrie said she was fortunate to come across some old AHSGR Journals in a library in Portland, where she encountered her maiden name, Gettmann.  She found contact information for an AHSGR chapter in Portland and attended her first chapter meeting.

There they suggested I contact a woman in Portland that shared my great grandmother’s name – Gruenwald,” she recalled. “Come to find out we were cousins.  She had spent hours taping interviews with a “Mrs. Becker” and building a visual map of the village of Brunnental. Together they would draw the village and then talk about who lived in each house, and how they were related.  Mrs. Becker had lived in Brunnental and had ridden with her father, who collected taxes, so she knew everyone and where they lived.”

Mrs. Becker was Sherrie’s great-grandmother’s niece, a Gruenwald. “One thing led to another, and before long I was gathering not only the information on my own family from Brunnental, but for everyone who had ever lived or was a descendant of someone who had lived in Brunnental, Russia. I even finished the map of Brunnental which is now for sale at AHSGR. And I started a Brunnental Village Newsletter to publish the information I was collecting. The rest is history.”

Sherrie said, actual church records are becoming available from Russia and are a key resource. “Thanks to Maggie Hein, VC for Frank, Russia, they are being translated and shared.  Before that, we had only the records that I had been gleaning from the descendants of those who had lived in Brunnental. 

“Don’t get me wrong -- over those years we had gathered and documented over 50,000 descendants in out Brunnental Data Bank.  We had gathered things such as interviews, family group sheets, AHSGR obituaries, naturalization records, census records, photographs, oral interviews, passenger lists, family records, local voting records, WWI and WWII military records,” Sherrie recalled.

“We also had a wonderful poem that Rev. Elias Hergert had written about Brunnental which named many of the families that were then living in the U.S., grouping them by the geographical area where they lived.  This amazing poem gave us hints on where to look for families that we had yet not known about.”

Some Colorado church records transcribed by a chapter in that state also helped.

“Each of these sources led us to more families, and more records. We also put an advertisement in a paper in Germany that was read by those returning from Russia. We received many hits from this method and learned about those living in Germany. We also explored and found families in South America, places such as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Each of them knew more families from Brunnental. I put together one of the first webpages for a village (and actually the first national AHSGR webpage. I bet not too many people know that tidbit of information!)”  

Having a presence on the internet really helped with global queries, Sherrie said. They started making contact with those in Russia and around the world. 

“Every day I get queries. As more is known, and as more of the younger generation get curious, I’m there as a Village Coordinator to help them gather information on their family and to document the younger descendants to these original families. And now with DNA testing we are getting queries from lots of folks who really have no idea about their heritage, so luckily we are there to help them learn the history of the Germans From Russia. We not only have a website, but we also have a Facebook page so we can keep up on a daily basis with each other.”

I consider it a privilege to have been able to gather this information for generations to come. Early on, I really had no idea how important it would be to document the stories and information about our families. Today, we have a rich collection of information to share with the next generation. I am almost 70 years old and am hoping there will be someone from our village who will be willing to take over the job and continue to build on the information we have compiled. I know that they will find it just as rewarding as I have. I can tell you that you won’t be sorry as it’s been a rewarding endeavor.



September 2018

John Lauck


John Lauck has been VC for Beideck for a number of years.

“My grandfather and father were born in Beideck and I knew them well before they died here in the USA.  I became interested when I heard their stories and wanted to know more about life in Russia and where they came from in Germany.”

“To help those interested, I have complete records of Beideck from 1778 to 1857 and I have selected records from some families until today. I paid for a researcher named Pleve in Russia to do my line and several Pleve family trees have been shared with me and are on my computer,” he said.

He encourages AHSGR members to consider becoming a VC. “I have learned a lot from all this work about what it was like to live there and travel to the USA.  For someone who has German Russian ancestry, I think you would really learn a lot about what made your ancestors who they were and why did they live the way they did.


August 2018

David Schmidt

Boaro, Cäsarsfeld, Stahl am Karaman

David Schmidt has been VC for Stahl for 30 years and for Boaro and Cäsarsfeld for more than 20 years.

“My main motivations were the opportunities to advance the research of my ancestral villages; contact and trade information with other researchers and families; and collect and preserve village information for the future,” he said.

Materials David has available include: First Settlers Lists (1767);  Kuhlberg Lists (1766); Transport Lists (1766); Census records (1798, 1811, 1834-35, 1849-50, 1857, and 1896); village church records (1787-1888, some gaps, Stahl am Karaman only); list of residents (1920, Stahl am Karaman); German church and emigration records; village map (Stahl am Karaman); and family charts (Stahl am Karaman, Boaro, Neu-Boaro, and Cäsarsfeld)


He advises researchers to obtain copies of all family records in the U.S. and/or Canada -- citizenship records, ship passenger lists, old letters, old photos, family bibles and hymnbooks, church records, death certificates, obituaries, census records, etc. Then, research your family backward, generation by generation, from your parents and grandparents back to earlier ancestors. Once you accurately determine your ancestral village, David said, use Russian census and church records, First Settlers Lists, Kuhlberg Lists, and Transport Lists to research your family back to the original settlers and places of origin in Germany. Most of these research materials are available from AHSGR or VCs. To successfully research your ancestors' places of origin in Germany, use all information from the First Settlers Lists, Kuhlberg Lists, Transport Lists, and the 1798 Census to compile a comprehensive picture of the family unit that emigrated from Germany and the places of origin listed in those records.

He said being a VC is very satisfying.

“Besides the satisfaction of preserving the history and information of my ancestral villages and the families who lived there, the main benefits to me have been being the contact person for my ancestral villages and having the opportunity to collaborate and exchange information with other VCs,” he said.

And he encourages others to consider becoming a VC.

“So long as you are willing to put in some effort to collect and preserve documents and information and to answer inquiries, go for it. The time demands are minimal and flexible and you will have a unique opportunity to further your personal and village research in many ways,” he said.



June 2018

Paul Koehler

Stahl am Tarlyk, Bangert

Both of Paul Koehler’s parents were born in Stahl am Tarlyk and his grandparents were originally from Bangert. His grandparents starved during the purge ordered by Lenin and Stalin.

In his time as Village Coordinator, he has gathered a multitude of research materials, including: censuses from 1798, 1816, 1834, 1850 and 1857; a computer data base with nearly 20,000 names; Budingen marriage records; 18 Pleve family charts, not all from Stahl; individual family histories for Koehlers, Reitz, Loeb, Bea, Sinner, Zander, Haberman, Kletter, Treu, Damm; and much more.

Koehler also has two unpublished books: “We’re Glad They Came” and “Growing Up on Rocky Weed Road.” The former chronicles why they left Germany, the journey to Russia, family history in Stahl am Tarlyk and Bangert, German/Russian women, German Brotherhood history, the last song, and the game of Bannock (bones), while the latter is a series of short stories about growing up on a GR family farm.

Paul has an email list of people searching the villages' history and can put them in touch with others looking for the same names.

From being a VC, “I’ve learned so much about my history and family life,” Paul said. And he enjoys helping others with their research. 


May 2018

Rosemary Larson

Kamenka and Pfeifer

Rosemary's involvement as a village Coordinator began at the inception of this program in about 1994.

"Since some of my ancestors were from Kamenka, I chose this village. I was asked to also be a ‘VC for village Pfeifer at that time because of its proximity to Kamenka. I have ancestors in Pfeifer as well. My ancestors came to the US between 1876 and 1879," she said.

Rosemary has a number of resources available, including all four of the First Settler books, the 1775 Kamenka census as well as the 1798, 1834, 1850, 1857 censuses for Kamenka. She also has the Pfeifer 1798,1834, 1850, and 1857 censuses. "I translated the 1834 and 1850 census for both villages since my German dialect language background helped me to relate to the names in the census. Once one has the basic knowledge of the Russian alphabet, one can go on from there," she said.

"The AHSGR Clues and Journals help a great deal especially the earlier issues and books by AHSGR authors to learn the early history of the villages."

Rosemary added, "Learning about your own ancestry is wonderfully fulfilling, but to help others with their family ancestry rounds out the history of a great people that have sacrificed much for their descendants."


April 2018

John Groh


John Groh is the Grimm co-village coordinator with Henry Schmick; they have shared the coordinator responsibilities for about 10 years.

I agreed to join Henry since we had worked together on the AHSGR Society Board and because of my father's deep interest in his GR heritage," John said. "Through the efforts of AHSGR, other VCs and both of us, we compiled a substantial data base of names. Recently, we completed for publication a copy of the 1897 Grimm census which was donated to AHSGR."

One of the most rewarding benefits of being a VC is helping others fill in missing names or helping them connect generations of their family tree, John said.

"I would encourage anyone that is considering becoming a VC to join this hard working group. It is a great way to learn more about your GR history and to gather information for future generations," he added.

"I would like to thank Henry for his willingness to share his knowledge, his support and friendship."


March 2018

Kevin Rupp

Obermunjou, Louis, Graf

Co-VC of Mariental, Luzern, Zug, Rohleder, Wittman

Kevin Rupp got interested in being a Village Coordinator because he enjoys talking and sharing with and helping other people who have ancestors from the same colony.

“I think one of the biggest benefits that you get is helping other people know their history. I have found out that when you share with people, especially from Germany and Russia, they will share with you as well in a great many ways. I have made a number of friends by doing this,” he said.  

Kevin has accumulated lots of materials to help others.

“I have created a large database that contains families from all my villages. Since most of them settled in Ellis County, Kansas, it just made sense to encompass them all,” he said. “I have worked on a number of genealogies of the local families as well as obituaries and memorial cards. I have a good collection of memorial cards of the first settlers who came from the villages and settled in this area. I was given from a dear friend a couple of Die-blocks that are used to make the old memorial cards that has the oval photo of the deceased. Interesting that these, at least in this area, were never made until the funeral was over.” 

Kevin said he keeps an eye out for various books on the colonies, research or history/folklore to add to his growing collection. “At this time I have four, four-drawer filing cabinets of obituaries, one cabinet on villages, one cabinet on family research, shelves that contain DVDs and CDs about the Germans from Russia and several local audios on the local history and three large metal library style bookcases filled, not to mention a full computer of material.

“The best part is collecting the church records from the archives. I do have a website,, that I have set up and continue to update and added some villages that belong to friends to help them have a webpage,” Kevin added.

He encourages others to considering becoming a VC. “Don’t be so wrapped up in what you are doing that you miss the big picture – helping other people,” he urged. “Make sure you have a game plan if something happens to you and someone doesn’t just throw away all your hard work.

“Share it with each other, with AHSGR or even make it available through ASHGR. We are all in this together.”


February 2018

Wayne Bonner

Balzar, Moor

Wayne H. Bonner is co-coordinator for Balzer (for more than 20 years) with Dr. Darrell Weber and coordinator for Moor (until recently with Irma Waggoner for at least 15 years).

Growing up, Wayne was always interested in family stories and often asked his parents about his heritage. His dad had many stories from Canada (Irish, English, and French ancestry), and his mom has memories of her father who was from Balzer, Russia. For years he searched to determine the location of Balzer and wondered why Germans were living in Russia. Finally, in 1983, his mom contacted AHSGR and learned that there was a local chapter (Southern California). At his first meeting Wayne learned about the history of Germans in Russia and the location of Balzer. Back then, there were rumors that all of the church records had been destroyed during World War II.  The only clues were those in Dr. Karl Stumpf’s tome. This only ignited a desire to find out more about his heritage.

The miracle of the downfall of the Soviet Union occurred in 1989, and shortly thereafter Dr. Igor Pleve contacted AHSGR and became involved in doing personal research. Wayne ordered abstracts from the Balzer 1857 census and began learning about his family. This only intensified his quest for knowledge since Wayne could only trace his Volga ancestors back to his great grandparents who were both born after 1857 in Balzer and died in Lincoln, Neb.

During the past 20+ years, so many publications have become available. This includes the Kulberg passenger lists, 1767 First settlers list, the 1798, 1834, 1850, 1857, and 1897 census. More recently, many original Balzer records have been accessed. These include, but not limited to, Communion records (AKA Family Lists) for 1834-1845, 1846-1860, 1861-1875, 1875-1890, and 1891-1906.  Indices of these family records were given to headquarters last year.

Equally important to research is the Eichhorn book discussing in detail the 1759-1766 Danish period, the two more recent books by Decker, and some additional church records including baptisms 1825-1860, marriages 1804-1860, and deaths 1804-1875.

For Moor, Wayne has been able to obtain from other researchers copies of existing baptism records 1827-1844, marriages 1834 – 1865 and deaths 1827-1876. There are no Communion records or 1897 census.  Wayne has contributed a copy of the indices to headquarters for these records.

Research for the German Origins project has produced at least partial results for 85 percent of the Balzer first families and 67 percent for Moor original settlers.

With all of these new records in hand, he has helped fellow Balzer and Moor researchers to create ancestral charts.

Wayne has benefited from being a VC by meeting other village coordinators who have given him immeasurable help in finding information about Balzer and Moor. He has also been able to communicate with other researchers around the world with whom he has exchanged information that he might not otherwise have ever found. At long last, he now has an ancestral chart back to the first Muller settler family in Balzer.

Wayne encourages all AHSGR members who are considering to be coordinators to take the challenge.  Even if your village already has a coordinator, volunteer to help them in all ways possible. The rewards are outstanding, he said.


January 2018 

Francis Eickbush

Neuburg, Neu-Arzis

Francis Eickbush initially got interested in German Russian heritage because of his first wife’s family ties. Her father’s family was from Yagodnaya Polyana; they left in 1912, aboard a cattle car, the last group let out of Russia before the border was closed.

“I joined the historical society in the late ‘70s and I have since found I have four other ties” to GRs, Fran said.

Those ties included his Great Aunt Carolyn, who was born in Neuburg in 1901. When he heard a village coordinator was needed for that village, “I decided I may as well get started, somebody’s gotta do it.”

“This whole work of gathering information works so much better when you work with other people. You can pool your knowledge.”

Fran says he’s worked with AHSGR headquarters to gather maps, lists of surnames and other research records. “I really appreciate, and so do others, the work that has been done to preserve those records.”

It’s about the stories people tell. He remembers his Great Aunt Carolyn being interviewed when she was 98. “She gave us insight about the tough times and the perseverance ... In spite of the challenges they had, they surmounted, they had great lives, great families.”

“I’m looking forward to putting additional records together in hopes that someone in the future will benefit,” he said. “I just look forward to continuing to work with AHSGR. It’s been a great part of my life.”


December 2017

Greg Dockter

Neudorf, Glückstal, Odessa


Greg Dockter dates his interest in his family’s genealogy to a 1965 high school project when he was assigned to do a family tree. “I pestered my grandparents for information and assembled names in a small pocket spiral notebook,” he said.

“The notebook was forgotten until much later when our first child was born. The family tree page in his baby book spurred me to find the notebook, and also to begin questioning my grandparents anew. The project just mushroomed, especially with a gift of Dr. Stumpp’s book for Christmas 1982 from my late wife,” Greg said.

All 16 of his great-great-grandparents were listed in the 1858 Neudorf census, exactly as related to him by his own grandparents. “It turns out that two of my four grandparents, all eight of my great-grandparents, and 14 of my 16 great-great grandparents were born in Neudorf or a daughter colony (the two lone exceptions were ‘Bergdorfers’),” Greg said.

“My grandparents became close friends well into my adulthood (passing in 1983, 1986, 1997, and 2000): I quizzed them unmercifully about their parents, their grandparents, their siblings, their cousins, their parents’ cousins, etc. etc. etc.  It got to the point that I would suggest they contact their cousins and second cousins to schedule a visit:  I would provide transportation and naturally steer the conversation to ‘relatives,’ get the hosts to dig out their photo albums, and be ready with my camera and copy stand to record the images (along with taking notes of the dialog).”

Greg gathered most of his information first-hand, through interviews, courthouse and city-hall visits, extensive correspondence with question and answer sheets and German-Russian surname exchange avenues.

Greg said he’s developed many friendships through his village coordinator experience.

“What I have learned is way more than the historical facts relating to the German-Russian experience (although it goes without saying that being a VC does give one the impetus to devour everything available on the subject, and there is much satisfaction in that experience),” he added. “It is hard to put in context, but generally speaking I have learned that people dearly love to talk about themselves, their family, their traditions. Being a VC has given me a perspective of listening, learning, and sharing.”


November 2017

Don Soeken


>Don Soeken of Ellicott City, Maryland, got interested in his great-grandparents’ roots in Dietel when he was trying to track down the fate of a Lutheran church there. It existed from the 1800s to around 1930, destroyed by Communists and replaced with a statue of Lenin out of anger with a pastor. “That story stayed with me,” he said. “That’s the emotional reason I got involved.”

He was unable to speak to his great-grandmother because she spoke German, but he was able to query his grandmother. His family’s fear of Russians lived well beyond their departure from the country for the United States.

“They feared they were going to come and get them,” even in the United States,” Don said. “That was the beginning -- my trying to understand some of the fears that the Russians were coming.”

Tracking down your family’s story is “not just a piece of history. It makes me feel like I’m reliving with my family an experience from the past, and the past comes alive.”

Helping others discover and relive those experiences is one of Don’s satisfactions as a VC. When a neophyte approaches him, his first advice: “There’s usually a person in every family who has done some work on the genealogy. I always say, ‘go to that person and interview them, record them.’”

He suggests interviewing the oldest members of the family first, then working to younger ones from there. Whenever possible, interview people together; siblings especially can play off of each other as they reminisce, surfacing even more information than one alone might.

As ancestors’ names emerge, he said, “try to track them through the records” – birth, confirmation, census records; marriage records; obituaries.

“You may find out things you don’t really want to know,” Don said. An illegitimate child, perhaps. Trouble with the law. That your family has been misspelling your name for generations.

>“But you’re trying to find out everything you can.” And that means everything.

VCs aren’t in it for themselves, Don said. They’re helping gather and catalog information that will be there for future generations. He works with Karen Bouton on Dietel; it’s helpful to have co-coordinators whenever possible, he said, to share the workload and ensure continuity.


October 2017

Dennis Zitterkopf



Dennis Zitterkopf is co-coordinator for the village of Huck with Pam Wurst.

He volunteered in about 1999 when Delores Schwartz, the prior coordinator, resigned the position.

“Delores left large shoes to fill when she retired but I knew I could ask her whenever I was buried or lost in a research problem,” he said. “That is one of the wonderful things I’ve learned as a coordinator. There is a wealth of knowledge and information within the coordinator group. Others are always willing to offer a suggestion (or provide an answer) if an individual coordinator asks for assistance on the coordinator mail list. I’m often surprised to learn that the village coordinator resource list in the AHSGR website is like another ‘best kept secret’ for new members.”

Dennis said learning about his German Russian ancestry was a challenge. “I knew my paternal grandparents spoke German and I learned about the Russian connection only after I was a university student. My grandparents didn’t discuss their past and my dad, aunts and uncle told me they knew nothing about our family history because it wasn’t a topic that was shared with them when they were children.

“They recalled their parents receiving letters from relatives in Russia, especially during the famine period, reading the letters privately and crying but not explaining what was so upsetting,” Dennis added.

“I finally met a great aunt in Lincoln (who was very upset I had not been taught to speak German) and she told me enough about my history that I knew I had to learn more.” He joined AHSGR, and as the Huck coordinator, began collecting a substantial library of materials.

“These items, plus my own research, have been invaluable as I’ve assisted persons asking about their surnames. Helping a person solve questions about their family history is an extremely satisfying experience, and why being a coordinator is and always has been a pleasure for me,” Dennis said.

“As a coordinator I’ve learned much about the history of Europe and Russia, and the events and environments that led to the migration from what is now Germany to Russia. My grandfather told me over and over ‘get an education, they can’t take that from you.’ I didn’t understand the ‘they’ reference he repeated many times until I learned about the history of Europe and what the German settlers endured while they were in Russia. I see the parallels to that mysterious ‘they’ reference in today’s world and national news.”

Dennis served as the liaison between the village coordinators and AHSGR Board of Directors for several years.

“When I’d ask a person if they would consider assuming the role of a coordinator for a village I knew they were interested in, I’d emphasize not only how they could assist others who had an interest in the village but that there was a great personal benefit of learning more and more about the history of Europe, and Russia and the history of the village as well as the satisfaction of helping someone who perhaps was just beginning their research or assisting someone who had hit a brick wall – and when you are able to help them ‘break through’ there is a feeling that you’ve indeed help fulfill part of the mission of the Society.”

October 2017

Pam Wurst



Pam Wurst is co-coordinator with Dennis Zitterkopf for the village of Huck.

“I am happy to say that I have gained a wealth of friends and knowledge thru the village coordinators group,” she said.

“Starting my search for my German- Russian ancestors, little did I know what a journey it would become,” Pam added. “We lived here in the North Roosian bottoms in a summer kitchen that had been converted to a small apartment with no bathroom of about 250 square feet on my grandmother’s property for the first six year of my life. The little house is still standing and is in use.

“Family never talked about the old country, because when it was mentioned grandma would cry. So it became a taboo subject,” she said. After her father died in 1976, Pam’s quest for more information about her GR heritage began.

“AHSGR at that time was in its infancy and had little information. They did have these wonderful publications called CLUES and the Work Papers and this is how I found my ancestors and their families.”

Pam contacted Dennis and they discovered they were related, so they started to share what they knew and then added others.

“In 2004 when I was on staff and came down to headquarters one Saturday during the men’s coffee klatch and introduced myself and they asked what my maiden name was and then asked if I was related to ‘Crazy Harry.’ Yes, he is my dad. They shared stories about him I had never heard.  I realized what a small world this is and I was at home. I have been lucky and have been able to piece my ancestry back to Germany to the 1500s so far.

Pam’s library of information continues to grow.She started with the 1798 census of Huck, and over the years added censuses from 1775, 1816, 1834, 1850, and 1857. She also has partial list of movement to other villages by or Huck settlers and the Family List for 1836-1845 for Huck, Kuhlburg list, Church Records, 90years of Service for the Immanuel Reformed Church in Lincoln, a partial register from St. John’s Lutheran church in Lincoln, Surname charts, family histories and lots of obits.

“I’ve also made the Nebraska Historical Society Archives my third home in the winter and try to go monthly to find new pieces of information. In 2013 I received thru the death of Ruth Huck Mosby, her entire library and research on the village of Huck and am organizing and entering the information into my data base.”

Pam serves on AHSGR’s Board of Directors of AHSGR, volunteers at headquarters two days a week and worked on the last issue of Clues. “I do research for the organization and have helped organize and lead with Dodie Rotherham a basic genealogy class at AHSGR facility this year.

"I want to give as much or more as I have received from the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. My quest has ended but I want to help others with theirs.”


September 2017

  Manuel Goehring

Alt-Elft, Beresina

Both Manuel Goehring’s grandparents returned to Germany after World War II, settling in a small town in the north. There, they met at the Lutheran church, fell in love and married. They had three sons.

“When I was born in 1980, the Bessarabian-German culture still was very much around when me and my brother visited our grandparents' house. We loved to listen to their stories of the ‘old country,’ not to mention the German-Russian cuisine with borscht, spaetzle or knoepfle,” recalled Manuel, who lives in Toronto.

At his Lutheran confirmation, his parents gave him a family tree of his Goehring ancestors, tracing the family back to Germany. “The family tree was the trigger to get hooked to find out as much as I can about my own ancestors as well as genealogy in general. It only took a few months or so to find out (and to prove!) that the family tree as I had received it was incorrect from my 2x grandfather upwards,” Manuel said.

>Since then he has gained over 20 years of experience with German-Russian genealogy. He found a distant relative in South Dakota, with regular contact since between the two families in Germany and the United States. He was able to trace family roots back to 1580.

Manuel speaks German, English and some Russian, which helps him communicate people and understand archives in all three countries. “Last year, I decided to give something back to the GR community. I decided to become a VC for the native colonies of my paternal grandparents and to share my knowledge and expertise with others,” he said.

“My main focus definitely is on Black-Sea German genealogy. Compared to GR villages in other areas of Russia, there are plenty of records available for people researching their Bessarabian-German ancestry,” he said.

A good starting point, particularly for Bessarabian-German genealogy, is the website: It provides indexed records of almost all Lutheran church registers in Bessarabia, from the 1840s to 1885. Karl  Stumpf's book (“German Emigration 1763 to 1862”) also is a  first-to-check source when it comes to determine where your ancestors had emigrated from Germany to Bessarabia, Manuel said.

For church records from after 1885, Manuel also recommends contacting the State Archive in Odessa/Ukraine. AHSGR has a few indexed census lists also from Black Sea German colonies, which also are very helpful.

“I also am a member of the two German-Russia associations in Stuttgart, Germany -- Bessarabiendeutscher Verein and Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Russland. Both have a lot of good books, maps, and even copies of church registers.

Manuel enjoys how being a VC makes him part of a bigger team of VCs with AHSGR, some of whom have been in their role for decades.

>He encourages others to consider becoming a VC. “It is fun to help other people to discover their German-Russian roots. I also find it always very rewarding when you can provide some answers/results to other people who sometimes are overwhelmed and do not really know where to start looking for their ancestors.”


August 2017

Dee Hert

Anton,  Aleanderhoh,  Alexanderdorf  (North Caucasus),  Alexanderdorf  (South Caucasus),  Blumenfeld, Emmas, Tiegenhoff,  Tilfis,  Eigenheim,  Nalchik,  Johannesdorf,  Karlsruhe,  Katharinenfeld

Dee Hert has been a village coordinator for several years and continues to find villages of interest for which there is no coordinator.

“These are important areas, so I find myself agreeing to be the village coordinator,” she said. “The Caucasus region has my primary attention at this time; what a fascinating area and I am locating villagers from various regions. As I become aware of Caucasus villages without a village coordinator, I may consider adopting them.”

Dee married into a double-GR family. “My mother-in-law informed me there were very few Herts remaining; I accepted this information at face value,” she said. “Years later I can disprove that statement as my database contains thousands of Hert/Herdt/etc.”

“Gather all appropriate resource materials, join and refer to professional organizations depending on your objective. Materials from AHSGR, NDGR, societies such as the Germanic Genealogy Society, Montana Historical Society are increasingly valuable,” she said. “I live in Utah and have easy access to the Family History Library (FHL) which is also an incredible resource. Facebook and other social media are constantly improving and should be reviewed frequently. Establish an AHSGR Facebook page or social media of choice and share what you learn. Genealogy is sharing!”

Another source of information is the annual on-line Village Coordinator reports; one can improve research skills and gain insight into successful practices.

Dee encourages members to consider becoming VCs. “If you are hesitant then offer to assist another VC, mentoring can be very enjoyable.”

“AHSGR has a wonderful link to individual village files. Read beyond your primary village, read all files as data crosses villages and your ancestors may have lived in numerous locations,” she said. “You would be amazed to learn how many villagers relocated to the Caucasus; slowly I am gathering that data into a separate database.

“I am a Life and Board member of AHSGR, I can honestly say that these folks are amazing.  They possess a positive attitude towards improvement and strive to attain the goals of preserving and promoting the Germans from Russia culture as do many individuals in the field. Working together we can move forward in a positive direction.”


                                      July 2017

Doris Evans


Doris is co-Village Coordinator for Frank, with Maggie Hein. She got interested in family history about 20 years ago when her father sought her help in finding all his living cousins.

“The hunt was then on and I have been chasing ‘bones’ and documentation ever since,” she said.

Doris works with all sorts of materials and documentation. The list for the villages of Frank and Kolb alone includes more than 1,100 sources.

“Our most recent line of attack has been our ancestors in Germany, or where our ancestors started, prior to their moving to Russia.”

Doris enjoys sharing her research with others and them, in turn, sharing theirs with her, “ultimately leaving a path for researchers in the future.

“If you think that because your surname is Eckhardt, you aren't related to, say, the Heins and the other surnames that come out of Frank, you would be mistaken,” she said. “These small villages in Russia give us a glimpse of how interrelated our heritage is. The phrase ‘If you don't know where you're from, how do you know where you're going’ comes to mind.”

She encourages other AHSGR members to consider becoming VCs themselves. “Embrace the job with a joy of being able to find the truth of your existence and the ease which the past 20 years have made in our communicating with our journey into the past. By that I mean the Internet and social media. It's the biggest puzzle out there, and welcome to the search of putting a few of the pieces into place.”


Ray Heinle



Ray was born in 1945 in Sanger, Calif., a German-from-Russia community at the time. They also spilled out into the nearby community of Fresno. He grew up hearing names such as Seibert, Scheidt, Schmidtgall, Metzger, Metzler and Schmidt and assumed there were just German names – not GRs.

“I assumed when I was younger that everyone over the age of 40 spoke German and those over 60 had to speak English with a thick German accent.  It did not seem strange to me that even the bakery shop in town sold the German-Russian Beerocks,” he recalls.

The Lutheran Church  had two services, one German and one English.  “When my family gathered -- my mom, dad, Grandpa and Grandma Heinle, Uncle Ed and Aunt Elsie -- German was frequently spoken.  My mother did not often join in those conversations. I don’t think that she understood the Swäbish dialect that was spoken there.

“Each dinner started with a prayer:  ‘Komm Herr Jesu….’ And ended with ‘besheret hast.’  The Jesu part I got, but I assumed that the last had something to do with carrots,” Ray said.

He remembers his grandfather speaking of life in Russland, which he came to realize meant Russia, but he it wasn’t until he started studying family history in the 1990s that he came to understand the GR story.

“I was rummaging the internet and found an index to the archives of the St. Petersburg Consistory of the Lutheran Church.  These indexes were done by Dale Wahl and his team from records that had been recently released by the authorities in the remnants of the Soviet Union.  There was the birth of my grandfather and great-grandfather, in black-and-white!,” Ray recalled.

At Dale’s urging, he became a GRHS VC for the village of Johannestal near the Black Sea, soon after becoming VC for the same village with AHSGR. Some years later, he became VC for the village of Lauwe.

For the village of Johannestal, Ray has the Stumpp book, the 1857 census, and the St. Pete records from 1833 through 1905.  He also has a large database of Johannestal residents and their descendants compiled for the Zimmerman-Roth-Heinle family reunion in 2001. Ray also has a webpage on the GRHS server,

“For Lauwe, I believe I have every census that either AHSGR or CVGS has published.  Recently I added the 1886 Family List, which has been very helpful.  I also have a copy of Pleve’s Kuhlberg lists and a few other publications. There is also a web page for Lauwe:

“There is a lot of joy in actually being able to help someone find their family ... Through my translation efforts I learned that many of the ‘kids’ that I grew up with were fellow GRs from the same villages as my grandparents and the I may have been related to some of them.”

“Being a VC is having greater exposure to all things GR.  Being a VC gets me active and helps to give me the incentive to try to keep up with new information as it becomes available.”


June 2017

Nicholas and Barbara Bretz 


When in elementary school, Nick told his teacher that he was German but his teacher informed him that he was Russian because all of his grandparents had emigrated from Russia. He was unable to communicate with his grandparents because he couldn’t speak German and they spoke little English, so he always wondered which was correct. It wasn’t until 1993, after taking an early retirement, that he was able to attend an AHSGR convention where he joined the organization and found his answer.

>At a subsequent convention when the 1798 Russian census was presented, Nick volunteered to help index the files for AHSGR. He then contacted Ted Gerk who at the time was the VC for Koehler and asked him if he could also become a VC. Since Ted’s ancestors had left Koehler for Josefstal, he suggested Nick become the Koehler VC and Ted become the Josefstal VC. Ted was instrumental in securing and translating the 1834, 1850 and 1857 Koehler census which were made into booklets and sold. He later secured and translated a number of Koehler church birth records, sporadic between the years 1871-1892.

When Dr. Igor Pleve began researching Russian records and started producing surname charts, researchers began ordering the charts. They weren’t forthcoming so some researchers found that Pleve would construct a file from census records for a particular surname and a few were ordered. At that time Bernice Williams was the Rothammel VC and unable to continue so she suggested Nick & Barb take over for her and also become the Seewald VC. Researchers began to donate their census data to the “village” and made them available to others with a suggestion of a donation. Thus, the Rothammel/Seewald and Koehler informal funds were formed. Ted Gerk was able to secure the 1834 and 1857 Rothammel and Seewald census records which were translated by Brent Mai. Booklets were made and sold adding the money to the fund. There was enough money in the fund to purchase and translate Rothammel/Seewald church records including birth, marriage and death from about 1846-1913. The original Russian copies have all been donated to AHSGR so it is possible to have headquarters make a copy of a particular record. Nick and Barb are also working towards donating the translated records to AHSGR.

>When Nick was President of AHSGR, he and Barb traveled to Russia to visit the Russian archives. Although they couldn’t read Russian, they did see the voluminous number of records held in the archives. After waiting six years, researchers began receiving charts from Dr. Pleve and most donated a copy to the “village”. The data from the charts along with data from the Kuhlberg List, First Settlers list, the 1798, 1834, 1850 and 1857 Russian census records and Russian church records as well as US census and church records including information shared by researchers are all contained in the data base for the villages. Copies of a list made in 1916 of men not showing up for the various Russian drafts have also been secured and translated. Some contain an entire household, or just the family that left, or only the individual. If one is lucky, they should be able to help you take their lines back to the original settler in Russia in about 1767. If a researcher purchases a copy of any census booklet, Nick and Barb will also send them an ahnentafel chart containing their ancestors for which they have a record.

While Barb’s heritage is not German/Russia, her father’s Kettenring/Catron line came from the Pfalz area as did Nick’s Bretz line. The interaction with other VC has been helpful because there is was so much intermarriage between villages. They have learned much about the G/R heritage and find it rewarding to help researchers with their family history. It’s like a big puzzle waiting to be solved!


Mabel Kiessling

Polish Volhynia

Mabel Kiessling has been Village Coordinator for Polish Volhynia since October 2008 and became the Village Coordinator for Volhynia when Coordinator Leona Janke passed away in 2015. She said, “I have always been interested in family history and began recording family stories when I was a teenager. But I never knew much about my paternal grandmother.

At a local seminar she learned about the Germans from Russia and discovered her grandmother belonged to this group of people.  When Leona approached her to be a Village Coordinator with her so she could concentrate on translating material, she was happy to accept.

“It would be one way for me to learn more about my grandmother's background,” said Mabel, who also served on the AHSGR Board of Directors and learned about the organization of the Society.

“When Heritage Hall was developed I gathered as much material as I could find to put into the binder that goes with the display so that other Volhynian researchers would have something to start from,” she said. The binder includes maps, list of resources at the AHSGR library, websites, indexes, published historical information, and a list of surnames and villages that other members are researching.

“I have a similar binder of my own and a collection of books and maps,” she said.

As Mabel has served at Village Coordinator, the names and locations of villages have become quite familiar to her. “Over the years I have attended conventions and seminars to network with other Village Coordinators and researchers to gain knowledge and information. It is a pleasure for me to help a beginning researcher get started on their family history.  Using village name information found on original documents is a good place to begin. After that a search can be done with the surname.”

“In the process of my work as a Coordinator,” she said, “I have been able to encourage others to become Coordinators. “To be involved is the best way to become proficient in your own family history.”


May 2017


Beth Davenport


Beth Davenport became Village Coordinator for Jost, her mother’s ancestral village, in 2005 and VC for Enders, her father’s ancestral village, several years later.

“Through the years, I've known only my recent family history.  I was hopeful that becoming the VC for these villages would help me fill in the gaps and tell me more about these people and where they came from,” she said.

Beth encouraged people researching their own families to start with what they know and expand from there, keeping an open mind. “Beginning with Jost, I've been able to extend my family roots into Kukkus, Kutter, Warenburg, Straub, Laub and Moor. That's when Pleve books, census lists, immigration lists and maps became essential. I've found that as I learn more, I have more questions. It's fascinating.”

She encouraged people to interview family members and write down anything they recall. “Any small hint can become a gold mine many years later. For example, when I was a child my paternal aunt mentioned a ‘cousin Charlotte.’ It was a search for Charlotte Mueller that first led me to Enders.” 

Being a Village Coordinator has many advantages. The connection to other VCs opens one up to a wealth of knowledge. She enjoys it when people contact her via email and Facebook to trace their families.

>Having a direct connection to other coordinators is a value all its own.  The cumulative wealth of knowledge among them is beyond compare and they're always willing to share.  

“I've connected to known and unknown family throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Most exciting is to hear from distant cousins in Germany and in Russia. To be able to point to a great-great grandparent on their family tree and recognize the same ancestor as your own is beyond cool,” she said.


Erwin Ulmer

Rohrbach, Berezan, Odessa, Kherson

Worms, Berezan, Odessa, Kherson

Waterloo, Berezan, Odessa

Erwin Ulmer of Lincoln has been a genealogist since 1972. He prides himself on doing it “the old-fashioned way.”

“AHSGR has a vast amount of resources,” he said. Erwin would appreciate hearing from past, present and future members by mail or phone: 1731 S. 15th, Apt. B-4, Lincoln, NE 68502-2409; 402-477-5388.

Erwin has been a village coordinator for about 25 years. He uses records from courthouses, newspapers, churches and other sources.

He got interested in being a village coordinator after doing research on his family. His four family books are: Denkendorf’s Jakob and Eva Steimer Kriechbaum, Sheiererman Clan from Sutton, George Philipp Hust-Elizabeth Woehl Kinship and Leaves of the Ulmer Tree of Sutton from Rohrbach.

Original records can be inaccurate or recorded incorrectly, so Erwin encourages researchers to be cautious.


April 2017

Arthur Flegel


Alexanderfeld, Eigenfeld, Friedrichsfeld, Kronental, Lillienfeld, Marienbrunn, Markosowka, Rosenfeld, all of North Caucasus

Kulm, Leipzig and Tarutino, Akkerman, all of Bessarabia

Arthur Flegel is Village Coordinator for the preceding villages in Bessarabia and the North Caucasus regions. (See above)

In addition to serving as a Village Coordinator, Mr. Flegel is a former President of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, and is currently a Trustee of the International Foundation of the American Historical Society for Germans from Russia. He has been a member of AHSGR since 1969.

Arthur and his late wife, Cleora, are the namesakes of the Flegel Library at AHSGR’s headquarters in Lincoln. Art started this amazing collection while researching his roots in Bessarabia and Cleora’s on the Volga. The collection includes old and rare books, many in German and Russian, as well as his research into several regions including Bessarabia, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the lower Volga. He traced the migration of Mennonites and Hutterites as well. In all, Art collected a vast treasure trove of information about Germans from Russia including about 40,000 obituaries which were sent to AHSGR headquarters for scanning and recording.

Mr. Flegel authored a chronicle that follows more than 300 years of his family’s history.  He traced their journey from the heart of Europe to the formerly Russian region of Bessarabia, into the expanses near the Volga river, onward to the shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran, heading west to the pampas of Argentina and, finally, to the United States.

A certified genealogist, Mr. Flegel is the son of German Russian immigrant parents. Having been born in North Dakota in 1917, Art was later was raised in Kansas and Colorado. Now living in Menlo Park, CA. Arthur will celebrate his 100th birthday this year.  What a milestone!!

We would like to say a huge thank you for all your endeavors on behalf of AHSGR Mr. Flegel! You are an amazing person!! 


Marlene Michel

Yagodnaya Polyana


Marlene Michel became Village Coordinator for Yagodnaya Polyana in 2012. As she’s helped others, the experience has enhanced her own genealogy research efforts.

She began her research in 1971. “I was always interested because my grandfather was such an interesting fellow, so I started doing his side of the family,” she said.

Marlene is also President of the Calgary Chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. She has written four books, including two on the history of St. John Lutheran Church in Calgary that was founded by people from the Yagodnaya region. Included in this group was her grandfather’s brother. Another book is a collection of photos highlighting people born in Yagodnaya. Her final book is about Germans from Russia living in the Bridgeland/Riverside area.

Encouraging people just starting to research their heritage is important to Marlene.  She tells people to cast their nets far and wide. Sometimes connections between people don’t become clear until you dig deeper into the research. When interviewing relatives and others, she urges people to record the conversations. “You might not remember it all, or it might not be meaningful now,” she said.

Marlene recalled an interview she conducted when writing her first book; when she went back to the recording several years later, information that hadn’t registered with her earlier now was relevant.

Marlene enjoys being a VC.  “Being at the hub, you get so much information,” she said. And it’s rewarding in other ways too.

“It’s the ones you’re sitting across from and you give them information they didn’t know and their eyes bug out and they get that sparkle in their eyes and it’s worth it.”


March 2017

Steven Grau


Steven Grau has been the Village Coordinator for Nieder-Monjou, along with his brother, Michael, since 2002.

Grau had done some genealogical research about his ancestors from Nieder-Monjou before becoming VC. Another researcher shared a genealogy of his great-great-grandfather which had been prepared by Schulmeister Hummel in 1910 during a return visit of his great-great-grandfather to Nieder-Monjou.

“I was one of the lucky few who could trace lineage in a direct line all the way back to an original colonist of Nieder-Monjou without the aid of any other information from Russia,” Grau said.

“When I first started as Village Coordinator, I had very little information about Nieder-Monjou,” he said. Over time he has accumulated many historical books about the colonies, basically anything that mentions Nieder-Monjou. He has all available census translations for Nieder-Monjou, as well as censuses of some nearby colonies and a couple of daughter colonies. Church records, including transcriptions of church records and church anniversary booklets have been valuable tools. He has collected as many records as possible from churches in central Kansas frequented by Volga Germans and their descendants.

As a Village Coordinator, Grau decided he would actively search for immigrants from Nieder-Monjou and their descendants. He has found immigrants from Nieder-Monjou in Argentina, South Africa, and of course the United States. “But I did not initially realize the time and effort involved.”

“One of the benefits of being a Village Coordinator is that family connections that benefit one's own research can be discovered through the exchange of information with others,” Grau said.

“Though not absolutely necessary, it is helpful for a Village Coordinator to know a little German and to be able to transliterate Fraktur and the old German script for the times that you are able to get church records from the United States, Russia, or Germany,” he said. “Knowing a little Russian (which I do not) would also be a plus.”


Karen Sudermann Penner

Molotschna / Chortitza

Karen Sudermann Penner has been village coordinator since the summer of 2012 for the Molotschna Colonies in the Taurida region in the Ukraine (56-60 colonies/villages) and the Chortitza Colonies in the Ekaterinoslav region of the Ukraine (20 colonies/villages). Both are Mennonite settlements.

Karen was genealogy chair of AHSGR and sought to become more involved when the VC program became part of the committee’s agenda.

“Also, I have volumes of information on these areas and have visited both settlements two times,” she said.

Karen’s library includes family histories, books, maps, census lists as well as books on the general history of the areas. She also has access to two large historical libraries through we she can help people with research: the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS) at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kan., and the Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA) at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. She notes there also is a vast amount of Mennonite family histories available online.

Karen’s husband also is 100 percent GR and she’s found that being a VC – in addition to allowing her to help others – also has helped her learn more about her own family. Several inquiries in the last year involved ties to several of her families, as well as her home church, the first Mennonite Brethren Church in North America – Ebenfeld, Hillsboro, Kan. – which all four of her great-grandparents helped found.

She recommends others consider the VC role. “It is a rewarding way to make people more interested in AHSGR and to promote our wonderful organization,” she said.

 Karen can be reached at


February 2017

Jorge Bohn

Streckerau / Marienberg / Neu-Kolonie

I am currently Coordinator for Streckerau villages, Marienberg (Мариенберг), and Neu-Kolonie (Кустарево-Краснорыновка).

Before becoming Coordinator, I studied my ancestral villages for several years: Keller, Neu Kolonie, Kohler, Vollmer, Husaren, Dehler, Streckerau and Marienberg. Thus, in the search for contacts, I opened my first page, dedicated to the village from which my direct ancestors set out for the Argentine Republic. On the same page I also published notes, comments, records, photos and others from the village Marienberg, neighbor of Streckerau, where also lived ancestors.

One of the friendships that emerged from maintaining that activity was to get in touch with, and eventually become a friend and counselor of Dodie Rotherham. She was the one suggested to me and asked if I could consider applying for coordinator of Streckerau. So I did, and it was the beginning of this adventure through the corners of our history. This happened about five years ago. Soon after, because the intimate interconnection between both villages, I applied to be coordinator of Marienberg.

And relatively recently, and at the suggestion of the same friend, I applied to be the coordinator of the village Neu-Kolonie (where my first ancestor of German origin died.

Over the years I have collected a huge amount of material (books, censuses, notes, comments, records, photos) that I regularly share on my internet sites, which are several:

Russiangermans Repository:


Jorge Bohn Notes:

And one very dear to my affections, dedicated to the colonies founded by Germans of Russia where I was born:

Pueblo San Jose, Buenos Aires, Argentina:

Thanks to the courtesy of Ted Gerk, I am co-manager of the Volga Germans Research Community page:

And I co-administered, at the  invitation of its founder, the Facebook site dedicated to Neu-Kolonie:  and Russian Germans International group: / Groups / russiangermansinternational/

All this activity has been beneficial, not only for allowing me to be in contact with people from different countries (Argentina, United States, Canada, Germany and Russia), but also to receive from each and every one of them, as well as from other coordinators, valuable information not only useful for my research, but to help many people who communicate from almost all those countries in search of information about their ancestors.

In 2016 I was fortunate to be able to attend the Annual Convention of the AHSGR, where I presented a work, an experience that has not only nurtured and strengthened my work, but also allowed me to share beautiful moments with people I only knew by correspondence or being contacts in the different social networks and lists of communication.

All this leads me to advise anyone who has a sincere love and desire to know more about his ancestral village, as well as acquire the knowledge that allows all of us to cooperate with so many descendants that live throughout our world. And you will have the benefit of having all the help you will receive from the AHSGR staff in your task.


Sylvia M. Hertel

Bergdorf / Marienberg / Teplitz (Black Sea)

Sylvia Hertel has been a village coordinator for about a year. Her reasons for volunteering were her love for doing family history, her desire to contribute to the preservation of our culture, to help others find their family history and to find some of her own in the process.

She depends heavily on the GCRA publications: Glueckstal Colonies, Births and Marriages: 1833-1900 and Deaths: 1833-1900 (two books); The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862, by Karl Stumpp; The Glückstalers in New Russia and North America: A Bicentennial Collection of History, Genealogy and Folklore, also published by the GCRA; Marienberg: Fate of A Village, by Johann Bollinger and Janice Huber Stangl, pub. in 2000 by the GRHC in Fargo, North Dakota, Colony Teplitz, by Herbert Weiss, pub. 1978?, by the GRHS, this book is not copyrighted and is a translation of the German version History of the Colony Teplitz, by T.J. Schmierer; Teplitz, Bessarabia: 1835 and 1850 Censuses (two books), compiled jointly by the GRHS and Heimatmuseum der Deutschen Aus Bessarabia. Along with these, she has the 2015 GCRA data stick, which contains images of the civil records for the four mother colonies in the Glückstal District, which includes Bergdorf, and many records on DVDs for the Bessarabia District. On occasion, she also has consulted town jubilee books from North and South Dakota.

For the purpose of sorting out surnames and their various spellings, and translation of documents and records in German, she uses the Deutsches Namenlexikon, by Hans Bahlow (1967), by Keysersche Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, München, Deutschland, pub. 1972 in Frankfurt a/M, Deutschland; Langenscheidt's Standard Dictionary, of the English and German Languages, by Professor Edmund Klatt, 6th Edition by Dr. Dietrich Roy, (1970), by Langenscheidt KB, Berlin and Munich, printed in Great Britain, second printing in 1974. These books were handed down to her, but she later discovered that they are highly recommended by professional genealogists. Another aid for translation purposes is It is a site for languages all over the world that includes examples of both printed and handwritten alphabets.

The benefits stem from the fact that Sylvia's own family lines come from these villages. Benefits include meeting "new" cousins, adding family to and finding errors in her own lines, but also just enjoying the research aspect of doing genealogy (puzzle solving/detective work). She describes herself as "an incorrigible history addict," so she enjoys learning more about the history of her Black Sea villages and her family who lived there.

To prospective VCs, she says, "If you have the desire, go for it."

Contact Sylvia at


January 2017

Judy Remmick-Hubert

Judy has been a Village Coordinator with AHSGR since the 1980s. She became interested in being a VC because her maternal grandparents were born in Borodino in 1885.

She says the following of her collection that she uses to help others with their research: "I have just completed 38 booklets that deal with the genealogy of the first colonists of Borodino, and have used all kinds of material including letters from descendants of others who are linked to Borodino."

On the benefits of being a Village Coordinator with AHSGR: "I have gained many friends, and have a better look at history of not just family members but also of Russia."

To someone considering becoming a Village Coordinator: "It takes a lot of time if a person wants to collect all the material of their village. The cost can be as little or as as much a person can afford. There are many of us who can help them get started. Just the gaining of new friendships is worth all your efforts. And the wealth of learning about the general history of German-Russians will open up a person's eyes about ourselves, This includes such things as "Why do we celebrate Christmas with the traditions we do? And why do families have different traditions than they do? Has their family ever hidden a pickle in their Christmas tree or baked gingerbread men because that's what they did when they were kids?"

Gary Martens

Dobrinka, Galka, Holstein, Mueller, Neu-Weimar, Wiesenmueller,

Alt-Schilling, Schilling, Neu-Schilling I and Neu-Schilling II

I became as VC for Alt-Schilling in late 1997.I wanted to find out more about the village where my great-grandfather was born. After several years of research, I was able to help others with ancestors from Schilling enabling them find out more about their ancestors. I took over as VC of Schilling when the first VC, Samuel Sinner needed time to do research for his Master’s and Ph.D degrees at the University of Nebraska. Samuel's research led to the publication of the landmark book detailing the genocide of German-Russians in Russia between 1915 and 1949, “Open Wound: The Genocide of German Ethnic Minorities in Russia and the Soviet Union: 1915-1949 and Beyond”.

I became a VC for Dobrinka and Galka about 15 years ago. In 2008 I acquired all available church records for those two villages, and spent several thousand hours translating the records.The acquisition of those records from the Russian Archives was made possible by contributions from over 50 people.

I maintain websites for Schilling:, Dobrinka:, and Galka:

In 2016 I became the VC for Holstein and Mueller. These villages are part of the Lower Volga Village Project: am the webmaster for that website, and am in the process of building a database for the 10 villages in that project.

I became the VC for Neu-Weimar several years ago. Neu-Weimar was the home of some of my grandmother’s relatives and family from Dobrinka.

I became the VC for Wiesenmueller several years ago, and the interest in that village was the connections to many people in the Lower Volga Village Project. Church records for Wiesenmueller are very limited.

Most people, when they start researching their German-Russian ancestors, don’t know which village they lived in before immigrating. How easily a person can connect to families in Russia first depends on the village, and further research will depend on whether the village was an original village or a daughter colony (village). There are church records for many of the original villages, from 1857 to the 1890’s. For most daughter colonies, the only records are the first settler list when the daughter colony was created, but church records usually are limited to several years after 1900. The most important thing people need to realize is that purchasing records from the Russian Archives is extremely expensive, nothing like researching people living in the US.

If people are interested in learning more about how people lived in Russia, they need to become members of AHSGR, and start acquiring information on the history of the German-Russians. There are many excellent articles in the AHSGR Journal that have been published since the founding of AHSGR in 1968. Copies of the Journals are available from the AHSGR online store. A history of the German-Russians can found in “From Catherine to Khrushchev: The Story of Russia’s Germans” by Adam Giesinger, and several other books. An excellent website about Volga Germans is The Center for Volga German Studies: There are Facebook pages for some villages, and the content depends on the village.

My biggest benefit in being a VC is being able to help people from the US, Canada, Germany, Russia, Argentina and other countries in researching their German-Russian ancestors. Researching German-Russians can be a monumental and costly undertaking for individuals.

If a person is considering becoming a VC, acquire all the information you can about the village of interest, and genealogy information about people who settled in the village and lived there, and be willing to help people in a timely manner.

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