Sunday, February 7, 2016

Researching Germans from Russia Ancestors?

German Settlements in Russia
9 Great Resources for Genealogy
It wasn’t long ago that the a3Genealogy research team delved into the family history of a German family from Russia. In spite of being faintly optimistic, the research project was a success; a family story was uncovered, and supporting documents were unearthed.  Here are a few tips to ferret out your German ancestors who lived in Russia. 

Where to Begin
The True Northerner (Paw Paw Michigan, 6 Jul 1877, pg. 2
Learn the history. There are many books and internet articles on the colonization of the Lower Volga and the German settlements along the Black Sea.  But if you want a quick overview here’s an introduction to Germans from Russia.  Know that “thousands of people left Russia for Kansas in the 1870s and established large settlements in central Kansas from northern Topeka to Russell County.”  By understanding the history and migratory paths, researchers may uncover likely repositories of family documents.

Identify the approximate German Settlements on a settlement map. Be sure to understand the Colonization of the Lower Volga, and know that about 1/3 of the Germans died before reaching Russia. But even with those dire numbers by 1870 approximately 450,000 Germans had settled in Russia.  By 1914, there were over 2.4 million.

Follow Emigration from Russia / Immigration to USA Timeline.  When did your ancestor emigrate to America? By narrowing this timeframe, you may be able to identify which area/community in Russia your ancestor emigrated from. As mentioned in Wiki,  in 1871 the Imperial Russian government repealed the manifestos of Catherine the Great and Alexander I resulting in German colonists being obligated to become subject to Russian military service after a ten-year grace period. This began the mass exodus out of Russia. Here's a basic timeline:

  • 1872-1873 Several groups emigrate from the Odessa area to Nebraska and the Dakotas. Scouts from other Black Sea colonies and the Volga colonies investigate opportunities in America.
  • 1874 The Imperial Russian government amended the 187l decree and instituted compulsory military conscription of German colonists immediately.
  • 1874-1914 Thousands of German colonists emigrated from Russia to North and South America.
  • 1917 Political unrest in Russia lead to two revolutions and the beginning of Soviet communist rule.
  • 1919 The United States government enacts strict immigration laws which greatly slowed entrance of immigrants. Canada continued to receive German immigrants from Russia.
  • 1920-1923 Famine in Russia. Over l50 thousand Volga Germans died of starvation.
  • 1928-1940 German farms and property were confiscated by the state and forced onto collective farms.
  • 1939-1945 The Second World War. Germany at war with the Soviet Union. Germans were persecuted and many moved to Siberia and central Asian republics. Many fled to Germany.
  • 1992-1996 Many Russian Germans emigrated to recently unified Germany where they were offered citizenship.
9 Places to Research Your German From Russia Ancestral Records
Surname Chart prepared by Dr. Igor Pleve
Archives and repositories that may assist with your Germans from Russia research.
  1. American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR). Membership to this organization may prove to be quite valuable.  Be sure to visit the website as there is a collection of online resources to include over a half million ancestor list entries. Researchers may even stumble across their ancestors surname in the Ancestral Surname Chart Index leading to a surname chart prepared by Dr. Igor Pleve.  Be sure to also scour the journals, articles, and the passenger list index.
  2. Germans from Russia Heritage Society. This site has an impressive members only Genealogy Database and Letter Archive.   
  3. Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia UniversityPortland. Be sure to check out the 2016 planned conferences, workshops and seminars held in cities across America – from California to Pennsylvania. This informative website also posts German Origins for Volga German families. Is your family listed?
  4. Norka A German Colony in Russia. This website has samples of their online audio and photo collections.
  5. United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012, hosted by
  6. Black Sea German ResearchWas your family a German who settled along the Black Sea vs the Volga?  If so, be sure to visit this website as it hosts a database of over 2 million names.
  7. North Dakota State University (NDSU) Heritage Collection. Although there are many local collections and repositories, the a3Genealogy researchers enjoy the one-stop resource of NDSU. The links provided may prevent a family researcher from hours of trawling the internet.
  8. The Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS).  Did your German from Russia settle in Canada? This is a good place to begin your ancestral journey. The FEEFHS website offers about 20  resources for your Germans from Russia Canadian settlers.
  9. Germans Emigrated to Russia - Odessa.  This 2010 a3Genealogy blog post is filled with history and helpful links.
Thanks to the following:
  • Ryan Zachmann from Russell Kansas, a descendant of Volga Russians (and based on surname Zachmann may be Black Sea Germans on his paternal side). Ryan, my “seat-mate” on a flight to Kansas, reminded me that this blog post could be useful. 
  • National Archives - Kansas City staff sponsored presenter Mike Meisinger, a Village Coordinator for AHSGR. As mentioned this organization houses a wealth of information. 

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Irish Research, Canadian Immigration 1847-1848

Joliet (IL) Signal, 17 Aug 1847
Grosse Île - Immigration and Quarantines

Immigrating has always had high risk crossing the seas, and for those who survived the travel faced  a full documentation and most often medical review. Newly arrived immigrants to North America – specifically Canada and the USA – were documented at processing stations and quarantine locations at their entry ports. So as the Irish arrived in every port in North America to escape wars, mistreatment, and famine, genealogists and family researchers must expand their research past New York.  Have you checked for your Irish ancestors in the Gross Île, Port of Québec records? Although the death rate was high, researchers may locate those who survived; and with a keen eye toward analysis, hints and names of other family members may be revealed.

Parks Canada Map

Gross Île Quarantine Station
Gross Île “was a quarantine station for the Port of Québec from 1832 – 1937. This quarantine station, located in the middle of the St. Lawrence River just south-east of Quebec, was originally established to contain the cholera epidemic in 1832.

Over 8000 immigrants, mostly Irish died of “Ship Fever” from 1847 - 1848, some referred to these ships as “coffin ships,” due to the typhus epidemic.  It has been estimated that over five thousand Irish were buried at sea. Many were interred in mass graves.

Visit Irish Central, The Ghosts of Grosse Ile. A monument was even erected in 1850 to honor those lost during the transport.
Montreal Star, 22 Dec 1900, p.19

Yet, in the 1847-1848 timeframe over 38 thousand Irish did arrive in Toronto. Toronto also had a high death rate, about 1100 Irish immigrants died of starvation and the harsh Canadian winters. For more information research Toronto’s Ireland Park, a memorial for the Famine Irish.

Know that quarantine stations were not uncommon.  One had been established as early as 1785 in Partridge Island, New Brunswick, near Saint John.  Another quarantine station was at Windmill Point, where over six thousand, mostly Irish, were buried.

Where to Begin?

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Saturday, November 21, 2015

6 New Genealogy Quick Look Resources

Free Indexed Collections - Midwest Genealogy Center 
Keeping the family researchers in mind, the Midwest Genealogy Center (MGC) has taken on a large indexing project entitled Quick Look.  The librarians and volunteers at MGC are once again helping genealogists everywhere to keep our promise: “leave no stone unturned.”  This time MGC has indexed, by name and by date, the following collections for easy online access. No library card needed, no fee, just a community service project that makes it easier for us to find “Great-Uncle Bob” or in my case Great-Aunt Mattie (see below).

What Is Indexed?
The following six collections have been indexed. For information on each collection visit the List the Collections page.
  1. Book Indexes to “some books” in MGC's reference collection.  This Book Index will take you directly to the MCPL Catalog entry for holdings and location of the book that holds your ancestor’s name.
  2. Independence Examiner Newspapers: 1900-1959
  3. Kansas City Social Registers Blue Books: 1924-1962
  4. Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times (newspapers): 1975-2006
    Be sure to review the List the Collections page for information.
  5. The Kansas City Call Newspaper: 1995-2001. This is a great resource for African American families. Know that African Americans across the Midwest reported deaths to “The Call”. In Kansas we have successfully located obituaries as far as Hutchinson.
  6. U. S. Railroad Retirement Board: 1936-2010. You can search the index to over 1.5 million pension records from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board for free online.  These pension files are held at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Atlanta. 
1-2-3 to Obtain Copies
The goal is to get a copy of whatever document is available - obituary, book page, RRB claim, etc. By providing the holding repository with the indexed information, they will be able to locate, copy and forward a digital or email copy of the information.  Note: RRB claims will be photocopied and mailed if available.  It's pretty simple, since you will just follow the screen prompts for your next steps. 

Mattie Singleton was my grandmother’s sister. I really knew little about her and have never seen her obituary. Would Quick Look have her obituary indexed?

  1. Search Index.

    Once a person of interest is located, researchers can request the actual document from the holding location.
  1. Analyze / Identify Options

    Her obituary was in The Call Newspaper
    Her birth date and death date were indexed
    Her burial place was provided
    Her parent’s and daughter’s names verified her to be the correct Mattie Singleton.  Note: This will only be entered if it was in the obituary.
  1. Submit Request

    If your request is for MGC, print copies are only 10 cents per page, but I prefer digital copies emailed to me - free!

    For a RRB Claims package, you will be directed to the National Archives at Atlanta website.  Here’s information on what will be needed to request a claim folder. But be sure to check the index first.  Plus you are guiding the NARA staff to the Record and Claim ID,  and Claim Location which usually results in a much quicker turn-around. 
Search Tips?
  • Researchers will want to visit the HomePage for Search Tips.  
  • Railroad Retirement Board Pension (RRB) Claims index will be most effective if you have a birth and/or death date for your ancestor as additional identifying information is not provided in the index. You will find only the surname followed by the first initial with a birthdate  to be indexed.
Although request retrievals are free (you only pay for copying), I suggest giving a donation - a token of appreciation - to MGC, a public library branch of Mid-Continent Public Library. Let them know we love their efforts and their support to our success.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Monday, November 9, 2015

Research University MO. Student Protests 1959-2015

Across America, Students joined in the efforts
“Injustice for One is Injustice for All.”
 Although University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. students may believe that the current protests are unprecedented, it is far from being so.  MU's student body and student athletes have historically fought against racism, and injustice on both the local and national level.  Columbia, MO., shadowed by St. Louis to the east and Kansas City, MO to the west, has historically been a popular location for racial change and protest against injustice. 

3 Places to Research Student Protests History - Columbia, MO
Accounts of student protests for racial change can be found as early as 1959  - five years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In The State Historical Society of Missouri historical researchers can locate papers of the Columbia Chapter of Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.).  C.O.R.E.’s philosophy was “nonviolence in the fight to end segregation and discrimination.” The Columbia MO. chapter, members predominately local students and faculties, was most active from 1959 - 1964, over fifty years ago. The student driven organization fought the issues of segregation, discrimination and on-campus racism through “pickets, boycotts, demonstrations, fastings, and sit-ins.”

Few realize that in Columbia, MO there are two other change-makers: Stephens College and Columbia College. And in the past, standing as a collective group, students from these three campuses fighting and protesting racial issues and injustice has proven effective.

  1. Collection C2508, The Congress of Racial Equality Papers, contains constitutions of the national and local C.O.R.E., minutes, membership lists, clippings, and correspondence. It is not comprehensive, but a great source for Missouri researchers.
  2. Stephens College Archives, Columbia MO.
  3. Newspaper Research
 For information on St. Louis CORE chapter visit Dagen, Margaret and Irvin History of St. Louis Core Collection, 1941 - 2000, collection S0661 at the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Kansas City researchers may wish to begin by reading Leon Mercer Jordan, The Founder of Freedom, Inc. This manuscript can be located at the Missouri Valley Special Collections in the Missouri Public Library.

Student Fasting

Even students fasting for change, is not new in Columbia, MO.  There was a rather long and lengthy fasting movement involving the Stephens College women student body and the students from Mizzou in 1965, as well as their faculties. At that time the students were protesting U.S. involvement in Viet Nam, again under the banner of “injustice for one is injustice for all.”

Athlete Involvement
Even fifty years ago the athletes were pivotal participants in on-campus change.  One basketball player, self proclaimed “progressive white student” from south St. Louis, John Logsdon was the president of the Columbia, C.O.R.E. chapter, 1962 - 1963. Of course race relations has improved since Logsdon’s presidency of C.O.R.E.  In a reflective article written 13 Nov 2013, entitled Columbia’s Core, John speaks of the one black person, Malvin West (BS BA ’62) that was shunned in 1960: “No white student in the class would sit next to him.”  It was Malvin who invited Logsdon to his first C.O.R.E. meeting.

About Core
Logsdon’s account of the Columbia MO. C.O.R.E. chapter states that active students were “half black, half white; many of the white members were women from Stephens College.”  C.O.R.E was a national organization founded in 1942. Chapters of C.O.R.E worked and supported many other civil rights groups to desegregate public facilities, organized Freedom Rides, participate in the March on Washington, 1963, but in Columbia, MO, the local efforts concentrated on campus segregations at University of Missouri and student racism.   

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New 2016 Civil War Presentations

Southern Claims Commission's "Interrogatories" (partial)
Many are already planning for 2016 workshop schedules.  Here are two new presentations offered by Kathleen Brandt, a3Genealogy.  Workshops can be tailored to your interest (state interest, i.e. "What's available in Missouri? -any state or event, i.e. Black History Month, etc.)

Claim It!  - Civil War Treasures
Southern Claims Commission Records / Slave Claims Commission Records

Researching slave-holders in bordering states or your slave-ancestors? The Southern Claims Commission Records and Slave Claims Commission Records are rich in genealogical treasures (to include Missouri). These collections of property claims hold the names of claimants / slave owners, names of slaves and last slave owner, and accounts from witnesses that often tell family secrets. You may uncover family letters, Bibles, wills, personal accounts and more.

Audience:  Civil War Veteran Research
                   Slave Research

7 Tips and Hints to Post-War Research of Civil War Soldiers
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) & other Civil War Union Veterans’ Association Records

Was your Civil War ancestor one of the 400,000 plus G.A.R members? Finding these
G. A. R. records and other state-held Civil War Union Veterans’ Association records can be challenging.  Learn strategies and resources to ferret out your Civil War soldiers’ post-war memberships to the GAR (1886 - 1956) and other popular veteran associations. These records may include parent’s names, dates of births and deaths, and “new” military information. 

Audience:  Civil War Veteran Research
                   Slave Research - ancestors may have join integrated or segregated post.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Genetics and Genealogy

Can DNA Uncover Health Hints?
Staying abreast of the trends in genealogy can be daunting, but is definitely necessary for the serious family historian or professional genealogist.  

Why Now?
In 2004, the Surgeon General, in cooperation with other agencies, launched the Surgeon General's Family History Initiative to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history.  Thanksgiving has been declared National Family History Day, allowing for updates and information to be shared at an annual family gathering. There's even a "My Family Health Portrait Tool" to enter your family health history and learn about your risk for conditions that can run in families. But can genetics and genealogy really paired?  The answer is yes. 

What is Medical Genealogy?
Medical Genealogy, Genetics for Genealogists, and Family Health History are all names we hear when referencing tracing and documenting one’s family medical patterns.  It is  not just the application of genetics applied to traditional genealogy; therefore, I prefer the term “Medical Genealogy” as I believe this keeps the family historian focused.  (How many geneticists do you know who are genealogists or family historians?).”

“Medical Genealogy is the practice of tracing and recording family health patterns that are unique to your family (hopefully to include three generations) in order for the family practitioner to analyze.
Defined by Kathleen Brandt - a3Genealogy,
 Not an official definition, 2010. 

Although genealogists and family historians are quite talented, we don’t want to cross the lines of diagnosing based on family history, or predicting life spans or early deaths based on information and patterns.  Our job is to recognize patterns and document them.

What Traits and Health Analysis Discovered via DNA?
As a community, we can begin by gathering family data and creating a helpful family health tree. You may also want to include the 23andMe limited health analysis approved by FDA standards, using DNA. Know that only 23andMe include the following reports:

Carrier Status: are you a carrier for an inherited condition? This includes cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, Hereditary Hearing Loss, Sjögren-Larsson Syndrome and more. To see the list of possible reports from A - Z visit the All Carrier Status Reports. You may also find it interesting that some genes are most notable within ethnic groups. This is a great place to visit to learn about common diseases if you are of French Canadian , Ashkenazi Jewish, Danish, Finish of African heritage. 

Food Preference: Most would agree that DNA can affect lactose intolerance, and muscle composition. It's not far fetched to believe that DNA can affect alcohol flush reaction, but can DNA really affect caffeine consumption? According to 23andMe the answer is yes.  Learn more at Wellness Reports (scroll down linked page.)

Traits Report: Of course genetics play a part in your "likelihood of having certain characteristics" to include the color of your hair and facial features, but the list of 23andMe Traits reports include  whether an individual will have asparagus odor detection.  Yes, Asparagus Odor Detection! There are over 20 traits reports.  

Although interesting, much of this DNA scientific finding is not helpful unless you are digging into your medical genealogy.

What is a Family Health Tree?
The Surgeon General website has provided Access the My Family Health Portrait Web Tool, that “helps users organize family history information and then print it out for presentation to their family doctor.” 
Using this tool, genetic genealogists may create an At-a-Glance Medical Tree.  Once you’ve gathered your data/information, by following the symbols that are defined (or add some of your own), this tree can be a breeze, and useful to the entire family and can be reviewed by your geneticists if necessary.

Where to Find Data/Information? 
  • The Information needed to complete a “family health tree” is probably in your files.  Take a close look at the cause of death on death certificates or obituaries.
  • Review medical records - we often get a copy of veteran medical records.
  • Take note of patterns: premature deaths, infertility patterns in women, birth defect patterns (I have seen some noted on census records), sibling patterns of illnesses, etc. 
The Goal
In the end you should have a tree completed like the one above.  Your family and doctor will appreciate the family research. 

Happy National Family History Day!
(adapted from Medical Genealogy, Nov 2010)

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spanish-American War/Philippine Insurrection

6 More Places to Locate Records
So you’ve checked with the microfilm, M860, General Index to Compiled Military Service Records of Revolutionary War Soldiers, and M881, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War. And, your ancestor is listed as having served in the Spanish American War (1898) or Philippine Insurrection (1899 - 1902).

So you filled out National Archives Trust Fund (NATF) Form 86 Military Service Records and the patented response of “No. We are unable to locate the file you requested above. No Payment is required” is in your mailbox. Why?  We know the compiled military service records and the carded medical records of volunteers for those who served in the Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection should be in Washington, D.C Archives I.  (See An Overview of Records at the National Archives Relating to Military Service).  But, your ancestor’s files can’t be “located!”

Where Are The Records?
Many years have passed since the 1898 - 1902 era and this war…well… barely made the history books requiring the typical researcher to piece together disjointed service record information with troop information to recreate their ancestor’s military experience. We have found Spanish American War records in the most obscure places. Learn more about the Spanish American War (1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899 - 1902) 

1. Adjutant General's Office
In many cases soldiers were called up from the National Guard to serve in this war. So you will want to begin with the Adjutant General’s records for the states of enlistment (and discharge if different state). Many of these records are no longer housed at the Adjutant General’s Office but one key to a successful search is knowing your ancestor’s specific infantry, regiment and company.
Four key searches:
  • Adjutant General records (not all states)
  • Hathi Trust collection which includes additional states.
  • National Archives RG 94.
  • Adjutant General’s Office for hints on archival locations. 
2. Troop Activities
It is possible your ancestor served under more than one troop. The key to following an ancestor’s movement within the military may be told by following the troop's activities. Be sure to keep an eye out of where did the troop go and where /when was unit discharged. You may wish to begin with RG 391: 

3. Pension Application Files
If your ancestor lived past 1922, a veteran, widow or dependent pension application file may be included. Review NARA, RG 15.7.3 Pension application files based upon service in the Civil War and Spanish-American War("Civil War and Later").

4. Bibliography Search for Record Keeping Hints
Here's a bit of information that may give you a lead. The Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection, 1898-1902 by Mark Barnes is our go-to book on this topic: Be sure to check the bibliography for hints to where author got information.  

5. State Archives
Certificate of Disability for Discharge
Some state archives hold volumes of textural (not microfilmed) Spanish American War records.  New Jersey State archives “has 122 volumes of Spanish-American War records.” For an easy access to these records, be sure to reference catalog for your ancestor’s state.  Where as Kansas Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection records may be found at the Kansas Historical Society.

6. Spanish American War Centennial Website
Have you reviewed the Spanish American War Centennial Website?  This site is great for battle reports and accounts, and gravesite recordings. The Unit Profiles, Rosters, and Photos have proven to lead researchers to bringing down brickwalls.

Kathleen Brandt