Genealogy Potluck

Posted for the meme Genealogy Blog Party hosted by Elizabeth O’Neal of Little Bytes of Life. August’s theme is “Genealogy Potluck” and invites posts revealing writers’ favorite genealogy resources. I hope others will enjoy my “dish,” and I’m certainly looking forward to a new “recipe” or two as I learn about other writers’ favorite genealogy finds.

My maternal great grandparents, Anton and Barbara (Ehli) Armbrust and Joseph and Agnes (Heiser) Jaeger, immigrated to the United States in 1892 and 1889 respectively, settling with their families in or near Stark County in southwestern North Dakota. They and many others came from Ukraine, Russia, but their heritage was German rather than Russian. These “Germans from Russia,” as they eventually became known, settled in the U.S. midwest (Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado, among others) and Canada, and some migrated again further west to California and Oregon.

Official records about these early ancestors and their children are scarce—census records, marriage licenses and certificates, and a few draft registration cards are available—but personal information is even more rare. You will understand, then, why I was so pleased to discover two organizations that collect and make available obituaries for people of this ethnic/geographic background.

I became aware of the first organization, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia[1] [in my experience, better viewed in Internet Explorer than Google Chrome], when I found an ancestor’s obituary on Family Search[2] in a collection entitled “United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. 1899-2012,” but I didn’t at the time appreciate the scope of the organization’s contribution. According to the Family Search link, there are nearly 456,000 images in this collection. Many I have viewed are original newspaper clippings; others are transcriptions of newspaper obituaries.

Another organization, the Germans from Russia Heritage Society,[3] headquartered in Bismarck, North Dakota, provides an extensive index of transcribed obituaries via the Research Library link on their home page. Ordering obituaries is accomplished via e-mail; once the requested obituaries are located, the staff e-mails to let the requester know the total cost. The transcriptions are sent shortly after they receive payment. The first obituary is $2.50 with other obituaries in the same order an additional $1.00 each plus a modest postage fee (my initial order for 20 obituaries totaled $24.50).

I found several relatives listed on the GRHS site but didn’t see listings for my maternal grandfather or my mother. I recently supplied obituaries for these relatives and was pleased to see that both have since been added to the indices. Note: for married women, search by married rather than maiden name.

Having investigated these sites a bit more thoroughly for this post, I recommend searching the Family Search link first to see what they might have about a “German from Russia” relative and then following up with North Dakota’s Germans from Russia Heritage Society (because of their extensive obituary index) and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and each organization’s affiliates to see what those entities might have.

Brick wall success story: The GRHS obituary index was the key to learning death date and burial information for my great aunt Elizabeth (Wehner) Ulschak. I knew from previous research on this family that their surname was frequently misspelled, so when I couldn’t find “Elizabeth Ulschak” in the index, I decided to use the Find function (Ctrl_F) to search for all occurrences of Elizabeth. Recreating the search just now, my Elizabeth was #12 of 32 in the very long “U” list and, sure enough, the surname was misspelled (Ulshak vs. Ulschak). From there, I was able to check North Dakota’s Public Death Index[4] to verify the summary information presented on the GRHS site.

[1] American Historical Society of Germans from Russia ~
[2] United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012 ~
[3] Germans from Russia Heritage Society ~
[4] North Dakota’s Public Death Index ~

8 thoughts on “Genealogy Potluck

  1. I have to admire anyone who is researching in Europe and having to work with a different language, and some very different handwriting too. Thanks for the nicely written story.

  2. Wow – what a rich resource you have there. How lovely that the community has remained so connected and values their records. Thanks for sharing the story. I love hearing about new things and I had no idea there was a community of Germans for Russia. Bonus was the story of your great aunt Elizabeth 🙂

  3. I hadn’t heard of this resource before. Thanks for sharing it. I have a few German ancestors that I’ve hit a brick wall with. Perhaps this resource will help me break it. I also wanted to tell you that my maiden name is Heiser. My Heisers are from Maryland and Pennsylvania. I believe the immigrant is Johannes Adam Heiser (1741-1789), and he arrived in Baltimore in 1751. He was born in Germany.

  4. What great resources for German ancestry! Like Linda my husband has some German ancestry but they all went to CA. So great when these types of resources lead to brickwall breakthroughs!

  5. Thanks for stopping by, Linda. Regarding the 456,000 or so records on Family Search, I believe from my own searches that there are (1) duplicates for the deceased person and (2) entries for the deceased person and anyone/everyone mentioned in the obituary. Considering how large families were in that era, I truly appreciate the effort of Family Search’s indexers to make these records available.

  6. My husband has German family and while looking for resources, I learned about the Germans living in Russia. I never realized there were so many of them. These look like great resources for tracing an ethnic people. I also learned about your blog from this post – yours is one I hadn’t come across yet. Thank you for sharing.

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