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In Part 1, we learned about Jacob and Elisabeth Holstein's origins near Stuttgart and their attempt at farming the swampy heathlands of Schleswig-Holstein for Denmark. Jacob's farming skills were apparently not up-to-snuff as he was unceremoniously dismissed of his colonization duties after only 2 years in June 1763.

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On To Russia

They left the Flensburg area and departed to Russia from Lubeck.
As fate would have it, just one month after Jacob was dismissed from his Schleswig farm Catherine the Great of Russia signed a manifesto inviting colonists to settle the Russian Steppes along the Volga River between Saratov and Volgograd. She offered some of the same enticements offered by Denmark.

At first, the goal was to bring an array of skill sets to Russia (not just farmers), as Catherine the Great wanted the Russian peasants to learn from the more culturally advanced Western Europeans. That was the theory anyway. In reality, once in Russia everyone was expected to farm.

With nothing left to lose, Jacob signed his family up to join this new group of colonists heading to Russia. His location at the time probably influenced this decision. The launching point for the journey to Russia was in nearby Lubeck.

The Russian recruiters actually targeted the dismissed Schleswig colonists. Hey, they at least had experience colonizing, right? Also recruited were successful farmers who wanted to desert their farm in Schleswig after several of the initial promises from Denmark ended or failed to materialize in the first place.

The trek to the Volga colonies was a long one. From Lubeck, they went by ship to Oranienbaum (near St. Petersburg) where they were welcomed and swore an allegience to the Russian crown. Like the trip to Denmark, Russia paid travel expenses and provided daily allowances. However, many unscrupulous ship captains purposely made the journey longer until the Germans exhausted their food supply and had to pay inflated prices for additional provisions from the captain.

General route from Germany to Volga River colonies in the 1760's. No, I'm not much of a graphics artist.
The Baltic Sea portion of the journey alone was 900 miles. Then another 1500 miles (guestimating using Google Maps) by land/river down to Galka. This move was permanent. While a few colonists might have attempted to leave after their arrival, the vast majority would have no choice but to commit to this new life. Because as you can see from the map, they were a long way from home and the Russian government sure wasn't about to pay for their travel expenses BACK to Germany.

Galka was founded on 12 August 1764. Jacob and Elisabeth arrived in the colony on July 1st, 1765. They are listed with a 4 year old daughter named Regina and a 1 year old named Maria. A 1798 census shows Regina as 36 years old, which would put her birth around 1762. As you may remember from Part 1, no children were recorded in June 1763 when Jacob was dismissed by Denmark. In any case, Elisabeth was most likely pregnant at the time they were left without a home and had a second child by the time they arrived in their new home 3 years later.

A New Life in Galka

Present-Day Galka on the banks of the Volga River
Here's where the paper trail for Jacob and Elisabeth goes cold; though we do know of the general conditions all colonists faced in this new land. Life in the colonies along the Volga were very hard. One big problem they had to contend with was a security problem. The native Kyrgyz and other nomads who had lived in the area did not take kindly to this sudden influx of communities and people. The Kyrgyz regularly raided villages, killing colonists and plundering.

To make matters worse, the Russian government had not provided pre-built housing in these new villages. The colonists had to build their own when they got there. For many colonists, there was not enough time before winter set in. Many were left cold and starving.

The first years were also plagued with poor growing seasons. Not only did they have to contend with a years long drought cycle that just happened to coincide with the initial settlement, but the government failed to provide crop seeds on a timely basis. It took at least 10 years for them to get a good enough harvest to start cultivating their own seeds. Once they were self-sufficient, the new colonies prospered. For unlike the Schleswig land, the banks of the Volga were very fertile.

The Russian government set up what was called a "Mir" system of land allotment. Each village was given a certain amount of land when it was first established. The colonists then divided up that land equally between each family depending on how many males were in the family. The more sons you had, the more land you got. Periodically (every 8 to 12 years or so) the land was redivided based on the current population. Because the amount of land for the village was never increased, when a village got too populated people would leave to establish a new colony.

Since no one actually owned any land, no one lived on the farms. Everyone lived in the village and would travel out to the farmland to work it.

We know from the 1798 census that Jacob and Elisabeth went on to have two more children - both boys. Jacob was born sometime around 1769 and Georg Heinrich about 1772. This census is unique in that it includes the maiden names of the women. So we also know that Regina was married to Johann Fuchs by this time and Maria had apparently not survived. Whether she died as a child or as an adult (she would have been about 33 in 1798) is not known. Jacob and Elisabeth are not in the 1798 census, so they most likely did not survive either. They didn't make it to the age of 60.


I am descended from Jacob and Elisabeth's son Jacob. This Jacob married Anna Marie Krug, who's family was another of the Schleswig colonists. The Krugs were not dismissed and had been on their Schleswig farm as late as February, 1765. They must have been one of the later colonists to make it to Russia. They initially settled in the Russian village called Grimm. Anna moved to Galka when she married Jacob.

Jacob and Elisabeth's 3 surviving children went on to have at least 9 children of their own. One hundred and fifty years after their arrival in Russia, there were far more than a hundred who could trace their ancestry back to this couple. Many of them fled the Russian Revolution by doing what their forebears did so long ago - they packed up and moved even further away from home. Canada, the U.S. and South America were still welcoming emigrants with open arms.

Obviously there are no pictures or drawings of Jacob and Elisabeth. However, I do have a lot of pictures of their descendants. Maybe from looking at a number of different descendants, one can begin to imagine the sort of common look that may give a hint of Jacob and/or Elisabeth's appearance. It doesn't really matter in this context who anyone is, so I'll leave out names. Though in some cases, I'll indicate what generation they are from. They are mostly all people born before or right around 1900. The Holsteins in the pictures are all of the men. The women will be spouses from other familes (except the last two pictures).

My great-grandfather, Friedrich who would have been Jacob and Elisabeth's great-grandson.
My grandparents. My grandfather's mother was also a Holstein, so he's got double the Holstein genes. Most of the others can most likely be assumed to be of his generation (give or take).
This is the exception. The woman on the far left is a Holstein (Mary Kerbs). Actually, except for the deceased and the woman right next to Mary, the rest are Mary's children. So they'd all be Holstein descendants as well.
Most of the people in this picture are Holstein descendants. The lady labeled Mary Kerbs in the front row is the same woman mentioned in the funeral picture above.
I included the funeral picture just to bring up an interesting cultural tidbit about the Volga Germans. Once photography was introduced, they took up the custom of taking pictures of mourners surrounding the open casket. I have a couple other pictures of other funerals.

I guess that wraps up this story. There isn't a lot to tell about the 150 years in Russia. They pretty much stayed, farming the land, for generation after generation until the 1880's when anti-German sentiment started taking over Russia. In 1905, my grandmother's family left, leaving behind her newly married oldest sister. In 1913, my grandfather left on his own to meet up with his Uncle in Canada.

In the early 1920's, there were mass famines where thousands starved - including, most likely, my great-grandmother.

In 1941, Stalin exiled all Germans from the Volga region and dispersed them in labor camps throughout Kazakhstan and Siberia. This was an estimated 440,000 people. About 30-40% of the entire German-Russian population died or were flat out killed during this time.

And with that lovely thought, I'll open it up to the floor.

Do you have any Genealogical New Years Resolutions or simply goals for this year?

Mine is to finally start conducting phone interviews with my Dad and write his memoirs in time for his 90th birthday in July. I was all set to start last weekend, but he was out when I called. I'm going to try again this weekend. My goal is to package together a book with the other memoirs and histories published that I've found, as well as what I've found in my own research. The purpose of these last two Open Thread diaries was to give myself a head start on that. These will be included in the book.

I'm also hoping to find sources who have access to the archives in Saratov to try to get my grandfather's baptismal record.

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