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Frequently Asked Questions

 Topics

Glossary of Acronyms Used
Background on Bessarabia (History & maps)
Researching Bessarabian families
Organizations
Suggested reading
Ongoing projects and new information
Feedback

 If you have questions about GR research or history outside of Bessarabia, try the GRHS FAQ’s.

 Glossary of Acronyms

AC Area Coordinator (someone who specializes in researching specific areas of the U.S. or Canada where Germans from Russia settled)
AHSGR American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, based in Nebraska, specializes in Volga German research
CH Clearing House (GRHS volunteers that coordinate work on acquiring, translating, and extracting research resources)
FHC Family History Center (the LDS branch libraries located throughout the world)
FHL Family History Library (the main LDS library in Salt Lake City)
GR German from Russia or German-Russian
GRHS Germans from Russia Heritage Society
LDS Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly referred to as the Mormon Church)
NDSU North Dakota State University
OC Ort Coordinator (someone who specializes in researching specific German villages where Germans from Russia originated)
ODL Odessa Digital Library (often referred to as the "pixel" or Odessa 3)
VC Village Coordinator (someone who specializes in researching specific German villages in Russia)

Background on Bessarabia

 Where is Bessarabia?

Bessarabia is located in Eastern Europe. Its geographic boundaries are the Prut River on the west, the Dniester River on the east, and the Black Sea to the southeast. Bessarabia has never been an independent nation, but has always been included as part of other nations. Currently this region is located partly in Ukraine, and partly in Moldova. During most of the 1800s, it was part of Russia.

 

My family tradition is that we’re German, but you say that Bessarabia is in Russia. Why were Germans in Russia?

The history section describes this more fully, but in 1813 the Tsar of Russia invited settlers from other countries, especially Germany, to settle in this area.

 My family information says we’re from South Russia. Is that the same as Bessarabia?

Many Germans coming from the Black Sea area to the U.S. or Canada listed their birthplace as South Russia. You may come from Bessarabia, or you may come from one of the other GR areas around the Black Sea.

 

How do I find a map of Bessarabia?

The GRHS maps page shows several overviews of this area.

Dr. Karl Stumpp, author of The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862, created a number of excellent maps to aid researchers. They are not online, but are available in paper format for purchase at the GRHS Book Store (Miscellaneous Items). The maps that would be of most interest to Bessarabian researchers are:

* Bessarabia
* Odessa
* Crimea
* Neu South Russia
* Baden-Elsass, Germany

How can I find where my ancestral Bessarabian village is on a modern map? Is there any way to cross-reference the German name of the village with the current name?

The Village Data Sheets include the present-day name of the German villages in Bessarabia.

Are there plat maps of the Bessarabian villages so I can see the street and house where my ancestors lived?

 What is the history of Bessarabia and the Bessarabian Germans?

This is just a short overview of Bessarabia’s history, including the points most relevant to the GR Bessarabian researcher.

 When were the villages of Bessarabia founded?

The mother colonies of Bessarabia were mostly founded between 1814 and 1825, three in 1834, and the last in 1842. See page 85 of the Stumpp book.

Where did the Bessarabian Germans emigrate from?

 Where did the Bessarabian Germans eventually immigrate to?

Are there written histories about my Bessarabian village?

Where will I find family-specific information that has been published about Bessarabian villages?

Some of these books are out of print but many are still available from the Bessarabian Museum bookstore in Stuttgart, Germany. Many of these and similar books are held in the GRHS library.

 

 Researching Bessarabian families 

I’m new to genealogy research; where do I start?

I know the basics about genealogy; how do I get started looking for my Bessarabian German ancestors?

Tell me more about the St Petersburg Reports.

 Do any of the Bessarabian villages have home pages on the internet?

How can I find out if there is someone who has family from my village in Bessarabia (or with my surname) to find out if we connect?

Some of my ancestors came from places other than Bessarabia, like the Volga or Beresan. How do I find them?

Some of the information that looks interesting on the GRHS website shows a lock and I can’t view it. Why is that?

I have more questions. Who can I contact?

The Village Coordinator (VC) for your village is always willing to help! The VCs of GRHS are extremely important to our organization.

Back to the top

 I’ve got information about my Bessarabian family or village. How can I share this with others?

Organizations 

What organizations are available to assist me in my research?

Suggested Reading

What books do you recommend I read as a beginner? Which ones contain information on Bessarabia?

1)  There are two books that most researchers in GR genealogy recommend. The first one is From Catherine to Khrushchev - The Story of Russia's Germans by Dr. Adam Giesinger, 1974. This book has an excellent overview of the German immigrants in the various regions of Imperial Russia. It gives the reader an excellent understanding of the development of the colonies and their ultimate fates. This is the book that all GR researchers should consider adding to their personal collection early in their GR family research efforts. Available from GRHS Store.

2)  The second recommended book is Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763-1862 by Dr. Karl Stumpp. This book gives detailed information by family name. In most cases, it shows where the family came from originally and has census and passport data for some of the early arrivals in the Black Sea area. Not easy reading, but an excellent reference source.

However, it's important to note that for Bessarabia the information in the Stumpp book ranges from very weak to (sometimes) excellent for the individual villages. The census data for Bessarabia was not available to Stumpp and so he relied on several other sources for his information. (Page 501 of the book gives a fuller explanation of the information he used.) Below is a list of the Bessarabian villages and the quality of data found in the Stumpp book.

 

Alt Elft very good Leipzig very good
Alt Posttal very good Lichtental excellent
Arzis good plus Neu Arzis very weak
Beresina very good Neu Elft good
Borodino very good plus Paris good
Brienne good Plotzk  very good
Dennewitz weak Sarata  excellent plus
Friedenstal good Schabo good plus
Gnadental excellent plus Tarutino very good plus
Hoffnungstal weak plus Teplitz excellent
Katzbach good Wittenberg very good plus
Kloestitz good    
Krasna very weak to nil    
Kulm very good    

(This grading scale is a general assessment for each village. Individual family information may vary from this scale.)

Much (though not all) of the Bessarabian data in the Stumpp book was also in the earlier 1938 version of the book.

The Stumpp book is available at GRHS Store, at the LDS FHL on microfilm 6000829, and in electronic format from AHSGR.

3) Of specific interest to the GR Bessarabian researcher is the Homeland Book of the Bessarabian Germans by Albert Kern (English version available from GRHS Store). This book gives an overview of Bessarabian history, plus has photos and histories for each of the Bessarabian villages.

4) Another helpful book for tracing Bessarabian Germans who came to the U.S. is Richard Sallet’s book, Russian German Settlements in the United States. This book focuses on where GR’s were as of the 1920 U.S. Census. Available from GRHS.

5) The Tutorial on German-Russian History lists several other books that might be of interest.

6) The Heimatmuseum bookstore also has a number of books relevant to Bessarabian researchers. Although these are in German, those with detailed family information are fairly easy to understand even for a non-German speaker.

7)  The library holdings of GRHScontain many books that you might find helpful. Items from the library are available year-round at the headquarters building in Bismarck. In addition, the library travels to the site of each annual GRHS Convention.

8) Book reviews of some of the GR-related books can help you decide if a specific book will help your research.

What other information is available to read about Bessarabia?  

 Ongoing projects and new information 

Are there projects in progress to make new research materials available?

Can I help with some of these projects? My German isn’t that good (or I don’t speak/read it at all).

Feedback

  • Any questions not covered in these FAQs can be asked on the Bessarabian RIG Listservwhere there is a vast amount of accumulated knowledge.
  • Any comments or suggestions about these FAQs should be sent to the webmaster team at Bess email graphic.