The Research

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For the purpose of this project, the term “place” refers to an exact physical location where Germans from Russia resided or, in the case of those who lived on farms or in the country, where their post office was located. A place can be a city, town, census-designated place, unincorporated community, historical post office, historical township, historical cemetery and, in some cases, a homestead that doubled as a post office in a rural area.

Because definitions of “first generation” can vary, this project defines the ancestral generations as follows:

    • The immigrant generation are those who immigrated to the United States and were born outside the United States.
      • First generation descendants are the children of the immigrant generation.
        • Second generation descendants are the grandchildren of the immigrant generation.
          • Third generation descendants are the great-grandchildren of the immigrant generation.
            • Fourth generation descendants are the great-great-grandchildren of the immigrant generation.
              • Fifth generation descendants are the great-great-great-grandchildren of the immigrant generation.

The research for this map and the process to compile the data and create the map is comprised of the following broad steps. Because this is a living document, iterations of the steps listed below will be performed as data from new sources becomes available.

  1. Compile a master list of places where immigrant Germans from Russia and their descendants lived.
  2. Identify what data points will be collected for each place.
  3. Identify the major sources to be used for collection of each of the data points.
  4. Research and record the data for each place, adding sources as needed to complete the data.
  5. Create and populate the online map.
  6. Release the map and update the data with feedback from users.

Master List of Places

The list of places for an online map always begins with a paper map. In this case, it was Karl Stumpp’s Map of Russian-German Settlements in the USA and Mexico. Stumpp was well known for his maps of German settlements in Russia. His map was based on another drawn by the Dakota Freie Presse newspaper editor Richard Sallet in 1930, with additional information added from Geroge Rath’s book, The Black Sea Germans in the Dakotas (1977). The Stumpp map has no date, but given that he used Rath’s material, it was probably published in the mid to late 1970s.

It was a good start for a list of places, but I knew it wasn’t complete. I knew because I’m descended from Germans from Russia on both sides of my family (2nd and 3rd generation), and all of the places where my parents and I have lived as an adult are not on the Stumpp map. Why? Much of the research of German-Russian immigration to the United States has been focused on the immigrant and the first and second generation descendants. Stumpp’s and Sallet’s data more or less ends with the 1920 census. That which extends beyond that date, including Rath’s Black Sea specific research, focuses on high concentration areas of Germans from Russia and not the entire United States.

Places listed in German language newspaper indexes, websites and books were used to add to list to flesh out in more detail what the Stumpp map contained. Eventually, a crowdsourced survey of descendants of immigrant Germans from Russia was employed in order to get a fuller picture of five generations of descendants and to capture later immigrant generations who came to America after WWII.

For each place on the map, the first source listed is where the place name was initially found. The name of the place is likely in other sources, but for the scope of this project they are not listed unless they were needed to act as a source for another data point collected (see below).

Data Points Collected

While it would be much easier and faster to simply put a pin on a map using the name of the place as it is today and call it good. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working on the maps for Germans from Russia Settlement Locations is that things change. To think that they would never change in the United States would be a mistake. So the data collected for this map follows in the same vein as the data collected for the map of the German settlements in Russia.

The data points collected fall into five categories: 1) About the Place, 2) German Russian History of the Place, 3) General History of the Place, 4) Current Information about the Place, and 5) Sources. The following data points are collected:

1. About the Place

  • Place Name: This is the name of the place (post office, township, town, city, etc.) where Germans from Russia lived as it was given in the source with the spelling corrected if necessary.
  • Other Names and Spellings: Other names the place went by including alternate spellings and misspellings from sources.
  • Latitude, Longitude: Coordinates are used to position the pin on the place. They are generally located at either the city hall, post office, library or other government building if there is one, always somewhere so that the name of the place shows up on the map. At times, it’s positioned over the name on the map if there are other businesses’ names interfering with showing the name of the place on the map. The official coordinates are generally at the center of the boundaries of the place, and a source for the official coordinates is included for each place. For those places that no longer exist or are considered ghost towns, the coordinates of the historical post offices, townships or cemeteries are identified and used.

2. German-Russian History of the Place

  • Earliest known year of German-Russian habitation: This is the earliest recorded year that Germans from Russia lived in a place.
  • German-Russian Origins: This is the area and place (chutor, colony, village, city, oblast, etc.) in Russia from which the immigrant German from Russia came. If subsequent generations are known, they are also recorded as descendants of the immigrant generation using the immigrant’s origins.

3. General History of the Place

  • Year founded: Settlement by Europeans may occur before official founding or incorporation, so for some cases the earlier date is used. Founding, at least in the West, often came about when a railroad was built through the town and/or a post office was established.
  • County at Time of Founding: This is based on the founding date (see below). Sometimes counties were established prior to a state joining the Union. County lines changed in some states, Larger counties were broken into smaller ones as the population grew, or the vastness of the area proved difficult to manage. This is recorded because some of the letters from the newspaper indexes have the older counties listed on them.
  • State at Time of Founding: This is based on the founding date (see below). Many of the places Germans from Russia settled were in U.S. territories when they were founded and were still territories when Germans from Russia arrived.
  • Country at time of Founding: This is based on the founding date (see below). The United States is a young country. Some of the places where Germans from Russia settled were subjects of other countries at the time of their founding. Does it matter in terms of the history of Germans from Russia? I don’t know. Maybe. In most cases, the history of the place did not begin with the arrival of the Germans. More often that not, they did not initially found the town in which they lived, unlike in Russia where that was the norm.

4. Current Information About the Place

  • Current Name: This is the name of the place today.
  • Current County: This is the name of the county (or parish in Louisiana, or counties/parishes if it spans more than one) where the place is today.
  • Current State: This is the name of the state where the place is today.
  • Current Country: This is the name of the country where the place is today.
  • Cemetery: This is a link of the cemeteries in Find a Grave for the place. For places that do not have cemeteries, the county link is given. A Google Maps link is given for cemeteries that don’t exist in Find a Grave for some reason.
  • Images: Place holder for adding links to historic and current images of the place.
  • Notes: Notes about the founding, incorporation, first post office, railroad, etc.

5. Sources

  • Sources: A list of all the sources that support the information presented for the place on the map


Sources are continually being added as the research progresses. The major sources used so far are those used to create the master list of places along with some general books on Germans from Russia in the United States as well as books for specific areas and specific groups. Most of the websites are used to compile the data points for each place, with several used to determine the German-Russian origins.





American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR). Founded in 1968, AHSGR “is an international, non-profit educational organization engaged in researching the history of all German Russians from all regions of Russia.” Focuses more heavily on the Volga Germans. Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. Some content free. Some information is free. Yearly membership grants more information and discounts on published materials.

Ancestry. The largest for-profit genealogy company in the world. It operates a network of genealogical, historical record and genetic genealogy websites. The company claims to provide access to approximately 10 billion historical records. Because of the number of databases available in once place, this site very useful for tracking down German-Russian origins of places. Subscription site.

Black Sea German Research. This site focuses entirely on Black Sea Germans and surrounding areas including Bessarabia, Dobrudscha, Crimea and others. It is run by a group of volunteers that produces site content, but it also and relies heavily on donated content, in particular GEDCOMs which make up a database of well over 2 million names.

Center for Volga German Studies (CVGS). The mission of the Center for Volga German Studies is “to support research into and preservation of the heritage, history, traditions and accomplishments of the Volga Germans.” It is based at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.

Digital Horizons. This site offers digitized collections related to North Dakota and Minnesota, including many townbooks. Digital Horizons was established in 2007 by a consortium of the following: numerous university archives; state archives; historical societies; public, state and universities libraries; and public broadcasting.

Find a Grave. This web site is a massive collection of online burial information arranged in virtual cemeteries, which reflect burials in actual cemeteries all over the world. The information on the site is created and populated almost entirely by volunteers. It was acquired by Ancestry in 2013, and although information from Find A Grave is indexed on Ancestry, a pay site, Find A Grave itself remains free for anyone to use and contribute to independently of Ancestry.

Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO). This site provides information about Anabaptist congregations all over the world.

GeoHack. This is a simple GIS extension that takes any GPS coordinates and serves up a web page filled with links to various mapping services (some historical) organized by country available for those coordinates.

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection (GRHC). The mission of GRHC is “to collect, document, preserve, exhibit, translate, publish, promote, and make accessible resources on the culture, history, folklore, textiles and clothing, and foodways of the Germans from Russia. Our focus is on Bessarabian, Black Sea, Crimean, Dobrudscha and Volhynian Germans and their descendants in North Dakota and the Northern Plains.” Founded in 1978, GRHC is located at the North Dakota State University Libraries in Fargo, North Dakota.

Germans from Russia Heritage Society (GRHS). “A non-profit, non-denominational, non-political organization,” GRHS’ purpose “is to bring together people who are interested in discovering the common history unique to Germanic-Russian ethnics and to preserve the many elements of their rich heritage.” Focuses more heavily on the Black Sea Germans. GRHS is headquartered in Bismarck, North Dakota. Some content free. Some information is free. Yearly membership grants more information and discounts on published materials.

Google Maps. A web mapping service developed by Google.

Google My Maps. A custom map service that enables you to “keep track of the places that matter to you,” a fitting description of this project.

Odessa Digital Library. A digital document collection of book, records and indexes of microfilms. “Odessa is a digital library dedicated to the cultural and family history of the millions of Germans who emigrated to Russia in the 1800s and their descendants, who are now scattered throughout the world.”

US Hometown Locator. U.S. Gazetteer with current demographic data for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Puerto Rico. Good source for locating historical post offices.

Volga German Institute (VGI). The mission of the Volga German Institute is “to document the cultural manifestations of the German-speaking minority that lived along the Volga River in Russia from 1764 to 1941 and their descendants.” It is based at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Wikipedia. Wikipedia a multilingual online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute content. It is free, has no commercial ads, and is supported entirely by donations. Care is used with this site as content may change and sometimes the sources don't support the content presented.

Record Data for Each Place

This is the shortest description of the process but by far the most amount of work.

For each place on the master list of places (see above), the information for each data point (see above) is added to a spreadsheet using the sources (see above) along with any additional new sources required. Finally, the maps, books, newspapers and websites used to derive the information for each field are listed in the sources field. Unknown fields are left blank and do not appear on the final map.

Create and Populate Map

To be able to present and update this amount of data, location pins are never manually added to maps one at a time. A spreadsheet file specifically created to import data into Google My Maps is kept and used for creation of the maps and for any updates. This allows for easier input and analysis of the data prior to creating or updating a map, and it also enables mass updates to any set of data on a map.

Google has some limitations to its My Maps that need to be accounted for when designing any new map. Of note, there is a limit of 10 layers. Each layer appears in the legend on the left side of the map, and for the purpose of this project, is used for grouping and formatting specific sets of locations. Each layer has a limit of 2000 pins. Each location is a pin. When grouping locations in a layer, care needs to be taken not to exceed the limit, otherwise data will be dropped off the map. Finally, there is a limited number of colors available for pins. And while there are hundreds of different icons that can be used as markers, standard, old-school location icons (pins without dots in the center) are used. This was done to ensure the map is not too busy and difficult to look at for long periods of time.

To divvy up 50 states among 10 layers, a number of different standard regional categories were evaluated. The U.S. Census Bureau designated regions and divisions made the most sense. They were descriptive and fit within the structure of Google My Maps.

U.S. territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are not included in the census regions. For the purpose of this project, Guam was added to the West Region. If research reveals Germans from Russia living in other territories, an additional layer may be added specifically for the territories.

Northeast Region

    • New England Division (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)
    • Mid-Atlantic Division (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania)

Midwest Region

    • East North Central Division (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin)
    • West North Central Division (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota)

South Region

    • South Atlantic Division: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
    • East South Central Division: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee
    • West South Central Division: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas

West Region

    • Mountain Division: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
    • Pacific Division: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington

Release and Update Map

A practice map is used as both a development and staging area to test out the data import and formatting to make sure everything goes in smoothly before pushing the data to the production map for all to see. The beta version of the Germans from Russia Settlement Locations in America was released on June 1, 2019 with a sample set of locations on both the east and west coasts. With the beta release, the map is considered in production.

Updates to the map will be made at least monthly or more often as states are completed. States with denser populations of Germans from Russia may be released before the entire state is complete.

Page last updated July 20, 2019