Friday, August 28, 2015

August 28: the deportation of the Germans of the volga

August 28: the deportation of the Germans of the volga
By Leandro hildt
Eldiaonline. Com

As of 1764, they formed in both margins of the volga river 106 German agricultural colonies. The people who lived there formed the sociocultural compact known as Germans of the volga.
They arrived at that place invited by Catherine II of Russia, called "the great", Who gave them a series of privileges to convince them to move to that place. The main activity of these colonies was agriculture and livestock. They had to spend 100 years of hard work and sacrifice to achieve true well-being and stability. Then, the tsar Alexander ii began to cancel the privileges granted by Catalina. In 1874, he released a manifesto which, among other things, established the compulsory military service that lasted several years and the introduction of the Russian language in schools, which until that time kept the German language. This attempt of russification of the Germans, that they maintained their customs and religion from the beginning, he made that some decided to leave the volga and search for other countries to live.

In 1877, nicolás avellaneda enacted the immigration act in Argentina, and the news came to the Germans of the volga, which began to arrive from the end of 1877 and the beginning of 1878 to found in our country a series Of Villages. In addition to Argentina, also received volga German immigrants the United States, Brazil and Canada; but hundreds of thousands of Germans were in Russia. Those who left the tsarist empire were a very small percentage of all the inhabitants of the area of the volga.

The Russian Empire was abolished in 1922 and formed the union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Some were still trying to get out of Russia until this was no longer possible starting in 1929 by a decree of Joseph Stalin. More than a million Germans were in the Soviet Union. Under Communism, the villages of the volga Germans came to form first an autonomous region, and on 6 January 1924 was constituted the autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Germans of the volga. Its capital was pokrovsk that in 1931, adopted the name engels. This Republic lasted until 28 August 1941, the year in which it was liquidated by another decree of Stalin. The Germans of the volga were falsely accused of being spies and collaborators of Hitler. A third of the Germans of Russia was shot and all the others were deported en masse to Siberia, Kazakhstan and Alma-ata on the border with China. They took all the civil rights.

The day following the publication of the ill-fated decree, all the families of all the villages were informed that they had to leave their animals, houses and belongings because they would be deported on the following hours. Some had no more than 20 minutes to prepare. In a short time, soldiers came in cars to load to people and take them to the train station, from where they would be sent. Those who were able, had prepared luggage with clothes, food and things that they considered necessary, but to those who had a lot of luggage the soldiers are removed and tossed. The elderly and children could be sitting in the cars, the rest I was walking. Some survivors say that in the villages where they took more heading could see the suffering of the cows with the udders full of milk, without which no one could be milked, because they were guarded by the soldiers who were not allowed to do anything. Those who had time, took advantage of for baking bread for the trip. When they arrived at the station, they were sitting on the floor, some in the open, huddled and surrounded by the soldiers. When the train came, they saw that they were wagons for the transport of animals. They all had to come up. They made him crying and complaining about the abuse

The journey of the horror

The trip was terrible, cold, dirty, in some cases lasted up to two months. Many died for diseases or frozen by the brutal cold. The Deceased persons remained in the wagons or simply were thrown by the tracks. When they arrived to their new destinations, there were cars waiting to take them to their final destination. Many were some days in the open, no nothin ' to be protected from the wind, the rain, snow and the cold. The men and young men were mobilized for the army of work, a form of forced labour with strict military control, high demands and hard as hell punishments. Women and teenage girls they'd be felling trees and the aserraban in the woods, that the boys younger drew with horses. Older women and children wove networks for fishing. All the work is hindered by a high layer of snow of up to 1,20 M, the cold, the wind and hunger. The food that they received was barely 400 g of bread and salted fish. The one that was 10 years old or more and didn't work, it did not receive the bread. All the work was guarded by soldiers who did meet to force of screams and blows. In a few months, half of the Germans died. As the earth was frozen up to a meter deep, people don't have the strength to bury their dead and just the covered it with snow. Frequently came the dogs, carve the snow and he ate the bodies. The banished and prisoners were living in barracks that they themselves had to build or in caves where they died frozen. The Barracks were very precarious and not protected from the rain. All the time the floor was a mud. The temperatures reach 40 degrees below zero.

This was the tragic situation of the Germans of the volga that did not have the luck out of Russia in time. They spent a lot of things more, so terrible and even worse than the deportation. It's hard to say how many died under those circumstances. Were thousands and thousands. In spite of this massacre of thousands of Germans, Russia couldn't make disappear completely to the Germans of the volga. Some survived, and their descendants who we are, we have preserved with pride their culture, their language and their ethnic identity. Every 28 th of August we recall with sadness to all the Germans who died of the volga unfairly because of the dictator Joseph Stalin.
Once dead the dictator absolute and initiated a process of de-stalinization, in 1964, the Soviet government recognized that the Germans from Russia had not been saboteurs, but the damage was already done. In addition, there were impediments to return to the villages of the volga, meanwhile occupied by Russian, and the Germans were never compensated for their losses and suffering. The USSR NEVER PAID compensation to the victims and their families by cutting out the life, health, property, the honor and his identity.

The text of the decree of Stalin
" the disposal of the president of the supreme Soviet of the union of the Soviet Republics on the transfer of the Germans who inhabit the territory of the volga. According to accurate references received by the military forces, we take knowledge that thousands of subversives and spies are among the inhabitants of the territory of the volga waiting for a sign from Germany to provoke terrorist acts in the region occupied by the Germans. Any German who inhabit the area informed the Soviet authorities on the existence between them of such a huge amount of subversives and spies. Thus the German population of the territory of the volga hides the presence of enemies of the Soviet people and of Soviet power. In the case of that by orders of Germany's disturbing and spies to carry out terrorist acts, both in the republic of the Germans of the volga as in neighbouring regions, the Soviet government in accordance with the laws of the time of war, will be forced to suppress All the Germans of the volga. Preventing unwanted these expressions, and not to shed blood in vain, the chair of the supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, decided to the need to move to all the German settlers living in the territory of the volga. Therefore expatriates will receive land and state aid to be established in the new region. For this settlement were allocated the fertile land of novosibirsk and Omsk Altai District, Kazakhstan and other places neighbors. Unanimously with these measures are proposed to the state committee for the defence territorial, perform immediately the transfer of all Germans of the volga and provide high-land and useful of work for his new and safe place.

The President of the supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, m. Kalinin
The Secretary of the supreme Soviet, a. Gorkin
Moscow, Kremlin, 28 August 1941 "
Julius Caesar Melchior.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Interviewing Realatives

Getting people to share their stories isn't always easy. Follow these step-by-step ideas for a successful family history interview!

Interviews are best done in person but can be done on the phone or via Skype.

Here's How:
  1. Schedule a time in advance. This gives everyone a chance to prepare.
  2. Prepare a list of questions beforehand and either share them with your relative, or give them an idea of what you want to cover.
  3. Bring several notepads and pens to the interview. If you plan to make a recording, be sure to have a tape player, microphone, extra tapes and batteries.  Be sure you get permission for any taping you do.

  4. Take good notes and make sure you record your name, the date, the place the interview is being conducted and the interviewee.
  5. Start with a question or topic that you know will elicit a reply, such as a story you have heard her tell in the past.
  6. Ask questions which encourage more than simple 'yes' or 'no' answers. Try to elicit facts, feelings, stories and descriptions.
  7. Show interest. Take an active part in the dialogue without dominating it. Learn to be a creative listener.
  8. Use props whenever possible. Old photographs, favorite old songs and treasured items may bring memories flooding back.
  9. Don't push for answers. Your relative may not wish to speak ill of the dead or may have other reasons for not wanting to share. Move on to something else.
  10. Use your prepared questions as a guideline, but don't be afraid to let your relative go off on a tangent. They may have many things to say that you never thought to ask!
  11. Don't interrupt or attempt to correct your relative; this can end an interview in a hurry!
  12. When you are done, be sure to thank your relative for her time.

  13. Tips:
    1. Put your relative at ease by telling them that they will have a chance to see and approve of anything that you write before you share it with others.
    2. Keep the interview length to no more than 1-2 hours at a stretch. It's tiring for you and for the person being interviewed. This is supposed to be fun!
    3. Consider preparing a transcript or written report as a tangible thank you to your relative for her participation.
Adapted from:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Mighty Girl

Please Note:  You never know if you have German  or Slavic Heritage, it could contain Eastern Jewish.  The Low German spoken by many of our relatives is very close to Yiddish.  REBENSDORF COUSINS:  One of the women who married one of our REBENSDORF Grandfathers was SOMMER.  SHAVLIK COUSINS:  Alice grew up in Moravia as did Apolina KRSKA mother of Stephen James SHAVLIK

To mark the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Week, we're sharing the incredible true story of Alice Herz-Sommer, who was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor and pianist until she passed away in London last year at the age of 110. Her story is told in the recent documentary, "The Lady in Number 6," which won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. As the film's producer, Nicholas Reed, writes: “Kids all over the world grow up on superheroes. What we, their parents, must remind them, is documentaries tell stories about ‘real superheroes.' Superheroes are based on great people, real people, like Alice Herz Sommer.”
Born in Prague in 1903, Herz-Sommer pursued a career as a classical musician until the Nazis prohibited Jews from performing in public. She then remained in Prague caring for her ailing mother, who was arrested and killed at the Treblinka extermination camp in 1942. The following year, Herz-Sommer was sent with her husband and 6-year-old son to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Theresienstadt was an unusual camp in that, although tens of thousands of people died there and many more were transported from there to extermination camps, it was also designated by the Nazis as a model camp for propaganda purposes. Many prominent Jewish artists and intellectuals were imprisoned there and permitted to maintain a cultural life. The Nazis would make films about life in the camp and, late in the war, allowed International Red Cross representatives to tour it in an effort to create the false impression that Jews were being treated humanely at their camps.
During her two years at the camp, Herz-Sommer played in more than 100 concerts. As she recounted in an interview, "Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come [to hear us], they would have died long before. As we would have.”
In September 1944, her husband, Leopold, was sent to Auschwitz and later to Dachau where he died of illness. In May 1945, Herz-Sommer and her son were freed when the Soviet army liberated Theresienstadt. She later moved to Israel and worked as a professor of music at the Jerusalem Academy of Music for nearly 40 years until she emigrated to London in 1986 to be near her son.
Through it all, Herz-Sommer was known for her remarkably positive outlook on life. Toward the end of her life, she observed: "I think I am in my last days but it does not really matter because I have had such a beautiful life. And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love."
To learn more about Herz-Sommer's inspiring story, two books for adult readers were recently published about her life: "A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor"  and "Alice's Piano: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer".
You can watch an excerpt of the Oscar-winning documentary, "The Lady in Number 6," at  or stream the entire documentary on Vimeo.
There is also a book for ages 9 to 13 about the children of the Terezin-Theresienstadt camp and the art they created there under the direction of Austrian artist Frederika "Friedl" Dicker-Brandeis.
Hana's Suitcase" also tells the story of a young girl who took part in Theresienstadt art programs for ages 9 to 12,

Adapted from post and picture at A MIGHTY GIRL facebook page.  Our publishing this article does not mean we endorse this sight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Welsh Miner Cakes

Let's celebrate our Welsh Heritage today!  I first tried these marvelous little cakes years ago at the Nebraska State Fair and have wanted to make them ever since.  So, when a friend said she'd come to tea I knew what I wanted to make!  Watch out these little gems are addictive!

I found several sights on the internet that shared the hardships of working in the mines during the 19th century life in the small country of Wales, that is situated on the coastal edge of England, where there are more castles per square mile than any other country in the world.

Mining was the major source of income during much of the history of Wales from 78 AD when the Romans moved in to current times.  Coal has been the major export over time but other metals including lead, tin, copper and even gold has been mined in the small country of Wales. Mine owners were often cruel taskmasters as expressed in the book and subsequent movie, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, 20th Century Fox, 1941.  The miners spent many hours in the mines without coming out so their lunches and snacks not only had to be sent down in the mines with them but they had to be kept safe to eat.  Welsh Cakes or Welsh Miner Cakes could be carried down into the mines in the men's pockets and retrieved when nourishment was needed.

Welsh Miner Cakes
This recipe adapted from

... to cook them welsh cakes are also known as bakestones or griddle cakes
Pichture from 
2 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour and 1 teaspoon Glucomann or Psylum Seed Powder- if you don't have either of these use xanthan gum)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (I used Pumpkin Pie Spice)
1 stick of butter, melted
1/3 cup whisked eggs and 1 tablespoon milk
1/3 cup currants

  1. Preheat your cast iron skillet or griddle to med-low heat.  Make sure it's throughly heated.  If it is not properly seasoned brush with oil.
  2. Mix all the ingredients.  It should have the consistancy of a cookie dough.  Roll into balls.
  3. Flatten out on a floured surface (use the bottom end of a glass).  Transfer to pan and cook for 3-4 minutes (watch that they don't get to brown).  Flip and cook other side for the same time.  If you temp is not low enough these won't cook in the middle.

Welsh Cookies
This recipe makes a lovely cookie but probably would have never stood up to the miners pockets.

1 1/2 cups flour (substitute GF if needed-add 1/4 teaspoon Glucomman or  ground psylum seed and 1/2 teaspoon xanthan Gum  if using GF Flour)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup lard (don't substitute)
dash Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
Milk if needed
1/4 cup currants

  1. Cream Butter, Lard and Sugar until light and fluffy, beat in egg, nutmeg, lemon zest and vanilla until completely combined.
  2. Whisk the flour, salt, soda and baking powder together until well combined.
  3. Add the wet and dry ingredients together and work in the currants.  Dough will be stiff enough to roll into balls but be gentle, don't over work.  If the dough seems to stiff a bit of milk can be added.
  4. Shape the dough into a flattened ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours, up to over night.
  5. Preheat your cast iron skillet on med-low.  If it is properly seasoned won't have to brush with oil.
  6. Roll out on slightly floured surface or between two pieces of wax paper, to about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with biscuit cutter.
  7. Fry for approximately 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  8. Can be eaten plain as a cookie, served with butter, curd or even fresh diced fruit and whipped cream.

Picture and recipe above were adapted from the following web site:

Don't stop with just munching on these little delights (although I don't know how you can stop).  You can make delish deserts from these little gems like the one below:

Welsh Cake, with cream and berries

Monday, April 13, 2015

Do Over or Beginning Genealogy: Interview Yourself First

You and your spouse could even tape (video or audio) yourselves answering the interview questions. At any rate PLEASE do this interview of yourself. DO IT NOW! Don't wait until you are 'old' (whatever that is) because you can always add to your story, but if you've never told your story and something happens that your story cannot be told, then your story is gone! 

  1. What is your full name? Why did your parents select this name for you? Did you have a nickname?
  2. When and where were you born?
  3. How did your family come to live there?
  4. Were there other family members in the area? Who?
  5. What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?
  6. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
  7. What is your earliest childhood memory?
  8. Describe the personalities of your family members.
  9. What kind of games did you play growing up?
  10. What was your favorite toy and why?
  11. What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?
  12. Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?
  13. Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?
  14. What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?
  15. What school activities and sports did you participate in?
  16. Do you remember any fads from your youth? Popular hairstyles? Clothes?
  17. Who were your childhood heroes?
  18. What were your favorite songs and music?
  19. Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?
  20. What was your religion growing up? What church, if any, did you attend?
  21. Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?
  22. Who were your friends when you were growing up?
  23. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
  24. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
  25. How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?
  26. How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?
  27. Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?
  28. What do you know about your family surname?
  29. Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?
  30. What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?
  31. Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?
  32. Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?
  33. Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?
  34. Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?
  35. What was the full name of your spouse? Siblings? Parents?
  36. When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?
  37. What was it like when you proposed (or were proposed to)? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?
  38. Where and when did you get married?
  39. What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?
  40. How would you describe your spouse? What do (did) you admire most about them?
  41. What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?
  42. How did you find out your were going to be a parent for the first time?
  43. Why did you choose your children's names?
  44. What was your proudest moment as a parent?
  45. What did your family enjoy doing together?
  46. What was your profession and how did you choose it?
  47. If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn't it your first choice?
  48. Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?
  49. What accomplishments were you the most proud of?
  50. What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Famous Bean Soup

Grüne Schauble Suppe
Joyce Hofer’s green bean soup recipe is adapted from the Schmeckfest recipe that feeds 1,000 guests and 250 workers on each of the festival’s four nights.
ham bone (optional)
1/2 gallon water
1/2 lb. smoked ham
2 1/2 to 3 cups potatoes
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 or 4 sprigs summer savory
1/2 cup finely diced or ground carrots
2 cans string beans (16 oz. total) or 1 pound fresh
2 tablespoons sour cream
Cook smoked ham bone or smoked ham in water until tender. The last half hour before serving, add potatoes (cut in 1/2-inch cubes), carrots, onions and summer savory, using a tea strainer hung over the edge of the pot. When the vegetables are tender, add beans, including the juice, and sour cream. May substitute 1 pound of fresh-cut green beans and cream or butter for sour cream. Hofer says the soup is best when allowed to simmer at least an hour, but it can be eaten when completely heated.
Editor’s Note: This story is revised from the March/April 2014 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.  GREEN BEAN SOUP is famous among the German's From Russia Immigrants.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Do Over Time! WEEK ONE

It's time to take a serious look at my Genealogy Files, Families and Fix what is broken in each one


This is a HUGE topic in the Genealogical Community.  You may have remnants of these lineages in your family trees, especially if you've copied information from others on websites like  Please take the time to read an article on this subject by clicking the "Fraudulent Lineages" link above.  This is serious.  You don't want to leave this as a legacy for your children's children.  I know I don't.  I'm sure some of my information comes from errors like these and I've made this mistake.


That's why I'm doing a Genealogical Do-Over!  Click the above "Do-Over"  link to find the Facebook Page.  You can also go to:

This week I plan to do the following:

1.  Filed all my loose papers away.  Keep out only the vital statistics records, cemetery records and solid concrete evidence of my ancestors life.  I'll order some vital statistic records that I don't have.

2.  I've obtained a copy of a "Digital Assets Codicil".  This will be attached to the wills that my husband and I are creating.  I asked my two Biological Sons who would like to receive these files and work and my oldest son jumped at the chance.

3.  Creating a list of people I plan to 'Do-Over' the rest of the year, choosing the people on my list for Do-Over for April-June (Harvey, August & August GESCH and Marie, Gottlieb and Gottfried REBENSDORF) and making a list of hard evidence that is needed for each one.  Getting their NOTEBOOKS ready to receive documents. (NOTE: July- the end of the year will be SLOCUM/CUNNINGHAM lines)

4.  Downloaded FAMILY TREE MAKER on my computer.  I'm still deciding whether I want to stay with this and may choose LEGACY instead.

5.  Ordering several books to study for skills needed.

6.  Preparing documents for:  To-Do list, Schedule, Proof Sources List for each ancestor, noting all places I looked even it is did not result in information.  "FREE FORMS"

7.  Prepared my work space by clearing off clutter.

8.  Read the "GOLDEN RULES" of Genealogical Research

9.  Learn Excel QUICK

10.  Learn how to scan photos and documents with my printer and phone and transfer them to my computer.  (technologically challenged here)

This is a site that give you a treasure chest of free forms, and other Genealogy Tools.

Now, once I get this all done I'll be ready for the next step.....................WEEK TWO of THIRTEEN

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Otoe County Genealogical Society


IMG 7540-001aOtoe County, Nebraska is rich in history and tradition, and was one of the first counties established in the Nebraska Territory.   It hosts several prominent landmarks and famous personalities in Nebraska history, to include Arbor Lodge and J. Sterling Morton of the Nebraska City area. The Otoe County Courthouse is the oldest public building in Nebraska.  It was erected 1864.  Our society is dedicated to ensuring that our Otoe County heritage is remembered, our communities are preserved, and our ancestors are acknowledged for the sacrifices they made to become an important part of the Great State of Nebraska.

"The man who feels no sentiment of veneration for the memory of his forefathers; who has no natural regard for his ancestors of his kindred; is himself unworthy of kindred regard or remembrance." Daniel Webster

To join or find out more information on the activities of the Otoe County Genealogical society go Here:
Information by Otoe County Genealogical Society and Picture by Mary E. Hanke

Monday, March 16, 2015

German Rye Bread

German Rye Bread

3 cups rye flour
1 package dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
6 cups white flour
Combine 3 cups rye flour and 1 package dry yeast with enough warm water to make a smooth paste. Cover with a tea towel and let stand overnight. In the morning, add 1 teaspoon of salt and 6 cups of white flour (a little at a time, add more if needed so dough is not sticky). Knead dough real good and grease around pan and dough and let it stand until it rises double in size. Cut and put into greased bread pans. Let rise 1 hour or until dough rises higher than pan. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cover with towel after baking.

Submitted by Margaret Rekart
This is the recipe used for the bread served at the German Sausage Demonstration during the 2014 AHSGR Convention in Lincoln, NE.

From the Lincoln Nebraska Germans From Russia web site

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Workshop by Lincoln/Lancaster County Genealogical Society

Tools and Techniques -A Spring Genealogy Workshop
Saturday, March 28
Tools and Techniques -A Spring Genealogy Workshop  (Genealogy Workshop)
8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Home Economics Building UNL East Campus


The purpose of this workshop is to:
  • encourage people to advance their genealogical research
  • provide the latest research tools & techniques available
  • promote the exchange of ideas in a professional environment/
The workshop will be in the Home Economics Building on UNL East Campus during UNL Spring Break thus allowing easy parking and access to several classrooms including a large auditorium with desks as well as the use of two computer labs.  Lunch is included in the registration.  Presenters are Nebraska area experienced and professional genealogists who will share their expertise.  Twenty different sessions will be available and printed syllabi with all handouts provided.  Stay tuned for updates and think about people to invite to attend.

CLICK HERE for Workshop information and how to sign up!

CLICK HERE for Workshop Details

Text and graphics from:
Go to the above Lincoln to find out about meetings and classes sponsored by Lincoln Lancaster County Genealogical Society

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

German American Midwives

In 1930 my father, Harvey Gesch, was born at home and was probably delivered by one of these midwives. 
Nebraska State Historical Society

 Nebraska History
  Winter 2013 Issue Excerpts

Grandma Gable opening layout
“Grandma Gable, she brought Ralph”: Midwifery and the Lincoln, Nebraska, Department of Health in the Early Twentieth Century Rebecca J. Anderson

Eight midwives gathered at Lincoln’s North Side Neighborhood House on a cool and rainy July afternoon in 1915 to meet with Dr. Chauncey Chapman, the Lincoln Department of Health’s newly appointed superintendent. Chapman had officially begun his duties just the day before and one of the first items on his agenda was the organization of the midwives. Earlier in his career, Chapman had worked with Chicago’s health department, which had been regulating and supervising midwives since 1896. Chapman hoped that the Lincoln midwives would voluntarily agree to a similar arrangement. At the time that he called the midwives together, he was aware of nine midwives who had attended one-sixth of all the births registered in Lincoln the previous year. Unfortunately, Dr. Chapman was unaware until shortly before the meeting that most of the midwives could not understand English. So while they were all gathered together, visiting nurse Catherine Wollgast, whose parents had brought her to the United States from Germany as a young child, did her best to translate Chapman’s message.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Irish Stew

Irish Stew

serves 2-3

2 teaspoons Coconut or Olive oil or just use butter
1/2 pound lamb shoulder steak cut into bite size pieces (can use beef)
1/2 pound diced potatoes
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup leeks, finely sliced (my little store did not have leeks so I got scallions (green onions) and used them instead)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 teaspoon each, thyme, marjoram, rosemary
1 small bay leaf

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a frying pan heat half the oil to hot but not smoking. Add half the lamb pieces and brown all over. Remove the lamb and place in a casserole, cover with a half of the potatoes, onions, leeks and carrots.
  2. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan, heat again then add the remaining lamb and brown all over. Add to the casserole and cover with the remaining vegetables
  3. Add the stock, cover with a tight fitting lid, cook in the oven for 1 hour. Add the cabbage  replace the lid and cook for another hour. Check from time to time to make sure the stock isn't reducing too much, if it is add a little boiling water. The meat and vegetables should always be covered by liquid. If the sauce is too runny at the end, cook a little longer with the lid removed. Season with salt and pepper
 This recipe would be great cooked in a slow cooker.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nebraska Genealogy Page

Photograph of Chimney Rock

Nebraska Genealogy
Nebraska was once considered a part of the Great American Desert until the pioneers, hunters and homesteaders came west. Today, Nebraska is the leading farming and ranching state due to the greater vision of those thousands of men and women who treaded its soil to change their future.  (text from and photo from

This page now has links on where to find information on Nebraska Genealogy.  This page is a work in progress.

See Link above

Monday, January 26, 2015

Because She Loved Me

Palpsdorf Germany

The woman who made me feel the most loved in my young life was my paternal grandmother.  Being a German Immigrant from Russia she had several names.  She was born Maria Elizabeth Rebensdorf to her  parents Johanne Gottlieb Rebensdorf and Katherine Elizabeth Litt both from Dinkle, Russia but of German descent.

They came to live in Russia because Maria's 3rd great-grandfather, Frederick Rebensdorf,  lived in what is now Palpsdorf, Holstein, Germany. At the time, however,  the area was actually under Dutch rule.  Discouraged by Religious intolerance,  the continued warfare in central Europe, as well as dark economic conditions, Frederick took the Russian Czarista and German Princess Catherine the Great's offer of land and annual spipens to move to Russia.  Catherine's idea was that the German farmers would bring  progressive ideas to Russia and growth.  In addition to the land and stipens, Catherine the Great promised the Germans would be free from military service and most taxes.

In 1766,  my 4th great-grandfather, Friedrick Rebensdorf, age 25, and his young wife Anna Magdalina Schultz, age 21,  began the nine to eleven month journey to Dinkle, Russia and are listed as among the earliest settlers to the Volga Region of Russia having established the village 12 May 1767.  Now in the late 1880's, when Grandma was born, the Stipens had never been as much as were promised and now were no longer in existence, the land was poor,  eventually they were taxed, and now young men were forced in to the Russian Army, usually for life.  

Though life in the old country was seldom spoken of because of the hardships they endured,
Grandma told me of how the farmers lived in the village and farmed days out on the land.  She reminisced of how sometimes they spent days out on the farm land and the family would live in a 'dug-out'.  She made a game of jumping off the front of the dug-out roof to the ground 10 feet below.  Her home, she said, looked like a  picture that hung in her basement living quarters in the North Russian bottom of Lincoln,  Nebraska.  That  picture now hangs in my living room so that I can remember her often.

Grandma's Doll, Susie
By 1910 Johanne Gottlieb Rebensdorb knew the safest thing to do was to take his family to America and Lincoln, Nebraska in particular, following a son, George, and his family who had come to America the year before.   So, at age 51 Gottlieb purchased passage for himself,  his wife Katherine, and children Maria Elizabeth, 22 (my grandmother), Maria Katherine, Kathla Elizabeth and Peter and  they came to Lincoln, Nebraska.  They were sponsored by Gotliebb's cousin, Gottford.  It should be noted,  however,  that both Gottlieb and My grandmother planned an early  return to Russia.  Gottlieb did  not want to leave his land unattended and Grandma had a beau  she wanted to go home to.  Shortly after their arrival in the new land they learned that the land was confiscated and many of the young men were sent to Siberia.  The chance of return was gone.  My grandmother quickly fell in love with and married Henrich Debus.  They started a family.  They  had four boys when he died and she was left to care for these boys alone.  Work was easy  to find  for someone who was as hard a worker as my grandmother.  She maintained two small  homes on Clairmont Street in Lincoln for her
My Grandfather, August Gesch, JR
large family for she soon met August Gesch from Berlin, Germany and they were married.  They also had  four  boys before he fell ill with heart disease, was bed ridden and then died.  Grandma always told me that she wished she would have had a daughter, if she would have had a daughter,  would have named her Susie.  So the doll that one of the boys brought home from Germany during  the World War,  sat in a yellow silk dress, draped in pearls, in a child's rocking chair in Grandma's bedroom, she called her Susie.

Russian recipes - vareniki
Grandma spent a lot of time with my family, in our home, her home, on vacation to California to see her son, my Uncle, and weekend hunting trips or Sunday drives. If you visited on a Saturday you were sure to find Cadoval Vereniki, Runzas,  Roast Chicken or Fried Fresh German Wurst bought from Riefsnieders Grocery a few blocks away.  Plus, if Grandma knew I was coming she would make a Cherry Pie, my favorite. 

 My father, Harvey was her youngest son and my  younger brother and I her youngest grandchildren.
Marie Gesch and Son Harvey
Harvey was my father.
 Because I was raised in a time when children were to be seen and not heard I listened a lot to the conversations of the adults spoken in English and German,  I looked at the picture that reminded Grandma of her homeland and imagined what it would be like if I were to live there. I spent countless hours trying to find four-leaf clovers in the grass at my grandmothers, often bare feet as the adults enjoyed their conversations.  I also sat  for  hours near her,  playing in the drawers of her treadle sewing machine as she sewed steadily along.  

I would often spend the night in grandmother's feather bed and days helping her water her Lily of the Valleys,   ferns,   her garden and  peach
tree.  When I was in my early teens instead of taking the bus home, I would walk two miles  to my grandmothers home after school where we  would sit and talk or she would teach  me to cook ethnic foods from the old country.  Then I would walk another 2 miles the rest of the way  home before supper or my Dad would pick me up on his way home from work.

 In High School I took a German Class.  I was so excited to get to Grandma's house and show her what I had learned.  Sadly, she could  not understand  the High German I was being  taught. She, my dad and the rest of her family  spoke a dialect of Low German only spoken in the Saxon area of Germany/Denmark where the family had originated.  My only  reason for taking the class was to be able to join in their conversations,  so since the class had no real value for me,  I quickly dropped it.

My grandmother,  folks called her Marie,  was a hard worker and kept her home neat and tidy.  She worked at the old University Club,  an upscale, private, downtown Lincoln Club,  first as a waitress but retired as the head of banqueting. She sometimes could be found scrubbing  her front porch or washing the sidewalk or even the street in front of her home.

One thing I never heard from my grandmother was a harsh word towards me except when she would tell  me to eat  more because I was to skinny in her broken English.  I always knew that I was loved. The best thing I remember is her old German Bible that sat on the table in her living room with the appearance of being  well  read.  My grandmother died not long after I graduated high school and I was devastated.  Her death certificate called her Mary Elizabeth Gesch,  I called her Grandma.