Saturday, February 15, 2014

How do Origins in Russia define us? Colonia Baron and San Jose, La Pampa, Argentina

San Jose Church
As many of you know, I visited Argentina last November.  When we traveled to the German from Russia villages in La Pampa, Dr. Elio Krank and his lovely wife, Roxana Appelhanz, were our hosts and guides.  They shared their heritage and opened their home in Colonia Baron to us. Dr. Krank spoke German and Spanish, and Roxana spoke both of those languages plus English. Needless to say, if you have heard my sporadic German or Spanish, despite all of my pre-planning with Pimsleur language program, I was grateful for their patience and understanding of my poor attempts at Spanish. 

La Pampa was settled by many Black Sea and Volga Germans from Russia. Part of every research trip includes a visit to the local cemetery.  One of my favorites was the cemetery at San Jose.
San Jose Cemetery
As a life member of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia and the German Russian Heritage society, I understand the differences between Black Sea and Volga. Depending on perspective,  there can be some major gulfs and some true bonding between these groups who immigrated to Russia. The Volga Germans responded to Catherine the Great’s Manifesto II over 250 years ago.  The Black Sea Germans responded to Alexander II re-issue of the manifesto in 1803. That is the first difference but not the last.

When I entered the cemetery, Dr. Krank explained that the Volga Germans were buried on the left and the Black Sea settlers were buried on the right.  I am familiar with Catholics and  Lutherans being buried in separate cemeteries.  It was a first for me to see one cemetery with a walkway down the center, and family lots split by origin in Russia.

Volga Germans buried on the left, Black sea Germans on the right.

Head stone for Cristina Hollmann geb. Sauer   Gebohren in Jahr 1879 bei vollmer, Russland

While I learned much during my time with the Kranks, I look forward to reading Dr. Krank's book Colonia San José, El Atrio del Paraíso. Written in Spanish, it is my next step to working toward fluency in the language. Estudio mucho, pero apendir un poco. Maybe I can change that.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Volga Aid Reunion 1960

When I glanced at the article “Family Aid Society of North Milwaukee of the Volga Deutsche Bund,” in the Spring 2013 AHSGR Journal, little did I realize how many memories would be resurrected.

The article was written by Wilhelm G. Doos and Marie L. Korth, members of the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of AHSGR.   These two have made it their mission to document and research the Family Aid Society which they have so far traced to Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Chicago, and perhaps one in Michigan.
I was intrigued with their research.  When I heard Brent Mai’s presentation on the Volga Relief, I knew the association in which my grandmother was involved had to be something different.  The Volga Aid Relief Group provided food and clothing to Germans starving in Russia. On the other hand, the Family Aid Society was a means for providing support for women and children in communities in the United States “who found themselves suddenly widowed and without any financial assistance” (pg. 10).  The society collected dues and distributed to those who needed it most. 

Doos and Korth share the history of the Germans from Russia who settled in North Milwaukee.  They have unearthed society records, and determined that it was more than a financial group.  It became part of the social center with picnics, dances, and dinners.  I was most intrigued with the establishment of a Women’s Auxiliary.  On page 13, they explain that a “similar society was formed in Sheboygan and was called the Volga Ladies Aid society.”

As I read the article, I realized that my grandmother, Clementine Herrmann Dalhaimer Bauer, had ties to the organization.  First, I checked my grandmother’s obituary which was printed in The Sheboygan Press. It states:
She was a member of Holy Name Church, the Christian Mothers Society, the Third Order of St. Francis; St. Luke the Evangelist Unit of the Good Samaritan Guild, Gold Star Mothers, Volga Ladies Aid Society and an honorary member of the Snafu Club.

To be honest, I have not read my grandmother’s death notice thoroughly in years. I vaguely recall hearing the term Guild or Ladies Guild.  I have no idea what the Third Order and Gold Star Mothers represent, but I certainly recognize the Volga Ladies Aid Society. Could these other groups be sub-groups or specific designations members earned? More questions mean more research.

I looked for additional clues to get a better understanding of the group. I quickly remembered two items that tied to the group and raised more questions for me to solve.

First, I always remember our family displaying a small trophy award which my father brought home, presumably in 1960. I was only three years old so I simply remember it as a decoration in house for years. I knew it was tied to an organization my grandmother strongly supported. Above is a picture of the trophy. Written across the front of it is “Volga Aid Reunion May 1960.” As I child I thought it was tied to one of the many softball tournaments I attended.  I associated trophies with softball because that is where I saw the winning team receive them.  I know the trophy was important to my dad.

I searched the archives of The Sheboygan Press and googled the term to no avail.  Next, I emailed my sister and a few relatives to try to capture their memories.  Sonny Krause remembered that the Volga Aids were a baseball team.  He googled “Volga Aids baseball” and came up with better answers than I did. Two sites offered insight into the event.

·         This site shows an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel on May 8, 1960. It describes that the Volga Aids were having at reunion and were sponsors of many athletic teams. Retrieved June 2, 2013 from,4405311,4405311
·         The other site displays a great photo of 8th Street in downtown Sheboygan and explains that the Volga Aids were a “baseball team sponsored by the Volga Aid Society and was formed as a way to give the young German-Russian men something to do to stay out of trouble.” Retrieved June 2, 2013 from

Both of these sites add explanation and significance to the reunion event.

Second, when I see the words Volga Aid Society, I see my grandmother and “her lady friends” in the living room of her house on St. Clair Avenue. Every Wednesday the group met and sewed a quilt for the cause.  A huge table filled the entire living room and approximately twenty women sat around it, needle in hand, sewing together the material and batting amidst constant conversation.  Perhaps society members in need received these quilts, or perhaps they are treasured memories of the ladies’ children and grandchildren...much like the ones my sisters and I received after months and months of waiting.  My quilt is purple and is certainly one of a kind. 

While the article has provided answers about the society to which my grandmother was so committed, it has also encouraged me to continue to ask questions of the few people I know who could remember this society.  A genealogist’s work is never done.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

I have been so fortunate over the last few months to connect with distant cousins I didn't know existed.  Our common ancestry has been verified and it has brought  me great joy.

I continue to explore the missing years, and see pictures of cousins my mother and father did not know they had. They had hoped that aunts, uncles and cousins had survived but did not live long enough to see me make these new connections. I believe we are blessed to know the survivors want to build bridges across the continents. .

As I continue to investigate, research and document my findings, there is one thing of which I am certain.. Gratitude.  Gratitude for having found lost relatives, for my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents and all they did to keep our legacy alive. Thank you for your service, your love and your perseverance so that this new generation can continue to learn from each other..

Since I don't have the space to honor all, I hope these few photographs let them know how much I appreciate their lives.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Let There Be Peace on Earth

The last month and a half have been filled with non-stop planning.  From wedding and Christmas plans, to creating gifts,  putting final touches on a book, I have spent a lot of time away from my laptop.  I also prepared for two holiday parties, one of which I was the guest speaker.  Needless to say it’s been a busy time, and I know, no matter what you have been doing, it’s been a busy time for you, too.

Yesterday blew a hole into all of these tidy little plans. It was an exceptionally sad day both in Connecticut and in my town.  Everyone is stunned.  Everyone asks the age old questions.  How could this happen?  Why did this happen?  We seek answers in the world around us, but walk away empty handed with more questions in mind. During these times, I turn deep inside myself where the inner struggle leads to more questions. Thank goodness for sleep to still the brain.

I awoke this morning with the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” playing on repeat in my mind.  I particularly like the Vince Gill version so I heard it sung in his voice. As it plays over and over in mind, I imagine going into a room, closing my eyes and listening to the song over and over again.  Whenever the words of:  

"With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment 
and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth 
And let it begin with me."

A surge of power comes over me of how we can change the world, our individual world, with every step we take, every act, every word, and every kind thought. We can change it with everyone around us and let it ripple out across our town, our county, our state, our country and eventually around the globe. We are it. We can change the world. From our small vantage point, we can with every step and every act, be the peace we want to see in the world.

This is my hope and dream for us. To take the devastation of yesterday and turn our world peacefully around. Let greed, fear and horror dissipate when the new peace we create day by day and person by person overtakes us all.  This means no quibbling about how Auntie makes the dessert. No backstabbing a co-worker, no casting blame on others. We need to aspire to this way of life so no person in the world ever feels the need to act that way again. Not an easy task, but if we can live this thought and act this way together we can make the world change.  What better legacy could we leave behind?

Monday, October 29, 2012

'Tis the Season

You may think it is the week of Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Saints and All Souls Day, but you are wrong.  Those days will happen next week, but more than a daily celebration is at hand.

 It is the beginning of the holiday baking season.  Doesn’t matter which holiday you pick, anyone who has walked through a grocery store recently knows the signs…bags of flour and sugar are in every aisle, canned pumpkin appears where you least expect it, both fresh and canned cranberries are easily found.  And you thought product placement only happened in movies? The comfy cozy family aura with an aroma of home baked goodies has been firmly planted in your mind. 

I believe some people are immune to this season, but many are lured into it without realizing it. I am unabashedly lured. Like a dog sniffing a fresh new bone, I am entranced.  

Food, family and holidays are one and the same to me. This was the focus of my presentation “Grebel & Gemütlichkeit” at the AHSGR Convention in Portland.  The local Arizona Sun Chapter has invited me to present this workshop again on December 1, right between the two peaks of the holiday baking season, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For most people, the memories of food and family are what make the holiday come alive.  My senses must have been in tune with the season long before the stores displayed their baking merchandise based on my recent book choice.

Last week I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. Kingsolver and company take the “buy local” food mantra to a level I've  never experienced.  And, my grandparents were farmers!

Many recognize Kingsolver as the best-selling author of The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible.  She called Arizona her home for decades until she married Steven L. Hopp and spent her summers at his farm in Virginia.
As she returned to her farming roots, her concern for our petroleum spending, fast food nation obsession grew.  After they decided to make their home in Virginia year round, the family agreed to accept the challenge of only eating food they grew or was grown within an hour’s drive of their home.

An ambitious goal for many, Kingsolver’s determination would be impossible for me. I know my limits. This culinary lifestyle goes well beyond commitment.  I will spare you the details of harvesting turkey and chicken.  Those things you can read for yourself.  And, I strongly recommend that you do.

After the toils of spring, summer and autumn, Kingsolver experiences the joy of the holiday baking season.   She writes:

“Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. A lot of calories get used up before anyone sits down to consume. But more importantly, a lot of talk happens first, news exchanged, secrets revealed across generations, paths cleared with a touch on the arm. I have given and received some of my life’s most important hugs with those big oven-mitt potholders on both hands.” pg. 288.

When she further discusses her experience with the Day of the Dead, she explains how she is drawn to this celebration.

“When I cultivate my garden I’m spending time with my grandfather, sometimes recalling deeply buried memories of him, decades after his death.  While shaking beans from an envelope I have been overwhelmed by a vision of my Pappaw’s speckled beans and flat corn seeds in peanut butter jars in his garage, lined up in rows, curated as carefully as a museum collection. That’s Xantolo, a memory space opened before my eyes, which has no name in my language.” pg. 290.
Kingsolver said Xantolo is found in many places, such as fields of marigold and farmer’s markets. While I cannot live a year of food as she did, I will consciously shop and choose the best local products I can find during this holiday baking season.  I have a lot of investigation to do but in the meantime...Chandler Farmer’s MarketQueen Creek Olive Mill and Kokopelli Winery, here I come.  

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hometown: Sights and Memories--Now and Then on Superior Avenue

As I mentioned in my last update, visits to your hometown turn everyday sights into photo opportunities.  My stop at Superior Avenue is no exception.  Trying to compare my new images to old ones has left me with a challenge.

As a young child, I often walked along this street.  When I was in kindergarten at Jefferson School,  I walked the long way to school over the Superior Avenue viaduct.  Kuehlmann Sheet Metal and Heating Company was in the brick building on the southwest corner.   

Only later, as a teenager, did I learn that my mother grew up near this viaduct at 1711 Superior Avenue. We talked about many things in her life but we never talked enough about what it was like to grow up on Superior Ave. The best way I can tie back to her time there is through photos of now and then. 

The picture below on the left is my mother and her best friend, Lydia Schneider. I always thought this picture was taken in the 1940s next to the former Kuehlmann building, before Kuehlmann occupied the site. I captured the picture on the right during my recent visit to Sheboygan on August 18, 2012.

The ivy over the building now covers the bricks and the facade underneath it. Yet when I google the address, the view of the building without ivy does not match the brick facade on the picture from the 1940s.  Check out the link below and click on the arrows until you see the white brick building with just a trace of ivy.  

Also, the sidewalk in the 1940s picture is much wider than the sidewalk in the picture I took last August. Could the sidewalk now be narrower due to changes made when the viaduct was under re- construction?  I believe the viaduct was rebuilt in the 1990s.  It is possible the sidewalk changed but the narrow sidewalk appears older than the 1990s. Could these be the same sidewalks on which my mother roller skated as a young girl? And, the grassy patch between the sidewalk and brick building also contradicts my understanding of where the picture was taken. 

Ivy covers former Kuehlmann Building August 2012
So where were my Mom and her friend Lydia when this picture was taken?  There are many brick buildings in Sheboygan, from Central High School to many downtown stores.  I would greatly appreciate input from anyone who is familiar with the brick buildings in Sheboygan during the 1940s.  Any idea on the what building may match the one in the background?

I have a few clues about my Mom's early life in this house from experiences she shared with me.  I know her grandfather lived with her family. I know her mother was a great cook. Her father raised rabbits in the backyard.  My Mom considered them her pets, even though rabbit occasionally was the main course on Sunday. 

Another picture clearly shows my Mom at her home as it includes a view of the old Superior Avenue viaduct with the iron railings.  Below, Lydia and my Mom look south from her home and appear to stand between the house and an add on to the brick corner building.  While google shots of the house now show sidewalk on the other side of the building, it appears that the girls are between the house and an add on to the brick building.  

The photograph below shows the current view between the house and the brick building looking south from the viaduct.  You can see most of  the sidewalk is no longer there.  

This picture below clearly shows one piece of the original sidewalk which is the only piece which remains of the walk next to which my mom and Lydia stood.

Again, I am open to ideas to better pinpoint the location but I think it is reasonable to conclude the location of the photograph with the viaduct in the background.  

And, here is my daughter Ashley taking a photograph of the house at 1711 Superior Ave in August, 2012.

I am also curious about Irwin Koepke's business that occupied the brick building before Kuehlmann's opened on June 9,  1959. Koepke's business would have been in place when my mother lived here. (Source:

When I return to Sheboygan, I will be certain to more picture of this house, perhaps one from the alley so I can try to match up the setting with my photograph from the 1940s.  If you have any ideas on the site of the first picture, or ave  more information about the house at 1711 Superior Avenue, I would be happy to hear from you. 

Close-up of the Ivy on the former Kuehlmann building
The west side of 1711 Superior next to 1713 Superior Ave.

The new Jefferson School at the same site of the old school where I attended kindergarten

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hometown: Sights and Memories - Holy Name Church

When I returned to my hometown, what used to be everyday sights turn into photo opportunities.  Here are some of my favorite shots from the "tourist" point of view. It's time to let the memories flow and capture the moment.

Holy Name Church, established 1868, was the parish my Dad attended when he was growing up.  He attended grade school here as shown by his graduation picture below. My Dad is in the top row, fourth from the left.

As I grew up, I knew it as the church my Uncle Fred and Grandma Bauer attended.

I attended Mass here often although my family were members of St. Dominic's Church. My favorite memories surround the Christmas Eve Mass. One year, I had to work the day before Christmas Eve which postponed my drive time from Franklin, Tennessee to Sheboygan considerably. I told my parents we would arrive in Sheboygan just in time for church. 

I drove through the night with my young daughters, north on I-65 to I-94 to I-43, stopping at Steak and Shake to keep awake during the cold, dark drive.  We arrived at 10 a.m. Christmas Eve morning much to my parent's surprise.

Of course, we went to church hours before the service began to secure the best seats. We headed to Holy Name church hours ahead of time to secure the best seats. The pre-Mass concert was worth the wait. The sounds flowed from the choir balcony at the back of the Church creating the most moving Christmas prayer experience.

I can still hear the drums pound as my favorite carol "The Little Drummer Boy," is introduced. I remember looking over at my Dad as the opening notes of Amy Grant's "Breath of Heaven" lofted down gently from the balcony.  Tears filled our eyes as the words "Be with me now," echoed through the church. My Dad nodded at me.

There are many more memories I could share, from the time I fainted in one of the back rows, to my cousin Mary's wedding, to the time my Dad slid in the snow and I tried to help him up.  I told him to grab the car door handle and together we would pull him up.  He told me the door would open since it wasn't locked.  I assumed him it was locked. As I tried to help him up the door swung open and we both landed in a snow bank.  We laughed so hard I barely get myself up, truly lock the door, and then really help him to his feet.

So many moments which now only remain in my mind's eye. Thanks for listening as the memories flowed.