Thursday, July 13, 2017

250 or 251 years? Machts nichts...Happy Anniversary Reinwald!

July 14… just another hot day in Arizona, but what a day for a milestone. In 2016, I thought July 14 was the 250th anniversary of the settling of Reinwald.  Since I was traveling at the time, I didn’t have the chance to check my books, so I checked a few websites.  I was somewhat disappointed when I checked online records, it indicated that that the village was settled in 1767. So, I postponed my 250th celebration for a year, wrote a short 249th anniversary blog at, and looked forward to 2017.

This year, I knew I was ready for the big milestone. As I prepared for the 250th anniversary and reviewed information again.  I grabbed my copy of “Einwanderung in das Wolgagebiet 1764-1767 Band 4” and turned to page 29 to check my dates.  And, there it was…Reinwald was settled in 1766. To say the least, I was perplexed.

Checking both sources again, I knew there was one person who could help me solve my dilemma.  I reached out to Brent Mai.

Brent replied immediately that he would investigate. After a few hours, he responded with this message.

“Okay, Anna – you’re the first one who has noticed this discrepancy—and I thank you for discovering it. I made the first gazetteer based off the appendix to the Beratz book, and that is where 1767 seems to appear first.  I, of course, repeated this in the 1798 Census gazetteer and one at the front of the “marriage book” Dona & I did. Even Sallet has 1767.  So, the error has been repeated many times. I’ve made the correct to the VGI site at Fairfield and included an explanation so that others will note that an error has been made.”

Brent and I agreed, although July 14, is truly the 251st anniversary of Reinwald, we should celebrate 250 years anyway, since we thought last year was 249!

Be sure to check out the full explanation at where Brent has provided us with so many details about Reinwald, families and  German Origins, too. The site has much to offer.

I hope you choose to celebrate the July 14 milestone, whether it is the 250th or the 251st,  machts nichts. What does matter is that, despite years of trying to break through brickwalls in our research, we now have many paths available for building our family trees and sharing our history.  And, most of all, it is day for being grateful to the original 231 individuals, our ancestors, who settled in Reinwald on July 14, 1766. Remembering them is what matters the most.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Grebel & Gemutlichkeit - Food and Family the German Russian Way

Just wanted to share a quick note about the Volga German Conference that was held in Sheboygan on September 24.  The local Sheboygan television station filmed the event and it is now available online to stream and watch. Click on this link
to connect.  If you don't see the presentations immediately, search for Volga German or Volga German cooking.

I was honored to be part of a panel with Emma Theume and Peter Kaland.  Emma was historian at Trinity Lutheran Church and has a wealth of knowledge of how the Germans from Russia came to Sheboygan.

My Grebel & Gemutlichkeit presentation is also available for streaming.  Many of the attendees recalled their families making this food.  It was such a fun event.  It was very smart of the committee that planned the conference to have it taped so we could share it beyond those who were able to attend.  I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Alice Grayson Bartkowski 1922-2016

We think of you every time we see beautiful geraniums
the ones that graced your porch
We think of you every time we see a giraffe
In the blouses you wore, the creatures that adorned your house
We think of you every time there is baseball
the game that defined your life
We think of you every time we see the Mad Hatter        
you are our “little Alice”
We think of you every time someone is kind and laughs with us
we saw it in the twinkle in your eye
Rest Assured, we think of you and miss you…always.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Happy 249th Anniversary Reinwald!

Today, July 14, 2016 marks the 249th anniversary of the establishment of my material ancestral village, Reinwald.

As many of you know, "Reinwald was founded on 14 July 1767 by the Government as a Lutheran Colony. By decree dated 26 February 1768, Reinwald received the official Russian name of Staritsa which means Oxbow Lakes." (Retrieved from on July 14, 2016).

Reinwald was settled by 231 individuals. This place would be home to the Herzogs, Reimers, Kerbers and many other of my ancestors.

Today I as I write this update, I sit in the ASHGR Convention Research Room in Concord, California. It may not sound as celebratory as it could be, yet the timing is good.  Many of the AHSGR members will gather here in village meetings later this morning and this afternoon.  So, I will meet with some of the descendants of Reinwald who will re-connect once again.

Below is also a picture of a few.descendants of Reinwald. It was taken in 2008 in Protestante, Entre Rios, Argentina. I know the travelers from the United States and Canada, but would greatly appreciate help from everyone in Argentina to identify everyone in the picture.  Please email me if you can help me in this endeavor.

All in all, the Thursday, July 14, 2016 stacks up to be a great anniversary day for everyone!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I Do Not Know if Anyone Remembers Katherine Reimer

I do not  know if anyone remembers Katherine Reimer. I have only known about her for a month, but her story has stayed in my heart. Her mystery started years ago and I need to write about a small part of her life.

I had suspicions about Katherine, yet I did not have a clue about her the first time I saw the passenger arrival list of the Astoria, which departed in 1900 from Glasgow on May 28 and arrived at Ellis Island on June 9 of that year.

I discovered the Astoria passenger list in 2004 when I searched for the Reimers entry to the United States at Ellis Island.  Despite the text annotating my maternal great grandfather’s name as Phelep instead of Phillip, I found my great grandmother Anna and my grandmother Sophie listed beneath his name.  Sophie’s two sisters, Marie/Mary and Elizabeth, are also shown.  Philip’s occupation was recorded as a farmer.  Their ages matched my other records, their nationality was German and their last residence was Libau, Russia, one of the major ports of Russia at that time. How they traveled to Libau is likely another story unto itself.  Their destination?  Sheboygan, Wisconsin, of course.  Everything matched the oral history passed down by my family.

Since I found this passenger list, I have tracked Philip and Anna’s births to the 1850 and 1857 Reinwald Census among many other discoveries.

During the last few years, I sensed a strong need to go back, retrace, re-organize and cite all of my sources on the family history I have accumulated.  Over the years, my enthusiasm, computer and laptop changes, and destroyed external hard drives have left my research scattered and undocumented. Beginning with my conversation with my paternal Grandma Clementine Bauer in the 1960s to the last AHSGR convention, I have a broad and extensive period of documenting sources awaiting me in my near future.

One of the first documents I re-visited was the Reimer Passenger list. This time I noticed the total number in the Reimer party was six, not five.  Why was it so easy to miss this obvious count accentuated with a bracket when I first looked at this record?  I believe in my excitement to verify what I already knew, I missed an opportunity to learn more.

Line 26 shows the name of a 3 year old girl with the Reimer family.  The name looked like Kathe to me, however my daughter thought it was Ruth.  It’s definitely hard to decipher. Could my grandmother have had another sister of whom I never heard? Anything is possible, but why would no one have talked about her? I asked my mother about the extra passenger, but she did not know who it was.  It’s one of those mysteries that got tougher to solve as the years passed.

So, I continued on with other research, connecting with other experts, visiting fellow Germans from Russia in Leader, Saskatchewan, Bismarck, North Dakota and Billings, Montana. I learned about more and more research I needed to explore.

During a visit to my hometown last August, I asked my cousin, Charlotte Lamb, if she had any idea if our grandmother may have had another sister.  She was not aware of anyone else beyond ourfive known Reimers coming to America. Mystery unsolved.

About two months later I was accepted into the facebook Sheboygan Area Volga German group. One of the creators of the group was a fellow North High School student, Scott Lewandoske.  Scott has collected Volga German articles from the Sheboygan newspapers for years and is one of its most active historians.

On October 28, Scott posted the following article from the Sheboygan Telegram.

My heart leapt when I saw the surname Reimer, but I did not want to jump to conclusions. The article lists the family’s location as North 11th St and Ontario Ave.  I knew my great grandparents lived on Erie Ave., two blocks north of Ontario.  I consulted with my cousin, Mary Dotz, as we are both descendants of the Reimers. She thought the article tied to my family but also shared, "On second thought, my great grandparents lived at 1017 Ontario Avenue. I was not aware of this until Scott Lewandoske posted this.  The Reimer family were member of Trinity and the children attended Trinity."

I thought about this article for a few days and I could not come to terms with the loss of such a young girl. I knew this young Russia girl had to be a relative, but I wondered how close she was to Mary and me and exactly who her immediate family was.

I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Vital Records to request an uncertified death certificate. I included a copy of the Sheboygan Telegram article and all of the information I knew, which was not much.

On Thursday, November 19, I received my answer. As I held the self-addressed return envelope in my hands, I delayed opening, as I knew I would have an answer. Would it e the answer to the mystery I so wanted to solve? The anticipation was great and I didn't know what I would find inside.

I used my mother's favorite letter opener, pulled out the single sheet of paper, and slowly unfolded it. On the certificate, her name was spelled as Katherine Reimer. The next thing I saw was her parent;s names: Philip Reimer and Anna Kerber. Besides the names, the address on the death certificate matched the home where Phillip and Anna lived on 10th and Erie Ave. The paper fluttered out of my hands. To finally have the connection was overwhelming.

As I read the death certificate, I could understand why there were no stories. During the early 1900s, many children did not survive past infancy, much less to age 11. And, her death from bronchial pneumonia was likely an awful struggle for the family. As someone who lives with asthma and has experienced bronchitis, I understand a bit about her illness. I also know I had drugs and cures that were simply not available during Katherine's time.

Katherine died on Christmas Day, December 24, 1908.  Her oldest sister Marie/Mary was 19m, my grandmother Sophie was 18, and Elizabeth was 15. About a month and a half before Katherine died, Sophie gave birth to her son, Fred, on November 6.

I was heartbroken for the family yet so glad I found out who Katherine was. Yes, my grandmother, Sophie Reimer Jurk Herzog Balde Balte, had more than two sisters. She had three. On of whom was never spoken about or included in any family stories.

Phillip, Anna and Sophie were gone years before I was born. What I would give to talk to them and hear their tales.  Their journey to Libau, Russia, then to America, journeys Phillip and Anna traversed at least twice.What other secrets have gone with them?

It is gratifying to find out who Katherine was. It is also gratifying to ave a reasonable understanding of why I had not heard the story.  I will remember Katherine Reimer, especially this upcoming Christmas Day and include her in her rightful spot in my family tree. Finding out about Katherine Reimer is what genealogy is all about for me...uncovering stories and honoring those who went before us. It is about remembering. Yes, that extra name on the passenger list was a family mystery. And, now I can say, "Mystery solved."

©Anna Dalhaimer Bartkowski

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

How to Vacation as a Family Historian

Some people use their vacation time to go to the beach or the big city. As a family historian with a passion for genealogy, those two options do not typically enter my radar.

I am in the middle of the ideal German from Russia family historian vacation.  I flew from Phoenix, to Calgary, Alberta, onto Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where friends drove me to Leader for the "German Russian Cultural Festival." This gathering featured the promised "Renowned German Russian Speakers," and "Guided Bus tour of the local geographic sites."  The festival did not disappoint.

I was honored to be included with Merv Weiss, Norm Fischbuch, Morris Knorr, Elvire Necker-Eberhardt, David Kilwien, and Carolyn Schott as we shared our German Russian research and engaged with an engaged audience.  

I believer everyone walked away inspired to continue their research, enhance the new connections they found,and share their experience with others, especially the next generation.

We can only hope someone will pick up the torch and carry on similar events in Saskatchewan. Many thanks to Tim Geiger for carrying the torch for so long.

Merv Weiss and Tim Geiger

So, how do you top that experience?  I don't know that I can, but my dream vacation continues as I am now in Bismarck, North Dakota for the German Russian Heritage Society convention. Will keep you posted as to what comes into my radar next. 


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Pet Peeves of Writing and Expected Mothers

Grammar may seem like an old-fashioned concept.  It doesn't sound fun, unless like me, you enjoyed diagramming sentences in grade school. It sounds serious and perhaps tedious to some of us. For a generation growing up using acronyms as the key to text communication, it can be downright painful. BrB and r u there are mainstays. However, the lack of grammar is what is truly painful.  It is painful for the eyes to see.

One of the most excruciating examples I have seen is in a church parking lot. The church will remain nameless, to protect the innocent. On three parking spots close to the entrance, clearly painted in capital letters are the words, "EXPECTED MOTHERS."

I have looked at those words since 2002 and cringe every time I see it.  What does it really mean?  I do mental gymnastics trying to justify and determine how it came to be.  Did the painter misunderstand the words?  Did the contractor hear the instructions wrong?  Or, did they all think they were correct? Had someone written it and not seen the error of their ways?  And, just what is an "expected mother?"  Do I qualify because I have children and am expected to go to church?   Or, are they trying to give pregnant women a shorter walk to the service? Why do these questions keep flowing through my brain?
I hope the painting was not terribly expensive, but since it has not been corrected, it likely was.

Consider this, besides giving life to my pet peeve and writing this blog, what does bad grammar and poor writing skills cost us?  A recent article in the Huffington Post tells us it is quite expensive. The site merits attention, especially by students who think writing is as easy as texting or talking. Check out the article in full detail at  Basically, the article affirms that bad grammar does cost us.  It costs us money because better writers are paid more, make less mistakes, and perform better at their jobs. And the folks at grammarly know about  grammar and fun.  I became aware of them through their hysterical posts on facebook.  I am certain you will find one that connects with you at

So perhaps diagramming sentences and religiously spelling words correctly is a practice which should continue.. Perhaps  LOL, OMG and IDK could be replaced by reading more classics and creating essays of which we can be proud. Need inpsiration or help to get started?  Visit and they'll review your prose in seconds and make worthy suggestions.  You can prevent grammatical errors! It's radical! Actually, it's just a thought I had before I leave. Now I need to drive to church and grab one of those close parking spots.