Carl Fritzler was a fourth generation Volga German, born in Grimm, Russia, on February 28, 1880 to Johann Jakob Fritzler and Katharina Elisabeth Schaefer. The Fritzlers were descendants of Hanß Jakob Bauer Fritzler, born in 1688 in Kleingartach, Neckarkreis, Württemberg, Germany. His son Hanß Jakob Fritzler and his wife Franziska Catherina Eurich and their children were among the original settlers of Grimm in 1767. Both families were considered Evangelical, as opposed to Catholic, although the Colony of Grimm was considered a Reformed Protestant settlement.
Note: Hanß was a shortened form of Johann, although some boys were given the formal name of Johann and others the formal name of Hanß. Germans typically followed a tradition of giving their child the first name of a saint, and then a second name that was the child's every day name. Sometimes a child had three names plus their surname. Toward the latter half of the 19th century, parents started to drop the formal, unused first name and gave their children one simple name. Carl was among the first in his family to have only two names, a Christian name and a surname.
Carl's wife was Eva Kraft Schott, born September 18, 1886, also in Grimm, to Johann Friedrich Schott and Eva Katharina Kraft. She was descended from Jakob Schott and Anna Margaretha Becker, and Adam and Susannah Kraft, four of the first settlers of Grimm. The Krafts were also Evangelical Lutherans from Mittelbrunn, Pflaz, Bayern,Germany, while the origin of the Schotts was Holzgerlingen, Neckarkreis, Wuerttemberg.
Volga Germans lived a difficult life which did not resemble the original descriptions and promises of Catherine the Great. By the late 1800s, Volga German families began to immigrate to the United States and Canada, looking for a better life. Encouraged by the safe travels and good fortune of friends and relatives who immigrated, Carl began to plan a move for his own family. His plans were delayed when he was drafted into the Tsar's Army, which, in turn, only made his urge to leave Russia stronger. Volga Germans were pacifists and had been promised no conscription by Catherine the Great. A century later, the ruling Russians backed out of that promise and regularly called up Volga Germans into their Army. Somehow Carl managed to get a plum job as a guard for the Tsar, avoiding the dangerous battle fronts. At the conclusion of his service, he began to finalize his plans to leave Russia.
According to other Volga Germans who immigrated to the United States, the villagers first sent out scouts to check out the country and see if it was indeed a place where Grimmers could live and flourish. These scouts then returned to Russia and passed the information they'd collected on to the rest of their villagers. Although the big cities were nice, people were interested in moving to an area where they could immediately be successful, which meant a place where they could farm. They discovered that the Midwest and Plains States held the most promise because the terrain resembled that of the Russian Steppes, where Grimm was situated. Families began to immigrate to the United States in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.
Carl, along with his sister Mollie Fritzler Schneider and her family, left Russia at the end of 1912. First they traveled by train from Saratov to Libau, Latvia, which at the time was territory of Russia. The trip to Libau took about two weeks. From there, a small ship took them on the first part of their ocean voyage from the European mainland to England. About two weeks later, they traveled from Liverpool, England, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on the S.S. Canada. The passenger manifest for their ship confirms the families travel along with other relatives and friends. (See a copy of the passenger manifest attached to this profile.)
Years later, Carl's brother-in-law Phillip Schneider recalled their journey to America for his granddaughter Janelle Zimmermann, who documented the conversation. A DNA match between the two of us introduced us and led to her generously sharing the information she had from her mother, Frieda Schneider Grotegut, and her grandparents.
One note from her conversation with Philipp read, "He came to America leaving Grimm, Russia on November 27, 1912 and reached America January 13, 1913. They left by railroad to Libau, Finland."  Carl's daughter Mollie, the oldest of the children, was just five years old at the time they embarked on their journey, and she had two younger sisters, Amelia and Anna. According to the passenger manifest, Anna was an infant.
The reference to Libau, Finland puzzled me. To my knowledge, Libau is a Latvian city. I double checked to make sure there wasn't another Libau in Finland; there was not. If they traveled to Libau, they traveled to Western Latvia directly west from the Volga villages. I thought it was curious that Phillip mentioned Finland at all, since Finland is northwest.
When families left the Volga region for a port that would lead to America, they usually traveled northwest by train from Saratov to Moscow, and then due west or southwest to the port city. It they were traveling to Libau, now called Liepaja, in Latvia, as the Fritzlers and the Schneiders did, according to Philipp Schneider, they would probably continue due west from Moscow to Riga and finally Libau. Some trains traveled north to Minsk first, and then down to Libau. The distance from Saratov to Libau is a little over 1,200 miles, and it was probably even longer if there was no direct train route. Without any documentation today, it's difficult to determine which way the Fritzlers and the Schneiders traveled from the Volga River to the Baltic Sea.
I continued with my research, now focusing on the voyage from Libau to the United Kingdom. Records show they took a small ship to Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire, England. The town was more commonly known as Hull. This was the first time I had heard the town mentioned in connection with my family's history. I wondered which ships used that port, so I researched a little deeper. There were two shipping lines that provided passenger service to Hull:
Because Phillip Schneider clearly mentioned Finland in his story about his journey to America, I believe that he meant they boarded a Finnish ship, not that they actually traveled to Finland before heading south and west.
Wikipedia confirms the Finnish Steamship Company Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolag was also known as F.Å.A.  Their ship was the S.S. Titania, primarily used to transport emigres from Finland to Hull. It made stops along the way in Libau and Copenhagen, picking up and transporting Russians and Jewish Latvians in addition to Volga Germans. 
Note: I am separating Volga Germans from Russians, even though they were technically Russians in terms of their citizenship and passport documentation. The Volga Germans considered themselves a separate group of people for more than 150 years, never intermarrying with Russians or any other ethnic minority in Russia. According to the Genealogical Society of Finland, while some ships traveled from Helsinki to Hull, some ships carried Russians directly from Libau to Hull. "Apart from Finns, the volumes record thousands of Russians, a number of Estonians, Latvians and Livonians. Many of the Russians have Jewish names, but even German names are common...It is unclear whether all Russian emigrants traveled by way of Hanko, since F.Å.A. boats carried Russian emigrants from Libau to Hull without calling at a Finnish port."  (emphasis added)
I searched for a copy of the F.Å.A. passenger lists from 1912. Copies of the passenger lists up to 1910 and after 1918 exist; the lists for passengers traveling between those years are either not available or were destroyed. 
According to Phillip Schneider, the journey on the S.S. Titania from Libau to Hull took four days, which means the two families arrived in England on December 15-18, 1912. The ship docked at the Riverside Quay, a dock built specifically to handle quick turnaround ocean vessel traffic at the port. A rail station adjoined the quay, allowing European travelers to conveniently board a train that took them to Liverpool where they would board larger ocean liners that headed to America.
The Fritzlers and the Schneiders spent 17-19 days in England prior to boarding the S.S. Canada in January. Some of that time may have been spent traveling. It's unclear whether the families were able to take a train directly to Liverpool from Hull or if they traveled south to London and then northwest to the port city.
According to historical records, once the passengers arrived in Liverpool, they were not allowed to board outbound ships until the day before or the day of departure. If they arrived earlier than that, they were forced to stay in a lodging house. Historically, the lodging houses had a reputation for being crowded and unsanitary. By the turn of the 20th century, often the steamship companies looked after the emigrants during their stay, putting them up in company-owned lodges. Although conditions in the early 1900s were better than those 30-50 years earlier, there were still complaints. It's difficult to imagine which was worse: lodging accommodations in the Liverpool or steerage class on board a ship. Knowing this makes it clear how horrible the conditions in their homeland must have been. Uprooting families and enduring the long, uncomfortable journey to America was a small price to pay for the chance at a better life.
After the Fritzlers and Schneiders spent more a couple of weeks in a lodging house, they boarded their ship and departed for America on January 4, 1913. The voyage across the Atlantic normally took 10-11 days. Some ships traveling across the Atlantic made a stop in Ireland to pick up additional passengers. Since the S.S. Canada made the voyage in only 9 days, they probably bypassed Ireland and headed straight to America, reaching Nova Scotia, Canada on January 13, 1913.
Carl's brother-in-law remembered what the families paid for tickets on the steamers: $150 per adult, $75 per child, and $8 for an infant son under two years of age. Most likely they traveled 2nd class or steerage, and they brought plenty of black bread and sausage from home for the journey. Phillip recalled that the ship meals included bear meat and fish, among other things, and that, frankly, the food wasn't very tasty. Even though they dipped in to their personal food supply, the families still managed to make their bread and sausage last more than a month, until shortly before they arrived in Chicago.
The ship landed in Nova Scotia, Canada. Passengers going to the United States were transported over the border where they were processed in Portland, Maine. From there the families took a train to Chicago where they stayed with two different families. Carl and his family stayed with the Albrandts, extended family members of the Fritzlers, while the Schneiders stayed with Herman Schuette, Phillip's cousin.
Carl Fritzler chose to take his family to Windsor, Colorado where there was already a large population of Volga German immigrants. He may have homesteaded land there, although I haven't yet found any record of it. During those first years, the family worked for the sugar beet companies in the Greeley area. Working in the fields was back-breaking work, and not even the children were spared from working the fields during the harvest season.
Carl eventually saved enough money to purchase a home in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Fond du Lac was another city with a large population of Germans from Russia, including Carl's two sisters, Elisabeth Trott and Eva Felde and their families. He and his family finally settled in a house at 180 Doty Street, just one block away from Rueping Leather Company, where Carl was employed. He was a faithful worker there until he retired in 1947.
He was very religious, not only as a member of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac, but also as a member of the German Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was based on the Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia; its members practiced a stricter version of their Protestant faith which required them to renounce military service and adhere to a simple way of life, among other things. In the late 1800s, Mennonite missionaries from the southern German colonies traveled north and taught their worship style and beliefs to the Reformed Lutherans who were living in Grimm. This was the beginning of a religious awakening, at least for Grimm residents who began to adhere to the Mennonite Brethren doctrine in addition to their own doctrines. When Grimm residents immigrated to the United States, they brought the brotherhood with them. Here it was called the German Brotherhood, and it offered former Volga German residents a way to meet regularly, worship and honor the traditions that they had in Russia. The group was comprised of Biblically-learned laymen who took turns leading their small group in old-style worship. Services were held in German, not English.
Carl was an honorable family man, quiet and kind, and very close to his five children and their families. They had occasional, large get-togethers both in the Fond du Lac area and at a lake cottage owned by his grandson. He and his wife often traveled around Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, visiting other Grimm residents who had also immigrated to different areas in the United States. Many of those people were extended family members with whom they remained close for the rest of their lives. Carl was known far and wide for his frequent humming, usually of his favorite hymns, often while sitting on his front porch. Case in point: My discussion with his still-living family members revealed that his 94-year-old niece, Frieda Schneider Grotegut, recalled that he was a hummer, always humming.
Four years after losing his wife Eva to the aftereffects of a stroke in 1959, Carl died in 1963. The couple is buried at Estabrooks Cemetery in Fond du Lac.
Quotes and Links
UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960
Canadian Passenger List
1920 United States Federal Census
1930 United States Federal Census
1940 United States Federal Census
World War II Draft Card
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Family Tree DNA.
There are no public comments yet.
Carl is 30 degrees from Aaron Copland, 23 degrees from AJ Jacobs, 21 degrees from Barbara Shoff and 22 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II Windsor on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.