YDNA Haplogroup I-M170
Note: Alex and his wife Mollie were distant cousins.
Alexander Kaiser's family was originally from what is now Germany. On July 22, 1763, Catherine the Great issued a Manifesto inviting Germans to come settle in Russia. The Empress' invitation came at a time when the provinces of Germany were ravaged by the Seven Years War, famine and crippling poverty.
Catherine’s offer was difficult to refuse: generous acreage, free relocation expenses and supplies, no taxes for thirty years, freedom to practice their religion, no conscription in Russia’s Army, local self-government and more. German settlers were promised loans to help them buy livestock and equipment with no interest and a reasonable repayment plan.
The Empress knew many Germans were desperate to provide for their families and would jump at the opportunity to improve their lives. Germans already had a reputation as hardworking and industrious, so if anyone could help the Russians tame their desolate frontier, she believed it would be them. Thousands of Germans accepted Catherine’s offer and moved their families to Russia. Many settled in small villages along the Volga River.
Life was far different from what they expected. These new Russian citizens were forced to remain in hostile territory plagued by unpleasant weather patterns, rocky soil, vermin and disease. The earliest settlers battled with nomadic Kazakhs from China and Mongolia, and as a result, many Germans lost their lives. Still they persevered.
In 1874 the government enforced conscription on all men, including the Germans along the Volga. This was a serious breach of promise to the settlers who were strong pacifists. Many Germans in Russia moved their families to America to avoid being forced to join the military, while others stayed behind, hoping their government would re-exempt them.
Many of these Germans immigrated to North and South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. For those who stayed in Russia, life remained harsh as they were ranked near the bottom of the country’s class system and routinely treated poorly.
By the early 1900s, those still living along the Volga River still considered themselves Germans, not Russians. Socialization with other native Russians was minimal. Intermarriage was considered taboo.
This was the social climate in Grimm, Russia, when Alexander (Alex) Kaiser's parents, Jake Kaiser and Charlotte Kerbel, were growing up. Both were descended from original settlers of the village. The couple married in 1903, and Alex was born the following year on 29 June 29 1904. He was baptized 9 days later on 08 August 1904, and his godparents were his uncle Peter Kaiser and his wife Anna Pinnecker. 
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Germans were disillusioned with life in Russia. The government had reneged on some of their promises to the settlers, and many dreamed of a better life in another country. In early 1907, Jake and Charlotte Kaiser decided to immigrate to the United States with their young son Alex.  They traveled in a group with other family members and their children.  Upon their arrival at Ellis Island, it was discovered that one of the children had an ear infection and the child was denied entrance to the U.S.  Rather than break up their families, neither family chose to remain, but that said, they still did not want to return to Russia.  Once back at their original port of departure, Hamburg, Germany, the families decided to go to Argentina, where there was already a large population of Germans and Volga Germans. 
The circuitous route took them back to Hamburg Germany, where they boarded a ship bound for La Plata, Argentina. Traveling steerage, they made the ardurous journey which included stops in Dover, England; Boulogne-sur-Mer, France; Coruña Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; and finally La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Note that although the two brothers' families were listed together in the passenger list, the surname for Alex's family was misspelled as Heiser, instead spelled correctly as Kaiser.
Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 
The ship docked in Argentina, and the two families made their homes there. Already pregnant at the time of their travels, Alex's mother gave birth to son August Kaiser on April 26, 1907, in Bahia Blanca.  The growing family remained in Argentina for perhaps a year, but Alex's mother was miserable. As soon as it was financially possible, their family moved back to their village in Russia, probably in late 1908 or early 1909. Another child, Alex's second brother, Jacob, was born in Grimm on April 28, 1910. 
Back in Grimm, nothing had changed, and Alex's parents were still restless for a better life. Once again they made plans to immigrate to the U.S. For the first leg of the journey, the family left Russia and made their way south to England. Once in England, they headed to Liverpool where they boarded American Line's S.S. Merion and set sail for the Port of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Passenger List 
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger List Index Cards 
In this record, it mentions "Father Christian Kaiser" as the family's contact in Russia. That was actually his grandfather, his father's father. The family was enroute to Johann Jacob Meier's home at 520 Noble Street, Chicago, Illinois. Jacob Meier was probably his father's older half-brother, both having the same mother. The surname Meier was originally spelled Major in Grimm.
The trip must have been far easier than the one the family took four years earlier to Ellis Island. That's because service to Philadelphia was designed to carry only one class of passengers, rather than three classes. According to Glenvick & Gjønvik Archives, the passenger service on the S.S. Merion was considered exclusively second class, a far better option for those who usually traveled in steerage.  At a top speed of 14 knots and with no additional stops, the trip would have lasted almost 10 days.  The ship entered the Port of Philadelphia on October 3, 1911.  This time there were no problems with sick travelers and the family was allowed to enter the country.
Although the family's first destination was Illinois to visit friends from Russia who had already settled in the U.S., the Kaiser's first residence was in Colorado.  As was typical for Germans from Russia, father Jake was a hard worker, willing to do anything to support his family. Whatever he earned at his first jobs, however, wasn't enough to cover the needs of his growing family. Alex's mother may have worked intermittently after her boys were in school during the winter months. When Alex was a young teen, he was forced to drop out of school and start working to help support his family, working in the nearby sugar beet fields. 
At some point between 1911 and 1924, Alex's family moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, since they are listed as residents of that town in the 1920 U.S. Census. According to Dr. Brent Mai, Fond du Lac residents from the Volga German villages were almost exclusively from Grimm.
1920 United States Federal Census 
In reality, however, they must have gone back and forth between Wisconsin and Colorado for a period of time since their youngest son, Paul, was born there on March 29, 1922.  Furthermore, his brother August graduated from high school in Fort Collins in 1924. From what can be determined from Alex Kaiser's notes and information, he must have stayed with his family in Colorado and become "the man of the house" while his father was in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, working and saving money to move their family into a permanent home. 
By 1925, the family was all together Fond du Lac, a town where many of their friends and family members from Grimm were living, including several of Jake's brothers and at least one of Charlotte's sisters.  Alex's father put his carpentry skills to work at Northern Casket Company, just blocks away from the family's home on North Brooke Street.  Alex's first job in Fond du Lac was in the offices of Fred. Rueping Leather Company.  He later sold leather made at the tannery to companies that made shoes.  He regularly traveled around the Midwest for many years, but the traveling eventually took a toll on his health. He was forced to retire in the early 1950s. 
As an adult, Alex was a respected elder in the German Brotherhood, a worship group comprised of Volga Germans who met routinely in the Milwaukee and Fond du Lac areas.  This religious group did not take the place of what most would consider traditional churches, such as the Lutheran church, where most Germans from Russia were members. The German Brotherhood provided a way for the Volga Germans to preserve their early memories, traditions, and worship style. Services were conducted in German, and sermons were given by lay-persons who were church members. Congregants were somewhat strict in how they raised their children in their new home country. While they assimilated as quickly as possible, learning English and blending in with the locals, they frowned on drinking alcohol, dancing, and playing cards. The German Brotherhood was also active in Colorado, where Alex lived as a child. Growing up, he was a member of the Brotherhood's band, comprised of people of all ages, where he played the clarinet with a group of older tens and adults who all eventually moved to Fond du Lac. 
Despite his lack of a high school diploma or any college classes, Alex continued to self-educate himself, becoming a successful salesman and businessman.  He was a Kiwanis Club member and routinely spoke around the Midwest.  He also compiled as much information as he could about his family's life in Russia, and he spoke regularly about these Germans, how they ended up in Russia, and how they suffered under the hands of the Russians. 
Alex met his wife Mollie Fritzler, also a Volga German, in the mid 1920s, although they very well may have known each other as young children in Grimm. They quickly fell in love and married on May 1, 1926.  Their first child, Robert Kenneth Kaiser, was born about two years later on August 31, 1928.
Birth Record for Son Robert Kenneth Kaiser 
After the birth of Robert, the family left Chicago and moved back to Milwaukee. In 1930, two of Alex's younger brothers, August and Jacob, were living with him and his family. His youngest brother, Paul, still a minor, remained with his parents. Alex's daughter Ruth later revealed that her uncles lived with their brother because their father [her grandfather] was a strict disciplinarian and the young men felt too restricted living under his roof.  Once August and Jacob turned 18, they chose to leave their family home in Fond du Lac and live with their brother in Milwaukee. 
1930 United States Federal Census 
Daughter Ruth Virginia was born five years later. 
Alex became a naturalized U.S. citizen on April 11, 1934.
Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index 
1940 United States Federal Census 
After a career as a leather salesman he retired and opened a shoe store on a busy commercial street in Milwaukee. Eventually, old downtown locations began to see sales drop as indoor shopping malls sprouted up across the nation. Spotting the new sales trend early, Alex closed his family shoe store and opened a specialty children's shoe store in Brookfield Mall, not far from where he and his wife lived.
As a grandfather, Alex was always concerned about his grandchildren wearing shoes that were made properly and fit well. It must have come as a shock to him when one of his granddaughters, this author, had one of the widest foot sizes ever recorded for a child. I remember when he visited us in California, how he would take me out to shoe store after shoe store, trying to find shoes to properly fit my wide feet. He would hold his chin between his thumb and index finger and shake his head back and forth every time a pair of shoes didn't fit me. Which was often.
Alex was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. After the death of his beloved wife Mollie in 1976, his heart was broken and he seemed to lose his love for life. He died on September 18, 1978 and was buried in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
Wisconsin Death Index 
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