Family B-1367 in The Immigration of German Colonists to Denmark and Their Subsequent Emigration to Russia in the Years 1759-1766.
Family B-1521 in The Immigration of German Colonists to Denmark and Their Subsequent Emigration to Russia in the Years 1759-1766.
Family #68 in 1775 Grimm census.
Family #16 in the 1798 Grimm census.
According to the 1775 census, Anna Katharina Ramig had a son from a previous marriage to Friedrich Schumann.
According to The Immigration of German Colonists to Denmark and Their Subsequent Emigration to Russia in the Years 1759-1766, this Anna Katarina/Catharina Romig was actually Valentin's niece. She traveled with him to Denmark as a maid to his family. In Denmark she married Johannes Schumann, a man who was nearly twice her age (born in 1721). He most likely passed away in Denmark, and she married for a second time, to Jakob Tiede.
At first it appears as if her parents are identified as Johann Philipp Romig, a shepherd in Habitzheim, and Margaretha Zimmermann, both of Spachbrücken. Philipp and Margaretha, however, were too old to be her parents and were in actuality her grandparents. The name of her father is not given in this source. For the time being, I am leaving the name of her parents as Valentin and Maria Sophia Ramig until I can find another source that confirms who her parents were.
On July 22, 1763, Catherine the Great issued a Manifesto inviting Germans to come settle in her country. The Empress of Russia’s 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 alternative was going to the Americas, but this option was a pay-as-you-go opportunity. For people who were already poor and couldn’t support their own families, buying tickets for passage across the Atlantic was nearly impossible. It seemed an easy decision to choose an old established country like Russia over North or South America.
Because of her German heritage, German citizens believed the Empress would be fair to them. Instead, she used her heritage as a way to manipulate hard-working people to help settle the wild, untamed areas of her adopted country. They failed to realize that Catherine was a ruthless leader who gained her power by deposing her husband, Peter, Tsar of Russia, and claiming the Russian throne for herself. Later she had him murdered.
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.
After Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, all of Volga Germans were considered enemies of the state. They lost their citizenship and were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia. The weak, the elderly and those attempting to resist resettlement were shot. Many died before reaching their final destination.
My maternal great grandparents and their young families came to the United States in the early 1900s. They left loved ones behind, some of whom did not survive their exile to Siberia. After the deaths of my grandparents, family members lost touch with their remaining Russian relatives.
In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. This led to an agreement between Russia, then the USSR, and Germany to allow the USSR’s citizens of German ancestry to return to their homeland. In the late 1990s, relatives of my grandmother’s family tried to contact us using an old address. Somehow the letter made its way to me, and my husband and I had it translated.
The letter revealed that descendants of my great grandmother’s sister had finally left Siberia and moved to Berlin, Germany. This led to one of my great grandmother’s sons traveling to Berlin to visit his first cousin and other family members. I obtained a significant amount of information about the families who remained behind, to where they were relocated, and their ancestors and descendants.
Through my grandparents, I heard firsthand stories about the struggles of the German people in Russia, specifically those living in villages along the Volga River.
Note: The historical commentary above was originally used in the preface of book I wrote called Braha (copyright 2014). Although the book is about fictional characters, it was based on the real events that led to the immigration of Germans to Russia, and the eventual disillusionment of these Germans that led to many immigrating from Russia to North and South America.
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