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In 1762, Sophie Fredericke Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst, a German native of Stettin, displaced her husband Peter III and took the vacant Russian imperial throne, assuming the name of Catherine II. "Catherine the Great" published manifestos in 1762 and 1763 inviting Europeans, (except Jews) to immigrate and farm Russian lands while maintaining their language and culture. Germans responded in particularly large numbers due to poor conditions in their home regions. Germans continued to migrate into Russian territories after Catherine's death, sometimes at the invitation of other Czars. Other Germans, especially those in Volhynia, arrived because of the availability of cheap land.
Although the above describes the beginnings of major German migration into Russia, it should also be noted that many Germans lived there prior to the time of Catherine. For example, a German Lutheran church was established in Irkutsk, Siberia in the early 1700s. Most of these Germans were probably associated with trades such as mining, lumber, etc., the professions such as medicine or legal, as well as the arts. Those that came at the invitation of Catherine were farmers needed to develop the vast steppes.
This page introduces you to the records you can use to discover your German-speaking ancestors who moved from German kingdoms and principalities, Alsace-Lorraine, Russian Poland, Switzerland, or Austria-Hungary to the Russian Empire and later from there to the New World. It describes the content, use, and availability of major genealogical records. Use these as suggestions to set meaningful goals and to select the records that will help you achieve your research goals.
Neither Germans who stayed in the Russia/Ukraine area, nor Germans who settled along the edges of the Russian Empire in places like Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia or the Baltic States are the focus of this set of Wiki pages. However, the strategies and records described here often help find such ancestors as well.
Generally, you must know the specific town in Russia or Ukraine where your ancestor was born before beginning research for Germans in Russia or Ukraine. This information is most often found in United States, Canada, or other New World sources.
You will need some basic understanding of genealogical research procedures. You may want to read the Wiki article Principles of Family History Research, or the booklet A Guide to Research (30971) which is also available at theFamily History Library and at Family History Centers™.
Opportunities for genealogical research about Germans from Russia are sometimes limited because—
• Some records have been destroyed, lost, or moved to hard-to-locate, private collections.
• Some records are restricted from public use.
• Some records are hard to use or read.
• Some record keepers may be unable or or willing to search the records for you.
Despite these obstacles, there are other sources you can use to find ancestors who were Germans from Russia. This set of Wiki pages discusses those sources.
Village coordinators are individuals who coordinate the gathering of information and compiling of databases about the inhabitants of specific Germanic villages in Russia. You are encouraged to share your family information with the village coordinator for the village where your ancestor lived. You may also benefit from information already submitted by others. Read more...
Did you know?
Celebrities with Germans from Russia ancestors:
- Catharine the Great, Empress of Russia, who originally invited Germans to Russia was herself born in Prussia.
- John Denver (singer)
- Vladimir Lenin
See Historical Geography.
Many German-speaking people also settled in related regions, including, for example, Russian Poland. For more details about these "Germans" see the Historical Geography page. For additional details about family history research in these countries see also:
- Germany includes Germans returned from territories outside Germany
- Austria Lower Austria east of Vienna part of the Carpathian Germans
- Azerbaijan part of the Caucasus South Germans
- Czech Republic
- Estonia part of the Baltic Germans
- France Alsace-Lorraine
- Georgia (country) part of the Caucasus South Germans
- Hungary Batchka, and Swabian Turkey Germans
- Latvia part of the Baltic Germans
- Moldova part of the Bessarabian Germans
- Poland part of Galizian, Polish, and Volhynian Germans
- Romania part of the Banat, part of Bukovina, Dobruja, Sathmar, Transylvanian Saxons, and Zipser Germans
- Russia part of the Black Sea Germans, Caucasus North Germans, Ingermanland, Orenburg, Samara-Kuybychev, and Volga Germans
- Serbia Banat, and Batchka Germans
- Slovakia Carpathian, and Galizian Germans
- Ukraine parts of Bessarabia, part of the Black Sea Germans, part of the Bukovina Germans, part of the Carpathian Germans, Crimea, part of the Galizian Germans, and part of the Volhynian Germans
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