"Everyone has a story. Is yours German Russian?" So begins a colorful brochure for the GRHS (Germans from Russia Heritage Society). I was honored to be a speaker last July 25 and 26 at the Davenport Hotel here in Spokane for their annual conference.
Did you know that there are two similar groups, the Volga Germans and the Black Sea Germans. The Volga area was settled by Germans accepting Catherine the Great's invitation in 1763 to come settle. The Black Sea groups came fifty-some years later but in greater numbers. I was told that there were 100 "mother colonies" around the Black Sea with 30-40 families in each colony, for a likely total of about 25,000 people. The membership of the GRHS is made up primarily of the descendants of the Black Sea Germans.
It was about 1900 when the Black Sea Germans began migrating to the United States. Here are maps of the principle settlements:
The folks attending this convention are lucky in a sense because they know the villages in the Black Sea area where their ancestors were for a century, and many even know the village back in Germany where they originated! Today, each village has a Co-Ordinator and there are published lists of surnames from each village.
At the conference, I met William Gary Schorzman who was vendoring his books and he donated a copy of all three books to the EWGS genealogy collection! His books were: The Schorzman Chronicles, one volume "featuring Christian and Christina Ulmer-Schorzman of Odessa, WA," and the second volume featuring "Jacob and Anna Christina Ulmer-Schorzman of Quincy, WA."
The third book author Gary Schorzman donated to EWGS was titled The Schorzmann's of Johannestal, Beresan, South Russia, Evangelical Lutheran Kirche.
All three of these books are huge, 350-400 pages! May I introduce you to the author; he's holding the Kirche book.
EWGS member Kent Aggers was there among folks from as far away as Florida. These folks are serious!
If you want more information on the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, with its headquarters in Bismarck, North Dakota, visit their website: www.grhs.org . I understand that the 2015 conference will be in Bismarck.