It took me a surprisingly long time to understand where on a map my family history was taking place. I had yet to realize that having even a “work in progress” understanding of the regions I was researching would be as helpful as it is. Perhaps I didn’t bother to orient myself right away because I was intimidated by the everchanging European borders of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. [Note: The blog post, “Those Infamous Border Changes: A Crash Course in Polish History,” from From Shepherds and Shoemakers is a thorough yet concise overview of Polish border changes]. In this blog entry I will first try to explain how I understand the geographical terms and then provide a visual guide to what locations I write about with regards to the Kirsch family (see Kirsch Research page) in Volhynia. I should preface with the disclaimer that I am still learning and this is the way I currently understand it. Corrections are appreciated and I probably need to revisit previous blog entries to make corrections based on new knowledge.
My great-great-grandfather, Samuel Kirsch, traveled with his family from Florentynow (colony or village), Lodzkie (voivodeship = province), Poland (country), to Rozyszcze (parish), Lutsk (raion = district), Volhynia (oblast = province or region), Russia (country), in around 1867. The journey from what is now central Poland to western Ukraine was more than 500 kilometers. [Note: I use the terms “colony” and “village” interchangeably because I am often referring to communities established in Congress Poland and Volhynia by German colonists]. The Kirsch family had lived in Florentynow since at least 1813, the recorded year of birth of Samuel’s father, Krzysztof Kirsch. Before then, the family lived in Wola (colony or village), Grand Duchy of Posen, Kingdom of Prussia (the precise location of Wola is currently unknown, but you can see Posen city, or Poznan, on the map below, west of Point A).
Samuel and his family first settled in Konstantynow (colony or village), Rozyszcze, Lutsk, Volhynia. Samuel’s seventh child, Daniel, was born in Konstantynow, August 22, 1874. Samuel moved ten kilometers to Ludwischin (colony or village) between 1874 and 1877–assumed because his other eleven children were born there, the first being Karl, born March 27, 1877. I often refer to Ludwischin as Ludwischin-Scheppel, which is sometimes how I see it written. The community of Scheppel is located approximately two kilometers north of Ludwischin.
[Note: Refer to Kirsch Research for a list of names; all the Kirsch names in this paragraph are children of Samuel Kirsch unless otherwise noted] Scheppel is where Gottlieb Kirsch was confirmed in the Lutheran church in 1882. But the community has Baptist associations as well. August Rempel and Julianna Kirsch Rempel emigrated from Scheppel with other Baptist families in 1890. Daniel Kirsch’s wife, Wanda Schindler, was from Ludwischin, but her father and two of her sibling were of the Baptist group that traveled from Scheppel aboard the Hansa. According to In the Midst of Wolves by Donald Miller, Scheppel was a Baptist station in Rozyzscze (parish). While Rozyzscze city was home to the largest Baptist church in the parish, there were several “stations” established as the Baptists grew in number in Volhynia, including Scheppel, where people from various communities congregated to worship. Some of these stations became self-supporting churches. Other names for Scheppel are Schepel, Schepek, Schöpel, Schlepe, Szepel, and Schelpe.
There is evidence that the Kirsch family moved to the nearby colony, Wsewolodowka, between 1902 (death of Adolf Kirsch in Ludwischin) and 1905 (birth of eighteenth and last child, Olga, in Wsewolodowka). Karl Kirsch’s residence was Wsewolodowka when he emigrated in 1913 [Update: Karl lived in Wladislowka, which is a different colony]. His four children were also born there (1901, 1905, 1909, 1911).
Finally, Friedrich Kirsch was born in “Marienovka Usicze,” or what I think is nearby Usicze, in 1899.
Tracking geographic locations as they appear in various records against a timeline helps me determine where the family was during major migrations and important historical events. This information helps me construct a narrative, to help tell a story that is more than names and dates. It will also help with future research–for example, where did remaining Kirsch family members go during the deportation of Volhynian Germans in 1915. Knowing where they were living around that date could help find answers.
 [“Gottlieb Kirsch confirmation record, 1883”] from VKP Birth & Confirmation Records, accessed 21 Mar 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 [“Rempel family in Hansa ship manifest, 1890”] from Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934, accessed 20 Mar 2021 through Ancestry
 Miller, Donald N., In the Midst of Wolves: A History of German Baptists in Volhynia, Russia, 1863-1943, Portland, OR: Multnomah Printing, 2000
I have been working on a longer blog entry about Julianna (Julia) Kirsch Rempel, my great-grandmother Martha’s oldest sister and, being the first Kirsch relative to immigrate to Canada, likely the one responsible for the family’s presence on the prairies. Her husband, August Rempel, was a sewer and watermain contractor in Winnipeg and my great-grandfather, Julius Kelm, worked for him and boarded at the Rempel home at 808 Bannatyne Avenue where he met Martha (read the story here). While searching for information about August, I found information that I think confirms question marks from previous blog posts concerning Martha’s relationship with the Rempel family and her passage to Canada.
I documented my search for Martha’s immigration record in this blog post, which includes a record of a woman named Marta, a domestic traveling to Winnipeg with Friedrich and Rosa Rempel, an older couple who could go on to live in the area of Oakbank, Manitoba. While the information aligned with family stories, I was unsure if this Marta was Martha Kirsch and, if it was, I could not determine a relationship between Friedrich and Rosa Rempel and August Rempel.
My documentation of August’s place of birth, “Petrould,” comes from a border crossing record, from when August visited his son William Rempel in Detroit, Michigan, in 1933. The handwriting is difficult to read, and I suspect it might refer to Petrikau in Poland (though it’s my observation that a city like “Petrikau” gets recorded often in later Volhynia records when the less recognizable village of birth is nearby). There is a birth record for August Rempel, born July 18, 1866, in Ignacow, Lodzkie, Poland, which is around thirty-eight kilometers west of Petrikau, or Piotrkov Trybunalski as it is known today. His obituary in Der Sendbote, a German Baptist newspaper, states, “Brother August Rempel, Sr, born July 18, 1867, in Russia, after a short illness, died February 21, 1943.” The matching of July 18 in this date to the birth record (despite the discrepancy in year) perhaps verifies that both records refer to the same August Rempel.
August’s parents in the aforementioned birth record are Jan Frydryk Rempel and Anna Rozyna Blesing. The older couple “Marta” traveled with was Friedrich and Rosa, who would also go by their less European name variants, Fred and Rose. Rose’s obituary reads: “Mrs. Rempel was born in Russia, and 26 years ago came to Canada with her husband, the late Fred Rempel, and family. They settled on a small farm in Oak Bank […] Surviving is one son, Augustus of Winnipeg.”
I now believe that, in learning more about her brother-in-law, August, I have verified Martha’s immigration record and learned more about the couple that took her in, employed her, and helped her come to Canada. According to the family story, the Rempel family were very good to Martha. When Rose Rempel was dying, “she only wanted Martha to look after her. Martha left her husband, Julius, and children to care for Mrs. [Rempel] who died within a week.”
 “August Rempel” in Detroit Border Crossings and Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905-1963, accessed 17 Mar 2021 through Ancestry
 [“August Rempel birth record, 1866”] from Akta stanu cywilnego Filiału Ewangelicko-Augsburskiego w Dziepółci, accessed 17 Mar 2021 through Geneteka
 [“August Rempel obituary from Der Sendbote newspaper, 1943”] from United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012, accessed 16 Mar 2021 through FamilySearch [Note: Der Sendbote was a newspaper issues by the German Baptist Publication Society from 1874 to 1971, with contributions by the North American Baptist Conference – Library of Congress]
 “Mrs. Rose Rempel” obituary, The Winnipeg Tribune, June 7, 1935, accessed 17 Mar 2021 through Newspapers.com
Last month I wrote a short biography of Pauline Kirsch, half-sister of my great-grandmother, Martha Kirsch. I posted a cropped photograph of Pauline emailed to me by my Aunt Phyllis Reakes (you can view the original uncropped photo of Pauline and her sister, Lydia, and her father, Samuel, here or at the bottom of this post).
I recently got in touch with the family of Lydia Kirsch Adler, the other young woman in the original photo. The comment was made that Pauline looks exactly like a photograph of Lydia on her wedding day. Because sisters often look the same, I thought nothing of it. But, after comparing the posted photo of Pauline and the wedding photo of Lydia, I now believe the description on the back of the above photo (scroll down for scan) mixed the sisters up. I also think Lydia appears to be wearing the same locket or pendant in both photos.
The identification of the sisters comes from the back of the photo.
As an archivist, I have worked on several family photo albums and know how difficult it can be to identify related people in photos, especially sisters. But, in my opinion, the wedding photo looks less like the young woman on right and I now think that the young woman on the right is Pauline. The description might also be correct, however, if we read it in reference to their father (“My Grandpa/picture taken in Russia with 2 of mothers sister/Pauline left/Lydia right”). Pauline is then standing to the left and Lydia to the right.
One of the most rewarding things about writing this blog is getting in touch with cousins I have never met. I am very grateful to Barbara, descendant of Ida Kelm, for recounting family stories and sharing photos and records. Julius and Ida reunited in the late 1930s or 1940s in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Enjoy Part 1 of this short biography.
Please send corrections, additions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ida Kelm (Part 1)
Ida Kelm was the half-sister of my great-grandfather, Julius Kelm. She was born to Ludwig Kelm and his third wife, Mathilde Witzke (whom Ludwig married on January 2, 1883, in Zhitomir, Zhitomir, Volhynia, Russia), on June 29, 1886, in Nowagrad, or Novograd Volynsk. Ida was their third known daughter; her twin sisters, Luise and Pauline Wilhelmine, were born on June 15, 1885, in Slabotka (also Slobodka; now Serbo-Slobidka, Zhytomyrs’ka, Ukraine), Zhitomir. Julius was eight years old when Ida was born. Their known older siblings, from Ludwig’s first marriage to Wilhelmine Langner, were Emilie Kelm (born 1864 in Pomarzany Fabryczne, Kolo, Wielkopolskie, Poland), Karoline Kelm (born 1868 in Zawadka Nowa Stara, Kolo, Wielkopolskie, Poland), and Regina Kelm (born 1872 in Antinuwka, Zhitomir).
Ida was twenty years old when she married Emil Gleske on July 19, 1906, in Novograd Volynsk. Ida and Emil appeared to have settled in Sergejewka, Zhitomir (near Slabotka), as their first child, a son named Samuel, was born in Sergejewka on June 23, 1907. He died at the age of one and a half from convulsions, on January 26, 1909, in Sergejewka.
Ida’s and Emil’s second child, Erna Gleske, was born November 30, 1909, also in Sergejewka. Her date of birth would be formally recorded as December 13. According to family history, Erna was called “Annie” by her father and “Edna” by a neighborhood boy who could not pronounce the r in “Erna” and decided to called her “Edna” instead. Her Americanized name would be Edna Anne (Anna) Gleske.
A second daughter, Emma Gleske, was born September 2, 1911, likely in Sergejewka like all her siblings [Note: Volhynia Archives Birth Indexes, 1900-1918 missing 1911 records for Novograd Volynsk]. The youngest daughter, Olga Gleske, was born October 15, 1913, in Sergejewka.
In 1913, Emil Gleske left Volhynia for the United States with the intention of sending for his wife and daughters when he was able to procure a home for them. Emil arrived in the United States on May 12, taking up residence in Chicago, Illinois, and finding work as a wood worker in a wagon factory. He boarded in various buildings along Archer Avenue in Chicago for several years, the tumult of World War One in Europe delaying his reunion with his family.
“The family was kicked out of their Ukrainian home [Note: Volhynia belonged to Russia at this time; Ukraine became an independent country in 1991] because they were German. Emil was already in the United States preparing a place for his family. Ida, her three daughters, one of their fathers and Emil’s sister wandered through the Ukraine. They were not allowed back into Germany because they had been living in the Ukraine for so long. If a Ukrainian took them in, that person would be accused of treason. The story continues, that my grandmother (Erna) was taken in by a family to do chores and work in the home for room and board. The rest of the family moved on. I’m not sure how they were reunited. Somehow Ida and her daughters rode a train boxcar full of carrots into Germany and ate only carrots during the trip. I’m not sure how long it took or what they had to do, but they finally were able to leave Germany for the United States.”
While contempt against Germans living in Volhynia had been brewing during the latter half of the nineteenth century, causing many Germans to emigrate to Canada and the United States, it wasn’t until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 that the Russian Empire finally decided to act upon its paranoia and deport Germans from Volhynia to regions further east, namely Siberia. These deportations began in February of 1915 and, by the following year, around 200,000 Germans from Volhynia, Poland, and Bessarabia were rounded up and moved east (the highest estimate of deaths due to starvation and cold being 100,000). Many Germans in the Zhitomir region, where the Kelm and Gleske families lived, were exiled in July of 1915, their land (if they owned any) and possessions seized. Half of Volhynian Germans did not return to what for most had been their families’ home for nearly half a century.
Timeline of deportations from Volhynia following the Liquidation Laws of February 2, 1914, and December 13, 1915:
February 2, 1915: Approximately 50,000 Germans from the 150-kilometer-wide border strip deported
Early summer 1915: 70,000 Germans deported
July to August 1915: Approximately 60 percent of Germans deported
December 1915 to February 1916: Remaining Germans deported to Central Asia and Siberia
Ida and her daughters survived exile, their exact whereabouts during the First World War unknown. According to family history, Ida, her daughters, and her sister-in-law wandered Ukraine, eventually traveling to Germany by train in November of 1918, the end of the First World War. In June of 1920, Ida submitted her intent to immigrate to the United States to the American Commission in Berlin. According to this document, Ida had lived in Ukraine from 1914 to 1918. In 1920, her residence was Ober Briesnitz, Sagan, Germany (now Poland). Ida, Erna, Emma, and Olga left Europe from Rotterdam, Netherlands, later that year.
 [“Ludwig Kelm and Mathilde Witzke marriage record, 1883”] from VKP Marriage Records, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 [“Luise Kelm birth record, 1885”] and [“Pauline Wilhelmine Kelm birth record, 1885”] from VKP Birth and Confirmation Records, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe; “Slobodka” from “Google Maps of Ancestral German Colonies (1700-1939),” accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Germans from Russia Settlement Locations
 [“Emilia Kelm birth record, 1864”] and [“Karoline Kelm birth record, 1868”] from Master Pedigree Database, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 [“Regina Kelm birth record, 1872”] from VKP Birth and Confirmation Records, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 [“Ida Kelm and Emil Gleske marriage record, 1906”] from Volhynian Archives Indexes – 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 [“Samuel Gleske birth record, 1907”] from Volhynia Archives Birth Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe [Note: the database says “1902,” but the source is a 1907 [Novograd-Volynsk] church book]
 [“Samuel Gleske death record, 1909”] from Volhynia Archives Death Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 [“Erna Gleske birth record, 1909”] from Volhynia Archives Birth Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 “Edna A. Ring” from U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Ancestry
 Email correspondence with B. Langshaw, 20 Apr 2020
 [“Emma Gleske birth record, 1913”] from Volhynia Archives Birth Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe
 “Emil Gleske” in U.S., Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project), accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Ancestry; “Emil Gleski” from 1920 United States Federal Census, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Ancestry
 Email correspondence with B. Langshaw, 03 Feb 2020
 J. Otto Pohl, “The Deportation and Destruction of the German Minority in the USSR,” JOP, 2001. Accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Norka, https://www.norkarussia.info
 J. Otto Pohl, “The Deportation and Destruction of the German Minority in the USSR,” JOP, 2001. Accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Norka, https://www.norkarussia.info