Ida Kelm (Part 1)

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 sarika.l.kelm@gmail.com.

Ida Kelm (Part 1)

Gleske family passport photograph, 1920; Erna (Edna), Ida, Emma, Olga. Scan courtesy of B. Langshaw

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),[1] 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.[2] 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),[3] and Regina Kelm (born 1872 in Antinuwka, Zhitomir[4]).

Ida was twenty years old when she married Emil Gleske on July 19, 1906, in Novograd Volynsk.[5] 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.[6] He died at the age of one and a half from convulsions, on January 26, 1909, in Sergejewka.[7]

Ida’s and Emil’s second child, Erna Gleske, was born November 30, 1909, also in Sergejewka.[8] Her date of birth would be formally recorded as December 13.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

“Emil Gleske” from U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Ancestry [Update: According to B. Langshaw, Ernest (Ernst) Gleske, who is listed as a contact, is Emil’s brother]

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.[12] 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.”[13]

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.[14] 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).[15] 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.[16] Half of Volhynian Germans did not return to what for most had been their families’ home for nearly half a century.[17]

Timeline of deportations from Volhynia following the Liquidation Laws of February 2, 1914, and December 13, 1915:[18]

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.[19] In 1920, her residence was Ober Briesnitz, Sagan, Germany (now Poland). Ida, Erna, Emma, and Olga left Europe from Rotterdam, Netherlands, later that year.

“Declaration of Alien About to Depart for the United States, 1920.” Scanned document emailed 02 Feb 2021. by B. Langshaw

[1] [“Ludwig Kelm and Mathilde Witzke marriage record, 1883”] from VKP Marriage Records, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe

[2] [“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

[3] [“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

[4] [“Regina Kelm birth record, 1872”] from VKP Birth and Confirmation Records, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe

[5]  [“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

[6] [“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]

[7] [“Samuel Gleske death record, 1909”] from Volhynia Archives Death Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe

[8] [“Erna Gleske birth record, 1909”] from Volhynia Archives Birth Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe

[9] “Edna A. Ring” from U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, accessed 07 Mar 2021 through Ancestry

[10] Email correspondence with B. Langshaw, 20 Apr 2020

[11] [“Emma Gleske birth record, 1913”] from Volhynia Archives Birth Indexes, 1900-1918, accessed 03 Feb 2021 through Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe

[12] “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

[13] Email correspondence with B. Langshaw, 03 Feb 2020

[14] 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

[15] 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

[16] “Expropriation lists 1915” from Volhynia, https://www.volhynia.com/res-villages.html?fbclid=IwAR0hcu55E8p_2TmuJ1znGIZutJ0YnvPtvU_AEuLCQPYByCVlRcQ0yp25I3s

[17] Ulrich Mertens, German-Russian Handbook: A Reference Book for Russian German and German Russian History and Culture, 2010, https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/sites/default/files/image-directory/German-RussianHandbook.pdf

[18] Ulrich Mertens, German-Russian Handbook: A Reference Book for Russian German and German Russian History and Culture, 2010, https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/sites/default/files/image-directory/German-RussianHandbook.pdf

[19] “Declaration of Alien About to Depart for the United States, 1920.” Scanned document emailed 02 Feb 2021. by B. Langshaw.