Introduction to the Village History Project
Copyright 1996, Dale Wahl

State Councilor E. von Hahn held the position of president of the Welfare Committee of German settlers in South Russia (the Fuersorgekomitee der Auslaendischen Ansiedler in Sued-Russland). The Gemeindeberichte were submitted to the Welfare Committee in accordance with a circular letter dated 8 January 1848 sent out by Councilor E. von Hahn to all of the mayors and school teachers enjoining them to undertake the writing of an historical account of the founding and development of the existing colonies. Giesinger reports that in 1848, there were 203 villages in the Black Sea Region.

Some of these histories were published over the next few years in an Odessa German newspaper, the Unterhaltungsblatt fuer deutsche Ansiedler im suedlichen Russland. It is thought that this was Hahn's original intent. However, in 1854, with the majority still unpublished, the newspaper stopped carrying them. They then lay forgotten in the archives of the former Supervisory Office in Odessa for about 5 decades.

Early in the twentieth century, Konrad Keller, a Catholic priest, is credited for "discovering" this valuable historical material. Keller used these histories in his two volumes of The German Colonies in South Russia, with volume 1 being published in 1905 and volume 2 in 1914. We should take special note that Keller's work does not contain these histories verbatim as written in 1848, but included with material obtained from other sources as part of the work.

In 1904, pastor Jakob Stach used these histories in his book, The German Colonies in South Russia, and later edited a large number of the Gemeindeberichte for publication in German newspapers in the Black Sea Region.

In 1926 and 1927 Dr. Georg Leibbrandt and a Catholic Priest, Dr Josef A. Malinowsky, published 59 of the Gemeindeberichte for the Black Sea colonies in Germany.

In 1941, Margarete Woltner published 114 of the Gemeindeberichte. Eight of these were previously unpublished while the other 106 were reprinted from Russian German periodicals of which many had been edited by Stach.

With the work of Leibbrandt, Malinowsky and Woltner, we can account for about 173 of the original 203 villages histories. Then of course we must consider the 17 other colonies that Keller used in his work. This accounts for about 190 of the 203 of these village histories.

Some of these histories contained in Leibbrandt's work have been published in English for us. On page 149 of Homesteaders on the Steppe, The Odyssey of a Pioneering People, by Joseph S. Height, he reports that all 19 of those in Odessa were Lutheran and then he says he included all of them in the book, though only 16 of the 19 appear.

Some English-translated Gemeindeberichte have been filmed by the LDS, and some have been re-translated again and published in the GRHS Heritage Review. We only knew about one other which had been translated into English when we started this project.

The goal of this new project is to search out copies of those villages whose Gemeindeberichte had been translated into English, and go forward with volunteers to get as many of the rest of them translated as we can.

During these early efforts it becomes obvious that the original work was written in different styles and with different intents. To translate these works can become difficult because of some of the authors' methods of reporting the history. They often reflected things in an inside-out method which is nearly impossible for an American-thinking German-fluent person to translate. It takes some very special talent to do the work correctly.

It has become a project of the GRHS Village Research Project Clearing House to gather as many of the 1848 histories as we can in English form, and share them freely with researchers here on the GRHS website. Permission shall be obtained for each village history prior to posting here on the GRHS server.

Many of the 1848 histories are currently being prepared in English form for posting here. If you desire a current report, contact the GRHS Clearing House. Please enjoy and freely share the associated village historical information.

Dale L. Wahl

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