Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Using German War Records (Part II)

In Part I of this series, we explained how to search the German war records called EWZ for Mennonites.  Hopefully you have gotten one or more files that interested you.  Now we'll dive into the files.

The files generally contain three types of documents.  The first one gives the personal details of the applicant.  Below we are looking at the file of Katharina (Fast) Warkentin, who was the actual applicant for citizenship in the Jakob Fast file that I mentioned in part I.

Personalblatt (Personal Page) for Katharina (Fast) Warkentin, 27 October 1944, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, Record Group 242, Records of Einwandererzentralstelle, File #762268, Microfilm Publication A3342, Series EWZ-50, Film I088, Frame 0558 from Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia, Abbotsford, British Columbia.
With just rudimentary German, you can see that it gives a birth date (Gerburts) of 2 February 1901, and a birthplace (Ort) of Hamberg village and a marriage date (verh.) of 10 September 1922.  Searching in Grandma using her maiden name and birth year reveals that she is #1014733.

Immediately following on the page is the information about her parents:
This gives her parents' names, birth places, birth dates, death dates, and religion (Mennonite).  If we compare to GM, we see that her father Jakob Fast's birth date there is 7 Nov 1867, which makes more sense than 1887, since he would have been only 14 years old when she was born in 1901 if he were born in 1887.

But it gets better.  The next information is her grandparents' names.
Her paternal grandfather was Klaus Fast, and this information is not in GM, so we should submit it as a correction.  The main record database from this time period for Molotschna colony is the school records, so let's search those for a father Klaas Fast and a son Jacob Fast, using the index compiled by Tim Janzen.

In the 1873-1874 school records, we find a Klaas Fast in Ladekopp, and he has two daughters Helena (b. ABT 1863) and Eva (b. ABT 1865).  This is probably the same family, but our Jacob is likely just a year too young to be attending school.  Unfortunately, the family is not listed in any of the other school records, and I can't find Helena or Eva in GM.
Klaas Fast household, school attendance record, Ladekopp, Molotschna, South Russia, 1873-1874, Odessa Region State Archive, Odessa, Ukraine, Peter J. Braun Collection, Fund 89, Inventory 1, File 2184, index compiled by Tim Janzen.  Accessed at http://mennonitegenealogy.com/russia/school/1873-74b.htm on 22 January 2017.
We can't yet say for sure whether the Klaas Fast who is the father of Jacob in the EWZ records is the same one as the Klaas Fast who is the father of Helena and Eva in the school records.  What if there were two Klaas Fasts about the same age both living in Ladekopp at the same time?  I've seen more than one such situation.  Fortunately, there is a list where we can check.  In the fall of 1863, many of the Molotschna villages had a bad harvest, so the villages loaned seed grain to their residents.  The landowners in the village had to sign to authorize the loan and the recipients (landowners and non-landowners alike) signed to receive the grain.  Presumably the lists include all the heads of households in the participating villages, and Ladekopp was one of those villages.

Extract of grain loan records, Ladekopp, Molotschna, South Russia, 22 October 1863, Odessa Region State Archive, Odessa, Ukraine, Fund 6, Inventory 4, File 21178, Pages 55-56, accessed at http://archive.mennonitehistory.org/projects/residents/grain_loans.html on 24 January 2017.
There were only three Fast heads of households in Ladekopp in 1863, which is ten years before the school records above.  And only one of them is named Klaas Fast, so we can be fairly confident that there was only one Klaas Fast in the village and that he was the father of all three children, Helena, Eva, and Jacob.  We should also note the column that indicates "both" - meaning that he both signed the grain loan documents as a landowner and as a recipient.  Since he was a landowner, his tenure in the village would be much more stable, and he would not be as likely to move as non-landowners.

I'm going to submit this information to GM as a correction.

The next question is who were Klaas Fast's parents.  I have a good candidate, but I haven't found sufficiently strong evidence yet, so that will (hopefully) be the subject of a future post.

I hope these two posts have given you a sense of the value of the EWZ records, how they can be used to research Soviet-era Mennonites, and how they can be combined with earlier records to research imperial-era Mennonites as well.

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