NB: Somehow I published this post before it was finished. This is the final version.
In the finding guide for the Odessa, Ukraine State Archives, Fund 6, Inventory 2, I came across a record for a Penner living in the village of Prangenau in Molotscha Colony in 1847 who suffered damage in a hail storm. The damage must have been quite severe because the colony made a collection for him and several other families. Here's the bit of the finding guide:
Very interesting - my 3-greats-grandfather Jacob Penner #101378 (1777-1856?) lived in Prangenau village. Could he be the same Penner who suffered the hail damage and for whom the village made a collection?
A couple weeks ago I went to the Tabor College Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies and scanned the relevant pages from the file. Just yesterday I got around to looking at them, and the Penner affected by the hail storm was Jacob It matched! The microfilm quality is awful but take a look:
1835 Molotschna census index to see if there were any other Penners in Prangenau - it's always possible there was another Jacob Penner or two in the same village. In fact, there were three Penner families in Prangenau in the 1835 census. One was my ancestor Jacob Penner at Prangenau #15; another was his son Jacob, also living at Prangenau #15; and the third was a Peter Penner #281611, whom I suspect is a cousin but don't know for sure. (Importantly, according to Grandma, this third Peter Penner had no son named Jacob, so I can be sure the Jacob Penner who suffered from the hailstorm is not a son of Peter.)
In the 1847 election lists from Molotschna, which is of landowners only, there are two Penners, Jacob and Peter in Prangenau. Good news - there is no extra Jacob Penner in the village, at least among the landowners. It is always possible that Jacob's son Jacob had taken over the farm and that this was not my 3-greats-grandfather but his son, who was not my direct ancestor. But I think this is unlikely because there is a family memoir that says the older Jacob Penner lived until 1850 or 1856.
In the 1850 voting for the doctor that I recently extracted, there are two Penners, the same Peter Penner and a Franz Penner, who is my 2-greats-grandfather and son of Jacob Penner. It appears that in 1847, father Jacob Penner still ran the farm but that by 1850, he had turned it over to his son Franz.
All good news so far - there is only one Jacob Penner in the village and he is my 3-greats grandfather, so the file is of interest to me.
Now the bad news - I CAN'T READ IT! The microfilm is so bad that I can't make out more than a few words. Next week I want to go back to CMBS and see if I can focus the scanner better. Or maybe I can read it directly on the screen, even if a scan is not of sufficient quality to read. But I have to go back because I really want to know about the hailstorm that my great-great-great-grandfather suffered and the help that the colony gave him to recover. I'm not giving up yet.