Apr 172010
 

My Schott ancestors left the town of Osthofen, Germany, about 1809, heading east toward a better life in Russia.

I don’t know why they left this pleasant town in a wine-growing area near the Rhine River, accepting Tsar Alexander’s invitation to German settlers. Great-great-great-grandfather Philipp Jakob Schott was a tailor, so it wouldn’t seem likely a hunger for more farmland would drive him to take such a journey.

A view of Neudorf aka Karmanova

But whatever the reason, he and his family left Germany for Imperial Russia, arriving in the village of Neudorf, Glueckstal parish, sometime between 1816 and 1821.

Neudorf is now the village of Karmanova, located in the Transdniestr region of Moldova. After 13 years of researching my Schott family history, I was finally able to visit this village a couple of weeks ago.

We drove from Chisinau, capital of Moldova, on the road toward Grigoriopol (“City of Grigori,” a common name among the Armenian traders who founded this town). Because the Transdniestr region considers itself a country separate from Moldova (see blog post Flashback to Soviet Russia) we had to cross the “border” to enter Transdniestr.

It was chaotic and a bit laughable as a border. The barrier was a couple of mismatched gates that looked more appropriate to decorate a garden than protect a border. Cars drove up, pulled to the side, blocked each other in. People milled around, going from one building to another to show passports and fill out paperwork. One car cut past all those waiting so a woman in spike heels and a black and white patterned mini-dress (with a foot of rick-rack-type trim that made up most of the skirt) could jump out to use the WC.

As Tania (guide and translator) dealt with our paperwork, Boris pumped up the tire that had gone flat on our car. We got into Trandniestr fairly quickly, although later in the day leaving Transdniestr was more of a problem. The border official insisted that I should have had my passport stamped at our destination, Karmanova. This was actually funny – where in a town as lifeless as Karmanova proved to be could we have gotten my passport stamped?

After entering Transdniestr, we drove toward Neudorf along a lovely valley, winter wheat showing a lush carpet of green and other fields with rich brown soil ready for planting. The only disconcerting notes were the 21st century trash (mostly plastic bags) scattered throughout the green wheat and the farmers working the fields by hand as they might have in the 19th century when my ancestors first arrived there.

The former German Lutheran church is now an Orthodox church behind a locked fence.

Tania had the best summary of Neudorf – a really big town with very few people. The school was huge, the town center building (a community center?) was big, there were large buildings (apartments?) on a ridge overlooking the town, yet very few people seemed to be out and about on this beautiful April day.

The old German Lutheran church is now being used as an Orthodox church, but we couldn’t see inside it. Not only was the building locked up, but it was surrounded by a sturdy metal locked fence as though someone was determined to keep people as far from the church as possible. The woman who came out of the school showed no curiosity about why two strangers (and one of them, me, obviously a foreigner) were peering in the windows. The war memorial in the center of town was a desolate weed-filled spot except for one forlorn man sitting by the side of it. Another memorial commemorated the founding of the village in 1809, though there was no mention the village had been founded by Germans.

The biggest adventure was finding the barn with the gravestones. The German cemetery was long gone and the people we stopped on the street had only a vague knowledge that it used to be “up on that hill somewhere.” I had heard from a fellow genealogist and traveler to Neudorf that some German gravestones had been built into the foundation of a barn. This barn was a bit out of town and we had to ask permission from the men working nearby to duck under the fence to get to it (plus dodge the barking, but chained, dog).

The foundation of this barn contains German gravestones.

I’d had the tiniest hope I might find a familiar name, but didn’t. Despite using our German ancestors’ gravestones as building materials, the Moldovans showed some respect for the dead (or perhaps fear of being haunted) by turning the names and dates so they couldn’t be read. But although the inscriptions that did show were weathered and difficult to read, they were clearly written in German.

When my direct ancestor (Philipp Jakob’s son, Peter Schott, who was born in Neudorf) left the village, his sister Margaretha (Schott) Adam’s family remained there. I took photos of some houses that had still belonged to Adam families in 1944, when the ethnic Germans left the village, as these families may have been distant cousins. One of the current

An example of one of the German gravestones built into the barn.

inhabitants of one of these houses said she remembered a German woman who’d lived in the village until she died a couple years ago.

Neudorf, probably the first home of the Schotts in Russia. Tania and I both agreed we could see why they’d chosen to come here – it was a beautiful valley with apparently rich soil. But today, it’s a quiet, almost desolate place.

See more photos of Neudorf and Glueckstal villages.
(For more stories about visiting ancestral towns, check out my book, “Yes You! Yes Now! Visiting Your Ancestral Town.”)

  63 Responses to “Karmanova aka Neudorf, Glueckstal”

  1. Hi Roger

    I didn’t realize we had all these roots in common – Neudorf, Lehr! 🙂 Yes, my mom loved the Lehr Tabernacle, so talked about it so often. And I think it’s fabulous that it’s still being used and hasn’t just crumbled down!

  2. I am looking for my Grandmother’s family in Russia. Odessa I believe but listed as South Russia on US Census index. She was born 1896 and ended up in Grand Forks, ND around 1904-1906? My father always spelled her name as Caroline Schaur, married to Wendell McClaflin, not Schauer as so many of the records state. She is buried in Memorial Garden Cemetery Grand Forks. I’d love any information or a direction you could point me to.

    Vicki Stonehouse my preferred email address is a2016vls33@gmail.com

  3. Hi Vicki – I’m checking with a friend. Stay tuned.

  4. Hi Carolyn, was your ancestor the Phillp Jakob who was born 3 Dec 1815 in Neudorf? If so we may be related.

  5. My ancestor was Johann Peter Schott, who was born October 1816 in Neudorf. His father was Philipp Jakob Schott, born 30 Jun 1777 in Osthofen, Germany. Do we have a connection?

  6. My ? Is how do I find more info on my family history’s? It difficult From What I have found they came from this village as well. Names are Tesky, Flemmer, Wieser, Ludt Were they Jewish converts to Lutheranism. In what parts of Germany did they come from? I have only a little knowledge of it but we are exploring the Rhinish Palitine in the Rhine Valley. THis is also were the Romans sent Jewish Rebels and slaves from The Bar Kokhba Rebellion in 115-117 AD. ANy Help would be great.

  7. I also Forgot these names Jacober

  8. Kelly – I just responded by email.

  9. Hi Carolyn. I am another who is descended from those who lived in Neudorf. My ancestors were Karl Jacob Schauer and Carolina Helm as well as Johann Henne and Louisa Bauer. I’m appreciative of you sharing your experiences and photos with all of us. And I look forward to connecting with others who have posted here.

  10. Hello Barb!

    Have you used the Black Sea German website and/or are you in touch with Bob Schauer? He’s done a lot of research on the Schauers of Neudorf.

  11. Hi Vikki… Would you happen to have any information on my ancestries existence in the town of Neudorf… the last name spelling is questionable but it is Wiederrich. I have heard from my great and that a few families had escaped in the late eighteen hundreds and had to escape through tunnels and it was not a very good story. Would you happen to know anything about this history?
    Lisa

  12. Hi Lisa,
    Yes, there was definitely a Wiederrich family in Neudorf. It looks like the first immigrant to Neudorf was Jakob Wiederrich, born in 1769 and came to Neudorf in 1809. There’s tons of info on this family in the “Point of Origins” file that the Glueckstal Colonies Research Association has for sale. (More than I could possibly cut and paste here.) Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Gluckstal-Colonies-Research-Association-131385740262277/

    In the late 1800s, there were many new laws passed that took away many of the privileges the German colonists had received – exemption from military service, ability to use only German in churches and schools. That combined with the pressure of big families and less land available definitely caused many to migrate during that time.

    Later, after the Russian Revolution and as Stalin took over (1917 and beyond), things got very, very bad for all the people in this area, including our German families. Many were executed, many were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan or other labor camps. There was a genocide committed against people living in Ukraine (including our Germans) by the Soviet Union in 1932-33 in which millions starved to death because all the food was confiscated.

    In 1945, during WWII, many of the people who had survived fled the area back to Germany (prior to that, it was basically impossible to get out).

    I’m not sure about the story of the tunnels, but that could have been something specific to an individual who left (prior to 1917) or escaped (after 1917).

    Hope that’s helpful!

  13. Thanks for sharing your story

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