27 March 2008

Two messages from the Gangnus gentleman in Germany

I will paste them below. Oldest is listed immediately below, with most recent under that one. I feel comfortable posting them because Gustav okayed my doing it earlier and his email is not posted. It is pretty much an academic exchange of information (okay, it is him giving me information, not me giving him much, except those pictures.)

Hello Brian,

some ideas about Till ... I researched not only my colonists living in the colony. More interesting (and more difficult) is to research the fate of the colonists leaving Hirschenhof. When they could not inherit the farm of the father they had to go outside, regularly to Riga, 70 percent of all. I discovered some families in the surrounding manors as well. There were about 95 percent Latvian peasants, the German landholder's family and some German speaking craftsmen as smith, miller, inn tenant, administrator. Between them our colonists (and socially rising Latvians) found good jobs. If I remember rightly, I saw there (in raduraksti) some Tills and G�nthers. A few of them (Till and Truschinsky) can be found in the phone directory of Riga of today, especially Gintere or Ginters.

As to Erwin Gangnus: His parents were Georg Ewald, *Hirschenhof 15.11.1875 - Riga 15.5.1937. He married Riga 5.11.1900 Karolina Maria Dorothea Mauerhoff, *Riga 3.4.1880.

In the field of the Latvian history of the 19. century A. Plakans will be himself one of the best experts. We know him as a leading member of the AABS (Association of Advanced Baltic Stzdies).

As to the percentage of the social strata of the Baltic Germans I am unsure. It depends on time and locality. The relation between Latvians and Germans in general never was lower than 90 : 10, excepting in the towns, where the Germans had the majority until the 19. century. The leading group (nobility), the richest people ((commercial world of Hansa) always was of more importance than number. They themselves had strict forms of apartheid both against the Latvians and the lower classes of the own "nationality". As their importance was low and their attention even more, the upper families did not see them, even authors, writers, historians who made history. But I beg your pardon. I don't want to teach you; I tell only my opinion about that what I read and heard the last 25 years.

During the last decades before the emigrations of 1939 and 1941 most of the formerly leading families had left the country: during the russification era, during World War II and foundation of the Baltic republics, after and because of the agrarian reforms, during the Latvian politics growing more and more nationalistic (as in Germany, too).

These facts explain some of the reasons why many Germans didn't leave their homeland at the end. They had become Latvians on a considerable scale. There was an irrational hope, the lower the class the more spread, that the homeland even under Stalin would be better than the incertain future in the foreign "Vaterland". Mixed marriages had become a quite normal case although condemned in the NS ideology some years later. A husband or a wife had a serious problem when he/she was a Russian, Latvian, Estonian, Pole and when he/she spoke all languages except German. And in Germany the imigrants of 1941, who had "refused the hepful hand of the F�hrer" in 1939, were not recognized as Germans, but as refugees to be observed and may be educated in camps of "deplaced persons".




Hello Brian,

the four attached photos are o.k. The first one (obituary of Adolf Deifel) is blameless, number 2 and 3 (Santa Claus with boy or with boy and girl) are good, the fourth picture (man in the garden, face in shade) difficult to identify. As I understand in picture 2 - 4 is Helmut, in 2 maybe with son, in 3 with son and daughter, in 4 alone. Deifel doesn't seem to be a Baltic name. But there were variations of this name in the Volga colonies.

As to your requests: I haven't got any picture of Leontine, Erwin, Helmut, Gertrud. Only Erwin's father (Ewald) is in my book. As I corresponded with a cousin of Helmut, the only person who survived in Germany, I wrote her a letter to ask for pictures.

As to the earlier history of German immigration into the Baltics: Until 1766 there were no German peasants at all except landholders/nobility with Latvian bondmen or citizens of Hansa towns.

About 1766 Catherine II., a woman of German nobility by birth, one of the greatest Russian czars by life and biography, around 30 000 German settlers from the southwest of Germany (which didn't exist in those times) come in invited to colonize underdevelopped landscapes. About 1 percent of them founded a colony in Livonia, today Latvia. They spoke German until their elimination in 1939. In the beginning they were peasants, but most of their descendants at Riga and elsewhere became craftsmen. The later the more they developped into the upper classes and par example married daughters of the nobility, too. Irrespectively of that, from 1400 to 1850 immigrated as individuals tramps, workmen, and so called literates (teachers, parsons, physicians). I think people as Till, Guenther etc. came into Livonia as craftsmen. Under the multicultural conditions of life some of them became Latvians, some of the Latvians - after the serdom was abolished about 1820 -became Germans until the national awakening after 1870.

The German (Baltic) population which Latvia and Estonia in 1939 has been registered in alphabetical publications of the Latvian and Estonian states (dismissal out of citizenship). I have fotocopies of them. In 1941 only hectographed papers were written without system or order. A paradoxon: The emigrants of 1941 who did not estimate Hitler were punished for that fact having remained two years longer in the east. In many cases they got the German nationality only by becoming SS specialists.

The best and greatest archives for details of persons (maybe only relatives?) is

Finckensteinallee 63
Postfach 450 569
D-12205 B e r l i n

or: berlin@barch.bund.de

The most important details to identify a person are the names and birthdate (and birthplace).

I wish you all the best.


----- Original Message -----
From: Brian
To: Gustav Gangnus
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 1:39 AM
Subject: Re: more Gangnuss and Truschinski

Hallo Gustav,

I've attached a few pictures of Helmut. I will explain the picture of the gentleman in the military uniform later in this message. I will send a few more pictures after you let me know that you received these pictures. I do not know who the child is in the one picture with Helmut. Remember, all of the pictures that I send you have been identified by my grandmother within the last year. They are her pictures, but she will be 95 years old this May, so her memory is not very good.

Some thoughts:

I have a few pictures of a female named "Trudy" who is sitting with Leone Truschinski and Helmut. I now think that this may be "Gertrude" Gangnus. I still don't know if she is adopted or born to Leontine. My grandmother did not say that she was related to Helmut or Leone T., but I will ask my father to inquire with my grandmother a second time. I will include those pictures in the next message.

My father has placed a call to Latvia to inquire with our relative about a phone number/email/postal address for our Australian relative, Helmut. I will let you know when we meet with some success.

I do have a couple of requests if you are able.

First, do you have any pictures of Leontine T. or Helmut or, more importantly, Erwin? I would appreciate it if you could send me a scanned image or, if it is easier, by post. The image of the gentleman in the uniform is an obituary, of course. I have three or four relatives on my mother's side of the family who died in either WWI or WWII. I have an image of each obituary. So, if you had an obituary, some other image of Erwin, and/or other military records, I would be very appreciative. I am trying to learn more than just birth, marriage and death dates when it is possible. It is very tough, though, as you may be aware, I have only been doing this for less than one year.

Second, as I may have mentioned earlier, no matter the success I have in going further back in my research, I have no idea of how to find records of my relatives when they leave for Germany, pre-WWII or for when they may have left Germany or Prussia or the Volga region for Latvia. Do you have any suggestions? I think this will be my biggest and most meaningful challenge.

The third and related to the previous item is about a relative named Otto Konstantine Till, b- 4 Nov 1910, who died while serving in the German military, but I have been unable to find records to that end. All I know is that he died in 1942. He was born and raised in Riga. Is there a Latvian source that you might recommend?

Of course, I am not asking you to do any research for me, but only to give me any ideas that you might have based upon your experience.

Do you need me to send the immigration records that I have copied from Australia? I already have Leontine's record on my website from which you can download. Is there any specific information that you would like to receive from me? Please let me know.

Thank you for your help!


I am unclear if he wants/needs any more information from me, but I imagine if he does, he'll send me a note. Either way, if my dad somehow manages to get contact information for the gentleman in Australia, I'll forward that to him.

The information he gave me about Germans in Latvia is good. The most interesting thing to me was the comment about there being no German peasants prior to about 1760 in Latvia. So, a date to establish portions of my family tree were something other than peasants is around 1760.

I'm still waiting for a response from the Rogenhagen gentleman. He said that his family is sure of a link to Riga, but the only information I have is in Limbazi (Lemsal, at the time). I think it would be very, very cool if they were NOT aware of the link and found it because of my work!

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