Photos from the Past

Fresh from our family archives is a photo of the village of Grimm, Russia, taken from the side view of a typical home. I suspect the home belongs to a relative of ours, although I cannot confirm that detail.

In the foreground, the roof of the home is in disrepair, with part of it actually missing. A small mud and stone barn is in the backyard, obviously in better shape than the home. Notice the laundry hanging on a clothes line in the back yard. Beyond the picket fence at about the mid-line of the photos, you can see another home and barn in worse shape than those in the foreground. In the background, the village church and school buildings are visible.

Photo of house and barn in Grimm, Russia

Photo of house and barn in Grimm, Russia, left side

Photo of Grimm, Russia House and Barn

Photo of Grimm, Russia House and Barn, right side

The photo was too large for me to scan in one pass, so I’ve included both photos, rather than trying to stitch them together. This was the kind of life my mother’s family lived in Russia.

From top left: Mollie, Eva, Ann, Emily, Carl and Edward Fritzler, circa 1920.

From top left: Mollie, Eva, Ann, Emma, Carl and Edward Fritzler, circa 1923.

Pictured above is my mother’s maternal family, circa about 1923. They immigrated from Grimm, Russia to the United States in 1913 and settled in Chicago for 5 years before moving to Fort Collins, Colorado. During their stay in Colorado, my grandmother, Mollie, was forced to drop out of high school and work in the sugar beet fields to help support her family. In 1923 the family moved to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where they finally put down roots. Mollie married Alex Kaiser in 1926 and the couple settled in Milwaukee.

Interesting to note, the men in this photo outlived the women by decades. Carl, the oldest son, lived to be 90. Shortly before his death, he reconnected with a cousin who remained in Russia but eventually immigrated to his homeland after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Edward, the youngest sibling, passed away earlier this year. He was 95 years old.

When you are reading Chapters 6, 7 and 8 of Braha and you read the description of Grimm or think about the barn where Leena and Peter would secretly meet, think about the photos above. This was the life that the Germans in Grimm, Russia, lived. This is what my grandparents and their children left behind around the same time that fictional Leena Weiss was whisked off to Gatchina and later Braha, the location of her secret sanctuary in the historic chapel in Finland.

The story of the Germans from Russia always sobers me because it’s my family’s story, too.

  9 comments for “Photos from the Past

  1. KAREN
    August 5, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    My Grandparents were also from Grimm. I’ve been researching for a few years. Been researching any Germans from Russia I find trying to find any links. I have come across the name Kaiser often, some were in Fond Du Lac.

    • September 10, 2014 at 2:16 am

      What a happy coincidence! I do the same, researching any Germans from Russia for possible links. One thing I’ve discovered is that even though my grandfather was certain his family was originally from Grimm, almost certainly some of his ancestors married people from other towns. My Kaiser and Fritzler relatives are from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. One worked as a casket maker, the other at Reuping Leather Company.

  2. Jackie (Edkins) Fritsch
    September 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Hello, Julie, this is also a family link of mine! However I am having problems linking Uncle Paul Edward Kaiser. I know he was born in Colorado. The 1930 Census has a Paul born to Anna and Alec but I can’t find a Paul born to Charlotte Kerbel and Georg Jacob Kaiser.

    Wondering why they moved to Fond du Lac. ?

    I was told at the Fond du Lac Library or at the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center (forgot which one) that at one time there was a large group of people that spoke German living in Fond du Lac, in fact had a German Newspaper published there. I have to get back to Fond du Lac to work on this at some point.

    Do you know of any connection of Kaiser to the Kaisers in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin? There are a lot of them.

    • October 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      I’m not sure why you can’t find Paul Edward Kaiser listed on a census for Georg Jacob Kaiser and Charlotte Kerbel Kaiser. I know that these Germans went by their middle names. Have you checked under Jacob Kaiser? I’m also not sure why they moved back to Fond du Lac, but I know there was a large population of Germans from Russia there. I also know they had relatives in the Chicago area. Could be they wanted to be closer to their Chicago relatives, or maybe the Chicago relatives moved to Fond du Lac and they decided to follow them there. I know my grandparents had friends and relatives in Sheboygan County, but don’t know specific details. I will talk to my mom and see if she can shed more light on this subject.

  3. Kristina King Diekema
    January 20, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    I am a descendant from a Carl Or Karl Fritzler, and Natalie (nee Michaelis) Fritzler. My Grand Mother is Anne Fritzler , who married James Russell King (Rus). My Father is Russell E King. I believe that Karl was From Grimm, Saratov, Russia. They imigrated to Rocky Ford , Colorado and then to Flint, Michigan. I have searched endlessly, with no luck. I would be so grateful if you had any information? I was told that Carl’s father owned a Shoe Store in Grimm, and that Karl and Natalie came sometime between 1911 and 1913. Thank you…

  4. Dennis Gillig
    March 3, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Gillig, there were two Gillig families in Grimm. I hear they didn’t really know each other. My grandfather Frederick John Gillig, came to America about 1903-5. I have it more accurate but not near that now. He entered via Baltimore and came to near Chicago, lived in Broadview. Grandma, also from Grimm, came via Ellis Island and it was her second trip. They met and married in Bellwood, IL. Her name was Amelia Jacqueline Heide. Her father made/sold farm implements. Fritzler and Leonhardt were family names as well as others.

    • April 25, 2017 at 5:18 am

      This is fascinating! I don’t know much about the Gillig’s in terms of being extended family, but I do know that my great grandfather Fritzler’s sister married a Gillig. She eventually immigrated to America with him and another Fritzler sister as part of a large family group. This wasn’t until about 1913, and they arrived in Canada first and entered the U.S. at Portland, Maine.

      I checked my resources and found that there was only one family in Grimm at the time of the 1798 census. Samual Gillig and his wife Anna Maria Scheffler. Their descendants were the only Gilligs in Grimm. They had four sons ranging in age from 1 to 16, which is pretty significant. It looks like they paired off and created two Gillig households.

      One brother moved to Erlenbach in 1852 with his entire family. Another brother had no children. So the only Gillig descendants in Grimm came from the oldest brother, Johann Peter, and the youngest brother, Johann Philipp who lived in different households. I guess it’s easy to see how they may have lost touch with each other, especially since three of the brother’s passed away by 1851 and the other one moved away. There were three or four generations (20 year spans) between the 1850s and the 1900s.

      Thanks for sharing your family information!

      • Alan
        December 31, 2017 at 1:47 am

        Hello… my wife’s grandfather, Alex gillig, was from erlenbach. He was born in February 1890 and came through Ellis island in 1912. He married a Katherine miller from Unterdorf. Apparently he had a brother who went to Argentina around 1912. Alex gillig grew up in Colorado and then moved to Saginaw Michigan.

        Possibly, this is one of the two gillig line mentioned.

  5. keenan hunt
    June 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Hello my name is Keenan Hunt. I have been searching the internet for the family history of my biological father Donald Leonhardt ( from Racine Wi. ) I didn’t know him, I only met him once when I came across his obituary and it said his parents names were Alex and Molly Leonhardt. Then when I researched Molly Leonhardt maiden’s name I came across Molly Weiderman Married to Alex from Grimm Russia if some how these are the same people, please let me know, thank you.
    Keenan Hunt

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