Village Coordinators Help Guide

Originally Authored by Kris Ball
Updated November 2002

1. What is a Village Coordinator?

2. Getting Started AHSGR VC Research Kit

3. Resources for Information

  • AHSGR library

  • Local Chapters

  • Internet

  • Village Night

  • VC Meeting at AHSGR Convention

  • GRVC Mailing list on the Internet

  • GER-RUS & GER-RUS2 on the Internet

  • Odessa Digital Library

  • To Do Ideas

4. Organizing the Data

  • Genealogy Databases

5. Disseminating the Data

  • Members vs. Non-Members

  • Charging vs. Giving It Away

6. Village Newsletter

  • Content

  • Desktop Publishing Programs

7. Web Site

  • Web Site Contents

  • Putting It All Together

8. Jump-Starting Your Village

  • Village Night Ideas

  • Surveys to Villagers

9. Village Coordinators & Web Sites


1. What is a Village Coordinator?

From the AHSGR Village Coordinator Page comes the following definition of a Village Coordinator:

They coordinate, aid, and assist those individuals attempting to bring families  and villages together through village research. They are doing this work on a volunteer basis and spend many hours gathering and organizing information. Some villages are large and some small.

Each coordinator desires to communicate with all persons who share the same village heritage. This would include sharing of family group records, maps, individual and family histories, video and audio tapes of memories, trip experiences, and other village information. Coordinators oversee the Village Night as part of the annual convention. It is always a highlight to find tables with persons sharing the same village.

Some of the villages now have newsletters. Some have "home pages on the World Wide Web (WWW). Some have printed books, articles, and other publications often appearing in the Journals. Some are creating GEDCOM format databases to be of help to families. Your input is needed. "

Every Village Coordinator is as unique as the village and people they serve.   In general though, they share some characteristics.  They are:

  • an Historian

  • a Researcher

  • a Collector

  • a Preservationist

They are genealogists, but they are more.  They are dedicated individuals who volunteer to go the extra mile and collect data about a village(s) so future generations will be able to learn about this foreign land which was called home by our people for more than a hundred years.

A Village Coordinator is whatever you make it.  Through your efforts, you honor the memory of your ancestors, and preserve the history of our people so future generations will know and honor them, too.

Village Coordinator Agreement

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2. Getting Started

An obvious place to start is to find out what is available at AHSGR Headquarters.  If you can spend some time there, you will discover the breadth of the collections.  If you can't go to Lincoln, you can use the AHSGR Resource Kit as a guide to the collections. The AHSGR Resource Kit is available through the AHSGR Member Store.

AHSGR Resource Kit
This is a resource intended to be a guide to the variety of resources available through the AHSGR.   It is very important that you understand that the editor/publisher created about 5% of the material.  Miscellaneous other created 5%.  Fully 90% is the hard, professional work of AHSGR staff.  Without their professionalism and insight, there would be no kit.  This is not a collection of original information.  In most cases, it is not even a list of original information.  It is mostly a "list of lists".  It is 160 pages of lists showing you where/how to get other lists/records  that in turn show you where the original data are.  Cost is $15.00 for members (in either paper or diskette format).

The contents include:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (60% of the AHSGR Web Page, 40% new material, all edited to eliminate web-speak)

  • Family Ancestor Charts (Trees) What charts are available, under order, and where

  • Bibliography Indexed by Surname   (This is neat!  HQ staff, Tracy et al, went through all  Work Papers, Clues, GRHS, Volhynian, Journals, Bessarabia, Gluckstahl papers  and created a massive index, organized by Surname.)

  • Bibliography Indexed by Village (same as above, but indexed by village)

  • Bibliography Indexed by Immigration Ship (same but indexed by immigration ship)

  • Inventory of the Village Research Files  (Staff has recently organized all "village" materials into one folder per "village")

  •  Church Records (Bessarabian Church Records, Budingen, Germany and Volga  Russia Church Records, United States Church Records)   This is a compilation  of these records stored at HQ

  •  Miscellaneous Compilations and Databases (mostly having to do with computer databases).

  •  Newspapers, Boy do we have a lot of old newspapers!

  •  Public Records, Census Lists and several other things your normal "courthouse" records.

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3. Resources for Information

AHSGR Resources

  • Work Papers/Journals  - Workpapers were the early Journals.   Workpapers/Journals are comprised of fiction/non-fiction pertaining to G/R's.

  • Clues - Clues is a genealogical resource publication which contains self-help information on researching your ancestors, the surname exchange which provides other members with a contact to someone researching the same village and/or family.

  • Library - books, videos, microfilm, microfiche

  • Maps - Of villages, regions

  • Russian Censuses - From the years 1772, 1775, 1798, 1892 (not all years are available for all villages)

Local Chapters
Find the AHSGR chapter closest to you, and closest to the area in the US where many of your village's emigrants came.  Many Chapters have libraries of resources such as Work Papers, Journals and Clues, church records, and immigration records extracts.  This is an excellent resource for local information, histories and contacts.  The German-Russians moved by groups of families; often a village from Russia was "transplanted" in America, and you can make great contacts through the Chapters.

Growing by leaps and abounds every day, this is one of the richest resources to become available to genealogists in years.  Email makes communication with others across the globe easy, reliable and fast.  This is especially useful for sending and receiving information from Russia where the postal system is less than reliable.

The internet is also an ideal tool for posting data about your village through a village web site.  Some VCs put their newsletters on the web, saving postage costs.  See Chapter 7 for Web Site ideas.

AHSGR also has a web site that has links to many other resources: Favorite German-Russian sites on the internet, libraries of information, email addresses of German-Russian people on the internet.  Plus, you can email AHSGR headquarters from the web site.

Village Night
One night at the AHSGR convention is designated "Village Night".  Tables are set up for each village, and people gather to share information and stories.  See Chapter 8 for ideas on Village Night.

VC Newsletter
Some VCs produce newsletters to send to their villagers.  This is a means of sharing new resources with villagers, and often includes queries and articles submitted by the villagers.  See Chapter 6 for information on the Village Newsletter

VC Meeting at AHSGR Convention
This is an opportunity for VCs to network and learn from each other on how to best serve their villages.  There is also a meeting with the AHSGR Board of Directors.

Mailing lists on the Internet
Internet listservs provide another means of discussion and communication for persons interested in the Germans from Russia. A current list of electronic mail servers can be found on the AHSGR web site at

Odessa Digital Library
By Roger Ehrich
Computer networking has dramatically changed the way we are doing genealogical research. Listservers and email have made it easy to communicate and to collaborate worldwide, and many people have been able to achieve in weeks or months what would previously have required years of research.
Gopher and World Wide Web services have also provided the potential for instant access to large databases as well as to enormous amounts of information about research methodology and genealogical resources. Large searchable and network-accessible collections of information in digital format called digital libraries have been in the making for a number of years. However, in the next year or two, as major publishers make serious commitments to digital publishing, digital libraries will become the standard for information storage and retrieval.

The implementation of a digital library is not so much a technical problem as an economic, legal, and social one. It is extremely expensive to convert printed materials into a searchable digital format. Those constructing digital libraries are concerned about financing these efforts and ensuring the protection of copyrights in an environment where every library access involves making a personal copy of a copyrighted document. Economic viability depends also upon a user base large enough to support the library. It has taken time for user expertise in computers, networking, and the use of digital libraries to reach the point, where there is a large enough user population.

In the case of digital libraries to support genealogical research, the economic problem has been a serious consideration. Conversion of research materials must often be done manually, and individuals who have been doing that sort of work have been understandably reluctant to donate their work to libraries and archives where they might lose control and recognition for their work. As more and more become aware of the potential of pooled efforts, more groups have formed to tackle the immense job of openly publishing primary research materials such as church documents, books, personal compilations, census lists, histories, immigration lists, and the many other types of documents that are the mainstay of genealogical research.

Since late 1993, a group called the Odessa Group has been experimenting with a digital library of research materials to support the research on Germans from Russia. While the Odessa Library contains documents of many types, the strongest part of the collection is undoubtedly the extensive transcriptions of parts of the St. Petersburg Archives. Those researching the Dakotas will also appreciate the on-line access to numerous town history books that have been made available through the generosity of the copyright holders.

The whole idea behind the Odessa Library has been somewhat different than that of its commercial counterparts. The library designers thought that by making research documents easily available, users would download relevant documents to their home computers and build up their own research collections. The idea of building personal digital libraries at home does not seem to be widely accepted, however, perhaps because the whole concept of indexing and full text retrieval may still be a bit esoteric to many. Users content with simple keyword searches, however, will be perfectly happy using the Odessa library on-line as it is.

The main Odessa page on the WWW is at the URL:

The Odessa Library has been very busy over the past few years. If you haven't browsed the shelves yet, log in with the URLs above and spend some time looking around. We hope you'll find it useful in your own research work!  Let us know if you'd like to help, too. Contributions are most welcome.

To Do Ideas

  • Collect Family stories and histories from oral and written sources

  • Collect pictures form the villages

  • Collect US church information and printed data of village churches

  • Collect German letters published in US German newspapers

  • Collect maps of the villages

  • Collect lists of settlers in the village from any time period

  • Collect information from communities of first settlement in the US or Canada

  • Extract preciously published data about the village

  • Publish a history of the village

  • Collect passenger lists having families from the village (many are in old Journals/  Work Papers/Clues at AHSGR)

  • Collect genealogical queries concerning village families

  • Gather obituaries pertaining to those born in the village

  • Gather data from US churches no longer functioning that villagers attended

  • Extract 1900, 1910, 1920 US/state census data pertaining to villagers and families

  • Explore family relationship within mother and daughter and nearby colonies

  • Collect accounts of return trips to the old villages or data on their present sites

  • Collect, create, store and publish family (genealogical) information

  • Explore US cemeteries for burial sites of villagers

  • Gather US county death records of villagers

  • Gather data from St. Petersburg birth, marriage and death records for the villages

  • Gather declaration of intent record information for villagers

  • Gather data from jubilee books on villagers

  • Gather data from captured WW II documents

  • Gather data from German periodicals

  • Collect documents from Odessa archives

  • Publish/assist with a newsletter

  • Gather surname charts

  • Check the SSDI (Social Security Death Indexes)

  • Contact other VCs in neighboring villages for any data on people from your information!

  • Ask villagers to share pictures (great for newsletters and web sites)

  • Interview people who've been to the village recently

  • Search for people researching your village by using the search application on most of the electronic list server sites

  • Visit the village

  • Establish a village electronic email list or simply use a group email to keep in contact with your village researchers

  • Search for immigrants from your village arriving at the port of Galveston on Janet's Germans from Russia Research web page at

  • Use the Ellis Island web site to search for immigrants from your village at 

  • Search Jayne Dye's CROSSING THE CAN/USA BORDER 1895 - 1954 web site at

  • Utilize an internet search engine such as Google to search for your village's name

  • Obtain the Family History List and the Annotated Bibliography of Materials

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4. Organizing the Data

Surname Files
So now you are gathering data about your village.  How do you organize it? One method of organizing data is by keeping surname files.  Make file folders for each surname in your village.  When you receive a query, you can go to that folder and quickly access the requested data.

Genealogy Databases/Other programs
If you've been doing genealogy research on a computer, you likely have a genealogy program with the beginnings of a village database.  You can start a new database for the village, or add it to your existing file.  Check your program's requirements and size limitations--once you start adding other families, your database will grow quickly.

Spreadsheet programs (i.e. Lotus 1-2-3, Excel) are handy for entering extractions, as they can be easily sorted and reports can be created quickly from them.

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5. Disseminating the Data

Members vs. Non-Members
Charging vs. Giving it Away
From the AHSGR web site:
"The people listed below are serving as Village Coordinators (VCs) for the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. They coordinate, aid, and assist those individuals attempting to bring families and villages together through village research. They are doing this work on a volunteer basis and spend many hours gathering and organizing information. Each coordinator desires to communicate with all persons who share the same village heritage. This would include sharing of family group records, maps, individual and family histories, video and audio tapes of memories, trip experiences, and other village information."

No where does it state that VCs are to disseminate information only to members. The VC contract also does not limit dissemination of information to members only. That said, the VC should attempt to obtain as much information as possible from a person making an inquiry, before sending them all the information they have that is associated with that inquiry.

There are no regulations that exist or are planned to limit the amount of support we each decide to provide to persons who contact the Village Coordinators, even if they are non-members. The VC credo that describes what is expected of us seems to emphasize that with the sentence "Each coordinator desires to communicate with all persons who share the same village heritage."

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6. Village Newsletter

Content for your village newsletter can come from many sources.  One of the best sources is your villagers.  Find the ones who've been to the village, interview them, or ask them to write down their experiences.  Pictures are a wonderful addition.

See what AHSGR has on your village.  Publish passenger lists, founder/surname lists.  Keep track of recent acquisitions at AHSGR and let your villagers know what new resources are available to them.  Queries from villagers are a good item.

Desktop Publishing Programs
Computers are useful tools for turning manual processes into automated ones.  If you have a computer, check out Desktop Publishing Programs.  There are dozens available, and they include pictures, or clip art for spicing up the newsletter.  They also have spell checking capabilities.

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7. Creating a Village Web Site

Web Site Content
With the advent of the internet, VCs have a powerful new tool for disseminating their information.  An appendix of Village web sites, or home pages, is found in Appendix B.  Some ideas for content include:

  •  Surnames of villagers

  •  List of founding villagers

  •  Maps of the village (then and now)

  •  Pictures of the village

  •  History of the village

  •  Links to neighboring villages

  •  Copies of newsletters

  •  Information on AHSGR

Just like the newsletter, the contents of a web page are limitless.  Research other sites for ideas, and create your own customized web site.

Some of the advantages of a web site are postage-free dissemination of information (i.e. newsletters); free advertising of the site (through search engine registration and inclusion on the AHSGR page); instant access; and they are flexible and customizable.

A disadvantage is the fact that it is hard to track the visitors to your site, and Guest Books are infrequently used by visitors.  This means a person can just take your information anonymously, and you may have no record of his/her visit. One idea is to put only indexes to your newsletter on the web site, and require the guest to email you directly for an actual copy of the newsletter.  On the Yagodnaya Polyana home page this is done, and once copies are sent to the visitor, the newsletter editor is reimbursed for the price of the newsletter.  The visitor is also asked to subscribe for one year  to defray the expenses of the newsletter editor.  Another idea is to post only previous years' newsletters, and not the current year.  These are decisions you are free to make as a VC of your village.

Putting It All Together
So how do you create the web site?  There are software programs (i.e. Microsoft Front Page (chargeable), Netscape Communicator--free on the web) that make it very easy to create a home page with little or no programming experience.  Seek out other villagers who have experience with creating web pages and would like to contribute to this preservation of their heritage.  The best way to get someone to volunteer is to ASK THEM!

You will want to investigate scanning equipment for scanning in maps, pictures, and even data.  Scanners are dropping in price weekly, and are available at your local computer or discount store.

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8. Jump-Starting Your Village

Village Night Ideas
WANT A REWARDING VILLAGE NIGHT? Tips to improve your chances. By Dave Easterday 
Village Night is intended to provide opportunities to meet and form closer relationships with others from your ancestral village; to discover common ancestries; to both teach and learn village and family tradition, culture and history. A joyous social evening is a usual side effect.

Permanent staff from Lincoln assisted by your Village Night committee will be working behind the scenes to provide the essentials and will be on hand to help coordinate the event. The main responsibility for a successful evening is up to you. Following the suggestions below will certainly help.


1. Do register by return mail when you receive your registration materials. Include your village name. Tables are provided based entirely on registration information.
2. Do register for the entire week. Even if you can only attend two or three days, participation in the other programs will enhance your enjoyment of Village Night.
3. Do get in touch with others from your village and talk up Village Night and the convention. Especially contact your Village Research Coordinators and encourage them to come.
4. Each village contingent should be sure to obtain a village map and census book (if available) and bring them with you.
5. Bring artifacts if you have them such as clothing, cooking utensils, books, pictures, authentic handicrafts, tools and toys.
6. Plan ahead. Bring business cards or other form of I.D. to exchange. A return address label stuck on a three by five card will work. Get a new full size notebook for taking notes. You don't really enjoy writing on a napkin or prescription pad, do you?
7. Of course, bring as much genealogy stuff as you can carry. Start studying it now. Reread those names and dates you haven't looked at for seven years. If you tell someone you may have what he or she is looking for, it is of no value unless
one can actually find it.

As with most endeavors, your evaluation of Village Night will depend on your expectations. So, why do individuals decide to attend?

1. Because it is on the schedule.
2. To meet at least one other person from their ancestral village.
3. To discover a blood relative they did not know before.
4. To meet someone from their old home town.
5. After a lifetime of frustration, to finally trace their family name back to Germany.
6. To share a recently completed family history.
7. To share a story of finding lost relatives across the ocean.
8. To get advice on doing research.

Many modest objectives. Some may be impossible to attain for some individuals. However, you will never know until you try. Just don't limit yourself to one single-minded purpose. Have a plan B, C and D and reduce your risk of total failure.

Many members take Village Night in stride. They have been there before. They know they will see half a dozen acquaintances and shirttail relatives. To them, Village Night is as good a place as any to socialize. They will rehash the old mysteries of their mutual lineage and occasionally solve one. Some of them will have valises filled with documents and charts, which they are happy to display and explain. They leave feeling no worse than before and probably a little better.

Surveys to Villagers
Village Night is a prime opportunity to gather information on your villagers.  Why not put together a survey for them to fill out.  The data you collect from the survey can be the basis for your database.  Examples of things to include on a survey include:

  •  Name, Address, Zip, Phone number, Email address, Fax number

  •  Surnames researching

  •  Location/Date/Ship of arrival in the US/Canada

  •  Residences in US

  •  Articles brought from Russia (Family Bible, trunks, clothing, documents)

  •  Have surname chart?  

  •  Religious Affiliation

  •  AHSGR Chapter

  •  Use Computer?  Which Program

  •  Have Family History?

 (These are fields from an annual survey created by Bill Scheirman, former VC of Yagodnaya Polyana)

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9. Village Coordinators and Web Sites

AHSGR maintains a master listing of Village Coordinators and Village Web Sites. Please click on the Village Coordinator link on the menu for the current listing of AHSGR Village Coordinators and the respective Village Web Sites.