Connect to Your Family Roots

Denise and her grandmother featured
Learn how you can connect to your family roots with Denise Grau from the Northeast Kansas chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia. Grau is the featured speaker for our library’s German Heritage Celebration on October 17, from 2-5pm. She’ll share tips from her years of experience that can help you find your family’s story.

Grau is fascinated by the events and experiences that influenced the lives of her ancestors, and she’s made some really interesting discoveries about her family.

“I had a great grandmother who lived on three continents,” Grau said. “And in the 1760s while my 6x great grandmother was emigrating from present-day Germany to Russia, one of her nephews moved the opposite direction to France, joined the Hussars and fought with other French troops on the American side in the American Revolutionary war.”

Her search has also led to some truly powerful moments.

“One of the highlights of researching my family history came in 2008 when I traveled to Russia and visited Mariental, the village where numerous generations of my ancestors lived from 1766 until immigrating to the United States in the 1870s,” Grau said. “All inhabitants of the village were forcibly resettled in Siberia under Stalin in 1941, and few if any of the current residents have German ancestry.  It was very moving to me to stand in the ruins of the church where my ancestors were baptized and married. The absence of markers for the graves of the Germans who had lived there for nearly 200 years was sad evidence of the tragic fate of the Volga German colonies.”

Today’s researchers can connect to relatives and researchers throughout the world through Skype, e-mail, facebook, genealogy forums, and DNA.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot from my research,” Grau said, “including a better understanding of my family, knowledge of events and relatives I wouldn’t be aware of otherwise, and a greater knowledge of and interest in historical events. I’ve also broadened my world view through meeting and sharing research with others around the world.”

You can get connected to your family history, too! Join us on October 17, from 2-5, for genealogy, dance, music, poetry and more, and let our librarians tell you how your library’s Baker Genealogy Center can connect you with the tools that you need to tell your story.  Check our events blog for a full line-up of the day’s events.

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit! Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting great literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions and co-leads the Bean There, Read That book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.