Emigration from West Prussia to South Russia 1798 – 1802 and 1806 – 1815

Glenn Penner



The immigration waves, big and small, of Mennonites to South Russia are fairly well known[1]. It is often assumed that all Mennonite immigrants to South Russia came during one of these periods. Most of the first Chortitza colony settlers arrived either in 1788 – 90 or 1795 – 97. The next, large, wave of settlers arrived (mostly in the Molotschna colony) in 1803 – 1805. Another large wave of immigration, mainly to the Molotschna again, occurred during the period 1816 – 20. Below is an attempt to gather information on those who immigrated during the five year period from 1798 to 1802 and the decade from 1806 to 1815.


 The 1798 to 1802 period followed a Prussian decree which forbade the West Prussian Mennonites from emigrating except with special permission [2]. Only a handful left during this period. Mennonites were once again allowed to leave in 1803. During the period 1806 to 1815 the disruption caused by the Napoleonic wars made emigration from West Prussia difficult. However, over 60 families or individuals made the trip.


There are only 2 families for which I have solid evidence of immigration to Russia between 1798 and 1802. Those are:


Jacob Niebuhr (1766 – 1835), who immigrated about 1802.

Erdman Nickel (b. ca 1743), who immigrated in 1801.


There were certainly more. The problem is that the immigration time period 1788 to 1802 is very poorly documented.


Many of the immigrants for 1806 – 1815 are found in the 1835 census, where the year of immigration for the head of each household is provided. There are also immigrations for this period found in Unruh’s book (pages 355,356,358 and 359) [3] and Rempel’s book (pages 99 to 103) [4]. These 61 people, together with their year of immigration, birth and/or death year, destination in Russia, GRANDMA number and page in Unruh or Rempel can be seen here.


Table: Emigration from West Prussia to South Russia: 1806-1815; sorted by year.
Table: Emigration from West Prussia to South Russia: 1806-1815; sorted by surname.


Both Unruh and Rempel mention people who may, or may not, have immigrated between 1806 and 1815. Below are some comments on those families who do not cleanly fit into the two categories mentioned in the previous paragraph.


The following names appear on pages 100 – 102 of Peter Rempel’s book. The names are either garbled or have been misread. I am only able to identify one of these people.

K… Sacharias, 43 in 1809 (b. ca. 1766) is Claas Zacharias.

Johann Perier, 46 in 1809 (b. ca. 1763)

Johann Goned, 58 in 1809 (b. ca. 1751)

Johann Ginw (Gitz?) 51 in 1809 (b. ca. 1758)

Joseph Loewen, 27 in 1810 (b. ca. 1783)


The Following are listed on pages 355 and 356 of BHU as immigrating in the 1806 – 1815 period, but did not do so:


Jacob Doleski did not immigrate until 1816.

Peter Harder did not immigrate until 1818

Peter Thiesen applied for immigration in 1806 but did not immigrate until 1810.

Aron Peters immigrated (with his parents) in 1795, not 1809.

Maria Dyck immigrated in 1795.

Johann Dyck immigrated in 1795.

Jacob Wiens immigrated in 1795.

Aron Warkentin, immigrated in 1816 according to the 1835 Molotschna census.

Johann Dyck, immigrated in 1819 according to the 1835 Molotschna census.


It is unlikely that Gerhard Janzen immigrated. He is not found in the 1811 Chortitza or Molotschna colony census lists. Some of his children are recorded as having lived and died in West Prussia, while others are known to have been in the Molotschna colony. For example his son Franz immigrated in 1828 according to the 1835 census.


Unruh also has some further vague references to people who may have immigrated in the 1806 – 1815 time period:


Jacob Wiens of Schoensee to Rosenort

Jacob Classen from Heubuden to the Molotschna colony

It is difficult to identify these people in any church register or census list.


Jacob Schmidt (who is #167843 and 46544) immigrated to the Michalin settlement in Volhynia.



1. Henry Schapansky, Mennonite Migrations. See chapters 6 and 7 on the immigration to Russia.


2. Schapansky page 146. The death of Catherine the Great in 1796 and subsequent reign of her son Paul I from 1796 – 1801 may have also played a factor.


3. Benjamin H. Unruh, Die niederländisch-niederdeutschen Hintergründe der Mennonitischen Ostwanderung im 16. 18. und 19. Jahrhundert. Karlsruhe, 1955.

4. Peter Rempel.  Mennonite Migrations to Russia (1788-1828). Winnipeg, 2000.

Created 15 November 2016; HTML by Richard D. Thiessen

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