As Imperial Russia expanded in the 1700’s, a great need developed for capable and industrious workers, especially farmers, to settle these new and often unsafe lands. Many Germans, eager to improve their positions in life, began to colonize in Russia including Gette ancestors!
In 1762, Catherine the Great issues first manifesto inviting foreigners to settle in Russia with no response so in 1763 she issues a second manifesto and this time it attracts thousands of colonists, largely because of the following incentives:
- Free transportation to Russia
- Large tracts of free land, plenty of water, free timber
- The free exercise of religion
- Interest-free loans for purchasing equipment
- Freedom from taxes for ten to thirty years, depending on the area of settlement
- Exemption from military service for themselves and their descendants
- Local self-government in colonies.
The German colonists built stable communities, established farms, churches, schools and businesses in their new homeland in Russia. But in 1874, the Imperial Russian government amended the 1871 decree and instituted compulsory military conscription of German colonists immediately. In the later part of the 19th century, these ethnic Germans looked to find new opportunities, escape political repression and preserve their way of life. Many Germans living in Russia’s lower Volga River region came to the United States and Canada during this time period – settling first in the Midwestern regions.
From 1874 until 1914 (when the World War I began), thousands of German colonists emigrated from Russia to North and South America.
The first Gette ancestor to come to North America was 1631 possibly to Quebec City. Barry W. Schroh is a Gette relation that I have found on Facebook and he is in contact with Marc Gette in France Alsace-Lorraine (he speaks excellent english). Barry also notes that there are many Gettes from Semenowka who live in Canada today!
Some time ago, I found another Gette (David Gette in Germany but I have not been able to reach him again at his email of firstname.lastname@example.org) who wrote the following:
“What little I know is only handed down from grandfather to grandson, and what little I can put together from others family name Gette that have come from Semenowka.
This is one story of one family, which had made it out, only to loose everything they had including their family heritage. Our family was one of the original founders of the settlement Semenowka. Just off the Wolga River and on the main rail line from Wolgagrad (formally known as Stalingrad in the late 30’s through 70’s) to Moscow.
Founded around 1763-1768, Semenowka was a major part of the development of the Wolga German settlements. My family was the biggest land owner in the area of Semenowka settlement, and even rule the city of Semenowka between 1763 to 1921. What became of my family is still not certain.
What little is known by me is, that only two brother with there families escaped from the town of Semenowka to America in the year 1921, My great grandfather Valentin Gette, (Nickname Red, for his carrot top hair) and his brother believed to be called Caspar Gette. My great grandfather and brother had to escape from the Red Army (Bolsheviks Army) that had swept down from the north slaughtering everything in their path, including the German’s settlements, and the settlements Army.
The settlements had there own ARMY, loyal to the German Settlements and the Tsar of Russia. The German settlements used this Army to protect the east borders of Russia from bandits, and other invading armies from the east-lands. The Red Army (Bolshevik Army) destroyed everything in sight, livestock, farmland with crops, and most of the industries of the Wolga settlements, and some settlements completely.
Believing that the annihilation of the German settlers and settlements along the Wolga River would give them the control over the Wolga region. Very true, with the annihilation of the ruling families of the Wolga region (inclusive mine) gave control to the Communist Powers. With most of the settlements destroyed and the Communist in control the next step was to come.
In the following years Tsar family was removed from power, and most of the family was executed a new Man came to power in the Communist power, Josef Stalin. Stalin was the ultimate destruction for all the Ruling Family of Russia, especially that of the Wolga Germans. He and his troops ordered hundreds of executions; whole families wiped out number one on his list where the German land owners. (Ruling families of the regions, and families with a great amount of wealth, such as industries, banks, and lands, etc.).
Stalin gave his troops orders that rest of the German settlers were to be moved into work camp. There most of them met their ends. Just as evil and murderess as Hitler with the Jewish people. The rest most of us all know now from history. More then 8 million people, families, men, women, children, old, young, even Stalin’s brother met their end from Stalin’s hands. By the late 70’s, the families that had survived the civil war of Russia, and Communists power were no more German then Russian. Most of the German bloodlines were wiped out, either by being bred out with Russian blood, or sent to the work camps, where they met their end. The Wolga Germans till this day have no home.
Many of the Wolga German’s that escaped in the early 20’s went to either America or back to Germany, but those that have just in the last few years come out of Russia, have come back to Germany. What is sad is that the Russian government doesn’t want them, nor do the German’s.
This is what was handed down from my great grandfather to his sons and so on down to me. In the last few years of living in Germany, I have spent some time researching my family’s name and heritage. Coming up with around 275 last name the same as mine here in Germany, I sent out letters looking for answers. What I got was amazing. With around 10 letters back, I started to piece things together. Around 50 of these families come out of the same town in Russia, (Semenowka) Most where related in some way. I sent a letter to the Archives in Wolgagrad over three years ago, asking for any information of where to write to, or if they had the information on Semenowka, or my families name. To this day I still haven’t received an answer.”
We would love to hear from other family members and receive your feedback, photos, stories and suggestions. Use our Contact Us page to tell us what we’re doing right or what we can improve on.