Friday, April 6, 2012

Karolswalde Mennonite villages, Volhynia

The first place I can positively locate my Ratzlaff ancestors is in Volhynia, Russia.  Mennonites began settling in Volhynia in the late 1700s.  The largest Mennonite settlement in Volhynia was centered near Ostrog in Karolswalde.  Karolswalde was settled in the very early 1800s (  Villages associated with Karolswalde in the Ostrog area included Antonovka, Jadwanin, Karolsberg, Fuerstendorf, Fuerstenthal, as well as several others (
Karolswalde (also known as Karlswalde and Holendry Slobodkie), as well as several of the other villages, can be seen on this map from the 1800s.  They are marked “Col” because they were German colonies.  Fuerstendorf (Leeleva, Lesna) is marked as Nikitskaya.

Tobias Unruh (, the elder of the Karolswalde villages during the mid-1800s, also served as elder for the village of Michalin near Berdichev, as well as for the villages of Dossidorf (Dosildorf, Zabara) and Waldheim (Waltajem, Solianka), northeast of Slawuta.  This map from the late 1800s shows the relationship between Dosildorf (upper right hand corner) and Karolswalde (circled at left).  The distance from Dosildorf to Karolswalde is just under 40 miles in a straight line.

Unruh kept records of those who he baptized and my great great grandfather, Jacob, appears among those records.  Jacob was baptized, along with several others, in Zabara in 1862.  Unruh’s entry lists Jacob as the son of Heinrich:

Die  Taufe in Dossidorf, welche in die Gemeine zu Antonowke gehoeren
1.  Jacob Jacobs Sohn                          Koehn                    in Dossidorf         
2.  Jacob Heinrichs Sohn                     Schmidt                 in Dossidorf
3.  Jacob Heinrichs Sohn                     Ratzlaff                  in Dossidorf
                                Die Jungfrauen:
1.  Eva Heinrichs Tochter                   Schmidten              in Dossidorf
2.  Anna Heinrichs Tochter                Koehnen                in Dossidorf
3.  Helena Heinrichs Tochter              Schmidten             in Dossidorf
4.  Anna Heinrichs Tochter                Koehnen                in Dossidorf
Diese hier auf diese Seite aufgeschriebene 3 maennliche und 4 weibliche Seelen sind auf ihrem Verlangen durch dem heiligen Worte Gottes und dem Befehle Jesu Christi im Beisein viele Zeugen getaufet und durch eine Handaufnehmung als Glieder in die mennoniten Gemeine zu Dossidorf am 21.ten Junius Neuenstyls 186  auf- und  angenommen worden. Als nehmlich vom Aeltester Tobias Unruh zu Karolswalde.


  1. Searching for information on my ancestry: Andreas Decker (1791-1972) who was born in the District Neumarkt, Kingdom of Prussia and moved to Karolswalde, Poland . His daughter, Luvantina Decker (1835-1920) married Tobias Schmidt (1830-1910). Their son, Jacob T. Schmidt (1858-1910) married Lena Jantz (1862-1946). Tobiaa Schmidt and Luvantina alomg with Jacob and Lena came to America in the 1870s and settled in Marion County, Kansas. My father, Henry J. Smith, was their 10th of 14 children. I'm looking for specific information on where they lived before coming to America along with information on their trip to America (when, how, name od the ship, etc.). Thanks. Roger D. Smith

    1. Hello Roger. Do you have an email address so I can reply to you directly? I have searched for information about Luvantina Decker before but cannot find anything yet about her immigration to USA. They came to KS between Jan 1875 and July 1876 but I don't know exactly when. Was Lena Jantz Schmidt not on the Jan 1875 Kennilworth? I'll search for more information this week. This Decker family probably lived in Antonowka, Volhynia. Prior to that they lived in villages in Neumark, Brandenburg. For more information see my website at Look at "Neumark" section and "Volhynia" section. Please forward your address and I can give you more information.

    2. I think Roger D Smith was wondering what ship Tobias P Schmidt & wife Luvantina Decker came on. The father of Tobias P Schmidt, Peter Schmidt, came on the Kennilworth with his second wife. Lena Jantz came on the Kennilworth, but she had not married yet to Jacob T Schmidt(Son of Tobias P Schmidt). I am a sister to Roger D Smith. My email is

    3. I have the book Brothers in Need to Brothers in Deed. On page 208, it shows a Tobias Schmidt. I believe with language barriers the info did not get completely correct. It talks about that in the first part of the book. I believe that person is Tobias P Schmidt & wife Luvantina Decker with 8 children. They had 8 living children at the time. My email is

      Lines 242-251 is the same people as in Brothers in Deed to Brothers in Need. The ages don't exactly agree, typo errors maybe. I believe this is mine & Roger D Smith's great grandparents. My email is

  2. Hi, Rod. I came across your blog while looking for a map of my family's migration. Does Alvin and Elvera Ratzlaff happen to be ancestors of yours?

  3. It would make sense that Tobias P Schmidt would travel with his elderly father, Peter Schmidt, to get on the same ship. Peter would have been around 74. Grandma says that Tobias listed on Kennilworth is: #345099 Birth:

    Birth Abt 1816 migration 9 Jan 1875, S. S. Kenilworth; arrived New York, New York Spouse: A ? Children C, B, P, E, A, B, F, A. similar to description in Brothers in Deed to Brothers in Need. Yet there is no info on these people listed anywhere. Therefore I believe these people are my great grandparents & their children. They just cannot connect the 2 families without proof. Grandma has my great grandfather, Tobias P Schmidt, as

    Tobias Schmidt #280168
    my email,

  4. Hi Rod, I came across your page today. My father is Russell Ratzlaff, his father was Herman Ratzlaff and his father was John Ratzlaff.

    John Ratzlaff was born on January 23, 1865, in Waldheim Russia to Anna Buller, age 34, and John Heinrich Ratzlaff, age 42.

    Thanks for the blog.