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Regional Research > Remaining Europe > Volhynia


General Information[1]

The Russian Gubernia Volhynia with borders from 1900.

Volhynia is an historical district comprised of modern day northwestern Ukraine. The territory encompasses about 65,000 km² (25,100 sq.mi.). The average elevation is 200 m (660 ft.). Much of the land is forested, dropping off in the north to the Pripyat Marshes. The south has rich black soil suited to wheat cultivation. It is regarded as the homeland of ancient Slavs.[2][3] More information about the word Volhynia (in German "Wolhynien") can be found in VolynWiki.[4]

Description of the Research Area

The Diocese of Wladimir (Volhynia) was founded in Kiev in 1078. In the 13th and 14th centuries it gained autonomy as the Principality of Volhynia-Galicia. From 1320 to 1795, it was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Empire. Then, from 1795-1917, it became a province of Russia.

In the year 1900, Volhynia shared boundaries with the Russian Gubernias of Grodno and Minsk (today Belarus) to the north, the Gubernias of Siedlec and Lublin (today Poland) to the west, the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia and the Gubernia of Podolia to the south, and the Gubernia of Kiev to the east (today Ukraine).

Uezds of Russian Gubernia Volhynia with Lutheran parish places from 1900.

In 1921, Volhynia was split in two with the east becoming part of the Ukrainian SSR (within the USSR) and the west going to Poland as the Volhynian Voivodeship. After WW II, Volhynia was again joined together under the government of the Ukrainian SSR.

In 1991, Ukraine gained national independence and the former Volhynia region was split into three Oblasts – Volhynia, Rowno, and Zhitomir. A small part of the southern areas became part of the Ternopil and Chmelnizkij Oblasts.

Thousands of Germans lived in Volhynia during the 19th century. Most were of the Lutheran (Evangelical) faith but there were also Mennonites, Baptists, and Moravian Brethern in the region. Unlike other parts of Russia where the Germans settled in larger towns, here they were spread widely through the region in over 1,400 villages.

Early German settlement was sporadic in Volhynia. One of the first colonies was at Koretz in 1783. A few Mennonite agricultural villages were established just after 1800 in the southern part but most of them moved on to the Black Sea region within a few decades. The first permanent settlement at Annette came in 1816 but significant migration into Volhynia did not occur until the 1830s. The migration to Volhynia occurred under vastly different circumstances than that to other parts of the Russian empire. Polish landlords who had retained land after the Russian occupation were looking for qualified farmers to develop and farm their land. No special privileges were extended to these immigrants except for that which could be provided by the local nobility. It was the shortage of land in their old homes that drove most of the Germans into this region. By 1860, there were only about 5,000 in 35 small villages. Then, with the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and the failed Polish Insurrection of 1863, Germans began to flood into this area. By 1871, there were over 28,000 and by the turn of the century, over 200,000 lived in Volhynia. Most of them had come from Poland with a minority from Wuerttemberg, Pomerania, East Prussia, Silesia, and Galicia.

Genealogical and Historical Societies

Genealogical Societies

SGGEE (English) - The Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe (with headquarters in Canada) serves those with German ancestry in Volhynia and Russian Poland. A free mailing list is available at this site which also entertains questions about research in other parts of eastern Europe. Primary language is English but many pages are also available in German.

AHSGR (English) - The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia has for many years tried to include Volhynia as part of its broad based coverage in Russia but most of its resources are focused on the Volga River region.

GRHS (English) - The Germans from Russia Heritage Society focuses its research on the Black Sea and Bessarabian regions but also has some resources for Volhynia.

AGoFF (German) - The Arbeitsgemeinschaft ostdeutscher Familienforscher e.V. of course serves many Germans with East European origins including Volhynia.

FEEFHS (English) - The Federation of East European Family History Societies. Numerous Mennonite resources are a good starting point: Mennonite Index.

Historical and other Societies

HVW (German) - The Historical Society of Volhynia (Historischer Verein Wolhynien e.V.) is a German association found in 1975 with former headquarter in Wiesentheid, Germany. The association collects literature about Volhynia, archives documents concerning German colonization in Volhynia, and preserves its cultural heritage through exhibitions of pictures and writings about Volhynia. They also promote an identity of peaceful existence between Germans in Volhynia with their other ethnic neighbours.

Museum Linstow (German) - The Heimatverein Linstow e.V. is an organization of Volhynian Germans who resettled in the area after WW II. They created a resettlement museum in Linstow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The museum opened 6 August 1993. It provides insight into the history and living conditions of the Volhynian Germans in their new start at Linstow. There is also an exhibition of documentation for the post-war era. When you feel connected to Volhynia, then you will want to support the Linstowers with your donation.

HSGPV (English) - The Historical Society for Germans from Poland and Volhynia operates a small but well featured library in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The foundation for the library consists of the private holdings of Ewald Wuschke. Contact information can be found on the SGGEE website noted above.

HiKo (German) - The Hilfskomitee der Ev.-Luth. Deutschen aus Polen e.V. is a Germans from Poland organization that belongs to the Konvent der ehemaligen evangelischen Ostkirchen e.V. It serves displaced Poland-born German Protestants (Lutheran) and their descendants, organizing meetings with religious services, lectures, historical and political information. The monthly journal "Weg und Ziel" has been published since 1949.

LWW (German) - The Landsmannschaft Weichsel-Warthe Bundesverband e.V. is an organization that belongs to BDV - Bund der Vertriebenen. It serves displaced persons and sees itself as a "bridge of understanding" between Germans and Poles. A key task is the preservation, care and remediation of the cultural heritage of Germans from Poland. The LWW publishes a monthly newsletter "Vistula-Warta" (Mitteilungsblatt Weichsel-Warthe) and the year-book "Vistula Warta" (Weichsel-Warthe-Jahrbuch).[5]

Genealogical and Historical Records

Church Records

A similar English language resource can be found at SGGEE website.[6] A description in German language of known available church books can be found at wolhynien.de + subject: Kirchenbücher[7] and Leitfaden zur Familienforschung in Wolhynien[8][4]

ODL (English) - The Odessa Digital Library[9] is a German-Russian online library on the Internet. Here you will find information on more than a million Germans who migrated to or from Russia. The site includes databases amounting to over 320 megabytes of data as of June, 2004. A search engine on the site can be used to find information about people. Most of the data is extracted from original records. Because of possible errors in the extractions, it is recommended that original records be consulted to ensure accuracy. Of special interest to Volhynian Germans is the ability to search for their ancestors for the years 1835-1885 in the Lutheran St. Petersburg Consistory database.

Civil Registration Records

  • The EWZ files are an important resource for research for those whose family was displaced prior to or during WW II. These files can also provide valuable info by way of those families who remained behind during earlier migrations. Good instructions for using and researching these files can be found at volhynia.com[10]. Index of EWZ files can be found in the Odessa Digital Library[9].
  • see Leitfaden zur Familienforschung in Wolhynien[8] (German)

Villages and Maps

Family researcher visited the archiv in Rivne, 2008.

Village lists


Bibliography and Literature

Archives and Libraries


Family researcher on the cemetery in Dermanka, May 2006.

Current Projects Underway

You can search for your German Volhynian ancestors in the researcher databases at wolhynien.de[7]. Send your family names and places to the authors of the site. (German)

Anyone visiting Volhynia today can, with effort and patience, often find remains of old cemeteries of the colonists. In the gravestone database[7], you can find a collection of photos and information about surviving grave stones. (German)

A collection of individuals from public life in Volhynia representing well known people in politics and business, church leadership (pastors, teachers, Kantors) as well as artists, poets and writers, is available. You can submit names of Kantors and teachers which you find in church books, along with dates, villages, and parish to the authors of VolynWiki[4] with the subject: Personalities. (German)

You can also find a collection of recipes from the kitchens of Volhynian Germans to read and use. You can read more at: Recipes.[7] (German)

Who Knows These People? Family researchers can find support on this page: Help Needed.[7] (German)

Etymology and Language

The national languages used today are Ukrainian and Russian. In some northwestern parts, you may find isolated areas where Polish is spoken. In rare instances, travelers can communicate in English. When visiting the former colonies, an interpreter is essential.

Museum festival in Linstow, 2006.


Russia began to use the Gregorian[14] calendar on 14 February 1918. That day was followed by the 1st of February, 1918. In literature and records, the date will often be shown according to both Julian[15] and Gregorian calendars.


Traditionally on the first Saturday of September, the Heimatverein Linstow e.V., the Historischer Verein Wolhynien e.V., and the Hilfskomitee der Ev.-Luth. Deutschen aus Polen e.V. gather for a museum festival on the grounds of the Wolhynisches Umsiedlermuseum in Linstow. All interested persons are cordially invited. When you feel connected to Volhynia, then you will want to support the Linstowers with your donation.

Other Internet resources

Interesting Internet resources

  • wolhynien.de[7] (German) - The people who operate and use this website are technically not a society but they should be. This is a high quality site which includes most everything you could possible want to know about Volhynian German genealogy. A discussion board Wolhynien-Forum[16]. For new forum entries click on the subject Neuer Eintrag and write your informations or questions. If you read an interesting message, click on the subject antworten in the same message and write your answer or request.
  • wolhynien.net (German) - Under this domain you can reach the VolynWiki[4], a wikipedia with research informations in Volhynia.
  • volhynia.org[17] (English) - An important source of historical information for Baptist Germans of Volhynia. An excellent guide with very good skills and relationships in the region of Zhitomir. The author organize trips for many years in Ukraine. His publications: "In the Midst of Wolves" (2000)[18]; "Under Arrest" (2004)[18] and "The Old Country" (2006)[18].
  • volhynia.com[10] (English) - An other good source of information for Baptist Germans of Volhynia. This site includes important information for Germans who migrated out of the area at or during WW II in the form of the EWZ records.
  • jewishgen.org (English) - Similarly numerous Jewish genaealogical resources can be found with a GOOGLE search but the best starting point.
  • wolyn.eu (Polish) - A website with a collection of old pictures from Polish part of Volhynia.
  • Collection of Internet resources about the research region Volhynia on the SGGEE website, see subject Other + Other Sites of Interest (English, German) or on wolhynien.de[7], see subject Links & Adressen. (German)

Discussion boards

Genealogy Societies

Genealogy Internet Services

  • Wolhynien-Forum[16] (German) - Independent forum for Volhynian researchers where requests and questions can be made in English, French, or Russian.
  • Ukraine (English) genealogy forum provided by Rootsweb.[19]
  • Ukraine (English) genealogy forum provided by genealogy.com.[20]


Below are several mailing lists known to serve this field of research. The links refer to the registration pages. A single email address is required. Once it is registered, an automatic confirmation is sent by the list owners to the mailbox of the sender. If this confirmation is returned, the researcher is allowed to participate in the list. When writing to the mailing list, the list criteria and Net etiquette should be followed.

  • AGoFF-Liste (German) – Access is limited to members of AGoFF.
  • Ger-Poland-Volhynia (English) – This is an open list for family researchers interested in the regions of Congress Poland and Volhynia, though adjacent areas such as Poznan, Podolia, and Kiev are also covered. Archive of the List.
  • GR-Genealogy[21] (English) – A mailing list for genealogists with Russian German ancestors; questions about Volhynia are appropriate.
  1. send an email to listserv@listserv.nodak.edu
  2. leave the subject line blank
  3. in the text area, write: subscribe GR-GENEALOGY FirstName Surname
    There is a List Archive which also has a Search function.

The search for Volhynian German immigrants also leads to a variety of other Mailing Lists, most of them English. Most Mailing Lists also have searchable archives.

  • GR-Heritage[21] (English) – A List for the discussion of history and culture of German Russians, mostly in North and South America.
  1. send an email to listserv@listserv.nodak.edu
  2. leave the subject line blank.
  3. in the text area, write: subscribe GR-HERITAGE FirstName Surname
    There is a List Archive which also has a Search function.
  • Harbiners-List[19] (English) – a mailing list for escapees from Russia, especially those whose route took them through Harbin, China. Most ended up in Canada, South America, USA, and Australia. To subscribe, send an email with the subject subscribe to HARBINERS-L-Request@Rootsweb.com. – There is a List Archive with a Search function.
  • GermanRussian[19] (English) – A mailing list for German Russians primarily from the South Russia region around the Black Sea including Kherson (Odessa), Crimea, and Bessarabia. To subscribe, send an email with the subject subscribe to GermanRussian-L-Request@Rootsweb.com. – There is a List Archive with a Search function.
  • Ger-Rus-Arg[19] (Spanish, English, German) – A mailing list for German Russians who migrated to Argentina. To subscribe, send an email with the subject subscribe to Ger-Rus-Arg-L-Request@Rootsweb.com. – There is a List Archive with a Search function.

Remarks and Sources

  1. English translation by Jerry Frank, SGGEE (December 2008)
  2. Article Volhynia. In: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (in English). (26.11.2008)
  3. Bertelsmann Neues Lexikon in 10 Bänden, Gütersloh 1995
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 VolynWiki is part of the private website of Irene & Gerhard König and can be found through the http://wiki.wolhynien.net address.
  5. Article Landsmannschaft Weichsel-Warthe. In: Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie (in German). (25.2.2008)
  6. SGGEE: http://www.sggee.org/church_parishes/LutheransInVolhyniaKievPodolia
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 wolhynien.de is part of the private website of Irene & Gerhard König and can be found through the http://wolhynien.de address.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Leitfaden zur Familienforschung in Wolhynien", created by Irene & Gerhard König, available in German (Version 2008), Polish (Version 2002) and Russian (Version 2002) currently and can be found through the http://leitfaden.wolhynien.de address.
  9. 9.0 9.1 ODL: The "Odessa Digital Library" was created by members of the North American organization: "Germans from Russia Heritage Society" in Bismarck, U.S.A.
  10. 10.0 10.1 volhynia.com is private website of Dave Obee, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  11. GOV - the genealogical gazeteer (Genealogisches Ortsverzeichnis), a project of the Society for Computer Genealogy (Verein für Computergenealogie) and can be found through the http://gov.genealogy.net/ address.
  12. mapa.szukacz.pl is the website of M. Prószyński & Sklep Int. and can be found through the http://mapa.szukacz.pl/ address.
  13. 13.0 13.1 map.meta.ua is a subdomain of the Ukrainian organization META and can be found through the http://map.meta.ua/ address.
  14. Article calendar Gregorian calendar. In: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (in English). (9.12.2008)
  15. Article calendar Julian calendar. In: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (in English). (8.12.2008)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Wolhynien-Forum is part of this private website of Irene & Gerhard König and can be found through the http://forum.wolhynien.de address.
  17. volhynia.org is private website of Donald N. Miller, Hillsboro, OR, USA.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Publications of Donald N. Miller can be found through the http://volhynia.org/books.html address.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 rootsweb.com is a website of The Generations Network in Provo, UT, USA and can be found through the http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ address.
  20. genealogy.com is a website of The Generations Network in Provo, UT, USA and can be found through the http://www.genealogy.com/ address.
  21. 21.0 21.1 nodak.edu is a website of North Dakota University System in Bismarck, ND, USA and can be found through the http://www.ndus.nodak.edu/ address.
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