Monday, March 21, 2016

The Ludwig Breakthrough: The Life of Johann Jacob Baerg

Continued from The Ludwig Breakthrough: Reporting from Brazil

As I learned more about Mom's second cousin match whose mother was Ida Missal, a niece of my great grandmother Caroline (Ludwig) Lange, I learned their branch of the family had married into the Baerg family. And what an interesting family they turned out to be.

The Baerg family considered themselves Dutch and almost always listed that nationality on various documents in which they appeared in several countries. I first found them in Canada where they had married into my Ludwig line. As I worked backwards, I was in for another whirlwind tour of the globe thanks in large part to Johann Jacob Baerg, who was born on 15 November 1886 in Klippenfeld, or Molonochnoye, Russia. If we were looking for it on a map today, we would search for Molochansk, Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. At the time Johann was born, however, Klippenfeld was a village considered part of the Mennonite Molotschna Colony.

Johann's parents were Jacob Wilhelm Baerg and Anna Thiessen. Jacob's name appeared in several of the colony records. As did that of Jacob's father Gerhard Wilhelm Baerg. They had been attracted to the region by Tsarina Catherine the Great when she appealed to farmers from the low country and Germany to settle in the vast, empty steppes of Ukraine. In return, she promised freedom of religion, exemption from Russian military service, monetary loans and more. After sending scouts to meet with government officials and survey the land, over 200 Mennonite families migrated to southeastern Ukraine. The first colony they established in 1789 was Chortitza, known as the Old Colony.

Old Mennonite barn in the Molotschna Colony area of Ukraine; courtesy of the
Mennonite Archival Image Database

Another wave of immigrants founded the Molotschna Colony in 1803 on the Molochna River east of the Dnieper. By 1860 there were over 60 villages and hamlets associated with the colony. These settlers were generally more prosperous than those of the Old Colony and for many life was good. However, in 1870, the Mennonites of Russia were no longer exempt from state service. This began a wave of emigration, mostly to the United States and Canada, which accelerated after the Bolshevik Revolution and World War I.

Lighthouse on Isla de Sacrifcios, an island in the Gulf of Mexico near the
port in Veracruz City; image courtesy of eBay

Johann Jacob Baerg's grandparents made their way to Riga, the capital of what is now Latvia and sailed via Hamburg and Glasgow to Rosthern, a Mennonite settlement in Saskatchewan, Canada. His parents left two years later and settled in Winnipeg, Canada. Johan chose a differently. He and his wife, Susanna Penner and six children, sailed to Veracruz, Mexico, arriving on 19 August 1926. They settled in Durango, Mexico, where Johann Jacob farmed. They would have two more children in Mexico, the youngest died as an infant.

Johan Jacob Baerg Family 1926-1927; image made using Google Maps and
Microsoft Powerpoint

In February of 1927 Johann and his family undertook an arduous trip of nearly 2,300 miles to visit his parents in Winnipeg. Records exist of their Mexco-U.S. border crossing at El Paso, Texas, and their U.S.-Canada border crossing at Noyes, Minnesota. It is from those records we know that Johann Jacob Baerg was about 5 feet 11 inches tall with a fair complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes.

Eventually, Johann and his wife, Susanna, moved to Canada. He died on 23 March 1964 at the Chilliwack General Hospital of heart disease. He was interred in Greendale Cemetery in Chilliwack, Canada. His wife, Susanna "Susan" (Penner) Baerg died on 22 July 1970 also at Chilliwack General Hospital. She is interred beside her husband.

Both of their death certificates indicated they had lived in Canada since 1927 yet two daughters were born after that date in Mexico. So that is one little mystery still to be resolved.


The Ludwig Breakthough: Reporting from Brazil
The Ludwig Breakthrough: DNA and Chocolates
The Ludwig Breakthrough: Discovering Some Great Greats

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