Karl Fritzler was a fourth generation Volga German, born in Grimm, Russia, on February 28, 1880 to Johann Jakob Fritzler and Katharina Elisabeth Schaefer. The Fritzlers were descendants of Hanß Jakob Bauer Fritzler, born in 1688 in Kleingartach, Neckarkreis, Württemberg, Germany. His son Hanß Jakob Fritzler and his wife Franziska Catherina Eurich and their children were among the original settlers of Grimm in 1767. Both families were considered Evangelical, as opposed to Catholic, although the Colony of Grimm was considered a Reformed Protestant settlement.
Note: Hanß was a shortened form of Johann, although some boys were given the formal name of Johann and others the formal name of Hanß. Germans typically followed a tradition of giving their child the first name of a saint, and then a second name that was the child’s every day name. Sometimes a child had three names plus their surname. Toward the latter half of the 19th century, parents started to drop the formal, unused first name and gave their children one simple name. Carl was among the first in his family to have only two names, a Christian name and a surname.
Karl’s wife was Eva Kraft Schott, born September 18, 1886, also in Grimm, to Johann Friedrich Schott and Eva Katharina Kraft. She was descended from Jakob Schott and Anna Margaretha Becker, and Adam and Susannah Kraft, four of the first settlers of Grimm. The Krafts were also Evangelical Lutherans from Mittelbrunn, Pflaz, Bayern, Germany, while the Schotts were Catholics from Holzgerlingen, Neckarkreis, Wuerttemberg.
Volga Germans lived a difficult life which did not resemble the original descriptions and promises of Catherine the Great. By the late 1800s, Volga German families began to immigrate to the United States and Canada, looking for a better life. Encouraged by the safe travels and good fortune of friends and relatives who immigrated, Karl began to plan a move for his own family. His plans were delayed when he was drafted into the Tsar’s Army, which, in turn, only made his urge to leave Russia stronger. Volga Germans were pacifists and had been promised no conscription by Catherine the Great. A century later, the ruling Russians backed out of that promise and regularly called up Volga Germans into their Army. Somehow Karl managed to get a plum job as a guard for the Tsar, avoiding the dangerous battle fronts. At the conclusion of his service, he began to finalize his plans to leave Russia.
According to other Volga Germans who immigrated to the United States, the villagers first sent out scouts to check out the country and see if it was indeed a place where Grimmers could live and flourish. These scouts then returned to Russia and passed the information they’d collected on to the rest of their villagers. Although the big cities were nice, people were interested in moving to an area where they could immediately be successful, which meant a place where they could farm. They discovered that the Midwest and Plains States held the most promise because the terrain resembled that of the Russian Steppes, where Grimm was situated. Families began to immigrate to the United States in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.
Karl, along with his sister Mollie Fritzler Schneider and her family, left Russia at the end of 1912. First they traveled by train from Saratov to Libau, Latvia, which at the time was territory of Russia. The trip to Libau took about two weeks. From there, a small ship took them on the first part of their ocean voyage from the European mainland to England. About two weeks later, they traveled from Liverpool, England, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on the S.S. Canada. The passenger manifest for their ship confirms the families travel along with other relatives and friends.
Years later, Karl’s brother-in-law Phillip Schneider recalled their journey to America for his granddaughter J. Zimmermann, who documented the conversation via a cassette tape recording. A DNA match between the two of us introduced us and led to her generously sharing the information she had from her mother, Frieda Schneider Grotegut, and her grandparents.
One note from her conversation with Philipp read, “He came to America leaving Grimm, Russia on November 27, 1912 and reached America January 13, 1913. They left by railroad to Libau, Finland.”  Karl’s daughter Mollie, the oldest of the children, was just five years old at the time they embarked on their journey, and she had two younger sisters, Amelia and Anna. According to the passenger manifest, Anna was an infant.
The reference to Libau, Finland puzzled me. To my knowledge, Libau is a Latvian city. I double checked to make sure there wasn’t another Libau in Finland; there was not. If they traveled to Libau, they traveled to Western Latvia directly west from the Volga villages. I thought it was curious that Phillip mentioned Finland at all, since Finland is northwest.
When families left the Volga region for a port that would lead to America, they usually traveled northwest by train from Saratov to Moscow, and then due west or southwest to the port city. It they were traveling to Libau, now called Liepaja, in Latvia, as the Fritzlers and the Schneiders did, they would probably continue due west from Moscow to Riga and finally Libau. Some trains traveled north to Minsk first, and then down to Libau. The distance from Saratov to Libau is a little over 1,200 miles, and it was probably even longer if there was no direct train route. Without any documentation today, it’s difficult to determine which way the Fritzlers and the Schneiders traveled from the Volga River to the Baltic Sea.
I continued with my research, now focusing on the voyage from Libau to the United Kingdom. Records show they took a small ship to Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire, England. The town was more commonly known as Hull. This was the first time I had heard the town mentioned in connection with my family’s history. I wondered which ships used that port, so I researched a little deeper. There were two shipping lines that provided passenger service to Hull:
- The Wilson Line of Hull, England: It mainly transported passengers between Norway and England.
- F.Å.A.: This was an acronym for the Finnish Steamship Company which transported passengers from Helsinki and Libau to Hull.
Because Phillip Schneider clearly mentioned Finland in his story about his journey to America, I believe that he meant they boarded a Finnish ship, not that they actually traveled to Finland before heading south and west.
Wikipedia confirms the Finnish Steamship Company Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolag was also known as F.Å.A.  Their ship was the S.S. Titania, primarily used to transport emigres from Finland to Hull. It made stops along the way in Libau and Copenhagen, picking up and transporting Russians and Latvians in addition to Volga Germans. 
Note: I am separating Volga Germans from Russians, even though they were technically Russians in terms of their citizenship and passport documentation. The Volga Germans considered themselves a separate group of people for more than 150 years, never intermarrying with Russians or any other ethnic minority in Russia. According to the Genealogical Society of Finland, while some ships traveled from Helsinki to Hull, some ships carried Russians directly from Libau to Hull. “Apart from Finns, the volumes record thousands of Russians, a number of Estonians, Latvians and Livonians. Many of the Russians have Jewish names, but even German names are common…It is unclear whether all Russian emigrants traveled by way of Hanko, since F.Å.A. boats carried Russian emigrants from Libau to Hull without calling at a Finnish port.”  (emphasis added)
I searched for a copy of the F.Å.A. passenger lists from 1912. Copies of the passenger lists up to 1910 and after 1918 exist; the lists for passengers traveling between those years are either not available or were destroyed. 
According to Phillip Schneider, the journey on the S.S. Titania from Libau to Hull took four days, which means the two families arrived in England around December 15-18, 1912. The ship docked at the Riverside Quay, a dock built specifically to handle quick turnaround ocean vessel traffic at the port. A rail station adjoined the quay, allowing European travelers to conveniently board a train that took them to Liverpool where they would board larger ocean liners that headed to America.
The Fritzlers and the Schneiders spent 17-19 days in England prior to boarding the S.S. Canada in January. Some of that time may have been spent traveling. It’s unclear whether the families were able to take a train directly to Liverpool from Hull or if they traveled south to London and then northwest to the port city.
According to historical records, once the passengers arrived in Liverpool, they were not allowed to board outbound ships until the day before or the day of departure. If they arrived earlier than that, they were forced to stay in a lodging house. Historically, the lodging houses had a reputation for being crowded and unsanitary. By the turn of the 20th century, often the steamship companies looked after the emigrants during their stay, putting them up in company-owned lodges. Although conditions in the early 1900s were better than those 30-50 years earlier, there were still complaints. It’s difficult to imagine which was worse: lodging accommodations in the Liverpool or steerage class on board a ship. Knowing this makes it clear how horrible the conditions in their homeland must have been. Uprooting families and enduring the long, uncomfortable journey to America was a small price to pay for the chance at a better life.
After the Fritzlers and Schneiders spent more than 14 days in a lodging house, they boarded their ship and departed for America on January 4, 1913. The voyage across the Atlantic normally took 10-11 days. Some ships traveling across the Atlantic made a stop in Belfast, Ireland, to pick up additional passengers. Since the S.S. Canada made the voyage in only 9 days, they probably bypassed Ireland and headed straight to America, reaching Nova Scotia, Canada on January 13, 1913.
Karl’s brother-in-law remembered what the families paid for tickets on the steamers: $150 per adult, $75 per child, and $8 for an infant son under two years of age. Most likely they traveled 2nd class or steerage, and they brought plenty of black bread and sausage from home for the journey. Phillip recalled that the ship meals included bear meat and fish, among other things, and that, frankly, the food wasn’t very tasty. Even though they dipped in to their personal food supply, the families still managed to make their bread and sausage last more than a month, until shortly before they arrived in Chicago.
The ship landed in Nova Scotia, Canada. Passengers going to the United States were transported over the border where they were processed in Portland, Maine. From there the families took a train to Chicago where they stayed with two different families. Carl and his family stayed with the Albrandts, extended family members of the Fritzlers, while the Schneiders stayed with Herman Schuette, Phillip’s cousin.
Karl Fritzler chose to take his family to Windsor, Colorado, where there was already a large population of Volga German immigrants. He may have homesteaded land there, although I haven’t yet found any record of it. During those first years, the family worked for the sugar beet companies in the area. Working in the fields was back-breaking work, and not even the children were spared from working the fields during the harvest season.
Karl eventually saved enough money to purchase a home in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Fond du Lac was another city with a large population of Germans from Russia, including Karl’s two sisters, Elisabeth Trott and Eva Felde and their families. He and his family finally settled in a house at 180 Doty Street, just one block away from Rueping Leather Company, where Karl was employed. He was a faithful worker there until he retired in 1947.
He was very religious, not only as a member of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac, but also as a member of the German Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was based on the Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia; its members practiced a stricter version of their Protestant faith which required them to renounce military service and adhere to a simple way of life, among other things. In the late 1800s, Mennonite missionaries from the southern German colonies traveled north and taught their worship style and beliefs to the Reformed Lutherans who were living in Grimm. This was the beginning of a religious awakening, at least for Grimm residents who began to adhere to the Mennonite Brethren doctrine in addition to their own doctrines. When Grimm residents immigrated to the United States, they brought the brotherhood with them. Here it was called the German Brotherhood, and it offered former Volga German residents a way to meet regularly, worship and honor the traditions that they had in Russia. The group was comprised of Biblically-learned laymen who took turns leading their small group in old-style worship. Services were held in German, not English.
Karl was an honorable family man, quiet and kind, and very close to his five children and their families. They had occasional, large get-togethers both in the Fond du Lac area and at a lake cottage owned by his grandson. He and his wife often traveled around Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan, visiting other Grimm residents who had also immigrated to different areas in the United States. Many of those people were extended family members with whom they remained close for the rest of their lives. Karl was known far and wide for his frequent humming, usually of his favorite hymns, often while sitting on his front porch. Case in point: My discussion with his still-living family members revealed that his 94-year-old niece, Frieda Schneider Grotegut, recalled that he was a hummer, always humming.
Four years after losing his wife Eva to the aftereffects of a stroke in 1959, Karl died in 1963. The couple is buried at Estabrooks Cemetery in Fond du Lac.
Quotes and Links
- …”The export of butter to the UK required regular sailings and vessels equipped with refrigerated cargo space, and the company placed it’s best ships on this service between Hanko and Hull, and later between Turku and Hull. They were also heavily involved in the transport of Finnish emigrants to Hull on their way to America and by 1932 had carried nearly half a million passengers on this route. (See Transmigration via British Ports).” http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/finland.shtml
- …”Finland Steamship Company (Swedish: Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolag, abbreviated FÅA, Finnish: Suomen Höyrylaiva Osakeyhtiö, abbreviated SHO) was a Finnish shipping company founded in 1883 by Captain Lars Krogius. In Finnish and Swedish, the company was usually referred to simply as FÅA. In 1976, the company changed its name to Effoa, a phonetic spelling of the abbreviation FÅA.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland_Steamship_Company
- …”Unlike many other immigrants to the Americas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Germans from Russia wanted to continue farming and settled in agricultural areas rather than industrial cities. Primary areas were the Plains states of Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, North and South Dakota, with some movement to specific areas of Washington and California (Fresno and Lodi for instance) in the United States; Saskatchewan and Manitoba of Canada; and Brazil and Argentina. These areas tended to resemble the flat plains of the Russian steppes. In addition, the upper Great Plains still had arable land available for free settlement under the Homestead Act.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germans_from_Russia
- …”The Vorname (in English forename) is usually given to a child by the parents shortly after birth. It is common to give a child several Vornamen (forenames), one of them intended for everyday use and known as the Rufname (“appellation name”). This Rufname is often underlined on official documents, as it is sometimes the second or third name in the sequence of given names on official record, even though it is the given name in daily use from childhood.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_name
- …”Finland Steamship Company’s Emigrant Ships: S/S TITANIA. Passenger steamer, one deck & spar deck, Passengers: Deck I: 86, Deck II: 68,Deck III: 585. Ice class: 1. Tonnages: 3,495 GRT, 1,997 NRT, 1,940 tdw. Length over all: 100.60 m. Breadth: 13.65 m. Draught: ?. Engine: Triple steam engine 3 cy. by the shipbuilders. Horse powers: 4,500 IHP. Speed: 14.5 knots. 31.8.1908. Completed by Gourlay Bros. & Co., Dundee, as S/S Titania for Finska Ångfartygs Aktiebolaget, Helsinki. Sailed on Helsinki/Hanko – Copenhagen – Hull line. 14.3.1916: Requisitioned by the British Admiralty. Converted to an armed accomodation vessel and renamed HMS Tithonus. 1918: When escorting as an aux. cruiser a convoy for Norway torpedoed by the German UB 72 and sank on March 28 about 50 miles east of Aberdeen. Four British men lost their lives. Source: The Ships of Our First Century : The Effoa Fleet 1883-1983. Ed. by Matti Pietikäinen & Bengt Sjöström. Keuruu 1983, 231 p. ISBN 951-99438-5-4.” ttp://www.genealogia.fi/emi/emi321ne.htm
- …”Apart from Finns, the volumes record thousands of Russians, a number of Estonians, Latvians and Livonians. Many of the Russians have Jewish names, but even German names are common. To some extent there are separate books, but even books mainly recording Finnish emigrants contain such names. It is unclear wheher all Russian emigrants travelled by way of Hanko, since F.Å.A. boats carried Russian emigrants from Libau to Hull without calling at a Finnish port. Three or four times the F.Å.A. carried several hundred Russsian marines to Philadelphia, U.S. There was at least one voyage by an F.Å.A. boat directly to Philadelphia without a call at England.” http://www.genealogia.fi/emi/emi321ze.htm
- …”In 1906 the Wilson Line formed a separate company with the North Eastern Railway Company to integrate some of their rail and steamship services. This new company, the Wilson and North Eastern Railway and Shipping Company, made even greater profits by shipping and then transporting by rail the thousands of emigrants they brought to the UK each year. The new joint company limited the numbers who travelled via any other shipping or railway company and ensured a degree of continuity in the journey from steamship to quayside not seen at any other UK port of entry. Although it was the Allan, Cunard, Dominion or White Star Lines who sold tickets throughout rural and urban Scandinavia to would-be migrants for travel to America, it was Wilson ships which brought almost all the migrants to the UK – thus generating huge profits for their owners. The Wilson Line was at the time the largest privately owned shipping line in the world and its size accounts for the dominant role it held over the migration of thousands of Scandinavian emigrants between 1843 and 1914.” http://www.norwayheritage.com/articles/templates/voyages.asp?articleid=28&zoneid=6
- …”For much of this period Liverpool was, by far, the most important port of departure for emigrants from Europe because, as well as its established transatlantic links, Liverpool was well placed to receive the many emigrants from the countries of north western Europe, such as Scandinavians, Russians and Poles who crossed the North Sea to Hull by steamer and then travelled to Liverpool by train.” http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/sheet/64
- Email from Dean Zimmermann, son of Janelle Zimmermann, which included notes from a conversation with Phillip Schneider.
- U.S., Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959; Author: Ancestry.com; Publisher: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Provo, UT, USA; Publisher Date: 2010. Name: Karl Fritzler; Age: 32; Estimated birth year: abt 1881; Birthplace: Grim, Russia; Gender: Male; Ethnic Background: German; Arrival Date: 15 Jan 1913; Port of Arrival: Portland, Maine; Port of Departure: Liverpool, England; Ship Name: Canada; Friend’s Name: J Albrandt; Last Residence: Russia; Place of Origin: Russia. See: http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=UKOutwardPassengerLists&h=41735838&tid=&pid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=lGr1718&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&rhSource=1263
- Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935; Author: Ancestry.com; Publisher: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Provo, UT, USA; Publisher Date: 2010. Name: Karl Fritzler; Gender: Male; Age: 32; Birth Year: abt 1881; Birth Country; Russia; Date of Arrival: 14 Jan 1913; Vessel: Canada; Search Ship Database: Canada; Port of Arrival: Portland, Maine, USA; Port of Departure: Liverpool, England. See: http://ancstry.me/2t8J64V.
- UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960; Author: Ancestry.com; Publisher: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA; Publisher Date: 2012. Name: Karl Fritzler; Gender: Male; Age 32; Birth Date: abt 1881; Departure Date: 4 Jan 1913; Port of Departure: Liverpool, England; Destination Port: Portland; Ship Name: Canada; Search Ship Database: Canada; Shipping Line: White Star Dominion Line; Official Number 106866; Master: B O Jones.
- 1920 United States Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Fond du Lac Ward 14, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; Roll: T625_1986; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 43; Image: 961, by Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2010. Carl Fritzler. See http://ancstry.me/2t8gKI8.
- 1930 United States Federal Census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Fond du Lac, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin; Roll: 2572; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0026; Image: 973.0; FHL microfilm: 2342306, by Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2002. Carl Fritzler. See: http://ancstry.me/2sKbwTn.
- 1940 United States Federal Census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Fond Du Lac, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; Roll: T627_4479; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 20-18, by Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2012. Carl Fritzler. See: http://ancstry.me/2u7zM5B.
- U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (Indexed in World Archives Project), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Soundex Index to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District and Circuit Courts, Northern District of Illinois and Immigration and Naturalization Service District 9, 1840-19, by Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA., 2010. Carl Fritzler. See: http://ancstry.me/2t8JsIK.
- U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Wisconsin; State Headquarters: Wisconsin; Record Group Name: Records of the Selective Service System, 1940-; Record Group Number: 147, by Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2010. Carl Fritzler. See: http://ancstry.me/2u7CFmW.
- “United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVS3-LS2L : 31 July 2014), Carl Fritzler Jr in entry for Carl Fritzler Sr, 12 Apr 1963; citing Obituary, in The Commonwealth Reporter; American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, Nebraska. Carl Fritzler.
- Wisconsin Death Index, 1959-1997, by Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2007. Name: Carl Fritzler; Age: 83; Sex: M; Birth Date: abt 1880; Death Date: 11 Apr 1963; Location: Fodu; Certificate: 011420.
- J. Zimmermann, granddaughter, untitled notes from Philip Schneider. Originally tape-recorded circa 1972, but transcribed and emailed to Julie Miller Mangano, 07/09/2016; files of Julie Miller Mangano, Round Rock, Texas, USA.
- J. Zimmermann, granddaughter, untitled notes about Philip and Mollie Fritzler Schneider sent via email by her son D. Zimmermann 07/09/2016; files of Julie Miller Mangano, Round Rock, Texas, USA.
- Frieda Schneider Grotegut, daughter of Philip Schneider, transcriptions of conversations with daughter J. Zimmermann, 07/09/2016; stories from her childhood and young adult years, 1920-1945; files of Julie Miller Mangano, Round Rock, Texas, USA.
- Ruth Virginia Kaiser Miller, daughter of Alex and Mollie Fritzler Kaiser, personal records, photos, and photocopies of documents regarding her parents and grandparents, 04/21/2015; files of Julie Miller Mangano, Round Rock, Texas, USA.
- Alexander Kaiser, cassette tape recording for his family, description of how his family immigrated to Russia and later to the United States, circa 1972; files of Julie Miller Mangano, Round Rock, Texas, USA.