Learning about my history has been part of my life from my youngest remembrances. From the German-speaking church I attended until the 2nd grade, to the regular family gatherings with the Wolske’s, Kublick’s, Henkelman’s, and other blood relatives, to K-12 school homework assignments, my German ancestry has been at the forefront of storytelling and more formal learning. (Snapshots of this history and recordings from a Great Aunt are attached at the end of this post.)
Curiously, my recent 23andMe DNA tests, however, indicate that of my 50.7% Northwestern European chromosome composition, only 4.7% is specifically French/German while 10.9% is Scandinavian and 3.5% is British/Irish — the rest is more broadly Northwestern European. Another 35.1% of my chromosome composition is of the Eastern European line. Still and all, my relatives going back generations ethnically identify as German.
Over time I have also learned that each of my family lines going back to great and great-great grandparents emigrated from Germany (or possibly intermediary routes such as Sweden) to arrive in Volhynia in Ukraine/Poland. My mom was born in Rowno, Volhynia, and my dad’s parents were born nearby in Volhynia. In part, my people took this path because they were people of peace tired of war. Even after moving, they remained German in faith, in culture, and even in ways legally. Many of my more recent family tree living in Volhynia joined the Church of God, historically a pacifistic and musical Christian faith. (The Church of God eventually was formally based in Anderson, Indiana, where it also located its main College where I got my undergraduate degree.) My family tree are people who build and fix and plant and sow and give as much and more than they receive. I have heard from my grandmother on my dad’s side that my grandfather spoke 7 languages so that he could help people from many different backgrounds. I have heard that my grandfather on my mom’s side was criticized at times because he had not charged enough for his labor, and one time took my grandmother to a chest filled with thank you cards and stated he had received payment in full when none other could be given. In at least some ways, my heritage is closely aligned with the Amish in the United States.
I have also learned that some million or two Germans were intentionally killed by Russians during their time in Eastern Europe through starvation, deportation to Siberia, and through more direct and immediate rape, pillage, and plunder. Some immigrated to America, Canada, and Germany, while others remained in Siberia, Russia, the Ukraine, and similar places. Those in Eastern Europe are largely unknown. Of those who left the East, I know of one uncle who was able to serve as a translator in WWII, another who was a medic in the Korean war, another who was identified as pure and had their image included in the Hitler youth yearly calendar. I know of family who after the pact signed between Hitler and Stalin where forced to leave their home in Volynia, but who were then given a small farm in Poland where the previous owners of the farm became servants as part of the general consent within the Pact. My ancestry includes people who have been mocked and belittled by teachers, neighbors, and officials who found them inferior. But at the same, some turned around and mocked and belittled those who they knowingly or unknowingly considered inferior. As with other trees, my family tree is — as am I — a mix of justice and injustice, of oppression and oppressor, of servanthood and animosity.
I have heard tell of the indigenous wisdom of the 7 generations who have proceeded us. But I have also heard this wisdom presented in respect to the 3 generations before us and the 3 generations after us, in which we are the middle generation. I to have heard told in many circles the value of truth and reconciliation that is not just done once and completed, but that is a way of storytelling that brings forward our complex truths from one generation to the next.
As keepers of the past generations and the mentors of the coming generations, it is essential we know, and continue to discover even more, our personal and corporate truths in all their complexity as a people associated by culture, genealogy, and DNA. And we need to be keepers and mentors of the reconciliation and peace, of the servanthood and grace that has been, is, and can be so as to benefit all, and especially the foreigner, the sojourner, the widow, the orphan.
This most recent explorations of my past and my present once again indicates that which the best of history always shows us if we look closely — in connection with the generations of the past and the generations of the future we stand in the balance whether we choose to act or we choose to hide.
My Ancestors, My DNA:
Martin Wolske Ancestry Composition Report – 23andMe
Remembrances as told by my Great Aunt, Adina (Kublick) Gartz
The Kublick Family
Building Houses, Parts 1 & 2
Childhood, Parts 1 & 2
In Siberia, Parts 1 & 2
Broader Listing of Descendants of My Ancestors
Descendants Of Caroline Tepper And Joseph Wolske
First Two Generational Descendants Of Louise Begalke And Adolph Schuttke
First Two Generational Descendants Of Opa Kublick
Descendents Of Gottfried Henkelman And Rosalie Mantei
First Three Generational Descendants Of Erdmann Krebs And Anna Luiza Witzer
First Three Descendents Of Anna Justine Meyer And Johann Roesler
2 thoughts on “My History, My Present”
Hi Professor Wolske,
I enjoyed reading your entry on your family history and genetics. The entire post is very well put together and motivates me to encourage my family to organize and record our history. My father recently did a DNA test through ancestry.com with my sister and found that most of his side of the family is from Eastern Europe, centered on what is now Slovakia. The recordings you compiled and added are a wonderful idea and I think it would be easier and more lasting if I can sit members of my family down to record as well.
Hope you are doing well and enjoying the summer, and working in your vegetable garden!
Dear Prof. Wolske/dear Martin,
my name is Beate Ziegler and I am living in Germany. I was so surprised, to read in your blog the correct
data of my late grandfather, August Rösler, (death June 14, 1973 in Herbertshofen). His wife, was Mathilde Rösler. My parents were born in Volhynia too. My dad, Artur Rösler, was born in Antoniew,Rowno. I think, my great-grandfather was Karl Rösler, and Karl and Gottfried were
brothers? My question to you, where have you found the data of August Rösler? Do you understand/speak German? I love the Ukrainian dishes, like Fuscha or Piroggen. Do you know it too?
I plan to visit Volhynia, so I found your blog. your blog is great and very professional.
Best regards from Germany, and I am looking forward to your reply, Beate