Copyright © 2001. 2013
® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.


The Quest


Jack Milner and his wife Clara, July 24, 2011.


Back in December 1996, my wife's interest in genealogy emphasized the fact that I didn't know anything about my Altwasser grandparents, not even their first names. How could this happen?   Surely everybody knows about their grandparents..............or don't they?

Early in 1997 I managed to make contact with my Uncle, Alan Juno, the husband of my Aunt Agnes. Unfortunately, Aunt Agnes had passed away the previous year so I missed seeing her again. However, she had been interested in family history and collected a lot of data on her mother's side (Grams) as well as considerable information on the Altwassers. I was able to copy all of this information and was the recipient of the book "Yellow Grass Our Prairie Community" as well as a copy of "A Century of Doms History in Western Canada". It took me several years to untangle the various branches and sort out the generations of continuously recycled names.

Uncle Alan also told me that Art and Herb Domes were doing an Altwasser book. That's why I contacted Art. However, Art wasn't writing an Altwasser history book. He thought Karl Lenz in Saskatoon was producing the book and he provided me with Karl's address. What a bonanza! Karl and I share the same great great grandfather and he had researched the Altwassers back to 1775 in Poland. This information he willingly shared with me and later published in his own book ["A Journey of Discovery", (2005), Karl A. Lenz]. So now I had information about my ancestors in Europe, but Karl wasn't doing an exclusive Altwasser book either. The Yellow Grass branch of the tree had written a lot about their family history, but precious little had been written about great grandfather Gottlieb's family. Something had to be done so I started researching these family members and writing their stories.

The quest had begun.


This is how I fit into the Altwasser family tree. My great grandfather was Gottlieb Altwasser, his oldest son Michael was my grandfather and Michael's oldest daughter Olga was my mother.  The first exciting document I found was the 1907 passenger list of the SS Victorian showing the names of my grandfather Michael Altwasser and his family, their country of origin and their destination in Canada.

Images of the SS Victorian's passenger list, showing as listed, the names of Michael Altwasser, his family, their country of origin and their destination in Canada.


Why were they going to Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan..........?


It soon become evident that Yellow Grass was the residence and perhaps the first destination in Canada for many of "der Auswanderer" Altwassers. Volhynian history eventually revealed why Russia was their country of origin.

  • In the 19th century, Poland and Ukraine came under the Russian Empire, and were not independent countries as they are today.

  • Between the First World War and WW I I, Western Volhynia came under Poland, Eastern Volhynia came under the Soviet Union.

  • About 98 per cent of the old Volhynia gubernia is in present-day Ukraine.


In 1999, Karl Lenz sent me a copy of an Altwasser Family Reunion pamphlet, which contained an absolutely amazing story about the Karl Altwasser and Emilie Muth branch of the Altwasser family which had remained behind in Volhynia. Some of them had come to Canada in the 1920's and some after WW II. The Canadian descendants were holding the reunion and they had composed this segment of their family story. I now possessed written material for three branches of the Altwasser tree. Destination: Yellow Grass came on line in April 2001.


Wolfgang Köllner in Germany sent an e-mail saying he thought he had connections to some of my extracted EWZ information. His ensuing research over the next four year period, combined with my own, produced the English Language chronology of Gustav Altwasser and Pauline Langner, appearing in these pages. Gustav Altwasser and Pauline Langner are the grandparents of his wife Elfriede Altwasser.


Three homesteads established by family members in 1907 could have qualified for Century Farm status in the Province of Saskatchewan, but the bureaucrats stipulated that only one Century Farm designation could be awarded per family by the Saskatchewan Government. Herb Domes decided to organize a "Jamboree at the Junction" on the homestead established by his grandfather Gottlieb Altwasser. During the 2007 Canada Day weekend, local residents and direct descendents of Gottlieb paid tribute to the pioneer family by marking the historic trails that were travel routes before roads and celebrating the Century Farm Award honouring him.


In September 2008, Wolfgang Köllner made contact with a direct descendant of Karl Julius Altwasser. Karl Julius did not migrate to Volhynia like his brothers, but had stayed behind in central Poland. At the onset of WW II, families in Poland had to provide proof of their German ethnicity to the Hitler administration in order to qualify for immigration and naturalization. Werner Altwasser generously made available copies of documents obtained in 1940 by his father Johann Altwasser.   Kantor J. Bojanowski had extracted the information from the parish church register in Dombie (Dabie) to provide the required documention. Determining how to fit Karl Julius into the family history with his three brothers presented a challenge, but in January 2011 the story became an integral part of Destination: Yellow Grass.


"Why Did They Leave?" is a summary of my research into Volhynian history and was written over the past ten years or so as I found information I thought relevant to Destination: Yellow Grass. This section is designed to help myself and others understand the circumstances of our ancestors in Volhynia and the wonderful choice they made for their descendants when they left for a new and better life.


Substantial pieces of information were added during 2011. These can be reviewed by checking through the numerous entries for 2011 on the   What's New.   page.   Destination: Yellow Grass continues to evolve with the resurgent interest in genealogy and the wonderful technology of the internet.

  • Finding Lucinda: Some great detective work proved that transcribed surnames can create confusion, oral family stories can be misleading and official census information can conflict with the facts.

  • Memorial Stone:  In June 2012, a photo of the memorial stone, erected by the descendants of Gustav Altwasser and the residents of Wielko Pole, in remembrance of the German Colonists who lived and died there.
  • Johann Altwasser and Pauline Labrenz: A new page was created in August 2012 after additional data from 1900, 1919 and 1941 provided more information.

    I hope you enjoy these slices of Altwasser family history.

    Yours truly,

    Jack Milner.





    Copyright © 2001. 2011
    ® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
    to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.

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