Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Spahn Line

Spahn Name Meaning and History

  1. metonymic occupational name for a carpenter or for a roofer who applied wooden shingles, from Middle German span ‘chip’, ‘shaving’, ‘splinter’.
  2. nickname for a skinny person.

Our Spahn Line

Betty Jane Spahn (grandmother)
Adam George Spahn (great grandfather)
b. 1897, Topeka, Kansas
John Spahn (2nd great grandfather)
b. 1864, Saratov, Russia
Adam Spahn (3rd great grandfather0
b. unknown, Saratov Russia

Part of the problem researching this line is lack of documentation for immigration for my 2nd great-grandfather, John Spahn.  According to family legend, he never wanted to talk about his life in Russia or how he came to the United States.  He told a story to his great granddaughter, Betty Jane when she was young about boys being forced out of their homes and made to go serve in the Russian Army.  It was rumored that John went A.W.O.L. from the Russian Army.  This rumor could be fact because out of all records from Saratov, John and his wife Mary are not among the passenger lists.  From the various Census reports, I was able to determine that they arrived into the United States in 1891.  I searched all the ships that came into port in 1891 and they weren't on them.  In addition, the Census tells us that they were naturalized as American Citizens in 1900.  They settled in Topeka, Kansas where my great grandfather and his siblings were born before the entire family moved to Offerle.

I had always wondered how the Spahn's ended up in Russia because I knew Spahn wasn't a Russian name but rather a German name.  Researching the Spahn immigrants in general, including John's assumed brother, George Spahn, yielded a wealth of imformation about how the Spahn ancestors ended up in Russia...they were Volga Germans who settled the region in the mid 1700's.  Here is the story from Wikipedia:

The Volga Germans (GermanWolgadeutsche or RusslanddeutscheRussianПоволжские немцыPovolzhskie nemtsy) were ethnic Germans living along the River Volga in the region of southern European Russia around Saratov and to the south. They maintained German culturelanguage, traditions and churches: LutheransReformedRoman Catholics, and Mennonites. Many Volga Germans emigrated to the Midwestern United StatesCanadaBrazilArgentinaParaguayUruguay and other countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During World War II, many died in Soviet labour camps. In the late 20th century, many of the remaining ethnic Germans moved to Germany.
Here is a lovely picture of Norka, Saratov settled by the Volga Germans:

Another issue with searching the records for John and George Spahn is an abundance of Spahn's with the same names...Adam, George, John are all popular and there are several of each, including the infamous George Spahn who owned Spahn Ranch in California, where the Manson Family stayed and hatched their murderous plan.  Even the female Spahn's had repeating names such as Elizabeth, Katherine, Mary/Marie.  Most are probably related to each other and to me in one way or another.  I will have to add the Saratov region to my list of ancestry travel destinations.  I could visit this church in Norka and just maybe I will find the birth and marriage records for John Spahn, which in turn, could lead me down a longer road back in time.  To a time and place where the Spahn's were once again back in the motherland of Germany.

Even though I can't currently get further down the line, I was happy to finally understand how the Spahn ancestors ended up in Russia. One mystery solved!


  1. My Grandmother is Sussanna Spahn. Her farther was Adam Spahn b. 1875. Adams wife was Elizabeth Lambrecht. She married Casper Weigant in 1914. They lived in Pfeifer Saratof Russia and came to American in 1914.

  2. My Grandmother was Elizabeth Spahn from Neu Norka, Russia. She and my Grandfather Johannes Kuhn immigrated to Canada in 1912 and then settled in Milwaukee, WI. I know of one of her sisters going to Nebraska. The story I've been told was that the German's of my family were enticed by Catherine the Great to move to Russia.,_Ukraine_and_the_Soviet_Union I've heard stories that my Grandmother's parents were killed by the Bolsheviks.