The Green Family Tree
by Sally Braich
In 1976, Bertha Green Black, my great aunt, put together a Green Family Tree with information that she received from her own research, books on German Russians, and collections of articles and letters from her relatives. Bertha Green Black was able to piece together a story about her grandfather George Henry Green and tell the story of his people living in Russia for 100 years and coming to the America in 1876. There also were details that she was not sure of and a lot of information not available to her in 1976. Her scrapbooks of records and pictures of family births, deaths, and marriages were a tribute to her father and mother, Conrad and Catherine Green, and her grandfather and grandmother, George and Christina Green. Bertha Green Black’s dedication to preserving our heritage is a wonderful legacy for all of us who now are descendants of George and Christina Green, and future generations.
On August 12th, 2006, I came upon the idea to share the legacy of the Green Family Tree in the memorial service for my father Vern D. Green, who passed away in April 2006. I was still curious about the name Green, the ship my father’s great grandfather George came over on, as well as other details, only hinted at in family gatherings. I decided to give the Internet a try. I had gone to the National Archives in Washington, DC and could find nothing on the Greens. Although Ellis Island was not formally opened until after the arrival of George Green, in searching the website, a site came up with the name of Norka, Russia and directed me to other websites for information on the German Russians… where I found the name Steven Schreiber and his email. In emailing him, I was given a website to go to about the German Russians in Portland, Oregon, and submitted my name for descendants of German Russians from the Volga. I found a phone number of a person who had information on the Green’s and left my name. A Joanne Green Krieger called me back and after a few exchanges of information, I learned that she had done an extensive search and paid archivist to research the George Henry Green family tree, only to find out that she was not related to him. I was overjoyed however, to find out this was my great Aunt Bertha Green Black’s grandfather, and my father’s great grandfather. Thanks to Joanne Green Krieger, we have the…. rest of the story!
The Green Family Tree through archival research begins with a Johann Casper Grun, who along with his wife Gertrude Elisabeth and 5½ year old son, Georg Phillipp, left the county of Isenburg, Germany, arriving in Oranienbaum, not far from St. Petersburg on October 8th, 1766 by the ship Vologda. Johann Casper Grun, born in Germany in 1738, is the great grandfather of George Henry Green, the German spelling being Georg Heinrich Grun. The record of Johann Grun is from the archival source: Saratov Regional Archives…family #32. He was a craftsman and a tailor, possibly born in Hesse, which is listed by his great grandson’s Georg Grun’s as a birthplace.
People in Germany in the 1700’s had been suffering the consequences of decades of war, strife and taxes. Soldiers returning from war found no jobs waiting them. There still were ongoing tensions between the Lutherans, Catholics and Reformed faiths.
These feuds were passed on from generation to generation from the early days of the Reformation. The Germans who left Germany were descendants of the people of the Reformation. The Germans were weary and sick of fighting, even over the religious issues. They were seeking a better future.
Catherine the Great, the German born Empress had goals to bring western influences into the development of Russia. Her plan was to develop the lawless, newly acquired Volga region which had been won through wars with the Turks. Catherine knew that German colonists were capable of fulfilling this goal, and she also sweetened the deal by doubling the wages of married couples. In July 22nd, 1763 she issued a Manifesto which promised 63 acres of land, exemption from the draft, freedom to build their own institutions, no taxation for 10 years, and most important… freedom of religion. The Grun's (Greens) were the last to leave Germany on this Manifesto. It was a 1600 mile trek to Norka, Russia. Catherine the Great met the Germans after their ships landed in St. Petersburg and accompanied them 100 miles to Moscow. The Germans were very happy to hear Catherine speak their native language. The Empress promised them free transportation down into the Russian steppes. They were given covered wagons, and escorted by the Cossacks. It was about 900 miles from Germany to St. Petersburg, and then about another 600 miles to Norka.
The German colonists had many hardships, but they thrived and became leaders in agriculture. They were literate…going to school to the eighth grade, and then attending confirmation classes given by the church. The church played an active role in the lives of these German colonists. The Grun's belonged to the Reform faith. The Catholic church was happy to see the protestants leave Germany, however, when whole villages up and left ….the country leaders tried to put a stop to this exodus of devout people. The German colonists were isolated from the Russians. The colonists taught their German language in schools, had their own church and were highly successful in agriculture. The Russian peasantry had little to motivate them and was mostly illiterate. The Germans married within their colonies, everyone knew everyone else or was related. They were known as the Tsarina’s Germans. However, this would cause them to be alienated from other Russians and create tension in later years.
In the 1775 Norka census, Johann’s middle name appears to be Casper and was changed in spelling to a K for a C and the spelling became Kasper. At the time, there wasn’t a standardized Russian spelling for names. Johann and Gertrude Elisabeth Grun had five sons; Georg, Jakob, Andreas, Johannes, and Kasimer (Kasper). They are written in a copy of the original list of settlers of the Norka colony, Saratov Province, 1766-1777. Johann and Elisabeth’s son Kasimer (Kasper) was the grandfather of Georg Grun. Kasimer’s son Heinrich born on April 11th, 1797 was the father of Georg Grun. Heinrich Grun had three children, Elisabeth, George and Friedrich. Elisabeth did not have children. Friedrich lived only one month. His son Georg Heinrich, born in Norka, Russia in 1836, married in January 24th 1856 to Christina Hamburger… born in Norka, Russia in 1836. They had ten children. Three children were born in Norka…Heinrich, Anna Maria and Philipp before moving to Rosenfeld, Russia. Looking at the genealogy charts most of the cousins, aunts, and uncles left Norka, Russia in 1852 for Rosenfeld, Russia. Sometime after 1859, the Georg Grun family left Norka, Russia for Rosenfeld Russia. Here they had six more children, Johannes, 1863, Peter 1865, Anna Catherine 1867, Conrad 1871, Jacob 1872, and Joseph 1874. Their tenth and last child Maria was born in 1877 in Otis, Kansas. It will take further research to find out what happened to Anna Maria.
The German Russians lived 100 years in Russia, but the new Tsar Alexander II was taking away the decrees granted in Catherine the Great’s Manifesto. Resentment was rising against the German colonies by the Russians. No longer were the German Russians exempt from the draft. Their schools would have to teach Russian. They were given more taxes and less land. The Church started sending agents to the United States to scout for a better place to live and have the freedoms the Germans were used to! At the same time, agents from the railroad were sending leaflets to the German Russian churches. In these leaflets the railroad was promising land, freedom to worship and many of other freedoms the Tsar was taking away. The Russians resented the Germans and the Germans likewise resented the Russians. This may explain why Georg Grun wrote his birthplace to be Hesse, Germany rather than Norka, Russia. The Church saw that this was a good opportunity and encouraged their members to immigrate.
Georg and Christina Grun and their 9 children left Rosenfeld, Russia with other German Russians. From Liverpool England, they sailed on the ship SS City of Montreal and landed in New York, New York on January 6th, 1876. The German Russians were promised free railroad passage to the west. At this time, there was also the Homestead Act that granted foreigners 160 acres of land if they were serious about becoming citizens of the United States and working the land for 5 years. The ship’s log writes of them as being very pious Protestant Volga Germans…being members of the Mennonite Brethren or the Calvin Baptist churches of Kansas. My great Aunt Bertha Green Black had some type of letter from the church Georg and Christina attended in Russia. She had a Professor Peters of Portland State University translate the letter that was written in old Lutheran German.
The German Russians were not well received by the German Americans. They were considered Russian. Many of their customs and clothes were Russian. Their German was archaic. Their way of farming was also outdated. This in my opinion might explain why there were some thoughts that the Georg Grun family might have joined or attended the Mennonite Church in Kansas. The Mennonites would have closely resembled the faith and practices of the Reform Church in Russia and would have kept the old farming ways. Georg Grun and his wife were both 39 when they came to the United States. They endured crop failures, lightning storms, and drought. Western movement was feasible now because of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Opportunities were looking better in the Pacific Northwest. Georg Grun’s name now was George Green. His son Philip married an Ann Rothe and they had two children in Otis, Kansas. Philip would have been eligible for the acres of land provided in the Homestead Act too. The Green family fulfilled their commitments of cultivating the land for five years, and it was time to head west. Although, Bertha Green Black has 1882 for the time that the Greens arrived in Portland, Oregon…. I think it was actually 1881….. as Philip and Anne Green’s third child is born in Portland, Oregon in 1881….and there is no indication that they came separately to Oregon. Philip Green looked to Endicott, Washington being one of the first pioneering families to settle there. His father, George Green looked to Silverton, Oregon and bought 100 acres there. George Green put up a store on his property and called it Green’s Station….later naming it Switzerland.
Now we follow George and Christina Green’s 7th child Conrad, who is the father of Bertha Green Black, and my grandfather, Daniel Friedrich Green, and the grandfather of my father Vern D. Green. This is the part that all the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Conrad and Christina Green can add their own family histories. Conrad Green marries John and Marie Brunner’s 7th child, Catherine, on September 13th, 1890. Conrad and Catherine Green come to Portland to live. Their first child was born in Portland in l891, and named after his grandfather, George. Their second child Daniel was born in 1892 in Portland. They move back to Silverton to try their hand at farming. They have two more children, born in Silverton, Oregon. Annie was born in 1894, and Martha born in 1896.
Conrad Green decided farming was not for him. He moved his family back to Portland, Oregon. Here he and his family endured many hardships and illnesses. He became a grocer with his family living either behind the store or above it. Conrad and Catherine had nine more children born in Portland, Oregon. Bertha was born in 1897, Edward in 1899, Marion in 1901, Walter in 1903, Florence in 1906, Melvin in 1908, Dorothy in 1910, Conrad in 1912 and Catherine in 1913. Conrad and Catherine Green owned a store on Southeast 33rd and Belmont. At one time they had a grocery store, restaurant, dry cleaning plant, and meat market all in one place. Only eight of their children survived to adulthood. Of the eight, the eldest George died at a young age leaving behind a wife and three children. The Green family remained a very religious, church centered family. Conrad and Catherine’s children helped their parents either in their store or at home.
My grandfather, Daniel Green, had a German meat market also on 33rd and Belmont Street in Portland, Oregon. My father Vern Green worked with his father as a meat cutter, but did not continue in the grocery store business. Many wonderful family gatherings brought Conrad and Catherine Green’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren together.
This information is written in the year 2006 by Sally Green Braich, daughter of Vern and Virginia Green, granddaughter of Daniel and Maybel Green and great granddaughter of Conrad and Catherine Green. Again, my thanks and gratitude to my great Aunt Bertha Green Black and to Joanne Green Krieger for their dedication in researching and making it possible for descendants of Georg Heinrich Grun to have this Green Family Tree and ancestral history.