June 23rd, 2018

From Russia with love

By Mo Cranker on November 14, 2016.

Hatter Dennis Bender has made part of his basement into a place where he can track and document German-to-Russia settlements. He said he thinks about half of Medicine Hat has these roots. --NEWS PHOTO MO CRANKER


A local man is doing his part to help people in the Hat, and all over the world, track their ancestors back to the 1700’s.

Lifelong Medicine Hat resident Dennis Bender has transformed parts of his basement into his way of tracking German-to-Russia settlements, which began as a way of tracking his own families history and quickly blossomed into a hobby.

“I began looking at my own family’s history using different online tools,” he said. “After I finished looking at my family I kept with it and after time focused on locating German colonies established in Russia.”

To date, Bender has located more than 2,300 colonies with the help of Sandy Payne, who helps with the online aspect of their project and putting the colonies on a Google Map.

As Bender began mapping his findings online, people around the globe started to take notice, he says.

“Three months ago, we only had about 3,000 web hits,” he said. “Now we’re sitting at over 21,000 and quickly climbing. People around the world are using our site and organizations are linking us and using us as a source.

“It’s exciting.”

Bender said he estimates approximately half of Medicine Hat has German from Russia roots, on some level.

“Whether it is direct, or just a very distant relative, I think about 50 per cent of Medicine Hat has German from Russia roots.”

Bender said once he began locating the colonies, he could not stop and while it may not be possible to locate every settlement, he wants to locate as many as he can.

“I saw there was a void and I looked around and asked, ‘Who is going to fill that void?'” he said. “Because I had been doing a lot of this and with Sandy doing such a great job with the Google Maps, I got hooked and I got to work.”

To see the site, visit https://germans-from-russia-settlements.blogspot.com/.

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