Elder Tobias Unruh Baptism Register: 1854-1889

Transcribed by Martha Becker, edited by Rod Ratzlaff

The following is the Tobias Unruh Baptism Register which lists baptisms performed by Elder Tobias A. Unruh (1819-1875) (Elder [Aeltester] Unruh is #70741 in the Grandma database) between 1853 and 1875 in the Low German Mennonite villages of Volyn Gubernia. The Register goes on to list baptisms performed in Turner County, Dakota Territory, many under the Elder Peter P. Becker (Peter P. Becker [Grandma #104060] succeeded Tobias A. Unruh as elder of the Low German Mennonite community in Hutchinson and Turner Counties, Dakota Territory. Becker was elected elder in September 1876 [Boese, J.A., The Prussian-Polish Mennonites Settling in South Dakota 1874 and Soon After, Pine Hill Press, Freeman, S.D., 1967: 87] ) until the year 1889. The original Register is housed at the Heritage Hall Museum and Archives in Freeman, South Dakota. Thank you to Marnette Hofer for allowing me to examine and photograph the original document.

Martha Becker of Freeman, S.D., first transcribed this document in May 2000. However, it appears that Martha did not have the benefit of working from the original document. I have edited her work here and added several names and pages that were missed in her transcription. Information that is new here and not listed in Martha’s May 2000, transcription includes:

  • 1 new male on page 30;
  • 14 new names on pages 38-39;
  • 4 new females on page 44;
  • 5 new names on page 120;
  • All information on pages 120-123.

    Several pages near the back of the original Register have come loose and are therefore out of order. It appears as if Martha Becker, with her transcription, was also working from pages that were out of order. The digital photos of the Register at the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas reflect this disorder and show the Register as it exists today. I have changed the page order here to make some obvious corrections, however the pages still do not seem to fit logically. I suspect there may be a page or two missing altogether.

    Elder Unruh included in his Register, columns which he labels with a combination of the words “Skaska”, “Revision”, or “9th” or “10th”. This is a reference to the Imperial Russian censuses of 1850 and 1858 (Ru: Ревижская Сказка; Revizhskaya Skazka); the numbers in these columns list the household numbers for the villagers from these two censuses. The 9th Revision was enumerated in 1850 and the 10th in 1858. To my knowledge, the location of these Revisions for the Low German Mennonite villages in the Ostrog area is not known at this time. This makes Unruh’s references to these Revisions particularly valuable.

    Elder Unruh also includes a column marked Bezahlung. This column records a payment made but at this time it is unclear as to the nature of this payment. Martha Becker’s introductory notes from her transcription are as follows:

    Contents of the Book

    The Book lists the names of 364 young men and 342 young women (total 706 names) that Tobias Unruh baptized in Russia from June 3, 1854 to March 22, 1874. This was in the different congregations in Russia. The last years in Russia on March 18, 1874, he baptized 41 souls and on March 22, 1874, he baptized 38 more, a total of 79 for the last year in Russia.

    The last part of the book records Rev. Peter Becker as having baptized 36 on September 1976 (?) in Turner County, Dakota. This perhaps was the first one in this area in America. The record is not that clear after that. Peter Becker has some more baptisms. Among them was my dad (Jacob) and his brother Peter baptized on June 13, 1886 by Rev. Peter Becker. Another note-worthy one is that of Uncle Henry Unruh on June 10, 1878. Uncle Henry became the pastor of the church at Avon.

    There seems to be a record of some money collected, then borrowed, of books for individuals, perhaps song books for use to sing in church.

    Martha Becker, 25 May 2000.

    The data from the Tobias Unruh Baptism Register is presented here in two different formats. Words in [brackets] are items that could not be read.

    1) Original Version, showing the data as it appears in the original. I have attempted to preserve the spellings of words so that they appear exactly as they do in the original. I have also formatted the information in an effort to mimic the format of the original.

    2) Indexed Version, listing only those baptised in Volyn Gubernia prior to emigration to America in 1874. In this listing, I have standardized the names of those baptized as well as of locations.

    Rod Ratzlaff, 20 February 2017

    Page created 15 October 2017; html by Richard D. Thiessen

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