Saturday, January 3, 2009

A place named Unterdorf

Early in my genealogical research, I was confronted with the sad fact that our family surname, Miller, is about as generic a name as you'll find within the German language. Many folks have speculated that our name was originally Muller (probably with an umlaut), and that's likely accurate, although there's no verification one way or the other. Miller, Muller, and Mueller are all surname candidates!

My grandfather, Peter Miller, was born in Unterdorf, Russia in 1886. When I was able to verify that information, I was ecstatic. When I learned that Katie Behm, the wife of my grandfather's nephew, Alex Behm, had created a map of Unterdorf, I was excited at the prospect of learning exactly where my grandfather had lived in the "old country."

Alas, while I guess I had known it, I conveniently overlooked the reality that every family seemed to name their boys the same: Pete, Alex, John, Henry, Fred, etc. There was not a lot of variety. Thus, with so many Miller families in Unterdorf, I haven't been able to pin down exactly where my grandfather lived before migrating to the United States with his older sister, Eva (Miller) Behm, and her family in 1906.

While I've not been able to update it much over the past year or so, I have expectations of significantly enhancing my Unterdorf website in coming months. Of course, that's done largely through the benevolence of people like you -- folks who may have new information about this small village not far from the Volga in Russia and the families that lived there.

Shown above is a contemporary aerial photo of the Unterdorf region. For the many years that I've been tracking the Peter Miller and Dora (Eckerdt) Miller families, I've had hopes of one day setting foot on the same soil that Grandpa Miller walked. With each passing year, that becomes less likely, but I've not given up hope. And perhaps by the time I make the trek, I'll know more about this little village and the circumstances that drove its citizenry to seek opportunities in the "new world."