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Place of origin
Oberzell (Sinntal), Main-Kinzig-Kreis, Hessen, Germany

Four Hölzer men settled in the colony of Norka in 1767. Three of the men are brothers and the fourth is possibly related. All four men are from Oberzell (Sinntal) which was part of the Principality of Hessen at the time.

The three siblings are the sons of Just Höltzer (1712-1760) and Elisabeth Graußhaar (1716-1758). Just and Elisabeth were married on 17 July 1738 in Oberzell. The three boys were born and baptized in Oberzell.

Johann Conrad, baptized 8 October 1745

Johannes, baptized 1 February 1748

Johann Adam, baptized 18 February 1750

The three brothers departed from home and traveled with a group of colonists that sailed from the port city of Lübeck aboard the Russian sailing ship "Slon" (Elephant) and arrived in Oranienbaum, Russia (now Lomonosov) on 19 July 1766.

While traveling to the settlement area, Johann Conrad married Charlotta (surname unknown). They are listed as Household No. 88 in the 1767 Census. They later had at least 6 children, all born in Norka.

Johannes married Anna Barbara (surname unknown) during transport to the colonies. They are listed in the 1767 Census as Household No. 137. They had one child, a daughter. Anna Barbara died sometime after her daughters birth. Johannes married a second time to Catharina Elisabeth Prester who was previously married to Jacob Gudon. They moved to Schaffhausen in 1786 and had at least 4 children. 

Johann Adam is shown in the 1767 Census living in the household of Johannes Dinges (Households No. 164 and 164a). Johann Adam married Anna Gertrude Wilhelm about 1768 and they had at least 8 children, all born in Norka. 

The fourth Hölzer that settled in Norka is another Johannes. Based on his age in later records, he was born between 1737 and 1739. There are two baptisms for boys named Johannes Hölzer that are possible matches: Johannes, son of Adam and Margaretha Hölzer, was baptized on 23 February 1738, and Johannes, son of Just and Elisabeth Hölzer, was baptized on 7 September 1739. Just and Elisabeth Hölzer subsequently had two additional sons named Johannes, one baptized on 23 October 1744 and another baptized on 1 February 1748 (listed above with his brothers). Generally, a given name is not reused unless the first child with that name dies, which suggests that Johannes baptized on 7 September 1739 died. It is impossible to say from the available records whether the fourth Hölzer is the one born in 1738 or the one born in 1739. Johannes married Elisabeth Külthau in Oberzell on 9 February 1764.

Johannes and Elisabeth sailed from Lübeck aboard the ship "Strelna" and arrived in Oranienbaum on 28 July 1766. Johannes is listed in the 1767 Census as Household No. 5 along with a wife named Anna Maria. It seems that Elisabeth died en route and Johannes remarried. Johannes and Anna Maria have a son, Johann Georg, who is two weeks old at the time of the census. Also living in their household is a single male, Just Köhler, age 18. Johannes Hölzer is listed as the "Beisitzer" (an administrator) of the colony. Johannes died before 1790. His widow, Anna Maria, and son Johann Georg, moved to the colony of Anton that year. In 1796, Johann Georg moved to the colony of Dinkel


Parish records of Mottgers (including Oberzell, Schwarzenfels, Weichersbach, and Züntersbach) on Archion.de

Idt, Andreas and Rauschenbach, Georg. Auswanderung deutsche Kolonisten nach Russland im Jahre 1766 (Second edition). Moscow: 2019. pgs. 29 and 33.

Pleve, Igor. Lists of Colonists to Russia in 1766: Reports by Ivan Kulberg (Saratov: Saratov State Technical University, 2010) pgs. 265 and 316. 

Pleve, Igor. Einwanderung in das Wolgagebiet, 1764-1767 Band 3 (Göttingen: Nordost-Institute, 2005) pgs. 228, 252, 265, 273.

Rye, Richard, translator. 1775 and 1798 Census of Norka (Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1995). 1775 Households: 13, 14, 16 and 129.

Mai, Brent Alan. 1798 Census of the German Colonies along the Volga: Economy, Population, and Agriculture Volumes 1 and 2. (Lincoln, NE: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1999) Households: Nr014, Nr016, Nr020, Nr100, Sh41, Mv1930 and Dn35, Mv1952, Mv2022.

Maggie Hein
Steve Schreiber