My Vistula German Family Roots – Kuhn, Brinkmann, Weiss, Guildenstern, Thiel and Neumann…

Recently, I discovered my Vistula German (Olędrzy) roots through my paternal grandparents, Samuel Frank Kuhn (b. 1890) and Gertrude Klara Thiel (b. 1902).  As we dug deeper, we discovered an incredibly rich, tragic and hidden history of similar families originally from Western Europe (Holland – Frisia).  These families had originally settled in colonies during the 1500s along the Vistula River in what is today Poland around Danzig.  These early settlers were often Mennonites and Lutherans who were seeking refuge from religious persecution in their homelands. They were also seeking economic opportunities and were highly sought after by the landlords in Poland for their unique talent of reclaiming low lying flood lands.  Because of their unique talents they were granted special collective privileges which included religious freedoms and exemption from military service, amongst others.

Slowly, over time, these immigrants who had originally fled religious persecution faced new attacks on their freedoms.  Western and Eastern Prussia partitioned Poland in the 1700s enacting punitive laws and taxes on the pacifist Olędrzy colonists, as a result, many of my ancestors moved upstream the Vistula River south towards Warsaw or even farther afield as far away as the Volga River region of Russia.

Map of Nowa Weiss, birthplace of Anna Kuhn, home of Michael Kuhn and Susanna Guildenstern

The region of Poland where my paternal grandfather, Samuel Frank Kuhn, grew up was north-east across the Vistula River about fifteen kilometers from Warsaw.   As it happened, this area was ground zero on the front lines during the First World War, the Bolshevik invasion of 1920 and the Second World War.   Families like my grandfather’s, who were culturally German and spoke a dialect known as “Plattdeutsch” obviously did not fare well as Polish nationalism and independence was finally achieved.  As such, ethnic Western Europeans were forced to flee Soviet retribution as Stalin’s armies moved Westward into Germany.

Today, little remains of German Vistula culture except overgrown cemeteries, scattered buildings or place names relating to long ago abandoned colonies.


jan weiss Luisa kuhn
Marriage certificate of Jan Weiss and Luisa [Ludowika] Kuhn, 1891, Parafia Baptyska Warszawie

My paternal ancestors emigrated to Canada slowly, over time beginning around 1892.  As family members gained a foothold in the Rainy River or Kenora area of Ontario, they sponsored other family members from Poland often making trips to Poland bringing Brinkmanns, Kuhns, Kopps and Weisses on the return journey to Canada.  This site will include information on my Vistula German families who immigrated to Canada.   Surnames include Kuhn, Brinkmann, Weiss, Guildenstern, Thiel, Neumann, amongst others.

We hope to connect with other people uncovering their Vistula German roots and assist by sharing maps and records and other resources we painstakingly uncovered and found invaluable in our research.

Our research is far from done as we attempt to trace my lineage farther back.

Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion or ask a question below.


Samuel Kuhn

10 thoughts on “My Vistula German Family Roots – Kuhn, Brinkmann, Weiss, Guildenstern, Thiel and Neumann…”

    1. …and thank you Tammy for sharing those incredible photos! I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to look into the eyes of our ancestors. Someone in our family asked if we know the where-a-bouts of Samuel Frank Kuhn’s bible as these often contain clues as in genealogical notes. Also, I seem to be lacking any Brinkman photos if you happen to know of someone who may possess some. I want to tell the William Brinkman story as it is historically important to Canada and personally important because he and Annie literally saved so many of our family from certain death had they stayed in Poland….

  1. My Kopp family came from the same area. Augusta, Otto and Juius immigrated between 191p and 1913 leaving a large family of siblings and parts behind. Never to hear from them again

    1. Thank you Patti for contacting me!

      I checked my tree and there is a real possibility that we are related. I have lots of Kopp (Kopf) photos and documents. The names don’t seem to exactly jive with what I have, which is a good thing as we may be able to fill in each other’s trees.

      I’m wondering which villages your Kopps came from…

      I sent you an email and an invite to check out my family tree on Ancestry. Is it possible to have a look see if your tree?

      I have a great deal of questions to ask you.

      Cheers and thank you so much for contacting me!

      Samuel Kühn

  2. Hello,

    I believe my great-grandfather photographed your grandmother. His name was Bruno Blaschy. I purchased a photograph online from a postcard and antique print shop in Berlin. I am attempting to purchase as many prints created by my great-grandfather as possible. This particular one has Gertrude Thiel – “Tank Trude” written on the back in pencil.

    1. That is unbelievable Suzanne! Thank you for contacting me. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the Thiel’s so every little bit helps! I am excited to view the photo if this is possible. My email address is:

      Thank you!

    2. Dear Suzanne:

      I did a quick search online of your great grandfather and it appears that he was located for a time at least in Gdansk, Poland? If this is true then the photo you possess possibly of my grandmother Gertrude would make sense as the Thiel’s were from that area…do you know the date of the photo?

      Gertrude came to Canada in 1927 I believe.

      This is very exciting.

      Thank you for any information that you may have.


  3. Witam serdecznie, historia rodziny mojego ojca (Beytka)jest podobna, dlatego bardzo wzruszyła mnie Państwa sytuacja. Przodkowie mojej rodziny w metrykach mają wpisy-ewangelicy, Olędrzy, luteranie.Ich nazwisko pojawia się w okolicach Kcyni, na Pomorzu, Kujawach, także w okolicach Kielc,Warszawy.W towarzystwie -Bohm, Stephan, Nitz, Marquardt. Dotarłam do zapisów z XVII wieku. Rodzina z Kujaw na początku XX wieku wyemigrowała.Nie mam z nikim kontaktu.Wspaniale jest odnaleźć korzenie. Może tez mi się uda.Serdecznie pozdrawiam i życzę powodzenia.

    1. Droga Anno:

      Dziękuję bardzo za wiadomość! Bardzo to doceniam.

      Czy można zobaczyć swoje drzewo genealogiczne?

      Jeszcze raz dziękuję za skontaktowanie się ze mną.

      Samuel Kuhn

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