About Us

We are a virtual group of volunteers wanting to freely share with fellow researchers. Therefore, there are no membership dues or fees for anything we provide on this site. 

Our team includes researchers from different geographic areas around the Black Sea (Crimea, Odessa, Bessarabia, Dobrudscha, and others) and different religious backgrounds (Catholic, Lutheran, Mennonite).

Below are brief biographies of the members of the Dale Wahl Team. As you learn more about researching Black Sea German ancestors, you'll understand that many of the colonies were primarily Lutheran or Catholic (although there were Swedish Lutheran, Mennonite and Jewish colonies as well). They learned to get along...some even intermarried!
Gayla Ohlhauser Aspenleiter Gayla was born in Billings, Montana and is 100% German-Russian. She started her quest for ancestors in 2001 and has since published family history books on both her paternal and maternal grandparents coming from the Grossliebental area and the Hutterite/Mennonite villages of  Taurida. Her most exciting genealogy-related discovery was finding the love of her life, Rich, and marrying him. Gayla's research focuses on Germans from Hungary to Russia, Rich & Gayla Aspenleiterthe Lutheran villages of the Grossliebental District of Odessa, and the Hutterite and Mennonite villages in Taurida.

Rich AspenleiterRich, from Spokane, Washington, is a descendant of German-Russian ancestors from the Beresan region. In about 1996, Rich took an interest in the stories of the "old country" his father would bring up occasionally. This was the inspiration to learn all he could about his ancestors and his German-Russian history. Rich talks about several exciting genealogy finds, but the most exciting was meeting and later marrying his best friend and soul mate, Gayla.  Rich's research focuses on the Catholic villages of the Beresan District of Odessa and the Dobrudscha region.
Murray Gauer Murray was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1949. His grandfather arrived in Canada in 1890 from Birsula (Kotovsk) 200 kilometers north of Odessa. His great-grandparents were married in the tiny prayer house in Nesselrode (Kulyanik), which is now a southern suburb of Kotovsk. His greatest moment in genealogy was finding, by chance, that his family arrived in North America at New York City after searching for them for years in Canada. He has traced his family back through Galicia to Germany in the 1600s in the district of Birkenfeld, Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. Murray's research focuses on the Lutheran parish of Hoffnungstal in the Cherson district but he also has family from Kandel in the Kutschurgan area.
David Kilwien David became active in genealogy in 1996. His research has taken him to Ukraine three times since 2003.  He researches Catholic families from the Beresan region near Nikolayev in present-day Ukraine. His particular interests are families from the villages of Rastadt and München who immigrated to the plains of North America and settled in the states of North Dakota and Montana, as well as the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. David's interests also include the culture, traditions, and social life of the Germans from Russia that make this ethnic group truly unique.

Sandy Schilling Payne
Sandy Schilling Payne is 100% Black Sea German. She was born in Kennewick, Washington and moved several times before the age of five when her family settled in New Mexico. Sandy has been researching her German-Russian family since 1994 when her dad asked her to look into the family tree because her grandfather wasn’t forthcoming with information. After her first report, her grandfather’s response was, “Where did she find this!” After that, he was more open about sharing his family history because he said she was probably going to find out anyway. Sandy’s ancestors are Lutherans from the Glückstal colonies and Catholics from the Kutschurgan colonies. Her research interests include historical geography related to genealogy and the settlement locations of Germans in the Russian Empire and their migrations to the present day.
Robert Schauer Robert is a first generation American. His father is German-Russian, born in Neu-Berlin, Ukraine (near Odessa). His mother is German, born in Aschaffenburg, Bavaria. Her family originated near Breslau, Silesia (now Wrocław, Poland) and was forcibly relocated to Germany after WWII. Robert was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a child, he moved out west with his parents. Bob’s grandmother, Lydia Schauer, had an often-repeated family story that her great-great-grandfather, Johannes Alexander, came from Württemberg and made the trip "all the way" as a small boy in a wagon in 1816. The same story was also often repeated by relatives. In fact, through Bob’s research, we know the story can’t be true since Johannes was born in Alsace and was not a little boy when he arrived. He was married, and had a newborn child with him when he arrived in Bergdorf, South Russia, in 1807.
Carolyn Schott Carolyn is 100% German-Russian, a Seattle native, and has been researching her family history since 1997. As the descendent of wanderers, her research interests range from Bessarabia and the Odessa region, to Hungary, Poland, and North Dakota. Carolyn's interest in family history was inspired by annual childhood road trips to visit relatives in North Dakota and she continues to feed that interest by visiting ancestral towns around the world. She's sure that her love of wine comes from her Schott family's sojourn in a wine-growing region of Germany.  
Merv Weiss Merv began researching his family's history in the year 2000. All four of his grandparents were ethnic Germans (Catholic) who were born in Russia. His mother was born in Crimea after the 1917 Russian Revolution, which explains his interest in the history of the Germans from Crimea. His paternal family has roots in the Odessa region. Merv recognized that genealogical research requires a good foundation in the history and geography of the ancestral regions. He has visited Ukraine four times, and has visited Weiss relatives (Spätaussiedler) in Germany four times. His greatest satisfaction in genealogical research to date has been meeting his "new" cousins in Germany. Merv grew up in southwestern Saskatchewan, in a mono-cultural community, and must have been ten years old before he realized that not everyone was German Catholic! 
Elli Wise Elli was born in Germany to parents who were resettled from Bessarabia and the Dobrudscha into Poland in the early 1940s. During her childhood, Elli’s parents told her about their homeland, but she was not really listening and a lot of stories went astray. In 1994, her interest was awakened when her uncle presented her with a 5-generation family tree he had compiled. Elli has been especially lucky with her mother’s family, where she has been able to find some of their ancestral villages in  Germany. Most amazing to Elli is that she’s found relatives on both sides of her family in North and South Dakota, Canada, as well as other states like Colorado. From her home in Frankfort, Kentucky, she is still discovering! 

In Honor of Dale Wahl


20 Feb 1938 - 13 June 2008


In honor of our dear friend and mentor, Dale Wahl, who passed away in 2008. With the encouragement of his family, we've set up this website to carry on his passion for encouraging and freely sharing genealogy information with others.

Check out Dale's Ancestry tree
in our database or view his ancestry chart.


Robert Wahl

"My dad would be extremely delighted and excited to have all his hard work being made available to a new generation of German-Russian researchers. My family and I would like to thank the team he would be proud of for sharing his vision."  
Robert Wahl

Dale Wahl was our friend and mentor. "I've been chasing these dead folks for a lot of years," Dale would say with his customary easy-going, casual and inviting manner. He was a tireless researcher. He was a selfless contributor to and advocate for the good will of freely-shared family research. He was the ultimate team builder, bringing people together to work on projects and always encouraging them to think of something bigger than their own needs. A more complete article honoring Dale can be found here.

Dale's Legacy

We lost Dale in the summer of 2008. Before he passed away, he asked us to honor a legacy he wanted to share with the world.


Dale was a lover of technology and ultimately wanted all his genealogy files digitized and made available online to German-Russian researchers worldwide.


He did not want anyone or any organization burdened with excess files, paperwork, and costs they could not manage. He did not want others profiting from the sale of freely contributed and available family data. When Dale died, a small team of people respectfully volunteered to help preserve his legacy in the way he requested.


The Dale Wahl Team

From 2008 to 2010, the "Dale Wahl Team" sorted, scanned, categorized, labeled, and distributed the vast collection of genealogical materials Dale had acquired in over 30 years of researching, both his own family connections and the thousands of others he helped, over and over again.


Books and other materials were sent to the Germans from Russia Heritage Society library. Personal family files and photos were returned to the Wahl family as requested. Permissions were obtained for the use of family data sent to Dale by other researchers.


In the end, the Dale Wahl Team sorted the family data from the historical data; the historical research from the archival research, random photos, maps, and much more. Then they scanned over 130,000 pieces of documentation which is being made available now, on this website, much of it for the first time.


Dale's Dream

This was Dale's dream, but it would not be possible without the gracious help of Dale's immediate family who understood what a vast resource he had accumulated. The Dale Wahl Team would like to offer a special thanks to Dale's family who trusted us with the two rooms and a garage full of documents, equipment, and electronic files. But, more importantly, with believing in us to accomplish what Dale said he wanted.


Genealogical research in the 21st century will bring new opportunities and new research information, new definitions for the sharing of research, and new opportunities to connect with family members worldwide. In some small way, we hope this is a new start for German-Russian researchers. Please use and enjoy what Dale has helped us create.