Russian German genealogy – the case of one surname

Waldemar Franz von Kroeber arrived to Australia in 1909 and 6 years later fought in the World War I as an Anzac.  I have found him and his short life story written by Elena Govor in “Russian Anzacs” database.

Something captivated me in Waldemar.  First of all, the prefix “von” represents the nobility status in Russia.  If he was from a noble family, what was he doing in Australia in 1909 nearly 10 years before nobles exodus from Russia after the revolution.  Too many questions to answer but I have managed to unravel the story of a Russian-German family dating back to 1800s.

At first I could not find anything since the surname Kroeber in Russian did not produce any results on internet. I have tried Google but nothing came up.  Then I have used my ”trick of the trade” – I went into  I have found over the years that this internet source produces different and better results, especially when searching for Russian information.

Waldemar’s family was known in Russia as Kreber.

”Come, come, gentlemen, sit comfortably! In this room we all have enough space. Yes, you are right, outside is the storm, the usual Petersburg dampness. But candles are burning cozily, logs are crackling in the fireplace, and on the table there is a glass of hot punch. This will not stop our conversation.”

This is how Julia Svintsova started a story about her ancestors, some of whom she shares with Waldemar.

The oldest known ancestors of Julia and Waldemar are Iohann Rudolf Meyer, who was known in Russia as Ivan Grigoryevich Meyer, and his wife Ulyana Fedorovna Meyer.  What pushed their families to move to Russia?

Iohann Rudolf Meyer was born in 1769/70 in Krefeld (Germany).  He came to Russia in 1795 and became a merchant of first guild and a banker, in 1810 member of the Ministry of Finance, the Court counsellor.  He was killed on 18 May 1816 and was buried in Narva (RGIA archive fund 1343 inventory 51 file 462).

Ulyana Fedorovna Meyer(1778-1858) was born Juliana Eduardina Amelung in Grünenplan (also Germany).

In this new and alien country they married on 15 January 1797 and had 12 kids (5 died in infancy): Aleksandr, Natalia, Paulina, Sofia (Julia’s ancestor), Olga, Yakov (Henrich) and Ernestina.  Kids will grow up and each will go their own way.  Third child -Paulina Ivanovna Meyer, born in Moscow in 1804, will marry Karl Emmerich Kreber (Waldemar’s great-grandfather) on 4 July 1821.

Karl was a captain who fought during the war of 1812 in the army of Napoleon and later was dismissed from the service.  Not much is known about him but in his retirement Karl became a landowner at Lyubomirsk (Rovenskaya oblast, Ukraine).  After giving birth to 11 and raising 6 kids (5 died in infancy) Paulina died in 1861.  She was buried in the cemetery in the village Kyarovo, Gdov district of St. Petersburg Province.

Their kids were Aleksey, Aleksandr, Polina/Paulina (1832-1875), Vladimir (1825-1890), Sofia and Mikhail (1829-?).

Aleksandr followed into his father’s steps – the military career.

Mikhail graduated from the Forestry Institute and was appointed as a forester in the Stavropol province.  He achieved the position of a provincial secretary and Collegiate assessor which entitled him to a nobility status.

Vladimir studied at the University of Dorpat from 1844 to 1849 and in 1850 entered the service on a Warsaw railroad.  His position as a Collegiate secretary, Court counsellor and from 1877 the State councillor provided him not only with the money but also with the nobility status.  In 1867 he was living on the embankment of the Fontanka River in a house 101.  1880s brought Vladimir more prestige and luck. In 1873 he buys a plot of land no 39 on the street Nadezhdinskaya (today Mayakovsky Street).  He is recorded in various sources as an honorary magistrate in Gdovsky uezd (county) and a vice-director of the Department of highways and water communications. He died in 1890 and was buried at the Volkovo Orthodox cemetery in St Petersburg.

Then I’ve come to a stop.  I cannot connect Waldemar to his grandfather?  I do not know who of the above brothers had son Nikolai (since Waldemar’s sister had patronymic name Nikolaevna).  The St Petersburg archive has many files on Krebers including Nikolai Kreber -a student at Petersburg first male gymnasium in 1868-1871.  Or was it Kreber Nikolai Mikhailovich, a lieutenant colonel listed in Russian Imperial Army officers book for 1909?  Or maybe it was the same person?  We will leave it for the descendants to solve.

Back to Australia

The ASIO file saved in National Archives of Australia has a surprise – a letter written in Russian by Waldemar’s sister Liza from Leningrad in 1930s. The Australian security service confiscated it when Waldemar came to their attention owing to his affiliation with the Communist Party of Australia.  This letter helped me to connect the dots.

In this letter Liza writes about the Kreber family’s dynamics and relationships since the year Waldemar left.  She mentions brothers Fedya, Petya and Kolya and many more members of extended family.

I find them in 1912 ”All St Petersburg” address book.

Elizaveta (Liza) Nikolaevna von Kreber – hereditary noble, living at Liteyniy 11

Nikolay (Kolya) Nikolaevich von Kreber – hereditary noble, living at Liteyniy 11, works in the Department of East China Railroads

Petr (Petya) Nikolaevich Kreber- hereditary noble, living at Naberezhnaya 45

It is hard to say how the Stalin’s regime affected the Kreber family.  Simple fact of earlier belonging to Russian nobility and being of a German origin put them all at high risk.  None of them are listed in the ”Victims of political terror ” database.  It does not mean that they have survived the repressions.

The fate of the family in Russia remains unknown.  I was only able to find a record showing that Liza died in March 1942 during the siege of Leningrad aged 70.  Her last known address is prospekt Volodarskogo (former Liteyniy), house 9 – the same address noted in the letter to her brother from ASIO file.  Her resting place is uknown.


Званый вечер, или Мои немецкие предки

National Archives of Australia – A6119, 1848 – VON KROEBER, Waldemar Franz

Erik-Amburger database, Foreigners in pre-revolutionary Russia –

2 thoughts on “Russian German genealogy – the case of one surname

  1. Julia Svintsova Reply

    Dear Tana! Thank you very much for this article, as well as, for what you are doing to preserve the memory and to develope good relations between our countries. Regularly browsing the internet in search of news from the past of my ancestors, I found your such an interesting and important story. I learned about the heroic history of Anzacs, these brave and courageous people. I think it will be interesting to learn something new in the history of Vladimir Kroeber. It is here.

    Best wishes to all Australians,
    sincerely yours Julia Svintsova

    • Tana Post authorReply

      Julia Thank you for writing to me. The article in a link is very interesting and worth reading for everyone. Tana

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