It has been my long-term goal to gather much more information on all branches of my family, both of my parents' ancestries, etc. Some of the information I have been able to gather thus far has been for my paternal ancestors in the Ratzlaff and Siemens families, but I have been able to add significantly to my maternal family lines as well, which include English, Scots-Irish, German and American Indian stock.
The Ratzlaffs and Siemens are descended from German Mennonites who migrated from Prussia to Southern Russia in the early 1800s, at the invitation of the Tsarist government. Ethnic Germans of Mennonite, Lutheran and Catholic background all established their own settlements in the Ukraine. According to most sources, the name Ratzlaff has a Slavic origin, and came from the given name Ratislav or Ratislaw. The Ratzlaffs are believed to have originated in Pomerania (Pommern in German), previously a province of the Kingdom of Prussia located along the Baltic coast, and presently under Polish occupation. This province, along with other Prussian territories, was stolen by the victorious powers after the two world wars, "ethnically cleansed" of their German populations and turned over to Poland.
My great-grandfather Peter L. Ratzlaff, brought his family of seven to America in 1886. They sailed on the S.S. Suevia, a vessel of the Hamburg-Amerika Line, which departed Hamburg, arriving in New York on June 17th. They settled in Kansas. His father, Peter Ratzlaff, who had lost his first wife and remarried, had already sailed with the nine members of the family of his second marriage from Antwerp, Belgium to Philadelphia, arriving on July 28th, 1876, disembarking from a ship named S.S. Vaderland. His family settled in Minnesota.
I continue seek to collect more information on the Ratzlaffs, and seek to expand on my knowledge of my other ancestors. Genealogy is a fascinating hobby, which fits well with my interest in history.