of Alberta

Alfred Klassen fonds

Accession 2016.003

Title and Physical Description

Alfred Klassen fonds. – 1929-2016. –  8 cm of textual records. –  33 photographs. – 1 map.

Administrative/Biographical history

Alfred Klassen, the son of Jacob Franz and Maria (Dyck) Klassen, was born and lives in Coaldale, Alberta. He is a  member of the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta and is interested in the history of his family, and of Mennonites in the Coaldale community.

Custodial History

After his parents’ deaths, Alfred Klassen discovered a collection of letters received by his parents between 1929 and 1933 from his father’s brothers or sisters-in-law who were still living in the Soviet Union.  His parents had migrated from the Soviet Union to Canada in 1929.  The letters were written in cursive Gothic German script.  Alfred Klassen transcribed and then translated them.   He also inherited and translated the genealogy of The Klaass Dyck family of Rosenort, Ukraine.

Alfred Klassen also had access and made copies of photographs from the albums of several Coaldale pioneers pertaining to various aspects of Mennonite life in the Coaldale and Lethbridge areas during the early decades of the Mennonite settlement there.   Special efforts were made to identify many of the people shown in the photographs.

Source of Acquisition

Donated by Alfred Klassen in 1916.

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of consists 55 letters written by five of Franz Peter Klassen’s sons, or their wives to their relatives – the Jacob Franz Klassen family in Canada. They are written on poor quality paper in the Gothic script, but have been transcribed and translated by Alfred Klassen who also provided biographical and explanatory information.  Also included are 8 photographs and a map of the Gljaden village where some of the relatives lived.  The letters are arranged by family and then chronologically.

The fonds also includes 24 enlarged photographs of various groups of people during the pioneer years of the Coaldale settlement with identification of some of those shown.

Biological/genealogical information of the relatives in the Soviet Union

The date and place of birth of Franz Peter Klassen (Alfred Klassen’s grandfather) is not known, but he apparently lived for some time in the Judenplan village of Novo Jhitomir.  In 1908 he auctioned off the family’s assets with the intention of joining his daughter who had emigrated earlier and was living with her family in Saskatchewan.  Serious delays in Riga, Latvia, caused him to change his plans and move instead, together with his unmarried sons, ranging in age from 11 to 26, to a newly established Mennonite village at Gljaden, Siberia.   Franz Peter Klassen died in 1920.  His sons, or their wives, listed below, wrote the letters to their brother and his wife in Canada.

Peter Franz Klassen and Helene (Fast) Klassen registered in a collective in Issyl Kul and moved there in the spring of 1930. He died there of natural causes in 1933.

The family of Abram Franz Klassen and his wife, Susana (Wilms) Klassen , were exiled to the Narym forestry camp in 1931.  Two of their smallest children died en-route.  Abram and his son Abraham died within a few years of their exile.

Nikolai Franz Klassen and Liese (Dyck) Klassen apparently returned to Chortitza, but in 1933 they joined Nikolai’s brothers, Isaak and Peter, who had registered in a collective in Issyl Kul.  Nikolai was exiled in 1937 because “he had relatives in foreign lands,” and was never heard of again.

Isaak Franz Klassen and Maria (Friesen) Klassen, as already mentioned, registered in a collective in Issyl Kul.  Little is known of the fate of the family.

Daniel Franz Klassen and Anna (Giesbrecht) Klassen apparently lived in one of the Gljaden villages in the early 1930s.  Little is known of the fate of the family.

File List

55 letters or postcards written by members of the Klassen family living in the Soviet Union, addressed to Jacob Franz Klassen in Canada

1-1 Introduction to the Franz Peter Klassen letters
1-2  five letters, 1 post card from Peter Franz Klassen and Helene (Fast) Klassen, 1931-1932.
1-3  eleven letters, 1 post card from Abram Franz Klassen and Susana (Wilms) Klassen, 1930-1932.
1-4  six letters from Nikolai Franz Klassen and Liese (Dyck) Klassen, 1929-1930.
1-5  twenty-eight postcards and smaller written communications from Isaak Franz Klassen and Maria (Friesen) Klassen, 1931-1933.
1-6  four letters from Anna (Giesbrecht) Klassen, wife of Daniel Franz Klassen, 1931-1933
1-7  eight photographs, described in greater detail in Alfred Klassen’s intreoduction.
1-7.1- 1882, Franz Peter Klassen, his wife, and sons Franz F. and Peter F. Klassen
1-7.2  1925, Nikolai F. Klassen and Elizabeth (Dyck) Klassen
1-7.3  1926, Daniel F. Klassen and Anna (Giesbrecht) Klassen with baby.
1-7.4  1928, Isaak F. Klassen and Maria (Friesen) Klassen and family.
1-7.5  1929, Abram F, Klassen and Susana (Willms) Klassen and family
1-7.6  1934, Peter F. Klassen and Helena (Fast) Klassen with family and relatives.
1-7.7  1934, Family at Issyl Kul, probably in Isaak F. Klassen’s home.
1-7.8  The Peter Dyck’s sod house

1-8  Map of Gljaden area, from the internet.

1-9  The Klaass Dyck of Rosenort, Ukraine genealogy (translated by Alfred Klassen.

List of 25 early Coaldale photographs

Note: The first 8 photographs show Mennonite young women whose families lived in the Coaldale area but who worked as domestic servants in Lethbridge in the 1930s, and perhaps in the late 1920s and early 1940s.

1.10 A general introduction to this file.
1-11 8 Lethbridge girls at the Cenotaph.
1-12 Lethbridge girls at a picnic at the bridge
1-13 13 Lethbridge girls.
1-14 22 Lethbridge girls in their “smocks.”
1-15 studio photograph of 23 Lethbridge girls
1-16 group photograph of 24 Lethbridge girls
1-17 group photograph of 35 Lethbridge girls

1-18 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [late 1930s]
1-19 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [early 1950s]
1-20 “Sibieriertreffen” [late 1040s]
1-21 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [c. 1947]
1-22 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [c. 1949]
1-23 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [c. 1951]
1-24 Coaldale “Altenfest,” 1954
1-25 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [mid 1960s]
1-26 Coaldale “Altenfest,” [c.1969]

1-27 Coaldale Mennonite Brethren “Saengerfest,”[mid-1930s]
1-28 Coaldale Mennonite Brethren “Saengerfest,” [1930s]
1-29 Coaldale Mennonite Brethren church choir. 1951, Peter J. Dick conductor.
1-30 Coaldale General Conference Mennonite church choir, 1951, Jake Wall conductor.
1-31 Coaldale General Conference Mennonite church choir, [c. 1957], David Paetkau conductor.

1-32 Coaldale German/Religion Saturday School students and teachers, [late 1930s].
1-33 Coaldale German/Religion Saturday School students and teachers,  [late 1930s].
1-34 Coaldale German/Religion Saturday School class, teacher Isaac Regehr [early 1930s].

Source of Acquisition

Gift by Alfred Klassen


Alfred Klassen, GM 1016680