Watch Randy's Story Mon. Oct. 8th at 8:30 PM!
Singer-songwriter Randy Bachman is perhaps best known for his role as lead guitarist in the Canadian super-groups The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive. His current gig hosting CBC radio's Vinyl Tap, as well as regular concert tours, keeps Randy very busy in the music industry. Looking back on his life and career, Randy can't help but wonder where his musical talent comes from, so he begins his exploration into his ancestry hoping to trace his musical roots.
Randy starts in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he was one of four sons born to Charles Bachman and Anne Dobrinsky. Charles was an optician and city alderman whose parents came from Germany. Anne was a second-generation Ukrainian immigrant, the 5th child of Stefan Dobrinsky and Paulina Stecko. Her family included labourers and farmers.
Randy visits geographer John Lehr from the University of Winnipeg, a specialist in Ukrainian immigration to Manitoba, to find out more about the Steckos' arrival in Canada. The Steckos landed in North America in 1907, and like many Eastern European immigrants, they came through Ellis Island in New York and then journeyed by train to Winnipeg. They were part of a massive wave of immigrants from the Western Ukrainian province of Galicia, then part of Austria. From 1889 to the start of WWI, 180,000 Ukrainians settled on Western Canadian farmlands. For most, poverty and illiteracy made life extremely difficult. Not only were they granted some of the worst land in the region, but they also faced hostility from Canadians. Booklets were produced to help Ukrainians integrate into Canadian culture. But despite their efforts, the new Canadians experienced rampant discrimination. John Lehr shows Randy newspaper editorials denouncing Ukrainian settlers as "ignorant paupers" who were a "curse rather than a blessing to the country". Randy is moved by the hardships his ancestors endured.
Before looking further into his mother's family's past, Randy decides to trace the Bachmans' roots in Manitoba. Randy's father, Charles, was the son of Emil Bachman and Louise Kendall Bachman. Emil, the son of Friedrich Bachman and Wilhemina Paul, died at age 33 from a burst appendix when Charles was just a young boy, so Randy knows very little about him.
Randy visits the Archives of Manitoba where he learns that his great grandfather Friedrich Bachman paid ten dollars in 1906 for 160 acres of farmland south-east of Winnipeg. This is where Friedrich lived with his wife and four children. Randy also discovers that his great grandfather had another job in Winnipeg: he was a cabinet maker for a phonograph manufacturer called the 'Melotone Talking Machine Co'. Friedrich Bachman had to work a full-time job, build a home and barn, as well as farm his land in order to support his growing family. Randy takes his daughter and cousin to see the old farmstead. The original buildings are gone, but an indent in the ground marks where Friedrich dug his root cellar. Randy's cousin shows him a copy of Friedrich's and Wilhelmina's marriage certificate and an old black-and-white photo of the couple. They were married in Thale, Germany in 1887. Randy becomes curious to learn more about his German great grandparents.
Randy heads to Germany to further investigate both branches of his family -- the Steckos and the Bachmans. He starts with the Steckos by traveling to Hamburg where his ancestors embarked upon the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, the passenger ship that carried them to Ellis Island. Randy visits the Immigration Museum in Hamburg, housed in dockside buildings where his ancestors and hundreds of thousands of other Ukrainian immigrants would have spent days, possibly weeks waiting for their ship to depart. The museum has recreated some of the dormitories built to accommodate the giant Trans-Atlantic immigration. Randy is moved to see his grandmother Paulina's name on the departure list. She was six-years old when her family left Europe (The Hamburg passenger lists 1850-1934 can be searched online at Ancestry.ca ).
Next, Randy travels to the town of Thale where he finds a surprising number of documents stored in the local church relating to the marriage of Wilhelmina Paul and Friedrich Bachman. A number of letters from Friedrich to Wilhelmina discuss the logistics of their marriage and reveal Friedrich to be a bit of a romantic. Friedrich was a traveling carpenter, originally from Biere.
Randy travels 60km to Biere, a small town where the records are kept in the local church. He discovers that Friedrich was born in 1863, one of eight children of Wilhelm Bachman and Dorothee Ziem, and that Wilhelm, Randy's great great great grandfather, was from a village called Heroldishausen. Randy travels there and learns that Wilhelm was the illegitimate son of Martha Christina Bachman. At the time it was custom for mothers to leave illegitimate children in the care of the town mayor and pastor who would arrange foster parenting, and see that the child received a proper education. Martha Christina worked as a servant in another village and eventually got married. Martha's parents -- Randy's great great great great grandparents -- were Friedrich Bachman and Sabine Stephan. The Stephan family, Randy is delighted to learn, were musicians and makers of musical instruments.
Randy has found connections with his ancestors on many levels. The Steckos were strong-willed with a diligent work ethic -- qualities Randy reveres and admires. The Bachmans were traveling merchants and craftsmen touring with their trade just as Randy does with his music. And of course, although he had to search back many generations, Randy has found a musical link with his Biere German ancestors.