For those not "in the know" (but who would like to be):
The Klaassens are my mother's family. Originating in Friesland, they relocated to the Danzig area (now Gdansk, Poland) in the second half of the 16th century where (rather later) my great-great grandfather Martin Klaassen was born. In the 1850s, due to religious conflict with the government, Martin and his family emigrated to Russia along with many other Mennonites from the Danzig area, on the invitation of Catherine the Great and a promise of exemption from military service; Martin Klaassen settled near Saratov on the Volga River (in the "Trakt" colony).
In the 1880s another migration occurred; Martin and his family undertook the Trek to Central Asia, a journey of a number of Mennonite families from the colonies in Russia to Khiva (now part of Uzbekistan). Like the previous migrations, this journey was a result of religious conviction, chiefly the promise of continued exemption from military service by the Governor of Russian Turkestan, a privilege which had been revoked from Mennonites living in Russia proper. This was a difficult journey, and ultimately unsuccessful. Martin died on the way; in 1884 his younger son Jacob (my great grandfather) emigrated to the United States; Martin, his elder brother, followed the next year. They eventually settled in Oklahoma.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the pacifist Mennonite community, of which my Klaassen ancestors were a part, again came into conflict with the government over military service. This ultimately resulted in another move: to Canada. Jacob resettled in Saskatchewan and Michael in Manitoba.
Below are several texts by Martin, Michael, and Jacob. Martin's diary and Michael's autobiography have been translated into English by Esther C. Bergen, Michael's daughter. The versions provided here have been further prepared and annotated by my father, Victor G. Wiebe. Jacob's account of the Trek to Central Asia, which is based partly on his father's diary, was translated by his grandson Henry Klaassen and published by Jacob's son H. T. Klaassen. A few years ago, I converted Henry's booklet to HTML and added a few annotations.
—DVW, Vancouver BC, July 2011
Martin Klaassen Diary (1852–1870, 1880–1881); 298pp, 7.5 MB, PDF
Autobiography of Michael Klaassen; 25pp, 200 kB, PDF
Asienreise: Description of the trip to Central Asia 1880; HTML