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Note: The Dakota Dirksens and the Kansas Duerksens came from the same family in Europe, where their ancestral records spell the surname many ways. For unknown reasons the South Dakota group spelled it Dirksen and the Kansas group spelled it Duerksen. Duerksen is used for pre-emigration ancestors common to both groups.
The Progenitor of Duerksens who immigrated to Kansas and Dirksens who immigrated to Dakota Territory from 1874 to 1885 was a Dutch Mennonite named Kornelius Duerksen (GRANDMA #70539) born sometime during the early 1700s.
Some early records at mennonitegenealogy.com) may include events in the progenitor's life, but they are not yet identified with certainty.
We know of the progenitor by the 1835 Russian Census of Molotschna Colony which assigned his given name as the middle name for Johann Kornelius Duerksen (GRANDMA #14630) who was the paternal grandfather of many Duerksen/Dirksen immigrants. Many genealogical records document the life events of his family and descendants. Johann Kornelius had six sons and three daughters, their births recorded in the nearby Tragheimerweide Church. Only two sons and a daughter survived, Johann born 26 May 1801, Heinrich born 7 April 1809 and Eva born April 7 1813.
Prussian land records reveal that he owned one morgen of land (just over 1 1/3 acres) in a village named Schweingrube (53.8754702, 18.9391284). John Funk Duerksen's (GRANDMA #14704) 1928 History describes him as a butter, cheese and sausage trader who, during the 1812 humiliation of Germany by Napoleon, fed and housed French soldiers. He was very liberal with them and they treated him kindly. The soldiers paid for everything they used. However, increasing Prussian militarization combined with attractive invitations from the Russians weighed on many Prussian Mennonites, including Johann. He sold his land in preparation for emigration.
Rempel's 1819 Prussian emigration records and recent Duerksen and Dirksen descendant DNA results suggest that Johann Kornelius had a brother, David Duerksen (GRANDMA #14628) who died in 1818 leaving his son Cornelius David (GRANDMA #14634) to emigrate with Johann Kornelius. They joined the Rudnerweide congregation's arduous journey to Russia.