Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Memoriam: George Cazakoff

George Cazakoff and his wife Polly
George and Polly Cazakoff, 1950s

Today (March 12) marks the fifty-sixth anniversary of the death of my husband’s maternal grandfather George Wasilievitch Cazakoff. (For a brief explanation of this surname, see Surname Saturday: Cazakoff.)

George was born on 21 January 1884 in Orlovka, a village in Tiflis province in the Caucasus region of the Russian empire, now in present-day Georgia. [1] His Russian name was Gregorii.

George was one of at least four children of Wasyl Wasilievitch Cazakoff and Fedosia N. Savinkoff, Doukhobor pacifists. (I’ve previously written about this Russian religious group in Family History Through the Alphabet – S is for …) He had an older brother Mikhail (Michael), and a younger brother Nikolai (Nicholas) and sister Pologea (Polly).

In the late 1890s, George, his parents and siblings were part of a group of over 2,000 Doukhobors who left Russia for Canada. According to family tradition, they sailed on the chartered Canadian freighter S.S. Lake Huron from the Black Sea port of Batum on 22 December 1898, and arrived nearly one month later in January 1899 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. [2]
Lake Huron ship
S.S. Lake Huron [3]

The Cazakoffs settled in what was known as the South Colony in the District of Assiniboia (now the province of Saskatchewan). [4] This land, or reserve, had been specially set aside for the new Doukhobor immigrants. (Other Doukhobor immigrants settled in the Saskatchewan Colony, the Good Spirit Lake Annex and the North Colony.)

About 1905, the family moved to Simeonovka (aka Semenova), a village in the North Colony, where George married Polya Iwanovitch Poznekoff. [5] Polya, known as Polly in English, was also a Doukhobor immigrant.

The couple had nine children between 1907 and 1926: Wasyl, John, Philip, Peter, Alex, Nicholas, Lawrence, Fred and Ann. Sons Wasyl and Alex died as infants. [6]

George Cazakoff and his family
George, Polly and their sons (left to right) Philip, Pete, John and baby Nick, 1919
in front of George's first car, a 1918 Chevrolet

In 1910, George, his father and younger brother withdrew from communal living and became independent Doukhobors. [7] About six years later, George acquired a homestead in St. Phillips Rural Municipality, about ten miles northwest of Kamsack, in eastern Saskatchewan. [8]

After 39 years of agricultural work, George retired from farming in the mid-1950s. [9] He and Polly built themselves a house in the town of Kamsack, where they lived until George was taken ill.

George died on 12 March 1958 in Kamsack Union Hospital. [10] His six surviving sons were pallbearers at his funeral service two days later in the Kamsack Doukhobor Prayer Home. [11] George is interred in Riverview Cemetery, Kamsack. [12]
George Cazakoff funeral in 1958
George Cazakoff's funeral, with his sons as pallbearers, 1958

My husband Michael, who was only 5 years old when his grandfather died, has few memories of him. He remembers that he paid one or two visits to his grandparents’ large house with its wide veranda, and that George smoked cigars.


1. History Coming Alive, R.M. of St. Philips, Pelly and District, 2 vols. (Pelly, Saskatchewan: St. Philips/Pelly History Book Committee, 1988), I: 382.

2. “Doukhobors at Halifax”, The Globe, 21 January 1899, p. 13, cols. 6-7; digital images, The Globe and Mail ( : accessed 10 April 2009).

3. Photo of S.S. Lake Huron (built 1881), digital image, Norway – Heritage ( : accessed 18 January 2014).

4. History Coming Alive, I: 383.

5. History Coming Alive, I: 384.

6. History Coming Alive, I: 384.

7. History Coming Alive, I: 383.

8. History Coming Alive, I: 384.

9. History Coming Alive, I: 384.

10. Province of Saskatchewan, death registration, no. 07-002372 (1958), George Wasyl Cazakoff; Department of Public Health – Division of Vital Statistics, Regina.

11. George W. Cazakoff’s In Memoriam: A Memorial Book, Kamsack, Saskatchewan, citing funeral service on 14 March 1958; privately held by Edna (Arishenkoff) Cazakoff, White Rock, British Columbia, 2011. Edna, George’s daughter-in-law, allowed her nephew Michael Demoskoff to scan the memorial booklet during a visit to her home in January 2011. The “Pall Bearers” section lists the names of George’s sons as the pallbearers.

12. “Doukhobors in Riverview Cemetery – Kamsack, Saskatchewan”, database, Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( : accessed ), entry for George W. Cazakoff (1884-1958).

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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