Our People from Kautz

KAUTZ VILLAGE PROJECT
by Elaine Frank Davison


When I was listening to the stories my father told me about the Old Country all those years ago, little did I dream that someday I would be the village coordinator of Kautz.

Before my father died in 1959, one of the last things I remember him telling me was, "Someday you write this down!" Soon after his death I began writing things down as I remembered them. But it was 1977 before I was able to put together all of the information I had collected into a family history in time for our Frank family reunion that year. This was the same year I joined AHSGR.

In 1978 I took my family history with me to the AHSGR convention in Lincoln, Nebraska. There I met some very special people, three of whom were Jean Roth, Emma Schwabenland Haynes, and Gerda Walker. When I was introduced to Jean, I was told she was gathering information about the village of Walter, and I was recruited to go through the obituary files to locate any person born in the Volga village of Walter. Little did I know I would soon be doing the same thing for myself, searching for surnames from Kautz. I med Emma Haynes and Gerda Walker while they were autographing their edition of Hattie Plum Williams' The Czar's Germans.

This was the beginning of my involvement with AHSGR. Gerda Walker called me at home soon after I had returned from the convention, asking if I would consent to be the village coordinator for Kautz. It didn't take long to answer, as I thought to myself, "Golly, the hard work is done--I've already put all I know into a family history." I agreed to be the Kautz coordinator. I called Jean Roth, who was the first (and only) village coordinator at that time, and asked her permission to use the information format she had developed for Walter, to which she wholeheartedly agreed. I thought that this was the easiest task I had ever agreed to do.

Little did I know! I soon found out that this was not the easiest task, but it has been the most fascinating and most emotionally rewarding experience I have ever had.

I printed Volume 1 of my Kautz family history in 1978, and I really thought it would be all there ever would be. However, I soon began hearing from other distant family members. They wanted to know if I was going to print another book, because if so, they had information to contribute. So Volume 2 was published in 1979. By 1980 I had collected enough information to fill over 300 pages, and I was in a true dilemma. I took my manuscript to the AHSGR convention in Minneapolis and asked everyone I know for advice on what to do with all of it. It was too much for one book, and I couldn't afford to have it bound, so I took their advice and split the book into three parts. Volume 3 was issued as Part 1, 2, and 3. Now, I thought, this is the end of my project.

But no, it wasn't--not yet. As these new volumes found their way back into the homes of Kautz families, additional information became available. During the next few years I continued to collect information, but didn't realize I had collected enought for at least three more publications until 1987, when Volumes 4, 5, and 6 came into being. It was too late to go back and change Parts 2 and 3 of Volume 3 into separate volumes. Information for an index for Volumes 1-6 was compiled from 1987 to 1989 with the help of my nephew, Dana Michael Frank, and the index was printed in 1989. This can be a valuable resource not only for me (there are too many names for me to depend on my memory), but for those trying to compile information on their own family.

Volume 7 was completed in late summer of 1990, and Volume 8 in March 1991. I had enough information put together now for Volumes 9 and 10, which were to be completed in 1991 and 1992, but we went to Russia instead. Now I have enought information and photographs from our 1991 trip to complete another volume.

After Volume 2 was completed, I started expanding on sources for obtaining information by doing the following:

Use of church records is very important, especially when combined with the information in an obituary. You can almost complete a family chart from the information in the obituary, and then go to the church records to verify the chart and obtain the pertinent data, i.e., records of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death.

During the years from 1974 until his death on February 1, 1986, I visited with my father's youngest brother, every week. We spent hours talking about Kautz; who lived where, who married whom, and so forth. We expanded a map of Kautz which my Uncle Dave had started many years earlier. We also visited with every known person who had been born in Kautz to verify what we had on the map. This map was entirely drawn from memory, but as we found out during our visit to Kautz in August 1991, it was unbelievably accurate.

There are moments when I wonder, "Isn't there ever going to be an end to this?" When I started this project all those years ago in 1977, I thought I was printing all I would ever find out. Little did I know!