In genealogy research some great finds happen quickly, others may take months to achieve or even years. But one of my greatest "finds" took 30 years to discover. During those 30 years there were many twists and turns on this journey as well as many incidents of giving up hope but in the end the great unveiling was achieved.
The majority of my genealogy success has been in the research on my Pomeranian ancestors. These lines are from my maternal grandmother's family and despite the small villages they came from and the changes in borders from various wars I was fortunate in that many, many records were still available. Over the years, as I have detailed in my series on The Family Colberg/Kolberg, I was able to extend these Colberg/Kolberg lines back several generations with actual church book records and sources. I did very little, however, with my 2nd great-grandmother, Amalie Kautz Colberg's ancestors. That is until 1982.....
In the early 1980's I had placed several ads in German periodicals looking for information on my 2nd great-grandparent's, Friedrich Wilhelm Colberg and Henriette Amalie Kautz. In 1982 I received a surprising response to these ads and not what I expected. A gentleman by the name of Herbert Kautz wrote me that he had seen my advertisement and while he couldn't help me with information on any descendants of my Friedrich Wilhelm & Henriette Amalie (Kautz) Colberg, he could help me with ANCESTORS of my 2nd great-grandmother and her Kautz family. He proceeded to tell me that he was writing a book on the Kautz ancestry and had information on my Henriette Amalie's father and mother (which he gave me in the letter complete with dates and sources) and he further teased me by saying he could take that branch of the Kautz family back 14 more generations. He stated that his book "wasn't quite ready" and that he would get back to me when it was so that I could purchase if if I was interested. He estimated it would take perhaps 6 months to complete.
Was I interested? Of course I was and I eagerly waited - month after month after month for his response. When a year had passed I did write him again and gently asked if the book was ready; he responded that he had not forgotten me but was waiting for further data to complete his book and now felt it would take another year. Twice more I wrote him over the next two years (all correspondence by snail mail, of course) and I received no further responses. I will say that at that time I placed his correspondence in the back of my Kolberg file and went on to other surnames that were more productive.
The years went by and I would think occasionally about Herr Kautz and his project. But I was working full time, had another part time job and then relocated across the state, bought a home and started a new business of my own. Research was devoted to my Colberg/Kolberg line which continued to be extremely productive. I made several trips to Germany but never was able to learn anything new about my Kautz ancestry.
The beginning of 2012 I happened to be going through my Kolberg file and came upon the correspondence from Herr Kautz. This refreshed my memory on the events of 1982-1984 and I decided to see what I could find via the Internet. A search for his name opened up information on many books that he apparently wrote dating back to the 1950's. There was a book, copyright 1981, that was called, in English, "The Family Kautz". A further search indicated that there was a copy on file at the LDS in Salt Lake City.
That was my first step in locating this book. I called the LDS to inquire about the possibility of having this book loaned to my local branch and was told that books are not loaned out and that this book might not even be on the shelves in SLC and would have to be special ordered before a trip was made there. I next went to my local branch of the LDS where our local genealogical society meets and spoke to the head of the genealogical collection. She told me she had no idea how to even order a book from SLC and she wasn't even able to pull up any information on the computer regarding this.
A cousin suggested I try the World Cat site which I did and found the book listed. There appeared to be only 3 locations in the WORLD that carried this book and only one in the US at Texas State University at San Marcos. I printed off the information and trotted to my local public library here in St. Joseph - the Maude Preston Palenske Memorial Library. I had never done an inter-library loan before but was confident this could be done for me there. There, however, I learned that this public library did not participate in the World Cat system of inter-library loan and would only handle books within the Michigan libraries. I will say, as an editorial comment, that the treatment I received at this library was poor beyond belief - rude, degrading and totally unwilling to help.
Another couple of weeks went by while I regrouped. Then an idea hit me - I would try our local community college - Lake Michigan College. I had a friend who was taking some classes there and asked her about their library. She went in, inquired for me and got me the name of the head librarian. I called this woman, told her my story, stated that I was not affiliated with the college in any way but wondered if they could inter-library loan the book for me. I told her my friend would be glad to use her ID to pick up the book for me. The librarian stated that they were not supposed to do this for anyone other than students but she would try. A week later she called me to say she had spoken to the Library in Texas and they would be sending the book to her at the College. She would let me know when it came in and my friend could pick it up.
We are getting somewhere...
Another 3 days and the librarian called; my book was in but in a check of their computer files they learned that my friend was not enrolled yet for the summer season so they could not allow her to check out the book. BUT they were willing to let me borrow it myself and I could come over and pick it up. She said they usually don't do this, especially when the book is the ONLY one in the entire US, but she would make this allowance.
Thank goodness for helpful and understanding people...
Over to the college I went, gave my driver's license for xeroxing and came out with the book which was 8 1/2 x 11, soft cover and obviously had been typed on a typewriter as opposed to computerized. But I was thrilled beyond belief to have this book in my hand. Yes it was completely in German but with the help of Google translate I was able to translate the few paragraphs of text. The majority of the 74 page book contained lists of Kautz people arranged in family groups in a numbering system that was easy to decipher with church book sources. I set about reading the entire book.
Excitement...OR WAS IT?
Unfortunately after reading the entire book and making notes on various family lines listed there was NOTHING pertaining to my Henriette Amalie Kautz or her parents, Adam Kautz & Louise Melchert.
I did scan the entire book into my computer, spent quite a bit of time enhancing each page (as the print was fading away) and then even printed out a hard copy for my Kautz book which I placed in acid free sheet protectors. The book was then safely returned back to Lake Michigan College for transport back to Texas. I was profusely grateful to the head librarian and her staff for their cooperation and willingness to go the extra mile for me. I must have looked honest to them!!!
More thinking and another idea came to me. Obviously this book that I had, published in 1981, was NOT the one Herr Kautz talked about to me in 1982. He must have been doing another book, hopefully, possibly?
I belong to a message board group of people researching in the former Pomeranian county of Stolp. This group also has access to many church book records from my county of interest, Bütow. So I prepared a query for the message board in which I asked if anyone was familiar with Herr Herbert Kautz, his family organization and briefly mentioned the book I was interested in. Off went the query. Three days later I had a response from a woman in Germany who told me that (1) Herr Kautz was deceased, (2) his family organization was still in existence but unknown as to how to contact anyone but (3) that she and two other fellow authors were in the process of writing a book on the history of the Kautz family and were incorporating data from the works of Herr Kautz. She stated that this book was still in progress but that she had an article ready that contained MY ancestors and that she would forward to me this article.
A second e-mail was in my mail box and that contained this Kautz article. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up, in a Word format no less, and found this article - 154 pages of perfectly written documentation of many, many branches of the Family Kautz. Here indeed were my ancestors from my 2nd great-grandmother, Henriette Amalie Kautz, to her parents and on and on backwards to the 1400's.
Eureka! I had done it...
After I calmed down and studied the contents it was easy as well to follow; German text had to be translated via Google translate but the numbering system and lists of family lines were easy to follow. Some of the abbreviations for birth, marriage, death, etc were foreign to me but quickly figured them out. There were sources listed back to the 1600's that match up perfectly with the church book records I had obtained in the intervening years. Sources listed prior to that, back to the 1400's, are more difficult to understand but all in all I am thrilled beyond belief. More research will need to be done to understand the sourcing used from 1400-1600 before I enter that data into my Family Tree Maker but I am confident in their research and the results.
In further correspondence between myself and this author she asked if I would share data with her on my Henrietta Amalie's descendants as they want to include as many additional surname lines, in my case Colberg/Kolberg, as they can. I sent her a 90 page PDF off of my Family Tree Maker on the Colberg/Kolberg family and she immediately responded with gracious thanks. We are now Facebook friends as well.
A cousin of mine is going to be visiting Germany in the fall and will be in contact with these authors to further elicit information on the sourcing used in the very early records and we have hope of confirming all the data.
The moral of this story...
If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try and try again even if it takes 30 years!
Copyright (c) 2012, Cheryl J. Schulte
Paul Koenig on the S.S. Veendam
10 years ago