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Searching for clues

How the Australian David Kraatz found the tracks of his ancestors in the Uckermark Region

“Come to Germany, David! Together we’ll go and search for the tracks of your ancestors.” Possibly my offer encouraged the 45 year old Australian David Kraatz to undertake the adventure he had always been much longing for. However, let’s go back to the year 1980. This story began when David came across a book about the history of the Kraatz family. Because of his studies in history and three years work in archaeology, David was interested in finding out about the roots of his German family name “Kraatz”. The book allowed David to understand a little of the lives of his ancestors. Being made up of both a narrative and a family-tree register, the book describes the history of the Kraatz family back to the year 1701.

The books tells about the emigration from Germany in 1860 of Gottfried Kraatz who left, together with his wife and one child, from the Uckermark to go on the long and arduous journey to Australia. It also covers a good part of the general history of these early German pioneers to Queensland who had to go through much hardship. The book traces the family line to David’s grandfather. For David, it answers many questions except one: “Do I still have any relatives in the Uckermark, the homeland of my ancestors who left about 150 years ago?”

Journey to the ancestors' country

I became acquainted with David during my internship in Australia. We were colleagues at the Department of Local Government and Planning in Rockhampton, Queensland. Soon we became friends and David told me about his German roots frequently. Shortly before my internship ended, as I was about to leave Rockhampton, he revealed his dream to me that he wanted to visit the land of his ancestors.

David Kraatz auf SpurensucheDavid Kraatz from Rockhampton, Australia, searching for the tracks of his ancestors
Foto: Julian Schuppe

At this time I didn’t expect that David would take me at my words. But he didn’t give up and after one year of continuous e-mail contact, it happened. David booked his flight to Europe. He was keen on seeing Germany, especially the Ückermark. I had summer holidays from university and I had the chance to join David on his journey through the land of his ancestors. It actually turned out to be very advantageous as David’s knowledge of the German language was limited. His adventurous enterprise demanded more than “Guten Morgen” and “Guten Tag”.

Our journey started in Bavaria and went on through Thuringia, and the Harz, until we arrived in Quedlinburg where we stayed for one night. There we planned our further journey and itinerary. The book about the Kraatz family, which David brought along, was of great help to us. Acting like a “treasure map”, it was hoped to guide us the right way to reach our objective. At the same time, we could prove our capacity to explore, investigate and manage the logistics for the trip. So we studied maps of Sachsen-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern as well as the local descriptions and old-style maps in David’s book. We wondered what were the connections to the present landscape, the clues in the narrative, and the places mentioned in the book that still existed today? Accordingly, we worked out a plan for the forthcoming three days, which was intended to bring us closer to the mystery of David’s “Kraatz” ancestors.

Abandoned villages, old graveyards

We identified three villages, which were all named Kraatz that lay ahead of us on our way from Quedlinburg to the Uckermark. So, first we headed to the nearly completely abandoned village of Kraatz in the Altmark. This “one street village” counted only about ten rural houses. At the entrance to the church we noticed some information on the history the village. It turned out that a knight called Kraatz had founded it in the year 1327. However, we could not find any reference to this person or the village in David’s book. Only the next Kraatz village, which was situated in the Uckermark, was mentioned in his “treasure map”. In the meantime, we booked accommodation in a youth hostel in Mirow from where we could set ourselves up enthusiastically to explore this next Kraatz village. This village was very revealing. Just as it was described in other papers David had, we could see an old linden tree in the centre of the village. Furthermore, in the graveyard, we found a headstone with engravings of the name ‘Kraatz’. “Kraatz people haven’t been living here for quite a long time”, an old local lady told us. We knew that we had to keep on searching. We next went to the third (and final) place with the name ‘Kraatz’. It was a town in the Oberhavel district. However, we could not find any hints or references of deceased or living people with the name of Kraatz. So, we next pinned our hopes on some villages around the Ücker Lakes that David’s book identified as the places of birth of his ancestors, namely: Suckow, Stegelitz and Grüneberg.

It was 4pm as we drove through Suckow. An elderly couple, who were gardening in a nearby yard, responded kindly to our questions. “Do you know anyone of the name Kraatz still living in this area?” Gladly we noticed that the name Kraatz was familiar to them. They actually knew some Kraatzes who were, as far as they knew, still alive. Luckily for us, one of them was a woman for whom they had a telephone number. When we got back in the car we had not the faintest idea, that luck had given David the chance to make his long desired dream come true.

A dream comes true

Treffen in SchwedtThe reunion in Schwedt. (L to R) David Kraatz, Ingrid Jüttner, Karl-Heinz Kraatz
“Guten Tag, hier ist David Kraatz, haben Sie Englisch?” This was the first sentence David addressed Ingrid Jüttner (nee Kraatz). I took over the telephone receiver and acted as an interpreter. “Do you know the name of your great-grandfather?“ I asked. “Yes, I do.” She replied after a short break. “His name was Karl-Friedrich Kraatz.” (She knew this because her father had been named after his grandfather). David was stunned. He knew that very name from the family-tree register in the book. The connection was clear now: David Kraatz’s great-great-grandfather Gottfried* Kraatz (*please note this is a correction) was the older brother of Ingrid’s great-grandfather Karl-Friedrich Kraatz. Two days later an extremely happy David Kraatz met the European part of his family at a hotel in Schwedt. 146 years ago the brothers Gottfried Kraatz and Karl-Friedrich Kraatz parted ways (never to see one another again). In September 2006 – after some luck and a thirst for knowledge (and adventure!) – the family met up again.

 

Julian Schuppe, Translation: David Kraatz