“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Creation of the Deutsch Zerne Village Web Site


"It All Began With Sharing"

 Fran Matkovich

My knowledge of my family history was scant when I joined the Rootsweb e-mail lists.  We were German-Hungarians, whatever that meant.  My father and all four grandparents were born in Deutsch Zerne, Hungary.  My Dad had helped me locate Deutsch Zerne on a German map.  Then I found the online arrival record for my maternal grandmother Magdalena Weber, who in 1905 was travelling to Chicago with a small child, my aunt, to be reunited with her husband Johann Weber.  That was fascinating!  

My inquiries to the Banat list led to Dave Dreyer’s Ship List and information on the history of the Banat, the Donauschwaben, and the Swabian Migration.  Many Deutsch Zerne ancestors first settled in Hatzfeld in 1766; Deutsch Zerne wasn’t founded until the early 1800’s.  I purchased the Hatzfeld Familienbuch CD and volunteered to do lookups on Hatzfeld for the DVHH website.   

In 2002 Tim Tabar contacted me.  We were both researching Tabar relatives from Deutsch Zerne.  He sent me a list of his family records he had acquired through Rudolf Laszlo.  And there were my grandparents among them.  Tim helped me acquire Hans Tabar’s History of Zerne in German and a map of the town of Zerne.  When he learned I was also researching my Kampf grandmother, he sent me Nikolaus Kampf’s History of the Kampf Family in German.  Wow!  These documents would tell me about my Dad’s hometown and about my Kampf grandmother’s ancestors. 

Somehow these two documents would have to be translated into English.  My knowledge of German dated back to college over 40 years ago.  My poor memory of German vocabulary would make this a long-term project.  I would definitely want to share whatever I did, just as others had shared with me.  I began translating Nikolaus Kampf’s history.  That required three German-English dictionaries and an online German-English translation site--leo.dict.org.  Then I signed up for a Website Designing course at the local community college.  My final exam project was to build a website.  My first website was Kampf Family Connections, and it featured Nikolaus Kampf’s Chronicle of the Kampf Family, in English, a short history of my grandparents, some family photos and a reference list.  

Later that year, at Tim’s suggestion, we decided to form the Zerne Research Group.  I sent an e-mail inviting Zerne researchers who were interested, and more sharing began!  We pooled our funds and hired Rudolf Laszlo to do research for the Zerne Research Group.  Many members submitted ancestor names and donated for the research.  It took a while, but at the end all contributors received a copy of the Deutsch Zerne Villages CD from Laszlo.   

In March 2003, I signed up as the DVHH Deutsch Zerne Village Coordinator and began gathering content for a village web site, which started with Chronicle of the Kampf Family by Nikolaus Kampf and a few village photos.  One website building course did not make me an expert and getting the translations completed was enough of a challenge for me.  So, on April 16, 2003, I posted a request to the DVHH List for assitance in building a Deutsch Zerne Website and received a positive response.  We added images, links to family trees, maps and other websites of interest.  Tim Tabar provided village maps and high quality digital photos to replace photocopies from the book. 

While my webmaster was busy organizing the new web site, Tim Tabar helped me to locate Dr. Christine and Ekkehart Mirwald, the grandchildren of Hans Tabar, for permission to translate Hans Tabar’s History of Zerne and publish it on the Deutsch Zerne website, which they granted.  I had already begun translating the book for my own purposes.  This was my most difficult project.  We received assistance from mail list members for translations of the Schwäbisch dialect, and a few obscure words and phrases.  When the editing was completed it was published on the site.

Finally, in 2004 the Heimatbuch was fully published.  Over the years we have received many compliments on our village site, especially on the Heimatbuch.  The comments that thrill us most are from those whose first language is German, have read the German version and say our version reads much better. 

Collaboration on development of the village site between a Village Coordinator and a webmaster can work by email. By joining our skills, and with Tim Tabar’s help, we are accomplishing our goal of sharing Deutsch Zerne information. 

Because of the Deutsch Zerne website I have a new cousin, Deborah Owens, the granddaughter of my mother’s cousin, who was researching Weber and Schleimer relatives.  Deborah (who turned out to be my second cousin once removed) and I now share not only family friendship, but research on our family connections.  It appears that Deborah and I may be connected on both sides of my family.  

In 2006 I was contacted through the Zerne website by Josef Kampf, the son of my second cousin, Nicholas Kampf of Cincinnati.  Through Josef Kampf I was reunited with Nicholas, Jack and Lenschi Kampf, whom I had once met as a teenager.  Nicholas, Jack and Lenschi, their parents and grandmother are all survivors of the Molidorf camp after World War II.  We met the families of Nick, Jack, Lenschi and Josef for a reunion at the Cincinnati Oktoberfest in 2009, 2010 and 2011.   

Ellen, Mike, Lenschi and Casey at a reunion, Cincinnati Oktoberfest, 2009

          Video of Nikolaus Kampf & wife Lenschi dancing!

And all this because of SHARING!

Fran Matkovich

© 2013 DVHH, Fran Matkovich, Coordinator for Banat Village: Deutsch-Zerne 2003-Present.
[Edited by Rose Vetter, DVHH Editorial. Published at DVHH.org  17 Apr 2013 by Jody McKim Pharr]



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