Visit to the Texas Wendish Heritage Societyby Robert Wuchatsch
In November 2015, I had the great pleasure of staying for four days with Raymond and Sandra Matthijetz at Winchester, Texas. Sandra had kindly invited me following our email correspondence regarding her Miertschin ancestors who emigrated to Texas on the Ben Nevis in 1854. Raymond’s Matthijetz ancestors had emigrated in 1853. Both Sandra and Raymond are 100% Wendish and are members of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society.
Sandra’s ancestor, Andreas Miertschin, lived next door to my great grandfather, Johann Wuchatsch, in Särka, 15 kilometres east of Bautzen. I knew this from several visits to the Bautzen State Archives and I was able to provide Sandra with research material about her Miertschin family.
On 4 November, Sandra drove me to Serbin, where the Texas Wendish Heritage Society’s Museum is located. After an interesting talk by Jack Wiederhold at Serbin’s St Paul’s Church, where he was conducting a tour for members of a northern Texan Lutheran congregation, we visited the Texas Wendish Museum and also had a very enjoyable lunch. I passed on greetings to the Texas Wendish Heritage Society from both our society and Lyall Kupke of the Wend/Sorb Society of South Australia.
On 5 November, we returned to the Wendish Museum and I met more Texas Wends, prior to presenting a talk and slide show that evening about “Australian Wends, Westgarthtown and my Wuchatsch family research in Germany.” It soon became clear, however, that Texas Wends were very aware of Wendish settlement in Australia, but not about the valuable land and other village records held at the Bautzen State Archives. I therefore revised my presentation to concentrate mainly on research in Upper Lusatia, using my Wuchatsch family research as a case study. Several of the Texas Wends, including Sandra Matthijetz and Richard Gruetzner, expressed their intention to visit the Bautzen State Archives in the near future to research their families.
A side-benefit of my visit to Texas was the discovery that the Bautzen German language newspaper Budissiner Nachrichten has been digitised from 1828-68 and is now available online at www.digital.slub-dresden.de although not searchable. In 2010 I purchased microfilm copies of this newspaper in Dresden and had sent George Nielsen any information I found which related to Texas Wends. In October 2015, Weldon Mersiovsky of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society asked if I would bring my microfilms to the US, so they could have them digitised. In checking the legality of such action, one of my relatives in Germany advised me that digitisation of this paper had already commenced, so I did not need to carry my rolls of microfilm to Texas.
Weldon Mersiovsky has since advised that the Sorbian Institut in Bautzen has also begun digitising the old Wendish newspapers Tydzenske Nowiny and Serbske Nowiny. These are now available online at www.serbske-institut.de under Bibliothek/Archiv. Dr Charles Wukasch of Austin has graciously volunteered to read through these online newspapers for references to Texas and Australia and Dr Gerald Stone of Oxford has kindly agreed to translate relevant articles.
My visit convinced me of the increased benefits to be gained from greater co-operation between our various Wendish heritage societies, whether in Australia, the US or Germany. It was also a thoroughly enjoyable experience.