By ADELE SHAVER
Hays Daily News
Descendants of German
immigrants spent the past four days researching their roots, but they also
celebrated their heritage. "'With four hours of 15 mile-per-hour dancing, you
can have several beers and need not worry about calories," Darrell Seibel told
those attending the second annual meeting of the Bukovina Society of the
Americas Saturday about that evening's polka dance.
Planners of the four-day
meeting at the Holiday Inn Holidome, 3603 Vine, expected more than 350 people
from all over the United States, Canada and Germany to attend the Saturday
night banquet and dance.
The so-called Bukovina
Germans first emigrated from the Bavarian region of Germany in the late 1700s to
Bukovina, a province then in the old Austrian Empire and now, part of the Soviet
Union and Romania.
At the end of the 1890,
they then left for America and settled primarily in Ellis, Rooks and Trego
Descendants now are
scattered worldwide. "People back home have been making fun of the fact that I'm
going to Kansas," said John Aust Losee, a 29-year-old Schenectady, N.Y.,
Department of Transportation worker who came with his mother to trace his roots
and meet his relatives.
Losee has traced his Bukovina German great-grandfather Jacob Ast as
having come to Ellis in 1886 from Illischestie, in what is now Romania.
Losee got the notion to
find out about his mother's family at a dinner party more than two years ago
when the conversation turned to genealogy.
He had been tracing his
father's family, but didn't know much about his mother's. She knew of "a couple
of aunts" but the family hadn't kept in touch.
"Grandfather didn't tell
many stories," Losee said, except that "great-grandmother made great strudel."
Losee called the telephone
information for all the Austs in Chehalis, Wash., where the aunts had lived and
was told there were too many, so he ordered a $6 phone book and wrote letters to them all.
It was through responses to his letters that Losee first
heard of the existence of the Bukovina Society of the Americas.
"We immediately joined,"
Losee said. He has continued to persue his research on his own, too.
"I took a five-week course
at night school" on genealogy, he said, and "dragged my mother along."
Losee has turned up lots
of places to look and questions to ask.
"I knew cemeteries and
death notices were a good place to start. Census records are very valuable.
"In two years, I've
managed to trace my family back to 1609 in southern Germany.
"You have to do a lot of
writing, to people, town halls, libraries, newspapers. I've even written to
Germany and gotten things back on my family."
Coming to the Bukovina
meeting has been productive, too.
"I've found so many
relatives it isn't funny," said Losee.
The meeting ends today
with an ecumenical worship service at 10 a.m. A third annual meeting will be
planned for about the same time next year in Ellis County.'
Carl Buehler, a visitor
from Saskatchewan, Canada, who traces his family through both Bukovina and
Volga German ancestors, said the two groups had "almost a common history, except
for specific things they both kept that died slowly."
The Volga Germans
emigrated from various parts of Germany to the Volga region of Russia, also in
the late 1700, then left for North and South America. Many also settled in
Ellis County and the surrounding area.
Buehler said the Volga
Germans came to America first and were a little more austere. The Bukovinas
didn't "keep the barriers" between themselves and other groups.
Losee said he and his
mother arrived a day early for the meeting and planned to stay a couple of days
after it is over to "soak up the culture of the area."
"You can kid all you want,
but I love Kansas." he said.