by Bernhard Kauntz

It seems to be quite clear, that most Kauntz on this list have their roots in Transylvania. Let us therefore start with a short overview concerning the german-speaking immigration in Transylvania.
About the year 1000 a German colonisation started eastwards, roughly following the Danube river. They reached Transylvania early in the 12th century. Following those first settlers came a large group of emigrants in the 13th century, who, even if they were called "Saxons", came mainly from the Rhine and Mosel area.
Because of the conquerings of the Ottoman Empire Transylvania fell under Turkish government, until Sultan Kara Mustafa was fought back after the siege of Vienna in 1683. Afterwards Austria liberated Transylvania and from the early 18th century, new settlers came to the area, this time mainly from Austria.
Being part of the Austrian-Hungarian double-monarchy, Transylvania had to be given to Romania after World War I, which led to a vast emigration. Many of our grand- and great grandparents left Transylvania at that time, and even more after the fall of the iron curtain in 1989.

We know that the use of surnames was very uncommon until the 16th century. The first "inherited" names in use were after the father's name (especially in northern and eastern Europe), trade names (Müller, Schneider) and names derived from landmarks (Mühlbacher, Steinhäuser). There were other geographical names, representing villages or even larger parts of a country, but those were usually for the nobility only (von Traunstein, von Sachsen-Anhalt).

If we postulate, that Kauntz is a name of German origin, it does not confirm with the speling rules of this language. After a consonant "z" is always written in its single form, a "tz" means that there must have been a vowel in front of it.
Probably our kinship to people named "Koontz", etc. is closer that that to the "Kunz".
And lo! In Germany, in the eastern part of Westfalen, between the cities of Bielefeld, Gütersloh and Paderborn, a part of the town of Verl is called Kaunitz - and we have historical proof of its being a village of its own. During 1746 - 53 there was a new church built, which even led to the foundation of a village called New Kaunitz.

Also in the 18th century, to be more exact on February, 2nd, 1711 a boy child was born in Vienna, about whom we know, that he was one of the last of 20 brothers and sisters. Later he was to become prime minister in the government of Empress Maria Theresia. His name: Anton Wenzel von Kaunitz.
This newborn Anton Wenzel became at birth member of the cathedral chapter in Münster, which leads us right back to Westfalen. Besides that, his entire surname is Kauntz-Rietberg (see map), and history teaches that the last sovereign, prince Alois Wenzel von Kaunitz-Rietberg, sold the estate in 1822.

Adding all of these presumptions, there is a logical conclusion. Our ancestors were not among the first settlers in Transylvania, because at that time there were no surnames - and it is highly incredible that we got the name of Kauntz in Transylvania.
It is much more probable, that the first Kaun(i)tz came to Transylvania with the second wave of immigrants. In the area of Hermannstadt - Blasendorf our name is rather common. On the road between those places is a village called "Salzburg", something else, which makes an emigration from Austria very likely. On the same road there is the village of Donnersmarkt, another "stronghold" of the Kauntz.
Because the ruling family of Kauntz-Rietberg were at the court in Vienna and because 20 brothers and sisters surely did not give too much space to each one of them, it would not surprise, should one of the offsprings have followed the other emigrants to Transylvania.

If there is anybody, who thinks that this part of the history of our name is not sufficient, I can mention that the Kaunitz have old slavonic ancestors, something which also is shown by the second name of "Wenzel".

It is important to notice, that all the conclusions above (so far) are nothing else than theories, but they should provide a thesis, worth to be examined.

An e-mail from Jon Kaunitz, said the following:
"My own research indicates that the name Kaunitz is actually derived from the Czech name "Kounice" and was Germanized at about 1650 when German became the primary language of Moravia. This derivation is well documented for Wenzel v. Kaunitz-Reitberg. The village in Germany was named in his honor, to my knowledge."

Thank you, Jon. The name "Kounice", sounding like a name of a village, made me do some research and I found it to be about 30 kilometers to the south of Brno in Moravia, Czech Republic. Or, in other words, just some few kilometers north of today's Austrian border, some 80 - 90 kilometers north of Vienna, where I was born... It is a small world indeed.
The village of Kounice, being situated so close to Vienna, may also explain why the family of the above mentioned Anton Wenzel von Kaunitz, Maria Theresia's prime minister, was living in Vienna.

It should be added - and my honoured readers may come to the conclusions on the relevance of this on their own - that there is a form "KWNCZ" mentioned in Transylvania already in the 14th century.

Furthermore it should be said that the form "Kunz", which seems to have some relationship to our name, goes back to the Emperor Konrad of the 12th century, as it is a diminutive form of Konrad, just as the even more used "Hinz" is a short form of Heinrich, that is Emperor Heinrich. Because of this there is still the expression of "Hinz und Kunz" in the German language.
It is to question, though, if the forms "Kunz" and "Kauntz" are from the same root. Linguistically the change from "u" to "au" seems rather possible, but the difference between "nz" and "ntz" is not obvious and much more difficult to explain.
Because even if the orthographic knowledge was not at its top in earlier centuries and even if it is certain that names were changed, these changes almost always led to simpler forms of the word, whereas the "t" in front of the "z" definitely is a more complex form. That is, why I personally doubt, that our name really should be connected with the "Kunz".

To the next page
Back to Kauntz-online

last update 1999.05.16