Jeannie’s Genealogical Journey

WCF-.jpgAs we departed Trieste, Italy, I eagerly scanned the roadside for the first indication announcing we were in Slovenia. The sign I spotted was the simple EU symbol with the Slovenian map in the center. What to think, what to feel. I have entered the country that my Dad’s ancestors came from, and only two generations removed.

Mr and Mrs John Turk, Jeannie's Paternal GrandparentsThe countryside was beautiful and green, with hills and then mountains in the distance. But as beautiful as it was for me, I wondered how it may have appeared to my great grandparents, and how they might have felt, leaving their home for the great unknown in the United States.

For all the countries we have visited, in all of our travels, this is the first with a personal connection. Each place has elicited a sense of wonder, but this place was different. How my life might have been so different had my two sets of paternal great-grandparents Anton and Mary Turk, and John and Elizabeth Kerzich not taken their families on separate adventures to America.

I had little time for research as we would only be in Ljubljana for a week, and since this is the birthplace of my grandmother Pauline, I would focus on the Kerzic family. To search my grandfather’s side of the family we would need to plan a trip to Novo Mesto – maybe on a future visit.

Jeannie and local historian Tone.We had been given the name of a historian, and arranged to meet Tone (Tony) one morning in the city center. We had great conversation with him, which started with a morning coffee, and before we parted, it had progressed to beer. With more time we might have become good friends, as easy as the conversation flowed. He looked over the documents that I had, and suggested that I begin at the national archives, in the town center.

Jeannie and the microfilm. - WCF-105751.jpgWe easily located the archives office and were happy to be greeted in English by the workers. They asked a few questions, and I provided the family name and the year of Grandma Pauline’s birth – 1907. The old records had been scanned onto microfilm, and the assistant located and loaded the rolls that might contain the information about my grandmother’s family into the machine. Chris left in search of new photo opportunities while I began to scan the images on the microfilm as they wound by.

The challenge became looking for the name as it might have been spelled. Based on the information I had, it could have been Kerzich, Keržič, Kerzik, or some other variation. And I specifically was looking for my grandmother’s name, Pauline or Paula.

Archive document from microfilm.I scanned through all the names beginning with “Ker” then searched in reverse as I had not yet found her name. And then suddenly, I came across the page with my great-grandparents names, Yanez Keržič and Elizabeta Tavčar. Yet, only three of their children were listed: Yuan, Vinko, and Marijor. I recognized these names, but Pauline’s name was missing. I asked for a printed image of this record, and they suggested that for more information, I should visit the church archives next, just down the street.

The one surprise in this record was a note that great-grandad Yanez had traveled to America from 01 May 1903 to 07 July 1904. So, this was exciting, he took an exploratory trip to the US before moving the family in 1913.

In the reading room of the church archives.I located the building holding the church archives and inquired at the front desk. Once it was understood what I was looking for, they took me into an office where several other people were sitting at tables, looking through the records. The woman brought me a large, old, leather-bound book and opened it to a page, based on the birthdate of my grandmother Pauline. My search for continued, and soon I found the birth entry for Paula, born 12 January 1907 in Hotavlje, a small village only about 40k (24mi) from Ljubljana.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to search further. And since Grandmother Pauline and her family remained inSlovenia_map.jpg the US after immigrating (to my knowledge), there isn’t much more to find in Slovenia, at least on her branch of the family.

However, there is much more sleuthing to be done. We will be gathering more clues from family members when we travel to Wisconsin in the autumn. And then, to find more details will require returning to Slovenia, this time to the town of Novo Mesto to find records of Grandfather Turk’s family when they returned to Slovenia after their time in the US.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. I stumbled upon your blog when searching for info on my ancestry and it’s truly fascinating! I believe my father Walter was your cousin. His mother was Mary Kerzich. I’d be very grateful if you could share some of your findings with me.

    1. Hi Debra,

      I sent you an email to begin our ancestry dialog. I’d love to hear back from you. Thanks for reaching out.

  2. Hi Jeannie, thank you for sharing your journey. My maiden name is Kerzich, was told the “h” was added when my grandfather went through Ellis Island. I am only beginning this process. He settled in Waukegan, IL — I was told there is a big Slovenian population there and I now live over the border in WI so I’d like to explore his roots there. Any suggestions on how to begin this process? Do you have an update after visiting your grandmother in WI? My grandfather and grandmother eventually moved to MI, they were sold land by a Slovenian real estate broker who told them the land was good for farming—they came from farming area in Slovenia. I know few details about their birthplace. I’d love to find out how to begin this process.

    1. What a small world! I’ve responded via email since you won’t be notified from here. It would be pretty interesting to find out if we are related. Will announce on the blog if that turns out to be true!

      Good luck with your search.

  3. How interesting and exciting for you.

  4. How very exciting for you to find info about your ancestors. I am surprised to see that the record book of your grandmother Pauline is in German. I guess they were under Prussian rule at the time. Interesting that your grandmother was born in 1907. My dad was born in 1906.

    1. It has been exciting, and there still is much to discover. The split from the Austria-Hungary empire occurred in 1918, when it became the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs. Then it was renamed to Yugoslavia in 1929, and became independent Slovenia in 1991. Not only were my family names changed over the years, but the country they came from was renamed at least 4 times in just over 100 years. I did not remember this from my world history class years ago, Google can be a useful tool!

  5. Jeannie, you write beautifully and I am really excited about your journey into your roots. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. I can write a pretty good outline, but Chris is the master at making it an interesting read. It takes teamwork, on all aspects of our travels, and life!

  6. An incredible journey. Past, present and future.

    1. And even better when shared with friends and family!

  7. Wow, how special to be looking at records from over 100 years ago in a foreign land knowing it is also your land too. Wonder if their house is still standing after all this time. Nice work!

    1. It will be great to visit you this fall, and I look forward to further research using your mom’s memory box. She provided the extra encouragement for me to add Slovenia to our travel agenda. I hope to put it on a future itinerary, to try to find Turks in Novo Mesto!

  8. Fascinating. And so much to find out still to come. I love the wedding photo.

    1. I don’t have many photos but will be able to look through my aunt’s memory box in Wisconsin this fall. I am fortunate to have known my grandparents, and I have good, though somewhat faded, memories.

  9. Wonderful to find your roots, so glad that it happened for you!

    1. It was a great experience and I am glad to share it.

  10. Good sleuthing!

    1. Always good to do a little brain work in addition to our walking!

  11. Jeannie, how exciting for you to search your family tree. It’s always amazing to learn the paths our ancestors took and to think how different our lives would be today had they decided to remain in Europe instead of seeking new adventures overseas to Canada or the USA. Hope your future searches yield more information about your great-grandparents. Thanks for sharing

    1. It was a great experience, to see their country and find records in the archives. I have read that initially Slovenians immigrated to the US, and immigration laws in 1924 slowed their entry. This is when significant numbers went to Canada. If my great grandparents had waited some years, we might be neighbors!

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