As 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.
The 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.
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.
We 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.
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.
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 in 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.