Emigrants in my Files

Leon Drame

I became interested in genealogy research several years ago. Once I began, I quickly moved from simply recording the information about my own family to systematic recording of all the people who lived in certain areas during specific time periods. Through this work I have accummulated about 65,000 people in my database. Majority of this information relates to people who I found in various sources for Notranjska area, especially for Vrhnika, Logatec, Cerknica, Stari trg, Slavine, Hrenovice, Košana, Vreme, Vipava, Senožeče and Trnovo pri Iliriski Bistrici. Of these I have managed to enter information for and analyze data for the period 1880 – 2001 for Cerknica, Rakek, Begunje, Unec, Planina, Sveti Vid nad Cerknico and Grahovo. From this basis many connections are made to people who are also related to other places and time periods. Majority, at least 90% are from Notranjska area.

During the process of data entry I tried to complete the basic genealogy information with other information available on the individuals. This makes my database useful as a source and basis of analysis for other areas than genealogy. One of these is an analysis of emigration on the above mentioned area.

I have been able to establish that 10% of the people in my database migrated at some point in their lives. Majority of these are migrations due to marriage, closely followed by migrations due to search for employment. Most occured within the country. For about 700 people I was able to establish that they have permanently moved out of the Nothranjska area and outside of the then country borders. I will present more information on the 527 individuals who moved to the United States.

I used different sources to acuquire information about where the person migrated to, most of them were available from various census records.

Reasons for emigration were economic (poverty), overpopulation of certain areas, fights within the family, avoidance of army duty and desire to explore new worlds. In the period 1880 – 1914 every tenth property was sold because the entire family moved the the United States. Of these, only a handful returned.

As is evident from the records, it was quite common that only the head of household left to find work in the United States. This sometimes occurred due to unhappy marital situations. These men generally returned to their families once they were able to earn enough money to help them in their home country. It is also common to see family members leaving to the United States in fairly equal time intervals. For example: Anton in 1901, France in 1903, Jožef in 1904, Marija in 1906, etc. Only a few returned. I was able to gather some information about the destinies of these people from the few letters they wrote back to their families, sometimes from notices about marriage or death sent back to their home parish.

Analysis of the information on emigrants can also be shown in different charts.

Chart 1 – Area covered

Chart 2 - Emigration to the United States by years

It is evident from the chart above that the first individuals or even families emigrated back in 1884. After a brief pause, emigration began to increase again and peaked in 1904, then dropped again in 1907 due to economic crisis in the United States. Later on, emigration increased again and peaked in 1911, then is dropped and stopped during WWI. After WWI emigration began again, however the accurate information on the emigration is not available to me.

Chart 3 – Emigrats destinations

The largest proportion of emigrants settled in the United States. We know that they mostly worked at the mines in Pennsylvania – predominantly in Johnstown. Descendants of the emigrants who did not return to their home country later moved all accross the United States.

Emigrants who settled in Brazil worked on coffee plantations where they replaced slaves, who had just attained their freedom. Many died young due to harsh work conditions and difficult climate. The few who returned only brought small amounts of money with them. Some left Brasil and settled in the United States.

Emigrants who settled in Austria primarily settled in Vienna, Graz and Linz.

Those who left to find work in Croatia went to work in the forests in Slavonija, some to the ports Rijeka nad Pula and some in the capital, Zagreb. Most never returned from these places.

Egypt was a popular destination for women from Košane who went there to serve as nursemaids and govrnesses.

Emigration to Argentina mostly occurred in the population from south Notranjska area, at that time part of Italy; most never returned.

Those who emigrated during the time when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia tended to stay in Banat; most returned to their homes.

Those who emigrated to Australia settled in Perth, Gelong, Melbourne and Sydney. Only a handful returned when they retired.

Between the two world wars many also emigrated to France where they worked in forests and mines.

Emigrants to Canada mostly settled in Toronto where they still have a strong community and actively maintain Slovene language and culture.

Emigrants to Hungary settled in Budapest and Pec.

The most interesting center for emigration was Triest. Triest was considered Slovene until WWI, later, once it officially became Italian it was a convenient starting point for travel accross the ocean. I was able to find entries for two women in which it was recorded that they practiced the oldest profession in the world in Triest.

And finally, we should not forget emigration from Notranjska area to Ljubljana, Slovene capital. The numbers of people and their descendants who migrated to Ljubljana from Notranjska are surpassed only by the numbers of people and their descenants now living in the United States.

Those who returned to their homes were mostly heads of household and sometimes single males. Married men and women, especially those who married and started families in the United States almost never returned. In the cases of mixed marriages, where one of the partners was not Slovene, the person returned only in the case of death of his/her non-Slovene spouse.

I would also like to share an anecdote, a true story of a »professor« who returned to his home from Germany in the middle of the night and explained to his mother he returned with the train. Believing that her son returned a rich man, like most of the emigrants, the mother became worried where the family will be able to keep the train.

I also have two cases in my database where wifes had children even when their husbands have been in the United States for more than a year. In both cases the mother's maiden name was entered as the child's last name in the birth records.

I also have a large number of emigrants among my extended family members. About one quarter emigrated to the United States or France. Only individuals 18 years or older are included in this count.

My great-grandfather Jožef Rožanc bought a house from Vladimir Premrov, commonly called »Cesar« (translation – »Emperor«), in 1901. Due to house purchase he took on too much debt and soon left to Pennsylvania to work at the mines. He returned in 1905, repaid his debt and then continued to work on his farm. His brother Janez was not as lucky after his return from the United States. Upon his return he bragged about the amount of money he had with him while playing cards in Triest. The card players tried to get the money from him by tricking him during the game but he saw through their tricks and did not lose the money. They waited for him at the train station, stole his money, killed him and threw his body in the sea.

My great-uncle Jožef Rožanc worked together with Janez Pakiž in the forests of Versailles in France. My greatuncle mentioned to his friend that he has a sister Anica at home. His friend became interested so Jožef's father mailed Anica's photograph to his son in France. Janez Pakiž liked the image he saw on teh photograph and so it came to be that my grandmother and grandfather met and married. Great-uncle Jožef also married and returned to France. His son Franc did not have to serve in the French army because he was not a citizen. He was not conscripted in his »home« army either because he was not in the country.

I also have to mention my great-uncle Jakob Pakiž who left for the United States during both world wars. There he married and had two sons. We have lost touch with this family about 40 years ago. It is possible that my great-uncle died young, his wife re-married and changed her and her son's family name (example: I found a record of Turšič last name being changed to Hofman). I have searched for some time but am not able to find this family. Perhaps a genealogist living in the United States can help me make this family connection!

With some more extensive families in my family tree I am able to find those where almost one quarter of the family is currently living in the United States. One example is Levar family for which I have been able to gather over 2,000 individuals.

It would be possible to do additional analyses from the infromation I have in my database. Analyses would be dependent on how accurately the information was recorded by the priests and those who took care of the birth, marriage and death record entries. Database could be added to, especially with the help of relatives of different individuals.


Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, town of Cerknica IIIB

Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, town of Cerknica 1874 – 1959

Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, towns Dolenja vas, Dolenje Jezero, Zelše, Martinjak and Rakek 1834 – 1854

Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, towns Dolenja vas, Dolenje Jezero, Zelše, Martinjak and Rakek 1874 – 1959

Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, boarders 1870

Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, boarders 1917

Status Animarum for Cerknica parish, town Begunje, Bezuljak, Dobec, Koželjek, Selišč ek, Topol, Podslivnica, Mahnete, Otonica and Brezje 1834 – 1854

Status Animarum for Rakek parish 1940 –

Status Animarum for Grahovo parish 1875 – 1888

Status Animarum for Košana parish 1915 –

Status Animarum for Planina parish 1881 – 1909

Status Animarum for Knežak parish, village Jurč e 1869 – 1967

Status Animarum for Sveti vid parish 1884 – 1900

Status Animarum for Bloke parish, village Radlek 1878 - 1969