from Elizabeth Nick,

President of the Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association

It is indeed a grand opportunity to be part of the first International Slovenian Genealogy conference in Slovenia. On behalf of the Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association, I bring you greetings from the Directors and Officers, as well as the members of our organization. We are indeed proud to be part of this historic event. We thank Mr. Albert Peterlin and Mr. Peter Hawlina for organizing this first international conference. It is because of their quest for genealogical information that this conference is taking place in Slovenia.

Genealogy, by definition, is the history of the descent of a person or family from ancestors. Genealogical research is discovering our links with the present and the past, and finding the names, places, and many other facts about our ancestors. This conference is an excellent opportunity to share our knowledge of our ancestors that lived in Slovenia, many of whom immigrated to North America. The members of the Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association, known as GHGA, focus on their ancestors, the Gottscheers, a German ethnic group that lived in Slovenia from 1330 to 1941. Some of our members were born here, in villages in Slovenia, while others still have relatives who live here.

Gottscheers lived in the former county of Gottschee, in the south central part of present day Slovenia, which today is known as the Kočevsko area. The Gottscheers knew the major city as Gottschee, today that city is Kočevje. The Gottscheer Heritage and Genealogy Association was established to preserve the history, culture and family records of Gottschee.

This morning, I present a brief history of the organization and how GHGA has enabled Gottscheer descendants to locate their ancestors.

GHGA had its beginnings in 1992, when a small group of 17 people met in Salt Lake City, Utah. All were subscribers to a newsletter called The Gottschee Tree. I began the newsletter in 1987 after I had discovered that both my maternal and paternal grandparents had emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s and settled in Kansas City, Kansas. They were from a place called Gottschee, a fact uncovered when I obtained the death certificate of my grandfather. That was the beginning of my genealogical research for my family history. Within a few years, I began the newsletter to exchange knowledge of how to find one’s Gottscheer ancestors and to find information about this place called Gottschee. From others, I soon discovered that all the records of the Gottscheers were available on microfilm. At the historic beginnings of the GHGA in Salt Lake City, where we read the marriage and baptismal records of our ancestors, the quest for genealogical knowledge of Gottscheers grew at a rapid pace, and the need to organize was recognized by that small group.

The following year, the small group met to elect officers, adopt bylaws, and made other plans for the organization. Today, GHGA has 485 members and we meet annually in various cities throughout North America. We publish the quarterly journal The Gottschee Tree, and periodically publish the membership newsletter, The Gottscheer Connection. In 1996 and in 1999 we traveled to Slovenia to search for the villages where our ancestors lived. To our delight, we found Slovenia to be a beautiful place; the people friendly and most helpful in the search of our ancestoral homes.

To aid in the genealogical research of our ancestors, our organization maintains a web site, translates important documents into English, publishes marriage records and historical books, including a map of the former county of Gottschee, with village names in both the German and Slovene languages. We maintain ancestral records of members in the form of ancestor charts. We are members of FEEFHS, and individuals are members of the Slovenian Genealogy Society in the United States. We are in contact with the two Gottscheer groups in Slovenia. To build the bridge between North America and Slovenia, we have invited Slovenian speakers to our meetings. Three years ago, Dr. Mitja Ferenc spoke at our meeting, and just a couple of months ago, Dr. Stanislav Južnič of Kostel made a presentation at our annual meeting.

Today, we thank Mr. Albert Peterlin and Mr. Peter Hawlina for organizing this first international conference. I am sure we will all leave this conference, knowing that indeed we will have built many bridges between us in our quest for the genealogical records of our ancestors.

Elizabeth Nick, Ed.D.