History of Gottschee


by Edward Skender, Member GHGA and SGSI

Tracing your ancestry in Slovenia prior to 1848, one will inevitably encounter the feudal system of old Austria. The feudal domain of Gottschee-Kočevje in south central Slovenia is a good example. Founded in the late 13th century, Gottschee was much like the other 312 county-like feudal domains in Carniola (Kranjska, Krain). The major difference was that the inhabitants Gottschee were German-speaking colonists sent there from Austria and Germany, and they retained an ancient German dialect as their local language until the mid-twentieth century.

The history of Gottschee--and other feudal domains in Carniola -- can yield a remarkable amount of information for the family historian. Using the local history of Gottschee as an example, the discussion will include the system of feudal government, society, and customs; the relationship between the ducal rulers, the local feudal lords, and the ordinary farmers; the evolution of land ownership; the peasant uprisings; and the impact of the Turkish wars and military operations on the movement of people in southern Carniola. The early modern era history will include the French Napoleonic occupation of Gottschee, the economic development of lower Carniola, and the tide of emigration and dispersion of the Gottscheers, principally to America. Documentary sources are identified and discussed. Members are encouraged to research, use, and include local history in their own family history and genealogy. Samples of local Gottscheer historical documents in German, Slovenian, and English are shown as illustrations. The research and publishing of the local history of other counties in Slovenia will be encouraged.



1. Maps and samples of local history documents will be shown. Overhead (vu-graph) projector is needed.

2. It is assumed that Dr. M. Ferenc will discuss the twentieth-century history of the Gottscheers from his book on the subject.

3. Talk, with time for questions, will be about 1 hour inclusive.