How to explore your Slovenian heritage

By Daniel Maurice

Family History brings together the stories of many individuals and the events that shaped them. When we know about the lives of our forebears we can better understand where we came from and who we are.

My parents escaped from Yugoslavia in 1949. They came to Australia as part of the huge migration surge from Britain and (mainly eastern) Europe after World War Two. I was born only a year after their arrival in 1950 and from my earliest days was aware of my Slovene heritage. My parents spoke Slovene at home and had many friends from “the old country”. But while my parents would speak about their past lives in Slovenia and we even visited while I was still a child it was only many years later, when I was myself middle-aged and my parents had died, that I became really interested in exploring my Slovenian heritage. I was keen to make sure that I could pass on this family history to my children and their children.

Genealogy—researching your family history—is fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. It sometimes feels like you’re a detective trying to solve a mystery without enough clues. But when a missing piece of information turns up it becomes very satisfying to be able to piece together the story of your ancestors and their lives.

The Internet and digitisation of old records has transformed genealogy. Research that once required time-consuming and expensive visits to individual graveyards and churches, or hit-and-miss searches through old newspapers, has been replaced by online access to an incredible range of historical records and powerful search tools. As well, family trees recording the information you have gathered can now be managed with easy to use software that stores the results electronically and allows you to easily share your results with family and friends.

What’s more your can link your online family tree to literally millions of other family trees enabling you to benefit from the research of other people. Earlier this year researchers released the results of the first survey of European genealogical ancestry over the past 3,000 years. They found that all people of European descent are related—even if they now live on opposite sides of the continent. It’s always a surprise to discover the connections you have to other people as the result of Slovenian migration to many parts of the world.

I can now trace my Slovene roots back more than two hundred years and certainly know more about my heritage than my parents themselves ever did. For example my mother knew her father had spent 10 years in Argentina during the 1920s and 1930s before returning to Slovenia, but nothing more. I was eventually able to find out where my grandfather worked in Argentina and, most excitingly, was able to make contact with the family of my grandfather’s brother, who stayed on in that country.

So where to start?

 

There are many “how-to” guides for family history research on the Internet as well as a vast range of useful websites, some of which are listed below. A great place to start is simply to put down on paper everything you know about your parents and their generation. Then work back one generation at a time. Seek the help of relatives and family friends. A great strategy is to sit down with older relatives and a pile of family photographs—you will often be surprised how much they will remember using the photographs as memory prompts.

Genealogy is fun and can be very rewarding. But do also be prepared for surprises. Every family has at least a few “skeletons” in their past!
Slovenia-specific Resources

State Portal of the Republic of Slovenia. The State Portal of the Republic of Slovenia is a helpful tool to all the visitors interested in gaining general knowledge on Slovenia, information concerning public administration as well as those concerning private sector. In English.

A portal from the Ministry of the Interior with a wide range of information, mainly targeted at foreigners seeking to live and work in the Republic of Slovenia, but also of more general research use.

Archives of city of Trieste and its territory. Contains some historical information, maps etc. relevant to Goriskih Brdh and littoral Slovenia generally.

Archives of the Republic of Slovenia. Another page of useful links of central and regional archives. In Slovene.

Digital Library of Slovenia. Digital copies of many Slovene historical newspapers and magazines. Full-text searchable. Search tools available in English.

Slovene Ethnographic Museum. Covers traditional culture as well as mass and pop culture in Slovenia and the diaspora, on non-European cultures, and on the material and intangible cultural heritage of both everyday and festive life. Includes a wonderful collection of old photographs (searchable), giving locations, dates and people in the photographs. If you are lucky you might even find a photo of an old relative!

Slovenia Genealogy Links: A very useful page of links for anyone researching their Slovene heritage.

Slovenian Genealogy Society. The Society aims to bring together knowledge and experience of Slovene genealogists. It does not carry out private family research but some of its individual members do. The first link page below contains a range of useful information for anyone exploring their Slovene heritage, including an interesting video on “Finding your Slovenian roots and relatives” by the Society’s president.

The Society’s own website provides further information to assist family research. It is in Slovenian, but you can use Google’s auto web translator quite effectively.

Federation of East European Family History Societies. The FEEFHS was founded in 1992 to promote family research in eastern and central Europe. It has a section dedicated to Slovene genealogy.

General Genealogy Resources


Ancestry.com
The largest commercial website for family history. Offers access to a vast range of research tools, software and billions of individual records from around the world. However subscriptions are relatively expensive (up to several hundred dollars per year).

MyHeritage.com
Similar to Ancestry.com but is somewhat less expensive. Provides excellent free software, Family Tree Builder (FTB), to build and share your family tree online. The latest version of FTB supports the Slovene language, making it possible to record Slovene names correctly.

familysearch.org
Run by the Mormon Church, but offering an enormous range of family data covering people everywhere. Really useful and has good filtering tools to assist you find the specific person you want.

http://www.ryersonindex.org/
A fantastic resource listing hundreds of thousands of death notices from Australian newspapers over the last 150 years.

trove.com.au
Run by the Australian National Library and providing indexed access to numerous Australian newspapers over the last 150 years. You will be surprised how often your ancestors will appear in newspaper articles or family notices. Takes time but is very rewarding.

http://www.mundia.com/au/
This is (currently) a free part of Ancestry.com that aggregates millions of individual family trees built by ancestory.com users. Often you will find that your ancestors turn up in other peoples' trees and this is a great way to find information about them.

http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/search/
This is a resource of the National Archives of Australia. Provides access to historical records of the Australian Commonwealth Government. Contains many useful files including individual immigration and citizenship records, as well as many photographs.

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